AINSWORTH LUMBER CO LTD ANS
July 06, 2013 - 4:30am EST by
Fenkell
2013 2014
Price: 3.32 EPS $0.00 $0.00
Shares Out. (in M): 242 P/E 0.0x 0.0x
Market Cap (in $M): 802 P/FCF 0.0x 0.0x
Net Debt (in $M): 223 EBIT 0 0
TEV ($): 1,025 TEV/EBIT 0.0x 0.0x

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  • Private Equity (PE)
  • Housing
  • Underfollowed
 

Description

Recommendation:

I am recommending a long position in Ainsworth Lumber Co. (ANS-T), a low-cost wood panel producer.

(pricing is off by a bit as ANS traded higher in the last couple of trading days, it doesn’t impact thesis however)

 

Investment Thesis:

ANS is a wood panel commodity producer (specifically, Oriented Strand Board, “OSB”) with fortunes primarily tied to U.S. Housing activity.

Despite a restructuring that transformed ANS into a low cost producer with a manageable balance sheet and strong free cash flow (FCF)
generation, ANS trades at a meaningful discount to intrinsic value and comparables likely due to ANS’s poor history, lack of research
coverage (until recently) and lack of a dividend policy. I believe this idea is especially timely given the recent almost 50% drop in OSB
commodity prices since March that reflects the volatile nature of OSB rather than an end to the US housing recovery.

While an investment in ANS represents good value in its own right, the path to unlocking ANS’s value is filled with near to medium term

catalysts (for those who do not have a perpetual timeframe for investments) due to Brookfield Asset Management’s (BAM) involvement
as a 55% shareholder. Specifically, BAM’s playbook for Canadian forestry companies is quite apparent when reviewing the corporate
actions of Norbord (NBD) and Western Forest Products (WEF). In both cases, BAM (through its subsidiaries) got involved as (or just
before) the US housing bubble burst, increased its ownership, backstopped a rights offering to fix the balance sheet, improved
operations and cut costs, initiated a dividend and announced buybacks. With improved ANS operations, a late 2012 rights offering
and recent sell-side coverage, a betting person would reasonably conclude a dividend initiation and buyback are in the cards.
Further, with BAM’s recent public comments regarding wanting to exit their forestry investments and their ownership in NBD
(another OSB producer), I believe an M&A transaction to exploit overhead and cost synergies between NBD and ANS is to be
expected in the medium term (18-24 months?).

 

In terms of valuation, I see sustainable FCF generation in the $0.45-$0.50 per share range and come up with a DCF target of $4.20

Although the theoretical downside for most equity investments is zero, realistically I see ANS downside protection in the $2.50 per
share range ($0.20 to $0.25 FCF). This assumes a long-term OSB price of US$200/msf where major competitors in the space would
generate no EBITDA (which is probably draconian and unsustainable). Finally, given ANS trades at a discount to peers despite lower
production costs and low cost embedded growth, I also expect ANS to re-rate to trade in-line (if not at a premium) to peers.

 

Valuation Summary:

Draconian Downside: $2.50

Current share price: $3.20

DCF value: $4.20 (annual FCF in $0.40 to $0.50 range)

Multiple re-rate relative to comps: $3.59-$5

 

There is also a ~$360 mln US non-capital tax loss carry forward that expires starting 2026. If realized that would add ~ $0.15

to all the valuation scenarios (ANS has no US operations at this point)

 

Industry Overview:

 

What is OSB?

OSB stands for Oriented Strand Board and is a wood panel product used in home construction (~45%) (think wall sheathing,

roof, floor board, doors, etc), repair & reno (~25%) and other industrial uses (~30%). In simple terms, OSB is produced by
cutting hardwood trees into shreds, placing these shreds with waterproof glue on a matt and applying a thermal press to
put it together (please read regulatory filings and consultant reports for a more technically accurate description). This commodity
is priced on a thousand square foot basis, generally at a thickness of 3/8 of an inch. The benchmark price is typically the
North Central price.

 

Supply/Demand Dynamics?

Clearly OSB demand is driven by US housing starts and housing activity (renovations).

Investors who are at least not negative on US housing should find OSB an interesting place to be.
OSB demand peaked in 2005 at approximately 27 billion square feet, before troughing at ~ 14 billion square feet.
As of 2012, demand has only recovered to ~16 billion square feet and appears to be lagging the rebound
seen in U.S. housing starts.

 

On the supply side, we can look at OSB capacity (what productive capacity is out there) and OSB “effective” capacity

(what productive capacity is out there and not shutdown). Total North American OSB capacity is ~ 27 bln msf and this
number hasn’t really changed since 2007 (i.e. there has been over capacity due to housing bubble but nobody built much
 net new greenfield capacity in recent years). Due to mill shutdowns, the industry’s effective capacity, however, has come
down from ~ 27 bln msf during the boom years, down to ~21 bln msf currently. The risk to the industry, clearly, is the
possibility of a 20% increase in effective capacity in the next 2 years, without an offsetting increase in underlying
demand over the same period.

 

Who are the OSB players?  

Thanks to the bursting of the US housing bubble, the North American OSB industry has consolidated in recent years.

The top 5 OSB producers account for ~77% of production including: Louisiana Pacific (LPX) 20%, Georgia Pacific 17%,
Norbord 16%, Weyerhaeuser 14% and Ainsworth 10%. Bottom line is the producers probably won’t risk colluding on
prices/supply (http://gotaclassaction.com/in-re-osb-antitrust-litigation-court-approves-five-separate-settlements-worth-95925000/)
but logic would dictate they will not ramp up mill restarts so aggressively as to kill their profitability.

 

Anything special about OSB?

Yes, as an engineered wood product, it has essentially the same structural properties as plywood panels but it is a lot

cheaper to manufacture (~20 to 30% cheaper). The cost advantage exist because with OSB, the input cost is cheaper
as lower cost and lower quality hardwood can be used – one is just shredding these low quality cheap trees and gluing
them together into a panel. On the other hand, plywood panels are typically made from softwood which is more expensive
 input. Further, plywood production requires higher quality softwood. Essentially, you need bigger logs where you are
“peeling” layers out of the log (think sharpening your pencil) to assemble a panel. Given the cost advantage, OSB has
been consistently taking market share from plywood. OSB’s % market share of the overall panel market went from ~55%
in the late 1990’s to 60% currently. Consultants expect OSB market share to increase to 65% by 2014/2015. The key
point here is whether you are forecasting a normal housing start number or a peak future housing start number, OSB
demand for a given level of housing starts will be higher in the future given anticipated market share gains
(and there is no cogent argument for market share losses I’ve heard, versus plywood).

