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Latest Valuentum Commentary
Jun 30, 2022
Big Changes in the Auto Industry as Chip Shortages, Supply Chain Issues, and Rising Input Costs Complicate Matters; Tesla and Ferrari Our Two Favorite Names
Image: Ferrari’s fundamental momentum has been strong of late. Image Source: Ferrari N.V. 2022 Globe Newswire. The auto industry perhaps has changed more than any other industry the past five years. First, it was Ford that said it wouldn’t make passenger cars anymore, except for its iconic Mustang. Then, the European Union said that it would eventually end the internal combustion engine (ICE) by 2035. Then, Tesla reached over $1,200 per share and over a $1 trillion market capitalization. Can you imagine a world where Ford is not making sedans, the once modern-marvel of the internal combustion engine is dying, and where one car maker is worth as much as the next nine car makers combined? Certainly, a lot has changed in the auto industry during the past decade, and we haven’t dabbled much in the auto sector as it relates to idea generation due in part to the industry’s fast-changing backdrop. That doesn’t mean that we’re not fans of the auto space and its promising long-term opportunities, particularly with electric vehicles (EVs). It just means that we think there are better stories elsewhere, as in ideas in the simulated newsletter portfolios. However, if we had to pick two of our favorite auto names to consider, they would be Tesla and Ferrari, even as we note General Motors and Ford both trade at mid-single-digit earnings multiples. That said, investors don’t necessarily have to take on the risks of automakers, especially as the group deals with chip shortages, supply chain issues, and margin pressures from higher input costs. The cyclicality of many of the operators and the reality that operating leverage cuts both ways (and is quite painful during difficult economic times) are risks that perhaps won’t ever go away. That said, exposure to the auto space via Tesla or Ferrari could work nicely in a broadly diversified equity portfolio should risk-seeking investors be so inclined. These two names remain on our radar.
Jan 27, 2022
Net Cash Rich Tesla Reports Solid Free Cash Flow, Closes Out 2021 on a High Note
Image Shown: A look at Tesla Inc’s new ‘Gigafactory’ manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, that is currently under development. Image Source: Tesla Inc – Fourth Quarter of 2021 IR Shareholder Deck. On January 26, Tesla reported that it had produced ~306,000 vehicles and delivered ~309,000 vehicles during the final quarter of 2021. The electric vehicle (‘EV’) and battery maker beat both consensus top- and bottom-line estimates in the fourth quarter as it continued to successfully ramp its production capabilities. We plan to fine-tune our cash flow valuation model covering Tesla to take its latest earnings report into account, but we still expect the point fair value estimate to be below where shares are trading at the time of this writing (~$937 per share).
Jan 13, 2022
Governance: The G in ESG Investing
Image: The Valuentum Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Scoring System shows how “Governance” considerations are analyzed. No discussion of ESG investing would be complete without addressing the role of corporate governance (“stewardship”) in equity investing. As with the other aspects of ESG investing, corporate governance covers a lot of ground. It can include pretty much anything related to how a company is run, including leadership, executive compensation, audits and accounting, and shareholder rights. These areas are just the tip of the iceberg, however. A company with good corporate governance is one that is run well with the proper incentives and with all stakeholders in mind, from employees to suppliers to customers to shareholders and beyond. Good corporate governance practices decrease the risk to investors as it cuts through conflicts of interest, misuse of resources, and a general lack of concern for all stakeholders. A company that fails at implementing good corporate governance is at increased risk of litigation or scandal, which could wreck the share price. With the turn of the century, the dot com bust probably exposed most prominently the need for good corporate governance practices. Fraud was rampant. Whether it was the former CEO of Tyco International receiving millions in unauthorized bonuses, the actions of those at the top of Enron that created one of the biggest frauds in corporate history, the scandal at accounting and auditing firm Arthur Andersen, the demise of MCI/Worldcom, or the questionable practices that led to the Global Analyst Research Settlement, Wall Street had lost its way. In fact, a big reason why our firm Valuentum was founded is based on ensuring that investors get a fair shake and that someone is keeping a watchful eye not only on companies, but also on the sell-side stock analyst research that may still be full of conflicts of interest. As a result of the Global Analyst Research Settlement, all the big investment banks from Goldman Sachs to J.P. Morgan to Morgan Stanley to UBS Group and beyond had to pay stiff fines for producing conflicted, if not fraudulent research. In this note, we talk about the considerations that go into the G in ESG investing.
