Tag Archives: EADS

Dear Congressman, send the C-27Js to The Boneyard

I read yesterday the following article from Aviation Week & Space Technology: “U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Aircraft May Fall To Cuts“. Part of the article stated the obvious, that the Coast Guard modernization programs may fall also victims of the budgetary pressures faced elsewhere in the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security. However, the following passage caught my attention:

“While the results of the portfolio review, started in April, remain to be seen, the Coast Guard has not given up on gaining new equipment. Obama administration officials are looking at transferring at least 14 newly built Finmeccanica C-27J transports from the Air Force, which has controversially declared them “excess” to its needs. As CRS reported, if the Coast Guard were to receive 14 or more C-27s, it could stop procurement of EADS HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) at the halfway point, with 18 aircraft, saving $887 million.”

I was amazed, since:

The rationale behind was the potential saving of up to 800M$ in acquisition costs (not buying the remaining 18 out of 36 aircraft which originally made up the Deepwater program) and getting some 14 C-27J instead…

If I were an US Congressman looking for savings across the US Armed Services, I would have it clear: instead of interfering with sound acquisition programs, I would simply get those C-27Js already acquired, send a couple of them to museums and the rest to The Boneyard in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, to lay there forever close to their older brothers the C-27As and avoid any cost-ineffective operating and maintenance expenses on them…

The only cost-effective C-27s are in the desert (or already scrapped).

The only cost-effective C-27s are in the desert (or already scrapped).

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Strategy 101 at play in EADS

EADS announced last month, on the 5th of December an overhaul of its Governance and Shareholding Structure. See the press release in which it was announced.

That press release had 7 key points. Each of them would deserve a long discussion. To be honest, I have had long discussions about some of them with colleagues.

The week after the release was made public, I had lunch with a couple of former colleagues, both former strategists and now retired. When discussing together our impressions of the changes and implications, we first talked about the share buy-back (part of the emphasis is mine):

2. Share buy-back

Subject to market conditions and to the approval of the Extraordinary General Meeting, EADS intends to implement a share buy-back program and subsequent cancellation of up to 15 percent of the outstanding EADS shares, divided into two equal and simultaneous tranches bearing the same terms and conditions:

– A first tranche of up to 7.5 percent, which shall be open to all of EADS’ shareholders, other than the parties to today’s agreement; and

– A second tranche of up to 7.5 percent, which shall be reserved exclusively for Lagardère SCA up to 5.5 percent. If the size of the tranche is higher than 5.5 percent, SOGEPA and SEPI will have the right to tender the remainder (based on their pro rata ownership of EADS shares unless they agree otherwise). In the event that SOGEPA and SEPI do not exercise their right, Lagardère SCA could take up to the full amount of the tranche. Finally, in the event that this tranche is not fully tendered by the above parties, Daimler AG will have the right to participate up to the full unused amount of the tranche.”

I have already shared on a previous post Buffett’s view about share buy-backs, thus I will not comment further about in this post.

Then, my senior colleague raised attention to another part of the release, to which I had not paid much attention the first time I read it:

“Certain specific French and German national security interests will be protected through the creation of “national defence companies” holding sensitive military assets, and including the rights of France and Germany to consent to three outside directors to the board of their respective “national defence companies”. Two of such directors of each “national defence company” shall be members of the EADS Board.”

In the release it is explained that France, Germany and Spain have agreed on a capped government shareholding and will have reciprocal pre-emption rights. The composition of the Board of Directors is changed, to 12 directors, with at least 8 independent and 4 coming from these “national defence companies” (2 from each).

Just as a remark, there is no Spanish “national defence company” holding sensitive military assets. There is not an agreement on any director coming from any such Spanish company, though some of the 8 independent ones could be Spanish.

Today two names appeared on the press:

As my former colleague said, let’s play attention to these moves, especially to the second kind of moves. We are going to at least learn a lot and even enjoy the process. Strategy 101 at play in EADS.

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PD: To put the icing on the cake, let me finish the blog post as the press release is finished:

***************

“In the context of this change of governance, and in a separate agreement with the French State, subject to the consummation of the above transactions, EADS has undertaken to consult with the French State before exercising its voting rights at the general meeting of shareholders of Dassault Aviation and has granted the French State a right of first offer / first refusal in case of the sale of all or part of its stake in Dassault Aviation.

The parties to today’s agreement are EADS, Daimler AG, DASA, Lagardère SCA, SOGEPA, Sogeade, KfW and SEPI.”

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EADS and BAE Systems merger talks

I first learnt about the merger talks between EADS and BAE Systems via a tweet from my brother:

I then suggested that the possible kind of “last supper” might have been the “Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty” signed almost 2 years ago between France and United Kingdom.

