AMREP CORP AXR
September 27, 2012 - 2:47pm EST by
zach721
2012 2013
Price: 9.50 EPS $0.00 $0.00
Shares Out. (in M): 6 P/E 0.0x 0.0x
Market Cap (in $M): 57 P/FCF 0.0x 0.0x
Net Debt (in $M): 1 EBIT 0 0
TEV ($): 52 TEV/EBIT 0.0x 0.0x

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  • real estate assets
  • Magazine
  • Micro Cap
  • Insider Ownership
  • Analyst Coverage
 

Description

Amrep Corp (AXR) is a real estate and media services conglomerate with a market cap of ~$55 million. We believe AXR is worth no less than $30 per share based on 6.5x FY2012 EBITDA for its subscription / fulfillment services business and 2-2.5x tangible book of the company’s real estate business. We believe this is a reasonable multiple of tangible book value because Amrep’s Rio Rancho land was originally acquired in 1961 and 1971 at less than $200 an acre, resulting in a wildly understated cost basis. AXR averaged $62,000 per acre sold from 2008-2012. Similarly situated companies with low-cost land holdings, such as TRC, JOE, and CTO, trade at 1.7-3.4x tangible book vs. AXR’s 0.8x. As an added bonus, AXR’s subscription / fulfillment business, which is not represented in book, generates $1.00 in EBITDA per share. Therefore, after placing a 6.5x multiple on FY2012 EBITDA and a 2.2x multiple on tangible book of $11.00 (which we think still undervalues the real estate, more later), we value AXR at $30.20 per share. In 2006, IBD rated AXR its #1 idea and the stock reached $135. In the bubble days of 2007, AXR sold 1/20th of its total land holdings and generated nearly $66 million in EBIT (pre-tax $10 per share).

 

Media Services

To state the obvious, the magazine logistics business has faced tremendous challenges over the past 5 years. Amrep Corp.’s $92M acquisition of Palm Coast Data (PCD), which the company purchased in 2006 to augment its smaller, media distribution business Kable, was ill-timed to say the least. The environment remains challenging today, with volumes dropping ~10% on a year-over-year basis. Cash flow at PCD is down 20% since AXR’s purchase, and we expect this trend to continue in the near term. There is also an underfunded pension obligation. However, magazine distribution and payment processing is not as terrible of a business as one might expect. It has a high degree of complexity and considerable switching costs with reasonable economics. For instance, PCD processes 30 million pieces of mail and handles 300 million inbound calls per year, simultaneously managing collections and remitting payment in 48 hours for 700+ magazine brands (http://www.palmcoastdata.com/page/performance-scorecard). CDS (Hearst) and PCD together control 80% market share and PCD has established itself as the low-cost leader. Furthermore, the tide may be starting to turn. The company renewed 100% of customer contracts over the past 12 months. New CEO Ted Gaasche was formerly the CEO of SunGard Availability Services, the second-largest division at SunGard with over $1 billion in annual revenue. He and his team are exploring a range of new potential revenue streams, ranging from digital media services to warranty processing. Management has done a commendable job keeping expenses in line with reduced revenue. Given high variable costs, we feel Amrep has additional room to cut costs should revenue continue to decline. With an implied enterprise value of ~40 million, we conservatively estimate this business is worth about 40% of what AXR paid for PCD alone just 6 years ago.

 

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
EBITDA $12.1 $13.8 $3.0 $1.6 $9.7 $6.4

 

Real Estate

Amrep purchased 54K acres outside Albuquerque in 1961 and another 37K between 1969 and 1971, paying about $195 per acre when all was said and done. Since 1961, the city of Rio Rancho has developed into New Mexico’s third-largest city with a population of ~ 90K. Rio Rancho is part of the Albuquerque metropolitan area (population 877K) and home to Intel’s third-largest semiconductor fabrication facility. Other major employers include HP, Alliance Data Systems and Bank of America. There are two hospitals built in the last year at a cost of $500 million. The city boasts one of the newest (founded in 1994) and best school systems in the state featuring 8 new schools in 8 years at a total cost of $800 million (shocking!). Rio Rancho was recently ranked the 58th best small city in the US by CNN Money.