 

If I think US Housing Would Rebound, Why Not Lumber?

Especially from a Canadian perspective, OSB represents less risk because its fibre input is mostly hardwood, not softwood.

There is something called the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in BC Canada. A shortage of pine trees may drive lumber
producers’ costs a lot higher despite a rebound in housing and robust lumber prices. Further, OSB is considered a value-added
product and not subject to duties when sent to the US. Lumber however, is subject to duties based on the softwood lumber
agreement (beyond scope of this report). Further, changes/renegotiation of the softwood lumber agreement could materially
affect the profitability of lumber producers, not so for OSB producers.

 

Commentary on OSB Prices:

OSB prices have historically been volatile. During the US housing boom, OSB prices peaked in 2004 at US$371/msf,

before troughing at US$161/msf in 2007. In 2012, the annual average was US$269/msf. Going as far back as 1995,
the 17 year average nominal OSB price is ~ US$235/msf.

Year to date, OSB prices peaked in March/April at ~US$425/msf. Since then, OSB prices tumbled down to US$240/msf.

 

History of Ainsworth (please read the filings for the nitty gritty):

It is very interesting “Ainsworth Lumber” is neither run by/controlled by the Ainsworth family anymore, nor do they produce

any lumber (its OSB!). Formed in 1952 by David and Tom Ainsworth, Ainsworth Lumber initially operated sawmills and produced
lumber. In the 1990s, ANS decided to enter the OSB business and IPO’ed in 1992. Over the next 15+ years, the Ainsworth family
 expanded OSB capacity aggressively by making acquisitions at any price while racking up a significant amount of debt
(reaching ~ $1 bln). Making matters worse (for minority shareholders), the family occupied every single senior management
position at ANS with the exception of the CFO (who coincidentally got paid the least) and paid themselves quite handsomely.
Rumour was the Ainsworth family had the use of a private aircraft at the expense of the company without disclosing it on the proxy.
This seems to be confirmed by ANS selling their “aircraft” for US$5.75 mln in 2011 (Note 6 of 2012 Annual Report).

 

At any rate, the bursting of the US housing bubble forced ANS to recapitalize in 2008 in order to bring its $1 billion in debt

closer to $450 mln. As a consequence of the recap, the Ainsworth family was ousted and all of the ANS U.S. mills they acquired
were shut and completely written off (they paid $650 mln for them at the peak of the market!). In 2010, HBK Investments
(debt holders who now have shares and warrants) sold its ANS equity stake to BAM’s subsidiary Brookfield Special Situation Partners.
 Converting their warrants, BAM then had a 55% ownership in ANS. Since BAM “took the keys” to ANS, BAM took a number of
aggressive steps in optimizing the company and unlocking value:

1) Help cut G&A almost in half when compared to 2007 levels

2) With mill closures and disciplined capex spend, OSB production costs are now in the $175/msf range vs $235/msf pre-recap

3) Installed a competent CEO with 23 years’ experience at LPX (who else can help get ANS trading at a LPX multiple?)

4) Installed a former BAM Senior Vice President as CFO

5) Put 3 BAM guys on the board

6) Further delever balance sheet via a rights offering (net debt now ~$220 mln, all the way from $1 bln pre-recap) and senior note refinancing

7) Arranged for the acquisition of 50% interest in High Level mill from its bankrupt JV partner Grant Forest Products for $20 mln (or $47/msf).

Granted it is an idle mill but it does give ANS an option for 50% brownfield production growth. Most importantly, you will see in page 9 of ANS’s
2012 annual report that ANS’s “shrewd” acquisition was so favourable that even accounting rules dedicated ANS take a “bargain purchase gain”
of $49.7 mln (I don’t think I have ever seen this happen in the forestry industry). This also resulted in an asset writeup of ANS’s original 50%
stake in High Level of +$22.8 mln. I think this is a great example of BAM’s capital allocation skills, especially when compared to ANS’s recap
acquisitions that resulted in complete writedowns.

 

M&A Transactions          
Buyer Seller Location TX Value Capacity (mmsf) C$/msf
Norbord International Paper US South              250 1155  $        216
Ainsworth Boise/Voyageur Ontario CAN              193 440  $        439
Ainsworth Potlatch Minnesota              458 1350  $        339
Tolko Weyerhaeuser BC CAN                 38 240  $        158
Norbord Meadwestvaco Minnesota                 36 220  $        164
Tembec Jolina Quebec                 85 250  $        340
Georgia Pacific Grant Forest Products Various              430 2250  $        191
Ainsworth Grant Forest Products 50% High Level                 20 430  $          47
Arbec Weyerhaeuser New Brunswick CAN                 48 430  $        110
         AVG  $        223

 

Completing its transformation into a low-cost producer, with a right-sized balance sheet and an option to grow production by 50%,

I expect the market to eventually recognize the intrinsic value of the business easily north of $4 per share. I believe I’m sufficiently
conservative in the assumptions used in my DCF, including: 1) a 12% discount rate (just because), 2) no terminal growth,
3) a US$235/msf 2014 and long-term OSB price deck (in line with 20+ year average despite an improving housing picture).
If I assume OSB prices of US$270/msf (the 2012 average), ANS is a double from here.

