Just the other day, the benefits of volatility (to value investors) were discussed on this site, and there are several volatile names on the Brazilian market that may be offering great opportunities at the current time.
I've been looking rather closely at Brazilian home builder Gafisa. The company's cash flow turned negative for a while as it struggled to complete projects on budget. As a result, the market started to worry about its ability to pay off its substantial debts.
In response, management has been shrinking operationally. It has agreed to sell 70% of its best-performing unit (the one that sells high-end homes) at a valuation of more than 3 times book value! It is also reducing its inventory in what it has identified as areas where its profits are sub-par (anywhere outside of San Paulo or Rio). In a move that is perhaps more symbolic than anything, it has also transferred its headquarters to a new spot where operating costs are some 45% lower.
As a result, Gafisa's debt situation looks rather manageable; if/when the major sale goes through (currently planned for October) and the money is applied towards debt (also the plan), Gafisa's debt to equity ratio will be just 54%, whereas it is currently almost 100%. Management has stated its debt to equity target is approximately 60%.
But despite the company's much safer circumstances, the market price has hardly responded. Gafisa trades for barely half of its book value! Book value is likely understated as well, as Brazil's inflation rate is generally higher than it is here, ensuring that inventory stated at historical cost is almost always a conservative estimate.
Such an investment is not without risks, however, both macro and micro. The company's remaining two operations (assuming the sale of 70% of Alphaville goes through) are losing money. The losses are on the decline as management appears confident that it has identified the problem areas and the negative impact of these will decline as they continue to be run off.
One of the company's remaining two units will be heavily reliant on a government program to supply houses for the poor. So far, it appears the program is popular and enjoys support and so is likely to continue, but who knows if/when that can change.
Finally, that aforementioned inflation (which suggests inventory at market is higher than inventory at cost) can be a problem for foreign investors. As an emerging market, Brazil's currency could depreciate, leaving outside investors holding the bag. To minimize this risk, investors in Brazil may wish to focus more on exporters, who have a natural hedge against this sort of problem.
Do you have any favourites in Brazil?
Disclosure: No position