Home Capital / Equitable Group Discussion #2

A few news items which are salient as this saga continues:

1. Home Capital announced a HISA balance of CAD$521 on Friday, April 28 and a GIC balance of $12.97 billion. On May 1, this is $391 million and $12.86 billion, respectively (another $220 million gone in a day). Their stock is down 21% as I write this.

2. Equitable announced their quarterly earnings and are up 35%. This was a pre-announcement as they previously stated they would announce on May 11, 2017. They announced:

* A dividend increase.

Between Wednesday and Friday, we had average daily net deposit outflows of $75 million, with the total over that period representing only 2.4% of our total deposit base and with the most significant daily outflows being on the Wednesday. Even after those outflows, our portfolio of liquid assets remained at approximately $1 billion.

Obtained a letter of commitment for a two-year, $2.0 billion secured backstop funding facility from a syndicate of Canadian banks, including The Toronto-Dominion Bank, CIBC, and National Bank (“the Banks”). The terms of the facility include a 0.75% commitment fee, a 0.50% standby charge on any unused portion of the facility, and an interest rate on the drawn portion of the facility equal to the Banks’ cost of funds plus 1.25%. This interest rate is approximately 60 basis points over our GIC costs and competitive with the spreads on our most recent deposit note issuance, and as such will allow us to continue growing profitably.

So their credit facility cost $15 million to secure $2 billion (relative to $100 million for HCG), lasts two years (relative to 1 year for HCG), and also have a standby charge of 0.5% (which is 2.0% less than HCG), and a real rate of interest of approximately 3% (compared to HCG paying 10% for their outstanding amount, and I’m assuming the Bank’s “cost of funds plus 1.25%” works out to around 3%).

I haven’t had a chance to review their financial statements in detail yet. But securing two billion on relatively cheap terms like this is going to be a huge boost to their stock in the short run.

Very interesting.

Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) is also down a dollar or 3.5% today, which is more than the usual white noise of trading. It dipped even lower today.

Home Capital / Equitable Group discussion

Home Capital (TSX: HCG) collapsed 60% on news that they are in the process (not obtained!) a secured credit facility for a 10% interest rate, and a 2.5% standby rate for the unused portion. They also announced that customer deposits have collapsed in recent days.

Needless to say, this is a huge amount of interest to be charged and the market’s reaction is fairly indicative of this being a very, very negative event for the company.

(Update, April 29, 2017 – This is a little late, but the company confirmed the secured credit facility on April 27, which including the $100 million commitment fee, means an effective rate of interest of 15% for a $2 billion borrow, or a 22.5% rate for a $1 billion borrow. The ex-chair on television said it was secured 2:1 by mortgage loans and is front-in line. Yikes!)

Equitable Group (TSX: EQB) also has collateral damage, down approximately 17%. Are they next?

No positions.

Home Capital Group, Equitable Group

Home Capital (TSX: HCG) and Equitable (TSX: EQB) have been hammered today as a result of fallout of the Ontario Securities Commission allegations that certain Home Capital Group executives have contravened the various regulations. They continue to perform damage control, today announcing their CFO (who was under the OSC investigation) will be stepping down and other various board changes.

Borrowing rates for Home Capital spiked to 26% today. Equitable, which normally has been an inexpensive borrow, had its cost to borrow rise to 2.75%.

Implied volatilities on options for HCG is also very expensive at present, around 110% for near-dated options and around 90% for a couple months out. EQB does not have options trading on their shares.

There has been an avalanche of media coverage (both in print and social media) about Home Capital and their woes. They have been pushed down to about 25% less than tangible book value.

This spill-over has not occurred to Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) at present.

Canadian Housing Finance stocks, April 13

On April 13, three notable companies associated with Canadian housing pricing fell considerably: HCG, EQB and MIC.

There were a bunch of other companies that had issues, but it looks like that the trio above were fairly pronounced in the day’s list of losers:

April 13, 2017 TSX Percentage Losers

CompanySymbolVolumeClose% Change
Nthn Dynasty Minerals LtdNDM4,841,0272.17-10.3
Intl Road Dynamics IncIRD203,2032.81-10.2
China Gold Intl Res CorpCGG1,269,5942.43-9.3
Home Capital Group IncHCG972,60621.70-8.6
Aphria IncAPH6,005,7937.21-8.3
Equitable Group IncEQB287,51263.41-8.3
Fennec Phrmctcls IncFRX12,5375.50-8.0
Silvercorp Metals IncSVM1,516,9934.94-8.0
Alacer Gold CorpASR1,881,2092.52-7.7
Street Capital Group IncSCB28,4891.40-6.7
Taseko Mines LtdTKO794,6751.52-6.2
Trilogy Energy CorpTET182,4814.95-6.1
Genworth MI Canada IncMIC221,17434.63-6.0
Top 10 Split TrustTXT.UN9,8634.08-6.0
Guyana Goldfields IncGUY916,0127.41-5.4
Golden Star Resources LtdGSC548,2681.09-5.2
Continental Gold IncCNL852,8253.91-5.1
Arizona Mining IncAZ501,4501.96-4.9
Great Panther Silver LtdGPR387,1652.00-4.8
Argonaut Gold IncAR1,036,6442.43-4.7

I’ve been trying to find what caused this spontaneous meltdown in equity prices.

