Largest closed end fund makes a tender offer for its shares

THE NEWS:

Acceleration of the fourth buy-back programme by means of a Public Tender Offer initiated by Fondul Proprietatea SA

Franklin Templeton Investment Management Ltd. United Kingdom Bucharest Branch (“the Fund Manager”), in its capacity as Sole Administrator and Fund Manager of Fondul Proprietatea SA (“the Fund”), informed shareholders that today it has submitted for approval to the Financial Supervisory Authority (the “FSA”) the application for a buy-back tender offer for the purposes of carrying out the fourth buy-back programme approved through the Shareholders’ Resolution no. 9/28 April 2014. The Fund Manager would also like to inform shareholders and investors that it has contracted Raiffeisen Bank S.A. to assist in the execution of this operation.

For this offer, the Fund intends to repurchase 750,000,000 shares from its shareholders.

Full details of the offer will be announced after receiving the approval from the FSA, which should take place within 10 business days according to the regulations in force.

In light of this development, the Fund would also like to report that the daily execution of the buy-back programme on the regulated market has been suspended from 16 October 2014; any restart after the closing of the offer will be announced in due course.

MY COMMENT:

The rummor is that the tender will be at 1.05 RON per share – at 13% premium to current share price. It is another attempt by the manager to narrow the NAV discount that currently stands at 25%. The fund manager faces termination, if it fails to narrow the discount below 15%.

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GLOBALSTAR – DO NOT BET ON KERRISDALE

Summary:

  • Two weeks ago short fund Kerrisdale started a campaign against GSAT. Their presentation was a good show but disappointing on facts.
  • GSAT shares are oversold – down more than 50% in last two weeks.
  • Good opportunity to buy before the forthcoming catalysts.

What happened?

On Wednesday 1/10 a rumor was circulated that Kerrisdale, a prominent short fund, would host a presentation on its Globalstar (NYSEMKT:GSAT) short position on Monday 6/10. Based on the rumor the shares went down by 20%. Kerrisdale delivered a good show, which pushed the share price down by an additional 20%. GSAT management than had their presentation on 9 October. The presentation came in the midst of global sell off and failed to lift the price.

Introduction to Globalstar

Globalstar is the fourth largest global satellite phone company. It has invested over 1 bln into global satellite network. Prior to Kerrisdale attack, it had market value of 5 bln and debt of 700 mln USD. Its annual EBIT is about 20 mln USD.

Since 2004 Globalstar is controlled byThermo Capital Partners, who has around 70% stake in GSAT. Thermo invested over 600 mln USD in Globalstar and Thermo chairman Jay Monroe, is Executive Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Globalstar.

The current satellite phone business does not justify the GSAT valuation. The whole value of the company may be in its Terrestrial Low Power Service (TLPS) – it is as Kerrisdale puts it “nothing more than one exclusive, licensable Wi-Fi channel”. GSAT is expecting a green light from FCC to execute the project by the end of the year.

Who is right – longs or shorts?

The key question on which the longs and shorts disagree is: is TLPS an asset and if so, what is the value.

The GSAT management and the analysts argue the following:

  1. There is an increasing WIFI congestion in the USA
  2. TLPS is a cost efficient tool to address the issue
  3. TLPS could be very quickly put into operation
  4. TLPS should be attractive for certain big players, such as Google to operate a private WIFI network in the US
  5. TLPS is, therefore, clearly an asset. Odeon Capital in its April research listed six valuation methods to value TLPS, which generated a range of $3.38 to $10.19. Based on this they assigned buy rating with $5 price target.

Kerrisdale clearly argues that TLPS is not an asset, and even if it were, it would have a zero value. Their arguments can be simplified to four basic propositions:

  1. Nobody has ever made money in satellite communications and GSAT would not either.
  2. Nobody would pay for GSAT product.
  3. The TLPS 2.4 GHz is an obsolete technology due to arrival of 5 GHz technology.
  4. The network that GSAT is building has zero value mainly because it would be too costly to build.

