Good morning from Paul amp; Graham!
UPDATE at 12:17 – I’ll take a quick look at £G4M next, then we’ll be finished by 13:00. Paul.
Luceco (LON:LUCE) – it’s a profit warning, with broker forecast EPS reduced substantially (down 27% for FY 12/2022, and down 39% for FY 12/2023). I’m concerned about high bank debt here, although it has reduced sharply in Q3 due to reduced inventories. It’s now clear that 2020 amp; 2021 bonanza profits were an aberration, not the new normal. Therefore the plunging share price looks justified on weaker fundamentals, and an uncertain macro outlook. The chart might look oversold, but on fundamentals, I have to say the current price looks about right to me. It could recover once the economy recovers though, and earnings forecasts start rising again – but it feels to early to be anticipating that.
Naked Wines (LON:WINE) – this troubled wine subscription eCommerce business has certainly made some progress. There’s a lot of detail in today’s update, with the main positives being guidance for a strong profit improvement this year FY 3/2023, and amended bank covenants which give it a lot more flexibility. Although the deeper you dig, the clearer it is that there’s still a lot to sort out – especially very excessive inventories, which could contain further hidden losses. Overall though, risk has reduced, and the potential upside looks better after today’s update, although some concerns remain.
Gear4music Holdings (LON:G4M) – a fairly solid H1 update, and in line for the full year 3/2022. I discuss the bull amp; bear points. Overall, I’m seeing the glass half full here.
Jupiter Fund Management (LON:JUP) (£495m) – in a sign of the times, another large fund manager has seen its valuation fall below our market cap limit. I’ve always maintained that the time to buy fund managers is when markets are depressed, as the subsequent recovery produces turbocharged returns for the owners of fund management companies. Jupiter is perceived as a company that lacks differentiation in the sector, which has resulted in it being a victim of the transition to passive and automated investment strategies. However, its new CEO appears determined to streamline the business. Furthermore, Jupiter is now going to start buying back its own shares. I would like to see much bigger buybacks, as the business trades on a meagre valuation of just 8x earnings. These catalysts have sparked my interest and I now see this as an interesting contrarian opportunity.
IG Design (LON:IGR) (£86m) – a positive trading update although with no change to full-year expectations. Customers have brought forward their orders to H1, to avoid getting involved with the supply chain problems that made a mess of last year. Therefore, both IG and its customers should hopefully get a more certain result from trading this Christmas. Looking further ahead, it’s not clear when IG will be able to restore their profit margins in the face of rampant input cost inflation. But at least the stock is already pricing in low future margins, providing good upside if they succeed.
International Personal Finance (LON:IPF) (£167m) (-6%) [no section below] – this lender, formerly part of Provident Financial, operates in various Eastern European countries and also in Mexico and Australia. Today’s Q3 update discloses a 15% increase in lending (at constant exchange rates) and a 2% increase in customer numbers. Their digital product is growing particularly well. Total receivables are now at £851m, with a “stable” repayment performance across all divisions. There are however “early signs of a reduction in customer demand for credit”, and IPF says that it is tightening up its lending criteria for high-risk customers.
Rising interest rates and hedging costs have resulted in IPF’s cost of funding increasing to the very high level of 12.8% (up by 60 basis points). It has a below-investment grade credit rating from the agencies. It is also going to suffer a profit reduction of c. £20m p.a. thanks to new lending regulations in Poland. Despite these challenges, the shares may now be worth considering as they lurch into bargain basement territory. Even with the loss of business in Poland, and accepting the high-risk nature of the business, the shares are still potentially too cheap at these levels. [no section below]
Explanatory notes -
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Paul’s Section: Luceco (LON:LUCE)
74p (pre market open)
Market cap £119m
Luceco plc (“the Group” or “Luceco”), the supplier of wiring accessories, EV chargers, LED lighting, and portable power products, provides the following update on trading for the three months ended 30 September 2022 (‘Q3 2022′).
