Are shares of Burson Group Ltd still a buy?


Shareholders of automotive aftermarket parts business Burson Group Ltd (ASX: BAP) watched on with delight yesterday as their shares soared to a fresh all-time high in the wake of Brexit.

Although the company’s shares initially fell as investors responded to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union – slipping as low as $5.10 on Monday – the shares have since rebounded strongly. They hit a high of $5.67 on Wednesday before closing at $5.57 for the day.

In a nutshell, what the company does is provide many of the parts used in the servicing and repair of motor vehicles, which are typically more than four years’ old. From its stores, it receives orders from mechanics and other workshops and typically delivers those parts – often within the space of 30 minutes.

Indeed, the timing of delivery is crucial in this business because mechanics must usually service a number of vehicles in any given day. While the mechanics can rarely know for certain all of the parts that will be required to repair the vehicles that day, they often rely on Burson to meet those needs.

That is partly where Burson’s advantage comes in. The company owned 143 trade stores as at 19 April 2016 – with a target of 200 stores by 2021 – with many of these strategically located within minutes of the location of a number of workshops.

Notably, Burson also operates in the automotive accessories retail space through its Autobarn and Opposite Lock businesses. It owns a number of specialist wholesale businesses as well as Midas and ABS, which both offer vehicle servicing.

So, why have Burson’s shares become so popular all of a sudden?

In reality, there’s nothing ‘sudden’ about it. Burson Group listed its shares on the ASX early in 2014 at an offer price of $1.82 per share, so they have more than tripled in price in the time since. By comparison, the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has lost almost 7%.

The company’s strong gains this week could well be attributed to Burson’s defensive nature.

While Burson Group certainly possesses growth potential – particularly following its strategic acquisition of Metcash Limited’s (ASX: MTS) automotive business last year – it is also considered to be somewhat protected from any potential downturns in the economy. It’s not too often that you find both growth and defensive bundled into one on the market and in light of recent events, investors appear to be taking advantage.

The reason Burson is considered defensive is because of how consumers tend to behave during times of heightened uncertainty. Many defer the purchase of new vehicles and hold onto their older vehicles for longer. These vehicles still need to be serviced, however, which can lead to greater demand for Burson’s products.

What’s more, the majority of Burson’s customers aren’t the vehicle owners themselves, but rather the workshops or mechanics. Thus, Burson can typically pass on any cost increases to the customer without losing much business as a result. That could be a very valuable feat if the Australian dollar does continue to fall, making many of the parts Burson acquires more expensive to import.

Burson’s shares aren’t necessarily cheap after their strong run-up in price over the past few years, and I don’t expect them to triple in price again over the next two years. In saying that, they could still be worth further investigation from long-term investors – particularly those looking for a more defensive place to park their money during this period of heightened uncertainty.

It would also pay to remember that, although volatility may be scary in the short-term, fortunes can be made by buying shares when they are heavily sold off.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman owns shares of Burson. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Burson. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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