I am mad ! very very mad. See this news item on novartis india.

Novartis AG has announced an open offer for Rs 351 per share with the aim of taking their shareholding to 90%. Although they have not stated any plans for delisting, I think once the shareholding reaches 90%, delisting norms could kick in and the rest of the  shareholders will be forced to exit the company.

Why am I mad ? See my analysis of novartis here. My conservative estimate of the intrinsic value  is around 600-650 (company has a cash of almost 150 rs/ share). Look at it this way – Net of cash, the buy back offer is valuing the company at 800 crs. This is for a company making almost 100 Crs of profit on a capital base of around 30-40 Crs !!

Another view point – The buyback offer will cost the company around 440 Crs. The company has cash and equivalents of around 435 Crs as of december 2008. So the Parent company will be able to increase its holding to 90% without spending a penny from their pocket !!

Should I feel cheated ? May be not. I have know this modus operandi for some time. A lot of MNC’s have cheated their minority shareholders this way. The steps are as follows

–        Allow the performance of the company to stagnate for a few years by avoiding product launches and anything else which enhances value
–        Hold all the surplus cash during this time period.
–        Wait for a bear market to drive your price down to very low levels.
–        Announce an open offer at premium to current price, utilising the cash holding
–        Try to mask this operation as a shareholder friendly operation by pointing out that the price is at premium to the current price (which is way below intrinsic value).

I have known and written the above earlier on my blog. I have however chosen to ignore my own advice though and would now be paying for it. At the current price, net of dividends, I have made modest returns. However that is not the point – The point is being treated fairly by the management of your company.

Another case – Ingersoll rand : They have announced their intention of coming out with an open offer too. I am not holding my breath on that as they have tried a similar tatic in the past, but were not successful in completing the buyback.

Lesson for me : Management matters more than i would like to accept. A good business with bad management will translate to poor returns.

What next ?
I am going to wait and watch how this open offer will play out. However even if the minority shareholders reject it, don’t expect the management to change or mend their ways. They will continue to ignore the minority shareholder, give poor dividends and will continue to accumulate cash. The best startegy in such a case would be to exit the stock and deploy the capital somewhere else.

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