 

  2006 2007 2008-stubs 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Sales                         460.9                   359.3                   285.9                   329.5             293.3         409.1         459.8         544.2         581.3         581.3
Costs and Expenses                      
Cost of products sold                         460.5                   341.1                   263.1                   259.6             264.6         287.2         280.0         385.0         411.3         411.3
Selling and administration                           30.8                     29.2                     19.7                     18.6               17.4           16.4           16.7           16.9           17.2           17.4
Amortization                           47.0                     35.8                     36.3                     29.3               24.0           25.6           30.0           32.0           35.0           37.0
Costs of curtailed operations/Other                           66.1 -                     2.0                       2.5                       2.1                  3.3             3.7             2.0      
                          604.4                   404.2                   321.6                   309.6             309.4         333.0         328.7         433.9         463.4         465.7
Income from Ops   -                    143.5 -                  44.9 -                  35.7                     19.9 -             16.1           76.1         131.1         110.3         117.9         115.6
                       
Finance expense   -                      77.1 -                  87.7 -                  53.1 -                  49.5 -             49.8 -        50.8           27.2           27.2           27.2           27.2
Loss on early repayment of LT Debt                              -   -        22.9        
FX Gain (Loss)                         151.9 -                107.1                     80.6                     29.0 -             11.1             9.4        
Gain (Loss) on derivatives     -                     9.9                         6.2 -               6.2           24.0        
Gain on acquisition of High Level                         72.5                -          
Other items                             6.0                       2.8                       3.8                       5.3                  1.6 -           1.2        
EBT   -                      62.7 -                246.8 -                     4.4                     10.9 -               9.1           34.7         158.3         137.5         145.1         142.8
Taxes                           30.7                     13.3                     20.3 -                     0.6               16.7 -           5.9 -        47.5 -        41.2 -        43.5 -        42.8
Income from Continuing Ops   -                      32.0 -                233.5                     15.9                     10.3                  7.6           28.8         110.8           96.2         101.6         100.0
Net Income from Discon't Ops   -                    184.4 -                  88.3 -                  37.5 -                     0.9                  0.7 -           0.4        
Net Income   -                    216.5 -                321.8 -                  21.6                       9.4                  8.3           28.4         110.8           96.2         101.6         100.0
EPS   -$                  14.78   -$                0.22  $                 0.09  $           0.09  $       0.28  $       1.28  $       2.28  $       3.28  $       4.28
Shares Outstanding                           14.6                     100.0                   100.7             100.9         102.6         241.6         241.6         241.6         241.6
                       
EBITDA       -                21.21 -                  9.30 -          34.90           9.51      215.50      196.67      207.27      207.02
                       
Actuarial Losses           -               4.9 -           4.6        
BVPS        $                 2.08  $                 2.17  $           1.88  $       3.76  $       1.74      
Net Debt       -                407.6 -                396.6 -          455.7 -      249.1 -      222.7      
Net Debt per share       -$                4.08 -$                3.94 -$          4.52 -$      2.43 -$      0.92      
                       
Cash from Ops   -                    127.3 -                  55.6 -                  35.3                       6.8 -             27.0           68.1         140.8         128.2         136.6         137.0
Capex   -                      70.1 -                     8.6 -                     6.8 -                  10.2 -               7.8 -           6.0 -        30.0 -        25.0 -        20.0 -        12.0
FCF   -                    197.4 -                  64.2 -                  42.1 -                     3.4 -             34.9           62.1         110.8         103.2         116.6         125.0
FCF per share   -$                  13.48   -$                0.42 -$                0.03 -$          0.35  $       0.61  $       0.46  $       0.43  $       0.48  $       0.52
                       
  Base Case  2 $325 OSB yrs   4 $300 OSB yrs   2 $162 OSB yrs   $200 OSB forever              
ANS DCF Value per share  $           4.15  $                     5.08  $                 5.86  $                 3.38  $                 2.50            
Theoretical dividend @ 30% FCF  $           0.14                    
Theoretical current div yield 4%                    
                       
Discount Rate 12%                    
Growth Rate 0%                    

 

As a side note, you will see most of ANS’s wood fibre supply is accounted for with long-term contracts which limits the risk of

significant cost inflation going forward.

 

Commentary on Brookfield Asset Management:

While it is exciting to have a business trading at a material discount to my intrinsic value estimate, it is even more exciting

when I see many catalysts that should unlock this value (and even perhaps push valuation even higher). I believe the
involvement of BAM could provide catalysts in the near-term.

 

While you may not like BAM’s investment style (especially if you’re Bill Ackman,

http://www.businessinsider.com/ackmans-value-investing-congress-presentation-2012-10?op=1), it is pretty
indisputable they are great capital allocators with BAM’s share price increasing 20% CAGR over the last 20 years
(and having the courage to buyback stock during the crisis).

 

BAM’s Involvement in Paper and Forest Products Industry

BAM through its various subsidiaries have been fairly active in acquiring stakes in building materials (i.e. lumber and panels)

and timberland companies several years ago (just around the financial crisis). My sense is their investment thesis is:

1) Unlike commodities facing structural declines (like paper products), building materials demand is cyclical and BAM is fairly

confident U.S. housing will rebound at some point

2) Some forestry companies are run by entrenched founding families that are not particularly good at capital allocation or

keeping a prudent balance sheet

3) BAM employs some fairly senior forestry industry people and former sell-side analysts (i.e. http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/reid-carter/11/b48/4b0)

– presumably they are ready to install them as management or reach out to industry veterans

BAM now wants to sell

In recent conference calls, BAM has made it pretty clear they are interested in divesting their forestry related investments given:

1) their capital has been deployed for ~5 years and they see other redeployment opportunities, 2) US housing is recovering
3) the heavy lifting is pretty much complete in terms of management, operation and financial overhaul.

Clearly, BAM isn’t just talking about this and they are taking action in realizing value. Not only that, they seem to do everything

in their power to get top dollar for their assets. For instance, see their recent Longview sale:

http://www.brookfield.com/content/2013_press_releases/brookfield_sells_longview_timber_and_longview_fibr-37384.html

 

How BAM Extracts Value:

Unlike the outright Longview sale, BAM’s approach to Canadian building material companies have been a little different.

For those with access to Bloomberg, I encourage you to do a quick “CACS” on NBD and WEF and you will get a sense of what I mean.
Its impractical for me to write a full report of NBD and WEF here but I will give a brief narrative on both.

