|Shares Out. (in M):||94||P/E||n/a||4.3|
|Market Cap (in M):||283||P/FCF||4.5||3.0|
|Net Debt (in M):||364||EBIT||30||112|
Headquartered in Jacksonville, APR Energy is a temporary power provider listed on the London Stock Exchange. The business model consists of buying aero-derivative dual-fuel turbine engines from General Electric (owns 17% of APR) and reciprocating engines from Caterpillar and then renting the equipment to emerging market utilities for the purpose of generating electricity. Essentially APR rents portable power plants to utilities across the globe. This is important for disaster relief situations when permanent solutions are off-line (think Fukushima) but the main structural growth driver of APR is the widening gap between the supply and demand of electricity in emerging economies. It is estimated that 1.3 billion people (18% of the global population) live without access to electricity and APR is helping to close this gap, as well provide electricity to countries with unstable or over-utilized power grids due to growing electricity demand. Permanent power plants can cost billions of dollars to build so many capital constrained emerging market utilities and governments choose renting instead of building (“small expensing is easier than large capexing” is APR’s unofficial slogan). The typical contract for APR lasts 6-12 months but the company has been winning new contracts with durations as long as 3 years. While these contracts are called “temporary power solutions,” the contract renewal rate is very high (>85%) since APR is supplying needed power, so in some respects APR is supplying permanent power.
To incentive you to keep reading this report, I’ll go ahead and mention that APR has a $435mm market cap ($995mm enterprise value) and is a highly cash generative (EBITDA margin is >50%) growth business valued at 4-5x normalized earnings, 3-4x normalized EBITDA and a 40% discount to tangible book value. I believe the total return potential for a shareholder at the current stock price of GBp 300 is between 115-160% based on the existing financials. It’s also important to mention that the Chairman and Founder, John Campion, has a tremendous track record of execution and a long-term earnings target of $3.0 per share (equates to $275mm in net profit) to be achieved in 5-7 years. The stock is currently valued at approximately 1.5x the long-term EPS target.
The company was built by John Campion (Chairman) and Laurence Anderson (CEO), who have been business partners since the 1980s. Collectively the two founders own 7% of the shares outstanding. Campion originally worked as a technician in road crews travelling with bands on tour, and he recognized the need for more electricity to power the elaborate lights and amplifiers. So Campion and Anderson founded a company called Showpower in 1987 and began supplying power to bands on tour. The business grew quickly and was ultimately sold to General Electric in 1999 for an undisclosed amount. After working at GE for two years, Campion and Anderson were hired by Alston Power Inc. to start a new business unit called Alston Power Rentals (APR for short) to supply power to a much larger market than concerts: the utility market. APR grew quickly but Campion and Anderson believed the business could grow even faster as an independent entity without the bureaucracy from the parent company. So Campion and Anderson led a management buyout in 2004 and subsequently received investments from Soros Strategic Partners and Albright Capital Management in 2011. Ten years after the management buyout, APR has grown into a much larger business with revenue of $490mm, EBITDA of $250mm and net profit of $75mm (consensus expectations for 2014).
APR was listed in 2012 through a reverse merger (a listed shell company acquired APR) on the London Stock Exchange. One of the reasons APR was listed in London was because its sole competitor, Aggreko plc, is listed there so investors were familiar with the business model and applied a relatively high valuation to the stock (Aggreko was valued at 23x EPS and 12x EBITDA at the time of APR listing). What investors really liked about Aggreko was the growth division, International Power Projects (IPP), which is the identical business of APR. Suffice to say, APR was initially very well received by investors and received a valuation comparable to Aggreko’s.
