Underperformance of High Capital Intensive Firms

April 7th, 2010 by hackel Leave a reply »

Capital intensive firms have had a rough time of it the past five years. Not only has business slowed, but lots of property, plant and equipment (PPE) means lots of debt, not all of which appears on the balance sheet. Nevertheless, debt, like operating leases and that associated with special purpose entities, represents legal obligations that demand repayment.

The chart below shows the five-year performance of firms which have gross PPE at least three times that of their positive shareholders equity, assets of at least $500 million, and a market value of at least $250 million.

 

While the chart shows these firms have had, as expected, negative relative performance, there is now reason to believe, based on CT Capital’s cash flow/cost of capital models, many of the set are primed to recover ground, the extent of which is dependent on their upcoming ability to generate growing free cash flows.  Others, especially, when off-balance sheet debt is included, appear to offer little in the way of potential return to equity holders.

As with all bull market runs, investors look for laggards, and especially investment managers who make a habit of accepting high risk hoping to show strong catch-up investment performance.

The catchword is to be very careful with this group; yet quite a few names appear to offer excellent relative value.

However, if the industries in which these companies operate do not grow as expected, their operating and financial leverage could result in financial failure or extreme loss of market value.

For information on the study please email kenhackel@ctcapllc.com and look for “Security Valuation and Risk Analysis: Assessing Value in Investment Decision-Making” later this fall from McGraw-Hill.

Kenneth S. Hackel, C.F.A.

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