Category Archives: WWI

Takeaways from the Wilhelmsen Capital Markets Day

I attended the Wilhelmsen Capital Markets Day in Oslo last week and it turned out to be fruitful in many respects. More than 100 people showed up and it was great to have the chance to exchange ideas with other investors and to meet management for the first time in a format that allowed plenty of time.

While there weren’t any ”breaking news” (plenty of those leading up to the event) Wilhelmsen’s investor day turned out to be a smörgåsbord of relevant information, and not exactly of the blue sky scenario garbage variety that is often dumped on investors at similar events. Those following the Wilhelmsen companies may have already seen the slide presentations but I will just add my 2 cents in a note-to-self format as things were said that weren’t in the slides.

Notes from Wilhelmsen CMD

The holding company, WWH (stock ticker WWIB):

  • The merger will add ”at least” 50-100 MUSD to the bottom line of WWL, primarily due to the utilization rate of the vessels improving. “At least” was new information to me.
  • Major reasons for the merger: Quicker decisions, less stalling = more manuverability in a market where margins are under pressure.
  • Share buybacks is not on the table currently. The overarching goal is ensuring long term value creation and survival by keeping the holding company net debt free as it is now (no bond debt to use for share buybacks in other words). Subsiduairies can potentially assume more risk in the form of debt – all at an arm’s length away from the mother.
  • Aquisitions targets need to be close to debt free (I like the sound of that!), dominant in their field and have an underlying positive cash flow. No experimentation that will endanger equity in WWH.

WMS:

  • Margin pressure. Outlook in the near term is cloudy.
  • Low customer credit default risk despite shipping customers hurting perhaps more than ever. Partly due to WMS being able to withhold vessels until payment has been obtained, meaning bills from WMS are not the ones you want to stall.
  • Interesting Survitec deal. 20% in a company that is a dominant market leader in all segments they enter into. High margins and nice pricing power. IPO potential in 2-3 years.

WWASA:

  • Margin pressure going forward. Merger to offset some of that.
  • Supply/demand under pressure as there is very little scrapping potential for the next 10 years world wide and the world fleet is younger than ever (Chinese boom 5-10 years ago to blame for that). Scrapping/new building-ratio does not look favorable many years out unless new building cancellations start to take place.
  • WWASA best in class? Utilization rate of 85-90% is above industry average of 80% and EBIT-margins seem to be better than their biggest competitors, though it is difficult to measure as the competitors are not pure RoRo players only and do not specify their margins by segments in their financial reports.
  • Mining is finally showing signs of improvement (Rio Tinto capex expanding again) and big opportunity for growth particularly in Australia where WWL has a strong inland logistics network.
  • WWL’s land based logistics business is asset light and has grown rapidly. Revenue now about the same as ocean transportation (although most of it comes from the low-margin distribution business). Margins from Terminals and Tech Services, which currently accounts for 40% of inland logistics revenue) are handsome in the 10-15% range. Long term contracts and cash flow is stable. In my opinion this change in revenue stream will lead to a repricing of WWASA further down the road.
  • The inland and ocean based businesses are separate financially, meaning should one experience difficulties it will not drag down the other.

Conclusion – what has changed?

Wilhelmsen Holding’s prudent capital allocation strategy means one can view an investment in the company as a storage of value with almost bond like safety while also getting the benefit of a lot of upside potential due to the generous discount-on-discount effect, which I find to be counterintuitive. A simple sum of the parts-valuation (based on mark-to-market pricing of WWASA, Treasure and Qube, book value of NorSea and EBITDA*6 for WMS) gives an upside of about 100% from the current market price. Added to that both the holdings in WWASA and Treasure appear undervalued (hence the discount-on-discount). Both of those companies probably have sharper upside potential in the near term but at greater risk, in my opinion, particularly WWASA.

Adding monetary experimentation and mindboggling politics into the equation

The current non-tested central bank experimentation, the weird political scenes around the world and high valuations in general leads me to believe that one ought to focus on safety rather than going for that extra percentage point here and there while exposing oneself to the enormous risks lurking out there. So in general I think defense is the play right now. In life the mindset of not losing is often equal to losing. But in investing there are times when not losing is a way to set the stage for winning…

Wilhelmsen: On Today’s Merger

A quick update on my opinion on today’s proposed merger. You can read the press release from the company here: http://www.newsweb.no/newsweb/search.do?messageId=408785

Expected gain for the holding company (WWIB): 30 MUSD per year (250 MNOK)

First the hard numbers. The synergies – a larger and more robust company will be able to achieve better financing terms, will need to employ fewer people as well as being able to direct their combined vessels more efficiently – are expected to result in a gain on the bottom line of between 50-100 MUSD for the new merged company, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding (WWIB) will own 40% of this company, which means the bottom line will improve by 75 MUSD (average estimate) * 40% = 30 MUSD per year = 250 MNOK per year. There are 46,5 million outstanding shares which means earnings will improve by 5 NOK per share. If we assign a conservative PE of 5-6 that would mean 25-30 NOK/per share. The market’s verdict today: 7 NOK.

