Archive for the ‘Investment ideas’ Category.


I had written a note about Selan exploration here . I will not repeat the analysis as the main thesis laid out earlier, still holds true.

An update
The company is cheap from multiple perspectives – enterprise value per barrel of oil reserves, EV/EBDITA etc. However due to lack of timely clearances for drilling new wells, the production and profits have stagnated for the last few years. As a result, the stock price stagnated for a few years, before the recent run from the 200 levels to around 620 now.

The company has recently started receiving approvals and has been able to re-start the drilling program. As per the latest annual report, the company has been able to drill around 10 wells and is in the process of completing the same (connect the drilled well to pipelines or other modes of transport)

In addition to the above disclosure, there is another very key variable which is showing an upward trend – development of hydrocarbon properties. This is the cost incurred by an oil and gas company to prospect for locations for new wells and then drill the well and complete it. The company has spent close to 80 Crs in the last four years in prospecting for new drilling locations.

The more interesting bit is that the company has ramped up the actual drilling and completion expenses in the current fiscal which has jumped up from 6 crs to around 55 Crs. This is a very critical variable to track as oil and Gas Companies need to drill new wells to grow production (and hence profits and cash flows).

We cannot be sure how many of these wells will be successful and when exactly they will come online. At the same time, the typical lead time from start of drilling to production of oil and gas varies between 6-9 months. So we are in effect talking of about 3-6 months of time for the oil production to ramp up.

In addition to the above, the new government seems to be focused on improving the speed of clearances and get projects moving on the ground. Considering that approvals came to standstill in the last few years, any progress on this front will help the company tremendously.

This is not a core position
This is not a big position as i think it is risky for the reasons already detailed in my earlier post. Let me repeat the key ones

–          The company has inadequate level of disclosures for an Oil and gas exploration company
–          The management provides the minimum level of commentary on the performance and outlook for the company. There are no interviews, quarterly conference calls etc. In effect short of speaking to the management directly, there are no publicly available sources of information. One is driving through a foggy windshield and being forced to make inferences based on published data

In view of the above, I have around 2% of my portfolio allocated to this idea and may add more if I think the price is getting attractive.

Please do not consider this to be a stock recommendation and do you own homework. Please read the disclaimer if you still have some doubts


A few disclosures – This is a borrowed idea. I will not use the word steal, as I got it from a friend 🙂

This idea was published by Ayush on his blog (see here) and then he mentioned it to me via an email. I was intrigued by the extremely low valuation (which is not obvious) and some medium to long term triggers.

I started looking at the company in the month of December, and before I could create a full position, the stock price ran up. Inspite of the run up, the company is an interesting, though speculative opportunity.

Another disclaimer – I hold a small position in my personal portfolio, but as it is a speculative idea, I have not added it to my family or the model portfolio.

The company
The name of the Company is Selan exploration and it is an E&P (exploration and production) company. The company has five oilfields – Bakrol, Indrora, Lohar, Ognaj and Karjisan

As part of the NELP policy, the company has the rights to explore and develop these oil fields. The company was among the first private sector players to get the rights to do so and if successful in finding oil and gas reserves, they have to pay a certain level of royalty to the government. In addition, the entire production of the company is taken up by the government or PSU under the production sharing contracts

The E&P business

The basics of exploration and production are actually quite simple to understand – The government grants the license to explore and exploit a specific area which may be rich in hydrocarbons, under a specific contract. The company winning the contract then undertakes exploration of the area using various advanced technologies such as 3D seismic surveys and exploratory drilling to identify the size of the reserves and the best location to drill wells to exploit these reserves.

Once the reserves are delineated (identified), the company applies for the various clearances (such as environmental) which once approved, allows the company to drill production wells. Although the technology is quite advanced and allows a company to identify deposits accurately, it is not a precise science and hence a certain percentage of the wells may turn out to be dry wells (not enough oil in that particular location). These dry wells have to be abandoned and the cost has to be written off (similar to a product which fails in the market).

The productive wells, once online produce oil and gas which is transported via pipelines or other means to oil refineries.

The problems
Let’s start with the problems which have caused the stock price to stagnate over the last few years. That will also give us an idea of the medium and long term triggers for the company.

The company was granted the exploration rights in the 90s and has been able to increase the production from 62000 BOE in 2004 (barrel of oil equivalent) to roughly 2.82 Lac BOE in 2009. I described the process of license, survey, clearances and approvals to get to the final production stage of drilling the production wells and pumping out the oil.

As you see from the process, we have government involvement at each step and anything where the government is involved means lack of clarity and uncertain timelines.

