CHIQUITA BRANDS INTL INC CQB
April 02, 2014 - 3:39pm EST by
aviclara181
2014 2015
Price: 12.40 EPS n/a n/a
Shares Out. (in M): 96 P/E n/a n/a
Market Cap (in $M): 1,190 P/FCF n/a n/a
Net Debt (in $M): 606 EBIT 0 0
TEV ($): 1,796 TEV/EBIT n/a n/a

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  • Turnaround
  • Food Manufacturer
  • Management Change
  • Acquisition
 

Description

Business Description and Background:

Chiquita Brands International (CQB) is my worst performing VIC idea ever, but much has changed since I last posted it in 2009. It is once again a compelling opportunity with the potential to more than double. As a result of managerial missteps since its emergence from bankruptcy over a decade ago, CQB has generated poor shareholder returns and appears to be over-levered.  With an upgraded management team, a credible turn-around plan and a recently-announced, transformative merger (with Ireland-domiciled Fyffes), CQB should be able to generate ~$2.50 of sustainable free cash flow with significantly lower volatility than in the past

CQB has historically been a small capitalization stock with limited sell-side or buy-side interest. With the merger with Fyffes, the current combined market capitalization of the new company is approximately $1.2bn, which should allow for larger investors to make meaningful investments.

CQB has a ~$2.0bn banana business, an under-performing ~$1.0bn salad and healthy snacks business and a ~$0.1bn other produce business.  CQB is one of the largest marketers and distributers of bananas and other fresh produce in the world.

Fernando Aguirre, a 20-year Proctor & Gamble veteran, was CQB’s President & CEO from January 2004 until October 2012.  In my opinion, Fernando was a disaster for CQB and the board finally pushed him out due to persistent poor performance.  I believe some of Aguirre’s major issues included the following: (1) alienating customers by refusing to provide a private-label solution, (2) initiating a misguided attempt at creating a consumer packaged goods business around the Chiquita brand (3) allowing CQB to be passed up by competition in terms of packaged salad innovation, and (4) executing poorly in general.  In October 2012, CQB’s board brought in a turn-around specialist, Edward Lonergan, to address the various operational problems plaguing the business.  Since that time, Lonergan has been making steady progress at CQB, increasing profitability in the core banana business, laying the groundwork for a credible salad turn-around, right-sizing overhead, shuttering non-core businesses and rapidly de-levering the business to about 5x net debt/EBITDA as of the December 2013 quarter. 

Pro Forma ChiquitaFyffes:

CQB recently announced a transformative merger with Fyffes PLC (FFY ID or FFY LN), one of the world’s largest marketers of bananas, pineapples and melons.  Fyffe’s shareholders will receive 0.1567 shares of CQB for every share of Fyffes they own, creating a new entity with a pro forma enterprise value of ~$1.8bn.  The combined entity will be called ChiquitaFyffes PLC (domiciled in Ireland, trading in the US), with current CQB shareholders owning 50.7% and Fyffe’s shareholders owning 49.3%.  On a pro forma basis, ChiquitaFyffes will have the #1 market share in European bananas, the #2 market share in the US bananas, the #1 market share in US melons and the #3 market share in US and European pineapples.  The combined business will be 70% bananas, 21% salads and healthy snacks and 9% other produce, with a geographic exposure of 47% US, 46% Europe and 7% other international.

 Ed Lonergan was a major upgrade for CQB and he has laid the groundwork for a credible turnaround at CQB. However, having Fyffe’s management team take over the combined entity is yet another incremental upgrade, in my opinion.  Ed Lonergan will stick around as Chairman of ChiquitaFyffes.

 

CQB Standalone:

CQB management put out long-term (24-36 month) financial targets that called for the salad business to print 8% EBIT margins and the banana business to post 4% EBIT margins, which would result in $110mm of EBIT if taken at face value.  Importantly, management explicitly assumed a $1.23/euro exchange rate at the time. Assuming the euro stays at today’s levels of ~$1.38, applying a 60% FX flow-through margin, that 4.0% banana EBIT target would really be ~6.0%, which would get you to an adjusted long-term target for standalone CQB of $155mm of EBIT and $220mm of EBITDA on a standalone CQB enterprise value of ~$1.2bn (excluding value of tax attributes).

