Hidden Champions: Our North Star Investment Strategy to Navigate Turbulent & Fragile Markets – Bamboo Innovator Weekly Insight

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | May 2, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 124)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

Happy Labor Day!

Below is an early peek into excerpts from our March Year End Letter of our Hidden Champions portfolio which we were working on while staying tune to the broadcast of the ever-insightful Berkshire Hathaway AGM 2016.

Hidden Champions: Our North Star Investment Strategy to Navigate Turbulent & Fragile Markets 

“Governing with excellence (德) can be compared to being the North Star: The North Star dwells in its place, and the multitude of stars pay it tribute.” – Confucius, Analects 2:1

“Successful CEOs are like gems you find on a beach. There are many pebbles, many beautifully colored ones, but they are all stones. Now and again, you will come across a real precious gem, a real emerald, pick it up, polish it. He must have a set of qualities that fits with the job, has energy, drive, ability to interact with people, ability to get people to work with him in a team… You look at all the successful companies, what is the key? Their brainpower. The thinker, good management, good innovators.” – Lee Kuan Yew, founding Prime Minister of modern Singapore, in Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going

Dear Shareholders,

Your funds in listed Asian equities have achieved a % 12-month rolling return (in SGD terms) against a decline of: 11.3% for the MSCI Asia Pacific index, 11.7% for the Australia All Ord index, 12% for the Nikkei 225 index, and 17.6% for Singapore’s FTSE STI index over the same period.

This outperformance is buttressed by a 7% (est) absolute return (in SGD terms) from our investment cost of the revamped portfolio in the second-half since September 2015, powered by a double-digit gain from our high-conviction top position, ASX-listed Sealink Travel, which comprised around one-third of our portfolio NAV. We are also a Top 15 Shareholder in this world-class wide-moat company with dominant market leadership as the largest provider of nation-wide tourism and transportation services generating record profitability with a visible long runway ahead to compound growth with resilience.

We aim to be a Top 20 Shareholder disclosed in the Annual Report of the companies we invest in as a demonstration of our conviction and transparency in the investment process. As will be detailed in the tables and descriptions in the below section, we are a Top 20 Shareholder in 7 world-class wide-moat companies, out of the 19 portfolio stocks (we added 5 stocks after the financial year end in April which were up 9.2% as at 29 April) that we look to accumulate more, up to becoming a substantial shareholder with 5% stake, as they continue to deliver in their business fundamentals.

This outperformance is possible because of our multi-manager team-based investment process implemented by since September 2015, led by our analyst team comprising of Kelvin Seetoh, Jackson Yeow, Sim Zhipeng and Joshua Zhang. This teamwork greatly strengthens our ability to invest with high conviction in wide-moat companies, making an architectural shift from time-telling to clockwork with a build-to-last structure for our shareholders. As Jim Collins, author of the Built to Last and Good to Great, puts it aptly: “Imagine you met a remarkable person who could look at the sun or stars at any time and state the exact time and date. But wouldn’t the person be even more amazing if, instead of telling the time, he or she built a clock that could tell the time forever?”

Hidden Champions: Our North Star Investment Strategy to Navigate Turbulent & Fragile Markets 

“Explorers depend on the North Star when there are no other landmarks in sight. The same relationship exists between you and your right life, the ultimate realization of your potential for happiness. I believe that a knowledge of that perfect life sits inside you just as the North Star sits in its unaltering spot… Your life follows your attention. Wherever you look, you end up going.”

– Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Own North Star

The clock that we are building together as a team to tell the time forever is the Inner Compass and systematic investment process that leads us to our North Star to navigate increasingly turbulent and fragile markets – to the Hidden Champions.

Our approach to value investing is to invest in the Hidden Champions, agile creatures darting between the legs of multinational monsters who are dominant global players in sophisticated, hard-to-imitate niche products and valuable critical niches that are largely invisible to the average consumer. The Hidden Champions create maximum benefits for a target customer group, solving their most burning problems better than any competitor. This innovation strategy requires a deep knowledge of customer needs, which is generated through direct customer contact. Successfully solving this customer problem would then create a “success spiral”. A key source of their wide-moat is their sustained commitment and even obsession to customer needs, which is only possible in our view when there is a Purpose and values system guiding the firm.

The Hidden Champions had their roots as the esprit de corps of Germany’s Mighty Mittelstand, the more than 3.5 million small and midsize family enterprises that form the backbone of Germany’s resilient export-driven economy, employing more than 78% of workers and contributing more than half of the country’s GDP. The Mittelstand traces its roots to the Middle Ages, when the country that is now Germany was divided into hundreds of states. Competition between them created a number of industrial regions with their own educational institutions, banks and political administrations. The Mittelstand had to export early on with a global-orientation in their business model, given that some German states were smaller than two football fields.

Well-known Mittelstand enterprises that became well-known giants include BMW, Audi, SAP AG, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Robert Bosch, Siemens, consumer giants Beiersdorf and Henkel, dialysis giant Fresenius, pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, chemicals giant BASF, industrial gas specialist Linde AG, truck and engine maker MAN SE, and so on. There are also lesser-known, quiet, resilient, successful compounders, including commercial kitchen equipment company Rational AG, eyewear specialist Fielmann, specialty chemicals specialists Brenntag and Lanxess, high-end cleaning equipment Kärcher, Würth group (the “Fastenal of Europe”), auto gasket maker Elringklinger, flavor and fragrance specialist Symrise, lab solution specialist Sartorius, medical vision technology specialist Carl Zeiss Meditec, packaging and bottling machine maker Krones, wound medical products Paul Hartmann, and so on.

From a value investing perspective, investing at an earlier stage in the long-term growth trajectory path of these Hidden Champions – in Asia – will prove rewarding, as highlighted in an investment case insight into Rational AG, which we also share in 8IH’s inaugural value investing educational program in Shanghai.

<ARTICLE SNIPPED>

The Capital Cycle and Sale of Investments

In the book Capital Returns: Investing Through the Capital Cycle edited by Edward Chancellor, the capital cycle analysis can be adapted to make informed decisions on the sale of stock before problems surfaced. In the intriguing case of Vestas Wind Systems, its capex-to-depreciation had risen from just 1 time in 2005 to nearly 5 times in 2008, contributing to excess capacity in the wind turbine sector. Overinvestment is not a solitary activity; it comes about because several players un an industry have been increasing capacity at the same time. When market participants respond to perceived increases in demand by increasing capacity in an industry, they fail to consider the impact of increasing supply on returns. Subsequently, the share price of Vestas crashed over 90% from the peak.

Following the appointment of a new Swedish chairman in early 2013, significant restructuring was implemented at a time when investor fears about weak industry demand had proved too pessimistic and capex was slashed to 0.4 times depreciation in 2013, boosting cashflow and helping to repair the weak balance sheet, sending share price to rise 360%. The case of Vestas illuminated the investment insight that excess returns can be captured by exploiting the managerial decisions in capital allocation in capex: a low (high) capex-to-depreciation is a buy (sell) signal.

Vesta Wind Systems: Capex-to-Depreciation and Relative Share Price Performance

Vesta

Source: Capital Returns: Investing Through the Capital Cycle by Edward Chancellor (2016)

During the second-half of the financial year, our notable divestments are Hartalega Holdings Berhad and Major Cineplex Group at an average price of RM 5.86 and THB 32.11 respectively, recording a 96% and 77.4% gains on both companies respectively. We were uncomfortable with the expensive valuations accorded to their growth expansion plans which face increasing headwinds in lower ASP in nitrile gloves due to intense competition from new entrants and balance sheet constraints in taking on more debt to finance capex to increase the number of screens in sub-urban and rural regions and in regional countries, including their highly-geared shopping mall operators-business partners, some of whom have announced plans to slow down in building more malls.

Hartalega: Capex-to-Depreciation, EBIT-to-Capex and Relative Share Price Performance

Hartalega

From the capital cycle chart on Hartalega, we can observe that capex-to-depreciation had shot up aggressively in FY2015 and for TTM2016, contributing to the industry oversupply situation, while the capex-efficiency (as measured by the EBIT profitability generated per dollar of capex spend) had plunged due to lower ASP and higher operating cost.

The same can be observed in Major Cineplex in which the capex-to-depreciation had spiked up in FY2015 while capex-efficiency had declined precipitously after five golden years of capex-efficiency during FY2010-2014. Subsequently after we sold Major Cineplex, it reported a Bt139m net profit for 4Q15, down 33% YoY and 60% QoQ. Stripping out extra items—a net-of-tax gain from selling shares held in India’s PVR Cinema and trading in Thailand’s SF shares in 4Q14 and 3Q15—core profits dive 26% YoY and 41% QoQ. We also agree with former successful studio Grammy Tai Hub (GTH) chief Visute Poolvoralaks who commented that there is a growing risk that Thai audiences have lost faith in Thai movies simply because film production standards vary so much. Thais pay the same ticket price for every movie, so when ones are not good or worth the money, they lose confidence in Thai films in general and opt instead for Hollywood offerings – and Major is increasingly expanding into film production of Thai movies. Having said that, we find that the wide-moat of Major remains intact and will revisit the stock if the price retreats to Bt20 and below.

Major Cineplex: Capex-to-Depreciation, EBIT-to-Capex and Relative Share Price Performance

Major

We are also uncomfortable with the growing investor fever for movie & entertainment-related companies and some of them are exploiting investors’ attention to hype up their prospects with box-office ticketing fraud.

Shifang Holdings (1831 HK): Roller-Coaster Share Price

Shifang

Take the case of HK-listed Shifang Holdings, which owns the rights to the earnings of the blockbuster Ip Man movie. “Ip Man 3” saw ticket sales of 400 million yuan in its first three days of release. Shortly after that big start, however, local news reports raised allegations of box-office ticketing fraud. It turns out that Shifang snapped up tickets worth 56 million yuan, guaranteeing a hot opening week. Chinese authorities have opened a probe into the case. The fraud dealt a severe blow to the share price of Shifang. Shares in Shifang surged to HK$3.75 on Feb. 26, the highest level since it listed in 2010. Then came the box-office scandal. It took only four trading days for the stock to plunge 80% to HK$0.76 on March 10.

We do not engage in market-timing by darting in and out of the markets on a short-term trading basis. After our restructuring, our portfolio turnover ratio is low at 3.1%. The portfolio turnover came from our sale of 6 stocks (3 in India, 2 in Thailand, 1 in Japan) due to some slight concerns on their business model sustainability, of which 4 are at a small profit and 2 with losses, at an overall 0.75% loss from our cost as a percentage of our NAV.

The daily liquidity of our portfolio stocks, if we were to account for one-third of the daily volume traded based on the past 30-day average price, is 25.7% of our portfolio NAV, i.e. we can liquidate one-quarter of our portfolio NAV in one day if need be without destabilizing the stock prices.

Avoiding a “Valeant Situation” In Overconcentration of a Deteriorating Moat

Analyzing the capital cycle has also proven useful in evaluating and avoiding the risk of investing in Valeant Pharmaceuticals, dubbed the “Enron of Pharma”. Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman compared “platform stock” Valeant to early-stage Berkshire Hathaway in early 2015; William Thorndike, author of The Outsiders, compared Valeant’s CEO Michael Person to Liberty’s cable billionaire John Malone. Valeant’s share price collapsed in Oct 2015, hurting many sophisticated institutional investors with concentrated portfolio bets on the drug firm. Charlie Munger back in March 2015 had criticized Valeant: “Companies like ITT Corp., made money back in the 1960s in an ‘evil way’ by buying businesses with low-quality earnings then playing accounting games to push valuations higher. Valeant, the pharmaceutical company, is ITT come back to life. It wasn’t moral the first time. And the second time, it’s not better. And people are enthusiastic about it. I’m holding my nose.” Valeant relied on “gamesmanship” to run up its value and created a “phony growth record.” Buffett, at the Berkshire Hathaway AGM 2016, said Valeant’s troubles illustrate a principle passed on to him by a friend: “If you’re looking for a manager, find someone who is intelligent, energetic and has integrity. If he doesn’t have the last, make sure he lacks the first two.”