I like it when companies get into a pattern of releasing quarterly trading updates, and wish all companies would do this. It’s much better than leaving big gaps in the reporting, and providing an AGM update on an AGM date chosen seemingly at random. We should cajole other companies to adopt quarterly updates as standard.
Q3 trading – sounds OK, although “in line” means down 11% vs Q3 LY (but up 14% on 3 years ago pre-pandemic, helped by acquisitions) –
The Group has traded in line with expectations in Q3 2022 and generated strong cash flow…
Q4 outlook – has deteriorated due to customer destocking -
However, our order book now suggests our distributor customers will destock faster in Q4 than we originally expected, resulting in Adjusted Operating Profit for 2022 in the range of £20-22m, below previous estimates. Our estimate of total destocking for 2022 and 2023 combined remains unchanged.
Other points -
DIY demand slowed, but is now being stimulated by customer promotions.
Demand from professionals is stronger – especially LED lighting (non-residential) – this ties in with several companies recently saying they’re installing LED lighting, to save on electricity costs. So LED lighting is clearly a good space to be in for Luceco, and was 38% of group revenue in H1.
Reduced inventories in Q3, generating £11m in free cashflow, which has reduced net bank debt considerably, from £53.9m end June ‘22, to £43.5m end Sept ‘22 – this is key, as in my view, net debt had got worryingly high. Net debt is expected to remain the same in Q4.
Customer destocking – is happening faster than expected.
Profit guidance – adj operating profit £20-22m. It doesn’t say what previous guidance was.
Broker update - many thanks to Liberum, for an update note this morning. As is often the case, a fairly benign-sounding company statement, has resulted in large drops in profit forecasts from the broker.
FY 12/2022: adj EPS cut from 12.4p to 9.1p (down 27%) – PER of 7.3 (at 66p/share at 08:24 today)
FY 12/2023: adj EPS cut from 13.7p to 8.3p (down 39%) – PER of 8.0
Those PERs might look low, but bear in mind the 2023 macro outlook is currently looking quite grim, so forecast profits could be slashed again if we go into a proper recession. Although as the company says, it does now have tailwinds in 2023, from reduced freight costs, and the return of more normal customer orders after the destocking in 2022 has finished in early 2023.
Also bear in mind LUCE is carrying a lot of debt, after some rather ill-timed acquisitions. So the PER should be low.
Cost inflation - this is interesting, although as an importer from the Far East, I’m confused as to why forex has moved in their favour?
Our estimate of the total impact of cost inflation emerging from the pandemic has reduced materially in recent weeks as key cost drivers such as sea container and currency rates have moved rapidly in our favour. At current prices, this would lead to a reduction in our annual cost base between 2022 and 2024 once existing inventory has been sold through and current hedging arrangements mature.
This confirms what I’m hearing from other companies, that inflation re cost of goods amp; inbound shipping, are now reversing nicely. Which reinforces the credibility of forecasts that general inflation should reduce potentially quite quickly in 2023.
As supply chains normalise, we’ll probably see more destocking (because companies won’t need elevated inventories any more to ensure supply), which combined with reduced demand in a recession, could end up with a glut of goods, and lower prices, even in 2023?
A lot depends on what happens with energy prices though. But it’s increasingly looking likely that this is a spike in inflation, not long-term, ingrained inflation. In my opinion, I could be wrong, but we’re getting more evidence by the day that supply chains amp; costs are easing.
There is an unusually broad range of macroeconomic outcomes for 2023.
If pressure on residential RMI activity from reduced household disposable income and fewer housing transactions continues as expected, this is likely to lead to profits in 2023 being similar to 2022, with performance underpinned by tailwinds from reduced customer destocking, growth in EV charger sales and input cost deflation.
The Group’s healthy balance sheet, strong cash generation and agile business model will enable it to navigate this period with confidence.
Is the balance sheet strong? It’s got too much bank debt, in my view. That is a concern.
Assuming the bank remains supportive though, the overall position is OK, with NTAV of £41.5m.