As has happened for multiple sectors in the economy, the clearances for drilling production wells came to a halt in the last four years. Due to the nature of oil exploration and production, the current wells start getting exhausted in time and if you are not drilling new wells, the overall production starts dropping.

In case of Selan exploration, production dropped from 2.8Lac BOE in 2009 to 1.64 Lac BOE in 2013. The revenue dropped from 99 Crs to around 97 Crs in 2013 and the net profit was roughly the same (at around 45Crs)

A mumbo jumbo of terms
Before I get into what is the opportunity here, let’s talk about a few terms for the Oil and gas industry. For starters, barring Selan and Cairn (I), I don’t think the PSUs in this sector are worth considering as investments. These companies are run as piggybanks by the government to subsidize fuel in the country. It is debatable on how good that is for me as a citizen, but I am clear that it is a disaster for a shareholder.

If you want to understand how the industry works (without the chaos of government interventions), you may want to look at US and Canada based companies such as Chesapeake, Devon energy or Exxon Mobil. If you are looking at a pure play E&P Company, there are several small companies such as Novus energy or Jones energy.

Why bring up these non Indian companies? Any US or Canada based company has to declare several key parameters which help an investor to analyze an exploration company. Some of those parameters are

2P reserves (proved and probable reserves)

Operating netback per BOE : revenue minus cost

NPV10: DCF valuation of the reserves (revenue based)

EV/BOED: Enterprise value/ Barrel of oil equivalent in reserves (valuation measure)

Cost curves, EUR, Exploration cost and well IRR (for each field)

Current oil flow rate (BOED) to understand the current revenue levels

You can find the definitions easily by doing a Google search for these terms.

So which of this data is provided by Selan exploration? None!

Are they doing anything illegal? No, because I don’t think there are clear disclosure norms on the above for Oil and gas companies in India (none that I could find). In comparison, Cairn (I) has more disclosures and communication.

The thesis
In absence of this disclosure, why even bother and move on to something else? That is a valid point and hence I have called it a speculative bet as I am making it with minimal information.

What do we know here?

For starters, it seems that the company has 79.2 Million (7.9 Crore) BOE of reserves in two fields alone (Bakrol and Lohar). The company sells at around 1.2 dollar/ BOE (EV/2P) versus 5.5 for cairn (I). Comparable companies in the US/Canada sell at around 8-12 dollar/BOE. Of course the foreign companies are not comparable, due to a very different regulatory environment.

In addition to this valuation gap, we are not even considering the potential reserves in the other fields (which seem to be bigger than the ones in production). So we are talking of a situation where the market is valuing the company based on the current production rate (Which is suppressed due to lack of approvals) and is not giving any credit for its reserves.

The company is able to generate a pre-tax profit of around 70 dollars / BOE versus 10-25 Dollars for the US/ Canada companies. The huge difference is due to the fact that Selan produces mostly oil compared to oil and gas in case of other companies.

So the company is very cheap based on known reserves and is also quite profitable. In addition the company has spent close to 65 Crs in the last three years on exploration expense (remember the surveys to find the oil and gas reserves?). Once it starts getting the approvals, it can start drilling the wells and start pumping out money …sorry oil.

So why is this still speculative or contingent? It is contingent on the company receiving approvals – Which is seems to be getting recently based on the update in the latest quarterly report. These approvals are based on the whims and fancy of our government and one can never be sure what will the scenario be next year.

Why is it speculative – because there is so little disclosure and we are using the reserve numbers from a past annual report? We do not have any clear updates in the latest reports and so it is like driving with a foggy windshield window.

I have taken a small bet on the company to track the company and may buy or sell in the future based on new developments. As always, please do your homework and make your own decisions.



Supreme industries is a leader in the plastics processing industry and processed around 2.45 Lac metric tonnes in 2012. The company processes polymers and resins into various plastic products. The broad verticals for the company are as follows

– Plastic piping including CPVC pipes
– Consumer products such as molded furniture
– Packaging products such as specialty and cross laminated films
– Industrial products such as Industrial components and Material handling products
– Construction business wherein the company has developed a corporate park on some excess land in Mumbai

The company has around 22 plants across the country which has helped it in reducing the transportation cost for the products (an important factor for operating margins).


The company achieved a topline of around 2900 Crs and is expected to close the current year at around 3500 Crs. In addition the company earned a profit of around 240 Crs (8% Net margins) and should be able to achieve a single digit growth during the year. The lower growth in net profits is due to lack of sale of commercial property in the current fiscal.

