In the whirlwind of lockdowns, geopolitical unease, and cost hikes doing the cha-cha with consumer wallets, Baltic company managers can’t afford to kick back and relax. It’s like a wild rollercoaster that beats any MBA program for executives! Current environment puts more responsibility on management teams in Baltic countries to skilfully manage companies’ costs and to adapt to current macro situation. However, even in this demanding environment, there are resilient and well-managed companies holding their own.

Our objective with the Corporate Excellence Award has been to evaluate and acknowledge businesses listed on the main list of the Baltic stock exchange, and during the last year, Lithuanian companies has shown best results in Baltics – 4 companies from Lithuania has managed to be listed among TOP 5. In 2022, the Baltics saw the highest price hike in the Euro Area, and this obviously has exerted pressure on profitability. Alongside volatile electricity prices and previously mentioned rising interest rates have created not easy challenges for the companies. According to our evaluation of corporate past results, the pressure was managed the best by the retailers and a telecom company, which have ensured their top positions among the Baltic companies.

Companies with less than three years data history are not included in the evaluation
Source: Alphinox, Reuters

Long-term Baltic top dweller, Telia Lietuva, remained in the top also this year, regaining positions from last year after it saw moderate increase in net profitability. The company continues to stay as stable as possible ensuring its profit growth every year. It managed to stay in the very top even despite substantial investments to launch 5G, which naturally caused decline in free cash flow that translated into the dividend cut. Telecoms are very capital-intensive businesses, having investment cycles defined by the technological leaps, which are needed to stay competitive. So, it is a challenge for the management to navigate these cycles smoothly and, it seems, that Telia’s management can cope well with it not getting into the risk zone by keeping rather conservative capital structure and high profit margins.

In TOP 3 this year the 2nd place is taken by fashion retailer Apranga, which turned out to be more resilient than expected. The group’s strategy to be present in the largest Baltic cities and owning most of stores in the largest shopping centers is bearing fruits. Apranga generates double digit sales growth every quarter starting with Q4’21 and has already exceeded pre-pandemic sales volumes in the end of 2022. Of course, as many consumers longing for human-connection and for touching and feeling the fabrics that fashion retailers can offer, the online sales has noticeably decreased, but still generate approximately 12% of total revenues. The group also has potential to expand its product categories beyond clothing to include accessories, beauty products and home goods. Rising labor costs will occupy the minds of the management team for some time to come, but so far, the margins remain stable and net profit continues to grow.

Tallinna Kaubamaja (TKM) safeguarded 3rd place for it in the top, improving its position from being 4th last year. KIA brand dealer and Selver stores operator, continues to be well-managed in very competitive market environment. Despite surging electricity prices and labour cost inflation in 2022, the company ensured limited profit decline as setback in supermarket segment was mitigated by profitability growth in car trade and department store segment. The company is well-positioned to grow further given ease on cost side, while focusing on further improving efficiency of its operations recognizing the threat from new market player in food retail segment.

Looking at Baltic Main list constituents, majority of the companies managed to increase their turnover during the last year.  Average sales growth in 2022 of Baltic companies was 24%, which was driven primarily by the consumer and energy producing companies. However, the unpleasant macro environment spurring cost inflation resulted in a decline of average profitability of companies: gross margin was down by 2% and ROE fell from 18% to 14%. Still, after so many challenges the future looks less cloudy, as inflation is decreasing, and global economy grows despite all.

 

More about Baltic Corporate Excellence Award: www.alphinox.com/awards/

Probably, the majority of the companies listed on the Baltic stock exchanges have never seen so turbulent times as the last three years and that is, indeed, the greatest challenge for them to navigate through the unfavorable environment. This is definitely a time when the role of the management expands exponentially, putting pressure on the team to successfully deal with ever-mounting challenges. Therefore, when assessing corporate quality as a part of Baltic Corporate Excellence Award framework, we pay a lot of attention not only to the quality of firm’s business model and their financial health, but also to the quality of corporate governance.