The structure of the balance sheet is a very healthy working capital position – the current ratio is 2.7, with a £80.5m surplus of current assets over current liabilities. That’s very comfortable actually. However, this is funded mostly by non-current £58.5m gross bank borrowings. That’s as at 30 June 2022.
Before buying shares in LUCE, I would want to stress test the bank borrowings amp; covenants, in a downside trading scenario.
My opinion - this is a significant profit warning, with big reductions in forecast EPS in 2022 and 2023. How much of that is already in the share price though? Are the shares are a bargain yet? Not really, I have to say, based on the new forecasts, and the uncertain outlook.
It feels too early to be anticipating a recovery in earnings, so I’ll stay on the sidelines with this share. The debt worries me a bit too, although it has come down nicely in Q3.
It’s now clear that the bumper earnings in 2020 amp; 2021 were complete one-offs, due to the pandemic. Therefore, unfortunately for shareholders, the collapsing share price does seem justified by the very much weaker fundamentals. So I think we should be pricing this share on much more modest earnings expectations in future. That means people need to avoid anchoring to the peak share price of 500p, and assuming it can recover to that level, as that was (we now know, but didn’t then) a completely unrealistic valuation, based on unsustainable one-off bonanza peak earnings.
Naked Wines (LON:WINE)
119p (up 26% at 09:45)
Market cap £88m
Two announcements today.
Darryl Rawlings steps down as Chairman, effective today.
David Stead becomes the new Chairman today (existing Director since 2017, formerly CFO of Dunelm, and Boots – looks a big hitter). This is a positive surprise I think, as it had been previously announced that he was planning to step down in Nov 2022.
James Crawford (Interim CFO) – “active discussions” to make him permanent CFO.
New Chairman’s comments -
“I look forward to working closely with Nick and James in the coming months and beyond. My aim, together with the other non-executive directors, is to support them in delivering improved liquidity and sustainable profitability.”
Background – this is a planned update, as this subscription wine business had previously told us that the business model was being actively reviewed, and the focus needed to change from growth, to cost-cutting, targeting profitability, and reducing excessive inventories. Remember also that its reducing cash pile actually belongs to the customers, and would shrink as revenues fall. So the cash position is not anywhere near as comfortable as it might look.
Net cash was £39.8m at 3/2022, but it had received advance payments of £76.0m from customers, so the company’s own cash was actually negative at the last year end.
Net cash fell further to £22m at 9/2022.
Revised covenants on the bank facility – which is now linked to adj EBITDA performance of £1m per quarter, instead of the old, rather weird, covenant linked to repeat customer contribution (a metric I always thought looked like fantasy). This looks safe, as H1 has already produced £5-6m of adj EBITDA. So the way I see this new covenant, it’s forcing the company to stop operational cash burn, but gives it balance sheet flexibility (to increase or reduce inventories for seasonal peaks). That looks a good move, and sounds positive.
Going concern – there was a “material uncertainty” note with the FY 3/2022 results, which it says was triggered by the old bank covenant. So although not explicitly stated, it sounds as if the next going concern statement to accompany interim results could be better, we’ll see.
Cost-cutting - very sensibly, costs are being trimmed, saving £18m p.a. compared with previous guidance. This is mostly reduced marketing spending, which is bound to cause revenues to fall – possibly by more than the modest -4-9% that the company guides?
Profit guidance – it reckons adj EBIT (operating profit) of £9-13m can be achieved this year, FY 3/2023, and more the following year. Note that FY 3/2022 results showed £2.0m adj EBIT, so this is really bullish if that can be raised to £9-13m this year, FY 3/2023.
However, the H1 guidance reveals that H1 profit of £4m is heavily adjusted to exclude £12m of “one time” costs relating to restructuring, and provisions against inventories. This is a worry, because the excessive inventories could contain other horrors requiring additional provisions, as is often the case. There’s a one-off gain of £4.8m on disposal of a freehold property.