Apr 27, 2021
Tesla Scaling Up Nicely
Image Shown: Tesla is steadily working towards bringing another manufacturing facility online in the US, this time near Austin, Texas. Image Source: Tesla Inc – Shareholder Letter Covering the First Quarter of 2021. Electric vehicle (‘EV’) giant Tesla continues to impress as it smashed past consensus top- and bottom-line estimates when it reported first quarter 2021 earnings on April 26. The company delivered 184,800 vehicles (182,780 Model 3/Y variants and 2,020 Model S/X variants) and produced 180,338 vehicles in the first quarter of this year, though we note that Tesla only produced Model 3/Y variants last quarter and Model S/X vehicle deliveries were met via its inventory. In the first quarter of 2021, Tesla’s ‘automotive revenues’ of $9.0 billion were up 75% year-over-year, its GAAP revenues of $10.4 billion were up 74% year-over-year, and its GAAP net income came in north of $0.4 billion (up sharply from year-ago levels).
Apr 13, 2021
SPACs Are Good for Markets, Not SPAC-tacular for Investors
Image: Performance of the Defiance NextGen SPAC IPO ETF (SPAK), where “a 60% weighting is applied to IPO companies derived from SPACs and 40% is allocated to common stock of newly listed Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (“SPACs”), ex-warrants” has been roughly flat since inception in October 2020. According to some estimates, there were 248 Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPAC) that went public in 2020, raising more than $80 billion (up sixfold from a record high set in 2019). SPACs reached heightened levels of excitement in early February, but the performance of the Defiance NextGen SPAC IPO ETF (SPAK) has been roughly flat since it began trading October 2020. Most of what investors have to go on when considering a SPAC is a thorough assessment of the management team, as SPACs go public as a shell (“blank check”) company with no underlying operating business. Some forward-leaning, “out of the box” management teams may be worth rolling the dice on, but for the most part, the great many of the SPACs out there probably aren’t worth your time. Though we like the idea of more investor choice once SPACs take operations public (and new companies are listed), we’re not getting lured into the SPAC IPO boom. It’s not our style. Even diversified exposure to the SPAK ETF doesn’t sound great. We’ll be patient and evaluate the companies SPACs bring public through traditional equity analysis to see if opportunities present themselves. Prudence and care, first, always.
Feb 21, 2021
Xpel Is an Intriguing Play on the Auto Industry
Image Shown: Most of Xpel Inc’s business is built around its paint protection film products for automobiles. Image Source: Xpel Inc - November 2020 IR Presentation. Xpel has a pristine balance sheet (nice net cash position), strong cash flow profile, ample growth opportunities, and a plan to boost its margins. The company primarily sells paint protection film products for automobiles, and its outlook appears quite promising as the firm is moving into adjacent areas while putting up rock-solid performance of late. We are highlighting Xpel given its potential for additional capital appreciation upside, though we caution shares of XPEL are up almost four-fold over the past year as of the middle of February 2021.
Jan 25, 2021
ALERT: Bull Raids, Short Squeezes and Highly Unusual Market Activity
Image: Shares of GameStop have been on an irrationally wild ride recently driven by what looks to have been an orchestrated and highly unethical (and perhaps illegal) short squeeze on the stock. According to some reports, during the pre-market session January 25, GameStop’s shares were up ~80%, and turned red during the trading session, with no fundamental news.In late 2018, Valuentum published Value Trap, a book that warned to all that would heed its warning that a collapse in the traditional quant value factor was coming and that excessive volatility in the markets caused by price-agnostic trading--or those that aren’t paying attention to fair value estimate calculations--would only build and build to eventually reach extreme and irrational levels. The book, while hugely successful winning award after award, was largely ignored by the media, despite our best efforts to get the word out. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.
