Energy wastes no time, Aviation in holding pattern

Stobart Group 5 November 2015 Update

Stobart Group

Energy wastes no time, Aviation in holding pattern

Interims update

Industrial support services

5 November 2015

Price

113.0p

Market cap

£371m

Net debt at (£m) at 31 August 2015

51.9

Shares in issue

327.9m

Free float

85%

Code

STOB

Primary exchange

LSE

Secondary exchange

N/A

Share price performance

%

1m

3m

12m

Abs

1.1

2.3

14.7

Rel (local)

(2.9)

6.4

13.0

52-week high/low

120.0p

96.8p

Business description

Stobart consists of two divisions: Infrastructure and Support Services operating across Aviation, Energy, Rail and Investments.

Next event

Full year results

May 2016

Analyst

Neil Basten

+44 (0)20 3077 5722

Roger Johnston

+44 (0)20 3077 5722

Stobart Group is a research client of Edison Investment Research Limited

Stobart’s interims mark the next stage in demonstrating progress towards its 2018 strategic targets while maintaining underlying EBITDA (+3%). The partial disposal of the transport division in 2014 allowed the group to significantly strengthen its balance sheet and flexibility to finance its more embryonic businesses. In this context, we view the increase in debt as short term and reflective of certain project timings that help long-term value creation. Whereas tangible progress can be seen with further biomass contacts taking volume beyond the 2018 targets, airline talks at Southend are still ongoing, but have taken longer to complete. To reward shareholders’ patience as the repositioning feeds through to profitability, dividends have been maintained and represent an attractive 5.3% yield.

Year end

Revenue (£m)

EBITDA*
(£m)

EPS*
(p)

DPS
(p)

P/E
(x)

Yield
(%)

02/14

99.2

23.0

1.6

6.0

70.6

5.3

02/15

116.7

18.3

2.8

6.0

40.4

5.3

02/16e

125.1

18.7

2.6

6.0

43.5

5.3

02/17e

139.9

22.1

3.6

6.0

31.4

5.3

Note: *EBITDA and EPS are normalised, excluding intangible amortisation, exceptional items and share-based payments.

Solid results: Focus on long-term strategic targets

While the results saw solid underlying group profitability (EDITDA £9.0m), the focus remains on winning the ‘right’ contracts to hit its strategic targets for Biomass and Aviation. Having previously announced a number of new long-term contracts in Biomass to hit its 2018 tonnage targets, Stobart had indicated that it would be very selective in bidding for new contracts. Recent wins will lift target tonnage to 2.5m, ensure it fully utilises its national coverage and allow it to have the appropriate capacity in place to maximise long-term profitability and reduce its risk profile.

Aviation: Contract discussions ongoing

Contract talks at London Southend Airport are still ongoing, but have been difficult to conclude. As previously indicated, passenger numbers declined 20% as easyJet optimised its routes, but this process has led to a significant improvement in yields/
load factors and strengthened the group’s relationship. While Stobart remains confident on the long-term target of 2.5m passengers, it is rightly reluctant to chase contracts and risk the long-term profit upside. Discussions are ongoing, which could result in a major step change in passenger numbers and, with London remaining ‘airport capacity’ constrained, Stobart remains in a strong negotiating position.

Yield supportive as L/T targets come into range

With the current market cap well underpinned by the value of the ongoing 49% transport investment and other property assets, a 5.3% yield is also supportive while the early-stage businesses put the building blocks in place to hit Stobart’s strategic targets. The nature of these contract negotiations was never going to be easy, but we are reassured by progress and remain confident in the long-term upside as biomass/airport contracts move from the award stage to fully operational.

Credible numbers and progress on strategic objectives

Although final 2015 numbers and these interim results are important and showed a credible performance, much of the focus in the last year has been on repositioning the group and winning the appropriate contracts to make the 2018 strategic targets both realistic and achievable.

We felt that the scorecard included in the annual results pack (see Exhibit 1 below) is a clear demonstration of the achievements made against its strategic objectives, set more than a year ago. These charts emphasise the significant changes that have taken place and by the interim stage we have seen further progress towards the medium-term targets identified, as discussed further below.

Exhibit 1: Stobart scorecard

Stated objective 2014/15

Division

Achieved

Comment

Exit mature business for good value

Group

Yes

Sale of ESL for 11x EBIT.

Realise mature property assets for dividend

Infrastructure

Yes

£27.2m of disposals.

