So this is what it comes down to. Leucadia (LUK) buys Jefferies (JEF) and solves some problems with one deal:
- Succession: since Handler will become CEO of the post-merger Leucadia, succession is no longer an issue. Handler is well regarded and is known to be a very solid, conservative manager. I have no problem with Handler at all.
- JEF Liquidity Problem: Actually, I don’t think JEF has a liquidity problem and I don’t think they had one last year. But clients and markets have gotten much flakier post-crisis, and ratings agencies seem trigger-happy (and sloppy), so there was a risk that JEF had to manage over-conservatively to compensate for this. In fact, I think most of the industry is in this situation, and that’s why I think the JPM investment bank has higher ROE than the independents (GS, MS etc…). As long as JEF resides inside of LUK and LUK has plenty of liquidity, this will reduce the risk of “runs” and impact of bad ratings agency opinions. (The fact that LUK is junk rated doesn’t matter as long as they have the cash/liquidity)
- Deferred Tax Assets (DTA): I didn’t do the math on this yet, but this really accelerates the realization of the DTA since JEF earns $300-400 mn/year in operating earnings. Whatever discount factor we applied to the DTA on the balance sheet can be reduced as it will now be realized much more quickly than before. I may take a look at that later (but maybe not).
Anyway, here is a presentation on the merger from LUK’s website:
Here are some quick highlights:
The New LUK (no pun intended)
This is what LUK will look like after the merger.
44% of the value (at book) of LUK will be in JEF. This does change materially the nature of this business. I know some folks who are fans of BRK, L, LUK and other of these value investing conglomerates don’t like investment banks. So just because of that, I can see why many LUK shareholders are not happy with this deal and would sell their shares.
I am not allergic to investment banks as readers here know. So I have no problem.
Here is the long term performance of both of these entities over the long term.
Since both of these entities are more or less trading near book, stock price is a reasonable proxy of performance (as opposed to looking at something that might have been grossly undervalued at the beginning of the period and way overvalued at the end of the period, like looking at the S&P 500 index performance between 1982 and 2000, for example)
JEF Long Term Performance versus Peers
Of course, one can argue, “but they needed to be bailed out during the crisis…”. They did lose money during the crisis and did get an equity infusion from LUK. This is true. But the fact is that they were able to raise the needed capital, and their business model was sound. Of course it will bother many that they actually needed to raise capital, regardless of how well it was done. That is enough for some people to not want to be involved in this kind of business. Fair enough.
BPS Growth Versus the Usual Suspects
So just how good is this guy Handler, though? He became CEO in 2000/2001 but since we have data for JEF going back to 1996, let’s look at how book value per share has grown over that time versus the S&P 500 index, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) and Leucadia (LUK) itself. I just put some charts together quickly to take a look. These are not from the merger presentation.
This chart is the BPS growth (indexed to 100) of the various companies since 1996 (December 1996 – December 2011). The S&P 500 index figure is just the total return of the index.
It is remarkable how well JEF has done over this time period. Keep in mind that this chart understates returns because it doesn’t include the ITG spinoff from JEF back in 1999.
Judging from this, JEF has done way better than even LUK and BRK. So it makes sense that this is a sort of reverse takeover of LUK by Handler!
Just to make sure this isn’t due coincidentally to two lucky data points, I looked at the same figures starting at the end of 1999 which was the peak of the bubble in the stock market (at least in year-end terms). Here is how the usual suspects have grown their BPS over that time:
Again, JEF outdoes everyone, including BRK.
I also did the same for the period 2007-2011, but didn’t bother with creating a chart.
Here is a table that summarizes the above stuff:
BPS Growth Including Dividends (S&P 500 index is just total return), annualized
Period: JEF BRK LUK S&P 500
1996 – 2011: +15.4% +11.7% +9.9% +5.5%
1999 – 2011: +13.9% +8.4% +11.8% +0.6%
2007 – 2011: + 5.6% +6.4% +0.2% -1.6%
It’s pretty impressive. I didn’t think I would get this result before I put these charts together. But there it is.
I read somewhere that LUK is no BRK as BRK would never do such a deal as this or some such. Well, maybe LUK is better than BRK judging from these figures!
Keep in mind that this JEF performance was accomplished in a pretty horrible environment with two big bear markets, financial crisis etc. in an industry that was the epicenter of the crisis. And of course it includes the loss and equity infusion during the financial crisis. You will notice that this was done with barely visible damage.
Contrast that with the real bailouts (as opposed to JEF’s proactive, preemptive capital raising) of say, Citigroup, Bank of America and AIG. The book value growth graphs and stock price charts of those would show a very different picture.
Anyway, with JEF, what’s not to like? (unless you are bancophobic)
After the Merger: Different Business
This added flexibility really does enhance the opportunity for value creation of the combined entity.