Norbord (OSB producer)

-    Heading into the financial crisis, NBD had too much debt on its balance sheet and began burning cash

-    At the end of 2008/early 2009, NBD did a rights offering fully backstopped by BAM to delever its balance sheet

-    Irrational fear drove NBD’s share price below the rights’ exercise price and BAM backstopped the offering

and raised its equity stake to ~ 75%

-   With help from a recovering US housing market, NBD also improved its operations under BAM’s guidance

-   Over the past ~2 years, NBD (I’m sure with BAM’s input) had a couple of share buyback programs. BAM also used this

opportunity to throw in secondary offerings to reduce their stake (BAM now just under 65%)

-  Most recently, NBD announced in April 2013 a variable dividend based on FCF starting in June 2013.

http://www.norbord.com/news/norbord-reports-improved-q1-2013-results-declares-dividend.php

 

Western Forest Products (Lumber producer):

-  Formerly known as Doman Industries, a forestry company founded by the Doman family

-  Similar to Ainsworth, Doman had a levered balance sheet, a questionable capital allocation strategy

and mediocre operating assets

-  BAM got involved as housing downturn began

-  WEF also did a rights offering in Dec 2008 to help improve balance sheet. BAM (through Tricap its restructuring arm)

owned just under 50% of WEF

-  New management team installed, operations improved, costs cut

-  Requests sell-side coverage (see recent initiation reports)

-  Just this week announced initiating a dividend and a $100 mln dutch auction (share buyback) which BAM will participate

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/western-forest-products-announces-100-million-substantial-issuer-bid-initiates-regular-tsx-wef-1807976.htm

 

 

Unlocking ANS Value Imminent

Given the pattern of how BAM operates, I think BAM is highly likely to follow the same playbook for ANS. In fact, with the

rights offering complete and some debt refinanced, I see a dividend and/or share buyback announcement quite imminent
(in recent conference calls ANS hinted at being open to returning capital to shareholders but mentioned the upcoming capex spend).
Interestingly, several sell-side analysts have also initiated coverage of ANS (with “Buys” of course).

 

I am very confident that BAM is keenly aware and irritated that ANS trades at a discount to both NBD and LPX

(on consensus EV/EBITDA multiples) despite being the lowest cost producer with the best assets amongst the three.
Not only that, ANS has installed capacity that can be restarted fairly quickly to grow production by 50%. Given the
history of ANS, I would assume BAM is working hard to get sell-side to cover ANS and tell its newly improved story,
and initiate a dividend comparable to NBD in the hopes of an ANS multiple re-rate. Here is what the 3 OSB producers
 are trading at on 2013 and 2014 EV/EBITDA multiples, the implication here is ANS can easily re-rate and trade anywhere
 from $3.59 to $5 per share (in fact one could argue for a premium given its low cost advantage and growth potential):

 

Comparable Analysis ANS NBD LPX
Stock Price  $           3.13  $                  29.65  $              15.13
Market Cap  $            756 1592 2101
Net Debt             222.7 276 319.6
EV  $            979  $                  1,868  $              2,421
2013E EV/EBITDA                  4.5                           5.0                       6.5
2014E EV/EBITDA                  3.7                           5.2                       5.4
2013E consensus EBITDA 217.83 373.44  $              371.9
2014E consensus EBITDA 263.33 360.67  $              445.2
Dividend Yield   2%  
  2013 2014  
If ANS trades at NBD multiple  $           3.59  $                     4.72  
Upside 15% 51%  
If ANS trades at LPX multiple  $           4.95  $                     5.01  
Upside 58% 60%  

 

Unlocking Value Via M&A:

BAM Happens to own 65% of Norbord (16% OSB market share) AND 55% Ainsworth (10% OSB market share).

It is definitely not a stretch for BAM to orchestrate a merger between NBD and ANS as there should definitely be some overhead
and operational cost synergies. I concede it is too difficult to quantify what the upside to ANS may be as I have no idea how the
deal would be structured, which side would pay the premium, etc. However, presumably with much improved trading liquidity,
an industry leading proforma market share (26% vs LPX at 20%), a management team with good capital allocation skills and
likely reasonable dividend yield (LPX does not pay a dividend currently), it is not difficult to envision the NBD/ANS entity trading
at a premium multiple to LPX down the road.

 

Why does this opportunity exist:

-  Horrible shareholder experience with ANS before restructuring

-  Virtually no sell-side coverage until recently

-  Multiple discount due to lack of dividend

-  Financial restructuring via rights offering and debt refinancing not well understood

(I noticed ANS rights were occasionally trading below intrinsic value (difference between market price and exercise price))

-  Volatility in underlying OSB commodity (-50% from March 2013 peak) driving fear

 

Risks:

-  Weaker US housing markets and OSB oversupply

-  Lack of industry supply discipline

-  Strengthening C$

-  BAM rips off minority shareholders (i.e. via egregious management contracts, incentive fees, etc.)

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The write-up is only intended for VIC members and not for dissemination.

Not investment advice, no warranties expressed or implied, subject to material and potentially egregious errors. Basically, do your own homework.

 

I do not hold a position of employment, directorship, or consultancy with the issuer.
I and/or others I advise hold a material investment in the issuer's securities.

Catalyst

- Dividend and/or share buyback announcement and multiple re-rate

- Growth in productive capacity via High Level mill restart

- Merger with Norbord, realizing synergies and multiple re-rate (to LPX)

- Outright sale

- Continued deleveraging of balance sheet

    sort by    

    Description

    Recommendation:

    I am recommending a long position in Ainsworth Lumber Co. (ANS-T), a low-cost wood panel producer.

    (pricing is off by a bit as ANS traded higher in the last couple of trading days, it doesn’t impact thesis however)

     

    Investment Thesis:

    ANS is a wood panel commodity producer (specifically, Oriented Strand Board, “OSB”) with fortunes primarily tied to U.S. Housing activity.

    Despite a restructuring that transformed ANS into a low cost producer with a manageable balance sheet and strong free cash flow (FCF)
    generation, ANS trades at a meaningful discount to intrinsic value and comparables likely due to ANS’s poor history, lack of research
    coverage (until recently) and lack of a dividend policy. I believe this idea is especially timely given the recent almost 50% drop in OSB
    commodity prices since March that reflects the volatile nature of OSB rather than an end to the US housing recovery.

    While an investment in ANS represents good value in its own right, the path to unlocking ANS’s value is filled with near to medium term

    catalysts (for those who do not have a perpetual timeframe for investments) due to Brookfield Asset Management’s (BAM) involvement
    as a 55% shareholder. Specifically, BAM’s playbook for Canadian forestry companies is quite apparent when reviewing the corporate
    actions of Norbord (NBD) and Western Forest Products (WEF). In both cases, BAM (through its subsidiaries) got involved as (or just
    before) the US housing bubble burst, increased its ownership, backstopped a rights offering to fix the balance sheet, improved
    operations and cut costs, initiated a dividend and announced buybacks. With improved ANS operations, a late 2012 rights offering
    and recent sell-side coverage, a betting person would reasonably conclude a dividend initiation and buyback are in the cards.
    Further, with BAM’s recent public comments regarding wanting to exit their forestry investments and their ownership in NBD
    (another OSB producer), I believe an M&A transaction to exploit overhead and cost synergies between NBD and ANS is to be
    expected in the medium term (18-24 months?).