Pro Forma Earnings Potential and “New” Lower Volatility Business Mix:

The combined ChiquitaFyffes business is experiencing a number of tailwinds going into 2014 (2015 and 2016 as well).  For starters, CQB’s 2013 “adjusted” actual EBIT results of $53mm include ($18mm) of operating losses in the salad business tied to the opening of a new plant (which should disappear, then flip from negative to positive as the plant will generate a positive return through reduced cost) and ($26 mm) of currency hedge losses that won’t recur to the same magnitude (last year fully hedged at 1.23). These one-time items materially impacted CQB earnings (negatively impacted EBITDA by roughly $45mm and EPS by close to $.80 cents), setting up favorable compares for 2014.

North American banana prices tend to be negotiated on a contract basis for rolling 12-18 month terms.  Gradually, CQB has been layering in fuel and cardboard cost pass-through features into an increasing percentage of these contracts. On the Q4 call, CQB management stated that 75% of 2014’s North American banana volume had already been locked in at “slightly higher pricing”.  Northern European markets, the majority of Fyffe’s businesses, operate similar to North America with longer term contracted prices.  Southern European prices, on the other hand, are typically sold on the spot market, which tends to lead to significant volatility in quarter-to-quarter results.  Standalone Chiquita’s European exposure tends to be more oriented toward Southern Europe, while Fyffes is skewed toward Northern Europe.  Combining Fyffes’ more stable European business with CQB’s more volatile European business should help dampen the volatility in pro forma results, with more than 80% of total pro forma banana boxes shipped in reasonably stable end markets.  (Stabilizing the salad business should also serve to dampen the volatility of the pro form entity, as the salad business should be a relatively stable business, if properly managed.)

While banana pricing can be volatile on a short-term basis, it’s important to note that, broadly speaking, 2013 and also 2014 year to date pricing in the US, Northern and Southern Europe is not significantly different from 5-year annual averages.  In other words, I’m not extrapolating unsustainably high pricing into the future. In the bridges below, I assume North American pricing improves +2.5% yoy as a result of aforementioned contracts, but I assume no other pricing adjustment for CQB or Fyffes.  Furthermore, I assume zero volume growth and zero underlying cost inflation.

Management published official synergy estimates of $40mm, but on the call announcing the merger, management referred to “at least” $40mm of synergies.  Given the nature of Irish takeover rules, any synergy estimate management puts out requires rigorous review and sign-off from auditors and bankers.  In addition, given some degree of regulatory scrutiny from competition authorities, management has no incentive to put out a stretch goal in terms of synergies.  Consequently, that $40 mm official synergy target is likely a conservative, “in-the-bag” number and the true, eventual synergy is likely to be meaningfully higher.  My base case assumes management’s $40mm target, but I think the real bogey could be $50-$60mm.

 

ChiquitaFyffes should continue to rapidly de-lever.  On my estimates, pro forma Net Debt/EBITDA should approach 1x at the end of 2015; In 2016, I assume ChiquitaFyffes calls their 7 7/8 notes in February 2016 and pays off its converts at maturity in August 2016.  I assume the company elects to refinance ~$300 mm of gross debt mid-year at 6%, resulting in actual cash interest paid of ~$18 mm for 2016. I assume that exiting 2016, CQB will be well under 0.5x levered (pro forma CQB is already down to a 2.7x net debt / EBITDA ratio assuming $40 mm of synergies on 2013 actual EBITDA, compared to nearly 5.0x net debt/EBITDA for standalone CQB).

Given ChiquitaFyffes will be an Irish-domiciled trading company, its normalized tax rate should reside in the low-to-mid-teens %.  It’s also worth pointing out that Chiquita standalone has a $395mm Federal NOL and $620mm worth of foreign NOLs, resulting in a cash tax rate of 10% or less for many years to come.  As an aside, I estimate the net present value of these tax shields in isolation to be somewhere in the $150-$200 mm range (roughly $2 a share to the pro-forma company).

