A recent purchase in certain strategies is Platform Specialty Products (PAH). Like Wendy’s (WEN), this stock does not trade at a presently low price-to-earnings, or P/E ratio; in fact, it’s somewhat high. However, the company incorporates many predictive attributes that are suggestive that its revenues and earnings several years from now will be far higher than they are today. As a U.S. company, PAH is new, having been listed on the NYSE only since this past January. Its operating business, though, has been around for over 90 years, and PAH was trading on the London Stock Exchange when it was acquired this past October for $1.8 billion by what is known as a blank-check company. The current stock market value is $2.4 billion. A blank check company raises equity capital in order to acquire a target, often within a specified window of time, and this particular one was organized by three well- known parties: Nicolas Beggruen, through his investment company Beggruen Holdings; Bill Ackman, through his hedge fund Pershing Square; and Martin Franklin. At year-end they each controlled, respectively, 6.5 million, 33.3 million, and 7.3 million shares. Martin Franklin is also the founder and Executive Chairman of Jarden Corp (JAH), which is a significant holding in the Core Value and Strategic Value strategies, among others. The same three, also through a blank check company, brought Burger King (BKW) public again in mid-2012.
PAH produces specialty chemicals for a wide range of industries. It manufactures over 1,000 compounds, and its largest customer represents only 3% of sales. It exhibits very little cyclicality. Energy costs are only 2% of sales. It’s important to qualitatively differentiate the nature of the PAH chemicals business from that of the typical chemicals company. These particular chemicals are often proprietary both as to makeup (the company has over 750 patents) and process. Their employees spend considerable time with customers guiding them as to how to use these chemicals, often in multi-step processes, such as might be used to enhance the performance of a circuit board. PAH refers to these as dynamic chemistries and seeks out markets requiring highly technical post-sale customer service. What PAH sells tend to represent a very small portion of the cost of a customer’s product, yet are important to the product’s function or appearance. According to the company, customer retention is very high because the cost savings from switching to another provider are modest, while the switching costs are high due to process complexities and quality control requirements. Continue Reading »