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Solid operating performance but declining orders
27 Oct 16
In Q3 16, revenues declined 3.1% to US$8.26bn (our estimate: US$8bn). Order intake dropped 14.1% to US$7.53bn and the order backlog declined 3.2% to US$24.55bn. The gross margin increased from 29.6% to 29.8% and the EBIT margin from 10.4% to 10.6%. Total EBIT remained nearly stable at around US$878m (our estimate: US$680m). Net profit declined 1.6% to US$568m. Adjusted EBITA declined 3.2% to US$1.046bn which was marginally above the consensus estimates of around US$1.4bn. The operating performance of the company was in line with market expectations but exceeded our estimates. The performance was mainly driven by the Power Grids division. Real EBIT increased 39.6% to US$222m and the EBIT margin improved from 5.7% to 8.4%. The EBIT margin of the Electrifications division increased from 16.6% to 16.9%, Discrete Automation & Motion from 11.9% to 12.5% and Process Automation from 9.6% to 11.2%.
Return on equity reduced by law
13 Oct 16
In Germany, the regulatory environment for the grid network has changed. The German Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has changed the imputed return on equity which will apply for the next five years. The current regulatory periods for gas and electricity will expire in 2017 (gas) and 2018 (electricity). The new regulations for gas will apply as of January 2018 and for electricity 2019. The new return on equity for new assets will be reduced from 9.05% to 6.91% and for so-called old assets (activation prior January 2006) will decline from 7.14% to 5.12%. In each case without inflation and before corporate tax and after trade tax. According to estimates the lowered return on equity (equity ratio 40% max.) will reduce the yield by around €650m per year.
Business as usual!
05 Oct 16
The capital markets day ended as expected. The Power Grids division will not be separated from the company. The shareholder Cevian with a stake of 6.2% in the company had asked for a spin-off, IPO or joint venture. ABB’s response was quite obvious. Management will streamline the group and has initiated a share buy-back programme. Management has also started partnerships with Flour (transformation station) and the Norwegian service and maintenance company Aibel for offshore wind energy. In addition, a new EBITA margin corridor for the Power Grids division was announced. In 2018, the EBITA margin should range between 10% and 14% compared to 8-12% previously. In addition, management added some buzzwords such as relentless execution, streamlining the portfolio and digitalisation.
The communication engine has started!
22 Sep 16
Just after the supervisory board meeting another argument has arisen about not selling the Power Grids division. The Chinese company State Grid Corporation is interested in ABB’s leading-edge technology HVDC (high voltage direct current). State Grid Corporation is ABB’s largest customer but might also become its the largest competitor. The company controls more than 80% of the Chinese grid. According to recent rumours, State Grid is willing to pay up to US$20bn, which is in line with our net asset valuation.
Power Grids to remain part of the group!
21 Sep 16
ABB has sold its high-voltage cable business to the Danish company NKT Cables. The total enterprise value reached €836m, or US$934m. The high-voltage business was part of the Power Grids division and generated total revenues of around US$524m with around 900 employees. The business unit has manufacturing and R&D facilities for high-voltage submarine and underground cables in Karlskrona, Sweden. The deal will be closed in the first quarter of 2017.
Living in a different world!
21 Jul 16
The company reported disappointing second quarter results. Order intake declined 7.6% to US$8.3bn and revenues dropped 5.3% to US$8.7bn. Management experienced solid progress in profitability. Adjusted EBITA increased 4.5% to US$1.1bn and the EBITA margin increased from 11.5% to 12.7%. Real EBIT, however, plummeted 32.7% to US$647m and the EBIT margin declined from 10.5% to 7.5%. The ongoing cost-savings programme resulted in restructuring charges of US$367m. To make the unreal world perfect, management also reported operational EPS numbers which increased 16% from US$0.30 to US$0.35. Real EPS numbers dropped 28% from US$0.26 to US$0.19. Net income collapsed by 30.8% to US$407m.
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Fighting the waves
25 Oct 16
Management action in response to a tough trading climate and falling profits should contribute to a sound recovery in profits next year. Following share price weakness, the group is valued at a substantial discount to both the broking market leader Clarkson and to other peers. Meanwhile, if the dividend can be held, the shares offer a well above-average yield, pending an eventual improvement in trading conditions.
21 Oct 16
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FY17 expectations unchanged. Interim dividend maintained
25 Oct 16
Interims reflect tough markets which impacted Technical. Shipbroking delivered a resilient result and Logistics has performed well. The interim dividend has been held at 9.0p. The group anticipate an improvement in H2. The Board’s expectations for the year are unchanged based upon the strength of the order book due in H2, its ongoing market coverage and the benefits of action taken previously. We have retained our FY2017 PBT forecast of £8.7m and a maintained dividend. We reiterate our Buy and adjust our TP to 450p.
Doing things differently
25 Oct 16
Growing pains have impacted on its operational performance (EBIT margins 5.8% FY15 vs 12.2% FY13) and the HSS Hire valuation is at distressed levels (price to book 0.4x vs 1.3x at the time of the float). As the top-line catches up with the expanded cost base and the roll-out of the NDEC leads to greater efficiencies, margins and returns will rebound. Historical experience has shown that price to book ratios typically match these improvements (see Ashtead FY08-FY15, price to book expanded +196%). Therefore, we see scope for material upside in the share price as the expected operational recovery to progress. Our 12 month target of 115p equates to a 0.8x price to net operating assets
Risks discounted leaving significant upside
18 Oct 16
FY 2016 sales grew strongly at +22% but EPS growth lagged at +3% (our revised forecast -1%) as staff attrition and significant investment in new services held back profitability. Conversion of profit into cash improved significantly, at 240% in H2, as shorter payment terms and a lower level of extensions also benefited. We make no major changes to our forecasts and reiterate our view that Utilitywise is at the forefront of a changing energy market, supported by investment in innovative technology. The current valuation is entirely focused on the short-term challenges and ignores the growth potential supported by the new services.