My 2nd best explanation is that Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz is putting a torpedo to the Toronto housing market by making explicit statements about the 30% year-to-year rise in valuations and about how there is no explanation for it. Specifically, he stated “There’s no fundamental story that we could tell to justify that kind of inflation rate in housing prices, and so it’s that gap between what fundamentals could manage to explain and what’s actually happening which suggests that there is a growing role for speculation“, which is a mild way of saying that people are basically trading houses in Toronto like they did with Tulip Bulbs in the Netherlands in 1636.

He also politely stated that if you believe that housing prices are going up 20% year-to-year, it doesn’t matter whether he raises interest rates by a quarter or half point, and he could even raise them 5% and it wouldn’t make a difference (although it would be rather fun to see him try and see all the mathematical financial models predicated on stability go out the window in one massive flash crash).

However, my primary reason why I think the three stocks crashed is a simple announcement:

==========================

Media Advisory
From Department of Finance Canada

April 13, 2017
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau will hold a meeting with Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory to discuss the housing market in the Greater Toronto Area.

A media availability will follow the meeting at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Date and Time
2:30 p.m. (local time)
Tuesday, April 18

Location
Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street
Toronto, Ontario

==========================

Being somewhat experienced with the nature of government communications, there is no way you can get a federal and provincial Liberal with a Conservative mayor doing a joint announcement on something without it leaking to the marketplace.

The only question here is how deep they’re going to stick their silver-tipped oak stake into the heart of the Toronto real estate vampire.

Home Capital Group – The cliche about smoke and fire applies

Home Capital Group (TSX: HCG) fired its CEO today.

The manner that it did suggests that there was a considerable disconnection between the information the Board of Directors was receiving and what management actually knew about the situation (or over-boasted about its damage-control abilities).

My guess is that the final straw was the dealings concerning the Ontario Securities Commission alluded to in the March 14th press release.

Home Capital Group is notorious in my mind for having a very high cost to borrow shares for shorting – it is the biggest proxy used by most people to bet against the fortunes of the Canadian real estate market – right now it would cost you about 22% to borrow to short. Those short sellers will probably be most happy to cover some of their holdings tomorrow (or depending on their risk horizon, add to their shorts!).

Canadian Housing Financing Market

There are three companies that come to mind that are directly related to Canadian residential housing financing: Genworth MI (TSX: MIC), Home Capital Group (TSX: HCG), and Equitable Group (TSX: EQB).

I’ve done extensive research on all of them in the past and I am research-current with all three companies. I do own shares of MIC from the summer of 2012.

The first, which should be no surprise to regular readers here, deals with mortgage insurance. The second and third deal with direct financing of home mortgages (both first-line and refinancing). If a mortgage is required to be insured (which is usually the case for higher ratio mortgages and refinancings) then CMHC and Genworth MI get involved and charge a premium in exchange for the lender being able to give out a lower rate of interest.

HCG today announced that its mortgage originations were down from the previous year and its stock price cratered roughly 15% as of the time of this writing.

Genworth MI is down about 4% in sympathy, although Equitable Group is in the “white noise” range for the markets (i.e. relatively unchanged).

A downturn in mortgage originations will materially affect HCG and EQB’s profitability, while this has more of a muted effect on Genworth MI as cash proceeds from mortgage insurance are not accounted for as revenues until they are recognized according to prior experience (net of expected default losses).

The takeaway to this message is that if Genworth MI gets disproportionately trashed in the upcoming days, it is likely unwarranted as the fundamental profitability in Genworth MI is not through volume, but rather the solvency of the lenders in question. Genworth MI also has the advantage of being able to run off its insurance book and still receive a boost in market value as it is trading below book value, while HCG and EQB are trading above book value.

Option implied volatility does suggest that institutional interest suspects further volatility. Tread carefully as always!

Market musing while being inactive

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I’ve still been doing nothing other than research but nothing worth investing in at the moment except for one illiquid play mentioned in an earlier post.