The goal of Corporate Excellence Award, which we administer since 2008, is to examine and recognize companies included in the main lists on the Baltic stock exchanges based on their past financial performance and to encourage both, their own further development and that of the market as a whole. The best company, ideally, should have had an excellent track record in financial results – above average capital returns, decent development pace, and good financial health, complemented by strong corporate governance and plausible investment strategy.

Local capital banks have rushed into the Top 3 this year given their active expansion on the local markets, which has been tracking the economic development of the region. The long-term dwellers of the Top, such as Telia and Tallinna Kaubamaja, remained among the companies offering the best corporate quality in Baltics but saw slight deterioration of their positions.

TOP 5 Baltics 2022

CountryNameSectorIndustry groupRank 2022Rank 2021Rank 2020
LithuaniaŠiauliu bankasFinancialsBanks1611
LithuaniaTelia ABTelecommunicationsTelecommunications211
EstoniaLHV GroupFinancialsBanks353
EstoniaTallinna KaubamajaConsumer StaplesRetail432
LithuaniaAprangaConsumer DiscretionarySpecialty Retail578

Source: Alphinox, Reuters (Companies with less than three years data history are not included in the evaluation)

In 2022, Telia Lietuva has given up its first place to Lithuanian Šiauliu bankas, which was somewhat expected given the slight decline in profitability of Telia due to cost inflation and heavy capital investments in the infrastructure – a typical case in the telecom space. On the revenue side, Lithuanian communications behemoth remains as stable as possible even during current trying times, generating decent cash flows in all of its segments. Being the first company to introduce 5G network in Lithuania, Telia has cemented further its top position in the Lithuanian telecom market. High quality of the business model as well as governance, alongside technological synergies with its parent company, allows Telia to sail safely during the stormy weather and to reward its shareholders with dividends.

Historically, LHV used to occupy high positions in the Baltic Corporate Excellence Award Top, given its rapid growth and plausible business model; therefore, it is not a big surprise that also this year it earned 3rd position among listed Baltic companies based on corporate quality. 4th largest Estonian bank is well-represented in all the business niches and has become a serious competitor to Scandinavian banks, especially when it comes to adapting new services and implementing technological innovations. Being in the aggressive growth mode, Estonian bank actively attracts capital to expand its business at a double-digit rate, with deposits growing by 41% and loan portfolio increasing by 21% in 2021. Current environment is fairly favorable for the bank as rates continue to increase, providing opportunities for growing income streams. Those are complemented by increase in demand for consumer credit driven by rapid inflation that encourages consumer spending.

As already mentioned above, 2022 winner is Šiauliu bankas, Lithuanian 4th largest player in banking sector. This financial institution is also in the aggressive growth mode and is actively attracting new customers to its business and consumer segments. However, bank’s capital structure looks more conservative when compared to LHV, which may play a crucial role in case the number of critical loans increase as the economic situation worsens. The bank currently is a local leader in renovation financing, benefitting from interest rate increase and higher demand for consumer loans, same as LHV and the sector as a whole.

On average, the financials of the Baltic companies have improved last year, even surpassing pre-COVID 2019 results. 2021 saw increase in capital profitability, while debt levels declined. However, market environment has changed drastically in 2022 – central banks are rising interest rates in an attempt to cool down skyrocketing inflation, while catch-up demand in the post-COVID era caused significant disruptions to supply chains. Security tensions resulting from Russia’s invasion in Ukraine only aggravated the situation further. All these challenges indeed pose a threat to growth in 2022 and 2023. However, high-quality companies remain an attractive long-term investment as they have a good track record of remaining resilient, they possess fundamental strength and show the ability to navigate through tough waters. All industries have their leaders and laggards – the aptitude to identify the former and stay away from the latter is what differentiates active management from passive.

 

Learn more about Baltic Corporate Excellence award

Disclaimer: This press release is for information purposes only and constitutes neither an offer nor a recommendation to undertake any type of transaction or to buy or sell securities or financial products in the broadest sense. Alphinox Quality AS offers no guarantee of the completeness, correctness or security of this press release. Alphinox Quality AS accepts no liability claims that might arise from the use or non-use of the content of this press release. Alphinox Quality AS employee has Telia Lietuva and Šiauliu Bankas in personal investment portfolio.