     

    In terms of valuation, I see sustainable FCF generation in the $0.45-$0.50 per share range and come up with a DCF target of $4.20

    Although the theoretical downside for most equity investments is zero, realistically I see ANS downside protection in the $2.50 per
    share range ($0.20 to $0.25 FCF). This assumes a long-term OSB price of US$200/msf where major competitors in the space would
    generate no EBITDA (which is probably draconian and unsustainable). Finally, given ANS trades at a discount to peers despite lower
    production costs and low cost embedded growth, I also expect ANS to re-rate to trade in-line (if not at a premium) to peers.

     

    Valuation Summary:

    Draconian Downside: $2.50

    Current share price: $3.20

    DCF value: $4.20 (annual FCF in $0.40 to $0.50 range)

    Multiple re-rate relative to comps: $3.59-$5

     

    There is also a ~$360 mln US non-capital tax loss carry forward that expires starting 2026. If realized that would add ~ $0.15

    to all the valuation scenarios (ANS has no US operations at this point)

     

    Industry Overview:

     

    What is OSB?

    OSB stands for Oriented Strand Board and is a wood panel product used in home construction (~45%) (think wall sheathing,

    roof, floor board, doors, etc), repair & reno (~25%) and other industrial uses (~30%). In simple terms, OSB is produced by
    cutting hardwood trees into shreds, placing these shreds with waterproof glue on a matt and applying a thermal press to
    put it together (please read regulatory filings and consultant reports for a more technically accurate description). This commodity
    is priced on a thousand square foot basis, generally at a thickness of 3/8 of an inch. The benchmark price is typically the
    North Central price.

     

    Supply/Demand Dynamics?

    Clearly OSB demand is driven by US housing starts and housing activity (renovations).

    Investors who are at least not negative on US housing should find OSB an interesting place to be.
    OSB demand peaked in 2005 at approximately 27 billion square feet, before troughing at ~ 14 billion square feet.
    As of 2012, demand has only recovered to ~16 billion square feet and appears to be lagging the rebound
    seen in U.S. housing starts.

     

    On the supply side, we can look at OSB capacity (what productive capacity is out there) and OSB “effective” capacity

    (what productive capacity is out there and not shutdown). Total North American OSB capacity is ~ 27 bln msf and this
    number hasn’t really changed since 2007 (i.e. there has been over capacity due to housing bubble but nobody built much
     net new greenfield capacity in recent years). Due to mill shutdowns, the industry’s effective capacity, however, has come
    down from ~ 27 bln msf during the boom years, down to ~21 bln msf currently. The risk to the industry, clearly, is the
    possibility of a 20% increase in effective capacity in the next 2 years, without an offsetting increase in underlying
    demand over the same period.

     

    Who are the OSB players?  

    Thanks to the bursting of the US housing bubble, the North American OSB industry has consolidated in recent years.

    The top 5 OSB producers account for ~77% of production including: Louisiana Pacific (LPX) 20%, Georgia Pacific 17%,
    Norbord 16%, Weyerhaeuser 14% and Ainsworth 10%. Bottom line is the producers probably won’t risk colluding on
    prices/supply (http://gotaclassaction.com/in-re-osb-antitrust-litigation-court-approves-five-separate-settlements-worth-95925000/)
    but logic would dictate they will not ramp up mill restarts so aggressively as to kill their profitability.

     

    Anything special about OSB?

    Yes, as an engineered wood product, it has essentially the same structural properties as plywood panels but it is a lot

    cheaper to manufacture (~20 to 30% cheaper). The cost advantage exist because with OSB, the input cost is cheaper
    as lower cost and lower quality hardwood can be used – one is just shredding these low quality cheap trees and gluing
    them together into a panel. On the other hand, plywood panels are typically made from softwood which is more expensive
     input. Further, plywood production requires higher quality softwood. Essentially, you need bigger logs where you are
    “peeling” layers out of the log (think sharpening your pencil) to assemble a panel. Given the cost advantage, OSB has
    been consistently taking market share from plywood. OSB’s % market share of the overall panel market went from ~55%
    in the late 1990’s to 60% currently. Consultants expect OSB market share to increase to 65% by 2014/2015. The key
    point here is whether you are forecasting a normal housing start number or a peak future housing start number, OSB
    demand for a given level of housing starts will be higher in the future given anticipated market share gains
    (and there is no cogent argument for market share losses I’ve heard, versus plywood).

     

    If I think US Housing Would Rebound, Why Not Lumber?

    Especially from a Canadian perspective, OSB represents less risk because its fibre input is mostly hardwood, not softwood.

    There is something called the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in BC Canada. A shortage of pine trees may drive lumber
    producers’ costs a lot higher despite a rebound in housing and robust lumber prices. Further, OSB is considered a value-added
    product and not subject to duties when sent to the US. Lumber however, is subject to duties based on the softwood lumber
    agreement (beyond scope of this report). Further, changes/renegotiation of the softwood lumber agreement could materially
    affect the profitability of lumber producers, not so for OSB producers.

     

    Commentary on OSB Prices:

    OSB prices have historically been volatile. During the US housing boom, OSB prices peaked in 2004 at US$371/msf,

    before troughing at US$161/msf in 2007. In 2012, the annual average was US$269/msf. Going as far back as 1995,
    the 17 year average nominal OSB price is ~ US$235/msf.

    Year to date, OSB prices peaked in March/April at ~US$425/msf. Since then, OSB prices tumbled down to US$240/msf.