After listening to all webcasts and reading all the research, my view on Kerrisdale arguments is:

  1. It might be true that others did not make money. On the other hand GSAT is coming up with a different business proposition – a new product (TLPS) that has never been available before. I would, therefore, be reluctant to put too much value on those past records.
  2. The idea, that nobody would pay for GSAT product is a key theme for Kerrisdale. They believe that WIFI is free in the US and therefore why would anybody pay for WIFI on TLPS. I counted at least 20 times they said this during the presentation. My experience is that there is nothing free in life. I do not know anybody, who would have a free WIFI. You always pay, directly or indirectly.
  3. They claim TLPS 2.4 GHz is an obsolete technology due to arrival of 5 GHz technology. The management argues that 5 GHz is a poor substitute for 2.4 GHz because it falls off faster and is more easily obstructed, making it more expensive than 2.4 GHz to cover a given area. The same view is shared by analysts covering the stock. SA discourages contributors to use strong judgments in the articles. I can, therefore, only state, that this is a good example of „inaccurate information” Kerrisdale is trying to present.
  4. They also claim TLPS network would have a zero value because it would be too costly to build. Kerrisdale put up a back of the envelope calculation, which comes to 3.5 trillion USD. A subsequent analyst report by Odeon Capital puts the construction costs at a small fraction of this. As an example Odean provides a calculation that it would costs only USD 50 mln to set up the system in the whole New York.

The Kerrisdale presentation was best summarized by Dan Wise from Credit Suisse, who wrote in his report: “We believe Kerrisdale’s short thesis to essentially be a collection of half-truths, apples-to-oranges examples and red herrings”.

Stock promotion vs. stock manipulation

Kerrisdale is asserting that GSAT valuation is a result of stock promotion – they call it a bubble that they want to burst and make money on this. That would be ok, but I am not sure if the way they went for it is legal. The way Kerrisdale marketed the „leaked story” looked like to me as a share manipulation. SEC is getting sensitive about such issues. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s thesis in the Herbalife insider-trading case was precisely that: That Bill Ackman’s plans to announce his short constituted material nonpublic information, even though he had no nonpublic information about Herbalife. The SEC calls it market-moving information. Market moving information must be handled with care. I am not sure, if the Kerrisdale actions met such standard. I am sure SEC will be looking at this. I did file a motion to SEC to do so, and I am sure many others did too.

Another interesting fact is the timing of Kerrisdale attack. Jay Monroe is the controlling shareholder and has been buying GSAT share during 2014. As mentioned before Kerrisdale timed the announcement to happen during the blackout period, when Monroe is prevented from buying the shares. It just shows how Kerrisdale is trying hard to achieve its mission. On the call Jay Monroe already indicated, that he would be buying more shares if they stay in the current level after the blackout expires.

Catalysts

There will be several catalysts that should help to lift up the GSAT share price:

  1. Insider purchases – Jay Monroe indicated on the call that he might buy more shares when the blackout period expires on 13 November. He has been buying GSAT shares during 2014 at higher prices. This should help the stock
  2. FCC ruling on TMPS – GSAT claims that the ruling is eminent, and they expect this ruling by the end of the year. Again this should be helpful for GSAT share price.
  3. Partner announcement – GSAT has stated that it is in discussions with several potential partners on the development of TMPS. After the FCC ruling on TMPS announcement of a partnership could be expected.

Conclusion

After listening to Kerrisdale and management webcasts and reading subsequent analyst’s reports, I believe that Kerrisdale short theses fail on common sense grounds. I am sure its actions will be subject of SEC review as Pershing´s actions on Herbalife were. GSAT shares are 50% down since the attack begun two weeks ago. I expect rerating plus further upside after the catalysts materialize. Pity we can not short Kerrisdale.

Fondul Proprietatea aims to buyback 50% of daily volumes to drive up the price

Romanian energy fund Fondul Proprietatea announced that it started its 4th buyback round on 1 October. This time the fund aims to buyback 990 million shares, which represents 8% of the capital. With current daily volumes of around 15 million shares, the buyback represents about three months of trading volumes.

