September 9, 2022 - I have stayed on the sidelines with Alibaba for a while now, but over the past couple months I have built a small position in the company.
Although there are numerous risks, such as, but not limited to: the VIE structure, geopolitical relationship between the US and China, tech regulation, competition, and management, I believe that the reward currently exceeds the risk, provided the investment isn’t too high as a percentage of the portfolio.
As the company’s biggest investor is selling (Softbank), the contrarian in me is having a difficult time staying on the sidelines due to the current valuation and a possible upcoming catalyst with the U.S. audit scheduled for this year.
Here is a summary of my reasons why I think the stock is worth investing in:
The valuation is attractive for a company with such a wide moat.
Market Cap: $246B
Enterprise Value: $195B
TTM Free Cash Flow: $11.6B
TTM Net Income: $5.9B
TTM EBIT: $13.5B
P/E: 25 (2022 earnings)
FW P/E: 12
P/FCF: 21 (Capex is way up last 12 months, but could normalize)
The returns on invested capital have materially come down from the company’s peak of mid 20’s percent to its current low at 4-5% but they have opportunity to increase again. Operating income has stayed at a relatively high level.
Building all of the infrastructure that Alibaba built throughout China is no easy task. The company has built warehouses and logistics operations that are very difficult to replicate, which creates a high barrier-to-entry to compete.
The large market in China is big enough for JD.com, Pin DuoDuo and Alibaba. Markets outside of China in Southeast China are an opportunity as well, even with competition from Sea.
The company still has ownership in Alipay.
The cloud business stands to gain a lot over the upcoming years.
The company has investments in many other companies which put the company's sum of the parts valuation at a very attractive level when including its net debt as well.
China is giving U.S. auditors access to the company’s financials. It isn’t a certainty that the upcoming audit scheduled for next month will turn out positive for BABA shareholders, but it is encouraging that the government is working with the U.S. on audit compliance.
I don’t like to mention Superinvestors based on their 13F filings because investing in a company just because someone else is investing is an awful way to invest. Nonetheless, there are a lot of risks to this company that are way too difficult for me to fully grasp, therefore, it is encouraging to see that other investors I follow have been willing to position the company in their portfolios. And the ones that have been invested for over a year now, remain invested as of 6/30/22.
Charlie Munger: 19.5% of portfolio
Bill Miller: 5.25% of portfolio
Guy Spier: 3.17% of portfolio
Prem Watsa: 1.17% of portfolio
David Tepper: .71% of portfolio
February 28, 2022 - On Feb. 24, 2022, AB InBev reported Non-GAAP EPS of .74 and revenue of $14.2 billion in the 4th quarter. Non-GAAP EPS missed by 3 cents and revenue beat by $530 million. Normalized earnings per share were $0.90.
Revenue increased year-over-year, but earnings were lower than Q4 2021 earnings. Margins contracted as well. The negatives of the quarter were margin contraction, the earnings miss and lower earnings this year versus Q4 21. Other than that, I thought there were a lot of positives.
AB InBev delivered 12.1% top line growth and 3.6% volume growth for Q4 21 and 15.6% top line growth for the full year. And compared to pre pandemic levels, revenue grew 10%.
Revenue and volume growth exceeding pre-pandemic levels is a sign of positive momentum. Another positive was that gross debt was reduced by nearly $10 billion during 2021. The net debt to EBITDA ratio is now 3.96 times.
AB InBev proposed a dividend for the full year of €0.50. I would prefer they used the funds to further pay down debt instead though.
Michael Doukeris said on a podcast with Yahoo Finance in December 2021 that beer is growing. That sounded a little controversial at the time since there was a decline in beer consumption from 2010-2015. It also seemed like this decline didn’t stop, but Michael said from 2015-2020 beer was growing. AB InBev’s 2021 results show that it is continuing to grow for AB InBev globally.
Here is a summary from AB InBev’s press release on the performance of its key markets:
United States: Third consecutive year of top-line growth in the U.S. Michelob Ultra is the number two beer in the U.S by volume now. The hard seltzer portfolio grew 1.7x the segment and Cutwater is still growing triple digits.
