If you’re short on ideas for future analysis - would be interested in your thoughts on:
Both are really interesting to me as they both compete with Microsoft via GitHub (recent acquisition) and Teams respectively.
If you’re short on ideas for future analysis - would be interested in your thoughts on:
Both are really interesting to me as they both compete with Microsoft via GitHub (recent acquisition) and Teams respectively.
I like both of these firms, my gut feeling on Atlassian is they have seen their COVID-19 spike, which might make the fundamentals easier to judge now.
I’ll add them both to the list and see what I fancy doing a write up on today.
Thanks everyone for reading and your comments!
Broadridge Financial Solutions - BR (Hold)
Broadridge is a financial services solutions provider, you wouldn’t approach them directly as a retail investor, but a company you use, or product you invest through might be leveraging their solutions. I like financial companies and analysing them but we’ll see if this one makes for a good investment too!
What Does Broadridge Do?
This company is selling the picks and wheelbarrows during a gold rush. Rather than being directly involved in financial services, they facilitate the industry by managing the admin and process side of things. For instance, being able to process all your client trading activity for marketing reports doesn’t make the customers’ lives better, but it helps your business. They want to take on the non-IP aspects of your business which might be better served by being outsourced or by buying off the shelve solutions.
If you work in the industry you might have heard of Broadridge, they brought FundsLibrary this year, which was the Hargreaves Lansdown spin-off because they couldn’t get reliable fund information.
If you go through Broadridge’s existing solutions they pretty much do anything you can think of when serving banks, broker-dealers,
asset management firms, mutual funds, corporate issuers, or wealth management firms. To help explain things, they group their business into two main segments.
Investor Communication Solutions, this aspect of the business focuses on proxy voting and corporate actions with securities. Every time there is a vote on one of your stocks, they pay out a dividend, or a new announcement needs to be communicated, you need a system to manage this all. Think of this as a CRM (customer relation management) tool or a customer portal but on steroids. As such they have a few non-financial clients with these solutions where they need to manage official communications with a full audit. If the words blockchain just flashed into your head then you might like this company. Anything and everything to do with communication with customers or shareholders fall into this segment.
Global Technology and Operations, if you have ever heard of the phrase trade lifecycle you’ll know there is a lot of legwork that happens whenever you press that execute trade button. This business line focuses on the technology in the back and middle office, either SaaS solutions for processing trades and managing them or websites that a brokers’ operational staff would use to make sure everything is processing correctly. Additionally, this segment also does white labelling of wealth management services. If you want to run a wealth management firm but wanted to just focus on bringing in the clients you could do that with Broadridge and give everything else to them.
Broadridge pitch themselves as a software business, and a fintech. They don’t see themselves as a financial firm, and their financial statements reflect that. This is a business like SAP or Slack, a technology firm with a specialism. In Broadridge’s case that specialism processed on average over $7 trillion in equity and fixed income trades per day of U.S. and Canadian securities, not bad for a fintech.
How Are The Finances?
Let’s take a look at the financial aspects of Broadridge and start looking at their fundamentals.
For a technology company, Broadridge has a strong quality score. I wanted to dive into this number a bit more as I know financial companies do have padded balance sheets (for regulatory purposes) but that shouldn’t be the case here.
Through a combination of a very strong sticky core product, a targetted annual 8-10% increase in recurring revenue, multiple business acquisitions, and a punchy $4.38bn in revenue a year, Broadridge have some solid foundations to build upon.
I was, however, very disappointed in a 28.2% gross margin. This number does bounce around a lot as well which isn’t a good sign. If your business is spending 70%~ of the revenue you make to make those sales, that doesn’t leave a lot left over.
Flipping this on its head is the profit margin. A very comfortable 11.05%. This means outside of the core spending to generate revenue, the business is fairly lean. Depending on your view of tech stocks you either want an ungodly amount of R&D spending (which is not present) or aggressive acquisitions. In 2019 Broadridge picked up Rockall, a provider of SBL and collateral management solutions for wealth management firms and commercial banks, RPM, a leading Canadian provider of enterprise wealth management software solutions and services, and the retirement plan custody and trust assets from TD Ameritrade.
