Monthly Archives: July 2020

Sky Solar Holdings merger arbitrage

Sky Solar Holdings must be one of the hairiest stocks I have bought in recent times. The former CEO got kicked out in 2017 after getting caught doing unauthorized transactions with entities he controlled (he settled, and paid back $15 million). They got sued in Japan by one of their partners and settled by buying them out for $139 million. Another partner, Hudson Capital, claimed an “Event of Default” on notes that they owned, seized control of a large solar project in Uruguay and commenced litigation for more money in New York. They settled, but never completed the settlement, and now litigation has started again. And I’m almost forgetting that they went through a couple of different CFO’s as well. The story is a bit more complicated than this, but obviously saying that Sky Solar is a huge mess is an understatement.

But while that is true, there is also a buyout proposal on the table for $6/ADS that offers a juicy spread of 15.4% as of this moment. The consortium behind the proposal filed their tender offer statement yesterday with the SEC and controls 77.5% of the outstanding shares. They are looking to acquire a minimum of 90% of the outstanding shares in order to take the company private afterwards, so effectively they need “just” 55% of the float to tender in the offer, and I think that should be a very doable threshold. The consortium is offering a 80% premium compared to the unaffected price which is significantly more than what the stock has traded at at any point in recent history. It is a good price, and shareholder support should not be the issue.

I think the buyer group is credible and is willing and capable of finalizing the transaction. Sky Solar’s largest shareholder, and driving force behind the consortium, is a Japanese corporation, active in renewable energy. Sky Solar Holdings most valuable assets are also located in Japan, so it is a deal that makes sense. The buyers know what they are getting into and have financing arranged (also from a Japanese party). Hudson Capital has been trying to acquire Sky Solar (or their main assets) for approximately $6/ADS as well, so presumably those solar projects are worth that kind of money (you wouldn’t know it by looking at their GAAP financials).

Of course, Sky Solar remains hairy, and it is for example quite possible that the litigation from Hudson Capital will somehow throw a spanner in the works. But I think that when looking at a merger arbitrage you should for the largest part ignore the company’s history and current issues. The number one question is really: does the acquiring party want to buy this, and can they close the transaction? I think the answers to those questions are yes in this case, and the rest is not that important. But if things do unravel you have to assume that the downside can be big, so I would certainly not go all-in on a deal like this. But I think the current spread of 15.4% is more than big enough to compensate for the risks that I’m are taking.


Author is long Sky Solar

Half-year portfolio review, 2020 edition

The first half of 2020 was without a doubt the most action packed start of any year since I started this blog, but you would not know it if you would look at the table below. After hitting a low somewhere in March, both my portfolio and the global stock market staged a remarkable recovery, and I’m back in positive territory while the stock market isn’t that far behind. During the depths of the coronacrisis I was pleased with how my portfolio managed to withstand the carnage. At the lowest point I was down approximately 13% for the year while the MSCI All Country World Index almost hit the 30% mark. I have written many times that I expect to do relative well in periods of market stress, and it’s good to see that that was not just wishful thinking. March 2020 was a portfolio stress test unlike anything I have had experienced before.

Year Return* Benchmark** Difference
2012 18.44% 14.34% 4.10%
2013 53.37% 17.49% 35.88%
2014 30.11% 18.61% 11.50%
2015 24.23% 8.76% 15.47%
2016 64.97% 11.09% 53.88%
2017 29.04% 8.89% 20.15%
2018 13.07% -4.85% 17.92%
2019 32.34% 28.93% 3.41%
2020-H1 3.80% -6.31% 10.11%
Cumulative 870.77% 140.94% 729.83%
CAGR 30.66% 10.90% 19.76%

* Return in euro’s after transaction costs, net dividend withholding taxes and other expenses
** Benchmark is the MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index) net total return index in euro’s

While my portfolio managed to survive the crisis (so far) I have to admit that I didn’t really do that much to capitalize on the opportunities that (in hindsight) were available. I was a cautious buyer because I thought that the economic impact of the coronacrisis could be severe and it would be hard to predict how it would impact various companies. To be honest, that’s probably still true, even though it doesn’t look like it anymore.

But I couldn’t resist picking up some shares at the depth of the crisis, and as you can see in the graph below, especially the special situations bucket performed admirably. Mergers were trading at historic large spreads, and while plenty of deals got cancelled or renegotiated most worked out quite satisfactory in the end. The only stock that caught me with my pants down was Stein Mart (NASDAQ:SMRT). I had not read the fine print of the merger agreement sufficiently careful, otherwise I would have realized earlier that drawing down the revolver too far would cause a material adverse change, giving the buyer an easy out.

As you can see, most of my portfolio is still down for the year. The two main exceptions are Viemed Healthcare and Xpel, two stocks that I would classify as reasonable priced growth. The sea of red below consists mainly of classic value stocks, and it is not a coincidence those have all performed poorly. While the stocks I own are in general too small to be part of any index, it is quite remarkable how much value stocks are underperforming this year. The Vanguard Value ETF is for example down -15.55% year to date while their growth ETF is up 11.44%.

Does that makes sense? I really don’t know. You could make an argument about how lower interest rates make companies with their value further out in the future more valuable, or maybe the coronacrisis will be the final nail in the coffin for struggling companies. But as long as I continue to buy cheap companies with a solid balance sheet I think things should work out in the end. We will see what the second half of 2020 is going to bring!


Author has a position in most of the stocks mentioned in the overview