Mexico: Double digit top and bottom-line growth. The next phase of the OXXO rollout was launched, expanding into around 3,400 additional stores by January 2022.
Columbia: Double digit top and bottom-line growth. 85% of revenues in this market came digital channels (BEES).
Brazil: Double digit top-line growth, however, the bottom-line was impacted by elevated costs. Total volumes for the year grew by 7.3% with beer volumes up by 7%, but transactional FX, higher commodity costs and higher SG&A expenses were headwinds.
Europe: Top-line recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Premium and super brands make up over 50% of revenues in Europe now.
South Africa: Top-line growth and market share ahead of pre-pandemic levels. Almost 90% of revenues come through digital channels like the BEES platform. Beyond Beer is also growing double digits in this market.
China: Double digit top- and bottom-line growth with market share ahead of pre-pandemic levels. Volumes grew by 9.3% and revenue per hl grew by 7.9%.
Budweiser, Corona and Stella continue to grow outside of their home markets. In 2021, these brands grew by 23% outside of each brand’s home market.
Other positive signs for AB InBev during the quarter was the growth from their DTC and B2B platforms. BEES now covers more than 85% of AB InBev’s active customers and Ze Delivery fulfilled more than double the orders they fulfilled in 2020. Direct-to-consumer products also generated more than $1.5 billion in revenue across 20 countries.
Other positives were the nonalcoholic beer portfolio grew by double digits and the Beyond Beer portfolio grew by over 20%, contributing $1.6 billion of revenue in 2021.
“Products, such as BEES, Ze Delivery and EverPro allow us to unlock value from our existing assets. This is enabling us to turn customer pain points into opportunities for growth. It is now lies in 16 markets offering our customers flexible delivery and data-driven insights, while empowering our frontline sales team with real time information on customer behavior through our BEES Force application. BEES has seen remarkable acceleration in usage and reach capturing approximately $20 billion in gross merchandising value in 2021, up from $3 billion in 2020. Total monthly active users, more than doubled this year.”
Michael Doukeris, Q4 2021 Conference Call
PerfectDraft, a beer-serving counter-top machine that AB InBev partnered with Phillips on, delivered more than $170 million of revenue. This is a small percentage of revenue so it isn’t relevant now, but I am content that they are innovating in markets that could possibly disrupt their business model in the future.
In my initial report, I highlighted four challenges that AB InBev needs to overcome – debt, coronavirus, cost inflation and new competition – to get back to fair value.
Debt - AB InBev continues to make progress on debt reduction. They just went below the 4x Net Debt to EBITDA ratio for the first time since 2016. They also announced in January of 2022 that they will reduce debt by another $3.1 billion. In addition, the debt is well spread out with 94% of it fixed, and there are no financial covenants. 2x Net Debt to EBITDA is their target.
Coronavirus – revenue has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. We are two years into the pandemic and although there are new variants and occasional outbreaks, the world is starting to adapt. Vaccines and other remedies continue to save lives and make people feel more comfortable.
Cost Inflation – As I am writing this update on 2/28/22, AB InBev fell 6% on what appears to be concerns over high cost inflation due to the war in Ukraine. Margins were also contracted during the period with 2021 gross margin of 57.47% compared to 61% in 2019 and 58.1% in 2020. This will most likely be a headwind for all of 2022 but AB InBev should still weather this fine. They have valuable brands that will help pass along some of the higher costs, strong bargaining power with suppliers and a large number of volumes that they can spread their costs out over. Passing on the higher costs may help them deleverage quicker by paying the debt down with cheaper currencies.
New Competition – AB InBev is reporting strong revenues from beer despite the new competition. Their Corona, Budweiser and Stella brands are growing at very high rates outside their home markets and the Beyond Beer portfolio is now up to $1.6 billion in revenue and still growing.
I am sticking with my price target of $90.36.
February 23, 2022 - Alibaba is one of the most undervalued companies out there. There is a reason for this undervaluation and it certainly doesn’t automatically make it investable. What has surprised me about Alibaba has not been Charlie Munger’s investment in it, but his decision to double down (not once but twice) and use margin debt.