The bridges below provided a buildup to my pro forma 2015+2016 ChiquitaFyffes forecast, assuming the merger took effect Jan 1st 2015. The bridges assume no change to current operating performance in the Fyffes businesses or the CQB banana business, but allow for improvements in the salad business and for the layering-in of synergies and updated FX estimates. In the case of standalone Fyffes (which will be reporting results in USD once consolidated with CQB), I haircut the implied FX benefit of 46mm by 50% because the benefit seems too large. It’s important to point out that the 2016 bridge uses a conservative $40mm synergy estimate and implies salad EBIT% margins of ~6% vs. management’s goal of 8%.  I do not model in any dividends or buybacks for pro forma ChiquitaFyffes.

 

Chiquita Standalone 2014 Bridge  
Standalone CQB - starting point is 2013 actual per press release $53
Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
Total Banana Pricing Impacts $29
Total Incremental Salad EBIT    $38
Total FX impact, net of hedges    $34
Incremental brand support across both businesses ($10)
Total other adjustments (primarily adj. for amortization gain)  ($7)
Chiquita Standalone 2014 EBIT $137

 

Fyffes Standalone 2014 Bridge  
Standalone FFY - starting point is 2013 actual    $45
Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
Total Banana Pricing Impacts $23
Total FX impact, net of hedges $0
Total other adjustments (primarily adj. for amortization gain)         $0
Chiquita Standalone 2014 EBIT $68

 

ChiquitaFyffes 2015 Bridge  
Standalone CQB - starting point is 2014 bridge                          $137
Standalone FFY - starting point is 2014 bridge $68
Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
Total Banana Pricing Impacts $0
Total Incremental Salad EBIT $30
Total Incremental Synergies $20
Total FX, hedge-related and all other adjustments  ($1)
Pro Forma ChiquitaFyffes 2015 EBIT $254
PF D&A $74
2015 PF Operational EBITDA $327
PF Capex ($71)
PF Cash Interest ($47)
PF Cash Tax ($20)
2015 PF Free Cash Flow (pre NWC) $190
shares 96
2015 Free Cash Flow / Share (pre NWC) $1.98
 
ChiquitaFyffes 2016Bridge  
PF ChiquitaFyffes EBIT from 2015 bridge above $254
Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
Total Banana Pricing Impacts $0
Total Incremental Salad EBIT $20
Total Incremental Synergies $0
Total FX, hedge-related and all other adjustments                      $0
Pro Forma ChiquitaFyffes 2016EBIT $274
PF D&A $76
2016PF Operational EBITDA $350
PF Capex ($71)
PF Cash Interest ($18)
PF Cash Tax ($25)
2016PF Free Cash Flow (pre NWC) $236
shares 96
2016Free Cash Flow / Share (pre NWC) $2.46
 
Valuation:
At yesterday’s closing price of $12.40, pro forma ChiquitaFyffe’s has a ~19.8% free cash flow yield to the equity on my 2016 free cash flow estimate of $2.46 (2016 is the first year of normalized synergies and stabilized salad margins). 

My price target assumes CQB trades at 12x free cash flow to the equity of $2.46 (~$29.50) in 2 years’ time.  Discounting ~$29.50 back by 2 years at 10% results in a price target of ~$24.50, resulting in a ~98% return from current levels.

Assuming $40 mm of synergies, and giving credit for 2014 cash flow generation, I estimate pro forma CQB is currently trading at ~5.2x TEV/EBITDA excluding the value of the NOL and ~4.7x TEV/EBITDA including the value of the NOL. 

If I assume pro forma CQB trades at 7.5x 2016 EBITDA, assuming year-end net-debt adjustments of ~$71mm, I get to a ~$26.50 stock.  Discounting back 2 years at 10% gets me to a ~$22 stock price (ex-tax attributes). Adding ~$2/share for the value of the NOLs gets me back up to a ~$24 stock.  Even at 6.5x TEV/EBITDA using the same methodology, I get to a ~$21 stock.  On this same methodology, CQB is currently trading at less than 3.8x 2016 pro forma EBITDA. 

