Research, Charts & Company Announcements
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Bolloré SA fully consolidates Vivendi and has published unappetising earnings.
The battles waged by Vincent Bolloré in and on the media could almost make investors forget that the group is currently facing problems – or even setbacks – in nearly all of its activities. We have already discussed the strategy (or is it tactics?) relating to Vivendi. Yet, a series of disappointments have occurred over the last few months, and not just in the media sector. Bolloré SA is a family-owned company that is seriously geared (the financials at the Omnium Bolloré level give a clearer picture of the risk attached to the complex legal structure). Still, Bolloré will not raise capital for fear of diluting family control. Being the 7th generation at the helm, Vincent has dynastic priorities. He has already announced that he will be leaving in 2022, for the bicentenary of the family business. His four children work in the group with three as managers. The Bolloré group is currently waging a number of battles with questions about managerial resources (several “historical” managers left the group) as well as financial resources. Bolloré’s objective is to stick to a 40-50% gearing (nominal at Bolloré SA, closer to 100% at the Omnium Bolloré level). As of today, the group has been able to extract slightly less than €800m in dividends from Vivendi for both 2015 and 2016 and has made good use of Vivendi’s rich balance sheet to push for “strategic” acquisitions, but this source is drying up unless Vivendi monetises its ownership of UMG. It all looks like a financial corner in the making. The group is obviously conscious of this. Willing to remain diversified in several sectors, Bolloré has benefited up to now from a degree of phasing in some investments and projects in Africa while the forthcoming investments in electrical storage should be contained. But, in our view, it is unlikely that this could be sufficient.
Once upon a time (say about 6 months ago), Mediaset and Vivendi concluded a splendid strategic alliance: the French group was to acquire 100% of Mediaset Premium, while each entity would be taking a 3.5% stake in the other on the occasion. The ambition was to build a pan-European OTT platform and to create a southern European content and VOD powerhouse… The announced wedding has since moved to the divorce legal battlefield, maybe paving the way for a ménage à trois .
While the economic and financial press makes its headlines over Vivendi, the company’s investments, its takeover bids and the changes of some executive managers within the Vivendi Group and its holdings, only a few people question the good execution of Bolloré’s activities in Africa. In 2014, the transportation and logistics activities represented 53% of Bolloré’s turnover and 87% of the operating result. Africa’s contribution was 42% of the Transport & Logistics’ turnover, that is 22% of the consolidated revenues (the figure is not available for the operating result). For 2015, Transport & Logistics amounted to 56% of the 2015 turnover. We have, for now, no indication about the share of the African continent, only that Bolloré has already warned about the slowdown in mining and petroleum activities in some countries like Nigeria, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Angola. In any case, Africa remains a continent of strategic importance for the Bolloré group. Since October 2014, the chairmanship of Transport & Logistics has belonged to Vincent Bolloré’s son, Cyrille Bolloré. The activity has been reorganised from geographical areas (on one hand, Africa and, on the other, Europa-Asia-America) into four operational divisions: port activities, transport fees, railway operations in Africa, and energy. But all these divisions may involve activities in Africa. Bolloré Africa Logistics (BAL) operates the largest integrated logistics network in Africa, covering 46 countries, employing 24,000 persons and publishing about €2.5bn of revenues. With 250 subsidiaries, the company managed 14 container terminals and around 20 inland container depots in customs warehouses at the end of 2014. In the transit and logistics area, BAL takes care of all customs and administrative procedures, upstream and downstream of transportation by both sea and air on behalf of its clients and deals with the carriage of goods by road or by rail. Within the Bolloré Group, changes are always happening within management. We have already mentioned that an important reshuffling of the teams was conducted inside the transportation and logistics activity (see our Latest dated 28/04/2015). Since then, we have learnt that Dominique Lafont, who headed up the Bolloré Africa Logistics (BAL) subsidiary for a 10-year period until Autumn 2014, has moved to KKR in July 2015, the US equity company, looking to invest in Africa’s infrastructure. The regional manager of BAL in western Africa, Lionel Labarre, is also now going to leave the African activities for Vivendi, having been involved in all of Bolloré’s strategic projects in the Ivory Coast for 16 years …. In addition to the port and logistics businesses, the company is now reinforcing Bolloré’s presence in railway concessions. Requiring major investments (at least €2bn) over several years (about eight), the aim of the project is to open up the hinterland in order to facilitate the export of agricultural and mining resources, increasing the volumes processed by the ports which are managed by Bolloré (Abidjan, Cotonou, Lomé). In connection with the railway projects, the Bolloré Group plans to install Bluezone, inland container depots with handling and storage capacities and optic fibre networks all along the railway.