In the previous buyback rounds Fondul was allowed to buyback 25% of daily trading volumes. I spoke to the brokers, and Fondul was actually buying these volumes. For the 4the round Fondul got permission to buyback up to 50% of daily volumes. This is very significant buyback by any measure that should drive up the Fondul price.

Franklin Templeton that manages the fund has a strong motivation to drive up the Fondul price. In September shareholders passed a resolution based on which the fund manager faces termination of the management contract if the NAV discount does not decrease to 15% (from current 25%) in two thirds of trading sessions between October 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. To comply with this the Fondul share price needs to rice another 13% to 1.07 Ron per share. Looks like the Templeton is working hard to achieve this mission.

Long Getinge – profit from panic

Best time to buy is when people run. Good example is Getinge, a Swedish medical devices company. The company has a good track record – strong medical devices brand, good organic and acquisition growth.

On March 7 the company reported a profit warning. The warning was affected by the FDA inspection findings that raised issues with company’s quality management systems in certain production facilities. The company announced that it has retained consultants to remedy the situation and that the associated costs would amount SEK 125 mil (USD 20 mil) per quarter for a period of six to seven quarters. These costs will cause approximately 10% reduction in EBITA. The company also announced the work will not affect organic sales growth, as the issues are related to quality control system not production problems.

The result: the company shares went down by 27% from 236 to 172 SEK, wiping out USD 2.1 bln of its valuation.

If one believes the company that there should not be material production and brand perception distortions, and the total costs to remedy the situation will amount to USD 120 – 140 mil spread over 6 -7 quarters, than the valuation drop of USD 2.1 bln is not justified.

The reason for the drop was investor concern whether the company is not underestimating the issues raised by FDA.

In this I found very helpful research by Michael Jungling of Morgan Stanley. Under the Freedom of Information Act They requested from US FDA details of the inspections. They obtained two forms from two inspections from US and German facilities. In both cases the FDA issues relate primarily to administrative matters and not production quality issues. Specifically he mentions the following examples:

1. Corrective and preventive action and/or results have not been adequately documented

2. Procedures have not been adequately established to control product that does not conform to specific requirements

3. Procedures that define the responsibility for review and the authority for the disposition of nonconforming product have not been adequately established

I believe this is comforting despite the fact that not all forms have been obtained and reviewed.

The next big event for Getinge was supposed to be the Investor Day on May 27. The company was planning to announce its 2014 financial targets (Getinge already announced on 16 April its 2014 full year organic revenue growth of 4.3% beating consensus of 3.8%, but did not announce details on estimated profitability). It also stated that it would provide more information on its costs efficiency program that was “deemed to be highly favourable”. One week before the investor day the company postponed the event till the FDA situtaion is clarified. The share price was recovering towards the investor day, but went down to low 170s after this announcement.

I believe there are two FDA outcomes: (i) fine, (ii) temporary production disruption. If the FDA situtaion would require production closures, it would have already happened. I therefore see production clousures risk as low. The question is how big the fine might be. It is hard to estimate the fine, however it is hard to imagine, that it could be anywehere the 2.1 bln loss in mkt value the company suffered. If the fine is deemed not high enough we can expect the surge in Getinge share price. Such move than might be reinforced be the cost savings announcement that the company already promissed to the investors. The share price is still 21% down from the pre FDA announcement levels. The next event is the 16/10/2014 when Getinge is scheduled to report the results. It is quite possible that the date might bring some good news for Getinge investors.

Disclosure: I am long GNGBF.

A FREE CALL OPTION ON GOODYEAR´S NEW GAME CHANGING PRODUCT

Summary

  • Goodyear might be an attractive short-term and long-term opportunity.
  • In 1H15 Goodyear plans industrialisation of its new AMT technology. A success could mean a material upside for Goodyear. Downside is limited as market assigns zero value to the project.
  • On 7/30 Goodyear reported its results. The market over-reacted to weak revenue guidance and gave no credit to costs savings achieved. Attractive entry point for investors.