Last supper. First, what is that “last supper” my brother was referring to? It refers to a meeting that was called in 1993 by William Perry, then US Deputy Secretary of Defense, in which he explained defence contractors the post-Cold War defense strategy which called for defense industrial base consolidation. In the chart below, you can see the spree of mergers and acquisitions that took place in the following years:

US defence contractors consolidation after “last supper” in 1993.

In Europe at the time there was a similar consolidation trend, which ended in mainly 3 big European aerospace and defence groups: EADS, BAE Systems and Finmeccanica.

Setting the record straight. Prior to the definition of those 3 groups, several discussions took place at the end of the 90s between different companies. Some articles that I have read about the EADS and BAE talks mention that after conversations between German DASA and British Aerospace failed in 1998 (when BA opted for acquiring GEC Marconi), DASA underwent the acquisition of the Spanish Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA). Well, this is not true. It never happened. DASA merged with French Aerospatiale. Some months later CASA joined the merged when EADS was created. This is well reflected in many other articles. Just as a side note: Tom Enders, current EADS CEO took a role personally in those conversations between DASA and BA already in 1998.

Balance between Defence and Civil business. Most of the articles that we can read today mention the strategic goal of EADS in balancing its defence portfolio with the civil one. Two years ago I wrote a post which included some graphics comparing the then largest world defence companies. I compared the relative size of each company and how defence-oriented their businesses are. Today, I will make use of one of those graphics to show the profile of the two companies, EADS and BAE Systems to weigh that strategic fit:

EADS vs BAE. Size and defence profile.

Stock Market response. The merger talks were announced last Wednesday 12th. The closing prices of each company the previous day were:

  • EADS: 29.67€. This is, a market value of 24.3bn€.
  • BAE Systems: 328pc. This is, a market value of 13.3bn€ (taking that day exchange rate of 1.25).

That is, the combined merger would be 37.6bn€; 64.6% coming from EADS, 35.4% from BAE. However, the announcement mentioned a 60/40 split of the parent company. That is, the announcement pointed investors that either EADS was overvalued (up to +17.7% to get a 60/40 split keeping BAE’s value constant), BAE undervalued (up to -21.5% to get a 60/40 split keeping EADS’ value constant) or somewhere in between.

In the following days, EADS price fell down and then stabilised, BAE went upwards. On Friday they closed at:

  • EADS: 25.31€. This is, a market value of 20.7bn€.
  • BAE Systems: 347pc. This is, a market value of 14.1bn€.

That is a split of 59.5%/40.5%… thus, the market understood EADS was overvalued around -15% while BAE was undervalued around 6%.

Self praise. Taking that price in which now EADS sells, 25.3€ (undoubtedly guided by the 60/40 split), I wanted to bring back another post I wrote about a year ago. In that post, I mentioned that I valued EADS at a price of 24€… Not bad :-).

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Helicopter ride from Nice to Monaco (video)

About 2 months ago, Luca and I went to Monaco for the weekend. On the way there we first took a flight from Toulouse to Nice, and then a helicopter from Nice to Monaco heliport. This was our second ride in a helicopter after the first one in Brazil 2 years ago. In this post I just wanted to share the videos I filmed of the ride (find them below).

This time the helicopter was an Eurocopter EC 135 (Eurocopter is an EADS company, same as Airbus, where I work). As we took a picture before getting on it, we didn’t have the best seats to shoot a nice movie. There is another shortcoming: since the heliport in Monaco Western than Monaco Ville and in the ride from Nice you are coming from the West as well, you don’t get to see all the sea-line of Monaco in the helicopter ride (the main port, Monte Carlo and the beach).

EC-135 at Nice airport.

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Le Bal des Ambitions

Le Bal des Ambitions, 2009.

I learnt about the book “Le Bal des  Ambitions” in 2009, when a former colleague mentioned it and asked me to buy it in one of my trips to Paris. By then, I did not know French so as to read it, but some months ago I found it again in the aerospace boutique in Blagnac and grabbed it.

The book is written by two journalists, Véronique Guillermard and Yann le Galès, that in my opinion give an image history of EADS and the main characters who shaped it a bit too much thriller-like. Nevertheless, I found it interesting as I could recall many of the names and chapters, even though most of the stories happened either when I was still a student or had recently joined the company.

Some of the topics covered in the book:

  • Who are the so-called Lagardère boys, the relationships among them and with J.L. Lagardère. (I got to know who from some of top managers came from Matra and who from Aérospatiale.
  • It describes the merger discussions between Aérospatiale–Matra, BAE and DASA.
  • You get a glimpse of the role played by the grandes écoles in French networks.
  • The case of insider trading affecting top management of EADS in 2006.
  • Some of the issues behind the delays of A380 in 2006.

