Flughafen Wien AG (FLU) owns world-class property – together with Vienna Worldwide Airport, which dealt with some 32 million passengers within the 12 months previous to covid. Nevertheless it’s a unusual inventory. Roughly 40% of the corporate is owned by state and native governments in Austria. One other 10% is held in a workers belief that distributes dividends as bonuses to a lot of the airport’s workers. An additional 40% is owned by IFM World Infrastructure Fund (IFM). That leaves simply 10% of the corporate’s shares as free float, listed on the Vienna Inventory Change and accessible to be owned by the broader investing public. Our worldwide fund is one such shareholder.
IFM is an enormous investor in infrastructure (and different property) on behalf of “world-leading pension funds”, a lot of it Australian business tremendous fund cash. It acquired its present stake in Flughafen Wien through takeover affords in 2014 and 2016. We purchased into the inventory later in 2016, after IFM’s second supply, eyes huge open to the illiquid nature of the funding. However month-to-month buying and selling liquidity within the inventory has greater than halved over the interval of our possession.
We’ve lengthy thought the top recreation right here was a squeeze out of minority shareholders by IFM. Coping with the liquidity concern and defending minority pursuits is thus a very essential function for the board of Flughafen Wien. That’s a message we’ve persistently given to the board and administration, each formally and informally, stretching again no less than three years.
But right here we’re. Final week, IFM launched a compulsory takeover supply for all remaining shares in Flughafen Wien. That’s actually focused on the 10% free float solely, authorities shareholders gained’t be promoting.
Insufficient value a Catch-22
The value provided, €33 per share, is completely insufficient. It represents a a number of of barely 8 instances earnings earlier than curiosity, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) from 2019 (the final 12 months earlier than the Covid-19 interruptions). For reference, funds managed by the identical IFM paid 23 instances 2019 EBITDA to accumulate all of Sydney Airport just lately. There hasn’t been an airport takeover transaction globally prior to now decade struck at lower than 10 instances EBITDA. Larger European metropolis monopoly airport transactions cluster round 15 instances. A “truthful” value for Flughafen Wien shares, in our opinion, begins at about €45 per share.
Most of the minority shareholders, ourselves included, will contemplate the €33 per share supply unfair, after which give critical consideration to promoting anyway. That’s as a result of this inventory, as illiquid because it has develop into, is about to get an entire lot much less liquid as IFM soaks up extra or all the remaining free float. It’s a Catch-22 for minorities, with IFM as beneficiary.
The administrators must do one thing about it.
A number of concepts
There are real looking avenues for a fairer end result right here. A buyback of minority shareholders’ pursuits at a fairer value by Flughafen Wien itself may make lots of sense. It will keep the prevailing stability between the bigger shareholders, which is perhaps necessary to the federal government shareholders specifically. It may add important worth to their funding by way of earnings accretion and value reductions as the corporate delists. It would supply a “much less worse” value for minorities and definitely wouldn’t stretch the corporate’s stability sheet, which is ridiculously undergeared.
And, whereas we’re neither legal professionals nor adept German audio system, the Austrian Transformation Act (Umwandlungsgesetz) – often known as a “squeeze out” provision – could apply. Whether or not legally required or not, exterior valuation is definitely greatest observe as a place to begin right here.
There’s nonetheless water flowing beneath this bridge. We await the board’s official response to the supply, maybe they’ll do all the pieces we count on of them. However we’re not ready to remind them of their obligation to make sure a good end result for all shareholders, not simply these – like IFM – with a seat on the board.
Discover beneath a replica of our letter to the chairman of the supervisory board of Flughafen Wien, emailed Wednesday 15 June, which additional outlines our case.