     

    History of Ainsworth (please read the filings for the nitty gritty):

    It is very interesting “Ainsworth Lumber” is neither run by/controlled by the Ainsworth family anymore, nor do they produce

    any lumber (its OSB!). Formed in 1952 by David and Tom Ainsworth, Ainsworth Lumber initially operated sawmills and produced
    lumber. In the 1990s, ANS decided to enter the OSB business and IPO’ed in 1992. Over the next 15+ years, the Ainsworth family
     expanded OSB capacity aggressively by making acquisitions at any price while racking up a significant amount of debt
    (reaching ~ $1 bln). Making matters worse (for minority shareholders), the family occupied every single senior management
    position at ANS with the exception of the CFO (who coincidentally got paid the least) and paid themselves quite handsomely.
    Rumour was the Ainsworth family had the use of a private aircraft at the expense of the company without disclosing it on the proxy.
    This seems to be confirmed by ANS selling their “aircraft” for US$5.75 mln in 2011 (Note 6 of 2012 Annual Report).

     

    At any rate, the bursting of the US housing bubble forced ANS to recapitalize in 2008 in order to bring its $1 billion in debt

    closer to $450 mln. As a consequence of the recap, the Ainsworth family was ousted and all of the ANS U.S. mills they acquired
    were shut and completely written off (they paid $650 mln for them at the peak of the market!). In 2010, HBK Investments
    (debt holders who now have shares and warrants) sold its ANS equity stake to BAM’s subsidiary Brookfield Special Situation Partners.
     Converting their warrants, BAM then had a 55% ownership in ANS. Since BAM “took the keys” to ANS, BAM took a number of
    aggressive steps in optimizing the company and unlocking value:

    1) Help cut G&A almost in half when compared to 2007 levels

    2) With mill closures and disciplined capex spend, OSB production costs are now in the $175/msf range vs $235/msf pre-recap

    3) Installed a competent CEO with 23 years’ experience at LPX (who else can help get ANS trading at a LPX multiple?)

    4) Installed a former BAM Senior Vice President as CFO

    5) Put 3 BAM guys on the board

    6) Further delever balance sheet via a rights offering (net debt now ~$220 mln, all the way from $1 bln pre-recap) and senior note refinancing

    7) Arranged for the acquisition of 50% interest in High Level mill from its bankrupt JV partner Grant Forest Products for $20 mln (or $47/msf).

    Granted it is an idle mill but it does give ANS an option for 50% brownfield production growth. Most importantly, you will see in page 9 of ANS’s
    2012 annual report that ANS’s “shrewd” acquisition was so favourable that even accounting rules dedicated ANS take a “bargain purchase gain”
    of $49.7 mln (I don’t think I have ever seen this happen in the forestry industry). This also resulted in an asset writeup of ANS’s original 50%
    stake in High Level of +$22.8 mln. I think this is a great example of BAM’s capital allocation skills, especially when compared to ANS’s recap
    acquisitions that resulted in complete writedowns.

     

    M&A Transactions          
    Buyer Seller Location TX Value Capacity (mmsf) C$/msf
    Norbord International Paper US South              250 1155  $        216
    Ainsworth Boise/Voyageur Ontario CAN              193 440  $        439
    Ainsworth Potlatch Minnesota              458 1350  $        339
    Tolko Weyerhaeuser BC CAN                 38 240  $        158
    Norbord Meadwestvaco Minnesota                 36 220  $        164
    Tembec Jolina Quebec                 85 250  $        340
    Georgia Pacific Grant Forest Products Various              430 2250  $        191
    Ainsworth Grant Forest Products 50% High Level                 20 430  $          47
    Arbec Weyerhaeuser New Brunswick CAN                 48 430  $        110
             AVG  $        223

     

    Completing its transformation into a low-cost producer, with a right-sized balance sheet and an option to grow production by 50%,

    I expect the market to eventually recognize the intrinsic value of the business easily north of $4 per share. I believe I’m sufficiently
    conservative in the assumptions used in my DCF, including: 1) a 12% discount rate (just because), 2) no terminal growth,
    3) a US$235/msf 2014 and long-term OSB price deck (in line with 20+ year average despite an improving housing picture).
    If I assume OSB prices of US$270/msf (the 2012 average), ANS is a double from here.

     

      2006 2007 2008-stubs 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
    Sales                         460.9                   359.3                   285.9                   329.5             293.3         409.1         459.8         544.2         581.3         581.3
    Costs and Expenses                      
    Cost of products sold                         460.5                   341.1                   263.1                   259.6             264.6         287.2         280.0         385.0         411.3         411.3
    Selling and administration                           30.8                     29.2                     19.7                     18.6               17.4           16.4           16.7           16.9           17.2           17.4
    Amortization                           47.0                     35.8                     36.3                     29.3               24.0           25.6           30.0           32.0           35.0           37.0
    Costs of curtailed operations/Other                           66.1 -                     2.0                       2.5                       2.1                  3.3             3.7             2.0      
                              604.4                   404.2                   321.6                   309.6             309.4         333.0         328.7         433.9         463.4         465.7
    Income from Ops   -                    143.5 -                  44.9 -                  35.7                     19.9 -             16.1           76.1         131.1         110.3         117.9         115.6
                           
    Finance expense   -                      77.1 -                  87.7 -                  53.1 -                  49.5 -             49.8 -        50.8           27.2           27.2           27.2           27.2
    Loss on early repayment of LT Debt                              -   -        22.9        
    FX Gain (Loss)                         151.9 -                107.1                     80.6                     29.0 -             11.1             9.4        
    Gain (Loss) on derivatives     -                     9.9                         6.2 -               6.2           24.0        
    Gain on acquisition of High Level                         72.5                -          
    Other items                             6.0                       2.8                       3.8                       5.3                  1.6 -           1.2        
    EBT   -                      62.7 -                246.8 -                     4.4                     10.9 -               9.1           34.7         158.3         137.5         145.1         142.8
    Taxes                           30.7                     13.3                     20.3 -                     0.6               16.7 -           5.9 -        47.5 -        41.2 -        43.5 -        42.8
    Income from Continuing Ops   -                      32.0 -                233.5                     15.9                     10.3                  7.6           28.8         110.8           96.2         101.6         100.0
    Net Income from Discon't Ops   -                    184.4 -                  88.3 -                  37.5 -                     0.9                  0.7 -           0.4        
    Net Income   -                    216.5 -                321.8 -                  21.6                       9.4                  8.3           28.4         110.8           96.2         101.6         100.0
    EPS   -$                  14.78   -$                0.22  $                 0.09  $           0.09  $       0.28  $       1.28  $       2.28  $       3.28  $       4.28
    Shares Outstanding                           14.6                     100.0                   100.7             100.9         102.6         241.6         241.6         241.6         241.6
                           
