Monday, April 20, 2009

Hongguo FY08 results analysis

Hongguo released their FY08 results quite some time ago, and it’s only now that I’ve the time and resolve to really sit through and pore over it in detail. Overall, it was quite a disappointing 4Q result – not terribly bad nor excellent, just so-so. It didn’t help that Hongguo did not declare dividends for FY08 too, presumably to conserve cash and stay liquid in this hard and trying times. I’ve been waiting a year for their dividends in vain.

Here are the quarterly results for Hongguo for the whole of FY08:

1) We can see that the gross margins of Hongguo’s business fell sharply over the quarters. After a sharp rise in 2Q, the 2H08 is just anaemic. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, the price of the products sold had been reduced due to the promotional discounts granted under the Hongguo’s stock clearing activity, as well as other sales campaigns organized by departmental stores. The departmental stores had to do this so as to encourage more consumers to spend, and such activities had increased in the 4Q, resulting in the rather poor gross margins of 34.6% in the 4Q (compared to average 39.4% for the whole FY08).

Secondly, there is an increase in the cost incurred by Hongguo to support the sales campaigns organized by the departmental stores. Whether there is an increased in the cost of producing the products sold, I’m not too sure on that.

These two reasons exert a downward pressure on the profit margins relating to C.Banner product line and those under JUC. It remains to be seen if this is a chronic problem or a temporary one. C.Banner, Hongguo’s top selling product line, is still ranked no.3 in China in terms of market share.

2)Net margins dropped throughout the whole of FY08, resulting in a whole year net margins of only 12%, compared to the 14.9% net margins in FY07. The rise in Selling, distribution and administration expense (SDA) rose for every quarter. This is due to Hongguo setting up more retail outlets (addition of 125 new outlets for their in-house brand, C.Banner and E.Blan, as well as another 60 more Naturaliser outlets), resulting in higher cost and administration expense because of higher staff payroll.

Just counting the in-house brand outlets opened in FY08, there is an increase of 16.4% in the number of outlets in FY08 compared to FY07 (762 in FY07 and 887 in FY08), whereas there is a corresponding increase of 27.1% of SDA (175 mil RMB in FY07 and 223 mil RMB in FY08). To have a clearer picture, let’s take a look at the SDA/revenue increment. It increases marginally from 23.8% in FY07 to 25.3% in FY08. This means that while opening more outlets will increase the SDA, the corresponding revenues brought in by the new outlets sort of compensated for the increase in SDA.

However, more revenues do not necessary imply that more is added to the bottom line. With the management stating explicitly that they are going to add another 120 new outlets (100 for in-house brands, 20 for Naturalizer brand), I’m a little worried. I can expect the SDA to increase more in the next FY. As long as the additional outlets are opened without leveraging themselves too much (they did not borrow money to open new outlets at all) and keep inventory management, costs and cash flow tightly managed, I think all should go well.

3) Their liquidity ratios are all very well above the normal s-share companies, so I’m not worried at all. With current ratio well in excess of 3 times, and quick ratio above 1.5, I think Hongguo have a clean bill of balance sheet health. They are not highly leveraged at all, so that must have helped a lot especially now where credit lines are tight. Receivables dropped, even when revenues have increased, so no problems of Hongguo having a lot of theoretical earnings in income statement but no real money in cashflow statement. I did notice in the footnotes that the percentage of the receivables dragging over more than 1 yr had increased from around 8.7% in FY07 to around 12% in FY08. But the total amount we’re talking about is less than 1% of the total trade receivables, so I think it’s immaterial. Around 94% of the trade receivables in FY08 are not past due and not impaired, so it should translate into cash in due time.

In terms of cash flow, there are not problems as far as I can see. They are probably going to have better cash flow in the next FY because firstly, they skipped the dividends and secondly, they mentioned they are not going to expand their manufacturing facilities to boost their annual capacity since they still have excess capacity to handle it.