I guess that for a French native the text hasn’t got much quality, but for me, being my second book in French language, it was just perfect.

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Active investment fund managers

In a previous post I showed the evolution of stock price for EADS and the target price calculated by an investment bank along 34 months. I already stated the misguided recommendations that they provided. A truly “Buy high and sell low”, the quickest way to lose all your savings.

There are many advertisements of investment funds using the term “active” (active management). That’s truly dangerous regarding investing. It not only implies more expenses paid in commissions, but also implies a manager who is acting more.

Imagine that the active fund manager was the same person who had produced the investment bank’s report of EADS that I showed in my previous post. If he had been as active as he recommended his clients to be, he would have bought shares in 6 different moments between 2005 and 2006 and sold them at the beginning of 2007 (*).

As an example, I made the calculation using around 1,000€ as the amount invested in each of those points in time (using the technique called “Dollar cost averaging“). You may see in the table below how many shares those 1,000€ afforded to. You may also see the amount it could cost in commissions (of course, professional brokerage firms would get lower fees – nevertheless, if you omit that commissions, the net result at the end would have been negative as well).

Quick way to lose your savings: follow the advice of an investment bank.

As you can see, after the 7 operations along 2 years, the manager would have lost 268€ on an investment of almost 6,000€, that is losing 4,4% or about 2% a year… It is much better then to leave your money in a savings account.

Nevertheless, what is more worrisome is the fact that in the period of 34 months, the bank produced 15 different target prices, changing its recommendation (i.e., from “buy” to “hold”, etc.) up to 5 times. This urge to produce new figures and even worse, to act upon those new figures is what makes most of professional investment fund managers a truly dangerous species. As Charlie T. Munger wisely says “Resist the natural human bias to act”.

(*) I would have loved to have performed the same analysis with a newer report, as the price of EADS stock went even below 9€ in the years that followed to reach over 24€ again in 2011… but the last report of EADS (or any other company) that I had with such detailed explanation of target prices was this one (and I’d never pay for such a paper).

EADS share price since its creation.

Note 1: You may think that the negative figures reached with this example are due to the case selected. If you think that is the case, I invite you to take another example and share it with us. I do not have many such reports available, and as I already stated, such a report is not something I would be willing to pay for, I can find many more useful ways to spend money.

Note 2: If you think I was biased by using frequent buys of 1,000€ each one and selling everything at once, I made the same calculation imposing that the manager used the technique “dollar cost averaging” also at the time of selling, that is selling about 1,000€ each time the recommendation was “sell”. The result: at the end of the period he would have 2,962.5€ in cash and 2,114.6€ in stock, having lost this time nearly 16% of the invested amount, even worse than in the first case.

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Buy high, sell low

If I tell you that investment banks way of making you rich is advising you to “Buy high and sell low”, you’d call me stupid, you’d think I got the sentence wrong (obviously the way to become rich is “buying low and selling high”).

Take a look at the chart below. It’s taken from an investment bank report of EADS at the end of 2007 (let me omit the name of the bank out of courtesy… nevertheless, all banks incur in the same vices).

EADS historical prices from 2005 to end 2007 and investment bank's target prices and recommendations.

Along almost 3 years time, the bank recommends you to buy at 6 different points in time with prices ranging from 26€ to 34€. In the same period it recommends selling 3 times with prices ranging from 18€ to 21€. That is indeed buying high and selling low.

Margin of Safety

Each time that the bank recommended “Buy” the stock actual price was just between 7-16% below the bank’s estimated target price (e.g. 31.5€ vs 34€, -7%). Benjamin Graham concept of “margin of safety” advises you to invest only when the margin between the price you’ve estimated as the stock’s intrinsic value and its current price is above 30%, otherwise possible errors in your judging of the price will eat away possible gains.

That means, that if the intrinsic value of EADS had been well estimated at 34€, and the price was 31.5€, still the recommendation should have been “hold” or “sell”, never “buy”. A “buy” should have come only when price was below 23.8€ for a target of 34€…

That was regarding the margin of safety… was the intrinsic value of EADS really 34€? I have checked statements of EADS several times since its creation. I have never come to that figure as its intrinsic value. Even discarding all the one-offs that have occurred in the last years, the conservative price I reached never went upper than 24€ (a price reached at some point in 2011 – when I sold my stock). That means that the stock would have been a “buy”, had I been the banker, only when its price was under 17€ (which was never the case in the period shown in the report – but for a long period afterwards).

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