Valeant: Capex-to-Depreciation, EBIT-to-Capex and Relative Share Price Performance

Valeant

We noted various articles back in 2014 that shed insights about the corporate culture and accounting of Valeant, and one of them was featured on Apr 22, 2014 in Wall Street Journal titled “Allergan Pursuer Valeant: A Drug Maker With Little Patience for Science”. Valeant CEO Michael Pearson is known as an aggressive cost cutter. Valeant’s corporate culture is that it does not want to spend money on science and sees no wrong in substantially jacking up prices of drugs after acquiring them. From the above chart on Valeant, we can see that since Michael Pearson took over as CEO in 2008, capex-to-depreciation had soared, a warning sign to avoid the stock.

Why do investors and corporate managers pay so little attention to the inverse relationship between capital spending and future investment returns? The short answer is that they appear to be infatuated with asset growth. An empirical study by finance researchers Sheridan Titman, John Wei and Xie Feixue in the Journal of Financial And Quantitative Analysis found that the average firm destroys value when they invest substantially and a long-short strategy that goes LONG low-capex firms and SHORT high-capex firms earn an annual compounded 16.9% returns. Why? There is execution risk and investors consistently fail to appreciate managerial motivations to put the best possible spin on their new “growth opportunities” when raising capital to fund their “expenditures”. The aim of the capital cycle analysis is to spot these developments in advance of the market. Thus the capital cycle analysis in capex-to-depreciation and EBIT-to-capex is an informative signal about future firm value creation – and destruction.

Combining Capital Cycle With Marketing & Long-Range Information in the Value Creation Process

Long-term investing works because there is less competition for really valuable bits of information. The real advantage comes from asking more valuable questions. The short-term investor asks questions in the hope of gleaning clues to near-term outcomes: relating typically to operating margins, earnings per share and revenue trends over the next quarter. In order to build a viable, economically important track record, the short-term investor may need to perform this trick many thousands of times in a career or/and employ large amounts of financial leverage to exploit marginal opportunities.

The longer one owns the shares, however, the more important the firm’s underlying economics will be to performance results. Long-term investors therefore seek answers with shelf life. What is relevant today may be relevant in ten years’ time if the investor is to continue owning the shares. Information with a long shelf life is far more valuable than advance knowledge of next quarter’s earnings. We seek insights consistent with our holding period.

Take marketing which can be vital to long-term value creation yet if often ignored. An understanding of the economics of line extensions and an advertising strategy would have proved useful to investors in consumer products companies. Colgate Palmolive introduced its first line extension – a blue minty gel – in the early 1980s, and supported this product with a hefty advertising spend. This was Colgate’s first new toothpaste in a new generation, and line extensions, which had been used successfully in other household goods, were novel to the toothpaste market. By advertising heavily, the firm hoped to change the buying habits of a generation of shoppers who would subconsciously think of Colgate as they approached the toothpaste section of a supermarket, and when they got there, would find a product which was new, superior and, because of advertising spend, trusted.

This is an almost worthless piece of information for the short-term investors as they will be thinking along the lines of: what does the rise in advertising spend in the new line extension product mean for profit margins next quarter? Few investors would have understood, and even fewer would have cared, about the transformation that was taking place. In the two decades since its first line extension, Colgate’s share price has risen 25-fold, handsomely beating the market.  This shows how important it is for long-term investors to understand a firm’s marketing strategy. Yet, given the annual 100% turnover in Colgate shares, very few of the firm’s shareholders have benefitted fully from its success.

Why did so few Colgate investors stay the course? There is strong social and client pressure to boost near-term performance. Even if one has developed the analytical skills to spot the winner, the psychological disposition necessary to own shares for prolonged periods is not easily come by.

Portfolio Stock (Global #3 Consumer Healthcare Device Brand): Ad Expense as % OPEX and EBIT as % Ad Expense

Marketing

We have combined the capital cycle analysis with long-range information such as the marketing expenditure to provide a more informative signal. As an illustration, we observed for one of our portfolio stocks, who is in the consumer healthcare & household lifestyle business, that despite a rise in its advertising spending (as a percentage of total operating expense), EBIT per dollar of advertising has been rising, particularly since FY2014. Furthermore, despite a rising trend of capex investments to expand in response to growing demand for its innovative high-quality products since FY2013, EBIT-to-capex has exceeded capex-to-depreciation for this world-class Hidden Champion who commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in its consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share) where its first China plant in over 80 years is operational in March 2016 after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall.

ROE of this world-class hidden champion is 14.2% and it trades at EV/EBIT 11.7x, EV/EBITDA 8.8x, EV/Sales 1x, a steep discount to its local consumer goods peers who trade at an average of EV/Sales 2.1x, EV/EBIT 20.2x, EV/EBITDA 14.5x. We think that this steep valuation discount is unjustified given the technical excellence and innovative profile of the company and it deserves to trade at a higher premium once there is greater investor awareness when they continue to deliver quality earnings growth with higher ROE, which has soared from 6.7% in FY13 (YE March) to 14.2% in the latest TTM Dec 2015, and is expected to climb higher from its underappreciated price premiumisation strategy.

This portfolio company, a family business established since 1934 and led by the second-generation business leader, embodies the best of patient sacrifice and stable capital for longer-term profound investments in business and people, with relentless and eternal pursuit of excellence in perfecting its offering, institutionalizing its craftsmanship and codifying the knowledge to pass from one generation to another. We believe it has hit a tipping point in its business model transformation into a complete integrated global producer of innovative rubber and plastic products with long product lifecycle with both engines in household & lifestyle division and industrial division (automotive interior) revving up to compound growth with a visible long runway.

Avoiding our Dark Wood of Errors: Risk of Accounting Irregularities & Tunneling Fraud

Once you have found your North Star, keeping it in view is a fine way to stay on course – as long as the sky remains clear. But what about the cloudy nights and the dark wood of errors? In situations when you feel utterly befogged by the risk of accounting irregularities, we need some help figuring out where our North Star lies. It is helpful to have inner compasses wired into our brain and body to guide us in the search for our true path.

As shared earlier that we are honored and grateful to be able to have the opportunity to share our thoughts on 23 September 2015 with the top management team of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community, we believe strongly that this potential fintech platform that combines accounting data, especially footnotes, with a wide array of contextual information – including unusual related-party transactions; money-go-round off balance-sheet activities; governance, group structure and ownership analysis; textual and linguistic analysis; analysis of event-based “catalysts” (information-based manipulation) and sensitive market announcements (action-based manipulation in prices and volume) – will provide fresh insights and actionable, dynamic, inter-connected analytical information, as opposed to merely descriptive static data or a loose bag of disparate red flags, on Singapore and Asian companies, for the regulator and the public.

We were quite close to investing an initial investigate stake in an ASX-listed

<ARTICLE SNIPPED>

Caring is an exacting, serious and demanding business, especially when it comes to investing in another person’s financial assets, which are a tangible product of his or her life’s work, a repository of aspirations for the future.

We cannot guarantee success in investment outperformance over the short-term, but we can certainly guarantee one thing: You will be proud to be able to participate positively in the resilient growth of these wide-moat Hidden Champions who are solving real-world problems and have helped to create what the world around you looks like today and tomorrow. You will also be a proud and happy parent for your children when they work in these Hidden Champions. As George Washington puts it aptly, “We cannot guarantee success, but we can at least deserve it”.

Consider some of our portfolio stocks:

Bring your family and loved ones to river cruises in Australia and the Kangaroo Island to experience wildlife and scenery, knowing that you are supporting your holding in Sealink Travel, the quasi-monopoly ferry company and tour operator which has plied the crossing from mainland South Australia to Kangaroo Island since 1989. If your in-laws are visiting, suggest to them to take the natural Capilano Manuka Honey to enjoy both its delicious taste and health benefits, and then thank them for buying from one of your businesses.

For a retail experience perhaps even better than IKEA’s, we would highly recommend you to explore the “Retail Wonderland” home improvement centre as described in the above section and be awestruck by the enchanting assortment of items and the superlative customer service.

When was the last time that you express your appreciation to the people who love you, the people who care for you or the people whom have helped you? In today’s fast paced society, it is easy to neglect the people surrounding you. Instead of texting, harness the power of the pen and experience the positive difference of the act of handwriting. The beauty of a hand written note or letter not only allows you to have a deep connection with the recipient, but it can also be retained and cherished, leaving precious memories that can be re-visited. So grab a top quality pen manufactured by one of our Hidden Champions portfolio stocks and pen your gratitude to acknowledge those who have made a difference in your life today.

We hope this will capture the Hidden Champions portfolio investment philosophy of entrepreneurs investing in entrepreneurs. We are of the conviction that the future is created one wide-moat innovator and Hidden Champion at a time and each will flourish from their own wisdom. If you also share in our values and investment process, and support our conscious efforts to promote entrepreneurialism in Asia, we invite you to join us in this uplifting journey to participate in the compounding returns in overlooked and underappreciated wide-moat innovators – and to make a positive difference to society.

Welcome to the exclusive Club of the Hidden Champions.

KEE Koon Boon

PS1: The Monthly report will resume during the last week of May as we will be away on our military reservist training from 4 May. Thank you for your understanding.

PS2: We like to share our presentation slides in Value Investing Shanghai on March 18-20, 2016 where we highlighted high-conviction investment in Hidden Champions to navigate the volatile markets and that such an investment approach has enabled us to outperform with positive absolute returns vs -15% for the MSCI Asia Index, and our highest portfolio-weighted stock at 36% of our portfolio NAV is up more than 16% in SGD:

http://www.moatreport.com/slides-for-value-investing-shanghai-2016/

PS3: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

PS4: We had also recently presented in the Asian Investing Summit 2016 as one of the instructors:

http://www.valueconferences.com/reg/asia16/

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

In the month of March/April 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in a consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share) where its first China plant in over 80 years is operational in March 2016 after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall.

Since the launch of its game-changing innovative new consumer healthcare device premium product in April 2015, its TTM Dec 2015 (YE March) sales is up 7.2% and EBIT soared 67.6%. Under the motto of using science to enrich everyday lives, [Company’s name] is a quiet innovator in leveraging upon its accumulated deep material science and chemistry know-how to continuously launch innovative new products, from consumer healthcare device to a pad that helps heal wounds by absorbing moisture, a technology that it adapted from its popular food wrapping film household product, to protective film-coated lining for motorcycle seats where it commands a 90% market share in US.

ROE of this world-class hidden champion is 14.2% and it trades at EV/EBIT 11.7x, EV/EBITDA 8.8x, EV/Sales 1x, a steep discount to its local consumer goods peers who trade at an average of EV/Sales 2.1x, EV/EBIT 20.2x, EV/EBITDA 14.5x, a 64-110% premium over [Company’s name]. Its consumer healthcare device peers trade at an average of EV/Sales 4.36x, EV/EBIT 19.7x, EV/EBITDA 17.2x, a 69-96% premium over [Company’s name]. We think that this steep valuation discount is unjustified given the technical excellence and innovative profile of [Company’s name] and it deserves to trade at a higher premium once there is greater investor awareness when they continue to deliver quality earnings growth with higher ROE which has soared from 6.7% in FY13 (YE March) to 14.2% in the latest TTM Dec 2015 and is expected to climb higher from its underappreciated price premiumisation strategy.