Fyffes management has been fond of dividends, and currently pays out about 25% of earnings in the form of dividends.  Assuming 2016 EPS looks somewhat similar to 2016 free cash flow/share, a ~25% payout ratio on 2016 estimates would imply a dividend of ~$.62/share (or a ~5.0% yield at the current CQB stock price), on an inherently more stable business with a relatively conservative capital structure. 

Key Risks:

*The Fyffe’s deal could fall apart, but even in that scenario, standalone Chiquita is still an interesting investment on the back of its salad turnaround story and FX tailwinds

*Weakening of the euro (or to a lesser extent the GBP) relative the USD

*Banana pricing volatility, particularly in European markets

 

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

(1) completion of the merger with Fyffes
(2) earnings, particularly progress on merger synergies and salad margin improvement
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    Description

    Business Description and Background:

    Chiquita Brands International (CQB) is my worst performing VIC idea ever, but much has changed since I last posted it in 2009. It is once again a compelling opportunity with the potential to more than double. As a result of managerial missteps since its emergence from bankruptcy over a decade ago, CQB has generated poor shareholder returns and appears to be over-levered.  With an upgraded management team, a credible turn-around plan and a recently-announced, transformative merger (with Ireland-domiciled Fyffes), CQB should be able to generate ~$2.50 of sustainable free cash flow with significantly lower volatility than in the past

    CQB has historically been a small capitalization stock with limited sell-side or buy-side interest. With the merger with Fyffes, the current combined market capitalization of the new company is approximately $1.2bn, which should allow for larger investors to make meaningful investments.

    CQB has a ~$2.0bn banana business, an under-performing ~$1.0bn salad and healthy snacks business and a ~$0.1bn other produce business.  CQB is one of the largest marketers and distributers of bananas and other fresh produce in the world.

    Fernando Aguirre, a 20-year Proctor & Gamble veteran, was CQB’s President & CEO from January 2004 until October 2012.  In my opinion, Fernando was a disaster for CQB and the board finally pushed him out due to persistent poor performance.  I believe some of Aguirre’s major issues included the following: (1) alienating customers by refusing to provide a private-label solution, (2) initiating a misguided attempt at creating a consumer packaged goods business around the Chiquita brand (3) allowing CQB to be passed up by competition in terms of packaged salad innovation, and (4) executing poorly in general.  In October 2012, CQB’s board brought in a turn-around specialist, Edward Lonergan, to address the various operational problems plaguing the business.  Since that time, Lonergan has been making steady progress at CQB, increasing profitability in the core banana business, laying the groundwork for a credible salad turn-around, right-sizing overhead, shuttering non-core businesses and rapidly de-levering the business to about 5x net debt/EBITDA as of the December 2013 quarter. 

    Pro Forma ChiquitaFyffes:

    CQB recently announced a transformative merger with Fyffes PLC (FFY ID or FFY LN), one of the world’s largest marketers of bananas, pineapples and melons.  Fyffe’s shareholders will receive 0.1567 shares of CQB for every share of Fyffes they own, creating a new entity with a pro forma enterprise value of ~$1.8bn.  The combined entity will be called ChiquitaFyffes PLC (domiciled in Ireland, trading in the US), with current CQB shareholders owning 50.7% and Fyffe’s shareholders owning 49.3%.  On a pro forma basis, ChiquitaFyffes will have the #1 market share in European bananas, the #2 market share in the US bananas, the #1 market share in US melons and the #3 market share in US and European pineapples.  The combined business will be 70% bananas, 21% salads and healthy snacks and 9% other produce, with a geographic exposure of 47% US, 46% Europe and 7% other international.

     Ed Lonergan was a major upgrade for CQB and he has laid the groundwork for a credible turnaround at CQB. However, having Fyffe’s management team take over the combined entity is yet another incremental upgrade, in my opinion.  Ed Lonergan will stick around as Chairman of ChiquitaFyffes.