    EBITDA       -                21.21 -                  9.30 -          34.90           9.51      215.50      196.67      207.27      207.02
                           
    Actuarial Losses           -               4.9 -           4.6        
    BVPS        $                 2.08  $                 2.17  $           1.88  $       3.76  $       1.74      
    Net Debt       -                407.6 -                396.6 -          455.7 -      249.1 -      222.7      
    Net Debt per share       -$                4.08 -$                3.94 -$          4.52 -$      2.43 -$      0.92      
                           
    Cash from Ops   -                    127.3 -                  55.6 -                  35.3                       6.8 -             27.0           68.1         140.8         128.2         136.6         137.0
    Capex   -                      70.1 -                     8.6 -                     6.8 -                  10.2 -               7.8 -           6.0 -        30.0 -        25.0 -        20.0 -        12.0
    FCF   -                    197.4 -                  64.2 -                  42.1 -                     3.4 -             34.9           62.1         110.8         103.2         116.6         125.0
    FCF per share   -$                  13.48   -$                0.42 -$                0.03 -$          0.35  $       0.61  $       0.46  $       0.43  $       0.48  $       0.52
                           
      Base Case  2 $325 OSB yrs   4 $300 OSB yrs   2 $162 OSB yrs   $200 OSB forever              
    ANS DCF Value per share  $           4.15  $                     5.08  $                 5.86  $                 3.38  $                 2.50            
    Theoretical dividend @ 30% FCF  $           0.14                    
    Theoretical current div yield 4%                    
                           
    Discount Rate 12%                    
    Growth Rate 0%                    

     

    As a side note, you will see most of ANS’s wood fibre supply is accounted for with long-term contracts which limits the risk of

    significant cost inflation going forward.

     

    Commentary on Brookfield Asset Management:

    While it is exciting to have a business trading at a material discount to my intrinsic value estimate, it is even more exciting

    when I see many catalysts that should unlock this value (and even perhaps push valuation even higher). I believe the
    involvement of BAM could provide catalysts in the near-term.

     

    While you may not like BAM’s investment style (especially if you’re Bill Ackman,

    http://www.businessinsider.com/ackmans-value-investing-congress-presentation-2012-10?op=1), it is pretty
    indisputable they are great capital allocators with BAM’s share price increasing 20% CAGR over the last 20 years
    (and having the courage to buyback stock during the crisis).

     

    BAM’s Involvement in Paper and Forest Products Industry

    BAM through its various subsidiaries have been fairly active in acquiring stakes in building materials (i.e. lumber and panels)

    and timberland companies several years ago (just around the financial crisis). My sense is their investment thesis is:

    1) Unlike commodities facing structural declines (like paper products), building materials demand is cyclical and BAM is fairly

    confident U.S. housing will rebound at some point

    2) Some forestry companies are run by entrenched founding families that are not particularly good at capital allocation or

    keeping a prudent balance sheet

    3) BAM employs some fairly senior forestry industry people and former sell-side analysts (i.e. http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/reid-carter/11/b48/4b0)

    – presumably they are ready to install them as management or reach out to industry veterans

    BAM now wants to sell

    In recent conference calls, BAM has made it pretty clear they are interested in divesting their forestry related investments given:

    1) their capital has been deployed for ~5 years and they see other redeployment opportunities, 2) US housing is recovering
    3) the heavy lifting is pretty much complete in terms of management, operation and financial overhaul.

    Clearly, BAM isn’t just talking about this and they are taking action in realizing value. Not only that, they seem to do everything

    in their power to get top dollar for their assets. For instance, see their recent Longview sale:

    http://www.brookfield.com/content/2013_press_releases/brookfield_sells_longview_timber_and_longview_fibr-37384.html

     

    How BAM Extracts Value:

    Unlike the outright Longview sale, BAM’s approach to Canadian building material companies have been a little different.

    For those with access to Bloomberg, I encourage you to do a quick “CACS” on NBD and WEF and you will get a sense of what I mean.
    Its impractical for me to write a full report of NBD and WEF here but I will give a brief narrative on both.

    Norbord (OSB producer)

    -    Heading into the financial crisis, NBD had too much debt on its balance sheet and began burning cash

    -    At the end of 2008/early 2009, NBD did a rights offering fully backstopped by BAM to delever its balance sheet

    -    Irrational fear drove NBD’s share price below the rights’ exercise price and BAM backstopped the offering

    and raised its equity stake to ~ 75%

    -   With help from a recovering US housing market, NBD also improved its operations under BAM’s guidance

    -   Over the past ~2 years, NBD (I’m sure with BAM’s input) had a couple of share buyback programs. BAM also used this

    opportunity to throw in secondary offerings to reduce their stake (BAM now just under 65%)

    -  Most recently, NBD announced in April 2013 a variable dividend based on FCF starting in June 2013.

    http://www.norbord.com/news/norbord-reports-improved-q1-2013-results-declares-dividend.php

     

    Western Forest Products (Lumber producer):

    -  Formerly known as Doman Industries, a forestry company founded by the Doman family

    -  Similar to Ainsworth, Doman had a levered balance sheet, a questionable capital allocation strategy

    and mediocre operating assets

    -  BAM got involved as housing downturn began

    -  WEF also did a rights offering in Dec 2008 to help improve balance sheet. BAM (through Tricap its restructuring arm)

    owned just under 50% of WEF

    -  New management team installed, operations improved, costs cut

    -  Requests sell-side coverage (see recent initiation reports)

    -  Just this week announced initiating a dividend and a $100 mln dutch auction (share buyback) which BAM will participate

    http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/western-forest-products-announces-100-million-substantial-issuer-bid-initiates-regular-tsx-wef-1807976.htm

     

     

    Unlocking ANS Value Imminent

    Given the pattern of how BAM operates, I think BAM is highly likely to follow the same playbook for ANS. In fact, with the

    rights offering complete and some debt refinanced, I see a dividend and/or share buyback announcement quite imminent
    (in recent conference calls ANS hinted at being open to returning capital to shareholders but mentioned the upcoming capex spend).
    Interestingly, several sell-side analysts have also initiated coverage of ANS (with “Buys” of course).

