A take-under rarely falls through giving investors a second chance, like the one Bonal International (BONL) shareholders are receiving. For anyone looking for a great background on the company I'd recommend reading the post at OTCAdventures. If you don't read OTCAdventures yet I'd highly recommend adding it to your weekly reading. I'm friends with the author who unfortunately needs to remain anonymous due to his job, otherwise I'd post it here to get the word out. If you're ever in Pittsburgh drop me or him a line, we'd love to meet up to talk cheap value stocks.
The quick two minute synopsis on Bonal is that they sell a patented metal stress test technology. The technology was patented by the Chairman and now CEO (story on that later) decades ago. The level of current patent protection is ambiguous, they might have a newer related patent, but I'm not sure.
As a result of their patents, their sales, or their niche the company has incredible margins, and has recently been growing substantially. Here is a glimpse at their current results:
The company is earning 20% and greater returns on equity. This is even more impressive when one realizes that most of equity is made up of cash and investments that aren't actually needed to generate any of their income. I have a field called ROE-adj on my spreadsheet showing the company's return on equity employed to generate the returns, the numbers are unbelievable.
The company is selling for close to 2x book value, but given that they lease their premise, and don't have many fixed assets this isn't an unreasonable multiple. The correct way to view Bonal is as an income stream. On that note they're trading for close to 10x earnings which is probably a low multiple for such a profitable company. The company has earned $.18 per share this year so far, if things continue on track it isn't a stretch to assume they could make $.20 per share. At a 10x multiple on earnings, plus the excess cash of $.56 per share the company's value is close to $2.50 at the low end. Additionally the company pays a generous dividend giving the stock a current yield of 15%.
Given what we know about the company's growth and margins it should come as no surprise to hear that shareholders were outraged when they received an offer on Feb 8th to merge with DePierre Management & Manufacturing for $.86 per share, plus a special dividend of $.20-30 per share. Backing out cash the deal valued the company at about 3x earnings.
It seemed like there was no way for the deal to fail with the founding family owning 65% of the company, except that it did, so what happened?
It's important to realize that the controlling shares don't reside with any one person, they're spread across a trust and five relatives. Together these family members own 65%, but individually no one controls more than 24% of the shares.
I believe the key to understanding why the deal failed is buried in the press release announcing the deal itself. Towards the end of the release there is a small paragraph mentioning that two Board members resigned, and the CEO was relieved of his duty and is now in charge of the marketing department. The Chairman and former CEO has reassumed the role of CEO.
I want to put forth a theory that could explain this, it seems reasonable to me, but I don't have any solid evidence to back this up besides conjecture. My guess is three of the Board members didn't want to do the deal and were working to stop the transaction. Somehow the Chairman forced two of them to resign and demoted the third removing them all from the Board. By doing this he was able to vote to accept the transaction with whatever yes men were left. The transaction itself is a bit suspicious, the company agreeing to merge happens to have the exact same address as Bonal itself. This appears to be a Chairman take-under that's going private.
Private shareholders were rightfully surprised and incensed at the proposed merger, and along with the three ousted Board members there were enough votes to block the merger from taking place.
The strange turn of events places the company in a very unique position. The Chairman clearly wants control of the company back, yet minority shareholders, and other family members are unwilling to sell the company at the price he's willing to pay. Right after the company announced their take-under they also announced record quarterly earnings. Earning momentum is headed in the right direction, and as long as the results are sustainable this is a fast growing little company.
I'm not sure where things go from here, but at this point minority shareholders appear to be in control. This is a story I'm going to continue to watch.
Disclosure: No position