Even if the H1 15 publication has taught us one thing, it is the magnitude of the investments which are facing Bolloré for the coming years as well as the consequences of them: to find the resources needed to finance these projects and potentially to disentangle the ongoing legal actions in connection with the African concessions. The investments have two major purposes: on one hand, electricity storage with the related businesses and, on the other, the ambitious project planned in Western Africa with the aim of securing Bolloré’s logistics business in African harbours. At 30/06/2015, relatively strong growth in investments (+45% to €112m) was recorded in the electricity storage industry with the progression of car-sharing and developments in the bus and stationary activities. The group continued to sell electric vehicles (Bluecars, Bluebuses, Bluetrams and the Bluesummer, a cabriolet version designed by Bolloré and produced by the PSA-Peugeot Citroën group). A car-sharing service was inaugurated in London in June and the car-sharing service of Indianapolis (USA) was launched in September 2015. Due to be completed by end-2019, the plan to roll out 16,000 charging points across France is expected to get under way before the end of the year (€116m to invest between 2015 and 2018, see our Latest dated 08/09/2014). In H1 15, the battery business, Blue Solutions, was breaking even for the first time, but this was not the case for the whole electricity storage and solutions activity which remained (with no surprise) in losses. Remember that the listed company, Blue Solutions, holds options which are exercisable between September 2016 and June 2018 over almost all the other companies within the scope of the electricity storage and solutions activity. But the current greatest project of the Bolloré group is the construction of a railway loop, which is part of the completion of the building of an integrated logistics network through five countries in Western Africa (see our Latests dated 08/09/2014 and following ones). To boost its logistics flow capacities, the group decided to strengthen its presence in African rail concessions by planning investments to renovate and upgrade the road linking Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to Kaya through Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), to construct the stretches between Kaya and Niamey (Niger) and to renovate the line to Cotonou (Benin), giving a total of 2,740km of rail to construct or renovate. The group also plans to develop the railway from Cotonou to Lomé (Togo) and then to Nigeria. Bolloré intends to install Bluezone (areas equipped with their own electricity supply), inland container warehouses with handling and storage capacities and a fibre optic network (internet, voice/data) all the way along the railway. Last year, up to €2bn was announced for these investments (€1m per km), to be realised over the next eight years. Furthermore, some developments are expected in Cameroon and Guinea for the renovation of a line which should reduce the congestion from Conakry (Guinea) to the Kagbelen inland container warehouse operated by the group. This is an ambitious project to finance, while the group is already indebted. At 30/06/2015, the consolidated net debt amounted to €4.3bn (compared with €1.8bn at the end of 2014), leading to a gearing of 36% (18% at 31/12/2014). The acquisition of Vivendi shares for €3.6bn (of which only €0.6bn obtained from the sale of 22.5% in Havas) was the reason, Bolloré increasing his holding from 5.1% to 14.4% during the half year in Vivendi, of which 2.5% is hedged. Note that at the end of July, the group completed a 6-year bond issue for €450m with a 2.875% annual coupon, with the aim “to extend the average maturity of its debt”. Having initially been determined that he would finance the African project practically alone without approaching any development bank, Vincent Bolloré said during the analysts’ meeting that he was now looking for industrial partners in Africa. If this does not work, an IPO of the railway activity could be launched - in the next three or four years? But for the next three years, the higher level of operating and financial costs should be more than offset by the dividends already received and expected from Vivendi. Bolloré’s H1 15 net result was already very high, due to €325m of dividends received from Vivendi. With the company not being consolidated as an associate, Bolloré receives dividends. Vincent Bolloré is the Chairman of the Supervisory board of Vivendi, held today with 14.5% by the Bolloré Group. In 2015, Vivendi paid an ordinary dividend with respect to 2014 of €1 per share which was supplemented by an extraordinary interim dividend of the same amount, due to the success of the sale of GVT and the 20% interest in Numericable-SFR. Added to the ordinary dividend, a second extraordinary interim dividend (€1 per share) is expected in 2016. In 2017, Vivendi should pay an ordinary dividend, already expected at €1 per share. Between 2015 and 2017, Bolloré will consequently receive a total of €914m from Vivendi.
Research Tree provides access to ongoing research coverage, media content and regulatory news on Bollore. We currently have 5 research reports from 1 professional analysts.
The final results were in line with expectations and ongoing strong cash generation led to a 32% increase in the full year dividend to 19.0p, 14% ahead of forecast. We retain our FY18 forecasts, other than cash and dividend expectations which are both increased. Net cash is now up to £14.1m and we expect this to drive ongoing strong growth in dividends, with the prospective yield now a healthy 4.4%.
Since April, our growth style screen has performed very strongly, outperforming the main small-cap index by 20pp and 24pp on an unweighted and weighted basis respectively, also comfortably outpacing microcap. In this note we provide more detail on the constituent and basket performance in the period and present the new screen constituents. As usual we focus on 10 of the current constituents, providing brief summaries and financials for clients to consider. We will refresh again in 5-6 months time and report back on performance.
