Verizon and Vodafone near record deal.

Back in February, I wrote about a safe investment with a great upside, Vodafone (VOD).  I conservatively valued VOD at $180 billion. In that valuation, I had valued VOD’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless at $80 billion. It seems my estimates were off as it looks like Verizon is finally (after much speculation) buying VOD’s stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion.

I expect VOD to go up even more on Tuesday because at this price it is still very cheap on a sum of parts valuation. Hopefully, investors get a big special dividend. I continue to hold.

Disclosure: I am long VOD

Bought Vodafone!

Last week, I wrote that Vodafone (VOD) was one of David Einhorn’s top picks. I did some due diligence on the stock, and it seems like a great investment. 

Vodafone provides mobile telecommunications services and has significant market share in:

  • Mature European countries such as England (100% ownership, 26% market share), Spain (100% ownership, 29% market share), Germany (100% ownership, 34% market share), Italy (100% ownership, 36% market share).
  • Less Mature Asian and African countries such as India (64.4% ownership, 29% market share), South African (Vodacom Group, 65% ownership, 58% market share)
  • United States through 45% ownership of Verizon Wireless
  • Many other countries through partnerships and equity investments.

Vodafone has a market capitalization of $135 billion. Its most valuable piece is the 45% stake in Verizon Wireless. The other 55% stake is owned by Verizon.

Verizon has a market capitalization of $125 billion and long term debt of $50 billion. Verizon has two business segments:

  • Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless has total revenue of $80 billion. Since Verizon owns 55% of Verizon Wireless, $44 billion of that $80 billion belongs to Verizon. That $44 billion makes up about 1/2 of Verizon’s total revenue. Verizon Wireless also makes up all of Verizon’s operating income.
  • Verizon Wireline (FIOS, etc..). Wireline makes up the other 1/2 ($40 billion) of Verizon’s total revenue. It has pretty much break even operating income. 

Verizon Wireless should make up a majority of Verizon’s market capitalization:

  • Contributes to half of revenue.
  • Makes up less than less than $10 billion of Verizon’s total $50 billion long term debt.
  • Makes up all of its operating income.

Conservatively, it is probably worth around $100 billion.So, Vodafone’s ‘s 45% stake is worth around $80 billion. Einhorn argues it is worth even more.

“Look at it from Verizon’s perspective: Historically, Verizon had a very profitable landline business, and Verizon Wireless owed it billions of dollars. Verizon received Verizon Wireless’s free cash flow as it repaid the debt. For years, Verizon used its control to try to starve VOD by refusing to allow Verizon Wireless to pay dividends. Today, Verizon’s landline business generates no cash and the debt from Verizon Wireless has been repaid. Verizon’s 55% control stake in Verizon Wireless is probably worth more than all of Verizon’s market capitalization, and Verizon has become wholly dependent on dividends from Verizon Wireless to fund its parent company obligations and shareholder dividends”

The rest of Vodafone (excluding Verizon Wireless) in fiscal 2012 had FCF of $6 billion pounds or almost $10 billion. At a valuation of 10 times FCF, the rest of Vodafone is worth $100 billion. According to Einhorn, it should be valued at 12 times earnings, in line with other European Telecoms. 

So, the total value of Vodafone is $180 billion or 33% above its current market capitalization of $135 billion. 

Vodafone seems to be a great investment. There is significant upside and investors are paid to wait with the juicy dividend. 

DIsclosure: I own Vodafone

Insight From Einhorn’s Latest Picks

Greenlight Capital, the hedge fund run by famed investor David Einhorn, just came out with their quarterly letter to share holders. He had interesting comments on some positions:

Apple (AAPL)

Apple is Greenlight’s largest position. Greenlight bought back the Apple shares it had sold in the third quarter. In my last article, I advised readers to stay on the sideline on Apple shares. Obviously, Apple took a big hit today after reporting quarterly results yesterday. Even at $450, I would continue to be cautious and stay on the sideline. If it hits near $400, I will most likely initiate a position, but as I mentioned before this stock does not have huge upside. So, it makes sense to be cautious. 

General Motors (GM)

General Motors is one of Greenlight’s top holdings. He is still bullish on GM even after the recent run up. I agree and am still long GM. It has multiple catalysts:

  • Buy back even more of its shares from the government. They already bought back 11% which should increase eps.
  • Lower pension risks further. It announced last year that Prudential would administer and pay $26 billion of its pension obligations at a cost of $3.5 to $4.5 billion to the company. It can use the excess capital to move more of its pension obligations to Prudential.
  • United States vehicle sales return to a more normalized level as the economy picks up.
  • Europe economy picks up.

Marvell Technology (MRVL)

Marvell used to be one of Greenlight’s top holdings. However, the stock has been one of his worst performers. Earnings and revenue have been down. Recently, a jury awarded Carnegie Mellon University (my alma mater) $1 billion for patent infringement. Einhorn thinks that award will be reduced and the market is also discounting a new product cycle. 

I am avoiding Marvell because I am not confident that the patent infringement award will be reduced and do not understand its products well enough to make an investment.

Vodafone (VOD)

Vodafone is by far the most interesting of Einhorn’s stock picks. According to Einhorn:

  • It pays a 7% dividend.
  • It owns 45% of Verizon Wireless.
  • It trades at 12 times cash earnings excluding the Verizon Wireless ownership.

This definitely seems like a great investment. I will look more into Vodafone this weekend and share my findings.

Here is the letter.

Disclosure: I am long GM.