Three ASX-listed stocks exposed to single party risk

Tim Boreham

Independent Investment Research

Last week your columnist delved into the issues facing stocks such as Crown Resorts that rely on the stroke of a regulator’s pen to stay in business.

(Highlighting the risk, Crown has since become a takeover target with a diminished pile of bargaining chips).

As an extension of the theme, many companies rely on the whim of fellow enterprises to stay in business – or at least continue to operate in their current guise.

Single party risk comes in numerous guises. For example, a food and beverage maker can be ‘de-ranged’ by the supermarkets, leaving them with excess capacity and no alternative big enough to fill the gap.

Or an offshore brand name can cancel a local distributor agreement.

In the mining sector, offtake agreements can be cancelled – or service contracts scrapped – when commodity prices turn south (as they inevitably do).

Of course, companies protect their key relationships with long-term contracts, or their product or service to the customer cannot be replicated. For instance, we doubt the big Queensland coal producers using the recently listed Dalrymple Bay Terminal will be upping stumps in a hurry.

But no deals last forever and, well, stuff happens. On the positive side, the loss of a major customer contract can result in a more diversified business.

Vita Group (VTG)

As a case in point, the retailer last month came a cropper after Telstra decided to transition its retail stores to full corporate ownership by June 2025.

Vita is contracted to run 104 Telstra shops, with almost all of its revenue sourced from this franchise. The partnership dates back to 1995, when the company was founded by CEO Maxine Horne.

Vita’s management has not been oblivious to the threat, with Telstra slashing Vita’s commission rate by 10 per cent in 2017.

The company has branched out with a chain of “skin healing and wellbeing” outlets called Artisan, which is touted as the future source of wellbeing for the company as well as clients.

Vita’s revenues dipped a Covid-19 afflicted 25 per cent to $323 million for the half year, with underlying earnings shrinking 27 per cent to $16.1 million.

Artisan chipped in modest revenue of $15 million, up 37 per cent as well as $2.2 million of underlying earnings (ebitda).

Vita shares tumbled 30 per cent after Telstra hung up on the company, but the stock has regained some ground since.

With net cash of $30 million, Vita has leeway to invest in a new future.

Over at Jumbo Interactive (JIN), the online lottery ticket portal is highly dependent on retaining the right to sell Oz Lotto and Powerball tickets on behalf of Tatt’s (now Tabcorp).

With a five-year deal expiring in 2022, investors were nervous but in June last year the parties extended this reselling agreement by ten years, to 2030

Phew! Unlike with the previous deal, though, Tabcorp now clips each ticket to the tune of 1.5 per cent.

In the meantime, management has been reducing this single-party risk by building up its lotteries management arm and its white-label arm which runs the raffles for Lotteries West and a number of charity lotteries.

Despite a dearth of jackpots, Jumbo’s December half revenue gained 9 per cent to $41 million, but the new Tabcorp “service fee” confined underlying earnings to a 4 per cent gain (to $24.1 million).

While Jumbo has almost a decade of breathing space, Tabcorp is under takeover offer and a new owner may take a different view on outsourcing the expanding digital channel to a third party.

But with the small but rapidly growing cloud and managed services arms, the $850 million market cap Jumbo is not leaving its future to chance.

Jumbo, by the way, faces the ongoing risk of governments opening the lotto business to rival operators. But the Victorian experience of new lottery entrant Intralot which quit the market in 2014, investors can sleep soundly.

AMA Group (AMA)

The crash repairer is not quite a case of single-party risk, but the lion’s share of its revenue now derives from insurer Suncorp (owner of the AAMI and GIO brands among others).

That’s because AMA acquired 90 per cent of Suncorp’s captive the Capital Smart smash repair business in late 2019, for $420 million (Suncorp retained the remaining 10 per cent).

Funded by a $215m capital raising and the remainder with debt, the deal almost doubled AMA’s share of the national smash repair market to 10 per cent.

Crucially, Capital Smart also remains Suncorp’s “recommended repairer” status for a 25 year period, although the insurer can’t force all of its customers to use a Capital Smart repair shop.

A quarter of a century is a long time, although in your columnist’s experience it can pass quickly. Thus, investors should hope that AMA gradually reduces its reliance on Suncorp in the interim.

AMA, by the way, is worth a look as a post-coronavirus recovery play as traffic – and bingles – return to pre Covid levels.

The company’s average crash repair volumes fell 27 per cent in the December half and 48 per cent in Victoria which had an extra lashings of lockdown.

Given the Capital Smart acquisition the results are hard to make sense of, but in the first (December) half operating profit swung from a previous $1.6m loss to a $7.09m profit.

In the year to June 2019 – pre the Capital Smart purchase and the raising - AMA generated earning per share EPS of 6 cents (and paid a 3.7 cents per share divided).

In the year to June 2020 EPS slumped to 1c. Broker Cannacord chalks in a partial recovery this year, to EPS of 3c.

Having traded at a pre transaction peak of $1.48 in August 2019, AMA shares bottomed at 15c during the coronavirus a year ago and by November had recovered to 80c.

The stock looks fairly priced around the current 60c level – implying a $450 million market cap – but looks keener value if the company can hammer out its dings and restore volumes to old levels.

AMA has two macro factors in its favour: wet weather and commuters’ aversion to using (allegedly) germy public transport.

Tim Boreham edits The New Criterion

Disclaimer: The companies covered in this article (unless disclosed) are not current clients of Independent Investment Research (IIR). Under no circumstances have there been any inducements or like made by the company mentioned to either IIR or the author. The views here are independent and have no nexus to IIR’s core research offering. The views here are not recommendations and should not be considered as general advice in terms of stock recommendations in the ordinary sense.

3 stocks mentioned

Tim Boreham
Tim Boreham
Editor of New Criterion
Independent Investment Research

Many readers will remember Boreham as author of the Criterion column in The Australian newspaper, for well over a decade. He also has more than three decades’ experience of business reporting across three major publications.

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