I wondered why he was so confident considering the VIE structure. At the 2/16/22 Daily Journal meeting, Charlie Munger clarified this when he responded to a question on Alibaba’s VIE structure as follows:
“When you buy Alibaba, you do get sort of a derivative, but assuming there's a reasonable honor among civilized nations, that risk doesn't seem all that big to me.”
Alibaba has had a really strong support level at around $110 per share with its 52-week low being $108.70. It is currently trading at $109.72, it’s down after hours, it’s being reported that Russia is currently invading Ukraine, and Alibaba reports earnings tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks.
Revenue and earnings are expected to be weaker than in the past but this outlook is probably already priced in. Some of this expected weakness is because of tougher comps due to a surge in ecommerce last year.
For the record, Alibaba currently trades at:
TTM P/NI: 17x
TTM P/S: 2.55x
TTM P/FCF: 13x
The low valuation has tempted me for a while but I continue to remain on the sidelines.
February 20, 2022 - Twilio is a company that I’ve been watching for a while now. Following the recent selloff, I initiated a small position that I will look to increase over the next few months.
I read the Q4 earnings call, including the prepared remarks, and despite the slow path to profitability, management has prioritized growth which I am ok with for now. Revenue is growing at a fast pace and management expects it to continue.
Based on Twilio’s 2021 revenue of $2.8 billion and a $28.2 billion market cap, Twilio is currently selling at a price-to-revenue multiple of 10x. Although this is still pretty high, revenue is expected to grow at a rapid rate over the next three years. This revenue growth will compress the multiple over time.
There will likely be more volatility ahead, but Twilio looks intriguing as an investment at this stage and predicting the bottom is too difficult.
Here are my notes from the Q4 2021 conference call:
Revenue grew 61% year-over-year and organic growth was 42%.
Twilio has a long-term target of achieving a 20% non-GAAP profit margin over time.
“We accomplished a lot in 2021 and here are a few numbers that give you a sense of the scale of our platform: we processed nearly 1.7 trillion API requests on the Twilio platform, Twilio Segment processed over 10 trillion events, we delivered 1.3 trillion emails, including more than 13 billion on Back Friday and Cyber Monday, and we sent nearly 127 billion messages.”
- Jeff Lawson
Companies are embracing first party data and CDPS because of the privacy landscape related to IDFA.
4th quarter dollar based net expansion rate was 126%.
U.S. 10DLC carrier fees reduced gross margin by approximately 350 basis points in Q4.
Jeff says that Twilio’s “in and up” strategy is to bring in customers through messaging and email, then build on those relationships to grow their footprint with broader adoption and higher value products.
“We intend to become the software player that digitally connects every business to their customers to introduce true personalized engagement and relationships in the next chapter of the fab. We are builders.”
- Jeff Lawson
Khazomea, Twilio’s COO, mentioned that the path to profitability over the short term is going to come from operating expenses. I hope that Twilio cuts stock compensation, it’s too high in my opinion. I will be keeping an eye on this. Stock compensation was $632 million in 2021, 22% of 2021 revenue.
He also mentions a lower rate of investments for growth in the second half of the year but they will still invest in other areas of the business. Growth is the priority for Twilio.
They are expecting 2022 to be the last year of non-GAAP operating losses. Non-GAAP operating profits are expected to start in 2023.
Twilio is expecting improvements in gross margin in the medium to long term.
Management has confidence that they will be able to deliver on their 30% plus organic growth rate over the next three years.
Assuming Twilio hits on this 30% organic growth estimate, this would be a rough projection of their future revenue, not including nonorganic growth:
2021 Revenue: $2.8 billion
2022 Revenue (est.): $3.64 billion
2023 Revenue (est.): $4.73 billion
2024 Revenue (est.): $6.1 billion
Twilio’s market cap at the close of market on 2/18/22 is $28.2 billion, therefore, price-to-revenue multiple projections would be:
Twilio made an investment in Synaverse. Synaverse is a company that cell phone providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint use to route text messages. Sending a text message from an AT&T customer to another AT&T customer is easy, but sending a text message from an AT&T customer to a Verizon customer is more difficult because it requires translating messages from one protocol to a different protocol. Syniverse helps the cell phone providers accomplish this.