Sales has increased 24% in the past 3-4 years since FY13 and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 168% due to the price premiumisation strategy. With the upcoming China plant operational in March 2016 and the tipping point in its US factory in automotive interior material, we believe [Company’s name] can build on the momentum to generate $120m operating profits and OCF in the next 4-5 years, similar to the profit scale of its domestic consumer goods peers with market cap of $2.2-3.4bn, thus spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential tripling in market cap to cross $2.4bn based on EV/EBIT 20x from its present $850m market cap.

[Company’s name] embodies the best of patient sacrifice and stable capital for longer-term profound investments in business and people, with relentless and eternal pursuit of excellence in perfecting its offering, institutionalizing its craftsmanship and codifying the knowledge to pass from one generation to another. We believe [Company’s name] has hit a tipping point in its business model transformation into a complete integrated global producer of innovative rubber and plastic products with long product lifecycle with both engines in household & lifestyle division and industrial division (automotive interior) revving up to compound growth in a long runway.

Advertisements

Originals: Investment Insights from Hidden Champions in Intelligent Oven to Food Robot at the Food & Hotel Asia (FHA) 2016 – Bamboo Innovator Weekly Insight

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | April 18, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 123)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

Originals: Investment Insights from Hidden Champions in Intelligent Oven to Food Robot at the Food & Hotel Asia (FHA) 2016

Why are Hidden Champions “hidden”? If they are “hidden”, will they become successful companies? Aren’t the successful ones always prominently visible?

An oblique reply: Have you been to a restaurant kitchen? Did you notice what is the brand of the kitchen equipment the professional chefs are using? Would you think a company that makes the equipment produce a good investment?

Often, eyes roll and heads shake – until we share with them the inspiring story of Rational AG, which has compounded over 1,200% since 2000 to a market cap of US$5.9bn, and how its reclusive billionaire founder Siegfried Meister became an Original, a trailblazer in choosing to go against the grain, battle conformity and buck outdated traditions to launch its innovative product. More than 87% of Rational AG’s sales are exports. You can find a Rational AG intelligent cooking system on a Norwegian submarine, a Saudi prince’s yacht, as well as in hospitals and restaurants around the globe. This intelligent cooking equipment system commands a global 54% market leadership in the world’s professional kitchens that include Buckingham Palace and the White House and is behind the success of such famous culinary names as Gordon Ramsay and Paul Bocuse.

Rational AG Stock Price Performance, 2000-2016, at the Shanghai Value Investing Program 2016

Rational1

Hidden Champions such as Rational AG aren’t well-known to the public and their existence are often taken for granted, although their target customers (e.g. professional chefs) will swear to only use their innovative products or/and excellent services and nothing else. They are the brand behind the brands and they are essential to the well-being and success of our everyday life.

FHASo we were naturally excited when we have the opportunity to meet up close and personal with not one or two, but a whole lot of these global Hidden Champions beyond Rational AG at the Food & Hotel Asia 2016 on 12-15 April at Singapore Expo. Of course, our investment team was also focused on visiting the exhibitor booth of an Asian Hidden Champion who is one of our portfolio stocks and speak to the GM of its overseas business office (photo on the right) – and their customers visiting their booth. This Asian Hidden Champion in our portfolio has 70% domestic market leadership and a dominant 90% overseas market share in automatic machine for a particular food segment. The founder is an Original, a thought leader and pioneer in inventing the world’s first food robot in 1981 because he wanted to bring this particular food – once considered a luxury food – to the masses. The perseverance of the founder is inspiring – he took five years to invent and launch the machine. Till today, this low-profile Hidden Champion is 54.5% majority-owned by the founding family.

This overlooked Hidden Champion generates a ROE of 14.6% and trades at a compelling valuation at EV/Sales 0.41x, EV/EBIT 2.71x and EV/EBITDA 2.33 and has a healthy balance sheet with 54% cash (zero debt) as percentage of market cap. More importantly, we believe it is on the cusp of a tipping point in its business model with 20% of its overall sales coming from overseas with the growing global popularity of the food. Its aftersales consumables and parts business has broke-even in FY13 and is now stable as a profit contributor.

Upon further interaction, we found out that its robotic machines are at least 30-50% more expensive than its rivals, yet customers who were hunting for price bargain in its competitors’ machines have switched back to this Hidden Champion. The reason? Due to the food-science nature of this food segment, there is a certain know-how in producing them in large quantities speedily on a consistent reliable basis, something which their rivals cannot match after some use. Almost 90% of the machine parts are designed in-house and their customers are able to perform maintenance themselves through phone call support or the company’s technical personnel will perform a store visit to solve their customers’ problems.

When we go for the killer question in why can’t Chinese or Indian machine makers buy their robots, tear everything apart and reverse engineer a cheaper version? The GM shared that it is quite impossible as their machine contains several moving machinery parts which is difficult to source and a software designed in-house to make it work. Copycats can imitate a machine that looks alike in the outer hardware casing but it cannot be consistently reliable and fast in producing quality tasty food.

Like their customers, we were amazed that the food produced by the robotic machines taste just as good, if not better, than the handmade food by the professional chef. They were softer in the texture and bite and had a human temperature, unlike the hard version that we thought it might be from a robot. We discovered the secret lies in how the robot is able to inject tiny air pockets at the right point in time to enhance the quality and taste of the food. Through this Hidden Champion, we learnt that it’s not simply about automation; it’s the pursuit of quality exceeding that of handmade food. Most of the initial machines’ ideas originated from the founder himself. Increasingly, the features of a machines are being initiated and suggested by the customers themselves. Every month, in their HQ, the sales team would meet the Research & Development team to discuss and consider implementation of features.

When Rational AG launched its Combi-Steamer in 1976, only very few immediately recognised the revolutionary effects that this innovation would have: from its base in Germany, this multifunctional cooking technology has now firmly established itself throughout the world, via Europe, America, Asia and Australia. A veritable revolution for working processes in large and industrial kitchens all over the world: the combination of dry heat in the form of hot air and damp heat (steam), and the possibility of combining them in any way for the cooking process represented the ideal solution for thermal food preparation, enabling most cooking processes to be performed using one device. For instance, the device recognizes how big and how cold the chicken pieces are, and adjusts the cooking process accordingly. And all this on a very small floor area – a great step forward in using space economically.

Rational AG not only created the market, but has always dominated it. Initially they offered, like 120 other competitors, better air ovens at. But with the invention and introduction of the combi steamer, which allowed cooking with hot air and steam without pressure, the breakthrough came. That was the foundation for the development of a new market. Noteworthy is that Rational AG billionaire founder and electrical engineering entrepreneur Siegfried Meister consciously killed off the firm’s existing product line, which generates 40% of the company’s revenue, for this new intelligent oven. This was a result of his awareness that there was no future in quality conventional convection ovens. The future would be in new technology. By shutting down the entire production of the convection oven line, this high-risk move ensured that every employee concentrated and focused on making the new technology a success.

Rational2

Siegfried Meister, a qualified electrical engineer who has spent many years in the management divisions of several large and medium-sized companies, feels that the immense success of his product concept would have been unthinkable if they had not always paid a great deal of attention to the needs of the customer and the marketplace: specialisation, yes, but not on a product, but a problem area – in other words, customer benefit. Both Rational AG and this Asian wide-moat innovator have an unrelenting urge to innovate and put customer benefit first. Rational AG equip its Combi-Steamer technology over the years with a series of new developments, many of them patented, continually optimising them and improving quality.

The success of Rational AG is based on tinkering and a lot of discipline. A few milestones: Vario-Steaming (1986), automatic self-cleaning (1989), programmable devices (1990), ClimaPlus Series with moisture measurement and control (1993). The launch of the ClimaPlus Combi Series marked a quantum leap in cooking technology (1997), followed by the IQT technology for the CPC range (1999) allowing continuous and automatic management of the entire cooking process, CleanJet and CalcDiagnosis (anti-scaling) System (2000), CombiCheck and UltraVent (2001). True to the corporate goal of always offering maximum benefits to the customer, in 2004, Rational launched another spectacular innovation: the “Self Cooking Centre“, which is designed to reduce the chef’s workload and is self-cleaning, thus providing him with more time for culinary creativity and his guests.

Everything about Rational AG is focused on the customer: the professional chef. Sales and marketing trainee spend three weeks working directly for customers in hospital, hotel and restaurant kitchens. Rational AG employs 300 chefs working in different processes who demonstrate the company’s products and act as “lawyers for the customers”, presenting the customer’s point of view to everyone inside the company

Market saturation is relatively low despite Rational AG market leadership. The customer potential is estimated at more than 3 million commercial kitchens worldwide – from simple innkeeper about fast-food chains and hotels to hospitals and prisons. We were surprised when we realize that the Rational AG intelligent self-cooking center cost around the same price as the robotic machine of this Asian Hidden Champion who also has a similar addressable market potential of at least a million restaurant and hotel kitchens, supermarkets, etc. We are an existing Top 20 shareholders in this Asian Hidden Champion and we look to continue to build up our portfolio position in its stock.

We are inspired by Rational AG’s incredibly high work standards that are hanging on the factory walls in posters that read: Gut Genug? Der Kunde Entscheidet (Good Enough? The Customer Will Decide). We are proud to learn that this Asian wide-moat innovator has similar high work standards since its founding days in 1981.

Most people will not be able to sense and appreciate the obsession and commitment of the Originals like Rational AG and this Asian Hidden Champion in the pursuit of excellence and craftsmanship to serve with love. After all, as Adam Grant, author of “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World”, observe shrewdly, “In the quest for happiness, many of us choose to enjoy the world as it is.” The Originals Rational AG and this Asian Hidden Champion move food with their innovation – and in the process, they move the world:

“Originals embrace the uphill battle, striving to make the world what it could be. By struggling to improve life and liberty, they may temporarily give up some pleasure, putting their own happiness on the back burner. In the long-run, though, they have the chance to create a better world. And that – to borrow a turn of phrase from psychologist Brian Little – brings a different kind of satisfaction. Becoming Original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.”

PS1: We like to share our presentation slides in Value Investing Shanghai on March 18-20, 2016 where we highlighted high-conviction investment in Hidden Champions to navigate the volatile markets and that such an investment approach has enabled us to outperform with positive absolute returns vs -15% for the MSCI Asia Index, and our highest portfolio-weighted stock at 36% of our portfolio NAV is up more than 16% in SGD:

http://www.moatreport.com/slides-for-value-investing-shanghai-2016/

Value Investing ShanghaiValue Investing Shanghai Photo

PS2: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

PS3: We had also recently presented in the Asian Investing Summit 2016 as one of the instructors:

http://www.valueconferences.com/reg/asia16/

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

In the month of March/April 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in a consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share) where its first China plant in over 80 years is operational in March 2016 after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall.

Since the launch of its game-changing innovative new consumer healthcare device premium product in April 2015, its TTM Dec 2015 (YE March) sales is up 7.2% and EBIT soared 67.6%. Under the motto of using science to enrich everyday lives, [Company’s name] is a quiet innovator in leveraging upon its accumulated deep material science and chemistry know-how to continuously launch innovative new products, from consumer healthcare device to a pad that helps heal wounds by absorbing moisture, a technology that it adapted from its popular food wrapping film household product, to protective film-coated lining for motorcycle seats where it commands a 90% market share in US.

ROE of this world-class hidden champion is 14.2% and it trades at EV/EBIT 11.7x, EV/EBITDA 8.8x, EV/Sales 1x, a steep discount to its local consumer goods peers who trade at an average of EV/Sales 2.1x, EV/EBIT 20.2x, EV/EBITDA 14.5x, a 64-110% premium over [Company’s name]. Its consumer healthcare device peers trade at an average of EV/Sales 4.36x, EV/EBIT 19.7x, EV/EBITDA 17.2x, a 69-96% premium over [Company’s name]. We think that this steep valuation discount is unjustified given the technical excellence and innovative profile of [Company’s name] and it deserves to trade at a higher premium once there is greater investor awareness when they continue to deliver quality earnings growth with higher ROE which has soared from 6.7% in FY13 (YE March) to 14.2% in the latest TTM Dec 2015 and is expected to climb higher from its underappreciated price premiumisation strategy.

