Pembridgecap

A Wealth Creation Journal

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Long read on US shale gas backdrop

How America’s most reckless billionaire created the fracking boom [Guardian] –  Bethany McLean on the shale industry & Chesapeake (CHK) founder

    • in 2008, conventional wisdom was that 8$ was a natural gas price floor (it cratered to 2.5$)
    • there was a real scare of US running out of gas before the shale revolution, with even Greenspan comments

“Landmen were always the stepchild of the industry,” he later told Rolling Stone. “Geologists and engineers were the important guys – but it dawned on me pretty early that all their fancy ideas aren’t worth very much if we don’t have a lease. If you’ve got the lease and I don’t, you win.” – McClendon, Chesapeake Energy founder

In my opinion, the US natural gas industry has become an interesting pond to fish in.

That other shale phenomenon, shale oil is actually the biggest risk factor for the price of US natural gas (i.e. cheapest fossil fuel globally, and cleaner than oil & coal). US Shale oil producers make their decisions based on the oil price. As a “side effect”, they also produce associated gas. This “free” natural gas competes with cheap shale gas producers in the US.  Interestingly, the US natural gas price is becoming counter-cyclical via the worldwide oil price. As the oil price suffers from an important demand shock in a recession, and shale oil producers are swing producers of oil, this growing competition of “free” associated gas is turned off (hence local nat gas supply shrinks).

In other words, while US shale gas producers are amongst the cheapest fossil fuel producers in the world, most US shale oil producers are almost the opposite (the marginal producers that turn off if oil demand retreats). As “associated gas” production of oil producers is turned off, this is very positive for US natural gas producers.

As credit markets are already shutting for natural gas producers (have a look at breathtaking multi-year plummeting share prices of AR, RR, CNX), a recession will probably put a damper on shale gas drilling (i.e. capex) growth as well. Lastly, demand growth remains underpinned by being the cheapest fossil fuel in the world. Meanwhile, US natural gas equities are very cheap compared to their prospective maintenance cash flows (20-50% yields) and SEC PV-10 reserves.  Both valuation measures give 0$ credit to the huge dormant assets convexity/optionality (no costs if US nat gas prices go down, but extra profits if nat gas starts rising). Of course these are commodity businesses with the usual disadvantages, except one! This idiosyncratic group of commodity businesses can’t be criticized as “cyclical” anymore. That is a game changer. More later.

“Simply put, low prices cure low prices as consumers are motivated to consume more and producers are compelled to produce less” – McClendon

Links

  • Booking.com thesis (excellent overview) – [the 10th man BKNG thesis]
    • I concur the valuation is compelling but I think this is borderline too hard. In my mind there is a >70% probability BKNG stock is a home run. In the other case, BKNG loses its edge relatively quickly (measured in years while it trades around 20X earnings) as Google keeps innovating & lowering the user friction to book directly with hotels (or any other OTA bidder, aka make the bidding process for ads in the Hotel Module – which is one giant & very user-friendly meta search ad – much more competitive & hence expensive for BKNG). If the user experience becomes better (and hence the search process for hotels and travel starts) on Google, then the legacy moat of BKNG is in trouble. The post does not elaborate on potential further Google innovations such as Google Assistant sorting out a booking with a direct AI phone call to hotels, passing on the parameters the user was looking for originally (hence lowering friction to book directly & getting a birds’ eye view on). Stratechery [The Google Squeeze] focused more on the latest innovation at least.
    • Google makes available a direct booking API for larger chains to easily plug into. That will increasingly happen to smaller hotels too. BKNG has painful take rates of 15% on hotel revenue

Google Hotel Module is making auctions for customer attention more competitive. As the real estate of mobile phone is limited, competitors get only one shot for attention in this superior meta search tool. The highest bidder is featured on top.

  • Druckenmiller 2020 Outlook [Bloomberg]
    • general takeaway: long equities, commodities (though not energy), short long duration fixed income (he is basically long inflation)
      • maybe not read too much into it as he reverses positions frequently
    • last takeaway: bull on UK domestic economy: “never underestimate the common sense of the British people” – Thatcher via Druckenmiller. Stan is a brexiteer, biggest FX long is GBP & says UK domestic stocks are at low multiples.
  • Peter Lynch in [Barron’s ]

 

 

 

Scribbles: KKR at the Goldman Sachs conference

  • 2X as much KKR investment professionals in RoW vs US.
  • 18 out of 22 investment strategy families less than 10 years old. Significant operating leverage on those (mostly) RoW people in young strategies
  • KKR Capital Markets: doing deals with third parties and being able to control the dealmaking and capture some fees, having a cap markets division is a competitive advantage that does not show up in typical alternative’s KPIs such as AUM, FPAUM etc
  • when KKR converted to C-corp, it stopped distributing 75% of distributable earnings. Today it is lower
    • Note I believe this is reason why KKR trades cheapish: the market prefers bird in the hand over compounding bird in the KKR stock bush, with supermajority voting stock etc.
  • KKR major player in Asia, biggest in terms of private equity funds, started in 2005
  • Most Asian investment professionals actually in India
  • Investing mostly in domestic consumption stories in Asia

 

Coming wave (next 1-2 yrs) of flagship fund raisings, chronologically:

  1. Asia PE fund
  2. Americas
  3. Infrastructure

 

Flagships will be additive to overall fundraising (last 3 yrs 90B of AUM raising without flagship wave, i.e. I believe only 1) and should be 30-40B USD in aggregate.  Everything else equal, 120B AUM raising in 3 years is possible (bull case environment maybe).

 

Presenting a new blog post category: scribbles

The blog has been inactive for a while as the time hurdle to write down structured thoughts proves to be high.

From here we’ll post interesting notes, conference tidbits, thoughts in a more haphazard way under the post category “scribbles”.

We hope you’ll enjoy it.

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