Seems their growth strategy is to get a big enough war chest to simply buy any disruption or new business operation rather than incur heavy R&D expenses.
Is This A Value Purchase?
While I wouldn’t go running for the hills in terms of valuation, it’s not particularly attractive either. Think of an unkept ageing dog, not offputting but you wouldn’t get too close either.
Skipping to a bit of technical analysis we can see the price has stalled somewhat, and the trend has been creeping downward. Looking at the fundamentals this is slightly overvalued still. With a P/E of 32.26, and a Price to Book of 11.99, these are high for any value hunter.
It’s worth saying it’s not as aggressive as a “typical” tech company but Broadridge walks the line of SaaS vendor and financial operator.
What Do The Analysts Think?
Given how muted I have been and for every strong aspect of the fundamentals, we see something just as offputting. It’s only fitting that we have an even split when it comes to the analyst views.
Digging into this some more the rating is overweight, not quiet at a buy yet but better than a hold. No one is advising a sell at least.
While the revenue and EPS growth look attractive, they are very much expected at this point. The business is very reliable and stable. The acquisitions are signposted and clear fits and the business deals with slow-moving large financial institutions are also as predictable.
The target price is also on the lower end of things in percentage terms. With a large spread (a few negative predictions even at a hold rating) and no strong conviction, I don’t see too much hope in the target prices.
It’s not an exciting company that is going to come out with the proxy voter 3,000 and change financial services as we know it. This is the charm but also the negative mark. They have the balance sheet of a tech company but move like a financial one.
Will I Get Paid?
What might sway you is the dividend. Not only is this a dividend-paying darling but it’s an extremely reliable one. 12 non-stop years of dividend growth, which is paid quarterly, and has increased by 17.61% in the last three years.
Like all things with Broadridge the dividend is on the lower end of what it could be. Even with an incredible 57.99% of earnings being paid out as dividends, we are left with a weak 1.80% dividend yield.
Any dividend hunters will likely find Broadridge but move onto a higher-yielding prospect.
Why A Hold?
If you already hold Broadridge I wouldn’t sell them just yet. You have a growing dividend and the potential at some more price recovery as well as some more future acquisitions to look forward to.
Some financial service firms have done very well during the lockdown, and with trading volatility up this will be a benefit to some of their clients. Broadridge is one of the few companies who have kept their 2021 targets regardless of COVID-19.
If you haven’t heard of, or invested in Broadridge, your capital can be deployed elsewhere to have a more meaningful impact. If this was a service provider to the financial industry whos’ price was showing an upward trend with the growing dividend, that would be a far more exciting prospect.
Right now this is one to watch but I wouldn’t be in a rush to enter into a trade just yet.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought, is Broadridge a company you had heard of, or one you are currently holding?
If you have any more great suggestions of companies or funds to look at, don’t keep them to yourself.
Whenever you get the time please look at another stock, this time I’m interested in Abbvie.
I had a quick look and I was pretty impressed. A pharma company paying a dividend with a yield of 4.96% and a profit margin of 23.69% (34.92% if you look at the last quarter) that is pretty amazing.
They seem to be carrying a lot of debt right now, but by and large it looks interesting.
I’ll definitely add it to the list!
Thanks everyone for reading and all your feedback!
Slack - WORK (Sell)
Thanks to @jwt for the suggestion!
Slack is a company I’ve wanted to take a look at for a while and after the short COVID-19 related rally it’s worth seeing what all the fuss has been about. With more people working at home, and with some mounting pressure from Microsoft with their Teams competitor product, what does this all mean for investors like us?
What Does Slack Do?
Depending who you ask, Slack has either saved your business from endless emails and made communication and transparency easy, or it’s where employees waste their time and post funny pictures.
Slack is a communication tool which works on desktop, mobiles, and browser, that lets you easily share ideas, comments, and files with one another. Recently they have even added in video calls and joining different companies together to share a chat, think a business partnership where you need open communication with one another without emailing back and forward and integrating different tools.
Where Slack shines compared to competitors and similar products like Skype, Microsoft Teams, Discord, and Facebook Workspace, is the depth and ease of integration. Slack goes beyond a chat application to be fully integrated with your existing systems and processes. With a free tier and huge amounts of developer support, Slack has transformed business communication.