Sales has increased 24% in the past 3-4 years since FY13 and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 168% due to the price premiumisation strategy. With the upcoming China plant operational in March 2016 and the tipping point in its US factory in automotive interior material, we believe [Company’s name] can build on the momentum to generate $120m operating profits and OCF in the next 4-5 years, similar to the profit scale of its domestic consumer goods peers with market cap of $2.2-3.4bn, thus spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential tripling in market cap to cross $2.4bn based on EV/EBIT 20x from its present $850m market cap.

[Company’s name] embodies the best of patient sacrifice and stable capital for longer-term profound investments in business and people, with relentless and eternal pursuit of excellence in perfecting its offering, institutionalizing its craftsmanship and codifying the knowledge to pass from one generation to another. We believe [Company’s name] has hit a tipping point in its business model transformation into a complete integrated global producer of innovative rubber and plastic products with long product lifecycle with both engines in household & lifestyle division and industrial division (automotive interior) revving up to compound growth in a long runway.

Hoshin Value Investing: Aligning Inner Compass with GPS (Guiding Principle Star) – Bamboo Innovator Weekly Insight

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | April 11, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 122)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

Hoshin Value Investing: Aligning Inner Compass with GPS (Guiding Principle Star)

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waves, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.”

– Carl Schutz (1829-1906), German revolutionary and American statesman

We recently came across a thought-provoking and profound Japanese word that captures the essence of value investing in Asia: Hoshin. This unique word connected to us when we were re-evaluating the investment merits of an Asian wide-moat innovator with global market leadership in specialty cutting tools for industrial applications in the aerospace and automotive industry for our Hidden Champions portfolio.

Hoshin is a Japanese word and concept translating roughly as Shiny Compass Needle aligned with your Guiding Principle Star (GPS) of Highest Potential. It’s a practice and Way designed to break through apparent chaos to reveal a higher order and direction. Over the past decade past in interacting with Asian entrepreneurs, we find two different groups of entrepreneurs classified by their motivations and inner compass: one that is labeled “Cash is King”—defining success in relation to financial goals, building a business that provides a revenue source in order to capture pleasures elsewhere—and another that is labeled “Make me Whole”—defining success in relation to their commitment to an idea and Purpose larger than themselves to care for and serve others with love. “Make me Whole” entrepreneurs were extremely passionate about their work even if work entails sacrifice and hardship, believing that work impacts, inspires, and changes the lives of those they work with, especially employees. An entrepreneur’s value systems and beliefs can have a strong influence on his/her business decisions, culture, mission, and other important outcomes for his/her organization. We observe in entrepreneurs that having the right Inner Compass of core values is necessary and critical to create value, yet not sufficient to bring about a wide-moat compounder. The Inner Compass must be aligned with the Guiding Principle Star (GPS).

The Guiding Principle Star (GPS) in our approach to value investing is to invest in the Hidden Champions, agile creatures darting between the legs of multinational monsters who are dominant global players in sophisticated, hard-to-imitate niche products and valuable critical niches that are largely invisible to the average consumer. The Hidden Champions create maximum benefits for a target customer group, solving their most burning problems better than any competitor. this innovation strategy requires a deep knowledge of customer needs, which is generated through direct customer contact. Successfully solving this customer problem would then create a “success spiral”. A key source of their wide-moat is their sustained commitment and even obsession to customer needs, which is only possible in our view when there is a values system guiding the firm.

The key difference between the Hidden Champions or Bamboo Innovators and the atypical Asian firms that determine the scalability of the business models lie in the fact that most Asian firms have an emperor-based culture. One lone emperor cannot possibly serve hundreds and thousands of customers to find out their needs at an intimate level and he or she often does not see the need to grow the people around them and frontliners to solve customer needs. It is far easier for the Asian entrepreneur to be the middleman through deal-making to take orders from a few important anchor clients who have the critical access to the end-customers, take capital risk investing in tangible assets and work hard to produce the required products with quality and efficiency — than to attempt to build business models that have direct ownership of the hundreds and thousands of end-customers. As a result, these Asian entrepreneurs are unwilling to share the rewards with their “undeserving” staff who took neither risk nor sacrifice. They treat employees as expenses and not intangible assets, make most or all of the decisions and hoard most resources and information, running the firm as a “one-man show” or as a “team” of high-profile dealmakers/mercenaries who can bring in the sales orders; the job of “everyone else” is to execute efficiently and “productively”. While short-term profits are achieved, the corporate culture is eroded. Eventually, they may face the challenge of business continuity arising from succession woes. There is no terminal value in the business as time becomes an enemy of the business; without terminal value, the DCF analysis would point towards a well-deserved low PE multiple in the valuation of the business.

Founded in 1938 and now led by the second-generation family business leader, this listed world-class hidden champion in specialty cutting tools generates an ROE of 22.3% with the Gross Profit/Total Assets quality measure at 33.5%, the highest in the industry even when compared with the global #1 leader Sandvik’s 31.2%. It has also been a serial repurchaser that bought back over US$83m in stocks since 2003 and trades at an attractive EV/EBIT 9.4x, EV/EBITDA 6.4x.

Underlying the financial numbers is its wide-moat in mastery in material science and innovation. Aircraft contain many times more parts than automobiles. Because these parts need to be both lightweight and very strong, processing is extremely difficult. Aerospace manufacturers need tools with special coatings to provide increased durability when used to process materials that are difficult to cut, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) and titanium alloys, including wings and fuselages, in order to achieve significant improvements in fuel efficiency. Manufacturers process these materials using tools made possible by the company’s diamond coating technology, which is based on their patented ultra-fine diamond crystallization technology.

Furthermore, it is a dominant supplier of over 70% of the tools used by Japanese automotive manufacturers for engine machining processes. Engines require closer machining tolerances and more advanced technology than any other automotive part, and over 1,000 high-performance tools are used. The company attributes this success to their commitment to finding answers to the processing problems and needs of their customers, often by visiting customers’ facilities. They apply this experience to the development of new customers, by building close relationships so that they hear from them whenever they have troubles and by helping them to find solutions to problems that arise at automotive production sites around the world.

Stock Price Performance, 1984-2016, of Asian wide-moat innovator (Red) vs Index (Blue)

Tool

On Apr 7, 2016, this listed Asian hidden champion announced the acquisition of 100% ownership in an American tool maker which was founded in 1972 by a master tool maker and missionary “with the desire to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “built on the ideals of precision, craftsmanship, and integrity”.

Tool2

When we saw the biblical description of this American firm which supplies precise geometry tools for manufacturers in industries such as aerospace, automotive and marine, from top-tier Boeing and Lockheed to the smallest experimental and prototype builders, and its corporate slogan “cut with integrity”, we were reminded of the word Hoshin and another company that Warren Buffett had acquired – Iscar Metalworking.

Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor and the apostle of risk aversion, broke his decades-long record of not buying any foreign company with the purchase of an 80 percent stake in Iscar Metalworking, the world’s second largest maker of cutting tools behind Sandvik, which is founded in 1952 in a wooden garage, for US$4 billion in May 2006 – seemingly vulnerable assets in war-torn Israel. Buffett’s view is that if Iscar’s facilities are bombed, it can go build another plant. The plant does not represent the value of the company. It is the “intangible” – the talent of the management, the international base of loyal customers, and the brand – that constitute Iscar’s value. As Iscar’s founder Stef Wertheimer puts it firmly, “We do not miss a single shipment. For our customers around the world, there was no war.” By responding to threats this way, Wertheimer and his team have transformed the very dangers that may make Israel seem risky into evidence of Israel’s inviolable assets. Israelis, by making their economy and their business reputation both a matter of national pride and a measure of national steadfastness, have created for foreign investors a confidence in Israel’s ability to honor, or even surpass, its commitments.

The same thread that connects Iscar, the Asian wide-moat innovator in specialty tools, and the American tool maker is Hoshin, with the qualities of the human spirit: patience, tolerance, a sense of responsibility, fulfilling a Purpose (a calling) and a connection with others through love and service that originates from deep within, living an integrated life, experiencing an inner life and being in community with others. It is part of a central core or essence where people have a profound sense of who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. Aligning one’s inner compass with one’s GPS provide an enormous source of energy, passion, and direction that gives meaning to life and can provide an empowered feeling of success in work and in life.

In other words, the Hidden Champions, Bamboo Innovators and Hoshin entrepreneurs have a soul. In the same way that each of us has an animating energy often called a soul and a physical body through which this soul acts, a business has body and soul. A business has tangible assets in factories, physical facilities, and a collective of people who are generating ideas and coordinating their ways of creating together. This ‘‘soul’’ of business carries the imprint of all the people who are collaborating in the enterprise: the workers, the stockholders, the owners, and the management. The quality of awareness of those who imprint the business will affect everything the business does.

Hidden Champions approach the business with the highest personal quality of awareness and ask the question, ‘‘How can I encourage everyone connected with this enterprise to work from the highest possible level of awareness?’’ This simple shift in focus in turn transforms every aspect of the business. Quality is not merely a material consideration of a product without mistakes; it is an ‘‘extra-material’’ idea that asks for the most imaginative, well-designed, enjoyable, and sustainable product possible. Ethics is not a book of principles to which one retreats in the event of a lawsuit or recall; it is integral to the standard practices of every aspect of the business, how we deal with all the living beings on which business has an impact.

To paraphrase the wisdom of the German revolutionary and American statesman Carl Schutz in the opening quote, like the seafaring man on the desert of waves in choosing to improve the inner quality and Inner Compass of the enterprise in following the GPS (Guiding Principle Star), the Hidden Champions, Bamboo Innovators and Hoshin entrepreneurs expand the capacity of the business for innovation, imagination, collaboration, partnership, and wealth creation – and reach their destiny.

PS1: We like to share our presentation slides in Value Investing Shanghai on March 18-20, 2016 where we highlighted high-conviction investment in Hidden Champions to navigate the volatile markets and that such an investment approach has enabled us to outperform with positive absolute returns vs -15% for the MSCI Asia Index, and our highest portfolio-weighted stock at 36% of our portfolio NAV is up more than 16% in SGD:

http://www.moatreport.com/slides-for-value-investing-shanghai-2016/

Value Investing Shanghai

PS2: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

In the month of March/April 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in a consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share) where its first China plant in over 80 years is operational in March 2016 after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall.

Since the launch of its game-changing innovative new consumer healthcare device premium product in April 2015, its TTM Dec 2015 (YE March) sales is up 7.2% and EBIT soared 67.6%. Under the motto of using science to enrich everyday lives, [Company’s name] is a quiet innovator in leveraging upon its accumulated deep material science and chemistry know-how to continuously launch innovative new products, from consumer healthcare device to a pad that helps heal wounds by absorbing moisture, a technology that it adapted from its popular food wrapping film household product, to protective film-coated lining for motorcycle seats where it commands a 90% market share in US.

