Australia’s farmers agree. Coles and Woolies need to be reigned in. I was chatting with John Morrison on ABC Radio this week and my description of the ultimate result of government policy settings fired up the farming community. So grab a coffee, a cup of tea, a beer or a glass of pinot and settle in.
This is one issue that affects all Australians and their wallets.
This interview was broadcast 12 February 2012. Listen here.
In 2008, China implemented a massive economic stimulus program focused on fixed assets, with a concentration on construction. This program may have been necessary for stabilisation, but led to significantly increased capacity, particularly in China’s steel and cement industries. Annual capacity growth in recent years has been double or triple China’s economic growth.
Australia’s material stocks were beneficiaries of strongly rising demand for coal and iron ore, and many were at or near record share price highs in the first half of 2011.
Meanwhile the Shanghai Composite Index at 2100 is at the lowest level since the GFC lows of late-2008.
The consensus view is for increased infrastructure spend from China over the foreseeable future to boost demand and prices. If correct, one might conclude that the slowdown is already “priced in”. However, we have been examining the interim results of Chinese cement, steel and shipbuilding companies. We are seeing severe earnings downgrades across the board: capacity is exceeding production, utilisation is declining, demand is restrained and inventory levels are rising. Excess steel production is being exported and many global steel and material companies are also seeing their earnings severely cut.
While the Chinese command economy might continue building the odd ghost city or expressway into the Gobi Desert, the transformation from fixed asset investment to consumption is less steel intensive. Until the severe downgrade of the Chinese (and international) material stocks becomes consensus, Montgomery will continue to keep our powder dry in this area.
JB Hi Fi today reported its full year results. Revenue of $3.13b was 6% higher than FY11, but NPAT was down 4.6% to $104.6m. While this was the first decline in JB Hi-Fi NPAT since it listed in 2003, it was slightly better than the market had anticipated and, as I write, the share price is up over 6%.
As value investors, we are more concerned about the long-term than the intra-day outlook, and the question exercising our minds is: to what extent are the current headwinds cyclical vs. structural?
JB Hi-Fi believes that most of what is happening is cyclical, and there is some evidence that can be marshaled to support that view. However, it can also be said that retailers who previously competed locally must now compete with the best in the world. In this context, retailers that must pay Australian prices for rent, staff and utilities have some relatively big hurdles to clear.
Investors should also be aware of two interesting financial developments. Looking at the Profit & Loss statement you will see EPS has risen from 101.76 cents to 105.93 cents.
But the charts of EPS in the remuneration section reveal a very different picture. You see, the P&L includes an abnormal loss of $33 million associated with the Clive Anthony’s ‘restructure’. Take the abnormal loss out and the continuing operations made EPS of $1.247 in 2011 against this year’s $1.059. If it was ok to use $1.247 for the execs in working out their incentives, it should be ok for shareholders to use to compare this year’s P&L!
And for those investors enamoured with cash flows, don’t get too excited by the cash flow from operations jumping to more than $215 million from $105 million last year. You see, there’s been a $100 million blow out in payables. In other words JBH appears to have held off paying its suppliers a little longer.