Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Alberto-Culver breakup value

Alberto-Culver shareholders are being asked to vote on a spin-off of the company's salon products distribution business (Sally Beauty) in November. Current owners will receive one share of New Alberto, one share of 52.5% of New Sally and $25 per Alberto-Culver share. The other 47.5% of New Sally will go to a private equity fund (Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Fund VII) in exchange for $575 million, which works out to about $6.73 a share. In order to pay the special $25 dividend, New Sally will take on $1.85 billion of new debt.

Based on the current market value of Alberto-Culver and the implied purchase price of New Sally, here is a chart showing the valuation of each piece compared to some competitors:

                  Price/share Price/Sales Price/Earnings EV/EBIT
ACV               51.30       1.35        24.03          14.06 
New Alberto       19.57       1.39        25.70          17.89 
New Sally          6.73       0.50        37.21          13.68 
Cash              25.00    

Procter & Gamble  62.05       2.89        22.69          17.16 
Colgate-Palmolive 60.09       2.72        22.96          16.46 

Personal & Household Prods.   2.6         25.64 
Consumer/Non-Cyclical         2.4         22.1 
Regis             38.20       0.72        15.95          10.93 
CVS               31.25       0.69        20.96          15.56 
Walgreen          44.34       0.94        25.53          16.05 
Longs Drug        44.50       0.36        22.60          11.97 
Retail (Drugs)                0.72        24 

On this basis, New Alberto is not valued dramatically differently than current Alberto or other personal products companies. New Sally, however, looks cheap according to its P/S since it is closer related to drug stores and Regis (the salon company that tried to buy Sally last spring). Retailers, as middlemen, must carefully control profit margins in order to remain competitive, unlike consumer product companies that can nurture a brand to higher margins. The P/E ratio is less telling for Sally because it will take on so much debt. EV/EBIT, which removes the effect of leverage, puts Sally in the middle of the retail pack.

Now, let's look at how the pieces could be evaluated after the spin-off. I set New Alberto's price based on the P/E ratio of Consumer/Non-Cyclical companies and used the P/S ratio of drug retailers for New Sally's price.

                  Price/share Price/Sales Price/Earnings EV/EBIT
ACV               51.60       1.36        24.17          14.14 
New Alberto       16.83       1.20        22.10          15.38 
New Sally          9.76       0.72        38.56          13.87 
Cash              25.00

This isn't too far from the market value of Alberto-Culver, so the investment thesis is that the spin-off will allow both companies to operate more efficiently and will reveal the true value of the underlying businesses.

First, all fundamental data I've used is based on 2005 figures since only 9 months are available for 2006. So far, 2006 seems to be a fine year for the combined companies. EPS for the last 12 months is $2.37 versus $2.09 in the previous 12 months. I expect the initial financial statements from both companies will suggest a higher price per share as well.

Second, New Alberto will be debt-free and able to focus on building its portfolio of brands. The salon distribution business was a distraction and didn't provide any operating advantages since few of Alberto's products where sold in Sally stores or through Beauty Systems Group. Dumping debt on New Sally could allow New Alberto to pursue acquisitions like it recently made with Nexxus and St. Ives.

Third, CD&R has tremendous motivation to increase the post-spin-off value of New Sally. The private equity investment company has successfully invested in spin-off companies such as Lexmark and Hertz and only profits if the price of the highly leveraged stock appreciates significantly. It's helpful to view Sally as an LBO or the stub stock of a recapitalization.

Fourth, New Sally should be able to expand into new markets and increase current-store sales through advertising. Alberto's salon product distribution business has been hampered in the past because the parent company is a competitor with other vendors and predominately distributes through other retailers. Once free of the consumer products business, Sally should be able to promote itself more aggressively.

I see a purchase of pre-spin-off Alberto as a low risk opportunity to participate in CD&R's investment. Depending on how the market values New Alberto and New Sally, purchasing one or the other could be an even more rewarding investment.

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