ROE of this world-class hidden champion is 14.2% and it trades at EV/EBIT 11.7x, EV/EBITDA 8.8x, EV/Sales 1x, a steep discount to its local consumer goods peers who trade at an average of EV/Sales 2.1x, EV/EBIT 20.2x, EV/EBITDA 14.5x, a 64-110% premium over [Company’s name]. Its consumer healthcare device peers trade at an average of EV/Sales 4.36x, EV/EBIT 19.7x, EV/EBITDA 17.2x, a 69-96% premium over [Company’s name]. We think that this steep valuation discount is unjustified given the technical excellence and innovative profile of [Company’s name] and it deserves to trade at a higher premium once there is greater investor awareness when they continue to deliver quality earnings growth with higher ROE which has soared from 6.7% in FY13 (YE March) to 14.2% in the latest TTM Dec 2015 and is expected to climb higher from its underappreciated price premiumisation strategy.

Sales has increased 24% in the past 3-4 years since FY13 and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 168% due to the price premiumisation strategy. With the upcoming China plant operational in March 2016 and the tipping point in its US factory in automotive interior material, we believe [Company’s name] can build on the momentum to generate $120m operating profits and OCF in the next 4-5 years, similar to the profit scale of its domestic consumer goods peers with market cap of $2.2-3.4bn, thus spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential tripling in market cap to cross $2.4bn based on EV/EBIT 20x from its present $850m market cap.

[Company’s name] embodies the best of patient sacrifice and stable capital for longer-term profound investments in business and people, with relentless and eternal pursuit of excellence in perfecting its offering, institutionalizing its craftsmanship and codifying the knowledge to pass from one generation to another. We believe [Company’s name] has hit a tipping point in its business model transformation into a complete integrated global producer of innovative rubber and plastic products with long product lifecycle with both engines in household & lifestyle division and industrial division (automotive interior) revving up to compound growth in a long runway.

Follow the “OQ” (“Obsession Quotient”) to Invest with Conviction – Bamboo Innovator Weekly Insight

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | April 4, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 121)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

Follow the “OQ” (“Obsession Quotient”) to Invest with Conviction

“How do you decide how to invest with conviction in a company when sizing up the bet to become a Top 20 shareholder as disclosed in their annual report?”

We were asked this question by a fellow value investor when we shared that our largest portfolio stock at 35% of the NAV of our Hidden Champions portfolio, a wide-moat innovator with dominant market leadership as the largest provider of nation-wide tourism and transportation services generating record profitability, is up over 15% from our cost during a period when markets were volatile and the MSCI Asia index is down around 15% over the past year.

“We follow the ‘OQ’, or the ‘Obsession Quotient’, to overcome the asset size barrier to investment returns in allocating funds productively and to mitigate potential concentration risk.”

Think of Steve Jobs famous obsession with the perfect screws on the inside of the original Mac.

Think of the early Bill Gates who would “be in the middle of a line of code when he’d gradually tilt forward until his nose touched the keyboard. After dozing an hour or two, he’d open his eyes, squint at the screen, blink twice, and resume precisely where he’d left off — a prodigious feat of concentration.”

Ray KrocThink of Ray Kroc’s obsession with quality and cleanliness with his oft-quoted motto: “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”, leading to the automation of as many operations as possible and the institution of rigid training programs at “Hamburger University” for McDonald’s franchise owners, whom he required to manage their own stores.

SKBThink of the late Mr Sim Kee Boon, one of Singapore’s pioneer top civil servants, best known for overseeing the construction of Changi Airport and turning around the fortunes of Keppel Corporation after succeeding the servant-leader Mr Chua Chor Teck, who was said to check toilets at Changi Airport at night.

OberoiWe were also inspired by M.S. Oberoi, founder of the Oberoi Group, a chain of luxury hotels in India, who obsessed about every frontline detail in his hotels that might affect the customer experience and would scrawl responses on customer comment cards even at the age of 94 when he could barely see and had to hold the cards an inch away from his eyes. The elderly Oberoi would visit his hotels to make sure employees were getting everything right, and in doing so he established a culture by which all employees shared in his obsession.

ElsenerThe late Carl Elsener III (1922-2013), the entrepreneur perhaps most responsible for the unprecedented success of the Victorinox Group behind the world’s most recognizable Swiss Army knife, had lived close to the factory and, until age 86, rode his bicycle to the office every day, and was obsessed with preparing the 4th generation to be competent managers of this worldwide successful, traditional Swiss enterprise.

We have obsessed all along with identifying entrepreneurs with the focus and sense of urgency to build something with Purpose and commit to an idea larger than themselves to care for and serve others with love. “Wealth creation” would then take on a Purpose and meaning, as opposed to opportunistic money gathering through short-term business transactions, complex financial engineering schemes and worse, tunneling fraud that eventually unwind to harm others. While these people are able to make money, the wealth “created” is at the expense of others and benefits themselves. How to quickly tell them apart? They “energize” themselves not from work, but from the pursuit of short-term pleasures.

For Buffett-Munger, their idea larger than themselves is manifested in the creation of a focused vehicle Berkshire Hathaway, which compounds not only wealth for shareholders but more importantly, compounds values and virtues as an exemplary role model in the way business is conducted and how they live their life in a simple and frugal way. The Berkshire Hathaway Bus carries more passengers and supporters who get positively energized towards the right direction in the journey of Life in the increasingly harsh and pretentious world.

A true goal needs to become an obsession. We observe the following about “OQ”, or “Obsession Quotient”, over our years of interacting with entrepreneurs, innovators, and hidden champions.

  • They view themselves as business insurgents, fighting on behalf of an underserved customer, a persistent idea, mission, duty, calling and vocation that preoccupy/absorb/dominate their every thought and dominate their desires every second of every day and make them approach each moment, decision, action and day with this level of fixation. They are completely captivated by an obsession that they simply cannot imagine conducting their life without. They always find their work more fulfilling than those who find themselves in a profession because it was expected of them. For those who are obsessed by this pursuit, there is no separation between life and work. It is much easier to endure all the setbacks, reversals and frustrations of management when you deeply enjoy your work. All of the High OQ entrepreneurs, innovators and hidden champions whom we observed have witnessed first-hand the problems that beset the masses and wanted to build a business to provide useful products and services. And they are not contented to stop at $10m, $100m, or even $1 billion, like most businesspeople who rush to buy fancy property and cars for themselves. They want to build and scale their businesses so that they can give more. Only when we have the desire to give, then can we want to persevere in building something meaningful. This urge to build in order to give is the magnetic north to scale a business and they work obsessively to realise this vision. Imbued with a perception where everything from telephony to music distribution to consumers’ relationships with technology is being disrupted, Steve Jobs felt there was simply no time to lose. This understanding has fueled the rapid-fire pace of his actions and his obsession with “what’s next?” in products (although he would never rush to market a product he thought imperfect). It may have also fed his often harsh, dictatorial, and somehow still-inspiring management style.
  • They have an obsession with the economics of customer loyalty and have this deep curiosity for what is going on at the front line, where the business meets the customer. They have an obsession to cultivating a culture of decentralization, trust and cooperation to foster innovative experimentations, including investing in a system to cascade decision rights throughout the organization;
  • They foster an owner’s mindset, which keeps them fast, bold, and infused with a deep sense of responsibility for long-term results. They do things with a long-term approach because they strongly believe that is the only way to build a truly durable and excellent business.
  • They are obsessed with staying grounded to their values. Carl Elsener Jr., the fourth-generation business leader and CEO of Victorinox commented of the values uphold by his beloved father Carl Elsener III: “Despite his success, my father has stayed grounded. The most important values in his life have always been mutual respect and trust, courage, gratitude and humility. I have also learned from my father that the company who wants to stay successful in the long-term basically needs to concentrate on three things: the people, the customers and the products. He embraced that concept very nicely.”

In essence, they are the single-minded monomaniacs with a mission to accomplish. They are ruled by spirited behavior, by the vigorous pursuit of a worthwhile competitive idea. Peter Drucker highlighted also the importance of being single-minded in the passionate pursuit of one’s quest in life:

“The single-minded ones, the monomaniacs, are the only true achievers. The rest, the ones like me, may have more fun, but they fritter themselves away. They carry out a ‘mission’; the rest of us have interests. Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done by a monomaniac with a mission.”

The interaction with their clear goal and single-mindedness is an essential factor for their stamina and perseverance. Success and the achievement of goals inject new energy into these leaders. Nothing energizes an individual or a company more than clear goals and a grand purpose.

They do not cling on to the idea that work should be fun, exciting, entertaining and invigorating – every day. Operating a business is a serious, rugged, flaw-ridden demanding task. The inevitable fluctuations and vicissitudes of an industry’s affairs, as well as in the general level of economic activity, often seem to compel painful decisions and trade-offs to meet the exigencies of the day. But operating a business is also thrilling, challenging, and rewarding. Work is like life: sometimes fun, sometimes moving, often frustrating, and defined by meaningful events. Those who found their place don’t talk about how exciting or how stimulating their work is. Their language invokes a different troika: meaningful, significant, fulfilling.

They pursue virtues rather than seek instant gratifications, not because such pursuits are pleasurable (they hardly are in fact!), but because they are meaningful. They have something significant yet to achieve in their lives. Without virtue, leadership is nothing. They epitomized what Benjamin Franklin echoes: “Industry and Frugality”:

“An enterprising man not in haste to get rich, willing to run some risks, yet not willing to risk in hazardous enterprises the property of others entrusted in his keeping, careful to indulge in no extravagance, and to live within his means. Simple in his manner and unostentatious in the habits of life, not merely a merchant but a man, with a character to form, a mind to improve, and a heart to cultivate.”

Work is the ultimate seduction in life, Picasso illuminated. Indeed, the High OQ entrepreneurs, Bamboo Innovators and Hidden Champions put their work, their will and their world in the services of others. They are lit by passion, make that extra effort and demonstrate that extra commitment. They want to engage in something grand and beautiful and noble (in their own interpretation), well worth the toil and anxiety.

In the month of March/April 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in a consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share) where its first China plant in over 80 years is operational in March 2016 after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall. We like to share excerpts of the inspiring story of the founder Mr O, whose OQ has permeated into the corporate culture and ethos of the firm, as recounted by the second-generation business leader and current CEO of this wide-moat innovator:

Q: “[Company’s name] has achieved phenomenal success since it was established in 1934 by founder Mr O to command a dominant 60% domestic market share leadership in [flagship product] and also becoming the global number three player. Can you share with us how the wonderful story of [Company’s name] started, especially the tipping points and challenges along the way?

Mr O: “…due to limitations of technology and material science, these [product] melted under hot weather and high temperature and ‘fresh’ [product] need to be produced. The [product] were also thick, 1mm thick, like a glove for the finger, and the consumer was not happy… Also, imported foreign-produced [product] cost ¥3 for a dozen; at an age when rice cost ¥0.30, these [product] are not affordable to the masses. Yet, while domestic-produced [product] are cheaper, they melt.

Our founder was a hardworking technician who started working at a rubber goods factory observing all these problems. He started working after primary school after both parents passed away when he was young. He resolved to solve this problem for the Japanese people and thought very hard how to produce a new safer and thinner [flagship product].

He also set the target of reducing the thickness of [flagship product] by ten times from 1mm to 0.1mm. It seemed an impossible task. But our founder never gave up. Our founder tried for more than seven years. For thin [flagship product] to have the strength, an intuition flashed in the mind of our founder when he was looking at the latex molecule under a microscope in the laboratory. Maybe a new binding molecule can be added? Our founder first tried the addition of branch-like resin to the molecule. However, the two do not stick at all. Since then, days and nights in the laboratory were spent in repeating countless experiments to find a catalyst material that can stick the two molecules.

A breakthrough came when our founder knocked on the door of German Bayer who had set up operations in Japan. The director representative at Bayer Japan was generous in sharing information. Our founder learnt new knowledge from the science magazines and journals at Bayer and he would experiment with new catalysts and chemicals. This repeated experimentation resulted in our founder’s knowledge to improve by leaps and bounds. This visit to Bayer took one year and a total of eight years have been spent on research. Finally, through trials and errors, the breakthrough happens and the highest quality [flagship product] was produced. Our founder was so happy that he took a [flagship product] and ran to the river to fill it up with water, which expanded many times bigger like a water balloon. He blew air into the [flagship product] balloon and watch it fly into the air.