Buy back shares up to £35m

Group

Yes

Average price £1.32 per share.

Invest in green energy plants

Infrastructure

Partial

Three investments plus processing sites.

Future annual supply of 2m tonnes of biomass

Energy

Yes

Secured.

Secure 2.5 million annual passengers into LSA

Aviation

Ongoing

Ongoing discussions.

Development of Carlisle DC

Rail

Started

Completion August 2015.

Grow value of investments

Investments

Yes

ESL and proprius.

Source: Stobart Group annual results presentation May 2015

The process of improving shareholder returns was focused on realising value from Stobart’s mature businesses (transport and property), while identifying and reinvesting into the key growth areas (energy and aviation) for the future. The company has made a good start and this gives grounds for optimism. Since the year end there have been a number of announcements to build on the earlier progress, shown in Exhibit 2 below.

Exhibit 2: Strategic progress since year end

Division

Medium-term objective

Progress towards medium-term plan

Energy

Supply 2m+ tonnes of biomass by 2018.

- Secured two new supply contracts guaranteeing 366,000 tonnes.
- Expected supply of 2.5m tonnes by 2018 (90% under contract).

Aviation

2.5 million passengers annually by 2018.

- Recruitment of new CEO and COO, each with significant industry experience.
- easyJet yield and load factors improving.
- Ongoing talks with major airlines.

Rail

Leading provider of specialist civil engineering services to third parties.

- Strong order book for future and external works with value of c £68m.

Infrastructure

Realise value from property assets, invest in energy assets.

- Realised £6.2m from one property disposal.
- Further realisations of c £25m expected in second half.
- Acquired Pollington processing site.

Investments

Realise value from investments at the optimum time.

- Performing to management expectations.
- Disposal of UK Automotive business at good value.

Source: Stobart Group interims presentation October 2015

While there has been progress on most objectives, Stobart is acutely aware that investors are looking for another airline contract at Southend and reiterates that while discussions are ongoing the timing is uncertain. In addition, it views the increase in debt as short term and is keen to maintain low levels of borrowings. There remains a significant investment property portfolio (£105m) to be realised in the medium term (two years), which suggests this ambition is realistic, although Stobart remains committed to maximising the value to be realised, hence the need to be patient and not pushing too aggressively in the short term.

Interim results review 2015-16: Solid underlying performance

Energy: Now number one supplier of waste wood biomass fuel in the UK

Having previously announced four new long-term contracts (detailed in our March update note), Stobart has clear visibility of the initial 2m tonnes of biomass targeted for 2017-18. As such, the focus switched to improving the operational metrics of existing plants and building the new processing capacity, while being very selective on any new contracts. In this context the two recent contract wins complete the national footprint and suggest a new volume target of 2.5m rather 2.0m tonnes as more realistic. Having now commissioned Evermore (Northern Ireland), the next couple of years are unlikely to see a big increase in volumes/tonnage. However, the division is commencing a major two-year build programme and it needs to execute and convert the contract wins into operational units before a large jump in biomass volumes materialises in FY18.

At the interim stage, Energy showed good progress with EBITDA increasing from £2.8m to £4.1m despite a fall in volumes caused by unplanned maintenance and the impact of Eurotunnel problems on exports to France/Belgium. The improvement in profitability is a reflection of increased efficiencies as the division builds its operational expertise and experience, strong gate fees at the processing plants and helped by transport vehicles moving from operating leases to hire purchase.

Stobart believes it now controls c 60% of the UK’s waste wood supply and with all its contracts agreed under the financially more attractive Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme, Energy is in a strong competitive position to achieve above average financial returns in the medium term (2018). As it moves into the commissioning and execution stage, management is confident that it has reduced the risk profile of these contracts by using proven technology and having significant in-house processing capacity aligned to its national network. In-house processing allows a key element of variable cost to be managed. In addition to its waste wood contracts, it is now talking to the Forestry Commission and National Rail with the aim of gaining further control of the virgin wood channel. The remaining key variable is ‘gate fees’, which have been modelled conservatively and will be helped by the national coverage. This suggests significant financial upside if it executes well and achieves both its 2018 2.5m target for biomass volumes and financial targets for EBITDA per tonne of £12 (£10 supply/£2 transport, currently £8.71).