Companies: SUN DOTD ERGO TEF AVG SOG COR FEN LOOP YU/
At our 3D Printing and Advanced Manufacturing lunch on Monday three companies updated us on the developments and significant opportunities for their business in this exciting new area. We were pleased to welcome speakers from Xaar, Victrex and unlisted group Metalysis. Each company gave a 15-20 minute overview of their existing activities in 3D printing and how they are continuing to develop their offer to capitalise on the strong growth and value creation opportunities ahead. Brief summaries are listed below, with more details inside, along with the slides presented by each company. All three of the groups have strong prospects and we are happy to arrange further contact.
Companies: Xaar Victrex
Strong H118 results and positive order book development cause us to raise estimates, especially for the current year with better dividend prospects also. UK economic uncertainty will provide challenges but we believe that Severfield’s sector diversity and some pipeline project opportunities should allow the company to continue to grow. Further order book gains and the application of surplus cash balances (via investment or distribution) can be catalysts for further share price recovery.
The 2H17 progress update reveals increased focus on the AiM partnership (a distributors’ buying group) with a clear path to increased monetisation of the opportunity. The combination of Channl with Altitude’s existing business management tools (to create AiMPro) delivers revenue related to total transaction spend on the platform, a potentially significant improvement compared with the former model, which was wholly reliant on online transactions. We look forward to continuing positive newsflow surrounding AiM and the other potential distribution and supplier partners, in addition to the launch of AndEverything.com – an online market place, claimed to be a world first for promotional products.
Companies: Altitude Group
Topic of the quarter: It’s alive! Infrastructure and assets in general have traditionally been built to provide a fixed service and are maintained and renovated to a fixed schedule – dead and dumb. Technology will completely change this. Sensors and wireless networks have the potential to allow assets to ‘talk’ to us. These living, smart assets will be able to tell us when they need maintenance, how efficient they are being and provide the data that will directly influence their construction, availability and use. The implications for construction costs through to operating costs and the ability to service changing user needs are very significant. The Support Services, Construction and Technology sectors need to work together to maximise this potential, recognise and harness the power of data, and invest in and embrace change. These are daunting challenges in highly competitive markets where politics play a role, different skill sets (that are currently in short supply) are needed and shareholders are looking over management's shoulders. However, the prize for those companies who get it right is significant, and the risk from not changing much greater. There are positive early signs with Crossrail providing tangible examples of Smart Infrastructure using innovative sensors.
Companies: FOUR ACL BOOT CLL CNCT FCRM LOK PPH RNWH STAF UTW WATR VANL WYG
We believe that the share price weakness in recent weeks has brought the shares firmly into buying territory. Currency movements will provide a favourable tailwind with sterling strengthening vs the dollar and remaining relatively subdued vs the euro. Last month’s site visit confirmed that plans are well advanced for Flex to start supplying when the manufacturing and distribution agreements with Newell terminate on 31 March 2018. Investors can currently receive a 5% dividend yield and strong forecast profit growth.
Companies: Sprue Aegis
Since August, Augean has released four updates and in the process lost 28p or 50% in value. Two of the updates related to HMRC landfill tax assessments, one was for the interims and the remainder related to a profit warning and changes on the Board. The first HMRC tax assessment accounted for 86% of the decline with the remaining three having little or no impact. From this it is clear that the share price is being weighed down by the potential tax liability and this, we argue, needs to be addressed before we see any material share price appreciation, regardless of the operational improvements introduced by the new management team.
As anticipated, Severfield has announced a contract award on the new Google Headquarters in King's Cross, London. It will provide 15,900 tonnes of structural steelwork services for the new 11-storey building with the work scheduled to commence on site in June 2018. The Company has previously indicated that the work would be worth around £50m in the order book. Having recently upgraded our forecasts, we do not expect to make any further changes after this morning’s positive announcement. However, this clearly strengthens the order book in an end market (commercial offices) where there has been some uncertainty and also helps to underpin our FY’19 and FY’20 forecasts. The win once again demonstrates Severfield's market leading position with unrivalled design, fabrication and construction capabilities. Trading on an FY’18 P/E multiple of 11.3x and yielding 3.5%, we continue to believe that Severfield is attractively valued vs. peers.
Xaar has reached an agreement to receive an upfront payment instead of future royalties from one of its licensees. Xaar will receive a total payment from Seiko of ¥2.98bn/c.£20m, paid in two tranches. These will both be paid by the end of H1 18, although exact payment dates have yet to be confirmed. We view this upfront payment as a better outcome for Xaar than the royalty stream, which we have always forecast to decline towards zero by the early 2020s (N+1Se £5m in 2018, £4m in 2019). We have not yet amended our forecasts, pending clarity over timing of payments. However clearly we would anticipate an increase in net cash by 2018 and an associated reduction in underlying sales and profits, as the future royalty stream will represent only one remaining licensee (Toshiba TEC).
