Food Stocks Make A Beeline For China

By Tom Piotrowski | More Articles by Tom Piotrowski

The $190m cash/scrip takeover offer for the honey producer is pitched at a decent premium, but will the suitors have to sweeten the pot? Meanwhile, Food Revolution Group is getting serious about China.

Capilano Honey (CZZ) $19.68

Will media mogul Kerry Stokes’ support for the consortium lodging a $190 million bid for the honey packer and marketer be enough to get the deal across the line?

Through his company Wroxby, Stokes is a 20.6 per cent holder in Capilano and is happy to take his consideration in scrip.

But some pundits reckon that the bidders — private equity fund Wattle Hill and agricultural investor ROC Capital — are swooping at an opportunistic time, with the company on the cusp of a golden earnings recovery.

Based on Capilano’s 2017-18 earnings announcement that accompanied the takeover news, the offer of $20.06 a share cash and a cash-scrip alternative values the company on a generous earnings multiple of 19 times.

But while earnings fell 4 percent to $9.8m, broker Cannacord reckons they were well ahead of expectations. On the firm’s expectations for 2018-19, the stock is trading on a multiple of only 14 times after being rerated post the takeover announcement.

“We won’t be surprised to see an alternative proposal emerge,” the firm says.

Select Equities analyst Mark Topy concurs.

“We believe the bid has highlighted the latent value in Capilano with its leading market share position and honey supply to expand in the Asian region,” he opines.

“We believe that other parties may indentify this value in assessing and launching a possibly higher bid.”

With a circa 70 per cent domestic market share, Capilano presents a rare chance for a buyer to land its sticky paws on one of the country’s best known consumer brands.

Not that the producer is devoid of issues.

This year’s crop is expected to be the highest in a decade, which flies in the face of reports that our bee population is in less than robust health. In other words, there’s an oversupply.

Another negative is that Coles recently decided to stop stocking Capilano’s Allowrie brand, which is sourced from Argentinian and Chinese honey but also contains 30 percent Australian honey.

The patriotic Coles decided it only wanted local honey, which provided an entree to key competitor Beechworth Honey to increase its private label presence.

Woolworths, however, continues to stock Allowrie arguing the value product is popular with consumers. Topy estimates the brand accounts for 5 percent of Capilano’s revenue.

Supply wise, the dry weather is a key X factor. About one quarter of honey comes from Queensland, where conditions have been unfavourably dry.

Manuka honey – a fave of health conscious consumers – is in especially short supply and Capilano has been relying on Kiwi beekeepers to maintain market share.

Capilano’s full-year results results show the company is sitting on a honey stockpile of 6746 tonnes worth $51m, which positions the company if the Big Dry continues.

As Capilano chairman Trevor Morgan says: “It’s comforting to have a little more honey in the yard than has been the case in recent years.”

Also, increased supply isn’t entirely negative for Capilano, because it lowers the price for the commodity the company pays to the bee keepers. According to Topy, apiarists know receive an average $4.80 a kilogram compared with $5.20/kg a year ago.

But if the drought persists and supply constricts, these prices are likely to rise.

Investors have taken a cautious approach to Capilano because its push into China has been slower than expected. The company has recently moved from a direct approach to more of an emphasis on the Daigou (cross border) channel and the Alibaba and ecommerce sites.

But Wattle Hill is a China specialist with a remit of expanding the brand into offshore markets.

Stokes is obviously confident of the strategy: Wroxby has agreed to take up its entitlement in scrip, which frees up other Capilano holders to accept either shares or the $20.06 cash offer (a 28 percent premium to the ‘undisturbed’ price of $15.65/sh).

Other holders on Capilano’s tight register – many of whom are beekeepers – are likely to want to follow Stokes’s lead and maintain an exposure to what’s the bee’s knees of Australian honey.

Food Revolution Group (FOD) 9.5c

The producer of all-Australian juices, fibres and “infused fruits” is also getting serious about China, having entered a distribution deal with Daigou channel Health More.

From its facility in the outer Melbourne suburb of Mill Park, Food Revolution produces concoctions that play in a hybrid zone between drinks and nutraceuticals.

Its Juice Lab line includes concoctions such as Vegessential Unbeetable, a crimson coloured blend of beetroot, carrot, celery, pear and cayenne pepper.

Or how about Green Keeper, an infusion of carrot, cucumber celery, zucchini pear, lemongrass and chlorophyll?

Food Revolution also launched a kombucha range (Bucha Stop) to please the hipsters and plans product extensions into cold extracted coffee, brewed tea, soups and healthy icy poles.

Food Revolution has disappointed since back-door listing in February 2016 and raising $12m at 10c apiece.

But it’s profitable, having generated $1.05m of ebitda on revenue of $17m in the first half.

The plant is only running at 40 per cent capacity. Nikolovski says that at full bore the plant is capable of doing $110m of revenue, at a gross margin of 30-45 percent.

Can China fill the capacity? The Health More deal involves Food Revolution developing a “functional and nutritional” line of beverages for Health More.

Still, filling that slow boat to China may require more than one Daigou deal and we wouldn’t be surprised if the company had other growth plans.