Aviation: Strong easyJet load factors/yields, contract discussions continue

As indicated previously, passenger numbers at London Southend Airport were likely to fall in the short term as easyJet optimised its routes after the initial start-up, and for the full year numbers to dip below 1m (2015: 1.088 million). This looks increasingly likely to be the case: with new contract announcements continuing and airline start-up timelines of six months, any new contract is unlikely to benefit this year’s financial numbers. Against this backdrop, it is encouraging that revenue per passenger (£22.40) was strong in the period and that easyJet is now enjoying strong load factors and yields on the retained routes. easyJet appears to be a supportive partner and potentially an opportunity for further growth in the medium term. Underlying EBITDA dropped back to £0.4m in the first half and, with the inherent seasonality, Aviation is only likely to be at break-even in H2.

The appointment of a new CEO and COO with significant industry experience gives us confidence that the division can achieve the significant potential that exists at Southend. Operationally, it is confident that it can fine-tune the airport in terms of cost management and revenue optimisation. It is also hopeful that it can use its experience to convert one of the current conversations, all of which offer a potential significant step-up in passenger volumes. With supportive customers and Which? report and a lack of airport capacity elsewhere in London, Stobart is confident that the airport remains a credible option for many European carriers seeking to enhance their London presence. The long-term target of 2.5 million passengers continues to be realistic and with limited extra capex requirement and high operational gearing from a fixed cost base, there is potential material upside in profits if Stobart converts these talks into sustainable routes and partnerships.

Other divisions: Rail, Infrastructure and Investments mixed due to timing

The remaining divisions are roughly on track, although the underlying profitability is affected by the timing of the partial disposal of the Transport & Distribution division in 2014 (discussed in our March 2015 update note) and property realisations:

Stobart Rail was flat y-o-y in terms of profitability as internal work completing the construction of the new road distribution centre at Carlisle Lake District Airport finished. The main KPI continues to be the growth in external revenue, which should be supported by the fact that the external order book is now at its highest ever level of £61m. Stobart’s relationship with Network Rail is now much stronger and this contract visibility should support profits over the next 18 months and allow a framework for devegetation projects to also benefit the Energy division.

Last year was particularly active for the Infrastructure division as it made a number of realisations from the mature property portfolio. The timing of any property disposals is always uncertain. Management is confident that this quiet period (Worcester sold for £6.2m) is likely to be followed by more activity as discussions are ongoing for £25m of disposals, which will help fund the planned investment in green energy assets (Pollington) and dividends. In addition, Stobart has indicated that it expects to realise most of the property portfolio (£105m) over the next two years, although the exact timing is uncertain and it will focus on maximising value.

The increase in Investments was mainly a reflection of the timing of the part disposal of Eddie Stobart. A new management team gives confidence for the future, with debt being repaid after the disposal of the UK automotive at a good price. Propius profits were minimal, although asset values were supported by a buoyant aircraft leasing market and remain above book value.

Forecasts rebased, progress on medium-term value creation intact

We have updated our group forecasts (see Exhibit 3 below) to reflect more cautious assumptions and adjusted our divisional breakdown. While Energy and Rail remain broadly on track, the downgrade is primarily due to a more conservative view of property profits in Infrastructure, delays in Aviation contracts and a lower contribution from Investments. In addition, PBT/EPS have been affected by higher depreciation and central eliminations (eg fuel hedge, internal rents).

Exhibit 3: Divisional summary

FY15

FY16e old

FY16

FY17e old

FY17e

Revenue

Infrastructure

5.0

10.0

4.6

9.0

5.0

Energy

68.4

70.5

75.5

94.4

80.9

Rail

28.0

28.5

40.0

29.5

36.0

Aviation

23.6

27.6

22.0

32.4

24.0

Investments

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Divisional Totals

125.1

136.6

142.1

165.3

145.9

Central/eliminations

(8.4)

(9.0)

(17.0)

(6.0)

(6.0)

Group

116.7

127.6

125.1

159.3

139.9

EBITDA

Infrastructure

4.8

7.2

3.0

15.5

4.6

Energy

7.8

7.8

8.8

11.8

11.5

Rail

2.8

3.6

3.4

4

4

Aviation

0.7

0.7

0.4

0.0

1.0

Investments

6.8

10.5

9.6

13.5

7.5

Add back SBP

0.5

0

0.5

0

0.5

Divisional Totals

23.4

29.8

25.7

44.8

29.1

Central/eliminations

(5.1)

(5.5)

(7)

(4.5)

