Do Sedgman (SMD), Decmil Group (DCG), cochlear (COH), Seek (SEK), IAG (IAG), Resolute Mining (RSG), Magellan Financial Group (MFG), Syrah Resources (SYR), ASG (ASZ), Goodman Group (GMG), Silex Systems (SLX), AMP (AMP) or Service Stream (SSM) achieve Roger’s and Tim’s coveted A1 grade? Watch this edition of Sky Business’ Your Money Your Call broadcast 25 September 2012 program now to find out, and also learn Tim’s insights to the outlook for Cabcharge (CAB). Watch here.
Roger provides his Value.able insights into Leighton Holdings (LEI) and National Australia Bank (NAB) to Ticky Fullerton in this edition of ABC1′s “The Business” braodcast 14 August 2012. Watch here.
The Woolworths Food and Liquor Division reported 3.8% sales growth to $37.5 billion for the year to June 2012. Same store sales growth increased by 1.3% for the year. For the June Quarter, sales growth was 3.8%, year on year, while same stores sales grew by 1.3%.
In comparison, Coles reported sales growth of 6.1% to $33.7b and same store sales growth of 3.7%. For the June Quarter, sales growth was 4.6%, year on year, while same store sales grew by 3.0%.
Both organisations reported price deflation of approximately 4% in fresh produce, and this masked both their strong volume growth and the increasing consolidation of the Australian supermarket industry.
The Montgomery (Private) Fund is a shareholder in Woolworths, and likes its 26% average return on equity.
Roger Montgomery discusses why excessive focus on High Yield stocks is likely to yield disappointing returns in this Australian article published on 23 June 2012. Read here.
Return on equity is essential for value investors for so many reasons and Wesfarmers purchase of Coles was a great case study:
“In 2007, Wesfarmers had Coles in its sights. In that same year, Coles reported a profit of about $700 million. In its balance sheet from the same year, Coles reported about $3.6 billion of equity in 2006 and $3.9 billion of equity at the end of 2007. For the purposes of this assessment we will accept that the assets are fairly represented in the balance sheet. Using only these numbers we can estimate that the return on average equity of Coles was around 19.9 per cent.
Importantly, Coles has been around a long time, is stable, very mature and established and supplies daily essentials. While its prospects may not be exciting, there is the possibility that Wesfarmers may improve the performance of the Coles business.
So the target, Coles, is a business with modest debt and $3.9 billion of good-quality equity on the balance sheet that generated a 19.9% return. The simple question is: What should Wesfarmers pay for Coles? If it gets a bargain, it will add value for the shareholders of their business. If it pays too much, it will do the opposite – destroy value and perhaps its reputation.
Now, if you were to ask me what to pay for $3.9 billion of equity earning 19.9 per cent (assume I can extract some improvements), I would start by asking myself what return I wanted. If I were to demand a 19.9 per cent return on my money, I would have to limit myself to paying no more than $3.9 billion. If I was happy with half the return, I could pay twice as much. In other words, if I was happy with a 10 per cent return, which I think is reasonable, I could pay $7.8 billion, or two dollars for every dollar of equity. And finally, if I think that I could do a much better job than present management, I could pay a little more, $9.75 billion perhaps.
Now suppose you consider yourself much better at running Coles than the present Coles management. Remember, this is one of the motivators for acquisitions. Suppose you believe that you can achieve a sustainable 30 per cent return on equity. Assume you were seeking a 10 per cent return on your investment – a modest return by the way, but justified by the risks involved.
The basic formula to calculate what you should pay for a mature business, like Coles, is:
Return on Equity/Required Return x Equity
Using this formula the estimated value of Coles is:
0.3/0.1 x 3.9 = $11.7 billion
Even if I thought I was a brilliant retailer, I would not want to pay more than $11.7 billion for Coles. Given the risks, I may want a higher required return than 10 per cent. If I demanded a 12 per cent required return, I would not pay more than $9.75 billion (0.3/0.12 x 3.9 = $9.75).
I will explain this formula, which represents the work of Buffett, Richard Simmons and Walter in more detail in Chapter 11 on intrinsic value.
Of course, if we think that the balance sheet is overstating the value of the assets, the result would be a lower equity component and a higher return on equity. As Buffett stated:
Two people looking at the same set of facts, moreover – and this would apply even to Charlie and me – will almost inevitably come up with at least slightly different intrinsic value figures.
The result will be modestly different but the conclusion will be the same.
With around 1.193 billion shares on issue, the above estimates suggest Coles might have been worth between $8.17 and $9.80 per share.
Now, what did Wesfarmers announce they would pay for Coles? The equivalent of about $17 per share!
What do you think would happen to your return on equity if you paid the announced $22 billion for a bank account with $3.9 billion deposited earning 19.9 per cent? Your return on equity would decline precipitously to around 3.5%.”
With that in mind I wonder whether the comments Wesfarmers were reported today to have made to The Financial Review (see image, I subscribe and think its great) were complete. Of particular interest is the paragraph; “The way we create value to shareholders is to increase return on capital. There’s no doubt when we bought Coles we bought a very big business with very low return on equity and that reduced the return on equity for the company.”
Assuming the comments and statistics are correct, I would argue that the reason for the decline in Wesfarmer’s Return on Equity is not because Coles had a low ROE – as Wesfarmers are reported to have suggested – but because Wesfarmers simply paid too much for Coles. Do you agree or disagree?
What are your thoughts?