International messages on Twilio’s platform increased a lot, but these have a lower gross margin than U.S. messages. Twilio still likes the excess gross profit that they bring.
Twilio mentioned that gross margins will bounce around a lot in the short term. This is kind of their plan since they want to bring in new customers with their communications platform at first and then upsell and cross sell them with other services in their platform.
Twilio’s messaging business grew at 52% organically, a very high growth rate.
The following factors give Twilio confidence that they will achieve their 30% growth rate target:
Twilio has lots of global 2000 customers but there are other global 2000 customers that they don’t have.
The customers that they do have are already spread out in different industries and are massively wide.
Twilio also has upsell and cross sell opportunities, and international market opportunities.
Twilio changed their mission last year. Jeff says their mission now is to unlock the imagination of the world’s builders.
February 12, 2022 - Evolution Gaming is a company that I am looking to add to my position in.
I am looking to add hopefully at levels below $100 per share; it’s currently around $112 per share.
The market cap at $100 per share would be around $22 billion.
TTM revenue is $1.2 billion, so the price-to-revenue multiple would be 18 which is a little high, but income and margins (EBITDA, Operating and Net) are high and look sustainable.
Net income for 2021 was $689.1 million, so a $22 billion market cap would be a price-to-earnings ratio of around 32x.
32x is a good multiple to pay for a company with high growth rates, high margins and a large market opportunity that appears to be in the early innings.
Here are my notes from the 4Q 2021 earnings call:
Evolution has over 1,000 live tables at the end of the quarter, but won’t disclose the amount of tables in its respective markets (North America, Europe, Asia, etc.).
Live tables increased by around 300 during 2021.
On the 1st day of the quarter, the newly regulated Dutch market opened up and Evolution is already powering the majority of the licensed operators in this market.
The U.S. is a huge opportunity and Evolution will continue to invest there.
In the fourth quarter, revenue increased by 69% to 300 million euros. EBITDA increased by 115% to 207 million euros which is a very high EBITDA margin of 68.9%.
EBTIDA margin for the full year was 68.7% and the CEO says that he expects they can expand this margin to 69-71% in 2022.
Evolution will prioritize growth over margins though.
Live casino delivered growth of 49% in 4Q 2021 compared to 4Q 2020, a very satisfactory growth rate per the CEO.
Before the end of 2022, Evolution expects to launch 88 new games.
North America is growing fast with a 205% year-over-year growth rate.
Evolution is increasing staff for live casino games to keep up with its high growth, this could affect margins.
Acknowledged wage inflation but doesn’t seem to be affected by it too much at the moment.
Full year revenue for 2021 is 1.068 billion euros.
For the full year of 2021, the tax rate was 6.5% (very low).
Evolution’s main way of shifting capital back to shareholders is a dividend policy of 50% of earnings.
Evolution says they have a small presence in Asia.
Regarding the regulatory allegations, Evolution is talking daily to the NJ Gaming Board and has seen an insignificant effect on revenue. Evolution only sells to licensed operators and is very comfortable with their business model.
I don’t see the regulatory allegations affecting Evolution negatively at the moment.
October 27, 2021 - I've been a shareholder of Kraft Heinz for a couple years now so I've been following the stock.
My thesis is based on a turnaround story for a company with a couple really good brands that produce a good amount of free cash flow.
There are a bunch of not-so-good brands and a decent amount of debt but I thought, and still do think, that the price paid and the really good brands make up for it.
I think the new CEO is doing a great job so far, and they just reported a good 3rd quarter to help his case.
Here is my summary:
Kraft Heinz reported positive organic growth and exceeded Wall St.'s expectations for the 3rd quarter.
GAAP EPS: $0.59 (beats by $0.03)
Non-GAAP EPS: $0.65 (beats by $.07)
Revenue: $6.32B (beats by $240M)
Net sales for the 3rd quarter decreased 1.8% yoy from last quarter, but that -1.8% includes the divestiture of Planters. Therefore, when Planters isn’t included, Kraft Heinz reported positive growth in net sales.