Commitments to wine growers look a problem too, with some costs involved in getting out of those contracts, so more information is needed on this.
Inventories - this bit concerns me. Inventories were already far too high, so the obvious thing to do is run those down, to generate cash. Instead, WINE has increased inventories further,
Inventory is expected to peak now, remain elevated for 12 months, before reducing…
Year end FY 9/2022 is expected to show inventories of wine at £185m, which is at cost remember. Cost of sales in last year’s Pamp;L was £209m, and revenues are set to shrink this year, so WINE is currently sitting on an entire year’s worth of stock. The plan is to reduce this to £145m by end FY 3/2024, but that’s still a huge amount. Good retailers turn their stock fast, say every 6 weeks. WINE sits on it for a year! Maybe that’s the nature of wine, but it doesn’t strike me as a very good model, and it’s tying up a lot of capital, plus there’s storage costs, breakages, wine going off or corked, etc, to think about. My main worry is that the inventories could be full of wines that customers don’t like, and don’t want to buy. The company has admitted today it’s making provisions against some inventories, i.e. marking down its value to below cost. How do we know there’s not a ton of other product sitting in vats, or warehouses, that’s unsaleable? It’s always a big risk, at any company with excessive inventories. Ted Baker was a good example of that, where I flagged excessive inventories, and it eventually ‘fessed up with a big write-off charge against stuff they couldn’t sell.
So big inventories is now my main worry with this share.
My opinion – there are 2 ways of looking at this -
Big rise in guided profitability for this year amp; next, now it’s refocused on profit amp; cashflow, instead of growth. Worries over bank facility amp; going concern seem to be resolved with amended covenants, so it’s now much lower risk. Brand could be valuable, takeover target maybe? Could be worth a punt.
Inventories still way too high, and it’s only profitable if you ignore a hefty slug of supposedly one-off costs (which may not be one-offs in reality). Revenues now shrinking, which could limit the valuation upside.
On balance, my view is certainly less negative after today’s update, which does show some decent progress, reduced risk, and early signs of a turnaround. But there’s still a lot to sort out. I’ll watch developments with interest.
Gear4music Holdings (LON:G4M)
113p (up 5% at 12:21)
Market cap £23m
Preamble from Paul – I last covered this online seller of musical instruments amp; other audio equipment, here on 20 Sept 2022. That was a mild profit warning. As mentioned at the time, the pandemic profits have melted away, so the market’s brutal share price destruction in the last year does make some sense.
Forecast EBITDA of £9.0m only turns into £1.3m adj PBT (per Singers forecast), a wafer thin overall profit margin, on forecast revenue of £155m, this is for FY 3/2023.
Maybe the pandemic brought forward demand, and we know it increased costs (especially freight), creating a hangover, so it’s possible the current year might be a low point, if you take an optimistic view.
What’s the latest?
H1 revenues £66.3m (up 2% on H1 LY) – UK down 3%, Europe up 10% (helped by new Irish amp; Spanish distribution hubs).
Gross margin softer, at 26.3% (H1 LY 28.0%) – but bear in mind G4M absorbs dispatch costs within its margin, so the margin on a comparable basis to many other eCommerce businesses is in the 30’s, not 20’s. Plus the average transaction value is high, and the returns rate low, so this gross margin does make more sense than you might at first believe.
Net debt of £21.8m at end Sept 2022, has come down £2.4m in 6 months. This is the main negative with this share, although I don’t think it’s a severe concern, because it’s funding a large inventories position, which can be gradually reduced.
Outlook - bear in mind that H2 to date is only 20 days, but even so this reads positively in the context of a depressed share price, I think -
We have strong levels of inventory heading into our peak trading period, our infrastructure is performing well, and we are on track to deploy several new growth orientated website upgrades alongside further productivity enhancements during H2. The Board therefore remains confident that results for the full financial year will be in-line with recently updated consensus market expectations**.