Originally the team behind Slack were building an online game, a business which after $15m of investment and two years didn’t get anywhere. However, while building this they needed a way to community easily across their teams and to keep information accessible and transparent. Slack was originally an internally developed tool which turned out to be the real gem they had all along.
Technically Slack originally stood for Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge but deep down we all know that isn’t true.
You can read their full story below, for now, I’ll move onto how they make money.
Slack is a SaaS solution, which prices per user in a team or organisation. This means Slack needs to get into large established businesses and convert the whole company to use their system. This means ease of integration, administration, and watertight security are critical to mass adoption.
I mentioned that Slack has a free tier, this is part of their adoption strategy. A grassroots effort to get individuals and smaller businesses involved and developing plugins and using the product, hoping they expand into the paid tiers with more plugin capacity and full history.
In terms of pricing, Slack goes from a free limited version to paid versions ranging from $6.50 upwards per team member. This goes back to the scale aspect, you want large corporations to bring on their whole organisation.
Slack also runs an $80m fund which focuses on funding teams with a proven track record to build extensions and plugins (or whole businesses) which have Slack at their core.
I don’t always go super deep with companies competitors and rather look at the fundamentals to get a gauge as to how defensible the business is. In this case, and when we look at the fundamentals you’ll see some of my concerns, we do have one direct competitor who is getting a lot of attention.
Microsoft Teams is a like for like competitor who use their existing Microsoft ecosystem to encourage businesses to move onto their system. Microsoft doesn’t have a great track record of keeping some of its business lines alive even with heavy backing, something Microsoft and Google both share.
That doesn’t stop this from being a thorn in Slack’s side, and the biggest threat to the moat they had otherwise created. While there are many other solutions out there, few have the penetration and retention of Slack, the exception being Microsoft Teams.
An investment in Slack is going to be influenced by how much of a threat you feel Microsoft presents. I believe this is something you must seriously consider.
What About Slack’s Fundamentals?
I mentioned I was interested in looking at Slack, having now finally had a dive into the numbers and reports, I’m shocked at how the business has been run recently.
A first pass looking at Slack relative to the rest of the market already paints a bleak picture. As such I wanted to look into each aspect in more detail to make sense of these ranks and to see if there was anything worth being mindful of.
Starting with the quality aspects, we can quickly discard anything to do with dividends as none have been paid. This leaves us to focus on profitability and how they manage their cash.
In terms of revenue, Slack brought in a respectable $630.4m last year which is growing quarter by quarter. They have also slightly diversified their income by growing their >$1m a year customers and >$100k customers. 47% of their revenue comes from the >$100k a year customers, which is made up of 893 different companies. 70 customers are in the >$1m a year bracket which is a big improvement from 39 a year ago.
Looking at the cost of revenue we can get a better understanding of how Slack is spending its money, and how efficient their business truly is. Slack has a brilliant gross margin of 84.58%, in terms of serving their reoccurring revenue that is an excellent and scalable figure to see.
If we shift slightly to the profit margin we can see -90. 58%. Somewhere something is going wrong. High expenses are happening which they claim is not involved in serving the basic needs of the existing customers.
We are focusing on the second to last columns, the full year ending 2020. $457.3k on research and development, $402.7k on sales and marketing, and $261.3k on general and admin?
The General and admin are very high considering they believe the cost of revenue is only $97.1k, it’s almost three times higher. Without going through every line is too much detail, this feels unfairly high and suspicious.
The R&D and sales and marketing figures are painfully high also. 72.5% of all revenue goes towards research and development. You do not have a strong defensive moat if you are spending so aggressively to stay ahead. All it takes is for technologies to move forward or for a few missed opportunities to fall behind. Keep in mind the beast breathing down their backs is the bottomless pockets and endless R&D of Microsoft.
The sales and marketing are also aggressively high as mentioned. While they have done an excellent job of expanding their customer base, the cost per acquisition is very high. If the cost of revenue is to believed they can make back the money with the lifetime value of the customers, but how long will that take, and will they be passed in terms of technological ability before then?
Before you double-check if Slack is expecting a turn around next year, they aren’t. The guidance stands at another full year 2021 $125k loss.