(7)

Group EBITDA

18.3

24.3

18.7

40.3

22.1

Depreciation & Amortisation

(6.8)

(5.8)

(7.8)

(5.5)

(8)

Operating Profit

11.5

18.5

10.9

34.8

14.1

Interest

(1.7)

(1)

(1)

(1)

(1)

PBT

9.8

17.5

9.9

33.8

13.1

EPS

2.8

5.0

2.6

9.2

3.6

Source: Edison Investment Research

Exhibit 4: Financial summary

£m

2014

2015

2016e

2017e

Year end 28 February

PROFIT & LOSS

Revenue

 

 

99.2

116.7

125.1

139.9

Cost of Sales

(76.2)

(105.2)

(116.0)

(125.3)

Gross Profit

23.0

11.5

9.1

14.6

EBITDA

 

 

23.0

18.3

18.7

22.1

Operating Profit (before amort. and except.)

 

 

17.2

11.5

10.9

14.1

Goodwill amortisation

(0.2)

(3.9)

(3.9)

(3.9)

Exceptionals

(15.4)

(14.7)

0.0

0.0

Operating Profit

1.6

(7.2)

6.9

10.2

Net Interest

(11.5)

(1.7)

(1.0)

(1.0)

Profit Before Tax (norm)

 

 

5.8

9.8

9.9

13.1

Profit Before Tax (FRS 3)

 

 

(10.2)

(9.4)

5.4

8.7

Tax

(0.4)

1.4

0.5

(1.1)

Discontinued operations (PAT)

21.9

6.9

0.0

0.0

Profit After Tax (norm)

5.4

9.2

8.4

12.0

Profit After Tax (FRS 3)

(10.6)

(8.0)

6.0

7.5

Profit After Tax (including discontinued)

11.3

(1.2)

6.0

7.5

Average Number of Shares Outstanding (m)

345.4

329.9

329.9

329.9

EPS - normalised (p)

 

 

1.6

2.8

2.6

3.6

EPS - FRS 3 (p)

 

 

(3.1)

(2.4)

1.8

2.3

EPS - including discontinued (p)

 

 

3.3

(0.4)

1.8

2.3

Dividend per share (p)

6.0

6.0

6.0

6.0

Gross Margin (%)

23.2

9.8

7.3

10.4

EBITDA Margin (%)

23.2

15.6

14.9

15.8

Operating Margin (before GW and except.) (%)

17.4

9.9

8.7

10.1

BALANCE SHEET

Fixed Assets

 

 

756.1

468.2

438.5

441.0

Intangible Assets

120.2

116.2

116.2

116.2

Tangible Assets

246.6

221.9

227.0

228.0

Associates/Assets for sale

389.2

130.1

95.3

96.8

Current Assets

 

 

107.7

61.2

57.0

67.2

Stocks

1.0

2.2

2.0

2.2

Debtors

27.9

53.2

55.0

65.0

Cash

78.9

5.7

0.0

0.0

Current Liabilities

 

 

(51.2)

(68.6)

(79.0)

(86.2)

Creditors

(21.1)

(68.6)

(79.0)

(86.2)

Short term borrowings

(30.0)

0.0

0.0

0.0

Long Term Liabilities

 

 

(364.1)

(104.1)

(71.4)

(57.1)

Long term borrowings

(176.7)

(24.8)

(36.6)

(22.3)

Other long term liabilities

(187.4)

(79.3)

(34.8)

(34.8)

Net Assets

 

 

448.5

356.7

345.2

365.0

CASH FLOW

Operating Cash Flow

 

 

33.9

(10.8)

(10.8)

18.6

Net Interest

(12.8)

(2.8)

(1.0)

(1.0)

Tax

(1.7)

0.0

0.0

0.5

Net Capex

(17.0)

(10.1)

(24.9)

(15.0)

Acquisitions/disposals

67.0

218.1

37.0

31.0

Financing

14.1

(44.0)

12.0

0.0

Dividends

(20.5)

(19.8)

(19.8)

(19.8)

Net Cash Flow

63.0

130.4

(7.5)

14.3

Opening net debt/(cash) inc HP

 

 

216.4

127.9

19.1

36.6

HP finance leases initiated

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Other

25.6

(21.7)

(10.0)

0.0

Closing net debt/(cash) inc HP

 

 

127.9

19.1

36.6

22.3

Source: Company accounts, Edison Investment Research

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