Monday, February 19, 2007

SFK Pulp increases dividend:

SFK increased its monthly dividend to .05 from .03, based on "Good market conditions, the acquisition of the Fairmont and Menominee mills and the reduction of our level of indebtedness." Also, Canfor Pulp reported great earnings based off better pricing, although they warned that fibre costs were rising. This is an important aspect of the SFK investment that differentiates it from its western pulp mill competitors. Since SFK already pays $150 per tonne of woodchips compared to $60 in western Canada, the risk of increasing fibre costs for the company is minimal- in fact, an improvement is even likely. For great notes regarding the Canfor Conference call, please refer to :
Canfor Conference Notes on BHS forum

SFK's annual distribution is now at C$.60. But based on our analysis, the company will be generating far more cash than this, so look for further increases in the future. C$ 1.00 annual dividend seems very likely in the next 12 months.

Investment Analysis on SFK

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Analyze This:

Every time you realize a mistake has been made in your analysis of a company, it is good to step back and try to figure out what you did wrong and what you missed. It can also be a good time to analyze your overall performance. Over the past 3 years, I've sold out of 13 positions. Of these, there have been 8 successes, 2 marginal performances, and 3 realized losses, and my overall returns have been 25% annually. All 3 losses involved mistakes that were avoidable and I believe the lessons will be a great help to readers in their endeavors. The losses were in WHI, BIOS, and TRXI, and over the next few days I will discuss what I have learned.

As for my current portfolio breakdown, there is:
26% SFK
21% FFH
12% BCIS
5% DFC
9% Others
27% Cash

Monday, February 12, 2007

Check-up on Fairfax Financial (FFH) :

Every now and then, it is good to re-visit your investments to refresh the intrinsic value in your head and to keep yourself from falling victim to your own fear or greed. Fairfax Financial is my second largest holding, and is run by- in my opinion- one of the greatest value investors today, Prem Watsa. His track record speaks for itself though, as he has averaged over 20% annually on common stocks over a period of greater than 20 years. In a field such as insurance that throws off tons of cash to invest while claims are being settled, this gives a small moat in an otherwise highly competitive industry. Fairfax has appreciated considerably since my original purchase- is it still cheap?

Fairfax at Sept. 06

473 million cash at holding co level
-1273 holding co. debt
-292 Crum (100% owned subsidiary) debt
+340 Public offering of 10,165,000 ORH shares
+1806 Odyssey Re(ORH) at market value - 45,300,000 shares
+923 Northbridge( at market value - 30,311,300 shares

= 1.977 Billion

In addition to this, you have:

Crum & Forster- with a 99% combined ratio on 1 billion in premiums, a 2.6 billion portfolio, and 1 billion in equity. (Note: Since we included the Crum debt above, the equity here should really be 1.3 billion) To be conservative, I value this business at book-
= 1 Billion

Runoff- This business has a 4 billion portfolio and over 1.7 billion in shareholders equity. The provision for claims seems to finally have stabilized for this business after years of additional charges. It is important to note a defunct feature of insurance accounting- that reserves are provisioned on a "notional" basis. So, even though this runoff business has mostly asbestos and other long-tail liabilities that will not be paid out for several years, the reserves on the balance sheet are not discounted to reflect this. So basically, the reserves account for everything they expect to pay in the future, but in reality they are earning investment returns on a portfolio of over 4 billion for the time being. If you believe the reserves have finally been settled based on the "quiet" activity recently seen in runoff, then this business should be worth more than its equity. If you think reserves are still inadequate, then you need to discount equity. Conservatively, i assume some additional unforeseen provisions coming up and discount equity.
= 1 Billion

Holdco Discount- Since Fairfax would realize taxes if it monetized its shares in ORH and NB, some like to take this into account in their valuations. Others see this as wrong because they could also fully buy back the company and hold onto something the market believes has an intrinsic value of the current market price. I'll discount it, and assume Fairfax cannot come up with anything creative to lower their tax cost. Fairfax's cost basis is 700 million ( I believe? If anything, this number is wrong and way too low), while the value of ORH+NB+the offering is 3 Billion. (3,000 - 700) x 35% tax ...
= -800 million

Overall, this gives Fairfax a safe value of 3.2 Billion, compared to the market price of 3 Billion. Upside potential exists with our valuations for Crum, Runoff, and the tax discount. I'd also make a case that ORH is still undervalued, and that the dramatic improvements in the company's financial position should lead to increased credit ratings, which boosts their underwriting profitability. And in the meantime, you have a great value investor managing over a 15 billion portfolio, leveraging the investment gains compared to your market price by 5:1. It's still too early to sell.

