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L & L Energy, A True Story of Cash Flow and Growth

|Includes:L&L Energy, Inc. (LLEN)

LLEN’s expanding Free Cash Flow and solid execution of a growth story

L & L is a Chinese-based company engaged in mining, washing, coking and wholesale distribution of coal throughout the Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces.  Last week, the Company released its quarterly earnings and registered quite impressive results: revenues for the FY Q3 2011 were a record $65.9 million, an increase of 74% from the same quarter last year.  Furthermore, EPS of $0.41 grew 21% as compared to $0.34 in FY Q3 2010.  These impressive numbers are a result of sustained demand for coal, price increases and accretive acquisitions, all of which are trends that the Company expects to continue into the future.

Signs of continued growth and infrastructure expansion

Indeed, China is the world’s fastest-growing economy and has witnessed exponential growth in recent years in industries such as real estate, infrastructure and manufacturing.  More importantly, this extreme growth looks to continue over the next decade and will further perpetuate demand for L & L’s product.  The Company fits perfectly into the mold of a growth business as its compounded revenue growth rate over the past five years is roughly 75%. 

L & L continues to pursue its vertical integration strategy by expanding its coal washing and coking businesses through the acquisitions of the Hong Xing and Ping Yi washing plants and the Zone Lin coking operations.  Capital is a significant need to expand and ensure infrastructure of operations are properly maintained or expanded.  L & L has been one of the few Chinese companies we have seen that has focused on using capital generated internally from operations versus consistently accessing the capital markets to pad its balance sheet (e.g. Puda Coal, AMEX: PUDA), which is very good for earnings per share appreciation for its shareholders.

Determining appropriate valuation

Within the investment community, there are a number of techniques used to assist in determining the appropriate value of a company.  One of the most common techniques utilized is what professionals call a discounted cash flow analysis (DCF).  When deciding which technique to use, it is imperative to understand the mechanics of each methodology and to know when and how to tailor each method in various circumstances.  There are many novice investors and writers out there (including some on Fool.com) that would falsely lead you to believe that a standard application of the valuation techniques is suitable for any situation and may be applied in most circumstances. 

For instance, a few weeks ago Fool writer Isac Simon and energy editor Dan Dzombak published an article commenting on L & L’s free cash flows (FCFs). In the article, they claimed to have utilized a basic methodology for calculating FCFs, yet failed to incorporate the correct inputs (e.g. the correct effective tax rate) as well as failed to adjust their calculations to incorporate the fact that L & L is a growth company.  This “growth company” adjustment is one that discounts the amount of cash spent on capital expenditures (CapEx).  If one is attempting to uncover true FCFs for a growth company, rather than naively applying a technique learned from a text book, it is imperative to ONLY incorporate “maintenance” CapEx (cash used to maintain the business), rather than “growth” CapEx (cash used to grow the business) so as to avoid penalizing a growth company for expanding its business.  Of course, if uninterested in attempting to discover intrinsic value, go ahead and blindly apply whichever technique you feel appropriate, without regard to specifics.

As such, by failing in these two regards, they determined that L & L had FCFs of almost -$36 million.  However, a savvier investor would be able to see the hidden value in such a company by wisely incorporating the correct techniques.  Such a procedure would reveal to the astute investor a “truer” FCF number of almost $29 million.

Long term value appreciation

As mentioned, it takes an intelligent and perceptive investor to be able to see true value where others do not.  And such ability leads to investment success.  The key is to be able to remain steadfast and confident in one’s methodology and have the fortitude to weather market turmoil.  For those shrewd and diligent investors, there remains great potential in the current marketplace to uncover great amounts of hidden value in gems such as L & L Energy, Inc.

 

Click here for more detailed discussion “maintenance” CapEx and the most appropriate method for calculation.

Stocks: LLEN