Here is a series of miscellaneous observations:

* I note that Apple (AAPL) continues its slide down to the point where I am wondering if they are pricing that the company is not going to be able to keep its premium pricing strategy. On paper, they are still massively profitable, but if competition continues to chip away at their product line (mainly through Samsung on the phone front and a variety of other realistic competitors on the tablet front), they might run into revenue growth problems. The company in their last fiscal year (ended September 2012) made $156.5 billion in revenues and this year the analysts are projecting an average of $182.8, which is a $26.3 billion increase year-to-year. This is a huge amount of growth and the law of large numbers will likely be catching up to Apple in short order.

* CP Rail (CP.TO) is trading at absurdly high valuations at present. They performed a change in management and the market is giving the new CEO a lot of credit, but the railroad business is very mature and I don’t have a clue why they are giving the equity such a huge premium at the moment. I’d be a seller at this price range (the C$130 mark).

* Anybody remember the big scare about rare earths a couple years ago when China started restricting the supply and most of those stocks went crazy? The big play here, Molycorp (MCP) has continued to slide into the gutter now that the market reality of the perceived shortage has completely gone away. The substitution effect is very powerful and MCP shareholders are holding the bag.

* Likewise, most other fossil fuel commodity companies, including my favourite company that has been so overrated by many, Petrobakken (PBN), are continuing to suffer. It is similar to how most gold mining companies are not faring nearly as well as the underlying commodity – it costs an increasing amount of money to extract the resource, so even if the commodity price is increasing, if your costs are increasing, you are not going to make much money. Even Crescent Point Energy (CPG.TO) is starting to lose its lustre.

* The other commodity market that is continuing to get my curiousity up is currency trading – the US dollar has continued to outperform most of the other global currencies. The only way that I play this is that I try to hedge my portfolio by having some US-denominated securities rather than using leveraged speculation.

* The two Canadian Real Estate financing proxies, Home Capital (HCG.TO) and Equitable Group (ETC.TO) warrant a further look. HCG has faded somewhat off of its 52-week high, but Equitable is still there. If people are still hyper-bearish on the Canadian real estate market, these two companies should be the first on anybody’s short selling list. Non-performing loans are still around the 0.3% level and currently still do not show any real signs of distress in the market. I am still riding the wave on Genworth MI (MIC.TO) and believe there is still a reasonable percentage gain to be realized from current price levels. The loan companies, however, are hugely leveraged and I’m finding it difficult to see value there when book values are so significantly below market prices.

* Long term interest rates have also taken a nose dive – the Canadian 10-year bond was skirting at the 2% yield a month ago, but now they are back down to 1.8%. The world is awash with capital and there are few places to deploy it where you’ll generate yield at an acceptable risk level. Eventually the leverage party will end and the fallout is going to be very brutal. Whether this happens in 2013, 2014 or later, nobody knows. But there will be fallout, and figuring out how to brace yourself for the fallout will be a big financial challenge over the next decade.

Misconceptions on Canadian mortgages

There have been quite a few media articles about how the recent rule changes has kneecapped the Canadian real estate market. It should be pointed out that these rule changes were strictly in the context of having CMHC (a federal crown corporation, so if they fail, then the public picks up the bill) insure such mortgages.

It does not include private lenders or insurers (such as Genworth (TSX: MIC)). So private lenders and insurers are free to make bone-headed decisions, such as providing zero-down financing and prime minus 1% rates to 450-rated credits if they deem it to be in their best interests.

Since the major chartered banks are really only interested in arbitraging their mortgage portfolio risk by getting CMHC to pick up the downside, they have been much more reluctant to give mortgages outside of the 25-year amortization, 5% down payment guidelines. The two major private lenders in the Canadian market are Equitable Group (TSX: ETC) and Home Capital Group (TSX: HCG) which have to make their own decisions with respect to giving out mortgages.

The share prices of both of these companies should be leading indicators with respect to the Canadian real estate market as a whole. The analogies in the USA, such as Novastar Financial, have long since gone insolvent for well-documented reasons. The semi-equivalent of CMHC, Freddic Mac and Fannie Mae are still publicly traded, but will not likely be returning capital to shareholders ever unless if the US government decides to make their obligations disappear.

I would be cautious of the Canadian private lenders without trying to thoroughly examining their loan portfolios. Doing this is not an easy job, even on the inside. They are producing disproportionately large earnings per share strictly through the usage of leverage, which in itself is not a bad thing, but you don’t know how secure those assets are. In the case of Equitable, one sees a company that has about $10 billion in mortgages outstanding, about $5.3 billion of it has been securitized (wrapping them up in happy packages, insuring them, and then selling to market) – the only problem of the securitized assets is that your net interest margins on them are piddling low – 0.49% in the last quarter, compared to the very relevant 2% more you get with the non-securitized assets.

ETC’s book value per common share is $27.46 (at June 30, 2012) and is currently trading at $31.49, so there is a premium assigned to their operations.