Monday, February 05, 2007

SFK Pulp Fund- My Top Holding:

Ticker: SFK-UN.TO
Price: 4.90 CAN
Shares Outstanding: 101 Million
Debt: 114 million
Market Cap: 495 Million
Note: All above figures take into account recent acquisition and share offerings, to show position today, and all numbers will be in Can$, unless otherwise noted.

Investment Thesis Summary:
SFK operates some of the most efficient pulp mills in a depressed industry and has a yield of 20% under these depressed conditions, and there are several significant sources of potential surprises. (phew, got that all in one sentence )

Business Description:
SFK Pulp Fund("SFK") is a Canadian income trust that now operates several pulp mills and is finally recieving some upswing in an industry that has been severely depressed. For those completely clueless to the pulp industry, i recommend reading the 2005 SFK annual report available at But basically, pulp is the product of processing trees, and it is the matierial used to make paper. For sake of this analysis, I will split the business into two parts: the NBSK business ("NBSK") which has been historically operated by SFK, and the AFRI mills ("AFRI"), which SFK recently acquired.

The NBSK business
SFK operates one of the lowest operating cost pulp mills before and even after accounting for fibre costs. See Exhibit A. There has been a large divergence between the fibre costs for Western and Eastern Canadian pulp companies. Western Canada has been plagued with a pinebeetle infestation that has forced them to excessively cut down trees in order to stop their spread. The result has been a huge divergence between the fibre costs for Western and Canadian pulp companies- Fibre accounts for about $125 per ADMT (ton of pulp) of the cost in the West, compared to about $310 ADMT in the East - and the selling price for an ADMT of pulp is only $784. Obviously, this has had a huge effect on Eastern Canada, and several Eastern pulp mills have had no choice but to close. SFK has been able to survive this due to its low operating costs.

The NBSK mill has production volume of 356,000 ADMTs.

NBSK Industry
The NBSK industry, as well as Pulp and Paper in general, have been plagued with losses and overcapacity for several years now as a result of very excessive investment in the 90's. However, the NBSK pulp industry in particular has several attractive characteristics to it. NBSK pulp is essential in several types of paper because it is the only way to add considerable strength. Importantly, NBSK pulp can only be produced from certain tree types that exist only in Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia, with 50% of the production coming from Canada. Thus, there is no threat from low cost countries. In addition, it is much less cyclical than some of your other commodities- the derived demand for their pulp stems from newspapers, specialty papers, etc.

Second, there has been no addition to supply for several years and little money is being reinvested in the industry because conditions and returns would of been poor for so long. As an example, a mill with similar production to SFK's would now cost about 600 million to set up, while EBITDA for SFK was only 30 million last year. In fact, the opposite has been happening- over 1.6 million ADMT production has been shut down over the last year and a half, in an industry with production of 14 million ADMTs. Meanwhile, Demand has steadily grown over the last 15 years at about 2% annually.

The AFRI Business
The AFRI business consists of two mills that were recently acquired. These mills sell RBK, or recycled pulp, which competes and prices similarly to BHK pulp. I believe managements statement does the best job of discussing the rationale for the acquisition, and this can be found at the bottom. See Exhibit B. They have a production capacity of 360,000 ADMTs of RBK.

Investment Opportunity
The market has not yet adjusted the price for the currently improved conditions or the acquisition for SFK. For the 3rd Quarter of 2006, SFK generated EBITDA of 15 million. Note: this doesnt include the acquired mills. Also, this business is not seasonal. Furthermore conditions have improved since this point.

3Q06 EBITDA 15 million x 4 = 60 million
Yearly Maint. Shutdown - 10 million
Pricing Improvement +38 million
Exhange Rate Improvement +13 million

Forward EBITDA = 101 million

Let me explain the above. I 4x EBITDA of 3Q06 because the business is not seasonal, but there is a 14 day shutdown of the business for yearly maintenance, so i subtract the 10 million from that lower output and those costs. (VERY conservative, its probably closer to 5) Next, the pricing improvement. In 3Q06, SFK realized prices of $671 US/ADMT of NBSK pulp, but NBSK in the US is currently at $784 US. The reason for the huge difference is because there have been significant price improvements since the 3rd Quarter (+74$), and because there is a small lag between price increases and when SFK can pass them on to its customers(+39$), partially offset by 20% of their sales in Europe, where there is less favorable pricing(-6$). Its also important to note that historically SFK has actually charged about $30 premium to the market rate of pulp because it uses a higher cost black fir tree which has greater strength properties, but I left this out to avoid confusion and add conservatism. The reason this premium is not showing is again, because prices for pulp have gained significantly recently from their very depressed levels and SFK still hasnt fully passed these along. Finally, the exchange rate has improved from an average of .896 in the 3Q to the current .8462 . According to management, this adds 2.6 million per .01 change. Thus, we end up with 100 million in EBITDA for the NBSK business, and after subtracting annual maintenace of 6 million (managements statement, found in Annual Report 05) we get Free Cash Flow for "NBSK" of 94 million. (please also remember I havent subtracted interest yet and this is only "NBSK" so far)

Next, the AFRI Business.
For the Twelve month ended on June 30, 06, the business generated EBITDA of 36 million. (See short form prospectus dated Aug 23, 06 at direct link isnt possible)

EBITDA = 36 million
Pricing Improv. +21 million

Forward EBITDA = 57 million

At dec05, the price of BHK was at $570US in Europe, compared to the current price of $670US in Europe. The US usually gets better pricing than this. I cant find price at June 06, but lets assume the average price AFRI realized over the 12 months ended june 30 06 was $620 US. This $50 improvement would translate into $50 US x 1.18 US/Can x 360,000 ADMTS = 21 million more.

Finally, Lets Put it all together

trailing EBITDA's = 86 million
Pricing Improvs. + 59 million
Exchange Rate +13 million

Total Forward EBITDA = 158 million

Capital Structure
Pre-acquisition, there was 59.2 million units outstanding.

Immediately after the acquisition, there were 72,072,500 units outstanding plus 51 million in debentures convertible into 10.7 million units, and 200 milion in debt.

And finally, they recently issued 18.4 million units for proceeds of 86 million.

So, you have 114 million in debt (probably 100 now after the past few months of saving up money), and 101.2 million units outstanding.

Put it together:
There is a market cap of 495 million and net debt of 114 million.
EBITDA was 86 million to 158 million depending on trailing or forward figures.
NBSK capex is -6 million
AFRI capex is -4 million
Interest Expense is -10 million (114 million x 9%)

This leaves you with free cash flow of 66 million to 138 million after all is said and done on a 495 million market cap, with the 138 million assuming nothing but current market prices and rates.

Other Potential Upsides
As i mentioned earlier, fibre accounts for $310 per ADMT of the cost for SFK compared to about $125 of the cost in Western Canada. There is no long term reason for this discrepency- rather, it has been exacerbated as a result of the pinebeetle infestation in the West and the a 20% cutback in cutting in Quebec. Simple economics tells us this will eventually balance out, as Eastern pulp mills have been forced to shut down while Western mills have prospered. Any reduction in cost will be multiplied by the 365,000 NBSK production. I see a reduction in their fibre costs as VERY likely.

Pulp Pricing
The Pulp industry has not added production in ages, and even current prices barely justify the high costs of starting up a pulp mill. If demand continues to increase and new capacity isnt built soon, there is good potential for pricing to continue to increase. Regardless, there is little downside to prices as marginal cost of production is barely lower and new capacity won't be built if prices fall. (1.6 million in capacity shut down when NBSK pulp was around $660)

Synergy + Recylced Pulp Benefit?
Management sees 5 million in costs they can cut out from the acquisition. But also, the AFRI business has a 45% market share of the recycled market, and if the eco-friendly crazy continues, you might see increased volume and pricing from this segment.

Management is one of the greatest in the industries, and they're bonuses are tied very closely to operational success. It is one of the better compensation plans I have seen, but you can read for yourself in their annual proxy. They've done an excellent job of ranking amonst the lowest costs in the industry, while improving productivity from 950 ADMTS/day to 1050 over the last 4 years.

At these prices, it is no surprise that SFK is my largest position. (Disclosure: I own shares of SFK... duh)

Exhibit A - Comparison of Operating Costs

Canfor Pulp Operating Cash Costs 2003
Fibre Cost 183
Other Operating 310
Total 493

SFK Operating Cash Costs 2001
Fibre Cost 251
Other Costs:
Labor 75
Chemicals 68
Reg Maint. 35
Energy 26
Major Maint. 19
Other 18

Total 492

Note: Total other costs equals $241 for SFK, compared to $310 for Canfor. Also, SFK expenses $54 in other costs which are actually maintenance, which has resulted in significant capex savings over Canfor. In all, this makes the operating cash cost difference 187 to 310, or $123
per ADMT.

Exhibit B- Management Rationale for Acquisition

Rationale for the Acquisition

Management believes that the Acquisition is consistent with the Fund’s objective of generating sustainable

cash distributions in a manner consistent with the Fund’s acquisition and investment strategy and believes that

the Acquisition will position SFK Pulp as the owner of a premier NBSK and RBK market pulp operation in

North America. The rationale for the Acquisition is as follows and is described in greater details under ‘‘The

Acquisition — Rationale for the Acquisition’’.

Business Strengths of the AFRI Mills. Management expects to benefit from the following business

strengths of the AFRI Mills:

• The AFRI Mills benefit from a well-protected market share (as capital costs are a significant barrier

to entry) in a growing market for recycled and environmentally friendly content. The AFRI Mills

hold a market share of approximately 45% in the North American RBK pulp market and are the

only two air-dried RBK market pulp producers in North America;

• The AFRI Mills are among the newest facilities of their type in North America and were constructed

between 1994 and 1996 at a total cost of approximately US$462 million. Management currently

estimates that capital expenditures should be limited to US$4.0 million per year in the foreseeable


• As a result of their technology and process capabilities, the AFRI Mills are capable of producing an

RBK market pulp comparable in quality to pulp produced from virgin hardwood fibre, at production

costs which are among the lowest in North America;

• The AFRI Mills currently supply approximately 63% of their pulp on a contractual basis with terms

up to three years on average (see ‘‘Description of the Business of the AFRI Mills — Sales and


• In 2005, approximately 74% of the AFRI Mills’ wastepaper was purchased under long-term

contracts with suppliers; and

• The AFRI Mills can count on an experienced team of managers and employees.

Accretive to Distributable Cash per Unit. The Acquisition would have been 77% accretive (91% fullydiluted)

to the Fund’s Distributable Cash per Unit on a pro forma basis for the twelve months ended

June 30, 2006, without accounting for synergies but including potential savings. See ‘‘Summary of

Distributable Cash of the Fund’’.

Potential Savings. Management believes it has identified sources of cash flow improvement totalling

approximately $6.5 million within the AFRI Mills, which Management expects will help to reduce costs

and avoid duplication of certain management and administrative functions. See ‘‘Summary of

Distributable Cash of the Fund’’.

Reduced Risk Profile. The Acquisition is expected to reduce the risk profile of SFK Pulp by diversifying its

operating base through the acquisition of two high-quality pulp assets (thereby reducing operating and

financial risks inherent to a single-mill operation, including those related to fibre supply, labour related

issues and equipment breakdown) and reducing exposure to volatility in the CDN$ / US$ exchange rate.

Business Opportunities. SFK Pulp supplies NBSK pulp throughout North America and Europe to leading

printing and writing paper producers. With the acquisition of the AFRI Mills, Management will be able

to offer more than one product to the same buyer and intends to take advantage of cross-selling

opportunities with customers not previously served. In addition, Management believes that with a

consistently high-quality product (comparable to virgin pulp), opportunities currently exist to deepen and

broaden the customer base of the AFRI Mills.