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AHG skids to a loss after $223m writedowns

Lex Hall with AAP  |  22 Feb 2019Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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Automotive Holdings Group has skidded to a first-half loss, scrapping its dividend and cutting its guidance after a flagged $223 million writedown against its struggling franchised and refrigerated logistics businesses.

The group on Friday reported a statutory loss of $226 million for the six months to 31 December, down from a $40.7 million profit a year ago.

But investors appeared to be expecting worse, with shares in the company up 8.5 per cent to $1.90 at the close on Friday, well past the $1.78 price before the impairments were revealed last week.

an AHG dealership

AHG has cited a tough retailing environment and regulatory changes to finance and insurance

FAHG's automotive retail operations copped a $144.6 million hit, and its refrigerated logistics operations were written down to the tune of $78.8 million, while $29.1 million in one-off costs were related to restructure and trading losses on closed operations, as well as IT impairments.

A further $23 million in restructuring costs are expected in FY2020.

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Revenue for the first half was up 1.7 per cent to $3.22 billion.

AHG managing director John McConnell said the result reflected tough retailing environment and regulatory changes to finance and insurance.

"To manage through the current cycle, we are taking a disciplined approach to address costs across the business, including headcount, the expansion of shared services and the reduction of non-floorplan debt to strengthen the balance sheet and to position the company for the future," he said.

AHG announced has commenced a strategic review of the refrigerated logistics business and has appointed UBS and Luminis Partners as joint financial advisers.

"The review will consider all options to maximise value for its shareholders," the company said.

AHG will not pay an interim dividend, having paid a fully franked 9.5 cents per share a year ago, and cut its full-year guidance to an operating net profit of $50 million to $56 million, previously $56 million to $59 million.

Morningstar analyst Daniel Ragonese remains upbeat on AHG's fortunes despite the declining "wealth effect" whereby people feel poorer when the value of their assets depreciates.

"The company had a couple of big writedowns, driven by the negative wealth effect from a slowdown in housing and tightening lending standards," Ragnones said.

"New vehicle sales continue to fall, forcing the company to write down intangibles in their retail business.  

"Longer term, we see vehicle sales as cyclical. At the moment, we're towards the bottom of the cycle. Things could get worse before they get better. However, we do expect sales to pick back up eventually.

"We're pretty positive from a valuation point of view. The company is trading at $1.91 and our fair value remains at $2.60. We're bullish on the stock."

. Lex Hall is content editor with Morningstar Australia

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