Motley Fool Australia

Motley Fool Australia

Since 1993, millions of investors have trusted The Motley Fool for simple, down-to-earth investing research.

Treasury Wine Estates: One for the cellar?

Treasury Wine Estates Limited (ASX: TWE) was created in 2011 as a result of the spin-off of the wine assets of Foster’s Group Limited (itself now owned by global brewer SAB Miller).

I have a term for companies created by spin-offs – ‘orphans’.  The basic idea is that a neglected division of a large conglomerate often does very well as an independent business entity by being able to concentrate fully on its own business without conflicting demands from a parent company.

The most outstanding examples in Australia are Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH) and Ansell Limited (ASX: ANN), both previously spun-off from Pacific Dunlop, and CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) once a part of the CSIRO.

On 17th February 2012, TWE announced its half-yearly results.  The impact of Foster’s management is evident from a cursory examination of key numbers, and comparing them to its global competitor in Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE: STZ).  The comparison is summarised in the table below:

Treasury Constellation
Sales AUD$1.75b US$2.74b
Market Cap AUD$2.4b US$4.4b
Price/Sales Ratio 1.37x 1.56x
Price/Book Ratio 0.82x 1.63x
Return on Assets 2.1% 4.29%
Return on Equity 2.7% 23.21%

Management has indicated that it is on track to strip out $30m per annum of costs – a big number in the context of a $40m half yearly profit.

Investors are well aware of the current problems facing Australian wine growers. An oversupply of wine grapes and the high Australian dollar are severely affecting business.  Even so, there is no doubt that the current numbers for Treasury are abysmal.  The return on assets is 2.1%!  Return on equity is 2.7% in an industry where the norm is 12% to 15%.

Bear in mind that we are talking about the owner of brands such as Penfolds, Rosemount and Wolf Blass!

Foolish bottom-line

The key issue facing current and potential investors in Treasury Wine Estates is very simple. Is management able to whip this business back into shape to be at least on par with industry norms?

Given the lack of comparisons with a previous reporting period, I believe it is too early to know. The next half will tell the story on whether management is delivering. Remember, patience is a virtue.

If you are looking for ASX investing ideas, look no further than “The Motley Fool’s Top Stock for 2012.” In this free report, Investment Analyst Dean Morel names his top pick for 2012…and beyond. Click here now to find out the name of this small but growing telecommunications company. But hurry – the report is free for only a limited period of time.

Motley Fool contributor Peter Phan does not own shares in Treasury Wine Estates. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

Hot off the presses! This sexy tech stock is our #1 pick for 2015…

Every year, The Motley Fool’s top analysts hand-pick one company as their ‘best bet’ for big returns in 2015 and beyond… And you can be among the first to discover their brand-new 2015 pick!

Discover this sexy yet well-run ASX tech company, including the name and code, for FREE right now. Click here for your copy of "The Motley Fool’s Top Stock for 2015".

See all posts by Peter Phan
The Motley Fool