A Wealth Creation Journal

Author: XC (Page 3 of 6)

Ryman Healthcare – Update #5

Finally! I executed my first share purchase since the beginning of this crisis. I bought some Ryman shares @ NZD 10.45. It is a relatively small position now (~2%) and I aim to buy more if situation becomes favourable again.

Ryman Healthcare is a company that I have been following for more than one year now. I really started to do work on the company in Nov 2019. It is the largest retirement village operator in New Zealand. Globally, retirement villages are typically average businesses but there is one little quirk about retirement villages in New Zealand that completely transforms the economics of the business. For most real estate asset developers, there are really two ways to generate profits – either sell the assets for a profit upon completion or rent the property to collect the fixed income.  For example, most residential property developers would sell the asset upon completion while shopping mall developers often choose to rent the retail property as the long term rental growth would generate a higher return over time. The IRR is better if the property is sold upon completion while the rental model has lower IRR initially and can be more profitable over the long-term if rental growth is respectable.

But is there a business model in which the property is sold immediately upon completion while also retaining the right to collect rental payment over time?  You know, have the cake and eat it too.

Turns out that is exactly Ryman’s business model.

It builds retirement villages and “sells” elderly folks the right to live in their villages. The resident pays a deposit that is roughly equal to the value of the retirement unit. Ryman would charge up to a maximum of 20% of the deposit value as a management fee and the residents are granted the right to live in the retirement unit for as long as they wish to. At the point of exit, the resident is paid back 80% of the original deposit. In reality, most residents only stay in the retirement villages for 6-7 years on average because the average entrance age is more like 75+. This business model allows Ryman to recycle capital on day one through the deposit (great for IRR) while retaining the ability to collect fixed payment through the form of the management fee.

So why do the elderly folks chose to move into a retirement village? Many elderly folks find it very hard to maintain their large house as they get older. Property management service provided by the village operators relieves them of these chores. Another important motivation is a change in life circumstances such as the passing of one partner. Many prefer to live in a close-knit community than living alone. There is the hospitality aspect of living in retirement villages. There are weekly drinks, movies, field trips, exercise classes, and parties. It is kind of like living in a hotel with strong healthcare capability. Finally, a move into a retirement village helps to release equity in their home which can be used to finance their lifestyle.

New Zealand has a rapidly ageing population which will see the 75+ population grow by  ~3.5% for the next 10 years. The supply of retirement village is growing 5% and hence the penetration of retirement village is growing. The retirement village sector is ramping up supply to meet the growing demand; I would keep a vigilant outlook on the pipeline of new supply. However, Ryman should continue to do well relative to its peers because its villages offer better value for money.  Ryman charges 4% management fee p.a. capped at 20% while most competitors charge 5-6% management fee p.a. capped at 25-30%. Furthermore, people will always want the best care and safest pair of hands to take care of them in the twilight of their lives. They also need to trust operators that don’t take advantage of them when their mental and physical states are not in the best shape.

Hence Ryman’s competitive advantage comes from its reputation as a high-quality care provider and a trust-worthy retirement village operator. It offers a continuum of care model for its residents where independent units (normal houses with minimal care provided) and care centres (including hospital care) are on the same site. Elderly folks are not the most flexible bunch. Ryman pays its care staff above market rate to provide premium care and a strong culture of care.

The market also clearly acknowledges Ryman’s superior quality as its valuation is twice of its peers such as Summerset, Oceania and Arvida. Despite the valuation premium, I prefer Ryman over its peers as a strong culture of care is the best protection for long term franchise value. For example, I have found Summerset to have a mercenary attitude as compared to Ryman. This is not to say I will not invest in Summerset. Just that I think the valuation premium is at this moment reasonably justified. While I believe that Ryman is the best operator in the sector, the entire sector is likely to do well given the favourable economics of the business model.