LUK has a dividend of $0.25/share and JEF is $0.30/share (both annualized). Since there will be only one dividend payment (according to last year’s dates for JEF), that’s a net dividend of $0.0125 for the long JEF/short LUK position.
With 138 days until March 31, 2013, a $0.15 discount plus $0.0125 net dividend works out to a 2.7% annualized return; not much.
If you are an institutional investor and get cheap leverage and can finance this long/short at 40 bps (Fed+20 bps to finance long, receive Fed-20 bps on short) and can get 6x leverage (15% capital), I guess that works out to 13.8% annualized return (2.7% annualized return less 40 bps financing cost times 6x).
I don’t do this sort of thing, usually, so I may have missed something in the above calculation. It looks pretty tight. If you can only make 14% with 6x leverage, that’s not very exciting.
In any case, this isn’t the main point of this post.
Why All Stock Deal?
Of course the question is going to be, why would LUK issue cheap shares (below book value) to pay for JEF (at book value, or over tangible book).
The reason they would do this is as a stock transaction is that it would be tax free to JEF shareholders (Richard Handler being one of the large ones) and it will allow JEF shareholders to benefit from the future value creation of the combined entity.
LUK went out of it’s way to liquify their portfolio before announcing the deal, so it seems they are more comfortable with the deal with this excess liquidity. This means that they wouldn’t have considered the deal if they were going to issue debt costing 8%, or if they had to use up all of their cash and liquidity to pay for the deal.
OK, Fine. But How Dilutive Is This Deal?
From page 32 of the presentation, we can see that LUK had BPS as of the end of September of $26.71/share. After the merger, LUK will have BPS of $24.69/share. Adjusting the first figure for the Crimson Wine spinoff, you get a September-end BPS of $25.90/share. So that’s a $1.21/share dilution to current LUK shareholders. That’s a 4.7% dilution right there.
Is it worth it? Well, like anything else, you will have plenty of varying opinions.
I think the big thing about this deal is the succession issue. Richard Handler is a highly regarded CEO and this would seem to be a small price to pay to get this deal done and in such a way that many JEF shareholders will roll into LUK.
Given that Handler helped find some of LUK’s investments in the past (Fortescue etc.), he may be instrumental in finding other ideas. Which leads to the next question:
Now, I do think this is a great deal and LUK shareholders, unless they are allergic to financials, should be comfortable. People who hate investment banks and financials in general should probably sell out (maybe at a better price once this cliff nonsense clears).
But having said that, I do wonder about the issue of conflicts here. LUK was a client of JEF; JEF brought ideas to LUK for them to look at. I am thinking about the potential conflicts that people raise with Goldman Sachs. On the one hand, they have investment bankers looking for deals and matching buyers with sellers. And on the investment side, GS have their own people looking for deals to do too. When a deal is found, how do you decide if it’s OK for GS to go ahead and buy, or do they have to show it to a client that was looking for something like it before doing the deal themselves?
In the case of GS, I guess you can make the case that the private equity funds inside GS operate independently and the CEO doesn’t see these deals. At least there is some sort of Chinese wall there. (There have always been walls between trading and investment banking even though many seem to believe they don’t actually exist. In my experience, they actually do exist even though it may leak from time to time).
But if Handler is CEO of both JEF the investment bank and LUK the opportunistic value investor where the CEO plays a major role, how do you reconcile this conflict?
When an energy company client is talking to JEF investment bankers, how do they know or not know what information Handler will get to use for LUK’s energy business, acquisition opportunities etc.?
At big banks like GS and JPM, the CEO is not involved as key decision makers in deals that the private equity arms do. They may know what’s going on, but they are not the deal makers. At the new LUK, it seems like Handler will be the key decision maker on deals at the non-JEF LUK, basically replacing Cumming as CEO.
I don’t have any doubt about the honesty and integrity of the folks at LUK and JEF so this is not a question about that. It’s just a practical question that comes to my mind.
So What Do I think?
My first impression from looking at all this stuff on first pass is that I like it. I understand that many probably won’t. There may be some disappointment that the merger is with an investment bank that is prone to the booms and busts we have seen recently, and that is not something to look forward to.
One great thing is that if investment banking is in fact dead and won’t ever recover, this deal can still work out because Handler can reallocate capital out of the investment bank into other LUK areas, just like BRK does with their insurance business. This internal capital fluidity, I think, is a huge advantage. In that sense, owning the combined LUK/JEF is probably better than owning an independent investment bank.
I like and respect all of the parties involved and see no problem with the people, intent of the deal or anything like that.
I do own LUK and will be looking to buy more (maybe through JEF) as I do think it’s cheap. JEF is also small and nimble enough to be able to take advantage of the changes going on in the industry (European banks scaling back etc.)