Måns Larsson Short ICA Gruppen: Sohn London Conference ~ market folly

Monday, December 9, 2019

Måns Larsson Short ICA Gruppen: Sohn London Conference

We're posting up notes from the Sohn London investment conference.  Next up is Måns Larsson of Makuria who presented a short of ICA Gruppen (STO: ICA).

Måns Larsson's Sohn London Conference Presentation

Short: ICA Gruppen (STO: ICA)

ICA is a Swedish based supermarket/ grocery business. It’s the largest Swedish supermarket. ICA isrun on a franchisee model.

ICA is significantly overvalued at 25x accounting earnings. It has made good returns for shareholders over the last decade, but Larsson thinks that is about to change. Given the headwinds, 14x earnings would be a fairer valuation.

Challenging fundamentals: sales volumes are declining, the store footprint is contracting, the competition in Sweden is heating up especially with Lidl quietly gaining share.The Swedish grocery market is moving online quite quickly (expect 15% of total by 2022). Online is growing at about 30% per year. ICA doesn’t make money from online sales. ICA’s offline grocery sales are declining at about 1% per annum. Lidl is growing at about 10% CAGR over the last 5 years.  ICA has stores in the Baltic region, but Aldi and Lidl will be opening stores there next year.

Larsson’s research that looks at the accounts of individual franchisees suggests that profitability is heavily skewed towards the large out of town stores (maxis). In the large cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg where online adoption is higher profitability is lower or non-existent. Because many of the franchisees are not making money, ICA as the franchisor may have to lower fees.

Quality of earnings and cash conversion is poorer than it looks: EBIT looks okay, but they have taken a lot one offs. ICA’s cash conversion is poor. Cash flow to equity holders is less than 20% - it doesn’t cover the dividend. Since 2016 about 30% of cash generation has come from non-operating items like networking capital. Reverse factoring is a big component. Management’s capital allocation has not always been good. They have invested too much in online.

ICA is a low-quality supermarket that is going ex-growth yet it is one of the most highly valued food retailers in the developed market.

Be sure to check out the rest of the presentations from Sohn London conference 2019.

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