As pandemics continue to rage around the globe, it also continues to heavily affect corporate financial results, pushing them towards opposite extremes – both positive and negative ones. Financial results published by Baltic listed companies for the full year 2020 evidence that about half of the Baltic main list constituents have seen a profound negative impact as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with their profits slashed by a third. In the most severe cases, however, companies even reported negative bottom lines. Those were predominantly ones that operate in the pandemics-exposed sectors and have large fixed costs base. Naturally, pandemics also spurred a number of positive trends, such as digitalization, and some companies with relevant exposure managed harvest significant benefits from that.

Given so uneven positions among Baltic companies, it was easier this time to distinguish between the best and the worst in Baltics, even though we also take historical results into account and those tend to smoothen out the periods of crises.  The goal of the Corporate Excellence award is to examine and recognize companies of the Baltic Stock Exchange based on their past financial performance and to encourage both, their own further development and that of the market as a whole. The best company, ideally, should have had an excellent track record in financial results – above average capital returns and strong solvency position, complemented by good corporate governance quality and plausible investment strategy.

Top 5 Baltics 2021

CountryNameSectorIndustry groupRank 2021Rank 2020Rank 2019
LithuaniaTelia ABTelecommunicationsTelecommunications114
EstoniaTallinna VesiUtilitiesUtilities21014
EstoniaTallinna KaubamajaConsumer StaplesRetail322
LithuaniaPieno žvaigždėsConsumer StaplesFood & Beverage42126
EstoniaLHV GroupFinancialsBanks531

Source: Alphinox

Given such a divergent performance in the current operating environment, it was not a surprise to see some new candidates emerge among the Corporate Excellence Top titles in 2021, although last year award winners made it to the Top yet again, proving their resilience also in the adverse conditions. Telia Lietuva, for instance, managed to keep its number one position, 2nd best last year -Tallinna Kaubamaja – slid to the 3rd place in the face of headwinds caused by COVID-induced restrictions, while Estonian bank, LHV, is gradually surrendering its position in terms of corporate quality to other Baltic companies, mainly because of worsening capital structure and capital profitability.

Telia Lietuva, with operations in the crisis-resilient telecom sector, has kept its top position despite suffering from lower roaming revenues due to restrictions in tourism sector, but, on the other hand, it enjoyed increased traffic from more intense data consumption. Telia Lietuva is able to steadily grow its top line, while also being very cost-efficient. The company proceeds with substantial investments to ensure high quality service to its customers, which assumes also faster data transmission, and to prepare solid ground for 5G service offering.

Tallinna Vesi noticeably improved its position and reached 2nd best place as its resilience towards Covid-related changes allowed the company to stand out among other Baltic listed companies. Together with the improvement in historical fundamentals, it allowed Tallinna Vesi to secure the 2nd best place in the ranking. Tallinna Vesi saw a decrease in water consumption in 2020 but still managed to keep its margins on a high level and ensured balance sheet stability. The company can also be praised for its sense of responsibility in terms of the ESG theme – several standards are implemented to ensure high water quality and environmentally friendly operations. The company takes good care not only of its customers but also of investors by paying high dividends annually.

Bronze-medal winner, Estonian retailer Tallinna Kaubamaja, should be praised not only for remaining in the top according to the fundamental quality but also for active expansion during the critical period for many businesses. Not only did it add capacity to the supermarket network, which further drove its top line, but Tallinna Kaubamaja also managed to keep its leverage under control.

Summarizing this year’s fundamental evaluation, it must be admitted that the gap between the best and the worst expanded and probably will continue to expand until we learn how to cope with the pandemics and all the restrictions are lifted. Apart from the declines in top and bottom-line earnings, another expected phenomenon is the worsening of balance sheets that is driving leverage and net debt to cash flow upwards, and stimulating companies from heavily affected sectors to attract additional financing. This leads to the increased risk profile of the Baltic equity market, which, however, is still more conservative than the pan-European stock market – equity ratio: 45% vs. 35%. Nevertheless, this trend requires careful acknowledgment of such risks in the stock selection process.