If I am asked to buy the entire business (which I do sometimes fantasize about), I would value Ryman in a similar manner to an asset management company in that it clips ~3% of the total capital base. The capital base is generated by resident deposits. If I assume that Ryman builds out its existing landbank in the next 5 years without adding to the land bank, it would be able to generate, in my estimation, ~NZD 200m of incremental earnings. Note I exclude new sales gain from this analysis. Putting on a 25x earnings multiple, it would imply a share price of ~NZD 12. I think 25x is reasonable because the capital base enjoys 2-3% of house price growth even if there is no unit growth. This is comparable to the 4-5% rental yield in New Zealand. Of course, in reality, Ryman will maintain its land bank for growth beyond 2025. Hence our entry price is a very attractive one.

Now let me address the elephant in the room – can Ryman survive current pandemic?

  1. Ryman’s care revenue is well protected even in a national lock-down as the residents still live in the care centre. New residents are allowed to be admitted because these are typically need-based demand. Of course, there will be stringent isolation protocols in place
  2. Ryman’s care revenue more or less covers the fixed cost of the entire company. So they have liquidity to cover fixed cost even in a prolonged lock down situation
  3. New sales activity will cease but the company has a lot of leeways to stop existing construction projects to conserve cash. As of Sep 2019, the capital commitment is NZD 150m.
  4. Resale activity will cease too and this would impact Ryman’s ability to repay resident deposits on exit. Typically, Ryman promises to repay the deposit within six months after which Ryman will pay ~1-2% interest on the deposit. Legally, Ryman has three years to repay the resident. Even if we assume that COVID-19 lasts for 3 years (super unlikely in my view), Ryman can sell the apartment to pay back the resident
  5. It has roughly NZD 300m of liquidity headroom in an NZD 1.9bn credit facility. The credit facility is secured with underlying assets.
  6. According to the company, there are two main covenants – interest rate cover and gearing ratio

Given the above facts, it seems that Ryman has a very high probability of surviving this crisis.

The demand for Ryman product is mostly like to be delayed and not lost. Hopefully, we should see a reasonable demand recovery.

There is a risk with house price deflation in the event that we go into a recessionary environment coming out of this pandemic. Even though Ryman’s units usually sold at a discount to comparable houses in the same market, it would still impact Ryman because elderly folks need to sell their house to afford a Ryman unit.

Dart Group – Mar 2020 Update

I am re-evaluating how much Dart Group (DTG) could be worth coming out of this crisis. In considering the reasonable price to buy DTG under the current conditions, one would evaluate the following factors – 1) chance of DTG survival (liquidity analysis); 2) loss incurred during this crisis, 3) competitive landscape, and finally 4) the normalised earning power coming out of this crisis.

1. Chance of survival

Based on GBP 1.5bn of cash and roughly GBP 800m of the annual fixed cost base, I estimate the following chances of survival. In theory, DTG can sustain itself for an entire year based on the current liquidity profile. However, there are a few catches. DTG customers pay upfront for their summer holiday. Typically Jan and Feb account for a bulk of the summer holiday bookings. If the current lockdown extends into the summer months, customers would want their refunds. This could severely impact the liquidity situation if it so happens. Many UK travel companies are issuing Refund Credit Notes (RCN) that is backed by the UK package holiday regulator, ABTA, to avert the liquidity crunch. In the case of travel company failure, consumers can buy another holiday using the RCN. ABTA’s backing ends on 31 July 2020 after which customer can demand cash repayment if they have not used the RCN to book another holiday. On the hotel side, DTG typically buys up some capacity to guarantee supply quality. DTG would have to balance the long term commercial relationship and the short term need for cash. Given the level of unprecedented fiscal and monetary policies that are announced, the government’s willingness to intervene is strong. While I would not count on that necessarily, it is a factor in considering the chance of survival.

Length of lockdown Chance of survival
3 months 99%
6 months 80%
9 months 75%
12 months 70%

The main point here is that on balance DTG’s chance of survival is very high even in extreme scenarios.

2. The loss incurred during this crisis

The first step to estimating the possible range of loss sustained in this crisis is to estimate the revenue decline. I used Jet2’s monthly traffic in 2018 and 2019 to approximate the amount of volume decline and layer on price declines.The table below shows the weight of each month traffic as % of the full-year traffic. So if we assume a three-month lockdown, there would be zero revenue in Apr / May / Jun which meant a loss of ~30% of full-year traffic. The actual traffic loss is going to be greater than 30% because the process of demand recovery is going to take time. For simplicity sake, I will use 5% to account for the volume loss during the demand recovery process.