My investment approach

My investment approach is simple – I look for special situations and special opportunities. Many of my ideas start with reading newspapers. I find an idea, analyze it and make an investment decision. My 2014 return was 41%. Some of the ideas I made money on last year are described in my previous articles. The below idea is based on detailed analysis of many articles and materials and discussions with industry experts over a 3 months period.

Profit from game changing product

My latest idea is Goodyear (GT). GT is about to bring a new product to the market. The technology is called Air Maintenance Technology or AMT. The technology was named one of 2012’s best inventions by the Time magazine. The idea is a tire that can pump itself by rotating to maintain tire pressure at a constant level. It utilizes a peristaltic pump technology. Basically there is a small pipe that is molded in the side wall of the tire and as the tire rotates the pipe is squeezed at the bottom and that pushes the air into the tire.

Most personal and commercial vehicles have under-inflated tires, which results in: (i) higher fuel costs, (ii) reduction in tire life, (iii) increased likelihood of tire breakdown, (iv) reduced safety. The new product should resolve the issue. It took Goodyear more than five years to develop and the launch is planned for first half of 2015.

Goodyear got financial support from DoE to develop the product. Goodyear annually reports to DoE its progress. The presentations are publicly available on DoE web site (see the link to the June 2014 presentation below this article). These presentations were the main source of information for this article.

Goodyear is planning to launch the AMT first on truck tires. The truck industry is the most likely tire segment that would be willing to pay a premium for the cost saving benefits. The presentation describes that Goodyear tested interest of different segments of truck fleet operators and 58% stated that they would definitely or probably buy the AMT product. If proved successful the tire would then be used on all major market segments.

Attractive long-term play

It is quite difficult to estimate, what might be the financial impact of the product on GT bottom line. In the last 40 years there were only two similar game changing products – radial tire, and tubeless tire. While radial and tubeless ideas were off-patent and therefore the whole industry benefited, AMT is Goodyear´s invention and therefore it is GT who might benefit.

It is a new technology – the product might fail, or might remain marginal. I read most analysts reports on GT and all recent GT investor calls transcripts and there is no single mention of AMT. The market seems to ignore the product – it is not in GT price yet. One can view this as a free call option on the product launch – if it works out, the impact on the share price might be material, If it does not, there should be a little impact, as the market currently attributes zero value to the project.

Good time to enter

Since Goodyear reported the results on 7/30 the share price traded down by 18%. The market focused too much on a disappointing full year revenue guidance and discounted the cost savings the company achieved in the quarter. The costs savings enabled the company to report its most profitable quarter ever. The price move made the GT shares more attractive trading at 7.5 2015PE, well below the peers average of 11. We should see GT re-rating as market sees the cost savings are proven recurring.

Conclusion

GT at current share price offers an attractive entry point from both short-term and long-term point of view. In the short-term the stock should rerate as GT proves its costs savings will have long lasting effect on its profitability. In the long-term point of view the new AMT technology could be a game changing product. If successful the GT and its shareholders should benefit.

Link to the 2014 presentation:

(energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/07/f17/…)

Disclosure: The author is long GT.

Fondul Proprietatea: 4th Buyback on The Way

Another positive news from Fondul Proprietatea, the Romanian energy fund that is under pressure from activist investor Paul SingerThe Elliot Associates managed by Singer is the largest investor in Fondul with 15.22% stake.

The local FSA has approved the changes to the Fund’s share capital after the cancellation of the 1.1bn shares bought in the second buyback programme. The cancellation opens the way for the fourth buyback programme in which the fund aims to buyback 990 million shares (8% of the shares). The fund manager said the buyback would start over the coming days. Accelerated buyback is also under consideration. At the current market price, the buyback would require RON 0.93bn. The Fund held RON 1.26bn on its balance sheet as of the end of August.

As I wrote before, the fund manager faces termination of the management contract if the NAV discount does not decrease to 15% (from current 25%) in two thirds of trading sessions between October 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. To comply with this the Fondul share price needs to rice another 13% to 1.07 Ron per share. Looks like the Templeton is working hard to achieve this mission.


Making money is about great ideas.