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Geoff Gannon November 25, 2019

Sydney Airport: A Safe, Growing and Inflation Protected Asset That’s Leveraged to the Hilt

Today’s initial interest post really stretches the definition of “overlooked stock”. I’m going to be talking about Sydney Airport. This is one of the 20 to 25 biggest public companies in Australia. It has a market cap – in U.S. dollar terms (the stock trades in Australian Dollars) – of about $13 billion. It also has a lot of debt – including publicly traded bonds. So, not what you’d normally consider “overlooked”. On the other hand, Andrew and I have a couple standard criteria we use (low beta and low share turnover) to judge whether a stock might be overlooked. And Sydney Airport happened to score just barely well enough on these two measures of “overlooked-ness” that it wasn’t automatically eliminated by our screens. For this reason, I left the stock on a watchlist that went out on our email list. While a lot of people mentioned the stock definitely wasn’t overlooked – a lot of other people also mentioned they’d like to hear my thoughts on the stock. So, here they are.

Sydney Airport was suggested to me by my former newsletter co-writer Quan Hoang. He’s from Vietnam originally. And he’s now spent time in Australia. He was looking at stocks and sent me over some financial data of Sydney Airport. A few things jump out about this company immediately. One: it pays out basically everything it can afford to in dividends. Two: it uses a high amount of debt (close to 7 times Net Debt/EBITDA – at one time that number was closer to 11 times Net Debt/EBITDA). However, this isn’t a distressed company in any way. The debt is spaced out – about half of it matures within the next 5 years and the other half after the next 5 years. The bonds are rated by Moody’s and S&P. Sydney Airport intends to maintain an investment grade rating. That’s usually not easy when you have well over 6 times Net Debt / EBITDA. But, this is an airport.

The problem with the debt here is not solvency risk. It’s that the stock price with the debt added – so, the enterprise value relative to various earnings power measures – creates a pretty high future growth hurdle that needs to be cleared. On a dividend yield basis, the stock looks cheap. It yields 4.3%. However, you need to be careful with that number. Consider, for example, Vertu Motors in the U.K. It also yields 4.2%. But, instead of having more than 6 times Net Debt / EBITDA – it has basically no net debt. It also pays out only about 1/3rd of its earnings as dividends. I’m not saying Vertu Motors is a better stock than Sydney Airport – though, at this point, I do own Vertu and don’t own Sydney Airport – but, I am saying that it’s a lot easier for Vertu to cover its dividend and grow it over time than it is for Sydney Airport. Basically, if Sydney Airport doesn’t want to increase …

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Andrew Kuhn November 25, 2019

Burford Capital Limited LSE (AIM): BUR

Recommendation: Buy

Burford Capital is complicated to value; and so vulnerable to opportunistic short sellers, but this weakness offers opportunities to long term investors.

Stephen Gamble, writer and analyst, 12th October 2019.

stepherngamble@gmail.com

 

www.gambleinvests.com

Figure Above: shows how each of 74 concluded matters in period 2009-2016 contributed to profits in this period – 4 matters make up 50% of gross profits, 11 matters make up 75% of gross profits

 

Figure Above: shows gross cash profit/loss for each of the 127 matters concluded/partially realised in period 2009-2016. 58% of cases give a positive return, the rest break even or lose money.

Overview

Burford Capital is in litigation finance, a relatively new industry in a growth phase, with complex assets. The recent attack from short sellers give rise to opportunity for longer term investors.

Lawsuits are risky for companies: they have to commit large amounts of capital up front to pay for expensive lawyers, they can take years to settle, and the return on their investment is unknown until the end, and binary: either a large cash windfall, or else a total loss, and they may even face a liability for costs of the other party. Furthermore, once litigation has started, it has to be seen through to the end in order to prevent a total loss of money invested. This often takes multiple appeals, making the total cost difficult/impossible to ascertain at the start. In summary, lawsuits can be difficult to justify to shareholders since the duration, cost and outcome are inherently uncertain. However, they are often desirable in order to protect key business interests – so the companies are left with a difficult choice when considering whether to litigate or not.

