In the last bull run, so many Indian companies took their ambitions abroad in an effort to grow faster inorganically by acquiring foreign companies. Easily available loans and FCCBs made their dreams instant reality as lenders were ready to shell out money on these companies that had good brand value, niche technologies or product line up, steady revenue stream and consistent net profits too.
However, things began to go wrong for most of these companies as the perceived benefits of acquisitions didn’t really result in increased profits. On the contrary, adverse market conditions and integration issues played against them and they started piling up debts much faster than they could have ever imagined. Tata Steel, GMR Infrastructure, Suzlon, Lanco Infratech – the list goes on.
In this post, we will talk about three such companies (and their penny stocks) that made such oversees acquisitions. While they failed at that, they seem to have realized their mistakes, corrected them (or in the process of doing so) and now on the way to turn around themselves into profit stories yet again. Needless to say such company stocks can turn into multibaggers for any investor with high risk appetite! Of course, these are not portfolio stocks and hence one shouldn’t blindly invest all their money into them but a retail investor can consider a small exposure on risk-reward potential basis.
The stories of Subex, Suzlon and Ballarpur Industries
The turn around stories – and hence potential multibaggers in India – we are going to talk about today are Subex Ltd, Suzlon Energy Ltd, and Ballarpur Industries Ltd (Note: Read updates below).
1. Subex Ltd
Company website: http://www.subex.com/
History: Subex was founded by Subash Menon and Alex PJ (hence the name SubEx) in 1992. They initially dealt with fiber optics cables but shifted focus to niche Telecom software – primarily fraud management systems and revenue assurance software.
The company was steadily growing since its inception. However, in the boom that followed the DotCom fall they decided to acquire many small Telecom software companies abroad. Initially, all acquisitions were funded by cash and equities but then they started borrowing and raising funds via FCCB (foreign currency convertible bond) route as well. During this time, one of the founders and promoter left the company making it more like a family run company by promoters with questionable intentions. The debt of the company started piling up and the stock crashed from its high of 700+ to 20s in a matter of two years.
Investment rationale: After their original promoters were unceremoniously packaged out for all that went wrong in their hands, the new management took control over Subex in an attempt to clean up the company’s balance sheet. And they have been quite successful at that in just three years.
At the moment, the company is almost debt free and it’s on the growth path again. With a market cap of 500cr, annual sales figures or 300cr and a debt of just 50cr, and 100cr in free cash, it looks like an investment grade company again.
At the time of writing this post (May 2016), the stock is trading at around Rs. 10 and the book value is more than 5 rupees. The interest outflow is very negligible now and hence it really looks like a turn around story to me and a potential a multibagger.
Risks: With almost negligible debts, the only potential risk for this company is any adverse market conditions for Telecom players in Europe and Latin America.
2. Suzlon Energy Ltd
Company website: http://suzlon.com/
History: Suzlon is another great company that went from steady growth path to huge losses after their acquisition of the German company Senvion in 2007. This wind energy company reported their last profit in 2008-’09 and it has been steadily declining since then as they couldn’t manage their debt bill. The debt kept mounting at an alarming pace and when it hit more than Rs. 17,000 cr they had no other go but shelve off the German subsidiary, and it finally happened last year (2015).
Investment rationale: After exiting Senvion, the company still has a debt of around 8000Cr, however, only 4000Cr of this is long term debt an it’s payable only in 2019. There’re further FCCB bonds that may get converted into equities by 2023 and hence there’s no further equity dilution in the next seven years. Of course, there is still interest burden but it looks manageable as the company’s operating profit is steadily climbing since the Senvion sale. Further, the operating profit margin (OPM) on the standalone basis is climbing rapidly as there is no major expense or capital expansion taking place.
Last year, the Sun Pharmaceuticals’ Dilip Sanghvi acquired 23% stake in Suzlon Energy and this makes Dilip Sanghvi and Tulsi Tanti (original promoter and founder) – two big and reputed names – the main promoters of this company. With the NDA Government’s increased focus in the renewable energy (1,75,000MW in next 7 years) sector, Suzlon has also diversified into Solar Energy which is cheaper to produce and implement than wind energy. They intend to deliver 15,000MW installed capacity in India in the next five years, off which they already signed a 4000MW project recently with Andhra Pradesh government. The manufacturing capacity of Suzlon is now 4000MW per year with no new investment required. They now have enough working capital as well after exiting Senvion and hence there’s no need to borrow anything in the near future. Overall, things look great again for Suzlon and hence a potential multibagger over the next few years for patient investors.
Risks: While the company doesn’t need to pay off any of their debts in the next three years, they indeed need to pay interest on a regular basis and also maintain cash generation to pay off their loans in 2019. Another risk is any potential decision in favour of solar power vs wind power due to cost factors as Suzlon is still more than 75% a Wind Power company. The company’s book value is negative as of now and this is one of the biggest risks for any investor.
3. Ballarpur Industries
Update on June 08, 2016): This recommendation has been discontinued as the BILT – Sabah Forest Industries didn’t go through as expected. Read the news at this link.
Company website: http://biltpaper.com/
History: I vividly remember myself investing in this stock (BILT) almost 15 years back and making some money when things were going good for Ballarpur Industries – an Avantha group (that owns Crompton Greaves etc) company and a leading name in the Indian Printing and Writing paper market. It was a very good dividend paying company too at 25-30% dividend paid every year (They still pay dividends, although much lesser).
However, things began to go wrong with the company when it acquired a Malaysian paper company namely ‘Sabah Forest Industries Sdn’ for $260 million. Like many other Indian companies that we discussed above, they too piled up debts that now stands at a whopping Rs.6000 crores.
Investment rationale: BILT has already taken the corrective measures and they are in the process of selling the Malaysian arm. A deal has been finalized with the buyer (Pandawa Sakti Sabah Sdn) for $500 million (Rs.3300 Crore). The sale date is due in May 2016 following which BILT can write off half their debts instantly. This would allow them to focus back on the Indian arm and be the leader yet again. With the interest outflow reduced drastically, I believe that this company will be back on track again and the stock can appreciate from here own and yield significant return for its investors. Further, the book value is still around Rs.25/- per share which is significant higher than it’s current market price (CMP).
Risks: The Sabah sale final date has been pushed three-four times already by the buyer while an agreement is in place. If the deal is called off, just in case, it may be bad for the company.
I am not an investment advisor but just a retail investor and trader like most readers here. Hence, please take professional help before investing in the stocks discussed here. I have vested interest in most of the stocks that I write about and you can check out my equity portfolio as a disclosure. I am not responsible for any loss or gain that you may make in the stock market after following the articles on my blog. Also, it is recommended that investors take positions in a staggered manner than investing in one shot in any of the stocks for that matter.
(At the time of writing this post, I am invested in Subex since several months and accumulated Suzlon shares recently. I have interest in buying BILT based on the Sabah sale news)