Geoff Gannon March 14, 2019 Free Articles 0 Comments

PRAP Japan (2449): Japan’s Healthiest Public Relations Firm – Trading At Just 4 Times EBIT

This article originally appeared on Kenkyo Investing, a value-driven service specializing in Japanese small and microcap stocks. Each month, Geoff will pick his favorite article from Kenkyo Investing and share it with you here at Focused Compounding. To read all of Kenkyo Investing’s articles, visit Kenkyo Investing’s website and become a member. Don’t forget to use discount code “FCPODCAST” to get 10% off.


Write-up By Kenkyo Investing

Thinking Points

  • PRAP Japan (TSE: 2449) is Japan’s fourth largest public relations consulting firm offering marketing communications, corporate branding, crisis communications, event management, and content production services to corporate customers in a variety of industries.
  • Compared to its competitors, PRAP has the healthiest balance sheet and has delivered business performance at a consistently elevated level.
  • Over the last decade, the company built its China business, which now accounts for nearly a third of consolidated 2018 revenues. Meanwhile, its Japan business has remained mostly stable, with modest growth. PRAP plans to expand in the Asia Pacific region going forward.
  • Despite its consistently strong business performance and industry-leading balance sheet health, PRAP trades at an adjusted 4.3 EV/EBIT, considerably lower than its peers, which trade between 9.7x and 25x.
  • Though there is no clear catalyst in sight, if investor sentiment shifts and PRAP trades at comparable multiples, investors can expect a three year investment CAGR of 21% with minimal business risk investing at today’s 1,599 yen per share price.


PRAP Japan (TSE: 2449) is a public relations (PR) consulting firm offering marketing communications, corporate branding, crisis communications, event management, and content production services to corporate customers in a variety of industries. Founded in 1970, the company is among the older and established PR firms in Japan. Over the past decade, PRAP has increased its efforts in China, mainly targeting Japanese companies wanting to establish a presence in China.

Source: Company filings


Though PRAP offers a variety of services, it is a single segment company. As of 2018, PRAP is the 4th largest PR firm in the country by revenues.


The business & environment

The Public Relations Society of Japan (PRSJ) estimates that the PR industry size in Japan was 101.6 billion yen ($90 million USD) in 2016 (Japanese). Long term historical data isn’t available for the industry as it is still small. That said, PRSJ notes that the industry is rapidly growing:

Source: Public Relations Society of Japan


Over the last 8 years, the Japanese PR industry has grown at a 4% CAGR. In the last couple years, newswire services and video production and promotion services have fared particularly strong. The key players in the PR industry are:

Source: Company websites


Vector (TSE: 6058), Sunny Side Up (TSE: 2180), PRAP Japan, and Kyodo PR (TSE: 2436) are publicly traded. Dentsu Public Relations is under Dentsu (TSE: 4324), Japan’s largest advertising agency, and Ozma is affiliated with Hakuhodo (TSE: 2433), Japan’s second largest advertising agency.

Although Japan’s PR industry has been growing quickly, PRAP’s revenue growth pales …

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Geoff Gannon March 4, 2019 Free Articles 0 Comments

Universal Robina: A Good, Growing Filipino Branded Food and Drink Business – That’s Not Quite Cheap Enough for Value Investors

Write-up by Jayden Preston



Founded by John Gokongwei Jr., Universal Robina Corp. (URC) has come a long way since its humble inception as a corn starch manufacturer in 1954. Through decades of diversification, URC is now a leading producer of branded snacks and beverages in the Philippines. To a certain extent, URC is like a mixture of Pepsi Co. and Mondelez in Southeast Asia. While URC does not have a cola product, the Company, similar to Pepsi Co., does have a diverse portfolio of snacks, including potato chips and cheese rings, and beverages, such as bottled water and other ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. URC also competes with Mondelez in the confectionery business through its products of cookies and chocolates.

In addition to its home market, URC also has presence in 12 other countries in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Its major international markets include Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.


However, URC is more than just a branded food producer. In the Philippines, URC has two other segments, Argo-Industrial Group and Commodity Foods Group. The former is engaged in hog and poultry farming, while the latter involves flour and sugar milling. This part of the business is similar to Seaboard Corporation.