Organic net sales increased 1.3% versus the prior period and 7.6% versus the comparable 2019 period.
This is a good sign because Wall St didn’t believe that Kraft would be able to maintain organic growth following the pandemic when lockdowns kept everyone at home and gave a big tailwind to food companies.
There were no asset impairments in Q2 2021. Although the write downs don’t affect actual cash flows, I think it’s reassuring that Kraft Heinz can put their bad investment behind them. It appears that the accounting values of the bad business lines that they have (cold cuts, cheese, etc) may have finally bottomed for them. If there were more write downs, I would assume that these poor business lines are continuing to get worse. Since there were no write downs, I'm hoping that they'll be ok going forward. The retained earnings and equity accounts should be increasing going forward.
Kraft Heinz increased its expectations for 2021 for organic net sales and adjusted EBITDA.
They continue to pay down debt. Long-term debt went from $28.07 billion at Dec 2020 to $22.9 billion at Sept 25, 2021. This $4.1 billion reduction in debt, mostly from the sale of Planters, is a good sign for shareholders.
Management mentioned that their outlook doesn’t include the pending sale of their cheese business. It's hard for me to tell exactly but since they say "pending", I gather that this could be good news (as long as the deal goes through of course) because Kraft Heinz will have another $3 billion cash inflow after the completion of the sale which I'm expecting them to use on reducing their debt even further.
The market seemed content with the results pre-market but eventually the stock price fell to around $35.66 midway through the day before recovering in the afternoon back to where it started. I don’t take much from this activity but I do believe that this was a good quarter for Kraft Heinz and I like the progress the company is making.
While I'm writing this up, I'll comment on their sale of the nuts business (Planters). Kraft Heinz is over indebted and so of course they want to deleverage. It was rumored that they shopped many of their brands to potential acquirers (remember the Maxwell House rumors?) in the past 2 years but weren't able to get a price they wanted.
I always thought Planters was one of their better brands. Planters has a good brand name so this brand was an easier sell for them to help them deleverage. I also think they took the price since the nuts business is getting much more competitive. I've def seen more brands for peanuts popping up on shelves, including from Walgreens with their store brand called Nice!.
The purchase price for their cheese business they recently sold (pending) is a low-ball price but I still want them to take it so I hope it closes. The cheese brands that they sold aren’t that relevant in my opinion. They were older brands without any brand recognition at all. Cheese is one of the most commodified products at the super markets these days. They still have Kraft cheese but there is a lot more brand value to this name than the ones that are pending sale.
Kraft Heinz currently trades at a EV/TTM EBIT of 10.8x, P/TTM FCF of 11.2x and P/TTM NI of 20.6x. NI is lower resulting in a higher multiple because of goodwill impairments but I'm not expecting there to be more goodwill impairments going forward. Seeking Alpha has a forward P/E at 13.4x which brings some justification to this point.
The valuation is low but there are also many better businesses out there. Finding a decent price for those better businesses is much harder in these markets though. The real gem of Kraft Heinz I believe is the Heinz brand.
October 19, 2021 - I take a long-term approach with stock investing by looking out at least 5 years.
I think this is the easiest advantage to achieving successful equity returns for active investing because 90-95% of other investors are taking an approach that is less than 5 years with the great majority being focused on 1 year or less.
Therefore, if you
1. look at a company and pay attention to the fear that is surrounding the company and find out what is causing the low stock price
2. then figure out if this is a solvable problem for the company to get over within 5 years (if it's not a solvable problem then move on) and
4. then find out if it will still be a strong company following this problem then I believe the company's stock will deliver good returns.
Example I see today: BUD
AB InBev's stock has been performing poorly because of
1. Lots of debt from the SAB Miller acquisition.
4. More competition
But in 5 years I believe that BUD will be able to adapt to these challenges for the following reasons:
1. BUD is still producing lots of cash flow. They have economies of scale that allows them to spread out their higher costs like marketing across a wider volume of products which lowers their unit costs. For 2019 FCF was $8.9B, for 2020 FCF was $7.1 (even during coronavirus) and TTM FCF was $9.4B. This allows them to generate excess cash to pay off debt.