He resigned from his work at the factory and sold off every of his possessions and furniture to establish [Company’s name]… Subsequently, he challenged the belief that the thinness of the [flagship product] has reached its limits at 0.04mm to produce 0.02mm and 0.01mm from a new material.

Through our founder’s experience and spirit, we understood that wealth earned through hard work, dedication and years of persistence, and through courageously correcting mistakes in trials in experiments and research, is the most valuable of all. He has inspired us to think that ‘work that is not profitable is the most lucrative’. If we persist in doing what people think is difficult or foolish or dislike to do, the road to sustainability will open up. Our founder believe in addressing seriously real-world customer problems and if there is a demand out there even without immediate profitability, we will still diligently tackle it with earnest. [Company’s name]’s mission is the use the power of science to build the future with our years of accumulated experience, our proprietary technology honed and accumulated over the decades, our trusted reliability, our ceaseless research, our development that constantly pushes boundaries and our inquisitive spirit that endlessly seeks out challenges.”

PS1: We like to share our presentation slides in Value Investing Shanghai on March 18-20, 2016 where we highlighted high-conviction investment in Hidden Champions to navigate the volatile markets and that such an investment approach has enabled us to outperform with positive absolute returns vs -15% for the MSCI Asia Index, and our highest portfolio-weighted stock at 36% of our portfolio NAV is up more than 16% in SGD:

http://www.moatreport.com/slides-for-value-investing-shanghai-2016/

Value Investing ShanghaiValue Investing Shanghai Photo

PS2: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

In the month of March/April 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in a consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share) where its first China plant in over 80 years is operational in March 2016 after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall.

Since the launch of its game-changing innovative new consumer healthcare device premium product in April 2015, its TTM Dec 2015 (YE March) sales is up 7.2% and EBIT soared 67.6%. Under the motto of using science to enrich everyday lives, [Company’s name] is a quiet innovator in leveraging upon its accumulated deep material science and chemistry know-how to continuously launch innovative new products, from consumer healthcare device to a pad that helps heal wounds by absorbing moisture, a technology that it adapted from its popular food wrapping film household product, to protective film-coated lining for motorcycle seats where it commands a 90% market share in US.

ROE of this world-class hidden champion is 14.2% and it trades at EV/EBIT 11.7x, EV/EBITDA 8.8x, EV/Sales 1x, a steep discount to its local consumer goods peers who trade at an average of EV/Sales 2.1x, EV/EBIT 20.2x, EV/EBITDA 14.5x, a 64-110% premium over [Company’s name]. Its consumer healthcare device peers trade at an average of EV/Sales 4.36x, EV/EBIT 19.7x, EV/EBITDA 17.2x, a 69-96% premium over [Company’s name]. We think that this steep valuation discount is unjustified given the technical excellence and innovative profile of [Company’s name] and it deserves to trade at a higher premium once there is greater investor awareness when they continue to deliver quality earnings growth with higher ROE which has soared from 6.7% in FY13 (YE March) to 14.2% in the latest TTM Dec 2015 and is expected to climb higher from its underappreciated price premiumisation strategy.

Sales has increased 24% in the past 3-4 years since FY13 and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 168% due to the price premiumisation strategy. With the upcoming China plant operational in March 2016 and the tipping point in its US factory in automotive interior material, we believe [Company’s name] can build on the momentum to generate $120m operating profits and OCF in the next 4-5 years, similar to the profit scale of its domestic consumer goods peers with market cap of $2.2-3.4bn, thus spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential tripling in market cap to cross $2.4bn based on EV/EBIT 20x from its present $850m market cap.

[Company’s name] embodies the best of patient sacrifice and stable capital for longer-term profound investments in business and people, with relentless and eternal pursuit of excellence in perfecting its offering, institutionalizing its craftsmanship and codifying the knowledge to pass from one generation to another. We believe [Company’s name] has hit a tipping point in its business model transformation into a complete integrated global producer of innovative rubber and plastic products with long product lifecycle with both engines in household & lifestyle division and industrial division (automotive interior) revving up to compound growth in a long runway.

“Work That Is Not Profitable Is The Most Lucrative!” – Bamboo Innovator Monthly Riddle

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | March 28, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 120)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

Can You Guess This Asian Wide-Moat Company?

“Work That Is Not Profitable Is The Most Lucrative!”

CEO Mr. O: “Through our founder’s experience and spirit, we understood that wealth earned through hard work, dedication and years of persistence, and through courageously correcting mistakes in trials in experiments and research, is the most valuable of all. Our founder has inspired us to think that ‘work that is not profitable is the most lucrative’. If we persist in doing what people think is difficult or foolish or dislike to do, the road to sustainability will open up… Our founder believes in addressing seriously real-world customer problems and if there is a demand out there even without immediate profitability, we will still diligently tackle it with earnest. [Company’s name]’s mission is the use the power of science to build the future with our years of accumulated experience, our proprietary technology honed and accumulated over the decades, our trusted reliability, our ceaseless research, our development that constantly pushes boundaries and our inquisitive spirit that endlessly seeks out challenges.”

The stunning insight “Work that is not profitable is the most lucrative” comes from Mr. O, the second-generation business leader of a successful family business established in 1934 that commands a dominant 50-60% domestic market share leadership in a consumer healthcare device and is also the global #3 player and #2 in China (22% market share).

In this month of March/April 2016, we investigate this Asian wide-moat innovator who has built its first China consumer healthcare device plant in over 80 years that is operational in March 2016, a bold step that has relatively low capex risk after building up strong demand from successful sales in leading online marketplaces JDmall and Alibaba’s Tmall. Since the launch of its game-changing innovative new consumer healthcare device premium product in April 2015, its TTM Dec 2015 (YE March) sales is up 7.2% and EBIT soared 67.6%. Under the motto of using science to enrich everyday lives, [Company’s name] is a quiet innovator in leveraging upon its accumulated deep material science and chemistry know-how to continuously launch innovative new products, from consumer healthcare device to a pad that helps heal wounds by absorbing moisture, a technology that it adapted from its popular food wrapping film household product, to protective film-coated lining for motorcycle seats where it commands a 90% market share in US.

For its YE March 2015, its industrial division contributes 59.1% of total sales and 48.3% of operating profit while its household & lifestyle division contributes 40.77% of sales and 48.7% of operating profit. The lifestyle division spans a wide range of general consumer items, including its flagship consumer healthcare device product, dehumidifying agents, heating pads and gloves. The core products in the industrial division are vinyl and PVC films used in a broad range of applications in industries such as construction, automotive, food, agriculture and medicine, as well as high value-added automotive interiors. In 2011, [Company’s name] started full operation at its factory in US and this business has hit a tipping point after four years in 2015/16 in making a significant contribution to earnings after persistence in deepening its expertise in product design and product development and building a complete supply chain for its automotive clients.

There has been annual share buybacks in recent years and treasury stock is also retired at varying intervals, which [Company’s name] can afford to do because of its strong free cash flows and healthy net-cash balance sheet with $81.3m net cash that has increased 50% from FY13, equivalent to 17.5% of book equity (9.5% of market cap) which could provide some short-term downside protection.

ROE of this world-class hidden champion is 14.2% and it trades at EV/EBIT 11.7x, EV/EBITDA 8.8x, EV/Sales 1x, a steep discount to its local consumer goods peers who trade at an average of EV/Sales 2.1x, EV/EBIT 20.2x, EV/EBITDA 14.5x, a 64-110% premium over [Company’s name]. Its consumer healthcare device peers trade at an average of EV/Sales 4.36x, EV/EBIT 19.7x, EV/EBITDA 17.2x, a 69-96% premium over [Company’s name]. We think that this steep valuation discount is unjustified given the technical excellence and innovative profile of [Company’s name] and it deserves to trade at a higher premium once there is greater investor awareness when they continue to deliver quality earnings growth with higher ROE which has soared from 6.7% in FY13 (YE March) to 14.2% in the latest TTM Dec 2015 and is expected to climb higher from its underappreciated price premiumisation strategy.

Sales has increased 24% in the past 3-4 years since FY13 and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 168% due to the price premiumisation strategy. With the upcoming China plant operational in March 2016 and the tipping point in its US factory in automotive interior material, we believe [Company’s name] can build on the momentum to generate $120m operating profits and OCF in the next 4-5 years, similar to the profit scale of its domestic consumer goods peers with market cap of $2.2-3.4bn, thus spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential tripling in market cap to cross $2.4bn based on EV/EBIT 20x from its present $850m market cap.

[Company’s name] embodies the best of patient sacrifice and stable capital for longer-term profound investments in business and people, with relentless and eternal pursuit of excellence in perfecting its offering, institutionalizing its craftsmanship and codifying the knowledge to pass from one generation to another. [Company’s name] stood above most family businesses who have entropized into contentment, conservatism and reluctance to embrace relevant change, due to “stability” in its customer base or industry, insensitive and too late in recognizing trends and too sluggish in responding to changes in the business environment, and are scared of losing whatever they have earned so far if they change from their old ways.

We believe [Company’s name] has hit a tipping point in its business model transformation into a complete integrated global producer of innovative rubber and plastic products with long product lifecycle with both engines in household & lifestyle division and industrial division (automotive interior) revving up to compound growth in a long runway.

Who is Mr. O and this Asian wide-moat innovator?

PS1: We like to share our presentation slides in Value Investing Shanghai on March 18-20, 2016 where we highlighted high-conviction investment in Hidden Champions to navigate the volatile markets and that such an investment approach has enabled us to outperform with positive absolute returns vs -15% for the MSCI Asia Index, and our highest portfolio-weighted stock at 36% of our portfolio NAV is up more than 16% in SGD:

http://www.moatreport.com/slides-for-value-investing-shanghai-2016/

Value Investing ShanghaiValue Investing Shanghai Photo

PS2: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

In the previous month of February 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who is the CNN/Bloomberg of weather as the world’s largest and most comprehensive private weather information services company, providing customized mission-critical weather information with a recurring-income “toll-gate” business model to help its worldwide customers to access accurate and timely weather information to make better decisions in a world with abnormal weather accelerating.

In its B2B (business-to-business) segment (57% of sales), [Company’s name] provides Total Fleet Management Service (TFMS) with optimal ship routing, performance monitoring, safety status monitoring for over 2,000 shipping companies from 31 offices around the world and commands a 90% domestic market share and 35% global market share (7,000/20,000 vessels). According to CEO Mr. K, “Cargo movement has slowed in the last fall of the Lehman shock, but demand for TFMS is increasing” with the company growing its market share from 5,000 to 7,000 vessels.

The B2B business also helps multiple industries that range from sea (shipping, fishery, oil & gas) to land (road management, railway, logistics, retail, local government) and sky (aviation). For example, in the construction industry, [Company’s name] offers advice on when to build a roof, while Disneyland pays for counsel on how to stage its fireworks shows when the winds are stiff. [Company’s name] tells gas stations when to advertise tire chains in advance of snowy weather and instructs 7-Eleven on when to stock up on certain types of beer as sales vary according to changes in humidity and temperature. This deep accumulated and insight becomes more valuable over time and creates a long-lasting relationship with their customers.

