Quarterly Letter and a Wilhelmsen Update

I’ve finally gotten around to posting Alluvial Capital Management’s first quarter 2016 letter to clients on my company site. Please go here if you are interested in reading it or any other letters.

Three months ago I wrote about Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA, a deeply-discounted Norwegian specialty shipping company with an upcoming catalyst in the form of a spin-off. That spin-off has been accomplished, and Wilhelmsen ASA and Treasure now trade independently. The price of each is well, well below a conservative reckoning of fair value.

Treasure ASA

The newly independent Treasure ASA is easy to value. The company’s major asset is a 12.04% stake in a Korean logistics company, Hyundai Glovis. Treasure also holds USD 18 million in cash, contributed by Wilh. Wilhelmsen. On the liability side, Treasure remains a guarantor on Wilhelmsen’s corporate-level obligations, though this liability is minor. (Wilhelmsen has strong liquidity and all its corporate-level bonds will roll off within a few years.)

At current exchange rates, Treasure’s stake in Hyundai Glovis is worth USD 687 million. Adding Treasure’s cash holdings yields total value of USD 705 million. Translated to Norwegian Krone, Treasure’s value is NOK 5,839 million, or NOK 26.54 per share.

Treasure’s last trading price was NOK 15.50, a 42% discount to NAV. It’s normal for a holding company to trade at a discount to the value of its assets, but a discount of this magnitude is unusual and I do not expect it to last. Either Treasure will take advantage of this discount and repurchase shares, or Treasure’s majority owner (Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding, with a 72% stake) will increase its ownership.

Needless to say, I think Treasure’s current price is driven by non-economic selling pressure and that buyers at the current price will be well-rewarded.

Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA

While the newly-spun off Treasure ASA looks quite attractive, Wilh. Wilhelmsen may be even more so. Wilhelmsen’s goal in shedding its Korean assets was to highlight the value of its autmotive shipping and logistics operations, but the market has shown no inclination to cooperate thus far.

Wilhelmsen shares last traded at NOK 23.30 per share and a market capitalization of NOK 5,126 million. Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen’s tangible book value is north of NOK 11 billion. (This value will increase materially with next quarter’s results, due to an accounting gain from an acquisition.) So, Wilhelmsen’s price to tangible book value ratio is somewhere below 47%, a level usually reserved for the kind of distressed, unprofitable firm that Wilhelmsen most certainly is not.

For the twelve trailing months, Wilhelmsen’s remaining operations produced free cash flow of more than NOK 800 million, for a free cash flow yield in the mid teens.

I believe Wilhelmsen shares should be valued at a premium to book value. Company management has demonstrated ability to earn robust returns on capital through the cycle, no small accomplishment in a cyclical, capital-intensive, largely commoditized industry. All the same, I do understand the market’s more pessimistic point of view. As was plainly illustrated in Wilhelmsen’s first quarter results, the shipping market remains deeply unfavorable. Auto shipments have held up well, but shipments of mining and construction equipment have fallen markedly. I would not be surprised if the next few years were difficult for Wilhelmsen. Still, I expect the company to remain profitable and to use the downturn to set itself up well for the eventual return to happier times.

At less than half of tangible book value, the market is telling us that Wilhelmsen’s assets are severely impaired, that the firm will fail to earn its cost of capital over the next economic cycle, or that a long period of unprofitability will erode the equity base. I disagree with all of these scenarios, and I expect good things from Wilhelmsen stock.

Alluvial Capital Management, LLC holds shares of Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA and Treasure ASA for client accounts. Alluvial may buy or sell shares of Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA and/or Treasure ASA at any time. 

OTCAdventures.com is an Alluvial Capital Management, LLC publication. For information on Alluvial’s managed accounts, please see alluvialcapital.com.

Alluvial Capital Management, LLC may buy or sell securities mentioned on this blog for client accounts or for the accounts of principals. For a full accounting of Alluvial’s and Alluvial personnel’s holdings in any securities mentioned, contact Alluvial Capital Management, LLC at info@alluvialcapital.com.