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Decent quarter but short-term challenges ahead

  • 01 Dec 16

GN Store Nord reported a healthy quarter with revenue rising 13% to DKK2.1bn, driven predominantly by M&A (c.5ppt mainly Audigy) and forex tailwinds (c.2ppt), while organically the growth receded (6% vs. 9% both in Q2 16 and Q3 15). GN Hearing’s 5% growth (organic, excluding Otometrics), reflected a slowdown sequentially (Q1 16: 11% and Q2 16: 10%) but GN Audio sustained its strong momentum (+9% organically) supported by the sturdy uptake (24%) in Contact Centre & Offices (CC&O) offsetting a sharp decline of 21% in its mobile business. Additionally, it has divested Otometrics (the diagnostic equipment business reported under the GN Hearing segment) to Natus Medical for $145m, and acquired VXi, a US-based headset manufacturer, for $35m, intended to strengthen the GN Audio’s North American presence. With FY 15 sales of DKK649m (c.8% of the group turnover), the GN Otometrics deal translates into 1.5x EV/Sales vs 1.9x as per our NAV. Factoring in these recent transactions, management now guides for an EBITA of c.DKK1,100m for GN Hearing (previously c.DKK1,200m) excluding transaction costs. Also, management expects a much lower effective tax rate of c.22% from the earlier 25-26% for FY 16. The rest of the guidance remains unchanged – GN Hearing: c.6% organic growth; GN Audio: c.7-10% organic growth & c.DKK590m EBITA. Separately, at its Capital Markets Day (CMD) held in September 2016, GN shared its new medium-term targets for 2017-19: a) GN Hearing: annual organic revenue growth of 6-8% and EBITA margin of 20-22%; b) GN Audio – annual organic revenue growth of 6-9% and EBITA margin of 17-19%; and c) effective tax rate of c.22%, in line with the lowered Danish taxes. The key focus in the hearing business will be on increasing its share in the open market (comprising independent dispensers, ENTs and buying groups), while further fortifying its relationship with large retailers (Costco, Veteran Affairs and Amplifon) and the successful launch of its fifth generation 2.4GHz-based product in 2017. The company is also looking to further secure its position in North America, particularly the US (aiming to be number 1), through sales-force expansion, leveraging Audigy’s network and strengthening the Beltone network in the US. On the other hand, GN Audio’s focus will be on improving its presence in the call-centric space, gaining further ground in the Unified Communications (UC) domain and repositioning itself in the mobile segment (geared more towards integrated voice and music solutions).

Initiating coverage on GN Store Nord

  • 23 Aug 16

We are initiating coverage on GN Store Nord (market cap. of DKK21.9bn/ €2.9bn and a float of 100%) with an Add recommendation and a target price of DKK165 (c.17% upside). Our upside is driven by the company’s traditional technological superiority over peers, strong control on costs (through low-cost manufacturing centres such as China and Malaysia), a healthy balance sheet and attractive shareholder reward programmes (through significant share buy-backs and dividends). The stock had come under pressure recently following concerning read-across from its Netcom/ Audio business, weaker profitability and increasing threats from recent product/ platform launches by hearing-aids peers, but has since recovered to come close to its 52-week high. While we acknowledge the upside potential, we restrict our recommendation to an ‘add’, as we continue to see the company facing headwinds in its Netcom business and expect it to under-deliver on its FY 16 profitability guidance, given tougher comps in H2 16 (we see H2 margin expectations as demanding given the H1 run-rate), a changing product mix (from premium towards medium and lower cost products) and limited visibility on a new platform launch this year (given competitors’ recent launches and the US Veteran Affairs contract up for renewal in November, GN may end of conceding some of its market share gains in the past few months – GN currently accounts for a c.20% share of the VA market).