Saturday, April 4, 2015

Earnings on tap: McRea Industries, Senvest, EUPIC, CMH, Putprop

McRae Industries (MCRAA) recently reported H1 2015 results. Revenue in H1 was $57.31 M versus $58.26 M the previous year. And the gross margin was 28.1% versus 30.9% the previous year. This resulted in a H1 income drop of $3.80 M versus $4.55 M the previous year. Despite the slight disappointment, management tone was upbeat. They attributed the lower margin to two main factors. The first is higher costs associated with hiring and training new personnel, which is encouraging because it says they are expanding capacity. The second is due to higher import costs, which is worrying. One would expect that with the dollar getting stronger and stronger that import costs would decrease. On the other hand if most of their imports is from China then that would not apply as the Yuan is actually appreciating versus the dollar. The company did express optimism that demand remain strong in all product segments, so this year results should be on par with last year's record results.

Senvest just reported 2014 results which was as expected given the company posts the results of its funds monthly. Shareholder's equity at year end stands at CDN$738 M or CDN$264 per share. The company currently trades at 64 % of year-end book value. However, it should be even lower considering that after Q1 2015, the Senvest main funds Senvest Partners is up 7% and the Senvest Israel Partners is probably up around the same. The stock today probably trades at less than 60% of book!

Senvest year end 2014 year end 2013 year end 2012 year end 2011
Common equity (CDN$ M) 738 565 331 263
yoy equity gain 31% 71% 26%
Employee compensation (M) 32 43 12.5
Compensation as a
percentage of equity
4.3% 7.6% 3.8%

Senvest is a steal in my opinion. But, there is a lively debate in stock forums and the blogosphere whether the stock is indeed undervalued. The debate centers on whether the management deserves the compensation for the alpha, or lack of, that they generate for their portfolios. The above table shows the employee compensation (management fees) for the last 3 years and their percentages of equity. The fees are from the consolidated balance sheets which is shared by not just the common shareholders but also the outside owners of the Senvest funds and the minority interests. I estimate that the outside owners pay about 1/3 to 1/4 the management fees. And the minority interest is another 10%. So overall, the common shareholders directly pay around 60% of the total employee compensation. So, with this in mind, the fees are around 2.5% in a bad year, when incentive bonuses do not kick in, and it is around 5% in a good year, when incentive bonuses kick in. I think that is reasonable. Back in the day, when I was still buying mutual funds in Canada, the mutual fund management expense ratios could run as high as 2.5%!

I'll be watching the employee expense numbers closely in the coming quarters as the company also said it is expanding its work force in New York.

European Reliance of Greece (EUPIC:ATH) reported earnings of € 0.37 in 2014 versus € 0.35 a year ago. Equity grew to € 70M from € 58M a year ago. This means that the company is now selling for 1/2 book! No doubt the underpricing is due to the ongoing Greek debt crisis. I definitely need to think of the company's contingencies in the event of a Greek exit from the Eurozone, because if I can access the downside I can have a better gauge of whether this company should really be priced at 1/2 book.

Next up are my two South African holdings. CMH, an auto retailer, pre-announced that 2014 headline earnings would be between R2.04 and R1.88 versus R1.58 a year ago. Actual EPS would be between R1.73 and $1.57 versus R1.57 a year ago. Beyond that the company didn't give any more details. So it appears that the company has some one-time charges in the last year, which lowered earnings in a otherwise excellent year. Today the company trades at 9x earnings.

My other South Africa holding Putprop reported sales in line with last year. But a flurry of news made me just too scared and I sold. I think real estate companies are not for my style of investing and it'll be a while before I'll buy another. In the last six months Putprop reported its primary customer was in arrears with rent. It also announced it was doing a rights offer at R6.30 when the stock was trading at R7.00. However, when the rights offering time came, the stock was trading at R6.20! And several board members were replaced at around the same time. All these borderline red flags and the stock's poor performance made me give up on Putprop.

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