URC is thus divided into 4 segments: 1) Branded Consumer Food Philippines (CF Philippines), 2) Branded Consumer Food International (CF International), 3) Argo-Industrial Group (AIG), and 4) Commodity Foods Group (CFG). (3 and 4 are collectively known as the Non-Branded consumer food segment. We will refer it as the Non-Branded segment, even though there are still some branded offerings within this segment.)


Segment Breakdown

CF Philippines is the most important segment for URC. It contributed 48% of revenue and 53% of EBIT in 2017. It is followed by CF International in terms of revenue contribution at 34%. Yet, the international segment actually has the lowest margins among all the segments. As such, only 19% of EBIT comes from this segment. In other words, while the Non-Branded segment only generated 18% of total revenue, it was responsible for 28% of EBIT.


In summary, in terms of operating profits, URC is roughly 3 quarters a branded consumer food company spanning in Southeast Asia and a quarter of a commodity foods producer in the Philippines.



Durability and Quality


Branded Consumer Food Segment

Branded snacks and beverages, with brand heritage, tend to score very highly on the scale of durability. The keys to the business are brand recognition and shelf-space availability. The more well-known your brands are, the more willing retailers are to stock your products; and, the more available your products are, the more frequent customers will come across your products. There is thus a reinforcing element in the equation that favors incumbent players.

This is not to say that there is no threat from new entrants. A major concern to the durability of well-established players in this space is the ongoing change in customer behavior, such as the trend toward healthy foods, …

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Geoff Gannon February 25, 2019 Premium Articles-01, Premium Articles-02, Stock Ideas

BWX Technologies (BWXT): A Leveraged, Speculative, and Expensive Growth Stock that Might be Worth It

BWX Technologies (BWXT) has been at the top of my research pipeline for a while now. I wrote about the company – when it was the combined company that is now split into BWXT and Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises (BW) – a few years back. You can read my report on the combined Babcock & Wilcox in the Singular Diligence archives. Today, I’m not going to talk about the business – which is described in great detail in that report (see the “Stocks A-Z” tab)....

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Geoff Gannon January 26, 2019 Premium Articles-01, Premium Articles-02, Stock Ideas

Resideo Technologies (REZI): A Somewhat Cheap, But Also Somewhat Unsafe Spin-off from Honeywell

This is a revisit of Resideo Technologies (REZI). My initial write-up of Resideo was done before the stock was spun off from Honeywell. Three things have changed since that initial interest post. One: Honeywell spun-off Resideo. So, we now have a price on Resideo. Two: I’ve created a five part scoring system – a checklist of sorts – for the stocks I write up here at Focused Compounding. This helps me more systematically order what stocks I should be writing up for the first time,...

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Geoff Gannon January 18, 2019 Premium Articles-01, Premium Articles-02, Stock Ideas

Vertu Motors: A Cheap and Safe U.K. Car Dealer

Vertu Motors owns more than a hundred car dealerships in the United Kingdom. About half of the time – so, at 50+ locations – Vertu Motors also owns the land on which the dealership is built. They lease the other half of their locations. The stock trades on the London Stock Exchange (the AIM market, specifically) under the ticker “VTU”. Back on November 14th, 2017 Focused Compounding member Kevin Wilde sort of wrote up Vertu Motors. He did an idea exchange post on U.K. car...

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Geoff Gannon January 7, 2019 Premium Articles-01, Premium Articles-02, Stock Ideas

Green Brick Partners (GRBK): A Cheap, Complicated Homebuilder Focused on Dallas and Atlanta

I chose to write-up Green Brick Partners (GRBK) this week for a couple reasons. The first is the company’s headquarters: Plano, Texas. I live in Plano. And the company gets about half of its value from its Dallas-Fort Worth homebuilding operations. My “initial interest post” checklist goes something like this: Do I understand the business? Is it safe? Is it good? Is it cheap? The single most important questions is number zero: “Do I understand the business?” Since I’ve lived for about seven years right...