 

While AXR’s real estate is tough to value, we’ve tried several approaches. We think AXR’s AXR Rio Rancho holdings are currently reasonably valued in the $120-140 million range based, in part, on the following data points.

A)      We visited in late 2010 and, in a meeting with the mayor, asked if there were any publicly available documents on assessed tax values of AXR’s land holdings. We found this data is only available in person (no one had ever requested before) and spent 5 hours pulling data on 21,740 lots. The total tax assessment in 2010 on AXR land was $191 million or $31.88 per share. We think this is high.

B)       Comparable companies are valued at an average of 2.4x tangible book. We believe 2.2x book is a reasonable valuation for AXR’s land inventory ($22.40 per share).

Ticker Company Price / Tangible Book
CTO Consolidated Tomoka Land Co. 1.69x
JOE The St. Joe Company 3.35x
TRC Tejon Ranch Co. 2.21x
Average   2.42x
     
AXR AMREP Corp. 0.83x

 

 At $120 million, the implied per-acre value is roughly $6,900. The current assessed property valuation of the entire city is $2.1 billion (source: City of Rio Rancho). AXR owns 20% of total raw land acreage within Rio Rancho’s city limits. We would note that the compound average value per housing start increased 6.7% in Rio Rancho from 1994 to present (source: City of Rio Rancho). From 1975 to 2011, the value of New Mexico land increased at a compound average rate of 5.9% (source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy).

 

In 2006, heffer504 made an outstanding case for shorting AXR. The short worked far better than imagined, as the stock dropped from $70 to $5. Heffer’s downside was $45 based on land valuation of $220 million. With single-family home starts falling 90%, it’s easy to see why the short worked so well. Now the reverse is happening. Even if the market registers no improvement for rest of 2012, single family starts will increase 40% year-over-year.

 

We spent the past Monday and Tuesday in Rio Rancho with one of the area’s larger land brokers. He has been in business 30 years.  We spent 6 hours looking at numerous properties. One important takeaway from our trip: there’s a multiplier effect associated with infrastructure. Proximity to sewage, gas, electric, and paved roads dramatically increases land value. Few homebuilders are in the business of land speculation. Banks are less willing than ever to lend on raw land and want to get such loans off their books, creating a 100% cash market and driving down prices. In Unit 13, where all necessary infrastructure is in place, 90% of the half-acre lots are asking $50K each. Homebuilders are willing to pay 20-25% of total home value, which averages $175K (with some homes going for $500K+). In contrast, banks need liquidity on raw land holdings that, although likely to be built out over the next few years, are still ¼ to ½ mile away from paved roads and utilities. This land is asking $18K an acre. This same location is under a mile from a recently opened, $250 million hospital and a new, $14 million movie complex, not to mention a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Walgreens, and a CVS. As infrastructure is built out, we would not be surprised to see these lots appreciate 3x, especially if $200K homes are being constructed. All of AXR’s land is in the city and will eventually be turned into residential, commercial, and industrial properties. Granted, this will likely take 30-40 years. With the city nearly doubling in size every 10 years (Albuquerque can really only expand northwest along the Rio Grande into Rio Rancho due to the Sandia Mountains), we think the rate of land appreciation will significantly outpace inflation.

 

When all is said and done, we think AXR is worth at least $30. At current prices (~$9.50), buyers are paying 6x FY2012 EBITDA for Palm Coast Data and getting 20% of the third-largest city in New Mexico for free. There are other attractive dynamics at play. With no IR, no conference calls, no road shows and no sell-side coverage for 5+ years, the stock has been left for dead. Also, an 80 year-old director and vice chairman owns 35% of the company. Interestingly, this number is shrinking rapidly as he continues to gift shares to two charities (the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Franklin Institute). Although this dynamic has created an overhang for an illiquid stock like AXR, we see a wonderful buying opportunity.