4) Looking forward, the management reiterated that their main focus is actually on the ladies footwear retail business in their business strategy. Currently, they are getting a higher percentage of their revenues from their contract manufacturing business. Hongguo intends to be less aggressive in their outlet expansion plan (though they are still going on with their plans to open another 100 in-house brand outlets and 20 Naturalizer outlets), which I think is prudent in case their liquidity dries up.

For the existing scale of operation, Hongguo stated that their current 6 production lines are sufficient, hence they do not need to expand further in their production facilities in the coming FY. They would instead focus on securing high margin orders to increase their profit margins. Big words, yes, but so far, the management had a track record of fulfilling what they had mentioned. I've full faith in them continuing to do so again. They have every incentive to do so, since in FY08, all the 3 founders had a total stake of direct/indirect interest amounting to 47%, compared to 46% in FY07.

5) I should be attending my first AGM on 30th April by Hongguo. They are trying to pass off some resolutions, notably the more interesting one would be the share purchase mandate. I don't mind them purchasing their own shares off the market, though at this time, I would rather they distribute it to shareholders in the form of dividends. I've no wish to invest more in ass-shares at the moment, so I would rather direct the cash from the dividends to other worthy pursuits.

6) Valuation valuation valuation…

Price at last close: $0.155
EPS: $0.061
PE ratio: 2.5x

NAV: $0.32
Current assets – total liabilities: $0.25

I’m not even going to suggest that Hongguo is a good buy now. But if you’re dying to get some ass-shares in SGX, why not consider the better ones? You’ll save yourself countless sleepless nights. Just ask those who invested in Ferrochina, beauty china, china print & dye etc.

Even considering graham’s strict current assets – total liabilities, the current price is at around 40% off it. If Hongguo survived this and does not go belly up, how wrong can you go with 2.5x PE and price way below any form of valuation? Time will tell if this is a good investment.


Jeremy Ow Tai Pang said...

Dear LP,
Yes. I agree with you that only time will tell whether an invested company will make it big or not. There are so many factors that can affect the economics of a business, so not easy to predict the future economics of the business. Even Buffett chose only safe and established companies (with well-known branding and large market share) that he can predict their earnings to a fair degree of certainty. Even that, it is just a prediction based on his evaluation of the business. Murphy's law always never fail to suprise. Whatever can possibly go wrong may go wrong. So, I always remind myself to be cautious even when investing in supposedly established blue chip companies.

Finarati said...

Hi Jeremy,

Thks for visiting :)

Ya, that's why even with the best assumptions, we still need to purchase at a suitable margin of safety in case something unexpected happens.

'Blue chip' doesn't mean much. Osim used to be such a company too. Lehman, Bear sterns, Citi, AIG, Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae are all supposedly blue chips too. Perhaps you should analyze each business at its own merits and not be tempted by the illusory safety of blue chips?


la papillion said...

Sorry, the previous post is actually by me. Forgot to change back :)

Wilfred Ling said...

From your analysis, current ratio increased but quick ratio decrease. This imply that inventory has increased significantly. An investigation as to why inventory has increased so significantly is warranted.

la papillion said...

Hi Wilfred,

Yes, you're right - pretty sharp! The inventory level did rise. The breakdown of the inventory shown in the footnotes indicated that there are more finished goods, around 54% more in FY08 compared to FY07.

I took notice that they had also increased their outlet by around 16%, so part of the increase in inventory must surely be accountable by the increase in the no. of outlets, though I do suspect some of the inventories are not selling off the shelves as fast as they are forecasted to be. This prompted the management to be focused on inventory management in the new FY.

Thks for your keen insights :)

Java_Guru said...

Might be there too on the 30 Apr AGM to size mgt up. Hope to see u ask some interesting questions.

The inventory has been rising in step with the increase in amount of stores though in the last Q, it has bluged. What is of concern is the high probability of insufficient provision for write offs.....

la papillion said...

Hi Java_Guru,

I think the management mentioned that they are going to focus less on stores expansion and more on improving the profit margins and inventory management of the stores. Still, your concern regarding insufficient provision for write offs is still valid.

It's good that Hongguo is not highly leveraged, so that eases some pressure off them. Let's await their comments on the AGM and the 1Q results.