Added 2 months ago

Financials of RFG are dire, but the focus is the right strategy.  Its in the name, retail.....  If they cannot make the retail franchisee group get their stores into profit, then they will close and the business ceases to be.  Reducing margins is the least of the problems, keeping them happy (potentially also minimising court costs) is the game.

Servicing, paying off, (possibly ignoring for now) whatever we want to call it the $259m debt cannot go on forever, and eventually the financiers will want to recoup the debt.

I have assumed a continuing operation in my valuation.  I believe this valuation could play out, just not enough to back it up with real money.

Discl: I own no RFG shares

Last edited 5 months ago
#Bear Case

During the recent Forager roadshow, I had the opportunity to talk to Steve Johnson about his views on Thorn Group (TGA, which they own) and RFG (which they do not own), and he explained that he had serious concerns about whether RFG could even survive, let alone turn around.   I thought that both TGA & RFG were strong contenders to go broke, but he insisted that TGA were in way better shape.  However, he said that Forager wouldn't be buying RFG.  One of Steve's many concerns with RFG was their new banking/lending covenants and agreements with their banking syndicate, and he described some of the targets they had agreed to as being "totally unachievable", as well as leaving them in a position where they were unable to meaningfully reinvest in or resurrect their struggling brands.

I don't think it matters who is put in charge of RFG now, because they've gotten themselves into a position where it is virtually impossible to come back.  Even PE (private equity) would be very wary of RFG.  You can't buy the company without paying off the massive debt that they've got.  And what they own, which is virtually all just brands (rather than physical assets), is not worth anywhere near the amount of debt that they've got, so it's very hard to make a case that there is any value there - at all - for private equity.  What those guys like to do is buy companies with real assets, put in a high-profile/media-savvy manager, strip out the cash, do some fancy accounting, put some lipstick on the pig, then refloat the company.  Like they did with Dick Smith.  If they do a good enough job, the company doesn't fall apart for a couple of years, by which time PE is long gone.  That doesn't work with highly indebted companies such as RFG.


In the video that I've linked to below, James Marlay from Livewire talks to Steve Johnson (from Forager) and Mark Whittaker (from Investors Mutual) about what they look for in turnarounds and what makes them view some companies as being "terminal", i.e. unable to be resuscitated (or turned around).   Steve and Mark were each asked to bring along a real-life example of one or the other.  Steve chose RFG as his "terminal" example.  Mark chose ARQ as his positive-turnaround-opportunity example (although he made it sound more like quality at a bargain price).

I think Steve makes a pretty good bear case there for RFG.