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Geoff Gannon January 5, 2019 Free Articles 0 Comments

Inseego (INSG): A Uniquely Positioned 5g Company

Write-Up by Long-Short Value

  • With ZTE and Huawei recently shut out of the US and Canadian Market and likely most European Markets, Inseego is uniquely positioned to take advantage and gain market share in mobile connectivity at a crucial time in the 5g cycle. This Chinese OEM ban has pushed several customers to recently sign design and development deals with Inseego.
  • Inseego’s new management has a depth of experience in telecommunications equipment and has positioned the company for both the 5g Hardware cycle and to expand its Telematics Business (CTrack) into new markets
  • Inseego’s customer relationships with Verizon and close ties with Qualcomm make it the premier connectivity partner in the US and Canada.
  • Inseego has recently signed all Tier 1 Carriers in the US and several other carriers in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe for either their 4G LTE, Gigabit 4G LTE, or 5G products. Several of these recent contract wins have yet to begin producing any material revenues and are expected to ramp up in 2019 significantly.
  • Inseego’s Enterprise SaaS business (DMS and CTrack) operate in an extremely attractive high margin segment. Recent wins for CTrack in the Aviation space will help propel the segment to high teens to low twenties revenue growth over the next few years.
  • My base case valuation of Inseego is $7.80 a share, Upside Case could be well above $10 a share if Verizon 5g Fixed Wireless is a success.

Inseego Summary

Inseego is a Telecommunications Equipment and Enterprise SaaS design and development company with products focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobile Solutions.  Inseego is one of the few US based companies that makes Mobile Connectivity products like 4G Hotspots that traditionally compete with Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei.  Inseego is closely aligned with Qualcomm and Verizon highlighted by the new design center they opened across the street from Qualcomm and the recent showcasing of the Verizon 5g NR utilizing the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset.  Inseego has undergone several recent management changes and a restructuring which started with the hiring of Dan Mondor as the new CEO in June of 2017.  Dan has a very solid background in the Telecommunications Equipment space with experience as CEO of SpectraLink and as CEO of Concurrent Computer Corporation (CCUR).  Dan has assembled a stellar team to position Inseego for the coming 5g Telecommunications Cycle.

Here is a primer on 5g (Mckinsey Link) as it is a key component of the thesis around Inseego.  5g will bring not only faster speeds to wireless but also lower latency, which is important in applications like medicine, connected cars, and many IoT applications.  I have done an extensive amount of research on 5g and I believe it is a much larger step change from both a performance standpoint and an infrastructure investment standpoint than the transition from 3g to 4g.

Inseego has two businesses, Mobile Connectivity Solutions Hardware (Mobile Solutions) and SaaS, Software, and Services (Enterprise SaaS).  Mobile Solutions is a hardware business …

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Geoff Gannon January 5, 2019 Free Articles 0 Comments

Future Bright: A Macau Restaurant Operator with Restructuring Potential

Member Write-up by André Kostolany

Future Bright is a Macau-based restaurant operator with a fascinating history of management missteps. Today, Future Bright’s main businesses are Food & Catering, Souvenirs and Property. The company is primarily owned and run by Chan Chak Mo, a local Macau legislator with deep roots in the region and connections to the casino operators. The company’s market cap is about 600MM HKD, it has 75MM of cash and about 350MM in debt. While some of my comments may seem offhand, I have been following this business for over five years.


Restaurant Business

In Macau, Future Bright runs an easy, toll-road like business built on cash flows from in-casino restaurants, university canteens and other near captive customers. During the good times in 2011, high-rollers easily spent >$200 for a quick meal in between gambling and the core business threw off >30% EBITDA margins. Then Xi Jinping came into power and the anti-corruption campaign happened in 2012. Less high-rollers frequented Macau, instead, they were replaced by tourists with more moderate budgets. In response, Macau attempted to transform itself to a more ‘family-friendly’ destination. While Macau visitor numbers have been consistently growing at a rate of ~7% per annum for the past 10 years, average meal spend per visitor has dropped below $100 due to the shift away from high-rollers, impacting restaurant margins.

When the anti-corruption campaign was announced, management began investing into opening up restaurants in competitive restaurant markets overseas. They have recently admitted failure in Mainland China and are closing down some of these restaurants. They are doing fine in Hong Kong and the judgement is still out whether their Taiwanese restaurants will perform. None of these new restaurants will, however, approach the economics of their existing core business in Macau.

