Otis (OTIS): The World’s Largest Elevator Company Gets the Vast Majority of Its Earnings From Maintenance Contracts With a 93% Retention Rate
Otis Worldwide (OTIS) is the world’s biggest elevator and escalator company. Like Carrier (CARR) – which I wrote up two days ago – it was spun-off from United Technologies. However, shareholders of United Technologies received one share of Carrier for each share of United Technologies they had while they only received half a share of Otis for every one share of United Technologies they owned. As a result, the market caps of Carrier and Otis would be the same if the share price of Otis was twice the share price of Carrier. Otis isn’t trading at double Carrier’s stock price though. It’s at $47.85 versus $16.25 for Carrier. So, closer to three times the price of Carrier than two. Carrier, however, does have more debt than Otis. Nonetheless, as I’ll explain in this article – the bad news is that while I like Otis as a business a lot better than Carrier: Otis is the more expensive stock.
Reported revenues are unimportant at Otis. The company did $13 billion in sales. But, only about $7.4 billion of this comes from service revenue. Service revenue makes up 80% of EBIT while new equipment sales are just 20%. Service revenue is also less lumpy. A major reason for this is that more than $6 billion of the total service revenue is under maintenance contracts. This more than $6 billion in maintenance contracts has a 93% retention rate. The contracts don’t actually require much notice or much in the way of penalties to cancel. However, cancellation is rare. So, a very big portion of the economic value in Otis comes from the roughly 2 million elevators covered by maintenance contracts that bring in about $6 billon in revenue per year. My estimate is that the after-tax free cash flow contribution from these 2 million elevators under contract is anywhere from $1 billion to even as much as $1.2 billion. Basically, if we set aside these maintenance contracts – there is almost no free cash flow beyond the corporate costs etc. that need to be covered at Otis. There is an argument to be made that as much as 20% of the company’s economic value comes from new equipment sales. However, I think it’s trickier to value the company if you count those sales in the period in which they occur. Rather, I think it makes sense to look at the business the way you might a movie studio, book publisher, etc. with a substantial library. Or – if you’d prefer – the way you’d look at an insurer that usually has a combined ratio a bit below 100, but basically makes its money off the return on its “float”. Otis’s service business has very stable revenue, EBIT, and free cash flow from year-to-year. I expect it to rise at least in line with inflation (the company expects better than that). And there are some possible productivity gains here from digital initiatives. Smart elevators, technicians using iPhones, etc. could cut down on the number …Read more