     

    CQB Standalone:

    CQB management put out long-term (24-36 month) financial targets that called for the salad business to print 8% EBIT margins and the banana business to post 4% EBIT margins, which would result in $110mm of EBIT if taken at face value.  Importantly, management explicitly assumed a $1.23/euro exchange rate at the time. Assuming the euro stays at today’s levels of ~$1.38, applying a 60% FX flow-through margin, that 4.0% banana EBIT target would really be ~6.0%, which would get you to an adjusted long-term target for standalone CQB of $155mm of EBIT and $220mm of EBITDA on a standalone CQB enterprise value of ~$1.2bn (excluding value of tax attributes).

    Pro Forma Earnings Potential and “New” Lower Volatility Business Mix:

    The combined ChiquitaFyffes business is experiencing a number of tailwinds going into 2014 (2015 and 2016 as well).  For starters, CQB’s 2013 “adjusted” actual EBIT results of $53mm include ($18mm) of operating losses in the salad business tied to the opening of a new plant (which should disappear, then flip from negative to positive as the plant will generate a positive return through reduced cost) and ($26 mm) of currency hedge losses that won’t recur to the same magnitude (last year fully hedged at 1.23). These one-time items materially impacted CQB earnings (negatively impacted EBITDA by roughly $45mm and EPS by close to $.80 cents), setting up favorable compares for 2014.

    North American banana prices tend to be negotiated on a contract basis for rolling 12-18 month terms.  Gradually, CQB has been layering in fuel and cardboard cost pass-through features into an increasing percentage of these contracts. On the Q4 call, CQB management stated that 75% of 2014’s North American banana volume had already been locked in at “slightly higher pricing”.  Northern European markets, the majority of Fyffe’s businesses, operate similar to North America with longer term contracted prices.  Southern European prices, on the other hand, are typically sold on the spot market, which tends to lead to significant volatility in quarter-to-quarter results.  Standalone Chiquita’s European exposure tends to be more oriented toward Southern Europe, while Fyffes is skewed toward Northern Europe.  Combining Fyffes’ more stable European business with CQB’s more volatile European business should help dampen the volatility in pro forma results, with more than 80% of total pro forma banana boxes shipped in reasonably stable end markets.  (Stabilizing the salad business should also serve to dampen the volatility of the pro form entity, as the salad business should be a relatively stable business, if properly managed.)

    While banana pricing can be volatile on a short-term basis, it’s important to note that, broadly speaking, 2013 and also 2014 year to date pricing in the US, Northern and Southern Europe is not significantly different from 5-year annual averages.  In other words, I’m not extrapolating unsustainably high pricing into the future. In the bridges below, I assume North American pricing improves +2.5% yoy as a result of aforementioned contracts, but I assume no other pricing adjustment for CQB or Fyffes.  Furthermore, I assume zero volume growth and zero underlying cost inflation.

    Management published official synergy estimates of $40mm, but on the call announcing the merger, management referred to “at least” $40mm of synergies.  Given the nature of Irish takeover rules, any synergy estimate management puts out requires rigorous review and sign-off from auditors and bankers.  In addition, given some degree of regulatory scrutiny from competition authorities, management has no incentive to put out a stretch goal in terms of synergies.  Consequently, that $40 mm official synergy target is likely a conservative, “in-the-bag” number and the true, eventual synergy is likely to be meaningfully higher.  My base case assumes management’s $40mm target, but I think the real bogey could be $50-$60mm.

     

    ChiquitaFyffes should continue to rapidly de-lever.  On my estimates, pro forma Net Debt/EBITDA should approach 1x at the end of 2015; In 2016, I assume ChiquitaFyffes calls their 7 7/8 notes in February 2016 and pays off its converts at maturity in August 2016.  I assume the company elects to refinance ~$300 mm of gross debt mid-year at 6%, resulting in actual cash interest paid of ~$18 mm for 2016. I assume that exiting 2016, CQB will be well under 0.5x levered (pro forma CQB is already down to a 2.7x net debt / EBITDA ratio assuming $40 mm of synergies on 2013 actual EBITDA, compared to nearly 5.0x net debt/EBITDA for standalone CQB).

