Benoit Colas Long Spirent Communications: Sohn London Conference ~ market folly

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Benoit Colas Long Spirent Communications: Sohn London Conference

We're posting up notes from the recent Sohn London investment conference.  Next up is Benoit Colas of PrimeStone Capital who presented a long of Spirent Communications (LON:SPT)

Benoit Colas's Presentation at Sohn London Conference

PrimeStone have been invested in Spirent for 3 years. Spirent is a fairly complex business that designs, manufactures and tests solutions for communications equipment across a wide range of technologies.  It operates in three divisions: Network and Security - helps Nokia and Cisco test equipment; Connected Devices - tests mobile devices for Apple and Samsung; Lifecycle Service Assurance – helps Telecom Korea.

Despite being a London listed company, it creates 90% of its sales in the US and Asia Pacific. Sales have been stable for the last 10 years. Gross margin has crept up from 65% to 72% over the same period. PrimeStone was attracted by the high EBIT margin of over 20% which lasted until 2013 when they fell below 10% and then rebounded a bit. PrimeStone invested in Spirent with the belief that they could get the EBIT margin back above 20%.The company enjoys a strong and stable global market share and long-lasting relationships with customers. PrimeStone are pulling levers to bring about change at Spirent.

-    There is scope for cost reduction. In 2015, PrimeStone convinced management that they did not need to spend more on product R&D to keep up with competitors.

-    The balance sheet is strong and offers potential. The company has over $100m of cash and PrimeStone have been pushing for this money to be either distributed to shareholders or spent on share buybacks. If there was a $100m buyback the company would remain debt free.

-    There is potential to refocus the business on the most attractive parts. The weaker businesses like Connected Devices should be sold off.

Spirent trades at a discount to its US peers. Colas’ thinks the main reason for the discount is the depressed EBIT margin. As they work to get the margin back above 20% the stock price will rise.

Be sure to check out the rest of the presentations from the Sohn London investment conference.

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