2. Nobody wants coronavirus around anymore. It’s killing many people and ruining lives. When the whole world works at solving a problem, there is a high likelihood that that problem will be solved. There has been a lot of progress already thanks to vaccines. We will get past coronavirus, and I would say with decent confidence that in 5 years we will be past it.
3. Remember when everyone thought oil was going to $120 a barrel in 2012, 2013, 2014 and then it didn't? Remember when it seemed like oil would never come close to reaching $100 a barrel in 2019 because of shale oil and then in 2020 because of coronavirus lockdowns? Well guess what, it's at $80 and I'm seeing estimates of oil possibly reaching $100 a barrel again. That is what oil prices and all other commodity prices do, they fluctuate based on supply and demand. Right now, supply is being disrupted and demand is at very high levels as the world is opening up more and more from staying in during coronavirus. Aluminum, paper, oil, wheat and many of the other inputs to BUD's products and supply chain will go back to normal or AB InBev will increase their prices as will their competitors and consumers will get used to the new normal of paying a higher price for alcohol. What I don’t see consumers doing is giving up alcohol because the prices went up 5-10% which translates into maybe 25 to 50 cents per beer.
4. AB InBev has some of the most valuable brands in the world for beer. Will consumers just stop drinking beer? Will they all just give up alcohol (no) or will they switch to another option like mixed drinks, hard seltzer or canned cocktails? Most likely a mix of all of these with beer still being pretty relevant. Beer sales are down in developed markets like the US but I don’t view this as the case in developing markets where they have huge monopoly power in countries like South Africa and many parts of South America. AB InBev has made it a priority to diversify away from beer by expanding distribution for the follow brands: Mike's Hard Seltzer (internationally), Cacti, Michelob Hard Seltzer and Bud Light Hard Seltzer. They also purchased Babe Rose Wine and Cutwater. Although beer is declining, it isn’t going away and AB InBev has a distribution network that will allow them to successfully diversify away from beer into other parts of the alcohol industry with hard seltzer, canned cocktails and wine.
This last one is harder to contend with than the others since the barriers to entry have shrunk for consumer brands, therefore, this is the area I will be watching the most closely. So does the current valuation give a valid margin of safety to compensate for these risks involved?
I think it does.
When looking at the major beer companies, we see that Coors and Bud are trading very similar to each other. They have had lots of drawdowns recently. We also see large drawdowns for Boston Beer as well which was more likely due to high a valuation from management overestimating growth for their hard seltzer brand.
Constellation has seen drawdowns more similar to Heineken than Boston Beer, Coors and AB InBev which leads me to believe that the drawdowns for Bud and Coors are mostly related to their high debt levels more than any other factors.
When I look at Heineken, I only see small drawdowns but nothing close to what Boston Beer, Tap and Bud have experienced, therefore, I believe that the high debt levels are the major reason that BUD and TAP are down so much.
Constellation and Heineken don’t have much of a presence in the hard seltzer market compared to their larger peers. I didn’t see Corona Seltzer picking up meaningful market share compared to Mark Anthony Brands, Bud, Boston Beer and even Coors with their Vizzy and Top Chico brands. Therefore, the huge drawdowns are probably not related to diversifying away from beer because Heineken is the least diversified of all of them meanwhile they have had the least drawdowns.
What metrics do I need to pay attention to?
Organic sales. I would prefer to see a breakdown for each segment - wine, hard seltzer, canned cocktails, beer. Beer will likely continue to decline except for pricing mix which was positive for Budweiser, Corona and Stella for Q2 2021 year-over-year. Canned cocktails are growing triple digits and hard seltzer is growing double digits. Their beyond beer category isn’t going to move the needle yet since it is too small as a percentage of revenue compared to beer.
Another metric to watch is net debt and Net Debt/EBITDA. These 2 metrics should come down over the next 5 years... no excuses.
I suppose gross margins should be watched as well due to inflation but this is short-term focused so I'm not too concerned with this. I don’t want to see operating margins fall below 20% though. Net margins should increase as debt decreases along with interest expense.