    Given ChiquitaFyffes will be an Irish-domiciled trading company, its normalized tax rate should reside in the low-to-mid-teens %.  It’s also worth pointing out that Chiquita standalone has a $395mm Federal NOL and $620mm worth of foreign NOLs, resulting in a cash tax rate of 10% or less for many years to come.  As an aside, I estimate the net present value of these tax shields in isolation to be somewhere in the $150-$200 mm range (roughly $2 a share to the pro-forma company).

    The bridges below provided a buildup to my pro forma 2015+2016 ChiquitaFyffes forecast, assuming the merger took effect Jan 1st 2015. The bridges assume no change to current operating performance in the Fyffes businesses or the CQB banana business, but allow for improvements in the salad business and for the layering-in of synergies and updated FX estimates. In the case of standalone Fyffes (which will be reporting results in USD once consolidated with CQB), I haircut the implied FX benefit of 46mm by 50% because the benefit seems too large. It’s important to point out that the 2016 bridge uses a conservative $40mm synergy estimate and implies salad EBIT% margins of ~6% vs. management’s goal of 8%.  I do not model in any dividends or buybacks for pro forma ChiquitaFyffes.

     

    Chiquita Standalone 2014 Bridge  
    Standalone CQB - starting point is 2013 actual per press release $53
    Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
    Total Banana Pricing Impacts $29
    Total Incremental Salad EBIT    $38
    Total FX impact, net of hedges    $34
    Incremental brand support across both businesses ($10)
    Total other adjustments (primarily adj. for amortization gain)  ($7)
    Chiquita Standalone 2014 EBIT $137

     

    Fyffes Standalone 2014 Bridge  
    Standalone FFY - starting point is 2013 actual    $45
    Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
    Total Banana Pricing Impacts $23
    Total FX impact, net of hedges $0
    Total other adjustments (primarily adj. for amortization gain)         $0
    Chiquita Standalone 2014 EBIT $68

     

    ChiquitaFyffes 2015 Bridge  
    Standalone CQB - starting point is 2014 bridge                          $137
    Standalone FFY - starting point is 2014 bridge $68
    Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
    Total Banana Pricing Impacts $0
    Total Incremental Salad EBIT $30
    Total Incremental Synergies $20
    Total FX, hedge-related and all other adjustments  ($1)
    Pro Forma ChiquitaFyffes 2015 EBIT $254
    PF D&A $74
    2015 PF Operational EBITDA $327
    PF Capex ($71)
    PF Cash Interest ($47)
    PF Cash Tax ($20)
    2015 PF Free Cash Flow (pre NWC) $190
    shares 96
    2015 Free Cash Flow / Share (pre NWC) $1.98
     
    ChiquitaFyffes 2016Bridge  
    PF ChiquitaFyffes EBIT from 2015 bridge above $254
    Total Banana Volume Impacts $0
    Total Banana Pricing Impacts $0
    Total Incremental Salad EBIT $20
    Total Incremental Synergies $0
    Total FX, hedge-related and all other adjustments                      $0
    Pro Forma ChiquitaFyffes 2016EBIT $274
    PF D&A $76
    2016PF Operational EBITDA $350
    PF Capex ($71)
    PF Cash Interest ($18)
    PF Cash Tax ($25)
    2016PF Free Cash Flow (pre NWC) $236
    shares 96
    2016Free Cash Flow / Share (pre NWC) $2.46
     
    Valuation:
    At yesterday’s closing price of $12.40, pro forma ChiquitaFyffe’s has a ~19.8% free cash flow yield to the equity on my 2016 free cash flow estimate of $2.46 (2016 is the first year of normalized synergies and stabilized salad margins). 

    My price target assumes CQB trades at 12x free cash flow to the equity of $2.46 (~$29.50) in 2 years’ time.  Discounting ~$29.50 back by 2 years at 10% results in a price target of ~$24.50, resulting in a ~98% return from current levels.

    Assuming $40 mm of synergies, and giving credit for 2014 cash flow generation, I estimate pro forma CQB is currently trading at ~5.2x TEV/EBITDA excluding the value of the NOL and ~4.7x TEV/EBITDA including the value of the NOL. 