The core restaurant business in Macau is mainly a good business because casinos need higher-end restaurants to accommodate their customers but have shown little willingness to fully manage and operate these themselves. With its experience in managing a wide range of Japanese, Chinese and Western Restaurant concepts Future Bright is a useful partner to the casino operators. Casino visitors are also relatively less price sensitive than your typical restaurant customers, which has led to Future Bright’s unusually high margins on its core business.

Future Bright currently runs 61 restaurants, 4 of which are food court counters. 16 of these restaurants have been opened in the past two years and they are currently planning on opening another 20 restaurants by the end of 2019. As restaurants take about 2 years to reach maturity, and as they are currently spending to shut down overseas restaurants, the restaurant divisions’ economics are currently somewhat obscured. Adjust for one-off charges and annualizing current numbers, one can see that the restaurant division has about 970MM in revenues and is producing an 8% cash margin. Macau restaurants have a cash margin of 14%, Hong Kong 6% and China -22%. While the division currently produces 80MM of cash flow, getting China …

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Geoff Gannon January 5, 2019 Free Articles 2 Comments

Sonics & Materials (SIMA): A Profitable Net-Net Building A Cash Pile


Quote: $8.00   

Shares Outstanding: 3.4 million  

Market Cap: $27.2 million

Sonics and Materials Inc. (SIMA) is an American company that was founded in the late 1960’s based on the discovery and invention of ultrasonic welding by its CEO, Robert Soloff.  Mr. Soloff patented the technique, and several years later, opened Sonics and Materials.  Now, fifty years later, the company has grown from 1 employee to 70 and is still operating in the ultrasonic space.  The company stopped reporting to the SEC in 2002 due to the financial burden and is now dark, but financials from the years 1996-2002 are still publicly available.  Ownership is closely held with Mr. Soloff owning around 70% of the company and thus, the float is small.

The company mainly sells two types of products to two markets.  The first is ultrasonic liquid processors (typically referred to as Sonicators).  Sonicators are primarily sold to research institutions, hospitals, laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies, where they are used in a variety of processing applications.  Some of these include: reducing the size of particles in a liquid, soil testing, production of biofuels, cell lysis, and much more recently, for nanoparticle dispersion and cannabis extraction (for edibles).  The subsidiary that sells the Sonicator product line is called Qsonica.

The second product line is ultrasonic welding machines, which use sound waves to quickly weld components together.  Ultrasonic welding is used in more applications than can be listed.  The technology is typically used with plastics but can be used to weld metal as well (more common with electronics).  Think the wires in your phone, the cap on the back of your sharpie, car headlights, etc. You can also throw ultrasonic sealing machines in with this category.  The sealing machines are an area the company has been spending more time and focus on lately.

My best guess is that the company’s revenues are split about 50/50.  It could be 60/40 or whatever, but there is some evidence that leads me to believe it’s in that range. The main point to take away is that the company appears to be the largest player in the Sonicator business by a substantial margin, even with only $11M or so per year in sales. Back in 2009, the company acquired the “Ultrasonic Laboratory Products” division from Misonix (MSON) for $3.5M and the Vice President of SIMA (and CEO’s daughter) stated on the record that “acquiring our largest competitor has given us much greater market share.” Furthermore, before this acquisition, the 2002 10-K states, “In the ultrasonic liquid processor market, the Company’s principal competitors are Branson and Misonix Inc.  Management believes that Sonics has the largest share of this market.” Competitors in this space appear to all be small and private. This is a key element in understanding the company’s durability.

The ultrasonic welding business faces competition from much, much larger players. Emerson (EMR) is just one example.  Mr. Soloff is a true inventor, and between himself and SIMA, holds something to the …

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Geoff Gannon November 2, 2018 Premium Articles-01, Premium Articles-02

Argan (AGX): A Cheap, Cyclical Construction Company With a Ton of Cash and No Debt

MEMBER WRITE-UP BY JACOB McDONOUGH Argan is a holding company that owns a few different businesses, but the most important by far is Gemma Power Systems (GPS). GPS is an engineering, procurement, and construction contractor and consultant. The company mostly provides services related to the construction of natural gas power plants, but also has worked on wind and solar projects in recent years. Argan acquired GPS in December 2006 for $33 million, and since then it has produced over $607 million in cumulative EBITDA. Argan has...

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