Baltic Corporate Excellence Award: Since 2008 on a yearly basis Riga-based financial research company Alphinox, in cooperation with its partner, Hérens Quality Asset Management (Switzerland), evaluates the quality of the companies quoted on the Baltic stock exchanges. Both qualitative and quantitative assessment is applied to determine the best companies listed in the Baltic States, considering the companies included in the Baltic main list with a trading history of at least three years. The quantitative screen contributes 50% to the overall assessment. It considers the main fundamental ratios allowing to make a judgment on the strength of the balance sheet, profitability, capital efficiency, operating efficiency, earnings momentum. Another 50% of the decision is based on the qualitative assessment, which covers business model, corporate governance, social responsibility, quality of financial management, and market environment. The Corporate Excellence Award recognizes historical fundamental performances and ignores companies’ valuation. The results of the Baltic Corporate Excellence Award are therefore not a stock recommendation.

https://www.alphinox.com/awards/

Disclaimer: This press release is for information purposes only and constitutes neither an offer nor a recommendation to undertake any type of transaction or to buy or sell securities or financial products in the broadest sense. Alphinox Quality AS offers no guarantee of the completeness, correctness, or security of this press release. Alphinox Quality AS accepts no liability claims that might arise from the use or non-use of the content of this press release. Alphinox Quality AS employee has Telia Lietuva in the personal investment portfolio. 

 

Asa konkurence, piesātināts tirgus, ne pārāk labvēlīgas ilgtermiņa tendences klimata politikas dēļ, maz iespēju izcelties ar unikālo produkta piedāvājumu, kas ierobežo iespēju paaugstināt rentabilitāti – tā izskatās biznesa vide, kurā darbojas degvielas tirgotājs Virši. Taču, apskatot degvielas tirdzniecības uzņēmuma attīstības plānus sīkāk, redzams, ka negatīvās tirgus iezīmes uzņēmuma vadība uzskata par iespējām augt – stiprināt savu konkurētspēju un palielināt rentabilitāti ar jauniem projektiem. Tāpēc arī redzam uzņēmumu starp kandidātiem publiskā kapitāla piesaistē, uzsākot kotēšanu Nasdaq Riga biržā.

Mērķējot piesaistīt 6.47 milj. EUR (pēc komisijām), nākošajos trīs gados Virši plāno aktīvi attīstīt alternatīvo degvielas piedāvājumu – būvēt dabasgāzes uzpildes stacijas, attīstīt biometāna ražošanu un loģistikas ķēdi, kā arī turpināt veidot infrastruktūru elektroauto uzlādei. Šie plānotie projekti dos gan iespēju atšķirties no konkurentiem piesātinātajā degvielas mazumtirdzniecības tirgū, gan arī dažādot savu pakalpojumu klāstu ar citiem alternatīviem enerģijas avotiem  Piemēram, biometāna ražošana, kas samazina kopējo CO2 emisiju apjomu, ir ļoti atbilstoša aktivitāte Eiropas klimata-draudzīgai politikai un tiek atbalstīta arī no regulējošām institūcijām. Lai turpinātu mazināt atkarību no degvielas tirdzniecības segmenta,  kur peļņas norma ir zemā līmenī, Viršu plāns ir arī palielināt ienesīgo veikalu segmenta daļu līdz 50% no bruto peļņas 2024. gadā (šobrīd 40%), paplašinot staciju skaitu līdz 80 (šobrīd 63).

Vērtējot uzņēmuma korporatīvo pārvaldību, nevar nepamanīt aktīvu iesaisti no esošajiem akcionāriem, starp kuriem ir arī uzņēmuma dibinātāji. Aktīva dibinātāju un akcionāru (kuriem pēc IPO joprojām piederēs 88%) iesaiste ir apsveicama, taču padomei kopumā trūkst neatkarības, lai būtu droši, ka uzņēmums darbosies visu akcionāru interesēs.  Runājot par uzņēmuma vadības komandu, tā ir jauna un ambicioza, bet trūkst pieredzes nozarē, jo tikai viens no valdes locekļiem ir kopā ar uzņēmumu vairāk kā 5 gadus. Taču kopā ar aktīvu padomes dalību šādam modelim ir iespējama laba simbioze.