    If I assume pro forma CQB trades at 7.5x 2016 EBITDA, assuming year-end net-debt adjustments of ~$71mm, I get to a ~$26.50 stock.  Discounting back 2 years at 10% gets me to a ~$22 stock price (ex-tax attributes). Adding ~$2/share for the value of the NOLs gets me back up to a ~$24 stock.  Even at 6.5x TEV/EBITDA using the same methodology, I get to a ~$21 stock.  On this same methodology, CQB is currently trading at less than 3.8x 2016 pro forma EBITDA. 

    Fyffes management has been fond of dividends, and currently pays out about 25% of earnings in the form of dividends.  Assuming 2016 EPS looks somewhat similar to 2016 free cash flow/share, a ~25% payout ratio on 2016 estimates would imply a dividend of ~$.62/share (or a ~5.0% yield at the current CQB stock price), on an inherently more stable business with a relatively conservative capital structure. 

    Key Risks:

    *The Fyffe’s deal could fall apart, but even in that scenario, standalone Chiquita is still an interesting investment on the back of its salad turnaround story and FX tailwinds

    *Weakening of the euro (or to a lesser extent the GBP) relative the USD

    *Banana pricing volatility, particularly in European markets

     

    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

    (1) completion of the merger with Fyffes
    (2) earnings, particularly progress on merger synergies and salad margin improvement

    Messages


    SubjectRE: Risk of Fyffe's deal falling apart?
    Entry04/02/2014 05:17 PM
    Memberaviclara181
    we think it is highly unlikely that it falls apart, but highlight that as a risk.  The overlap between the two companies is limited - Fyffe has no banana exposure in the US and is very big in UK and Norhter Europe.  CQB has little exposure to Northern Europe bananas but has significant exposure to southern europe.  Fyffe has a US melons bussiness and CQB has a US salads business.  We dont think anti trust issues will stop this deal from closing (although we suspect there will be some growers/competitors will complain).  CQB stock is up high single digit % since the deal was annouced, so not much is embedded in the price.  However, if it does not close, part of our thesis would go away - ie. lower consolidated volatility and synergies.

    SubjectThanks
    Entry04/03/2014 12:55 PM
    Memberaa123
    Thanks for this interesting idea. A few questions
    1. Why do you think ceo of fyffes is an upgrade to current ceo of cqb? More generally looking at fyffes business over the last few years, their ebitda margin is pretty low so any insight on management of fyffes would be appreciated.
    2. Besides management target, what gives you confidence that the salad business can get to 6 per cent margin?
    thanks.

    SubjectRE: Thanks
    Entry04/03/2014 02:43 PM
    Memberaviclara181
    (1)  In my opinion, Fyffe's management is an incremental upgrade to CQB's current management because the Fyffe's guys are solid operators and industry veterans, posting relatively steady operating performance, decent returns on capital and respectable total returns to shareholders in a historically difficult industry.  CQB's management team is good, but they are turnaround guys brought in to stabilized the ship.  At any rate,  you are still getting the best of both management teams as the current CQB CEO will be Chairman of the combined entity.  Since CQB and Fyffes are essentially trading companies that effectively pass-through a huge chunk of their costs, operating margins for these businesses appear optically low at face value.
    (2)  As layed out in the bridges, the salad segment EBIT in 2013 is starting at ($6)mm; that included ($18mm) of transition costs at Streamwood in 2013 that will drop to zero; then you get another estimated ~$5mm of added cost saves from that plant coming on-line, which means you are really starting at  ~$32mm of salad EBIT or (~3.2% already). The next $30mm (~300bps) of EBIT margin expansion to get to a ~6% margin comes from assumptions around core blocking/tackling, weather normalization and undoing of prior mistakes.  For context, they've posted ~6% EBIT margins in the past, guidance is 8% and, at time of acquisition, the salad business was thought to be able to reach ~10% one day.  In addition, 6% EBIT margins for a salad appear reasonable relative to FDP's other fresh produce margins.

    SubjectRE: Mortal Threat?
    Entry04/09/2014 08:36 AM
    MemberMJS27
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-09/banana-supplies-seen-by-un-s-fao-at-risk-after-disease-spreads.html
     
    hat tip Coda.