 

Disclaimer: This does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell this stock. We own shares in this company, and we may buy or sell shares at any time without updating the board.

Catalyst

 Catalysts:

Rio Rancho housing starts troughed in 2011, with only 301. Through August of this year, the city reports 306 single family home starts, setting Rio Rancho on track to achieve an approximately 40% year-over-year improvement. We think starts should go back to 800-1,000+ going forward.

 

With a 6x multiple on FY2012 EBITDA for Palm Coast Data, or $6+ per share, AXR’s Rio Rancho land is valued at $20 million, or $1,000 per acre. In 2010, the tax-assessed value was $10,900 per acre. From 2008-2012, the average price per acre sold was $62,000. Due to attractive demographics and Rio Rancho’s geographic location, we think prices will increase substantially over time. AXR generates free cash flow and trades for what we believe is 80% of wildly understated tangible book value.
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    Description

    Amrep Corp (AXR) is a real estate and media services conglomerate with a market cap of ~$55 million. We believe AXR is worth no less than $30 per share based on 6.5x FY2012 EBITDA for its subscription / fulfillment services business and 2-2.5x tangible book of the company’s real estate business. We believe this is a reasonable multiple of tangible book value because Amrep’s Rio Rancho land was originally acquired in 1961 and 1971 at less than $200 an acre, resulting in a wildly understated cost basis. AXR averaged $62,000 per acre sold from 2008-2012. Similarly situated companies with low-cost land holdings, such as TRC, JOE, and CTO, trade at 1.7-3.4x tangible book vs. AXR’s 0.8x. As an added bonus, AXR’s subscription / fulfillment business, which is not represented in book, generates $1.00 in EBITDA per share. Therefore, after placing a 6.5x multiple on FY2012 EBITDA and a 2.2x multiple on tangible book of $11.00 (which we think still undervalues the real estate, more later), we value AXR at $30.20 per share. In 2006, IBD rated AXR its #1 idea and the stock reached $135. In the bubble days of 2007, AXR sold 1/20th of its total land holdings and generated nearly $66 million in EBIT (pre-tax $10 per share).

     

    Media Services

    To state the obvious, the magazine logistics business has faced tremendous challenges over the past 5 years. Amrep Corp.’s $92M acquisition of Palm Coast Data (PCD), which the company purchased in 2006 to augment its smaller, media distribution business Kable, was ill-timed to say the least. The environment remains challenging today, with volumes dropping ~10% on a year-over-year basis. Cash flow at PCD is down 20% since AXR’s purchase, and we expect this trend to continue in the near term. There is also an underfunded pension obligation. However, magazine distribution and payment processing is not as terrible of a business as one might expect. It has a high degree of complexity and considerable switching costs with reasonable economics. For instance, PCD processes 30 million pieces of mail and handles 300 million inbound calls per year, simultaneously managing collections and remitting payment in 48 hours for 700+ magazine brands (http://www.palmcoastdata.com/page/performance-scorecard). CDS (Hearst) and PCD together control 80% market share and PCD has established itself as the low-cost leader. Furthermore, the tide may be starting to turn. The company renewed 100% of customer contracts over the past 12 months. New CEO Ted Gaasche was formerly the CEO of SunGard Availability Services, the second-largest division at SunGard with over $1 billion in annual revenue. He and his team are exploring a range of new potential revenue streams, ranging from digital media services to warranty processing. Management has done a commendable job keeping expenses in line with reduced revenue. Given high variable costs, we feel Amrep has additional room to cut costs should revenue continue to decline. With an implied enterprise value of ~40 million, we conservatively estimate this business is worth about 40% of what AXR paid for PCD alone just 6 years ago.