Jan 5, 2021
The Electric Vehicle (EV) Market Is Hot and Getting Hotter
Image Shown: A look at Tesla Inc’s new Gigafactory factory (Model Y body shop) in Shanghai, China. Image Source: Tesla Inc – Third Quarter of 2020 IR Earnings Presentation. The electric vehicle (‘EV’) market is hot and getting hotter. Aided by a combination of supportive government policies such as subsides for EVs (purchase tax credits, manufacturing tax credits), plans to ban the sale of automobiles powered by internal combustion engines (‘ICE’) in the coming years, and shifting consumer preferences (households preferring to appear “green”), the long-term outlook for EV sales is quite bright. Tesla is the posterchild of the EV boom given its first-mover advantage, though competitive headwinds are rising. Legacy auto manufacturers are looking to bulk up their EV offerings while new market entrants such as Lordstown Motors and privately-held Rivian, are set to further disrupt the industry. Ford Motor invested in Rivian back in 2019 to bulk up its presence in the EV market. By the middle of 2021, Rivian aims to begin deliveries of its EV pickup truck in the US, the R1T. Lordstown Motors also aims to bring an EV pickup truck to market, named the Endurance, with deliveries set to begin in early-2021. However, as global EV sales appear set to grow immensely, there is room for a number of winners in this space. Back in July 2020, privately-held Deloitte estimated that global EV sales will grow from an estimated 2.5 million in 2020 to 11.2 million in 2025 and then to 31.1 million by 2030, good for annual compound growth of about 29% in the coming decade, according to the research firm. EV sales in China are expected to represent about half of global EV sales in 2030, according to Deloitte, followed by the European market representing just over one quarter of global EV sales in 2030.
Nov 5, 2020
General Motors Playing Catch Up
Image: Hummer EV. According to General Motors’ website, the Hummer EV will be a “zero emissions, zero limits all-electric supertruck.” Today’s GM is in much better shape than it was during the Great Financial Crisis when it succumbed to legacy issues as evidenced by its resilience during the COVID-19 meltdown, but the reality is that operationally-leveraged cyclicals with sticky costs, messy financials, and encroaching rivals don’t tend to command a large multiple. Throw in the opaqueness of its financing arm, which adds $88.9 billion in long-term debt to the balance sheet as of the end of last year, and GM becomes too difficult a stock to own, in our view. At $36 each, GM’s shares may have bounced back a bit too much based on our fair value estimate.
Sep 8, 2020
General Motors Makes a Deal with Nikola
Image Shown: On September 8, shares of General Motors Corporation (in orange) and Nikola Corporation (in blue) jumped higher during normal trading hours after announcing their strategic partnership. On September 8, General Motors and Nikola Corp announced a strategic partnership that saw shares of GM and NKLA leap up 8% and 41% during regular trading hours that day, respectively. General Motors will receive an 11% equity stake in Nikola (via common stock issuance) worth ~$2 billion in return for agreeing to provide Nikola in-kind services as “General Motors will engineer, homologate, validate and manufacture the Nikola Badger battery electric and fuel cell versions” which involves utilizing General Motors’ “Ultium battery system and Hydrotec fuel cell technology.” General Motors expects the agreement will close by the end of this month. There will be a lock-up provision concerning General Motors’ pro forma equity stake in Nikola that is set to run through June 2025. Nikola expects this agreement will save the firm ~$5 billion in battery, powertrain, engineering, and validation costs combined over the next decade as the company gains “access to General Motors' global safety-tested and validated parts and components” along with General Motors’ hydrogen fuel cell and electric battery technology.
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