    SubjectRE: RE: RE: RE: Mortal Threat?
    Entry04/09/2014 02:05 PM
    MemberMJS27
    This is a pretty interesting situation (possibly more for trivial pursuit than for investing, but interesting none the less)
     
    it seems like it is a race between this disease and the growers/geneticists who are trying to find a new type/strain/mutation of banana that is disease resistant.
     
    while my initial thought was X years to find a new banana and then Y years to grow a whole bunch of new trees = the future of bananas is grim, it turns out that Y should be measured in months.
     
    Apparently bananas "trees" are not really trees, but rather herbaceuous plants that can produce fruit within 10-18 months of planting.  
     
    who knew?

    SubjectRE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Mortal Threat?
    Entry04/10/2014 11:09 AM
    Memberaviclara181

    Some thoughts on banana fungus….

    I am not overly concerned for a number of reasons.  Although there have been a number of recent articles saying essentially the same thing about a “bananagedon”, people have been talking about this fungus and the demise of bananas for over two decades.  Assuming the fungus is even in Central America yet, my understanding is that it would take a decade to have a serious impact.  In the meantime, the fungus would theoretically be reducing supply from marginal producers in Africa and Asia, to CQB’s advantage.   In a world of disappearing bananas, that last banana is worth an awful lot. 

    In addition, there are hundreds of banana varieties other than the Cavendish we’re used to, and I’m confident that one of those varieties could eventually replace all Cavendish varieties in a theoretical bananagedon. 


    SubjectRE: Banana Mgns
    Entry04/23/2014 07:01 AM
    Memberaviclara181
    that 4% banana target margin you see in a slide deck references management’s initial “long-term financial objectives” that explicitly assumed a then-current euro of ~1.23 (see footnote 2 on slide 37 of December presentation).  Adjust the euro to today’s level and that target is really ~6%, assuming a 60% flow-through.

    SubjectRE: Aviclara
    Entry06/03/2014 07:38 AM
    Memberaviclara181

    Fyffes posted strong Q1 results, but CQB’s Q1 was weaker-than-expected primarily driven by some temporary issues in the salad business.  Management reiterated prior targets and still expects the transaction to close by year-end.  Our thesis remains intact. 

    It’s also worth pointing out that the current CQB CEO (and future Chairman of pro forma ChiquitaFyffes) Ed Lonergan bought 22,302 shares of CQB at $10.04 on 5/21/2014.


    SubjectFY15 Valuation
    Entry07/09/2014 08:55 PM
    MemberMiamiJoe78
    Thanks very much for the post.  I had a few questions about your assumptions for FY15 ebitda.
     
    CQB standalone 2014 Bridge
    • Banana Pricing Impacts of $29mm  - from the Q1 conference call and discussions with management it doesn't seem like they have increased prices beyond contracted increases (maybe that is 2.5% but not clear) and obviously Q1 performance negates most of this increase anyway
    • Incremental Salad Ebit - a $38mm figure implies ~3.6% ebit margins - again Q1 performance didn't confirm this and either did our discussions with management - I'm curious what you are seeing?

    Fyffes standalone 2014 Bridge

    • Banana Pricing Impacts of $23mm - this seemed aggressive given management's guidance in S-4 for Fyffes 2014 ebitda of $55mm and Fyffes Q1 operating performance of ~12% increase in year over year Ebit

    ChiquitaFyffes 2015 Bridge

    • in the stand-alone CQB starting point you include FX impact from 2014 of $34mm - I understand why you would include that in 2014 but unless they hedge 2015 at current levels it seems aggressive to assume Euro/$ exchange rate will stay at current levels - it may change either way but why not assume just 4% ebit margins?
    I like the idea and seems reasonably safe at these price levels but given Q1 performance I'm not sure you are not paying a fair price for a mediocre business - i.e. a low margin, commoditized model that is exposed to several risks that will consistently plague the industry - bad weather, rising fuel prices, rising input costs, etc.

    Thanks again for the research piece.
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