     

      2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
    EBITDA $12.1 $13.8 $3.0 $1.6 $9.7 $6.4

     

    Real Estate

    Amrep purchased 54K acres outside Albuquerque in 1961 and another 37K between 1969 and 1971, paying about $195 per acre when all was said and done. Since 1961, the city of Rio Rancho has developed into New Mexico’s third-largest city with a population of ~ 90K. Rio Rancho is part of the Albuquerque metropolitan area (population 877K) and home to Intel’s third-largest semiconductor fabrication facility. Other major employers include HP, Alliance Data Systems and Bank of America. There are two hospitals built in the last year at a cost of $500 million. The city boasts one of the newest (founded in 1994) and best school systems in the state featuring 8 new schools in 8 years at a total cost of $800 million (shocking!). Rio Rancho was recently ranked the 58th best small city in the US by CNN Money.

     

    While AXR’s real estate is tough to value, we’ve tried several approaches. We think AXR’s AXR Rio Rancho holdings are currently reasonably valued in the $120-140 million range based, in part, on the following data points.

    A)      We visited in late 2010 and, in a meeting with the mayor, asked if there were any publicly available documents on assessed tax values of AXR’s land holdings. We found this data is only available in person (no one had ever requested before) and spent 5 hours pulling data on 21,740 lots. The total tax assessment in 2010 on AXR land was $191 million or $31.88 per share. We think this is high.

    B)       Comparable companies are valued at an average of 2.4x tangible book. We believe 2.2x book is a reasonable valuation for AXR’s land inventory ($22.40 per share).

    Ticker Company Price / Tangible Book
    CTO Consolidated Tomoka Land Co. 1.69x
    JOE The St. Joe Company 3.35x
    TRC Tejon Ranch Co. 2.21x
    Average   2.42x
         
    AXR AMREP Corp. 0.83x

     

     At $120 million, the implied per-acre value is roughly $6,900. The current assessed property valuation of the entire city is $2.1 billion (source: City of Rio Rancho). AXR owns 20% of total raw land acreage within Rio Rancho’s city limits. We would note that the compound average value per housing start increased 6.7% in Rio Rancho from 1994 to present (source: City of Rio Rancho). From 1975 to 2011, the value of New Mexico land increased at a compound average rate of 5.9% (source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy).

     

    In 2006, heffer504 made an outstanding case for shorting AXR. The short worked far better than imagined, as the stock dropped from $70 to $5. Heffer’s downside was $45 based on land valuation of $220 million. With single-family home starts falling 90%, it’s easy to see why the short worked so well. Now the reverse is happening. Even if the market registers no improvement for rest of 2012, single family starts will increase 40% year-over-year.

     

    We spent the past Monday and Tuesday in Rio Rancho with one of the area’s larger land brokers. He has been in business 30 years.  We spent 6 hours looking at numerous properties. One important takeaway from our trip: there’s a multiplier effect associated with infrastructure. Proximity to sewage, gas, electric, and paved roads dramatically increases land value. Few homebuilders are in the business of land speculation. Banks are less willing than ever to lend on raw land and want to get such loans off their books, creating a 100% cash market and driving down prices. In Unit 13, where all necessary infrastructure is in place, 90% of the half-acre lots are asking $50K each. Homebuilders are willing to pay 20-25% of total home value, which averages $175K (with some homes going for $500K+). In contrast, banks need liquidity on raw land holdings that, although likely to be built out over the next few years, are still ¼ to ½ mile away from paved roads and utilities. This land is asking $18K an acre. This same location is under a mile from a recently opened, $250 million hospital and a new, $14 million movie complex, not to mention a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Walgreens, and a CVS. As infrastructure is built out, we would not be surprised to see these lots appreciate 3x, especially if $200K homes are being constructed. All of AXR’s land is in the city and will eventually be turned into residential, commercial, and industrial properties. Granted, this will likely take 30-40 years. With the city nearly doubling in size every 10 years (Albuquerque can really only expand northwest along the Rio Grande into Rio Rancho due to the Sandia Mountains), we think the rate of land appreciation will significantly outpace inflation.