In its B2C (business-to-consumer) segment (43% of sales), [Company’s name] designs and produces weather programs for radio, TV, digital media, including digital signage with original weather content for train stations, airports, elevators building lobbies, vending machines and restrooms. [Company’s name] provides content for over 90 commercial broadcasting stations in its country (80% share of the domestic market) and for over 200 cable television station in its country reaching 15 million households, as well as for Hong Kong and Taiwan satellite broadcasts. The B2C business also co-creates user-generated and crowdsourced weather information for its 20m users/”supporters”, of which 2.5m pay around US$2-3 per month for premium version of the service. As a result of this powerful crowdsourced and user-generated social data, [Company’s name] has been able to build a mechanism, such as putting out a warning forecast alert via smartphone service to occur 30 minutes to an hour before the local thunderstorm and has succeeded in capturing more than 70% of local thunderstorms since 2008. This network of users has created a network effect in that the system of localized content becomes more accurate and the usefulness attracts even more users to participate in the co-creation process, and the network becomes a valuable intangible property and competitive asset of the company.

Mr I.’s family and management continues to own 44.6% of the company which was listed since 2000 and its shares outstanding has reduced by 4.4%, demonstrating its prudence in capital management policy, and its net cash has also more than doubled since 2013 that is now 18% of its market capitalization. The company generates ROE of 27.2% and trades at an attractive EV/EBIT 9x, EV/EBITDA 7.5x. Sales has increased 12% in the past four years and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 23% and 53% respectively due to the scalability of its toll-gate business model in launching higher value-added innovative services and effective cost management. We believe the company can build on the growth momentum in the next 4-5 years, spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential doubling in market cap.

The Paradoxical Thinking of Hidden Champions to Compound Value – Bamboo Innovator Weekly Insight

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | February 22, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 119)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

The Paradoxical Thinking of Hidden Champions to Compound Value

Why do “hidden champions” thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?

Over our years of interacting with Asian wide-moat “hidden champions” who are quietly innovating value to dominate their specialized market with hard-to-imitate products, we find that they concentrate their organizational resources to solve a specific burning problem for a well-defined customer group better than anyone else. Successfully solving this customer problem would then create a success spiral. A key source of their wide-moat is their commitment to customer needs. The hidden champions have control over the value chain and deep knowledge in understanding and serving their customers which allow them to feed knowledge from customers into organizational learning processes and a high performance work culture that generate a continuous stream of innovations that enabled the champions to stay resilient with pricing power and outperform in difficult economic conditions.

However, the journey of a hidden champion is riddled with paradoxical tensions that challenge the innovative behaviour. Doubts will emerge in the paradoxical tension of handling tradition and change, control and autonomy. Facing the tradition-change tension, we find that Asian family firm leaders often fall into the “strategic simplicity” trap, clinging to what has worked in the past despite needed change. With many Asian firms at the critical transition phase in managing the fragile succession process, we find that while founders are often highly innovative, subsequent successors may feel constrained by ingrained routines and norms. Founding generations tend to be creative risk takers, yet reliance on their early ideas can foster stagnation, hindering stagnation. If only one side of a tension is stressed (tradition, control), demands for the other side (change, autonomy) will intensify. The result of paradoxical tensions is growing anxiety and potential decision-making paralysis, inhibiting innovative behaviour.

We find that hidden champions approach paradoxical tensions as opportunities to explore, experiment and learn. Paradoxes fuel creative problem solving that energizes firm innovation. We discover over the years that the leaders running these hidden champions have “paradoxical thinking”– the ability to embrace and synthesize competing demands with a sense of speed, scope and significance of change. Interestingly, this is also the insight of a recent study “The CEO Report: Embracing the Paradoxes of Leadership and the Power of Doubt” jointly conducted by the professional services firm Heidrick & Struggles and the University of Oxford Said Business School based on over 150 conversations with CEOs from a wide range of sectors around the world.

In our investment process to identify and evaluate hidden champions, we like to probe deeper the question of ‘how do the hidden champions manage paradoxical tensions?” We look for strong signals that they embrace the founding traditions that made the firm successful while simultaneously searching for novel associations and new opportunities that fuel innovation and there are pressures to explore new ways of doing things. Some of these signals that we like to observe and evaluate in the potential hidden champions include whether they:

  • Create new ideas for improvement?
  • Mobilize support for innovative ideas?
  • Search out new work methods, techniques, or instruments?
  • Acquire approval for innovative ideas?
  • Transform innovative ideas into useful applications?
  • Generate original solutions to problems?
  • Make organizational members enthusiastic for innovative ideas?
  • Thoroughly evaluate the application of innovative ideas?

“CNN/Bloomberg of Weather” – Stock Price Performance (Red) vs Index (Blue), 2003-2016

Weather

Last week, we highlighted an Asian wide-moat hidden champion who is the CNN/Bloomberg of weather as the world’s largest and most comprehensive private weather information services company. From the excerpts of the conversations below, we can see that the business leader of this hidden champion exhibits “paradoxical thinking” in founding and building the company. The founder Mr. I was just a desk worker in charge of transporting wooden lumber when tragic marine accident for which he felt responsible persuaded him to move towards starting a business with a “demand-side of thinking” to solve a specific customer problem with focus and deep knowledge:

Q: “So how do you go about setting up a business around that idea? What did you do?”

Mr. I: “I thought that first the government weather services would say, ‘We’re issuing warnings and it’s up to the captain and we’re not responsible’. The government weather services is very much saying I’m doing my job, which is in my words, a supply side of thinking. And the captain would say ‘I need information that would help me to make a decision.’ And the official services are very much just about data provision. What the captain would like to have is content. And the captain say ‘Should I move the ship out of the harbour or not?’ Government services is very much concerned about the accuracy of wave height, wind speed and so forth. But captain’s idea is ‘Should I move the ship outside of the harbour or should we prepare for this contingency?’… And now we working with over 2,000 shipping companies in the world. And all these top 25 liner companies around the world are our customers. We are very much worldwide in that respect… We are very much driven by the need and want of the customer. So it’s not a supply side of thinking like government weather services. It’s a demand side of thinking.”

The hidden champion also mobilize the support of both internal employees and external stakeholders and customers for innovative ideas:

Q: “[Company’s name] has continuously launched a series of innovative new services, like alerts about the approach of tornadoes. Where do these ideas come from?”

Mr. I: “Our company’s speed in responding to supporters’ needs is tremendous. We get requests for services, and our biggest strength is our workers being able to quickly kick off new offerings. For example, in the construction industry, [Company’s name] offers advice on when to build a roof, while Tokyo Disneyland pays for counsel on how to stage its fireworks shows when the winds are stiff. Weathernews tells gas stations when to advertise tire chains in advance of snowy weather and instructs 7-Eleven on when to stock up on certain types of beer – sales vary according to changes in humidity and temperature.

In order to begin any new undertaking, workers don’t need to get approval from me or the president for every little thing. Since personnel have the right to make decisions, when there’s a request from supporters for a service, it’s vital to quickly get it up and running. Of course, employees are always thinking about services as well. We always want to be half a step in front of our supporters. Rather than a full step, we’ll stay half a step ahead so as not to leave our supporters behind. At the same time, the mark of an entrepreneur is originality. [Company’s name] presidents must each year develop a completely new market or technology. My successor Mr. K established a market for the aviation industry. And recently, we’ve created a market for disaster-prevention content.”

Q: “With weather information services almost completely dominated by government meteorological bureaus, providing such data is a rare undertaking in the global market. There are few or no publicly traded companies like yours. How do you sum up your approach to entrepreneurship and what you can achieve?”

Mr. I: “We see ourselves as the CNN or Bloomberg of weather. Essentially, we’re a content provider. For things to go smoothly, hardware and content production must be in harmony. In the 20th century, Japan prospered from producing hardware. I wanted to be a contents provider… We’d like to see the World Meteorological Organization privatized. This would trigger a global shift taking weather businesses away from governments to the private sector… The weather information business should be developed by people who know local conditions. I’ve set the goal of becoming a weather station for all of the 6.4 billion people on the planet.

My original paradigm was ‘How can I make money for this company?’ But in weather, it was ‘What can I do for seamen? What can I do for you?’ It was so mentally rewarding. It’s not ‘We are making money, so OK’ but ‘What kind of contribution are we making to society?’ Get that right and the business success will follow. Weather information is a public resource and an asset shared by all. It’s the same as water, electricity and transportation. But unlike electronic appliances, there are no quick hits. This is the reason we switched to providing content based on long-term agreements to pocket ongoing revenue. We’re still pushing ahead with plans to have 150,000 of our 2.5 million [paying] supporters become shareholders. We want supporters involved in content and engaged even more in management. We want to be the first stakeholder-type firm… An inward-looking company is in danger. But [Company’s name] is in good shape now because our supporters encourage us to improve.”

Purpose

Above all, we peer deep into the hidden champion for that overarching sense of purpose which is a powerful source of internal resilience to resolve the paradoxical tensions for being adaptable yet authentic and steer their way with resilience through the many challenges in the entrepreneurial journey. As Mr. I commented:

“My original paradigm was ‘How can I make money for this company?’ But in weather, it was ‘What can I do for seamen? What can I do for you?’ It was so mentally rewarding. It’s not ‘We are making money, so OK’ but ‘What kind of contribution are we making to society?’ Get that right and the business success will follow.”

We look forward to participate in the long runway to compound growth with resilience in these Asian wide-moat hidden champions and we target to invest with high conviction and transparency to be in their Top 20 shareholders list in the annual report.

PS1: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

PS2: We will be back on the week of 7th March with the Riddle to the Monthly Moat Report.

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

In this month of February 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who is the CNN/Bloomberg of weather as the world’s largest and most comprehensive private weather information services company, providing customized mission-critical weather information with a recurring-income “toll-gate” business model to help its worldwide customers to access accurate and timely weather information to make better decisions in a world with abnormal weather accelerating.

In its B2B (business-to-business) segment (57% of sales), [Company’s name] provides Total Fleet Management Service (TFMS) with optimal ship routing, performance monitoring, safety status monitoring for over 2,000 shipping companies from 31 offices around the world and commands a 90% domestic market share and 35% global market share (7,000/20,000 vessels). According to CEO Mr. K, “Cargo movement has slowed in the last fall of the Lehman shock, but demand for TFMS is increasing” with the company growing its market share from 5,000 to 7,000 vessels.

The B2B business also helps multiple industries that range from sea (shipping, fishery, oil & gas) to land (road management, railway, logistics, retail, local government) and sky (aviation). For example, in the construction industry, [Company’s name] offers advice on when to build a roof, while Disneyland pays for counsel on how to stage its fireworks shows when the winds are stiff. [Company’s name] tells gas stations when to advertise tire chains in advance of snowy weather and instructs 7-Eleven on when to stock up on certain types of beer as sales vary according to changes in humidity and temperature. This deep accumulated and insight becomes more valuable over time and creates a long-lasting relationship with their customers.

In its B2C (business-to-consumer) segment (43% of sales), [Company’s name] designs and produces weather programs for radio, TV, digital media, including digital signage with original weather content for train stations, airports, elevators building lobbies, vending machines and restrooms. [Company’s name] provides content for over 90 commercial broadcasting stations in its country (80% share of the domestic market) and for over 200 cable television station in its country reaching 15 million households, as well as for Hong Kong and Taiwan satellite broadcasts. The B2C business also co-creates user-generated and crowdsourced weather information for its 20m users/”supporters”, of which 2.5m pay around US$2-3 per month for premium version of the service. As a result of this powerful crowdsourced and user-generated social data, [Company’s name] has been able to build a mechanism, such as putting out a warning forecast alert via smartphone service to occur 30 minutes to an hour before the local thunderstorm and has succeeded in capturing more than 70% of local thunderstorms since 2008. This network of users has created a network effect in that the system of localized content becomes more accurate and the usefulness attracts even more users to participate in the co-creation process, and the network becomes a valuable intangible property and competitive asset of the company.