The temporary power industry is a duopoly with APR (2,189 megawatts) and Aggreko (4,500 megawatts in IPP). However, there is a key difference between APR and Aggreko. Approximately 60% of APR’s 2,189 megawatt (MW) fleet is dual-fuel (gas and oil) turbine technology, which is basically a jet engine in a box. This is a highly sophisticated technology procured from GE that is relatively new to the temporary power industry. The remaining 40% of APR’s fleet is reciprocating engines (think car/truck engines) purchased from Caterpillar. This is low technology equipment but is typically the cheapest solution so certain customers prefer the cheaper alternative, although the emissions from reciprocating engines are significantly higher than turbines. The reason certain customers are willing to pay a premium for turbines rather than opting for the cheaper reciprocating engines, other than for lower emissions, is because turbines offer the same technology that most power plants already use. Renting turbines from APR is like renting an extra Cadillac SUV for your car driving service, which already consists of Cadillac SUVs. Reciprocating engines are more like Volkswagen Beetles to continue with the car analogy: great reliability but doesn’t look like the rest of the equipment. Turbines are rented in 25-30 MW containers offering large scale power solutions, while reciprocating engineers are sold in 1 MW increments and are viewed as temporary, low power solutions. Contrary to APR, Aggreko exclusively owns reciprocating engines leaving APR with a 100% global market share in turbine rentals. Aggreko has stated that they do not intend to enter the turbine rental market since they would be at a competitive disadvantage to APR, who has exclusive sourcing rights from General Electric.
The pricing difference between renting turbines versus reciprocating engines is 1-2 cents per kWh. Renting reciprocating engines for 1 year from APR or Aggreko would cost on average 3 cents per kWh. This translates to $263,000 in revenue per year for 1 MW. The EBITDA margin for an average reciprocating contract is approximately 40%. Turbines typically rent for approximately 4 cents per kWh, which translates to $350,000 in revenue per year for 1 MW. The EBITDA margin for an average turbine contract is approximately 60%. While the cost difference of 1MW to the customers between reciprocating engines ($263,000 per year) and turbines ($350,000 per year) sounds like a meaningful amount, it’s critical to understand that traditionally over 80% of the entire cost of temporary power is fuel cost, which has declined by approximately 50% recently. This should serve as a tailwind for APR and Aggreko since the total cost of temporary power has been significantly reduced. Just to clarify further, the customer purchases fuel separately so fuel cost is not a revenue source or cost for APR, excluding the fuel cost when APR initially delivers the equipment. The important point to understand is the bulk of the cost is fuel, not renting the equipment, so if APR’s fleet is more fuel efficient than Aggreko because it is newer (which it is) and also burns gas (which it does), then APR can reduce the total cost for customers while actually charging a higher rental price than Aggreko.
Since listing in 2012, APR has fallen approximately 75% at the writing of this report. There are several reasons for the decline which are explained below:
APR has 1,280 MW of turbines and 909 MW of reciprocating engines for a total MW capacity of 2,189MW. Traditionally APR has operated with utilization of 70% for recips and nearly 100% utilization for turbines. To be conservative, let’s assume APR has 70% utilization in recips but only 85% utilization in turbines during a normal year. Therefore, estimated annualized revenue would equal $550mm. Here are the assumptions to arrive at normalized revenue: (909MW of recips x 3 cents per kWh x 8,765 hours per year * 70% utilization = $168mm in revenue from recips) + (1,280MW of turbines * 4 cents per kWh * 8,765 hours per year * 85% utilization = $381mm in revenue from turbines) = $550mm in total revenue. We can sanity check these assumptions by looking at the quarterly revenue when utilization was at similar levels and applying the annualized run-rate figure. For example, total utilization was 70% in Q2 2014 and revenue was $134mm (implies run-rate annual revenue of $536mm). With an EV of $995mm, APR is currently valued at normalized EV/Sales of 1.8x EV/Sales. As a point of comparison, Aggreko is valued at 3.0x forward sales. The total normalized EBITDA of APR is approximately $300mm. The reciprocating engines generate $67mm of EBITDA during a normal year (40% EBITDA margin * $167mm of revenue) and the turbines generate $230mm of EBITDA (60% EBITDA margin * $380mm of revenue). This values APR at normalized EV/EBITDA of 3.4x. Aggreko is valued at 8.1x forward EBITDA. Lastly, subtracting D&A of $130mm, interest payments of $35mm and taxes of 20%, net profit would equal approximately $105mm, valuing APR at 4.1x EPS. Aggreko is valued at 20x forward EPS.
The normalized ROCE for APR is approximately 10%, while the ROCE for Aggreko is approximately 21%. The main reason Aggreko has a higher return on capital is due to the fleet age – Aggreko’s equipment is simply older than APR’s. The life of the equipment is typically longer than the depreciation schedule suggests but pricing remains the same throughout the equipment life (reciprocating engines are depreciated using a straight line method over 8-10 years, while turbines are depreciated based on hourly usage, similar to the airline industry), so the ROCE improves as the equipment ages. Customers rarely ask the age of the fleet so Aggreko is generating revenue on fully depreciated equipment (but of course the equipment is freshly painted every year to avoid looking old). Generating revenue on fully depreciated equipment is an important nuance of the APR and Aggreko business model that is overlooked by investors.