Now that I got my scorn for the market’s ability to do simple math out of the way let’s focus on the broader picture because there is more to this merger than the gain from synergies.

The name itself indicates a gradual move which has been underway for the last couple of years away from shipping and towards inland logistics, where margins are better – and where stock valuations are much higher. WWASA is valued at a gigantic discount to book value, while inland players such as Hyundai Glovis (p/b 2) and Qube Holding (p/b 1,5) – both of which Wilhelmsen Holding hold a minority share in – are valued much higher.

There is also the fact that the Wilhelmsen’s have once again demonstrated a willingness to let go of majority control and instead focus more on releasing shareholder value. I think this trend is very clearly going to continue. Once a tightly controlled company starts to open up like this the odds of it reversing course are low. The selling off of the Hyundai Glovis shares may now have come closer and perhaps there is more streamlining to come from the Wilhelmsen Maritime Systems division in the near future as well.

Just my two cents on the meaning of today’s development. I’m curious about your view…

Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding, the Bull Case

My last post on Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding, WWI, focused on the Bear Case, https://hammerinvesting.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/wilhelm-wilhelmsen-the-bear-case/. In this post I will present some bullish arguments. It will be shorter than my first two posts as some bullish arguments have already been discussed in those:

The Bull Case

  • Bottom of High & Heavy cycle?
  • High barriers to entry
  • Strong balance sheet
  • Strong dollar, cheap oil, opex cuts
  • Cheap share price, possibly based on irrational reasoning (see Bear Case)

As with the Bear Case, let’s look at each of the above.

Bottom of High & Heavy cycle?
For the last two years there has been a recurring theme in every quarterly report: ”Unfavorable cargo mix.” What that means is that the company would like a larger percentage of their cargo to be in the High & Heavy-segment, which is more profitable than the car carrier segment.

The reason for this unfavorable mix is that mining and agriculture companies have been holding back on capex spending, ie. upgrading old equipment or buying new due to depressed prices in those sectors. The good news is this cannot continue for much longer. At some point in the not to distant future they will have to make these investments. A good indicator of when this shift occurs is to keep track of reports of manufacturers of that type of equipment: Caterpillar and John Deere.

I list this as bullish since we want to be investing in cyclical companies when they are near the bottom of their cycle instead of near the top. When High & Heavy starts to improve we can expect better margins. Since the stock is already cheap based on current earnings, I expect this to have a strong impact on the share price once it kicks in.

The car carrier segment seems poised for continued growth as former poor countries lift a larger portion of their citizens into the middle class.

High barriers to entry
Investments into the car carrier sector is capital intensive and it takes years from purchasing a vessel till it is delivered. In other words, the economic moat around the sector is quite wide. This makes increased competition less likely in the foreseeable future and profitability more likely to be durable.

Strong balance sheet
When investing in depressed markets, a strong balance sheet is essential in making sure that companies can weather potential storms for longer than their competitors. An additional benefit of having cash on hand is potential opportunities to buy competitors in trouble or their assets. Having an equity ratio of 48% for the holding company, WWI, and 51% for the daughter company, WWASA, Wilhelm Wilhelmsen is in a strong position. Also noteworthy is the interest WWASA is paying on their bonds: 2-3,5%. In other words, they have access to cheap money and are not bogged down by large interest payments.

Strong dollar, cheap oil, opex cuts
In the near term there are a number of external factors that WWI will benefit from.

The strong dollar contributes to stronger earnings as revenue is mainly in dollars and only to a lesser extent on the expense side.

Cheap oil reduces transportation costs – although some of those savings are likely to land in the pockets of customers in the form of cheaper prices. At least that has been the case in some of the shipping and transportation companies that I follow.

During 2014 Wilhelm Wilhelmsen undertook operating expenditures cuts that will start to have a positive impact in 2015.

Cheap share price based on irrational reasoning (see Bear Case)
All of the above bull arguments mean very little if the share price is overly expensive. In my post on March 19th, the Bear Case, I noted some possible reasons for the cheap price, some of which are clearly irrational.

Future posts on WWI
My three posts on WWI have focused mainly on qualitative aspects. I will probably revisit the case and post one that is more numbers driven (free cash flow) in the coming months.

Let me know if you have any questions or additional thoughts that can shed more light on the case.

Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Holding – Quality at Bargain Prices?

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:

WWI overview

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)

Today 2014 2013 2012
Price/Earnings 3,4 4,2 5,9 4,1
Price/Book 0,49 0,55 0,84 0,83
Solvency ratio 48% 48% 46% 42%

Key valuation figures, WWASA (daughter company)

Today 2014 2013 2012
Price/Earnings 7,3 8,2 7,6 4,9
Price/Book 0,80 0,79 1,22 0,77
Solvency ratio 51% 51% 48% 45%

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

Follow-up post
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/