Now, what is common in these totally diverse companies? All of their names end in "Ltd"? Umm, yup, but there is another thing common; all these companies have sold their businesses (assets only) and received cash (bigtime!) for the sale. It is a very convenient way for transferring ownership to others (read firangs) bypassing the pain of open offers/delisting etc etc.
The critical question is, why is the market not valuing these companies at least at the net cash on books? Why are these companies getting pathetically valued? And have the actions by these companies generated wealth/benefited the minority shareholders in any way?
Well, the answer is NO! Shareholders have rarely earned in all these situations. The primary reasons for this are:
- Very little transparency: Rarely do the promoters/management of these companies share what exactly they intend to do with the money that the company receives. Which business will they put it into? Do they have expertise in any new business/venture? No-one really knows.
- Getting into unrelated business: e.g. Laffans, which was a chemical company announced that they will not payout any money to the shareholders, and instead will utilise that money to get into logistics business!
- Not sharing much money with the shareholders: In some of these cases, the companies do not payout anything as dividend to the shareholders. In some cases, the companies initiate a buyback. But in most, they retain most of the money in the company. Again, what will they do with it??
- The 'gall bladder effect': When the gall bladder is full of liquids, one pisses it off. Similarly, when there is too much cash in the company, there is a high probability that promoters may piss it off!! :-) The money may be pilfered or spent on absolutely worthless stuff without any benefit to the minority shareholders.
- In June 09, Gwalior was trading at about Rs.100, with a market cap of about Rs.250 cr. Debt on books was Rs.150 cr. (Today, its CMP is Rs.51, with a market cap of Rs.105 cr.)
- At that time, the company announced the sale of their entire operating business to Lanxess for Rs.536 cr. From the proceeds, they retired debt of Rs.156 cr and were left with about Rs.380 cr.
- The management had announced that the company will return Rs.100 cr out of this money to the shareholders through dividend and/or buyback.
- The management had also announced in the media that the company will invest the remaining money in specialty chemicals and power generation businesses.
- The company did not pay any dividend. They, however utilised Rs.50 cr for buyback, in which the promoters also participated.
- There is no word about any specialty chemicals/power business. IN FACT, the company recently amended its 'objects clause' in the Memorandum of Association and has now become an NBFC!!!!! So all this money will now not go into an operating business, but will be invested!! Where?? Who has the qualification and experience to handle such a large amount of money? No-one really knows. :-( Maybe the promoters have realised that being an 'investor' in others' business can be more profitable than doing business themselves. Hell, if all promoters start thinking and doing that, what will you and me do???!!! :-D
What one should learn from the same is that, given this experience, the market will be very wary of such situations and will not accord them proper valuations. Therefore, before jumping into any such opportunity, one should surely think twice (minimum). These can very well end up being 'value traps'. (Recently, Riddhi Siddhi Gluco Biols has announced something similar. Let us see how that goes!)