Mr I.’s family and management continues to own 44.6% of the company which was listed since 2000 and its shares outstanding has reduced by 4.4%, demonstrating its prudence in capital management policy, and its net cash has also more than doubled since 2013 that is now 18% of its market capitalization. The company generates ROE of 27.2% and trades at an attractive EV/EBIT 9x, EV/EBITDA 7.5x. Sales has increased 12% in the past four years and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 23% and 53% respectively due to the scalability of its toll-gate business model in launching higher value-added innovative services and effective cost management. We believe the company can build on the growth momentum in the next 4-5 years, spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential doubling in market cap.

“CNN/Bloomberg of Weather” as the World’s Largest and Most Comprehensive Weather Information Services Company – Bamboo Innovator Monthly Riddle

“Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that would snap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”
BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | February 15, 2016
Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 118)

  • The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.
  • Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.
  • Our paid Members from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing.
Dear Friends,

Can You Guess This Asian Wide-Moat Company?

“CNN/Bloomberg of Weather” as the World’s Largest and Most Comprehensive Weather Information Services Company

CEO Mr K: “Business is what starts from a dream. [Company’s name] is founded from the dream of Mr. I to become the ‘world information communication platform’ for weather. I graduated from college sympathetic to Mr I’s dream and joined as the first graduating class. Mr. I is a true entrepreneur and I say that it means the people who create a new industry. SECOM (TYO: 9735, MV $15.9bn)’s founder Ryo Iida created the security services industry; Masao Ogura re-created Yamato Holdings (Ta-Q-Bin) (TYO: 9064, MV $8.1bn) into a unique parcel delivery services company. Both thought of their own business model, to create employment, a great entrepreneur who pioneered the market. Mr I sets a dream of creating ‘weather information’ and caused the weather revolution.

This dream started after Mr. I graduated from college in 1970 to join a large trading house. Mr. I was assigned to the headquarters’ timber and building materials division to purchase the wood from the United States and to arrange a charter to the cargo back to Japan and sell to wholesalers. A tragic shipping accident on January 31, 1970 that claimed the lives of several crew members triggered our founder Mr. I to establish [Company’s name] to realize the righteous idea, ‘I want to protect the lives of mariners’ and “I want to help in times of crisis’. If only better information were available, this accident could have been avoided. As Mr. I said, ‘If there had been really useful weather information, maybe this accident could have been prevented.’ Weather information is an essential service in protecting people’s lives and property in the voyage. Feeling a sense of responsibility for this incident, Mr. I advanced the private weather forecasting industry by establishing [Company’s name] in 1986 after doing a MBO (management buyout) of the American weather forecast company that he joined in a career change after the incident.”

In this month of February 2016, we investigate an Asian wide-moat innovator who is the CNN/Bloomberg of weather as the world’s largest and most comprehensive private weather information services company, providing customized mission-critical weather information with a recurring-income “toll-gate” business model to help its worldwide customers to access accurate and timely weather information to make better decisions in a world with abnormal weather accelerating. Weather is probably the single largest swing factor in business performance — it impacts 1/3 of the world’s GDP and in the U.S. alone, weather is responsible for about half a trillion dollars in impact. Weather affects every aspect of the economy – energy usage, travel and transportation, new construction, agricultural yields, mall and restaurant traffic, etc. A changing global environment means more phenomena like typhoons, hurricanes, cyclones and flooding from torrential rains running rampant across our planet, so countermeasures against these risks has become increasingly important.

The above conversation from CEO Mr. K recounts how the business all started as a result of a tragic marine accident for which Mr. I felt responsible. He was just a desk worker in charge of transporting wooden lumber when tragic circumstances conspired to persuade him to move towards starting a business. Mr I.’s family and management continues to own 44.6% of the company which was listed since 2000 and its shares outstanding has reduced by 4.4%, demonstrating its prudence in capital management policy, and its net cash has also more than doubled since 2013 that is now 18% of its market capitalization. The company generates ROE of 27.2% and trades at an attractive EV/EBIT 9x, EV/EBITDA 7.5x

In its B2B (business-to-business) segment (57% of sales), [Company’s name] provides Total Fleet Management Service (TFMS) with optimal ship routing, performance monitoring, safety status monitoring for over 2,000 shipping companies from 31 offices around the world and commands a 90% domestic market share and 35% global market share (7,000/20,000 vessels). According to Mr. K, “Cargo movement has slowed in the last fall of the Lehman shock, but demand for TFMS is increasing” with the company growing its market share from 5,000 to 7,000 vessels.

The B2B business also helps multiple industries that range from sea (shipping, fishery, oil & gas) to land (road management, railway, logistics, retail, local government) and sky (aviation). For example, in the construction industry, [Company’s name] offers advice on when to build a roof, while Disneyland pays for counsel on how to stage its fireworks shows when the winds are stiff. [Company’s name] tells gas stations when to advertise tire chains in advance of snowy weather and instructs 7-Eleven on when to stock up on certain types of beer as sales vary according to changes in humidity and temperature. This deep accumulated and insight becomes more valuable over time and creates a long-lasting relationship with their customers.

In its B2C (business-to-consumer) segment (43% of sales), [Company’s name] designs and produces weather programs for radio, TV, digital media, including digital signage with original weather content for train stations, airports, elevators building lobbies, vending machines and restrooms. [Company’s name] provides content for over 90 commercial broadcasting stations in its country (80% share of the domestic market) and for over 200 cable television station in its country reaching 15 million households, as well as for Hong Kong and Taiwan satellite broadcasts. The B2C business also co-creates user-generated and crowdsourced weather information for its 20m users/”supporters”, of which 2.5m pay around US$2-3 per month for premium version of the service. As a result of this powerful crowdsourced and user-generated social data, [Company’s name] has been able to build a mechanism, such as putting out a warning forecast alert via smartphone service to occur 30 minutes to an hour before the local thunderstorm and has succeeded in capturing more than 70% of local thunderstorms since 2008. This network of users has created a network effect in that the system of localized content becomes more accurate and the usefulness attracts even more users to participate in the co-creation process, and the network becomes a valuable intangible property and competitive asset of the company.

The reason why [Company’s name] had strong and stable recurring cashflow was a result of the tough business decision made by the founder in building a ‘toll-gate’ business model that had long-term contracts or/and subscription-based revenue with its customers, revolving around the content and services rather than one-off lumpy hardware-based project sales in systems integration. Without loyal customers who are “sticky” to the innovative services continuously delivered by the company, this business model is unable to take off and hence it takes knowledge and time to build and scale such a valuable business model. The ‘toll-gate’ business model has cost-efficiencies given that the standardized system becomes stronger over time with more customer usage that helps to improve and refine the workings of system, and that the multiple ‘customized’ applications leveraged upon the standardized system to deliver a more cost-effective solution to the customers. Accumulated deep know-how is required to build such a system and the applications, making it difficult for any competitors to set up, and this business model gets more valuable and scalable over time.

Sales has increased 12% in the past four years and EBIT and OCF (operating cashflow) growth is faster at 23% and 53% respectively due to the scalability of its toll-gate business model in launching higher value-added innovative services and effective cost management. We believe the company can build on the growth momentum in the next 4-5 years, spurring an upward valuation re-rating towards a potential doubling in market cap.

Image 075

IBM recently acquired The Weather Company for >$2Bn in Oct 2015 which indicated a valuation with a Price/Sales of 5-8x as compared to [Company’s name] which trades at EV/Sales 2x, suggesting that the global hidden champion is severely undervalued by 250-400%. The high valuation that IBM is willing to pay also indicate that accurate and timely weather data is an increasingly critical and valuable information, as well as the scarcity of good companies, let alone global players like [Company’s name], who operate in this field with excellent track record.

We are awestruck by the burning sense of mission and sense of responsibility forged by the late founder Mr. I that is visible as the moving thrust for not only all employees of [Company’s name] but also its 2.5m paying internet/mobile subscribers who are co-creating weather content, to deliver mission-critical weather information and services that can help mankind and save lives and property and protect the safety of the sea, land and sky from weather-related disasters such as preventing a shipping disaster or local thunderstorms. The weather never sleeps and the nature of the work demands working as a team for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. At its headquarters building, on the 24th floor of the forecast center, which is the heart, the light never disappears even late at night. At the entrance to the top level of the [Company’s name] office is a cordon. When the rope is blue, visitors can enter because it means the weather is calm. When the rope is red, visitors are not permitted to enter. The staff will be giving tense instructions about whether aircraft should take off or how to reroute shipping. Employees are motivated under the unique corporate culture to launch innovative new services.

[Company’s name] is now in the fourth growth phase aimed at full-fledged global expansion through innovation to create new markets and the technology and system to achieve it. The voyage of the world’s largest and most comprehensive weather information services and big-data analytics company has just begun.

Who is Mr. I and this wide-moat Bamboo Innovator?

PS: We like to share our Investor Day Presentation held on 1 December 2015 for our shareholders. The presentation material is available for download on the ASX website:

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151102/pdf/432nk9r3hhw4nf.pdf (pg 10-14)

http://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20151201/pdf/433hdp24p2twyj.pdf

and our Value Investing Summit 2016 presentation “Quietly Innovating Value with Hidden Champions”:

http://www.moatreport.com/value-investing-summit-2016-quietly-innovating-value-with-hidden-champions/

Warm regards,

KB

The Moat Report Asia

www.moatreport.com

A new monthly issue of The Moat Report Asia is now available!

Access the in-depth idea presentation:

http://www.moatreport.com/members/

Our latest monthly Moat Report Asia for January 2016 investigates an Asian-listed wide-moat innovator who is the world’s largest ODM producer of an important tool with multiple applications for automobiles, aerospace and homes with a global market share of 20-25%. Its 18.9% operating profit margin and 18.5% ROE is higher than that of its branded clients because of its negotiating and pricing power, technological prowess and vertically-integrated business model from upstream tooling design/ manufacturing to downstream final assembly.

This deep vertical integration allows the company to achieve high precision standards in each part of the production process, and enhances its design ability to innovate lighter but stronger tool products. Due to its mastery of critical end-to-end know-how, the company also utilize its magnesium alloy die casting technology in pneumatic tools to produce aluminium-magnesium alloy bicycle frames for all top 7 global bicycle manufacturers. In 4Q15, the company also penetrated into the supply chain of possibly the most important American customer in a game-changing private label partnership that provides a long visible runway for the company. The company started shipping industrial-level tools to this American MNC in 4Q15. This private label order yields a higher gross margin of 50-60% as compared to the typical 10-40%. The company was co-founded in 1983 by Mr. L after his retirement as Chief Judge in his local region and the L family controls 30-35% of the company.

Since the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis, we like how the company has emerged stronger with major positive transformations to its business model resiliency: (1) Shifting to higher-margin industrial-level tools; (2) Successful new growth in auto tools which grew from 6% of total sales in 2006 to 37% in FY14; (3) Penetration into Europe, which contributed from 11% of total sales in 2006 to 33% in 1H15; (4) Client concentration risk reduced: its top 2 clients used to contribute 64% of revenue in 2006 and that proportion was down to <20% in 1H15.

The company has been prudent and shareholder-friendly in its capital allocation decisions. In particular, the company announced a capital reduction plan in Aug 2015 and shares outstanding will decline 10% to return excess cash to shareholders and improve its ROE. As at Sep 2015, the company has a healthy balance sheet with net cash at 54% of book equity (21% of market cap), which could provide some short-term downside protection when coupled with its 5.3% dividend yield.

Sales has increased 32% in the past four years and EBIT and EBITDA growth is faster at 41-74% due to effective cost management in its vertically integrated strategy and higher weightage of higher-margin products in product mix. We believe the company can build on the momentum to at least double its profits in the next 4-5 years, pointing towards a potential doubling in market cap.

%d bloggers like this: