Thursday, October 26, 2017

The connection between Tropicana and Top Glove

I like Top Glove, just like I like Hartalega, Airasia. I like companies in business segments which have room to grow as long as they are not expensive. I like companies that are dominant in their fields. In that respect, I had held Top Glove and Hartalega as well - not recently though.

I wish I had bought into Top Glove more than 10 years ago, as one would probably see a performance as below with the stock price achieving a more than 3x.

Price chart of Top Glove over 10 years
The company has not only provided its investors with capital appreciation but also improvement in dividends almost on yearly basis. This company has a good track record in terms of stock performance and that has to do with the management and with that, investors like them so much so that market is now giving it a more than 26x PE. To me, the Chairman of Top Glove, Lim Wee Chai is in the same mould as Liew Kee Sin, Tony Fernandes - Malaysians who are not only able to make their name from opportunities within Malaysia but also internationally. As an investor, I have always look upon and wanted to support them - as they are value creators. Wouldn't you and I as Malaysians be proud to have them?

Now what about the connection between Top Glove and Tropicana? One is in glove manufacturing, the other a property company. One would wonder, is there any synergy?

None at all - business wise.

However, if I am a shareholder of Tropicana, I would love to have a personality like Lim Wee Chai to be buying a significant stake in the company I invest into. And that just happened, where Lim Wee Chai personally - not through Top Glove - increased his stake into having a 10.24% portion in Tropicana. To me, that works well. If Tan Sri Lim is to have a controlling stake, that would have freaked me out - as he has never been a developer. That 10.24% act as an endorsement and beyond. Why?

Tropicana, under Danny Tan (the brother to Vincent Tan) - has been a developer for many years of his life - and a pretty good one as well. He has built Tropicana in Damansara into a premium brand and location for the wealthy and if one is to Google, Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai happens to stay there as well.

Today, Tropicana is not just having development in Damansara - as it is now an old address but also several major development in Kota Kemuning, Kajang, Bandar Iskandar and Penang - riding on the Tropicana brand. Agree, Tropicana is not able to create the aura of an EcoWorld development - but I would say it is one of the Top 5 - although in terms of size it in more like in the Top 10 in Malaysia.

As a business, there is not so much qualms about Tropicana, but in terms of it being an investment concern - I am sure there are those that would have advised people like me to stay away. I understand the concern. That single stock is more than 70% controlled by Danny Tan. It is an illiquid stock. It is not invested by any of the major funds. Understandably it is hugely undervalued - hence under my portfolio I bought a small portion of Tropicana.

Nobody, including me would have guessed Danny Tan would relinquish a portion of his shares - although he still comfortably controls the group with >60% stake.

However, in inviting Lim Wee Chai - it probably would have changed the perception towards Tropicana. Lim Wee Chai - as mentioned above is totally a different person when handling Top Glove as a traded stock. Top Glove is having a dual listing in Malaysia and Singapore - hence, he is the sort that is promoting to funds and markets beyond Malaysia.

Top Glove is invested by many of the funds in Malaysia - EPF, KWAP and various unit trust funds. I would say it is a darling stock although it is not a Composite Index stock. That basically tells that Top Glove knows how to attract outside investors and not having the fear of these investors making corporate moves against the company.

Hence, in terms of personality and experience - Lim Wee Chai's 10% stake could have made a difference to the perception of Tropicana towards the future. I am sure, based on observation it is not a short term holding - i.e. getting people to buy and then dump onto them as that is not the personality of this Top Glove Chairperson. He does not need to do that and for sure, do not want to be perceived as that.

By reducing the stake to a strong personality, it also POSSIBLY shows that Tropicana can be more open to investors.

When I bought Tropicana, besides the attractive valuation - I was attracted to the change in strategy within the group. As mentioned, it has a good brand name and its strategy of selling non-core assets (basically the investment assets like hotel, malls) and concentrate on large mixed development.

Obviously, this investment does not materialise to be successful yet. At that time, I was putting on the "contrarian" cap - where investors and analysts were fearful of its high gearing ratio. I was in fact correct in figuring out that the gearing would have improved as  when I studied the company it was buying several landbank while the sales of its assets have yet to translate to positive cashflow yet.

Today, as one can see Tropicana is carrying a very manageable 50% debt to equity ratio while allowing several of its development to mature despite the tough property market.

What's your guess on the price point that Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai bought from Tan Sri Danny Tan? While, the announcement was made when Tropicana was trading around RM0.93, I doubt it was transacted between the two at that range of pricing.  Why?  Tropicana has been buying back shares and subsequently redistribute the shares to shareholders since 2015. Most of these buybacks were made at between price range of RM0.90 to RM1.

It would not be easy to obtain shares at 93 sen from the market considering the low free float. Anyway, that's the transaction between the two. Lim Wee Chai as substantial shareholder can come in as being strategic towards the profiling of the company.

What I hope now, is that I see what Lim Wee Chai sees as well.

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