It is at this point that companies considering a lawsuit, are increasingly turning to a third party litigation finance company. They can provide capital, to avoid the problems discussed above, and in return, they take a slice of the outcome. Therefore they do not need to spend money at any point in the litigation process, e.g. on lawyers etc. since the litigation finance company will spend its money instead. This changes litigation from an uncertain and risky enterprise into a simple opportunity cost – that they might have made more money, if they had paid the lawyers themselves. It also incentivises companies to pursue litigation that they might otherwise have deemed too risky. For the company, the cost of making ~30% less money in victory or settlement, is much preferable to the risk of committing an unknown amount of money for an unknown duration, where if the commitment is not followed through to the end, all the money invested is lost. Furthermore, in many cases the company still retains some control over the litigation, and can input into the strategy pursued – without having any financial risk. Litigation finance can be crudely characterised as a ‘corporate no win, no fee,’ claims industry.

This industry is a relatively immature one compared to the personal claims one, which …

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Geoff Gannon November 23, 2019

F.W. Thorpe: A Good Business Making Durable Products that May Have Already Peaked

Today’s initial interest post is a company I like a lot. It’s trading at a price that could be justifiable – possibly – based on that company’s past performance. But, it’s not a stock I’m going to give a very high initial interest level too. The reason for that is uncertainty about the future. I’ll get to that uncertainty in a second. First, I want to describe what FW Thorpe does. The company makes lights. I won’t go into too much detail here. You can...

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Geoff Gannon November 22, 2019

Gamehost: Operator of 3 “Local Monopoly” Type Casinos in Alberta, Canada – Spending the Minimum on Cap-Ex and Paying the Maximum in Dividends

Today’s initial interest write-up is a lot like yesterday’s. Yesterday, I wrote about an Alberta based company paying out roughly 100% of its free cash flow as dividends. In fact, that company was paying almost nothing in cap-ex. Today’s company is doing the same. It pays almost everything out in dividends. And it doesn’t spend much on cap-ex. So, cash flow from operations translates pretty cleanly into dividends. And like yesterday’s stock being written up (Vitreous Glass) – today’s stock being written-up (Gamehost) probably attracts...

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Geoff Gannon November 22, 2019

Vitreous Glass: A Low-Growth, High Dividend Yield Stock with Incredible Returns on Equity and Incredibly Frightening Supplier and Customer Concentration Risks

Vitreous Glass is a stock with some similarities to businesses I’ve liked in the past – NACCO, cement producers, lime producers, Ball (BLL), etc. It has a single plant located close enough to a couple customers (fiberglass producers) and with an exclusive source of supply (glass beverage bottles from the Canadian province of Alberta that need to be recycled) and – most importantly – the commodity (glass) can’t be shipped very far because the value to weight ratio is so low that the price of...

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Andre Kostolany November 9, 2019

Bank of N.T. Butterfield: A great wealth franchise and interest rate derivative

Bank of N.T. Butterfield (NTB) Overview N.T. Butterfield (NTB) is a Bermuda-based bank whose shares trade on the New York stock exchange. Bermuda’s corporate taxfree status, together with a conservative culture helps Butterfield generate a superior return on equity with limited risk. That’s right, Butterfield doesn’t pay taxes! History After English explorer George Somers crashed into the island in 1609, N.T. Butterfield first opened its doors as a trading firm in 1758 and later received its banking license in 1858. For a long stretch of...

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Jayden Preston November 5, 2019

Qurate Retail: The Perfect Candidate for a Leveraged Turnaround?

Qurate Retail     Prelude   This is the year 2019. And shopping has never been easier. Browse for a product on Amazon, and tens of thousands of options show up; with just one click, your chosen product will be by your doorstep in 1 to 2 days. Shopping online offers the broadest range of products and the convenience to receive your purchased item without even leaving your room. And while Amazon has close to half of the US e-commerce market, most retailers now have...

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Warwickb November 4, 2019

Ardent Leisure Group Ltd (ASX:ALG): Follow-up Post

Post by Warwick Bagnall This is a brief follow-up to my earlier post regarding ALG.  In that post I wrote that I would write the company up in full if I found that it was robust.  I didn’t find that ALG was robust but decided to summarise why anyway.  Again, for the reasons mentioned in that post, I’m going to focus mostly on ALG’s chain of entertainment centres, Main Event (ME). What I found was that there are few constraints to growth for ME to...

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Geoff Gannon November 3, 2019

A-Mark Precious Metals (AMRK): A Dealer and Lender in Physical Gold

A-Mark Precious Metals (AMRK) has been written up twice at Value Investor’s Club. The most recent time was this year. You can read those write-ups over there. It was this most recent write-up at Value Investor’s Club that got me interested in the stock. However, it was for different reasons than that write-up itself lays out as the case for buying the stock. The VIC write-up focuses on how low volatility in the price of gold (and silver and other precious metals) in recent years...

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