Everyone and their neighbor has been participating in a mad rush to buy quality companies (earnings wise) for the past year or so. This has led to bloated, pumped up prices and I want no part in that race even though the participants have been rewarded nicely – so far. Value investors typically look a little dumb in the latter stages of bull markets, but Seth Klarman and the like often remain with their clothes on unlike many others investors a couple of years later. As I have said repeatedly in my blog: Quality is not a safe haven. Price is king when it comes to evaluating risk, not quality. But, if I can have it both ways, I am open to suggestions!
I might just have stumbled upon such a company: Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding, listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, stock ticker WWI. It has in fact been on my radar for some time I just hadn’t gone down and dirty with analyzing it due to its complexity which meant it would be a time consuming exercise if nothing came up. Below is a diagram of its structure:
The 25% drop in share price since July has triggered my curiosity and I thought it would be an excellent time to take a closer look and dig into whether the drop was warranted or whether it has provided an opportunity for investors. Especially since the share prices of the three main competitors have gone up in the same period of time, indicating a low probability that it is the future prospects of the market they are in that is at fault.
Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding, WWI, has an immaculate value creation record since 1861. In the last 15 years WWI has returned 12% annually (semi-annual dividends + increase in share price) to their shareholders, which equates to 4,5x their money, beating the general market by a wide margin.
The company’s biggest asset is the daughter company WWASA (to the left in the diagram above), of which it owns 72,73%. The company’s primary market is transportation of cars and so called “high & heavy” equipment (mainly mining and agricultural machinery) by sea. They also have a lot of subsidiaries and joint ventures in related markets. In other words, it is a conglomerate, and investors typically crave discounts for those. However, unlike many other conglomerates WWI’s businesses intertwine creating synergies, so perhaps it would be more appropriate to award a premium to the share price instead. This probably won’t happen any time soon. However, it is my belief that the current discount will come down as it is rather large.
Key valuation figures, WWI (holding company)
Key valuation figures, WWASA (daughter company)
At the time of this analysis the price for WWI was NOK 149,50 (for the B share, the A share was slightly higher at 150,50 – if I was buying, I’d buy whichever is cheaper on the day). Price/Earnings is extremely low at 3,43 based on 2014 numbers and the company guides for 2015 to be similar to 2014. Price-to-Book is at 0,49, down considerably from 0,84 in 2013. Curiously, in the heyday year of 2007 Price/Book was at 2,2 (4,5 times higher than today).
These first two numbers generally don’t go together. Either you have excellent earnings and pay a high price-to-book for it, or you have poor or negative earnings prospects and are compensated by getting what is on the balance sheet at a discount.
What’s the catch?
Why both? What are the dangers lingering out there in the horizon? Well, according to my analysis there are a few but in my opinion they are relatively minor in proportion to the heavy discounts the market is providing.
- Antitrust investigations
- Uncertainty about contract renewal
- Fear of increase in local car production?
- Conglomerate discount
- Shipping market discount
- Norwegian market discount (following the current oil crash)
- The founding family controls more than 50%
- Dividend payout ratio is low (12%)
- No share buyback
- Cyclical, low liquidity, boring
In my next post, I will take a closer look at each of those bear case arguments and following that I will then proceed to the bull case arguments: https://hammerinvesting.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/wilhelm-wilhelmsen-the-bear-case/
4 thoughts on “Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding – Quality at Bargain Prices?”
Kul att träffa dig igår på Arise stämma. Du skriver välformulerat och gör väl underbyggda analyser. Ska titta närmare på WW när tid ges :). Ha det gott.
Tack, Andreas. Jätte kul att träffas och intressant att höra dina tanker igår. Är du fortfarande bullish på AIG? Jag vet att deep value investeraren Bruce Berkowitz, har ett big bet i denna.