Length of lockdown Volume Decline Price Decline Revenue Decline
3 months 35% 20% 50%
6 months 75% 20% 90%
9 months 90% 20% 95%
12 months 100% n/a 100%

The assumption of the price decline of 20% might be too generous but it does not really matter. Because the point of this analysis here is to show that the revenue decline is close to 100% as long as the summer months are lost.

2018 2019
Jan 3% 3%
Feb 3% 3%
Mar 4% 5%
Apr 6% 6%
May 10% 10%
June 13% 12%
July 14% 13%
August 15% 14%
September 13% 13%
October 10% 11%
November 5% 5%
December 4% 5%

Assuming 3-6 month of lockdown and a fixed annual cost base of GBP 800m, the loss incurred is likely in the range of GBP 400-800m.

3. Competitive landscape

On the supply side, the materially higher debt level will limit growth capex in the next 2-3 years. This would provide a favourable backdrop to medium term (2-3 years) ticket price recovery. However, it also provides an opportunity for new entrants with a clean balance sheet to compete against the incumbents as they don’t have to carry the cost of debt. On the other side, many smaller competitors will probably go out of business and free up more demand.It is not clear what this means for Easyjet’s venture into the package holiday. Maybe they are less committed to a large marketing budget to support the new business. Or maybe it doesn’t cost that much to push the packaged holiday business.For Tui, I think DTG is likely to come out of this in a stronger position relative to Tui as DTG’s balance sheet is stronger and a lot less asset-heavy versus Tui. Tui’s offline distribution network is going to be massive cost drag while DTG relies on more nimble independent travel agents.Generally, I do expect DTG to come out stronger relative to its core competitors.

4. Normalised earning power

Assuming that by 2024, the traffic volume is back to 11m per pax vs 14m in 2019. And assuming a pre-coronavirus ticket yield of GBP 82 and average holiday price of GBP 680, DTG’s leisure revenue looks like GBP 2.4bn. Putting an 8% EBITDA margin on the top, DTG would be making GBP 200+m. The normalised earning power is probably ~ GBP 150m. With a 10x multiple, DTG is worth ~ GBP 1bn. There would probably be another GBP 100-200m of net debt. That leaves the equity value around GBP 800m.So given the risk-reward and the opportunity cost, I would consider buying DTG shares around GBP 300-400m market capitalisation which gives me an IRR of 25%.

Live Portfolio – Update #4

What a roller coaster journey I have had with Aimia for the past 2 years. I initially bought Aimia share around CAD 1.3 in Sep 2017. There was a lot of debate around what Aeroplan would look like once it breaks away from Air Canada. My purchase was driven mainly by the insight that the redemption liabilities originated from issuing loyalty points do not carry nearly as much economic value as its nominal value would suggest. As the issuer of your own currency, there are multiple ways to deflate the liabilities denominated in your own currency to effectively zero. Anyhow that debate got resolved when Air Canada bought back Aeroplan for a sweet CAD 450m which more than double Aimia’s market capitalisation at the time.

I sold the majority of Aimia position but kept a sizable 5% position because I believe the activists’ chance of monetising the remaining holdings (such as PLM and Cardlytics) are quite high and the discount to NAV is substantial (30-50%).

Fast forward to the current situation, the activists have taken over the board at Aimia and completed monetization of smaller stakes such as Cardlytics. However, the real value is PLM which is Aero Mexico’s loyalty program. Aimia owns 49% of PLM.

The biggest variable in Aimia’s NAV calculation is the valuation of PLM stake. This valuation is a balance of three factors:

  • The balance of negotiation power
  • How much can Aeromexico realistically afford to pay given its highly leveraged b/s
  • The intrinsic value of PLM

I ranked them in order of decreasing importance. The relative negotiation power of Aimia vs Aero Mexico is the most important driver of the actual value realisation and not the intrinsic value of PLM. It is not clear that Aimia is in a position to push for high valuation because Aeromexico can always opt for the status quo indefinitely. Yes, Aeromexico would have to share the dividend value with Aimia but it would also be very hesitant to add to its already high debt load. Of course, Aeromexico can issue equity to Aimia but this is further compounded by the current coronavirus situation.

