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Making money, Is de la Rue a bargain ?

January 31, 2011 | About:

De la Rue is simple to understand, highly profitable and available at a meaningful discount to the price it would bring if sold to a private buyer. For Americans, there’s an ADR.

The company

1860 de la Rue prints Mauritius £5, £1 and £10 banknotes.

1946, IPO in London.

1994, de la Rue acquires the paper mill of the Bank of England (Portals). The company now produces the paper it prints its banknotes on.

1999 Sells Card business to Oberthur for £200m.

2002 Acquires the Bank of England’s printing works. De la Rue produces all sterling notes thereafter.

2005, an example of de la Rue’s unique ability to quickly handle complex, and sensitive projects is the fact that they were commissioned by the IMF to supply the new Iraqi Dinar after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

2008 de la Rue sells its Cash Systems division to the Carlisle group for £350m. A relatively low margin, cyclical business. The proceeds are returned to shareholders.

2010; De la Rue has four remaining divisions:
  • Currency (85% of operating income; ±50% market share)
  • Cash Processing Systems
  • Security Products (12% of operating income; product stickers for MSFT)
  • Identity Systems (UK passports and drivers licenses)

The business

Banknote production is perceived to be a no-growth business due to the widespread adoption of “plastic”. In reality, banknote usage grows steadily in developed economies. It’s even better in developing countries. Growth is driven by GDP and the adoption and changing requirements of modern cash handling hardware.

Importantly, commercial printers are taking share from government works. De la Rue has increased banknote print volume from 5B to 8B notes in five years.

About 6B Euro bills are printed by European governments annually. A portion will be tendered to private printers in 2012. That’s an opportunity for de la Rue with its 2010 volume of 8B notes. As it is, the majority of clients of de la Rue are emerging economies with higher than average GDP growth and low penetration of cash automation systems.

Number two, after de la Rue, is a private German company; Giesecke & Devrient. Private French company, Oberthur is a distant third with 10% market share.

The business of printing banknotes has economics of scale and barriers to entry. It’s impossible to compete at a lower cost with a product that’s similar in quality. This is a mature market with a limited number of participants.

Divide de la Rue’s £ 410m currency revenue by the 8B banknotes it prints and you get a cost to customer of $ 0.09 per note. The U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing charges the treasury $ 0.07 per note. Imagine you’re say….. Ghana or Belize; what are your options ?

De la Rue and G&D are the only major commercial players with integrated paper making ability. This allows them to react to highly profitable “emergency” customer orders. Another important advantage of this integration is the ability to coordinate and develop the security features embedded in the paper with the printing features.

Remember Iraq ? De la Rue was kind enough to install the hardware needed to handle the new banknotes….. courtesy of that insignificant cash-processing division…. Razor/blade strategy with economics of scale in an old-fashioned business….. ever evolving but never revolutionary….. Gillette !

Arman Kline (Sequoia fund, 2009):

De La Rue is the world’s largest private printer of money. Most of the bigeconomies in the world — the United States,China, Russia — print their own money. But the smaller countries in the world don’t. They have to outsource it. They can’t justify spending the money and the capital to do it. There’s a trend now where even some larger countries are outsourcing it. It is a very nice way to play an inflation hedge. It’s not one for one, but currency in circulation grows. The nice thing about it is that De La Rue’s clients tend to be in more emerging markets and exposed to commodities. So if you think that commodities are going to be more expensive going forward and drive inflation, the economies that are exposed to that should circulate more currency.


Well respected CEO Leo Quinn went to head QinetiQ last year handing over the role to the managing director for security paper and print, James Hussey. Mr. Hussey left within a year after de la Rue announced "quality and production irregularities" at the division mr. Hussey used to lead.

The company started 2011 with a new CEO; Tim Cobbold. Tim spent the last three years at secure power firm Chloride. Chloride was taken over by Emerson Electric.

Tim Cobbold has a good track record but is new to this game. The COO too, Colin Child, is new.

Why is this cheap ?

1) In 2010, the company suspended shipments of a banknote for two months claiming employees had falsified paper specification test certificates at a plant in Overton, Hampshire. According to management, volume for 2010 will be down 20%. Such volume along with the UK denying any problems, is an indication key client India is affected.

It happens. Last time (± 1990) it was Giesecke & Devrient with the German government. This incident is not going to make Giesecke & Devrient king of the hill. Yes it's embarrassing, but will de central banks of Kenya or Kuwait leave ?

2) The board rejected a £ 900m bid. Short term investors are dumping their shares now that Oberthur has indicated it's not willing to up the offer.

This is irrelevant to the thesis.

Specific Risk

1) Diworsification. Should de la Rue choose to acquire something, it’s almost certain to be a case of diworsification. Spending cash generated by a high quality franchise on a not so good acquisition. This happened to de la Rue in the seventies.

2) Political risk. In general, political instability is a plus for this business. However, party politics in India or elsewhere could force government to “blacklist” de la Rue.

3) Privatisation. Demand is robust and it’s unlikely anyone will start a competitor from scratch.... but what happens if say…. the US decides to privatize (not sell) the Bureau of Engraving & Printing ?

One of the 284768 other risks I haven’t thought of yet.


I don’t like calculators so I use rough numbers.

1) In December, aware of the production problems, Oberthur bid $ 1.4B; £ 900 m for de la Rue. The bid was rejected. Importantly, three private equity houses were willing to support the bid in exchange for a stake in the new company.

