Monday, March 05, 2018

F&N 6 Years On - Part 1

6 years ago, we discussed Fraser & Neave (F&N)'s fate in a tongue-in-cheek Battle of the Animals post. As per our short term attention span in today's world, we left it hanging, without an update, for six long years. Well, today is the day. We shall stop our sucking thumbs! We shall follow up with the long await instalment to our own saga and analyze things clearly. 

To recap, the saga came about as the Elephant in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) room charged into our tiny red dot to try to grab Tiger, F&N's baby - Asia Pacific Breweries. In the end, Star Player - Heineken, refusing to give up its control on this profitable joint venture that brewed various beer brands: Tiger Beer, Anchor and ABC stout, swallowed the whole alcohol business i.e. Asian Pacific Breweries expensively. Thai Beverage, the elephant, then took control of F&N, the parent of Asian Pacific Breweries, or rather, the portion left after the Star took out Tiger. 

Our Tiger Girl: Jessica Alba

We also speculated what would happen to Chairman Lee Hsien Yang and Tiger Girl: Jessica Alba. In the end, Hsien Yang had no choice but to relinquish the Chairman role to Charoen (Thai Beverage boss), a precursor to his subsequent fate in the Battle for Oxley Road. Unfortunately, he lost on both counts. But he still had various prominent roles including the Chairman of CAAS, President of Insead Singapore and Chairman of the Islamic Bank of Asia amongst others which he would probably be leading using Jedi force projection outside Singapore! Meanwhile, Jessica Alba, unfortunately moved on and launched her own company - The Honest Company, with milk products competing with F&N's Magnolia. Alcohol and honesty don't mix well I guess.

So what's F&N today? After Tiger Beer was taken, the portions left were non-alcoholic beverages, dairies, publishing and property. Subsequently, property was spun off into a separate entity Fraser Centrepoint while the F&N today is left with the remaining three business segments. With more clarity today, we can now see better what are the key drivers for this beloved Singapore brand. The charts below shows F&N's breakdown by revenue as well as by profit in 2017.

F&N revenue split

We can see that F&N is roughly 60% dairies by products and 60% Thailand and Malaysia by region. The beverage business and the publishing business are actually small in the big scheme of things. Despite 100 Plus being such a big brand name, it doesn't really punch its weight in terms of revenue and as we shall see later, in profits too. Also, Singapore is only a mere 25%. The more important markets are in Indochina. The earnings split below is even more telling.

F&N EBIT split

For me, this chart was kind of a surprise! F&N makes all of its earnings from diary products. The beverages, publishing and other businesses are all loss-making. What's more, when we see EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) contribution by country, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam makes the money and Singapore is loss-making. Vietnam is 47% of total EBIT! F&N is a Vietnam play! 

When I first thought about this, I couldn't recall what are F&N's dairy products and what kind of businesses it had in Vietnam. Only with further digging then things came to light. F&N's diary products are Carnation and Magnolia, household products in South East Asia. Carnation is the leading condensed milk brand in Malaysia and Thailand. Building on that the firm had built a strong business selling all kinds of dairy products with local popularity. The cherry on top is F&N's ice-cream business. It has three brands: King's, Magnolia and Meadow Gold. These were my childhood ice-cream brands!

While Singapore has since moved on from F&N's ice cream brands for higher end treats like Magnum and Haagen Daaz, I believe these brands are still doing well in other parts of ASEAN and hence delivering the dough for Charoen. The diaries segment in Malaysia and Thailand earns c.S$45m and c.S$73m pretax profits last year. As for Vietnam: this is actually equity accounted profits because F&N bought its stake in Vinamilk up to 19%, making it the largest foreign shareholder in the firm. 

Dairy business in detail!

The chart above from the firm provided detailed breakdowns of the different parts in its diary segment which was super helpful. We can see that the Malaysia and Thailand have healthy 12-15% EBIT margins over the last two years. With the additional of Vinamilk, F&N becomes a powerhouse in diary in ASEAN that could dream about becoming a Danone or Meiji someday!

Alas the stock is not cheap trading at 24x forward PE  and 12-13x forward EBITDA. On the free cashflow matrix, it is earning c.S$70-140m which translates to a 2-4% free cashflow yield based on its market cap of S$3.8bn. That's not really cheap by Singapore's standard where other names are doing 5-6%. Overseas Education is doing 9% FCF yield! (albeit it's small cap.) But wait, there are other things going for F&N. The Lion shall rise again!

Next post we shall discuss Vinamilk and the reorg with Thai Beverage!

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