DMG & Partners Securities on 27 December 2011, issued a “Buy” call on Metro Holdings. As the price remains unchanged at 0.695 (despite a strong market); and given that less the net cash, the stock is only trading at 0.335; and a yield of almost 3% (historical), it’s something worth exploring despite it being a China play, and a property one at that.
(Background: Metro was founded in 1957 as a department store operator and became a household name. It diversified into property development in the 1990s and was one of the early investors in China’s real estate market, thereby missing the bullet of being a retailer here.)
It has since built up a portfolio of prime commercial properties in Tier-1 cities in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, as well as several property projects and joint ventures in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. Key properties that the group owns include Metro City and EC Mall in Beijing, Metro City and Metro Tower in Shanghai and GIE Tower in Guangzhou.
Leveraging on the group’s retail experience, Metro has chalked up an impressive track record as a mall operator and investor in China. To date, all its property ventures have been profitable, with past divestments making gains of 5-25 per cent premium over book value.
Over the past five years, shareholders’ equity compounded at a CAGR of 9 per cent. This was achieved without the use of excessive leverage given management’s conservative style. Its strong balance sheet (net cash of 36 cents) allows it to deploy capital opportunistically. The ability to recycle capital and profits into new projects has been a hallmark of Metro’s management.
The company is in the midst of selling its 50 per cent stake in Metro City Beijing for 1.25 billion yuan (S$247.5 million), a 50 per cent premium over its latest valuation. Should the deal go through, Metro will be able to book a pretax profit of $87.4 million. We estimate this will lift book NAV by nine cents/share.
On our estimates, the stock has an RNAV of $1.02 billion, or $1.23/share, after netting out liabilities. At current price, the stock is trading at a steep discount of 45 per cent to RNAV. Our target price for the stock is $0.86, based on a 30 per cent discount to RNAV.