The company has been able to maintain an ROE in excess of 25% for the last 6 years. The debt equity levels have dropped from around 1.5 to around 0.6 during this. The company has also been able to improve the asset turns from around 2.5 in 2007 to 3.5 in 2012 as a result of an improvement in working capital turns (mainly driven by lower receivables as a percentage of sales).

The company has also improved its net margins from around 4% in 2007 to around 8% in 2012 driven by an improvement in overhead costs and depreciation as % of sales.


The company operates in a commoditized industry and as a result several products of the company earn low margins. The company is now focused on developing new products (called valued added products) such as CPVC pipes, cross laminated files and composite cylinders which have a higher operating margin (17%) than the other commoditized products such as molded furniture. The company plans to increase the contribution of these value added products to around 35% by FY15 and expects to improve the overall operating margins to around 15-16% levels

The company has a wide distribution and production network and well established brands in the plastics product space. The management has been able to use these assets effectively in entering higher margin products while exiting the commoditized segments at the same time.

The per capita consumption of plastics is around 7 kg versus almost 30-70 Kg in other countries. As a result, the industry is likely to see sustained growth for sometime as the per capita consumption increases with a rise in the income levels. In addition to the demand tailwind, companies like supreme are likely to benefit further as the industry continues to consolidate and the market share shifts to the organized players.


The company operates in a highly fragmented and commoditized industry. Although the company has been able to maintain the margins and a high return on capital by constantly introducing higher margin products, the moat or competitive advantage is not deep.

Brand name and a wide distribution network provide some level of competitive advantage, but the resulting moat is not wide and deep. As a result the company will have to constantly innovate to keep the return on capital high. The profitability could get hurt if there is a rapid commoditization of the various segments.

Competitive analysis

The plastics industry is a fragmented industry with a large unorganized sector, especially in commoditized products. The company has different competitors in each segment of operations.

In the case of PVC pipes the key players are finolex, chemplast sanmar, Jain irrigation, astral poly etc. In the packaging products there are around 6-7 large players and several un-organized ones. In consumer products nilkamal and Wimplast are the two key players. Finally in the industrial component segment there are a wide range of players ranging from Motherson sumi to Sintex industries.

Most major players earn an ROE of around 13-14%, with high leverage , except for astral poly which has an ROE of around 22% with low levels of debt (due its focus on a high margin and high growth product – CPVC pipes).

Overall the industry does not have high return on capital- due to the commoditized nature of the products. Supreme industries has been able to break away from the pack due to a portfolio approach to products (exit low margin products and move into high margin ones).

Management quality checklist

–          Management compensation – compensation is around 5% of net profits. This is on the higher side, though not excessive

–          Capital allocation record – The capital allocation record of the company has above quite good in the last 6-7 years. The management has been investing in high return projects and has also used some of the cash flow to reduce the level of debt. The ROE as a result has improved from the 20% levels to 30%+ levels in 2012

–          Shareholder communication – adequate. Management provides decent amount of disclosure in the annual reports and also conducts quarterly conference calls to discuss about the performance.

–          Accounting practice – appears conservative

–          Conflict of interest – none appear to be of concern

–          Performance track record – the management has been fairly transparent about its performance goals (growth and return on capital) and has been achieving them consistently in the last few years. In addition the management has been in this business for the last 40+ years and understand it very well.


A discounted cash flow with conservative assumption of around 7-8% margins and 15% topline growth (10% volume growth + 5% inflation) gives a fair value in the range of around 530-570 per share. The growth assumption appears to be conservative as the company has delivered a 12% volume growth in the past. The risk is mainly around net margins which could come under pressure if there is faster commoditization in the industry.

The company has sold between a PE of around 8-9 and 18-20 in the past. The current PE of around 15 is at a midpoint and as a result the company does not appear to be overvalued.

Finally the company has shown a higher growth and Return on capital as compared to almost all other players in the industry (except astral poly) and hence has a higher PE (but not much) than others.

In summary the company does not appear overvalued and may be undervalued by around 30-35% from its fair value.


Supreme industries operates in a growth industry (due to increasing demand for plastic products) where the average profitability is quite poor. The company has been able to perform better than the other players by being focused on the newer and higher margin products. The management is as focused on ROC (return on capital) as on growth as compared to several other players who are pursuing growth at low returns.

Inspite of the above average returns and competent management, the company is unlikely to enjoy very high valuations like the FMCG industry as the overall profitability of the industry is low and the pricing power of branded products not very high. Supreme industries appears to be modestly undervalued and the returns are more likely to come from a consistent increase in profits than from revaluation by the market.

Stocks discussed in this post are for educational purpose only and not recommendations to buy or sell. Please contact a certified investment adviser for your investment decisions. Please read disclaimer on the blog.