Looking back at the Genuine Impact relative rankings, we know the value is going to be a tough assessment also.
Technically speaking we can’t do many trailing ratios as Slack has got over a year’s worth of reports for us to assess. That is next month. With the data we have, we can judge the price to sales which are 28.26x, and the price to book of 25.14x. Neither inspires any confidence, as a value investor, there are a lot of red flags to be found.
A company with few assets, lots of digital IP, and expensive R&D spending to try and stay ahead. This is extremely far from a value investor’s dream of unrealised potential and assets waiting to be sold.
To cheer ourselves up I will look at the momentum and future projections, which appear to be fairly bullish on the surface.
The future projects of revenue and EPS are both extremely high, this is easily explained by the ridiculously high marketing budget, and the fact they have a negative EPS, to begin with. When you are at the bottom the only way is up, right? Unless you somehow get worse which in the world of investments, is always possible.
I was surprised at the bullish analyst outlook. The weak financials and heavy spending are not sustainable. There is a lot of insider selling, more debt being raised (49.79% debt to assets, this is due to recurring revenue commitments), and they face extremely tough competition.
Looking at the analyst ratings they are slightly better than a hold but not a strong buy either. I was extremely shocked to see the target price for many of the analysts is lower than the current price. A few analysts are out of date now and their target has been hit, while others are in a firm hold camp and forecasting weak share price growth (in some cases retraction!)
So Why A Sell?
I love Slack as a product. I love their vision and I have grown to depend on their solutions. They have a great ecosystem and engagement when it comes to their customers too.
They have even expanded internationally with 37% of their revenue coming from overseas now, slight currency exposures but they are still primarily as USD based firm when it comes to revenue.
But, it just doesn’t add up to me as a long term investment.
The product can be replicated, and we can see dozens of new entries into the market following their best practice. We have multiple companies looking to enter (or who have) the space with bigger budgets, existing ecosystems and clients, that can play the long game.
R&D spending is too high. How many years can you get it right before you are dethroned? This seems like old school Intel. A great company but they were dependant on their R&D spending to stay ahead and ultimately ended up having to change up the business to be what they are today.
I don’t believe Slack is going to crash, or it’s going to disappear tomorrow. The current rally will likely continue, but I believe my capital can be better invested elsewhere for the long term. There are a lot of exciting tech companies with better long term prospects and who have a more defensible business.
As much as I love Slack as a product. It’s not a long term investment for me. You might some joy in taking short term positions and following the trends, but I’d rather focus on more interesting momentum investments.
Let me know what you think of my thoughts and write up. This is my longest article yet and hopefully the most engaging.
All your feedback has been extremely useful to make me a better analyst and writer!
Thanks for reading and stay safe.
Did you end up selling Beyond meat?
I agree with Slack, it’s not a product, it’s a feature at the end of the day. Bit like Dropbox.
How do you fancy doing Eventbrite?
Can I request Atlassian?
I propose Waste Management.
Thanks for the write up.
Microsoft is ending Skype for Business and shifting customers across to Teams - unlikely to prove helpful to Slack.
I think Unite Student or IQE could be worth a look
Begbies Traynor might be interesting if we are heading for a recession
Glad it’s gone. A fake meat weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’d rather lock-in that loss and move on. There is a whole of exciting investments and Beyond is no longer one of them for me.
A good friend of mine as reentered a position in Beyond Meat but I can’t bring myself to look at it again.
Thanks everyone for the fantastic suggestions!
I’m getting a real backlog now and it’s very exciting. I didn’t expect to have so much fun being furloughed!
I will look through the suggestions and see what makes for a good article today. I got a lot of good feedback on the Slack piece, my longest one yet, so I’m hoping I can make even better analysis going forward too
Thank you everyone for the amazing support and feedback
My (naive?) thoughts on Beyond meat and Impossible foods is that they have no USP or IP. I don’t see why a big food producer can’t spin off a competitor and crush them. Seems to me like most of their hype is around them being the first movers and the adoption of their products from Fast food chains. But as soon as there is a competitor with a similar and cheaper product, they will drop them i reckon. FWIW I love their products (am vegan myself).
I’m in agreement with you.
In terms of a social impact if you can create like for like tasty meat alternatives which have a reduced environmental impact, then that’s worth doing.
