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WESSANEN: A brand builder in the making

WESSANEN: A brand builder in the making

9.11.2011 9:42

Investment conclusions
We maintain our positive stance on the stock based on the following: 
- Strong strategic focus 
- A brand builder in the making 
- Organic food: a market with growth potential 
- Solid balance sheet & scope for external growth 
- Earnings upside potential

Since the decision in 2009 to focus on European organic food, Wessanen has evolved from a collection of stand-alone businesses to an integrated and centrally-steered group in which knowhow is leveraged across all activities. We maintain our positive stance on the stock because the group has all the ingredients to become a successful brand builder. The investor days in September convinced us of the new management team’s strategic, organisational and brand-building expertise. Since the appointment of Klaus Arntz as the group’s EVP Marketing, Quality, OEC and R&D in June 2011, Wessanen has drawn up a clear roadmap. But the journey to success has only just begun. The balance sheet is solid with net debt at only 0.9x EBITDA, making the group well placed to explore acquisition opportunities. Top line growth will also come from innovation, exports, product assortment expansion and rising brand awareness. Frozen Foods and ABC have been earmarked as non-core. The stellar performance and intact earnings growth potential of the latter bodes well for the sale price.

EPS forecasts upped significantly: lower tax rate assumption
We’ve revised our forecasts to reflect the disappointing performance of Wessanen Europe HFS and Frozen Foods in 3Q11. Lower margin assumptions are more than offset however by lower tax estimates. At the end of 2010, the group’s unrecognised/impaired deferred tax assets amounted to € 126.5m. The company did not disclose the geographic breakdown of these assets but management indicated that a substantial portion is related to the US. The sharp recovery of ABC’s profits triggers the booking of previously-unrecognised tax loss carryforwards in the US. Already in 3Q11 the group reported a € 3.8m income tax gain. We’ve lowered our tax rate estimates for the group as ABC’s earnings are set to grow further. Our EPS forecasts for 2011, 2012 and 2013 are raised by respectively 35%, 23% and 19%.

Based on P/E’s, the stock appears to be trading at demanding valuation multiples. The premium versus the peers in the food sector reflects the strong balance sheet, valuable brands and last but not least, the growth profile of the organic food sector. Note also that our forecasts might prove to be too conservative if the focused strategy proves to be successful. The DCF method points to a value of € 4.2 per share. Unchanged BUY rating.

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