Nevar nepieminēt akcionāru lojalitātes programmu (minimālais akciju skaits, lai kļūtu par programmas biedru ir 100), kas ir laba prakse B2C uzņēmumiem, kas veic IPO. Šoreiz tiek piedāvāta 7 centu atlaide degvielai, kā arī dažādas atlaides Virši veikalā nopērkamiem produktiem. Izmantojot šos datus varam aptuveni aprēķināt savu ietaupījumu, ja esam Viršu klienti: 0.49 centi uz 100 km (pie patēriņa – 7l/100km) un gada laikā, nobraucot 20 000 km un iegādājoties pāris kafijas, ietaupām 100 EUR, kas rezultējas 22% gada ienesīgumā, ņemot vērā sākotnējo ieguldījumu 449 EUR (4,49 EUR par akciju x 100 akcijas).

Neskatoties uz to, ka uzņēmums atrodas aktīvā izaugsmes fāzē, ir plāns 20% no peļņas novirzīt dividendēs saviem akcionāriem. Virši stāsts šajā ziņā ir līdzīgs citam Latvijas uzņēmumam – Madara Cosmetics, kas arī atrodas aktīvā izaugsmes stadijā un investē attīstībā, bet maksā dividendes saviem investoriem.

Pasaules specializēto mazumtirdzniecības uzņēmumu un Virši finanšu un novērtējuma rādītāju salīdzinājums

Avots: Virši IPO prospekts, Thomson Reuters, Alphinox aprēķini; Virši izaugsmes rādītāji par 2020.g., novērtējuma rādītāji aprēķināti, nemot vērā IPO cenu

Salīdzinot Virši vērtējumu pie piedāvātās IPO cenas ar līdzīgiem pasaules uzņēmumiem (degvielas un citi specializētie mazumtirgotāji), var secināt, ka pēc P/E (cena pret peļņu) rādītāja tas izskatās daudz pievilcīgāks. Uzņēmums ir finansiāli stabils, ņemot vērā salīdzinoši augstāko pašu kapitāla īpatsvaru bilancē, kas arī ir iemesls zemākai kapitāla atdevei. Maksātnespējas risku rādītājs (Altman Z-score) ir salīdzinoši sliktāks, jo uzņēmumam ir ierobežoti apgrozāmie līdzekļi un zemāka operatīvā rentabilitāte.

Salīdzinot ar tuvākajiem  konkurentiem pēc rentabilitātes rādītājiem, Virši atpaliek tikai no Circle K, bet ņemot vērā uzņēmuma attīstības plānus šī starpība varētu samazināties.

Latvijas degvielas tirdzniecības uzņēmumu rentabilitātes rādītāji

Avots: Virši IPO prospekts

Apkopojot visu augstākminēto, var teikt, ka uz biržu iet ambiciozs uzņēmums ar skaidru vīziju un adekvātu novērtējumu, bet kam piemīt noteikti riski. Ierobežotā rentabilitāte augstās konkurences dēļ var bremzēt uzņēmuma straujos izaugsmes plānus, ar ko arī ir jārēķinās topošajiem investoriem. Var teikt, ka ieguldot Virši IPO, tā ir ilgtermiņa likme un uzticība pašmāju kapitāla uzņēmuma vadībai, kā tas spēs realizēt ambiciozos projektus, attīstīt jaunus biznesa virzienus un palielināt savu daļu tirgū, kas atrodas aktīvā konsolidācijas posmā.

 

Atruna: Šis viedoklis ir paredzēts tikai informatīviem nolūkiem, un tas nav nedz piedāvājums, nedz ieteikums veikt jebkāda veida darījumus vai pirkt vai pārdot vērtspapīrus vai finanšu produktus visplašākajā nozīmē. “Virši” sākotnējā publiskā piedāvājuma (IPO) novērtēšana tiek veikta neatkarīgi. AS “Alphinox Quality” un tās darbinieki nepiedalās “Virši” IPO. AS “Alphinox Quality” neuzņemas atbildību par publicētā viedokļa satura izmantošanas vai neizmantošanas sekām.