As a company is it enough to be a long term winner?
I feel like it’s the Tesla of the fake meat world. Yet somehow worse
AbbVie - ABBV (Buy)
Thanks to @Mateinfour for this exciting suggestion!
This is probably the most impressive company I have assessed to date. They have just acquired another business (Allergan), and they have a very impressive R&D pipeline as well as a profitable inventory of in use medications and drugs.
While I don’t normally look at Pharmaceutical companies, I am eager to tell you a bit more about AbbVie and why they should be on your radar.
What Does AbbVie Do?
They are a biopharmaceutical company focused on creating, testing, and selling new medicines. If like me you are an outsider to medical trials and process, know that testing a new drug takes an extremely long time, and there is a lot of room for failure.
First, you must go through extensive laboratory research which can involve years of experiments in animals and human cells. If the initial laboratory research is successful, the new drug is submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval to continue research and testing in humans. Once approved, human testing of experimental drugs can begin and is typically conducted in four phases. Each phase is considered a separate trial and, after completion of a phase, you are required to submit data for approval from the FDA before continuing to the next phase.
Phase 1 studies assess the safety of a drug. This can take several months to complete, and about 70% of drugs pass this phase. Phase 2 studies test the efficacy of a drug This second phase of testing can last from several months to two years, and roughly 1/3 of drugs pass this phase. Phase 3 studies involve randomized and blind testing in several hundred to several thousand patients. This large-scale testing, which can last several years has an 80% pass rate for drugs. Phase 4 studies, often called Post Marketing Surveillance Trials, are conducted after a drug has been approved for consumer sale. This is making sure new data doesn’t come to light and can result in the removal of the drug after it was originally approved.
The point being, after years of lab work, clinical human trials which can take three or more years and which have a 1.5 out of 10 pass rate, will be then approved for sale in the US. Meanwhile, approval for other nations is handled separately. Some countries faster than others, but with AbbVie they primarily sell and make their revenue in the US.
AbbVie is in an expensive and risky business, but if you get it right, you have the exclusive rights to your drug and depending on what you are treating could sell for thousands of pounds peruse.
Let’s breakdown the key focus areas.
The immunology focus is all about, biologics and small molecules in rheumatology (skeleton and joints), dermatology (skin, hair, and membranes) and gastroenterology (digestive system.) AbbVie medicines in immunology currently treat +1million patients in 15 indications worldwide.
Oncology is related to treatments for two types of leukaemia (cancer), host disease (you get a transplant or craft and your body attacks it), two types of lymphoma (cancer) and macroglobulinemia (cancer.)
Neuroscience is all about your brain. Alzheimer’s, to Parkinson’s, to schizophrenia. It’s a complex area with a very broad scope of diseases they treat and develop for.
Eye Care is the one I haven’t had to do as much Googling about. Glaucoma, retina-related diseases, and even just age-related degeneration.
Virology is the study of viruses. Currently, they are working towards eliminating hepatitis C, with AbbVie’s drug being the main treatment.
They have three smaller areas which are cardiology (heart diseases), general medicines (e.g. making over the counter or medicines which aren’t locked behind IP), and women’s health (specialist medicines.)
Slightly outside of these is the final focus and comes with the business they recently purchased. Aesthetics is all about cosmetic surgery and alterations. Body contouring, facial injectables, plastics, regenerative medicine, and skincare. This is a natural extension of their skillsets and business but less wholesome than the others if you wanted to fund the cure for all cancers.
What About The Fundamentals?
In a sector with a high failure rate, expensive research costs, and a highly competitive industry, I was expecting a debt-heavy risky R&D burning investment.
Rather it’s a defensible, high earning, large, dividend-paying, high performer. Colour me impressed. Let’s dive into some of the real details behind the relative assessment.
Starting with the quality, how well run is this company and do they look after their shareholders? Looking at the revenue AbbVie brought in $34bn last year, with a gross margin of 77.6%. In terms of rolling out the drugs they have approved they have an efficient process and the cost of revenue is under control. My biggest fear is the R&D expenses to keep discovering new drugs eating away at the gross margin. The profit margin, however, is an extremely impressive 23.69%.
