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David Rolfe Comments on LKQ Corporation

April 18, 2014 | About:
Holly LaFon

LKQ Corporation (LKQ) is the world's largest procurer and distributor of alternative and aftermarket collision replacement parts for automobiles and other vehicles. The Company has grown rapidly since its inception in 1998, by executing an expansion strategy that has included aggressive organic and inorganic investments. To date, LKQ's strategy has resulted in a business with unparalleled scale, at over $5 billion in revenues across three continents, compared with aftermarket and salvage parts competitors that routinely post less then $100 million in sales, usually with the largest footprints limited to regional geographies.

LKQ has a very clear, defensible value proposition that we believe should continue to generate superior business results for many years to come. Consider vehicle owners and collision repair shops have three options when sourcing replacement collision parts: the original equipment manufacturer (also known as "OEMs" – think GM, Chrysler, Toyota or Honda), aftermarket manufacturers (generic car parts, similar in quality to OEM -­‐ "off-­‐brand") or alternative parts, which includes recycled, remanufactured and refurbished OEM parts (usually from the purchase and dismantling of salvage vehicles). LKQ specializes in procuring and distributing the latter two categories – alternative and aftermarket replacement collision parts – which is a $15 billion market opportunity in the U.S. These alternative parts are 13 typically 20% to 50% cheaper than OEM parts, with headlamp assemblies, hoods, as well as rear and front bumper covers rounding out some of the most popular products.

So popular have alternative parts been that in 2013, nearly a third of all collision replacement parts were alternative, compared to the turn of the century – when less than a quarter of replacement collision parts were alternative. We give a lot of credit to LKQ for driving this secular trend, as their rapidly increasing scale has improved the availability and reliability of alternative parts, with nearly 100,000 SKU's available to most U.S. collision shops within 24 hours, compared to a few thousand SKU's offered at most OEM dealerships. A vast North American network of over 300 LKQ facilities, including dismantling plants, warehouses and cross-­‐ docking platforms, are the backbone for procuring recycled, refurbished and remanufactured parts from over 270,000 salvage vehicles per year (as of 2013). When alternative parts are not available, LKQ has a deep inventory of aftermarket parts, with the ultimate value-­‐added goal of achieving fulfillment rates consistently in excess of 90%, compared to OEMs that are at 60-­‐70% fulfillment, and regional players that are even lower.

LKQ's North American operation is its most mature at 75% of revenues. As recent as 2010, all of the Company's revenues came from this region. This changed in late 2011, when LKQ entered the European market, specifically the UK, with the purchase of EuroCarParts, which is a national distributor of aftermarket mechanical parts. Roughly 18 months later, LKQ purchased Sator Beheer, also an automotive aftermarket parts distributor, but in the Benelux region of mainland Western Europe. While LKQ's European presence is nascent, they are quickly building scale, as both acquisitions represent businesses that have top, second or third positioning in regional market share.

We expect LKQ to continue their consolidating acquisition strategy, especially overseas, as there is a vacuum of supply for alternative parts in the European Union. Much of this has to do with long-­‐standing legislation that made it difficult to utilize or even forbade the use of aftermarket collision parts. More expensive, OEM parts have dominated the collision replacement parts market, with European alternative parts utilization (APU) in the single-­‐digit percentages (recall APU is ~1/3rd in the U.S.). However, as the region began overturning restrictive legislation during the middle of the last decade, a healthier supply and demand dynamic for alternative parts has emerged.

With a proven strategy that has driven a much higher APU in North America, we think LKQ should be able to use a similar playbook in Europe. A particularly important facet of this strategy is LKQ's excellent relationship with property and casualty insurers. The industry estimates that P&C insurers are involved, in the form of paying claims, for nearly 85% of all collision repair work in the U.S. As a result, North American P&C insurers have been fierce advocates for higher APU rates, as cheaper parts with similar efficacy helps contain the cost of an auto 14 insurance claim. LKQ has been keen to partner with all of the top North American auto insurers, investing heavily in IT capabilities that help insurers incentivize consumers and auto body shops to use alternative parts, when at all possible. (In fact, "LKQ" is an acronym for the insurance industry jargon, "Like in Kind and Quality.") We expect LKQ to use a similar strategy in the U.K. and rest of Western Europe, where aftermarket addressable opportunity – both mechanical and collision – is well in excess of LKQ's current North American addressable market, where they are primarily focused on collision. When combined with the current, very low APU rates, we think LKQ's opportunity for growth in the E.U. is extremely compelling.

LKQ's E.U. purchases are new, in the sense that it is a new geography, but the Company has a rich history of growth through acquisition, with over 170 made since its founding in 1998 – most located in North America. The salvage parts industry in North America is extremely fragmented, and very mature, so we think LKQ's "roll-­‐ up" strategy makes imminent sense, here, especially considering that the Company's market multiple is typically two to three times higher than its targets (which often go out at 4X-­‐6X EBITDA). This cost of capital advantage is a byproduct of the Company's scale, which increases along with each purchase – and represents a virtuous cycle of growth and reinvestment. In addition, LKQ has expanded its share count by just a single digit percentage over the past five years. While they carry about $1.2 billion in debt, the Company threw off over $400 million in operating cash flow during 2013, so there are ample financial resources available to continue reinvesting in both organic and inorganic growth.

We initiated a position in LKQ only after a steep sell-­‐off in the shares towards the latter half of January 2014. The roughly 20% correction in shares, along with the potential for 20% growth in 2014 (and beyond), saw LKQ's P/E multiple contract to very attractive levels, historically and relatively speaking. We look forward to more opportunistic purchases in the coming months and years.

In conclusion, LKQ's scale benefits should continue to compound, particularly as the business expands into new, under-­‐penetrated geographies, such as Europe, which should lead to several years of high teens to low-­‐20% growth. The Company's solid financial positioning and cost of capital advantage are important elements that reinforce our conviction in LKQ's expansion and profit opportunities. If (though we hope "when") the stock trades at attractive multiples, we will be looking to add to positions, as we expect LKQ's domestic dominance and international expansion will yield a favorable, multi-­‐year investment opportunity.

From David Rolfe (Trades, Portfolio)'s Wedgewood Partners first quarter 2014 commentary.


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