     

    When all is said and done, we think AXR is worth at least $30. At current prices (~$9.50), buyers are paying 6x FY2012 EBITDA for Palm Coast Data and getting 20% of the third-largest city in New Mexico for free. There are other attractive dynamics at play. With no IR, no conference calls, no road shows and no sell-side coverage for 5+ years, the stock has been left for dead. Also, an 80 year-old director and vice chairman owns 35% of the company. Interestingly, this number is shrinking rapidly as he continues to gift shares to two charities (the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Franklin Institute). Although this dynamic has created an overhang for an illiquid stock like AXR, we see a wonderful buying opportunity.

     

    Disclaimer: This does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell this stock. We own shares in this company, and we may buy or sell shares at any time without updating the board.

    Catalyst

     Catalysts:

    Rio Rancho housing starts troughed in 2011, with only 301. Through August of this year, the city reports 306 single family home starts, setting Rio Rancho on track to achieve an approximately 40% year-over-year improvement. We think starts should go back to 800-1,000+ going forward.

     

    With a 6x multiple on FY2012 EBITDA for Palm Coast Data, or $6+ per share, AXR’s Rio Rancho land is valued at $20 million, or $1,000 per acre. In 2010, the tax-assessed value was $10,900 per acre. From 2008-2012, the average price per acre sold was $62,000. Due to attractive demographics and Rio Rancho’s geographic location, we think prices will increase substantially over time. AXR generates free cash flow and trades for what we believe is 80% of wildly understated tangible book value.

    Messages


    Subjectwhat drove the stock from 9/6 to 9/12
    Entry10/08/2012 09:48 AM
    Membertyler939
    the stock is pretty illiquid.  Anything other than positioning?

    SubjectRE: Heffer?
    Entry10/22/2012 02:01 PM
    Memberheffer504
    i haven't really stayed current to be honest.  here are my big-picture thoughts though:
     
    1) mgmt is not great.  who pays up to buy a magazine distribution business when the business is in secular decline?  not saying it isn't ok at this valuation, but it should make you think twice...  i am not sure if zach has spoken with them but they were radio silent when i was doing work on this company.
     
    2) i agree with the geographical constraints of albuquerque's growth, but let's not forget that this is desert land here.  sand, cacti, etc.  i guess it is not that different from phoenix but it is tough for me to envision that people really want to live here if intc starts firing people.
     
    3) the idiosyncratic aspect of this company is that there are very few contiguous lots.  this is the glengarry glen ross company, with thousands of quarter acre lot spread around lots of individual owners.  as such, it is difficult to extrapolate from a land banker (like cto/joe/trc) with big parcels that can be built upon as soon as the demand arises, and this company.  in order to assemble a parcel big enough to sell to a builder, they must negotiate with 20 separate parties simultaneously, or be subject to the holdup problem. 
     
    so, to summarize, i think this is a value trap.  my downside from the short writeup was obviously based on land values a lot higher than today.  a surprising amount of ebitda in 2006 was based on commercial plots which will likely not repeat even in an upcycle.  that said, i defer to zach about what percent of their current lots are in large parcels that a homebuilder could build on today, versus small, dispersed lots...
     
    hope that helps
     
    heffer
     

    SubjectRaise
    Entry05/30/2013 01:44 AM
    Memberrjm59
    Zach, what do you make of the 8-k filing today?  How do you think they will raise the required capital? 
    Have you been able to track land sales? Is there any sign of a pickup in activity?

    SubjectRE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Raise
    Entry06/12/2014 10:03 AM
    MemberWeighingMachine
    Crisis averted... for now
     
    http://seekingalpha.com/pr/10192593-amrep-announces-a-comprehensive-settlement-with-heinrich-bauer-usa-llc

    SubjectAXR-any update here
    Entry01/12/2015 01:20 PM
    Memberjhu2000

    Thanks is advance

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