Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Bent out of shape

2015 turned out thusly [the weighted average portfolio allocations for the year are in blue]:

This was a year in which the results were driven by Future Bright Holdings. Its market cap halved -- and halved again. A market price at, in my view, a deep discount to the value of the business (see below) brings about its own risk of loss via privatization by the owner operator. Chan Chak Mo diluted his ownership stake at $4.30/share halfway through 2014; the shareholder base must, by now, have completely turned over so that there is no longer a constituency to howl in protest; and the potential for a "take under" is therefore not inconsequential. So I kept buying and allocating an ever increasing share of my portfolio to it. 

Given that both Macau and O&G sentiment turned south at the same time I was left with an ever diminishing slither of my portfolio to allocate to regular industrials. And that, in turn, meant greater turnover (the average trade in the third column lasted two or three months), underweighted positions in straightforward value propositions (Thorntons and Flybe in particular), and two execrable errors (Enterprise Group, Republic Airways) as I sought near term payoffs to recycle into Future Bright.

Keck Seng Investments Ltd

This is an opportune moment to mention my position in Keck Seng Investments, an opportunity written up very well by gvinvesting at the Value Investors Club. This is what I see:

One way of looking at Keck Seng from a public market valuation perspective is to reorganize the parts as follows and to apply a discount -- 20% to 30% -- customary on the property net asset value for assets of this quality:

Alternatively one might count the present value of dividends. Keck Seng pays out ~35% to 40% of earnings and has grown dividends at 20% to 25% per year over the long term. So we might say that the markets should be willing to accept a 2% yield -- decomposed into 7% income less 5% forward dividend growth rate. If so:

If Vietnam's anticipated legalization of gambling for its own citizens occurs within a reasonable time frame or, if Keck Seng decides that it doesn't want to repatriate its US earnings -- tax, anticipation of currency trends -- and opts to spin off its US subsidiary into a REIT, then there may be upside beyond what I have indicated above.  If China's VIP gaming troubles spill over into Vietnam -- and on balance I think they will -- there's likely some share price volatility ahead.

Future Bright Holdings

Here is my sum of the parts valuation of Future Bright. In contrast to Keck Seng SOTP analysis is not going to decide Future Bright's fate but is nevertheless useful as a guide to decoding just what has and hasn't happened to the business over the past year and a half.

These estimates did not and do not assume, incorporate or hint at any recovery in VIP traffic above the levels seen in the first half of 2015 -- and they attempt also to incorporate the effects of market share losses as Macau's center of gravity continues to shift from the peninsula to Cotai.

So what has happened over the past 18 months? 

The company has: 

1. Launched a food souvenirs business

It has purchased the right to use the 80 year old Yeng Kee Bakery brand* in Macau, issued share options to mainland celebrity brand ambassadors, spent up to $28 million in launch advertising, and a further $8 million in training retail staff.  It has rented thirteen shops -- in casinos, at the airport, in the high street, and at its own Yellow House property at the ground zero of fanny pack tourism in Macau. (The Ruins of St Paul is to Macau what the Tour Eiffel is to Paris. Its outline is overwhelmingly stenciled on Macau sold mooncakes. Yellow House is located in the shadow of the Ruins).

The company thinks that it can, over time, command a 4% share of the market for food souvenirs in Macau and the financial justification for this investment is therefore as follows:

Two existing Macanese franchises -- Koi Kei Bakery and Choi Heong Yuen Bakery -- are omnipresent and dominant in the food souvenirs space, controlling 85% of the market between them. Future Bright is competing for a share of the remainder and, if selling mooncakes, almond biscuits and boxes of chocolate is, in the end, a matter of visitor traffic, distribution channels, and branding -- in that order -- the company is in a privileged position in competing for that remainder.

By the end of this year the company will have spent ~$90 million for an implied expected return of $900 million in present value terms, give or take. It looks to me, at this as yet early stage, to be on its way. 

Given the seasonally adjusted sales per sq ft trajectory to date and management's stated intention to optimize the mix of storefronts over the next few months I expect this business to make further progress toward FCF breakeven (after admininstrive expense allocation) in 2016.

* The second generation owner managers of the Yeng Kee brand have used the proceeds of the sale of the Macau rights to fund an apparently successful foray into the mainland.

2. Added 32 catering outlets

Of these new openings the 19 food court counters have not worked out at all well and are responsible for most of the gross operating losses. These food court counters have now been closed.

3. Acquired various properties, including land in Hengqin

Future Bright was awarded the right to purchase a parcel of land in Hengqin. It issued 65.4 million shares in a private placement at $4.30 to finance this purchase. 

If residential property sales are currently transacted in the neighborhood of RMB 40K per Sq M and if things go on to appreciate from there, then

This is the way that the sell side analysts had chosen to assess the value of the Hengqin property. 

If, on the other hand, current retail rents are in the RMB 400/SqM range, then

The legacy business

The legacy business as existed in the first half of 2014 -- presumed by the market to be in disastrous shape (or perhaps I myself am presuming what the market presumes)  -- has performed as follows:

Much of the weakness in the legacy food business is, I suspect, attributable to the absolutely and relatively disastrous performance of SJM's Casino Lisboa in this downturn as well as to the presumably poor performace of the Hotel Lan Kwai Fong. The restaurant in the latter property has now been closed. 

A composite picture

The last 18 months for the company as a whole therefore looks something like this:

and, after adjusting for non-recurring items :

Looking forward

I think the next few years will look something like this, give or take a $20 to $30 milllion in either direction depending on all the usual variables -- macroeconomic, Macau-specific, timing of restaurant openings, relative market shares of Cotai and peninsular properties, etc:

I bought these shares at ~$3.30 and my abolute cost basis is now $1.48.

I have a position in another Macau-centered company -- Paradise Entertainment -- that I think is also misunderstood but I'll leave things here and deal with that in a separate post.

Disclosure: I own shares in Future Bright. No one is quite so crazy as an investor with a large underwater position in a stock he likes so please do your own research and draw your own conclusions.