** Gear4music believes that current consensus market expectations for the year ending 31 March 2023 are revenue of £155.1 million, EBITDA of £8.9 million and profit before tax of £1.1 million.
Seasonality – a footnote seems to suggest that a stronger H2 might be expected this year, so chance of a beat against forecasts perhaps? The current forecast assumes 57% revenues in H2, whereas pre-pandemic it was 61-64%. Mind you with consumer confidence so low, it’s a brave person who assumes forecasts will be beaten, but at least this provides some comfort that forecasts might be set conservatively, it’s looking that way to me.
Diary date – 15 Nov, for H1 results (to 9/2022), a nice prompt reporting schedule.
My opinion – I’m encouraged by this. Brokers have left forecasts unchanged, at just above breakeven. Progress is being made in Europe. Margins could improve, if input prices begin to ease, and of course shipping costs have dramatically dropped recently. Putting that together, G4M is still managing to trade profitably, in pretty grim cost and demand conditions. That suggests to me that profit is likely to take an upward turn at some point, once more normal economic conditions return.
Therefore, at £23m market cap, I think risk:reward could be turning positive, so it gets a thumbs up from me.
The other thing, is that there’s the chance of a sector re-rating. I’ve been on about this all year, so am either wrong, or just too early. My theory is that when structural growth resumes, which logically it should, because the move online for a lot of retail is not temporary, it’s permanent. The pandemic just distorted things, by pulling forward growth, and then creating the illusion of stagnation the following year. These distortions are gradually dropping out of the system.
Hence I still believe that, at some point, the market could look at bombed out eCommerce shares (many down 90%), and say, hang on these actually are growth businesses after all. And the margins are improving because freight costs have plunged, and purchasing prices are falling due to a glut of supply. It’s possible, and that could easily trigger a big sector re-rating, and some nice multibaggers. I don’t know if that scenario will actually happen of course, but it seems a possibility that’s quite credible to me anyway!
A more bearish view on G4M would be that it took on too much debt, is only trading a whisker above breakeven, and seeing increased costs from things like labour, etc.
So as with so many companies, you can see the glass half full, or half empty.
Graham’s Section: Jupiter Fund Management (LON:JUP)
Share price: 89.55p (+1.5%)
Market cap: £495m
Following on from my coverage of Liontrust yesterday, here’s Jupiter with a Q3 update.
This company’s chart is a disaster: the shares were trading at over 600p in 2017.
Indeed, these look like all-time lows for the fund manager – its IPO was all the way back in 2010, at 165p.
It’s not all about the share price, though. Chunky dividends have been paid and the yield is approaching 15%:
That’s the great thing about this bear market: if you have fresh cash to deploy, there are quite a few of these companies lying about with huge yields and single-digit PE multiples.
However, each case is different and in the case of Jupiter, it’s perceived as a fund manager without a moat. I share this view, and see it as a business which is a legacy of the times when passive funds did not exist or were too expensive to be mainstream.
Key points from today’s Q3 update:
- Assets under management fall from £48.8 billion (June 2022) to £47.4 billion (September 2022)
- Net outflows £0.6 billion. Retail and wholesale flows are negative, while institutional flows are positive (helped by a “large mandate from a sovereign wealth fund).
- Loss of value from investment returns of £0.8 billion.
In today’s announcement, he says (emphasis added):
Since my appointment, I have sought to take decisive actions to ensure we have the optimal operating model to succeed in a competitive environment. This includes reducing our cost base, streamlining the fund range and restructuring our management team. Although this work is ongoing, we have made a good start and this, combined with the success of our existing strategies and new growth opportunities ahead of us, gives me confidence that Jupiter is well placed for a return to sustainable growth.”
Job losses are always unpleasant, but it sounds to me as if Jupiter’s new CEO has the necessary mindset to get the business onto a surer footing.
Jupiter, like many other fund managers, needs to decide what it is good at and stick to that. There are still 4,000 funds for sale and many fund ranges can and should be streamlined.