To give you a flavour of the break down here is the latest quarterly report.
In terms of putting their money to work, they currently have an ROIC (return on invested capital, a.k.a how they use their own money) of 13.38%, meaning for every $100 they put into the company they make back $113~.
I also mentioned a dividend. In terms of looking after their shareholders, they have a 5.67x EPS and a quarterly dividend which yields 5%. This dividend has been growing for the last six years and has increased by 19% since last year. They are currently paying out 79.37% of their earnings back to shareholders. Their gains and successful trials will be fed directly back to investors.
Testing new drugs is expensive and capital intensive.
However, they have some sizable long term debt, and they currently sit in too much debt to assets (109%.) This situation wasn’t helped by taking out a large chunk of additional financing to buy the other firm this year. Currently, this debt sits at $98bn, almost three times AbbVie’s annual revenue. Short term this is $3bn this year, with the rest far in the future. However, one slip up or major drug being pulled could switch AbbVie into a debt spiral.
The risk is 50% of their drug revenue (which is the main source currently) is coming from HUMIRA, a drug which reduces pain and inflammation in people who suffer from a range of autoimmune diseases. This is a reoccurring purchase for patients as it is not a cure, only relief. However, this means any advancements in a cure, better or safer alternatives, or a change in FDA ruling, 50% of their revenue would be at risk of vanishing overnight.
In terms of the current share price, they have seen a COVID-19 related dip and quickly recovered. I was taken back when I saw the value ratios.
Given the high profitability, I shouldn’t be too surprised but it was interesting to see a PE ratio of 15.88x. After looking at the debt and revenue breakdown I can see a decent amount of market risk here, and it would make sense for the market to slightly lower their expectations.
I would take the value rankings with a pinch of salt in this case. The quick recovery while still being at a discount makes it seem like the market has a cap on what they expect regardless of the companies earnings. This reflects the fragile nature of the pharma business.
Latestly I wanted to check out the target price and analyst ratings for AbbVie.
The analysts are not only in favour of AbbVie some from the Hold camp have moved over as well. Even with the market risks and market slowdown, AbbVie has the balance sheet to keep moving forward and keep caring for its shareholders.
However, a buy rating doesn’t mean the share price is going to be moving around any time soon.
In this case, we have a smaller share price increase compared to the rest of the market, but high revenue and EPS targets which are likely to be hit. However, hitting these targets doesn’t mean the share price will shoot up, in this case, the targets are very high, you can see relative to the rest of the market the percentage year on year increase is aggressive. The lower share price growth might indicate less confidence in hitting these targets or a market that expects this level of growth based on new drugs currently in trial.
To turn this into actional numbers we are currently sitting around $90.50 a share and the average target price is $97 a share. For a year increase, there are more aggressive investments out there, but few will increase by this much and still pay an increasing quarterly dividend.
Why A Buy?
In terms of risks we have a concentration of revenue, we have an expensive R&D program, an industry of M&A which requires financing, and some looming debt which only increases.
When you look at a drug company there are two things to keep in mind. If they are profitable they have a market lead, somewhere. Price movement is driven less by earnings and spend, and more by successful trials.
Looking at the fundamentals tells us the company can keep going and has a steady stream of income, the price comes from the potential. By being a market leader and having a profit-generating drug already in use, they can build on this and expand the range of solutions offered.
We can also see through acquisitions they are looking to expand and branch out into complementary areas and help even out their revenue concentration.
While there is a higher degree of risk with any drug manufacturer (and lots of legal battles) this one has a route to success to build upon, and that sets it apart from some of their competition.
Let me know what you think, this one has a bit more of a qualitative feel to it due to the nature of the industry. Where is AbbVie on your wish lists, something you hold already, or a sector you don’t get involved in?
Thanks for reading!
Currently hold Abbvie, wish I picked up a few more in the last few weeks.
Overall I am quite positive towards healthcare as a sector, as it has some major companies with solid dividends. Plus the one thing that everyone will always prioritise to buy regardless of their budget is medicine, which makes it very safe.
I have requested for a biopharma etf to be added in Freetrade, that would be the best for me as I cannot pretend to be an expert and pick the one company that might discover a life changing drug
Link below, please vote!