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HomeValue InvestingThe Aussies' Miserly Provide for Vienna Airport

The Aussies’ Miserly Provide for Vienna Airport

Flughafen Wien AG (FLU) owns world-class belongings – together with Vienna Worldwide Airport, which dealt with some 32 million passengers within the 12 months previous to covid. But it surely’s a unusual inventory. Roughly 40% of the corporate is owned by state and native governments in Austria. One other 10% is held in a employees belief that distributes dividends as bonuses to many of the airport’s employees. An additional 40% is owned by IFM International Infrastructure Fund (IFM). That leaves simply 10% of the corporate’s shares as free float, listed on the Vienna Inventory Trade and accessible to be owned by the broader investing public. Our worldwide fund is one such shareholder.

IFM is a large investor in infrastructure (and different belongings) on behalf of “world-leading pension funds”, a lot of it Australian trade tremendous fund cash. It acquired its present stake in Flughafen Wien through takeover gives in 2014 and 2016. We purchased into the inventory later in 2016, after IFM’s second supply, eyes extensive open to the illiquid nature of the funding. However month-to-month buying and selling liquidity within the inventory has greater than halved over the interval of our possession.

We’ve lengthy thought the tip recreation right here was a squeeze out of minority shareholders by IFM. Coping with the liquidity challenge and defending minority pursuits is thus a very essential function for the board of Flughafen Wien. That’s a message we’ve persistently given to the board and administration, each formally and informally, stretching again no less than three years.

But right here we’re. Final week, IFM launched a compulsory takeover supply for all remaining shares in Flughafen Wien. That’s actually focused on the 10% free float solely, authorities shareholders received’t be promoting.

Insufficient worth a Catch-22

The value provided, €33 per share, is completely insufficient. It represents a a number of of barely 8 occasions earnings earlier than curiosity, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) from 2019 (the final 12 months earlier than the Covid-19 interruptions). For reference, funds managed by the identical IFM paid 23 occasions 2019 EBITDA to accumulate all of Sydney Airport just lately. There hasn’t been an airport takeover transaction globally previously decade struck at lower than 10 occasions EBITDA. Greater European metropolis monopoly airport transactions cluster round 15 occasions. A “truthful” worth for Flughafen Wien shares, in our opinion, begins at about €45 per share.

Most of the minority shareholders, ourselves included, will think about the €33 per share supply unfair, after which give severe consideration to promoting anyway. That’s as a result of this inventory, as illiquid because it has turn out to be, is about to get an entire lot much less liquid as IFM soaks up extra or the entire remaining free float. It’s a Catch-22 for minorities, with IFM as beneficiary.

The administrators must do one thing about it.

Just a few concepts

There are lifelike avenues for a fairer final result right here. A buyback of minority shareholders’ pursuits at a fairer worth by Flughafen Wien itself may make a number of sense. It will preserve the present stability between the bigger shareholders, which may be vital to the federal government shareholders particularly. It may add important worth to their funding by means of earnings accretion and price reductions as the corporate delists. It’d supply a “much less worse” worth for minorities and positively wouldn’t stretch the corporate’s stability sheet, which is ridiculously undergeared.

And, whereas we’re neither legal professionals nor adept German audio system, the Austrian Transformation Act (Umwandlungsgesetz) – often called a “squeeze out” provision – might apply. Whether or not legally required or not, exterior valuation is definitely finest observe as a place to begin right here.

There’s nonetheless water flowing underneath this bridge. We await the board’s official response to the supply, maybe they’ll do all the things we count on of them. However we’re not ready to remind them of their obligation to make sure a good final result for all shareholders, not simply these – like IFM – with a seat on the board.

Discover beneath a replica of our letter to the chairman of the supervisory board of Flughafen Wien, emailed Wednesday 15 June, which additional outlines our case.


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