Capital allocation: the new policy will be to pay out 50% of annual pre-performance fee earnings in dividends, regardless of the prior year’s dividends. This allows for special dividends and/or buybacks with any additional spare cash.
This is interesting:
In view of… our current valuation Jupiter today announces that we will commence a share buyback programme to repurchase and subsequently cancel shares for up to a maximum consideration of £10 million (the “Programme”). The Programme will commence on 24 October 2022, and is expected to be completed by no later than 31 December 2022.
£10m is only around 2% of the market cap but this is a positive signal. If management remain of the view that their company’s valuation is on the low side, maybe we could get a meaningful reduction of the share count over the next few years?
I can see myself getting interested in this one. Yes, it’s cheap for very good reasons. But we now have two potential catalysts:
- A new CEO who can look at it objectively (he was an outside hire) and is not afraid to make tough decisions, to turn it into a leaner and more focused business
- The potential for buybacks to reduce the share count over time. This could be a big boost for EPS and dividends per share, even if the company fails to grow much.
On a macro level, if you’re bullish on markets recovering over the next year or so, then obviously that’s going to be a tailwind for AUM.
Because of the catalysts, I think this could be a good contrarian investment. Worth looking into.
IG Design (LON:IGR)
Share price: 88.5p (+9%)
Market cap: £86m
This company has suffered a stunning fall from grace in terms of valuation:
Let’s try to look forward and understand what the future might hold. The company makes greeting cards, wrapping paper, stationery, Christmas crackers, gift bags, etc., and has a very large presence in the United States.
Today brings an H1 update for the six months to September 2022:
- “Sales, profits, margins and cash flow are expected to be significantly improved” (versus H1 last year), and ahead of expectations.
- Despite the H1 improvement, there is no change to full-year expectations for FY March 2023.
The reason, according to IG, is that the better H1 numbers reflect orders being brought forward from H2, i.e. that it’s only a timing difference:
The main reason for this performance is that many customers have brought forward their seasonal ordering so as to avoid the supply chain challenges experienced in the second half of calendar year 2021. This performance reflects the strong relationships that have been sustained with customers and the ongoing demand for the Group’s products.
The overall expectation is for “a small year-on-year improvement in profits compared to the prior financial year”. There are “ongoing input cost inflation and signs of a general downturn in consumer sentiment across all of our markets”.
Last year, the company reported full-year revenues of $965m, an adjusted pre-tax loss of $1.3m, and a statutory pre-tax profit of $2.2m.
This company remains in turnaround mode, dealing with a number of huge challenges of which the biggest now is probably inflation.
It published a lengthy section on its new strategy in last year’s results statement (analysed by Paul here).
In short, it abandoned its pre-existing, ambitious growth plans and instead looked to achieve the more basic task of getting back to profitability:
The sheer scale and speed of the change in the cost architecture of the Group’s product ranges, particularly in DG Americas, has resulted in the need to challenge the assumptions that underpin the commercial operations to ensure that the business going forward is delivering profitable product ranges based on more sustainable cost structures. As a result, the Growth Plan… is to be replaced by a strategy to restore profitable and sustainable growth.
This is a very large, reputable business here for sale at less than £100m.
Is it a quality business? I’m not sure. It’s a manufacturer of well-designed, popular products that are sold around the world. But the recent issues have exposed vulnerable margins, and if you look at its historic numbers the operating margin was never particularly high.
Here’s the operating margin from 2017 to 2022:
At the end of the day, maybe items such as gift wrap and greetings cards are too heavily commoditised to ever generate attractive margins, even for a company of this enormous scale?
But also, it must be acknowledged that IGR shares are already pricing in a pessimistic view of these margins. Remember that revenues aren’t far off $1 billion. So the market is realistically not expecting margins to improve much in future years.
I will say that I’d much prefer to buy shares in this company now, with very pessimistic assumptions priced in, than to pay an expensive price for it. But it’s beyond me to predict what will happen to input costs here. Management have a huge job on their hands.
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