An example of one of our portfolio holdings which has had, and continues to have, opportunities for self-help is Visteon Corp. (NYSE:VC), a well-capitalized automotive electronics company. The stock was a top contributor to the Fund's performance during the quarter, with a total return of 19.1%.
Visteon provides products to automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) such as Ford, GM, Daimler, BMW, Nissan and Honda for their digital cockpits, i.e., the instrument cluster, information displays and infotainment - each of which has a presence in the connected car. Comparing today's cars to those just five years ago, the amount of additional functionality is amazing - from infotainment that connects to your smartphone to driver assistance safety features such as rear back-up cameras, collision detection, and blind spot and lane departure warnings. Integrated instrument clusters can be personalized if,for example, you'd rather see the weather than your tachometer. There are even over-the-air software upgrades where, instead of having to take your vehicle to the dealer for an update, the upgrade can happen seamlessly while you're asleep and your car is in your own driveway.
The media is abuzz about self-driving cars and the car as an extension of people's mobile life. For the auto OEMs, having connectivity is a strategic differentiator and one that can be the deciding factor to a customer when choosing a particular car. Visteon is an enabler of connectivity with its cockpit electronics products - it enables the information to be gathered from various sources and displayed in the vehicle.
Visteon's roots can be traced back to its role as an automotive supplier to Ford Motor, providing climate control systems, electronics and interiors. The company was spun off in 2000, but then fell upon difficult times during the financial crisis. It reorganized and emerged from Chapter 11 in 2010. Two years later, management embarked upon a path to shift to higher margin products, deciding to exit the commodity interiors business and ultimately deciding to sell its stake in its climate control business to focus solely on electronics. It is here that the Fund got involved with Visteon. Management sold its stake in the climate control business at an attractive 10x EBITDA valuation and committed to return a substantial portion of the proceeds to shareholders. It had also acquired the automotive electronics business from Johnson Controls to bolster its overall electronics business and was actively pursuing new business wins with OEMs as well as reaffirming its technological strength and longer-term roadmap to re-win existing platforms. Further, a new CEO, Sachin Lawande, was brought in. Sachin had previously been the president of the Infotainment division at peer company, Harman. Since his arrival at Visteon, he has brought in additional talent along with a greater focus on software development, a key driver for this business.
Visteon continues on its path to building value. Even after a sizable capital return, the company maintains a net cash position. It remains focused on driving growth with its presence in the connected car. It has won business across various classes of vehicles from luxury to mid/entry level. It achieved its targeted cost synergies related to the acquisition of the JCI automotive electronics business ahead of plan, and has targeted reducing overhead costs further to improve margins. Adjusted EBITDA margins have improved from 7.2% in 2014 to 9.5% in 2015 and 11.9% in the first quarter of 2016.
We remain excited about the prospects for growth at Visteon as it expands its presence in the connected car and believe the stock, at current levels, still represents significant upside to our estimated NAV.
From Chip Rewey's second quarter 2016 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund letter. Continue Reading »