Last year I decided to increase my position in PV Crystalox Solar because it was trading at just 40% of net current asset value (now at 47%). The company is struggling because of (Chinese) production overcapacity of photovoltaic wafers (its main product). At the same time, it was locked in an unfavorable long-term contract to buy polysilicon (the main material that is used to create wafers). PV Crystalox Solar released preliminary results for 2015 last week that show us exactly how bad 2015 was.
I expected last year that they would burn through roughly €10 million in cash, and they actually had a negative operating cash flow of €12.9 million. As a result, they have €12.7 million of cash left while the company has a €21.0 million market cap. The good news is that this amount is now expected to grow because they still have an inventory of €23.2 million that consists largely of polysilicon (€20.3 million) that they now can turn into wafers without losing money. Because of the “favorable” market conditions the company has decided to extend the strategic review period. If they are unable to start operating profitable they will liquidate, and that is what keeps the stock attractive despite the cash burn so far. From the latest presentation:
What I also found very noteworthy was the following statement in the letter of the chairman:
In view of changes in market conditions during recent months that have positively impacted the Group’s competitive position the Board considered it sensible to extend the review period. This extension will also provide time to take full account of the outcome of the ongoing dispute with a long term wafer contract customer where we have filed for ICC arbitration. The judgment of the arbitral tribunal is expected later in the year and while the outcome is uncertain, the value of any award if our claim is upheld could be a multiple of the Group’s market capitalisation.
In previous annual reports there was talk about this dispute, but then the expectation was that the value of the claim was a lot smaller. In 2014 the company received a €8.7 million payment for a similar dispute with another customer and wrote that the magnitude of an eventual cash payment would be significantly smaller for the last remaining dispute. Apparently that has now completely changed since the market cap of PV Crystalox Solar is more than €20 million, and the eventual award could be a multiple of that!
Because of this, and the large discount to NCAV, I think that PV Crystalox Solar is still a very attractive investment were most eventual outcomes range between good and fantastic. Even if the company continues to lose some money in the near future and is eventually liquidated investors could make a decent return given the current discount to NCAV. If the company turns around and starts making money and/or the large claim is awarded the outcome could be even better. I think the biggest risk is that losses continue to accumulate and that when the company is finally liquidated there is not a lot left. But so far I don’t think that’s very likely since management has been very clear about this plan. They are not desperately trying to keep a job while running down everything to zero.
Because of this I decided to add a little bit to my position once again.
Author is long PV Crystalox