Highlights this quarter: Economics: Generally, the data points to modest growth continuing, with a more positive trend in PMI surveys suggesting decent m manufacturing momentum over the next six months. Currency weakness continues to be a double-edged sword for U K manufacturers, with exporters gaining competitiveness while input prices have risen. There has recently been a divergence of sterling’s performance against the euro and the USD. Those in commodity or competitive product areas may well have seen margin erosion, while many in intermediary goods have already passed on price increases to their customers. With low unemployment, the prospect of tighter labour markets post-Brexit and public sector pay caps starting to come off also signals the potential for some labour inflation, long absent from the UK industrial scene. Topic of the quarter: We believe that powerful macro and sectoral pressures will drive further significant changes to the manufacturing supply chain over the next few years. We investigate some of these pressures, with the move to outsource suppliers to low- cost centres, like China, now seeing a slight reverse flow with some restoring to shorten complex and often inflexible supply chains. We see systems technology facilitating greater supply-chain control and efficiency. Brexit will present challenges to the UK supply chain with price and time to market barriers likely to rise, presenting challenges to the UK’s highly integrated and time-sensitive supply chain. Slick distribution infrastructure and greater information sharing with suppliers are likely to prove winning strategies in optimising logistics and gaining stock efficiencies. Sector valuation: The industrials sector has continued to exhibit strength, with small-cap industrials outperforming by 2 % on last year and larger cap industrials by 17%. Currency and improving economic data have been a positive for the sector. While some other sectors have seen a pick-up in profit warnings over recent months, industrial technology companies have announced generally positive or in-line trading updates that have helped to drive the small-cap Industrials to an EV EBITDA of 8.4x and a P/E of 16.7x with the traditional small-cap discount narrowing.
Companies: SIXH ACL AXS AMPH ALU AEP AVG CAPD CAR FENR FLO RAD GHH HDD IOF MPE RE/ RNO RBN SOLI SOM SCE TRI VANL VEL ZAM TRT
This quarter we use finnCap’s Slide Rule to provide both top-down and bottom-up analysis of the UK’s Technology and Telecoms sectors. Our findings are very reassuring: the Tech sector scores the best (across all sectors) when considering Growth and Quality – Taptica*, Frontier Developments* and dotDigital* in particular stand out on these metrics. Given these attractive characteristics and growth prospects, the Tech sector is unsurprisingly one of the most expensive – currently trading at 17.2x FY1 EV/EBIT and 23.8x FY1 P/E, versus 15.0x and 18.5x respectively for the wider market. Despite valuations appearing high, we believe there are value opportunities. For example, Proactis* features in finnCap’s QVGM+ portfolio (ranked 17/462) – the company offers attractive organic and inorganic growth, with earnings forecast to grow by 26% CAGR over the next two years, but despite this, only trades on 15x FY1 earnings and offers 8% FCF yield in FY2.
Companies: 7DIG ALT AMO ARTA BOTB BLTG CTP CFHL CYAN ISL DTC DOTD ELCO ESV FDEV GBG IDEA IDOX IMTK IGP IOM KBT KCOM KWS LRM MAI MMX NASA NET ONEV PHD QTX QXT RCN 932 SSY SEE SIM SPE SRT STR TAP TAX TEP TPOP TRAK UNG VIP ZOO
Cohort continues to make progress in a tough UK defence trading environment. Our earnings forecasts remain largely unchanged as performances at MASS and EID continue ahead of expectations, compensating for pressures at MCL and SEA. Our fair value calculation currently stands at 483p implying significant unrecognised potential. The recent share price fall seems unwarranted given the maintained outlook.
In the October edition of the Hardman Monthly newsletter, Chief Executive, Keith Hiscock analyses the much misunderstood – but highly important – issue of stock liquidity. In particular, he focuses on the lower echelons of the Main Market and of AIM.
Companies: OPM ABZA AVO AGY APH ARBB AVCT BUR CMH CLIG COS DNL EVG GTLY MCL MUR NSF OBT ODX OXB NIPT PHP PURP RE/ RGD SCLP SPH SCE TRX VAL
discoverIE (previously called Acal) reported strong interims, proving that its strategy to grow the design and manufacturing (D&M) side of the business is bearing fruit. Organic revenue growth of 9% drove improved operating margins and EPS, while growth in orders and design wins position discoverIE for sustained growth. Management continues to seek out suitable acquisitions to accelerate growth of D&M – based on a similar profile to previous deals, we estimate that using existing credit facilities to make £50m worth of acquisitions could add 20-25% to FY19e EPS.