Dropping It Like It’s (Not That) Hot: VLO’s MLP strategy in focus

Summary

  • Valero Energy Corporation’s (VLO) conservative valuation reflects a history of and expectations for cyclical margin pressures, secular regulatory pressures, and a management regime which does not create excess long-term shareholder value.
  • Management has singled out asset drop-downs to company sponsored MLP, Valero Energy Partners (VLP), as the most promising avenue for unlocking shareholder value.
  • Although the value gap between VLO and VLP is real, unless management radically accelerates VLP’s financing trajectory, the drop-down strategy will not significantly drive excess returns for VLO shareholders.
  • Disproportionate focus on arbitraging market value dislocations could detract from more enduring drivers of long-term value such as distressed asset acquisitions and continuous rationalization of core refining and logistics assets.
  • VLO’s core refining assets are among the best positioned and most complex in the world. If competently utilized, these assets are worth significantly more than the company’s market capitalization.

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VLO Is Conservatively Valued

Summary

  • Valero (VLO) is conservatively valued on an absolute basis according to a Discounted Cash Flow Analysis.
  • VLO is conservatively valued on a relative valuation basis against its peers group.
  • Conservative valuation reflects expected margin contraction. Even though analysts’ 2015 earnings estimates are still biased high, ample margin of safety makes VLO a long-term HOLD.
  • If/when estimates do come down, VLO is a BUY on the dip.
  • Although good things are more likely to happen to conservatively valued stocks, a separate thesis is needed to indicate how management would unlock value.

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A Crash Course in Refining Fundamentals

Summary

  • Refiners make money by cracking crude oil throughputs into valued-added products (i.e., yields). Crack spreads are cyclical and volatile.
  • Refiners have adapted to margin volatility by engaging in derivatives contracts which off-set short and medium commodity price risks and by investing in assets which are able to process cost-advantaged crudes and optimize yields of higher value products.
  • Vertically integrated refiners are further able insulate themselves from commodity risks and exert more pricing power.
  • Ceteris parabus, long-term crack spreads will be upheld simply due to the fact that markets tend to value refining assets at or below their replacement costs (RCN).
  • Compliance and regulatory measures are a more serious threat to the long-term viability of domestic refiners since they often elicit unintended economic consequences.

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On Market Efficiency: Market Fair Value Estimates and the True Cost of Capital

In the world of investing and corporate finance, the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) casts a long shadow. EMH states that a sufficiently liquid market reflects the “correct” price at all times. Since efficient markets factor in all known and relevant information at all times, it is therefore practically futile to attempt to predict the future direction of market prices. In other words, a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at the Wall Street Journal has about the same chance as beating the market averages as any professional investor. At one extreme, the founder of Vanguard Investments Jack Bogle revolutionized the mutual fund industry around cheap indexing, which he posited as the solution to efficient markets. At the other, Warren Buffet’s seminal essay, The Super-Investors of Graham and Doddes-ville, defends the notion that right-headed investors can carve out a significant edge 1. In the middle, you have the greater majority of investors who will likely cede that both extremes contain some amount of the truth. Even 2013 Nobel Laureate Eugene Fama, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, who is credited with developing EMH, has stated that “[asset prices] are typically right and wrong about half the time” 2. Being able to determine when they are right and when they are wrong is the holy grail to traders and investors alike. In order to investigate how correctly assets prices reflect all known information, we must develop an intuition and methodology for estimating the fair value of an asset. As we will discuss, just because a methodology is descriptive does not mean it is predictive (i.e., correlation does not imply causation).
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Protected: Turnaround or Not, Yahoo! Shares A Bargain

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Protected: Shareholders Reject Yongye’s Buyout Offer: boon or boondoggle?

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The Ten Pillars of Quality Investing or: How I Learned to Stop Dumpster Diving for Undervalued Stocks

After recently having completed testing on a general method of discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis for estimating a broad basket of stocks’ intrinsic values, I became more concerned with “quality”. While DCFs remain the foundation of any sound business valuation, I discovered they are highly sensitive to the assumptions and data used. Slightly changing a minute detail can drastically influence the result causing an attractive investment to all of sudden seem not so attractive and vice versa. While relative valuation methods were a natural alternative (Wall Street’s preferred choice, in fact) to circumvent the sensitivity issues, I was inclined to believe that an ability to define robust ‘quality factors’ would complement the ideological purity of the discounted cash flow approach much better. The purpose of this discussion is to demonstrate that a good company can indeed also be a good investment.
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Bloomberg Businessweek Makes Cash Flow Analysis Easier

Bloomberg Businessweek offers an alternative take on the analysis of cash flows, both from the business’ and the investor’s points of view. Their methodology of reporting statements of cash flows provides investors with a more natural way to analyze the ways in which cash flows from investors, into and out of business activities, and then hopefully back to investors. The result is a cash flow statement which, while not perfect, allows investors to more easily differentiate between cash flows from investors and back to investors.

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Kingold Is Precious: Shares Up 40% Following Downgrade By Analysts

On Monday, 23 September 2013, “Kingold Jewelry (NASDAQ:KGJI) was downgraded by analysts at Thomson Reuters/Verus from a buy rating to a hold rating”, according to Zolmax News. The shares closed at $1.73 on Thursday 26 September, up 25% on the day, and up 40.6% from Monday’s close of $1.23.

These kinds of anomalies are pretty rare; living proof of the fallacy of instantaneous market efficiency. But as a wise woman once said, contradictions do not truly exist; “Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong” (AR).

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Yongye (ticker: YONG): A unique risk-arbit​rage opportunit​y

A lone Chinese female investor, Xingmei Zhong, d.b.a. Full Alliance International Ltd., finalized its plan to buyout all outstanding shares of YONG for $6.69 per share in cash. The deal is expected to close at the end of the first fiscal quarter of 2014 (i.e., between October and January). The buyout price reflects a 40% premium to YONG’s market price ($4.79) as of the date of the announcement on 12-Oct-2012.

At $6.25 per share, the buyout represent a 7.04% premium to market price. Investor’s looking for a relatively low-risk return on investment can engage in a risk-arbitrage trade. Investors can buy YONG now and will likely realize the differential between market and buyout price within 3 to 6 months. At the present, one could realize a 29.18% annualized return if the deal executes in 3 months; 14.20% if the deal executes in 6 months.

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