2) Since 2006 and excluding the sale of cash systems, the company has spent roughly £ 500m paying dividends, buying back shares and/or retiring debt. That’s about $ 160m per annum. A 10x multiple on that is $ 1.6B.

3) The Cash Processing Solutions Division of de la Rue was sold to the Carlyle Group for £350 in 2008. At the time, Cash Systems reported revenue of £285m and operating profit of £35m. Assets were £125m. That’s the non-core division selling cash systems… in 2008 ! generating about 10% of revenue. Let’s say the rest is worth 4 x £350m => $ 2B

Mr. Market offers us the shares for 670 GBp apiece. The company is a bargain at £ 660m => $ 1B.





No position in any of the companies mentioned.

Any and all questions and comments welcome as usual.

About the author:

I define intrinsic value as the price I would gladly pay to own the business outright. With current management in place. For most stocks, that value is 0. I can be reached at batbeer AT hotmail DOT com

Visit batbeer2's Website

Rating: 4.3/5 (22 votes)


Raj123456789 - 6 years ago    Report SPAM
Just curious, how did you come across this company?
Mo77 - 6 years ago    Report SPAM
I own shares in De La Rue. The ticker symbol is DELRF.

I bought into the position in the 3&4 quarter of 2010. The reason for the precipitous drop is that their largest customer, it was first believed and just recently acknowledged that the Reserve Bank of India suspended their contract w/ De La Rue.

The nature of the business is highly secretive and opaque, which is understandable due to the nature of security.

Many analysts believe that the Reserve Bank of India accounts for approx. 30% of their total revenue.

As stated in the thesis, the reason I bought shares was that the nature of the business is a fairly wide moat. It is not as if you can create a start-up business printing currency for central banks.

Prior to the scandal, shares were trading at ~1000 pence (~$16).

The current div. yield is 6.2%.

As of today the close was 667 pence ($10.60).

I think in a couple of years with growth in emerging countries as well as hopefully re-establishing some amt of business w/ India I believe the share price will bounce back to $15-$19.

Rgosalia - 6 years ago    Report SPAM
FYI - Sequoia Fund closed its position in De La Rue in Jun-Sept 2010.
Batbeer2 premium member - 6 years ago
Hi all


I don't know for sure, I've been tracking it for a while though. I don't remember looking at it before I read the comments by Sequoia in "09 so I guess that's where I found it. As usual, Geoff Gannon has been looking at it too; it was mentioned on his blog recently.

-EDIT- Could have been VIC where I first saw it. Good analysis, speculative valuation.


Didn't know India had been confirmed..... you're right, thanks. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/05/delarue-india-idUSLDE70414X20110105


Yes, they left with Leo Quinn; Sequoia really like him. In fact, Sequoia bought some QinetiQ; the company Leo Quinn went to. That's another cheap stock.... interesting no ?

Raj123456789 - 6 years ago    Report SPAM
Is DELRF and DLUEY.PK both have same price? I cannot get price quote from DLUEY.PK from google or yahoo. Sometimes ADRs are placed different price.
Batbeer2 premium member - 6 years ago
Hi Softdude2000

I can't get a quote for DLUEY.PK either.


DELRF:US is $ 10.60; also OTC with decent volume. Divide by 1.6 to get the price in GBP.


Myself, I track the stock on the London exchange LSE:DLAR.
JVerheyden - 6 years ago    Report SPAM
Fortress Paper Ltd is also a global force in the field of security and specialty papers. To learn more and get up to date banknote news, visit their Global Paper Security blog at www.globalpapersecurity.com

Batbeer2 premium member - 6 years ago
Thanks, didn't know about them. I believe there are some Canadians lurking round this forum. If FTP gets some of the business out of the Euro tender that should do wonders.
Hschacht - 6 years ago    Report SPAM

Seems like the fundamentals really took a hit in 2010. Can you give us an idea of the company's profitability, multiples, leverage, dividend, etc?

I think that takeover offer is interesting, but I'd like more to hang my hat on than that.

When was that offer made?

Batbeer2 premium member - 6 years ago
Hi Hschacht, thanks for the questions.

When was that offer made? It was made in november and disclosed in december. After the problems had been publicised. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-05/banknote-printer-de-la-rue-rejects-bid-from-france-s-oberthur-sky-reports.html

Seems like the fundamentals really took a hit in 2010. I guess it depends on your definition of fundamentals. India has suspended de la Rue from their next tender offer to produce banknote paper and sent some government officials to Brittain to look at the facilities (what else would they do ?). The fact is, very many mistakes are made every year by state printers.... google.

De la Rue caught the mistake before the stuff was shipped to India. Destroy the notes, write off the inventory, take a double digit hit on revenue and still make a profit !. This is not a mediocre business.

The fact remains, no one does a better job on that scale. You will find many mistakes that are much worse in this business. De la Rue is publicly traded so it gets a lot of attention. Governments themselves can't do a better job, period.

Having said that, there's no denying this was a mistake.

..an idea of the company's profitability.... ? I leave that stuff to someone who likes using calculators and spreadsheets. The bear case assumes they lose India going forward.

...leverage... Liabilities of £450m mainly payables (165m) and pension obligations (130m); no debt. Assets of £450m; £225m is current.
Batbeer2 premium member - 6 years ago
About 6B Euro bills are printed by European governments annually. A portion will be tendered to private printers in 2012. That’s an opportunity for de la Rue

Bingo !

De la Rue gets to print some of the (in this case Dutch) tendered euros. That's the first batch. I couldn't find an english source for this information.....

DNB completes tender (translated from Dutch)

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