My original expectation was that there could be a reasonable chance that Aimia can sell PLM stake at 10x EV/EBITDA multiple. I must admit that this is looking increasingly remote. I still believe that Aimia easily have 20-50% upside from its current share price. However, there is a real opportunity cost to holding Aimia shares as other companies are becoming more attractively priced.

So I have decided to sell Aimia position down to zero at the prevailing market price (CAD 2.2)

Live Portfolio – Update #3

In Feb 2020, I have added to AddCN (0.7%) @ 230 and 6% (Yixin) @ 1.69.

In addition, I have also opened a short position to BITA (-7%). I shorted BITA because of the unique characteristic where BITA’s downside in a case of deal failure is likely to be higher than Yixin. While the Yixin upside (20%) is substantially higher than BITA (~6%). So this creates an attractive situation where I can create a long/short value ratio of 10:3 (Yixin / BITA) to almost fully hedge out the downside risk of a deal failure

Sold ~20% of GAW position at GBP 61.3 because I have another opportunity in the game sector that I would like to deploy capital. Given the current market environment, I think the option value of keeping some cash is very high. So I sold some GAW to make room for the new idea while keeping a healthy cash level.

On another side note, Bill Gates published an article on Coronavirus (Link here) where he advised government around the world to assume that “Covid-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about”.  And then he went to outline measures to combat the virus and highlighted the importance of pre-emptive measures in the emerging markets. Bill is just an amazing human being.

I am put to shame as I have been preoccupied with the opportunity to profit from the market dislocations created by this virus and have not so far thought about how I can help with the pandemic. And frankly, there is probably little I can do anyway. Nonetheless, I am very grateful to people like Bill who are fighting the virus tirelessly. Without them, there would be no recovery and nothing to profit from. So for that, I am very grateful.

With that gratefulness in mind, I will resume my work to find the best opportunities to make money from!

Avanza 4Q 2019 Update

Avanza reported strong results and continued to grow its customer base which is up 17% year over year from 837k to 976k in 2019 (Avanza report its customer base in terms of the number of funded customers). A growing customer base is the single most important metric for long term value creation. It demonstrates that Avanza continues to be the most attractive retail investment platform in Sweden. Avanza’s customer base is ~10% of the Swedish population but only has 4.2% market share in the Swedish savings market. Avanza announced the ambition to increase savings market share to 7% by 2025 which means a double of savings capital from SEK ~400bn to ~800bn. This should then translate into a doubling of revenue.


Stock brokerage is high switching cost business, especially for retail investors. The high switching cost works both ways – it protects Avanza existing customer base from poaching by other online stock brokers but also deters Avanza’s attack on incumbent financial institutions. Avanza is winning market share because it is the lowest cost broker in Sweden AND provides a user-friendly investment platform.


Revenue grew 14% which was mainly driven by net interest income growth. Net profit grew 28% due to lower operating cost growth of 6%. Riksbank decided to go against their peers and raise repo rates in Sweden. The repo rate in Sweden is now at 0%. This has helped to increase net interest income by 70%.


The new CEO, Rikard, is very ambitious and continues to build on the customer-focused culture that has driven Avanza’s success in the past.


My view on Avanza remains the same: the best value-for-money investment platform in Sweden that has a very user-friendly online platform. It has an incredible mind share with young professionals, and as they progress in their careers, their savings on Avanza will grow too. There are two main optionalities with Avanza:


1) interest rate sensitivity where every 1% increase in interest rate will lead to incremental interest income of SEK 300m (2019 net profit is SEK 447m). I don’t count on it for the investment case to work but I consider a very valuable;


2) Avanza might grow into an online bank and offer more services to its existing customers hence increase product per customer and then revenue per customers


Trading at 36x P/E, Avanza is not cheap. But the strong growth visibility and the long growth runway means that I can be patient. Since my initial purchase in 2017, the stock is up 55% and generated 14.5% annualised return albeit with huge volatility. Over a longer time period, I believe Avanza is a 10-15% annualised return investment with very limited downside risk. Maintain current position and will add if Mr Market presents attractive opportunities to do so.

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