Why I've sold all my Yowie Group Ltd shares

Here's why I've been selling my Yowie Group Ltd (ASX:YOW) shares.

| More on:
a woman

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

In the past few weeks since its latest quarterly report, I've sold virtually all my Yowie Group Ltd (ASX: YOW) shares. To understand why, I'll quickly revisit roughly why I bought them:

Why I bought Yowie:

I thought Yowie had a promising product, could be made at a decently profitable price, the ability to expand into related categories of movies, books etc, and it had a ~2-year period where it had the only capsules chocolate that could be sold in the USA. I believed that the books, animated shows and chocolate etc would all feed off each other to create a virtuous cycle, and that the 2-year grace period would allow the company to build a brand to fend off competition.

I held probably longer than I should, as my original forecasts when I bought suggested that Yowie would become cash flow positive in financial year 2018. Management's own forecasts aligned with this, and the company was still growing. However, the last two quarters show a sharp reversal and I think Yowie's time is up.

Why I've sold it:

As part of its company development, Yowie saddled itself with a prohibitive cost structure to land globally experienced executives. From the most recent quarterly report, 27.6% of its sales were spent on staff expenses. 23.7% of sales spent on corporate costs. This means that 51.3% of the company's revenues last quarter went to staff and corporate overheads.

A further 77% of sales were spent on manufacturing and marketing. (This adds up to more than 100%, because Yowie is unprofitable). The real problem is that Yowie North America comparable sales collapsed 22% in the quarter. Sales fell primarily, I believe, due to strengthening competition as competing brands begin selling their capsule chocolates.

With a high cost structure and the heightened competition in its core market, I now doubt if Yowie will ever be profitable. The recent expansions into Canada and Australia are necessary to lift volumes but I believe that a) it is too early to tell if they will be successful and b) anecdotally the price point of the product appears wrong. Several anecdotes suggest the Canadian Yowies are selling for CAD$5 a unit which appears too high for the type of product that it is. Likely the cost of shipping to these locations plays a role, but more importantly I think competitors like Kinder Surprise could effectively undercut that price.

Additionally, if Yowie sales collapsed due to the introduction of competition in North America, it is hard to see the product becoming a huge winner in other markets where competitors are already entrenched. Total group sales were down 7% in the latest quarter and this follows a further 15% sales decline at Yowie's largest customer (Walmart) in the June quarter.

Management claims that Yowie is starting to see operating leverage, but I think this is inaccurate. The September 2016 quarter had higher relative cash outflows than September 2017, but this was due to inventory build for the following quarters. Advertising, corporate, and staff expenses were much lower in 2016 compared to 2017, and sales in that quarter were also juiced by a new Yowie Series release.

If anything I think Yowie is seeing operating deleveraging:

source: Company presentation.

Compared to the prior corresponding period, sales are up 13%, manufacturing expenses are down 22%, although as noted this is due to inventory build in the prior quarter. Advertising is up 29%, staff costs are up 65% (!), corporate costs are up 24%. If you exclude the benefit of lower manufacturing expenses, Yowie went significantly backwards in the quarter. While it is myopic to just look at two quarters, with sales under pressure I do not see the company going anywhere in the near future.

This would be survivable if the company had a great product. However, management points out that sales this quarter were lower than what would be expected due to a delayed product launch. From my perspective, this is critical as it suggests that Yowies do not sell themselves, they need to be actively sold to people. This also suggests that the books and animated episodes etc are not enough to drive sales of Yowies, breaking a key point in my thesis.

Lastly, and I've critiqued this before, the company hasn't done a very good job justifying its strategy to shareholders. There has been a focus on social media influencing and such but the actual benefit to sales has not been demonstrated or quantified, in my opinion. Yowie has also been historically reluctant to share comparable growth figures or information about things like why it has hired consumer goods consultants to help it sell, when the company is already paying a high price for management's reputed expertise in this field.

In a nutshell, several core premises of my original thesis seem broken, and I do not believe that this is likely to change in the near future, so I sold almost all of my shares several weeks ago. I retain a tiny – and I mean truly insignificant – handful of shares so that I will follow the Yowie story for a while longer to see if my current analysis is borne out. I believe Yowie Group is not currently a worthwhile investment.

Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill owns shares of Yowie Group Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.

More on ⏸️ Investing

Close up of baby looking puzzled
Retail Shares

What has happened to the Baby Bunting (ASX:BBN) share price this year?

It's been a volatile year so far for the Aussie nursery retailer. We take a closer look

Read more »

woman holds sign saying 'we need change' at climate change protest

3 ASX ETFs that invest in companies fighting climate change

If you want to shift some of your investments into more ethical companies, exchange-traded funds can offer a good option

Read more »

a jewellery store attendant stands at a cabinet displaying opulent necklaces and earrings featuring diamonds and precious stones.
⏸️ Investing

The Michael Hill (ASX: MHJ) share price poised for growth

Investors will be keeping an eye on the Michael Hill International Limited (ASX: MHJ) share price today. The keen interest…

Read more »

ASX shares buy unstoppable asx share price represented by man in superman cape pointing skyward
⏸️ Investing

The Atomos (ASX:AMS) share price is up 15% in a week

The Atomos (ASX: AMS) share price has surged 15% this week. Let's look at what's ahead as the company build…

Read more »

Two people in suits arm wrestle on a black and white chess board.
Retail Shares

How does the Temple & Webster (ASX:TPW) share price stack up against Nick Scali (ASX:NCK)?

How does the Temple & Webster (ASX: TPW) share price stack up against rival furniture retailer Nick Scali Limited (ASX:…

Read more »

A medical researcher works on a bichip, indicating share price movement in ASX tech companies
Healthcare Shares

The Aroa (ASX:ARX) share price has surged 60% since its IPO

The Aroa (ASX:ARX) share price has surged 60% since the Polynovo (ASX: PNV) competitor listed on the ASX in July.…

Read more »

asx investor daydreaming about US shares
⏸️ How to Invest

How to buy US shares from Australia right now

If you have been wondering how to buy US shares from Australia to gain exposure from the highly topical market,…

Read more »

⏸️ Investing

Why Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) might hurt News Corp (ASX:NWS) shareholders

News Corporation (ASX: NWS) might be facing some existential threats from its American cousins over the riots on 6 January

Read more »