The tangible book value of fixed assets of APR is $1,289mm. With net debt of $560mm, APR has a tangible book value of equity of $729mm. The current market cap is $435mm, which offers a 40% discount to tangible equity. APR is trading well below liquidation value. It is also worth noting that General Electric acquired a 17% stake in APR at a share price that was 280% higher than the existing share price of GBp 300.
Due mainly to uncertainty driven by contract concentration and the balance sheet, the stock currently offers attractive value. John Campion’s long-term objective (next 5-7 years) is to generate $1bn in revenue, $3.0 in EPS and achieve a return on capital of 20%. If the long-term targets are achieved, APR is extraordinarily undervalued, but I believe APR is undervalued based on the existing financials and asset base. Given the attractive growth prospects, strong competitive positioning and comparable valuation of Aggreko (19.6x forward EPS and 8.1x forward EBITDA), I believe a conservative valuation for APR is between 10-12x EPS, 5-6x EBITDA and offer a return on tangible equity between 8-10%. These assumptions suggest a total return potential of 115-160% from the existing share price of GBp 300.
There are two near-term catalysts to drive the shares higher: 1) the placement of 450MW from Libya to new countries. It is widely known that there is a large RFP from Argentina. I would not be surprised if a portion of the equipment from Libya was placed in Argentina – Aggreko has 10% of its fleet in Argentina already; and 2) the renewal/extension of Uruguay (300MW) in the next 3-6 months. This extension would de-risk the possibility of breaching covenants. I expect the shares to reach at least GBp 500 (+67%) within 12 months. Since the 52 week low was touched the day of the Libya termination, the shares have appreciated 105% in only 1 month (since Jan 26th)
|Entry||02/22/2015 06:39 PM|
The odds these guys are unable to get their equipment out of Libya?
Im somewhat surprised AGK hasn't bought them (given how beaten up the stock is) to achieve better pricing...
|Entry||06/17/2015 08:28 AM|
Does your thesis change at all following the recent newsflow on operations and management changes ?
|Subject||Re: Re: Update|
|Entry||07/01/2015 03:54 PM|
Thanks for your comments Rowan.
I may be well wrong, but from memory it seems that in the last 2 years the temporary power rental market has slowed significantly relative to history, and contract wins at APR and Aggreko has been indeed much more muted than in the past. This dynamic may be linked to the broader Emerging Markets economic slowdown, but given you know the name very well, I wonder if you have any thoughts on this. With the collapse in fuel prices, i thought diesel turbine would have returned in fashion, but didn't notice any meaningful pick up yet.
The other question I have relates to M&A. With APR stock price being beaten up so much, why wouldn't Aggreko make a move ? In theory hey would remove their number one competitor and probably get it at a very attractive price. I hear you that the previous management team was philosophically averse to turbine (particularly Soames, the CEO), however I wonder whether the lack of meaningful contracts tenders in the market may be another reason why even the new CEO of Aggreko may continue to avoid considering a transaction ?
Appreciate any comments/thoughts. Thank you
|Subject||Re: Re: Re: Update|
|Entry||07/01/2015 04:52 PM|
About the lower turbine demand.
|Subject||Re: Re: Re: Re: Update|
|Entry||07/30/2015 12:06 PM|
Sorry for the slow response here. On Aggreko buying APR, it is probably unlikely to happen since Aggreko does not supply turbines. AGK employs a "cookie-cutter" approach to supplying temporary power by having a huge sales force and thousands of 1MW recip engines that float between the local and PP buisness to maximuse utilization. APR, however, targets larger projects since they believe pricing is better there. The byproduct is that AGK typically enters a bidding contest while APR mostly has 1x1 negotiations. Since AGK and APR have different technologies, sure, the two companies are not 100% comparables but I tried to outline that in my write-up. On the decline in demand from EMs, yes this is true and part of the reason the companies are struggling. I'm comfortable saying that EM power needs grow long-term and AGK and APR should benefit from this