     

    I am very confident that BAM is keenly aware and irritated that ANS trades at a discount to both NBD and LPX

    (on consensus EV/EBITDA multiples) despite being the lowest cost producer with the best assets amongst the three.
    Not only that, ANS has installed capacity that can be restarted fairly quickly to grow production by 50%. Given the
    history of ANS, I would assume BAM is working hard to get sell-side to cover ANS and tell its newly improved story,
    and initiate a dividend comparable to NBD in the hopes of an ANS multiple re-rate. Here is what the 3 OSB producers
     are trading at on 2013 and 2014 EV/EBITDA multiples, the implication here is ANS can easily re-rate and trade anywhere
     from $3.59 to $5 per share (in fact one could argue for a premium given its low cost advantage and growth potential):

     

    Comparable Analysis ANS NBD LPX
    Stock Price  $           3.13  $                  29.65  $              15.13
    Market Cap  $            756 1592 2101
    Net Debt             222.7 276 319.6
    EV  $            979  $                  1,868  $              2,421
    2013E EV/EBITDA                  4.5                           5.0                       6.5
    2014E EV/EBITDA                  3.7                           5.2                       5.4
    2013E consensus EBITDA 217.83 373.44  $              371.9
    2014E consensus EBITDA 263.33 360.67  $              445.2
    Dividend Yield   2%  
      2013 2014  
    If ANS trades at NBD multiple  $           3.59  $                     4.72  
    Upside 15% 51%  
    If ANS trades at LPX multiple  $           4.95  $                     5.01  
    Upside 58% 60%  

     

    Unlocking Value Via M&A:

    BAM Happens to own 65% of Norbord (16% OSB market share) AND 55% Ainsworth (10% OSB market share).

    It is definitely not a stretch for BAM to orchestrate a merger between NBD and ANS as there should definitely be some overhead
    and operational cost synergies. I concede it is too difficult to quantify what the upside to ANS may be as I have no idea how the
    deal would be structured, which side would pay the premium, etc. However, presumably with much improved trading liquidity,
    an industry leading proforma market share (26% vs LPX at 20%), a management team with good capital allocation skills and
    likely reasonable dividend yield (LPX does not pay a dividend currently), it is not difficult to envision the NBD/ANS entity trading
    at a premium multiple to LPX down the road.

     

    Why does this opportunity exist:

    -  Horrible shareholder experience with ANS before restructuring

    -  Virtually no sell-side coverage until recently

    -  Multiple discount due to lack of dividend

    -  Financial restructuring via rights offering and debt refinancing not well understood

    (I noticed ANS rights were occasionally trading below intrinsic value (difference between market price and exercise price))

    -  Volatility in underlying OSB commodity (-50% from March 2013 peak) driving fear

     

    Risks:

    -  Weaker US housing markets and OSB oversupply

    -  Lack of industry supply discipline

    -  Strengthening C$

    -  BAM rips off minority shareholders (i.e. via egregious management contracts, incentive fees, etc.)

     

     

     

    Disclaimer: The write-up is only intended for VIC members and not for dissemination.

    Not investment advice, no warranties expressed or implied, subject to material and potentially egregious errors. Basically, do your own homework.

     

    I do not hold a position of employment, directorship, or consultancy with the issuer.
    I and/or others I advise hold a material investment in the issuer's securities.

    Catalyst

    - Dividend and/or share buyback announcement and multiple re-rate

    - Growth in productive capacity via High Level mill restart

    - Merger with Norbord, realizing synergies and multiple re-rate (to LPX)

    - Outright sale

    - Continued deleveraging of balance sheet

    Messages


    SubjectA few questions
    Entry07/08/2013 01:27 AM
    Membersnarfy
    Thanks for sharing.  I have a few questions:
     
    1.  What are the components of their cash costs?
    2.  What is the outlook for Canadian housing?
    3.  Do you have an estimate for the replacement value of their capacity?
    4.  Why are OSB prices down 50% since March?
     
    Thanks again.

    SubjectRE: RE: A few questions
    Entry07/08/2013 11:15 AM
    MemberElmSt14
    Thanks for the idea . . . a few additional questions:
     
    1. Why does ANS have such higher margins than NBD and LPX if those competitors are so much larger?  You mentioned that NBD/LPX have $30 - $50/msf lower margins - what explains that in a commodity business?  
     
    2.  What do you think "normalized" earnings are for the company?  i.e. if you use your long term $235 OSB benchmark price, some estimate for LT run-rate capacity and production, margins, capital structure, etc?  By my math, LTM EBITDA = $160mm less $25mm of D&A/capex less $28mm interest expense and 30% taxes = $75mm in net income / FCF.  That would equate to just under 11x.  I guess you would say that LT earnings power is higher because of increased production, offset by somewhat lower prices than LTM's ~$290/msf?  
     
    3. On your financial projections, it appears that you are adding the financial expense to EBIT?  $131mm EBIT + $27.2mm interest = $158.3 in EBT?
     
    Thanks

    SubjectQuestion / Comment
    Entry07/08/2013 01:48 PM
    Membernychrg
    Fenkell,
    Thanks for the post on ANS. We have been watching ANS and agree it starts to look interesting in the low 3s ... that said, he's a philosphical question for you and others on the thread and therefore maybe a slight pushback on your valuation / buy rating. If you think fair value is $4.20, is 25% upside enough to justify in a small cap, highly cyclical, somewhat illiquid and volitile equity, particulalry in light of mortage rates that are close to having a 5 handle? Said another way, at $3.20 its at the mid-point between your fair value and your 'dranconian downside' value. We'd argue that's not enough upside to justify an investment at these prices unless you believe $4.20 is understating fair value (for the sake of being conservative) or that there's a good probability of an upside case playing out that gets the stock into the 5s ... Structually we like the fact that ANS, as a smallish player in a fairly consolidated industry, might be able to bring on mothballed capacity representing material volume growth without  flooding the OSB market and perhaps this could be a path towards the upside case (as opposed to betting on a strong OSB pricing rebound which we don't feel qualified to project). Can you comment on whether you think there's upside to your fair value and any thoughts on probabilities of the upside case playing out? Thanks

    Subject3.76!
    Entry09/05/2013 09:18 AM
    Membersurf1680
    congrats!   Not as high as some of your targets but better than nothing?
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