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International Paper Bids $10.7 Billion For Smurfit Kappa

John Abbink profile picture
John Abbink


  • International Paper has made a € 8.65 billion offer for Smurfit Kappa, Europe’s leading corrugated packaging company.
  • Smurfit Kappa has rather summarily rejected the offer; however, its defense, at least to date, is not terribly convincing.
  • The share price action of both companies suggest that Smurfit Kappa’s rejection of the offer is not the final word on the transaction.
  • Competition authorities are unlikely to be excessively concerned about the deal, although some concessions may be extracted from the companies.

Smurfit Kappa (OTCPK:SMFKY) has roundly rejected what it calls an “unsolicited and highly opportunistic” acquisition proposal that it has received from International Paper (NYSE:IP). Considering Smurfit’s relative performance, a description of International Paper’s approach as ‘opportunistic’ seems a little odd:

Granted, twenty-eight percentage points of Smurfit’s performance in the period shown resulted from Euro appreciation. But even neglecting the sharp price increase that accompanied the news of International Paper’s approach, Smurfit Kappa’s performance suggests that, if anything, it was an opportunity missed well over a year ago. The day before the news came out, Smurfit was trading at 12.1X consensus 2018 earnings, while International Paper was trading at 12.5X consensus. This hardly indicates that International Paper was bottom-fishing. Yet its dividend yield was slightly lower than International Paper’s.

Admittedly, Smurfit’s flat earnings and decreased margins in 2017 compare unfavorably with International Paper’s healthy improvement in both metrics. It is very much the burden of Smurfit Kappa’s rejection of International Paper that improvement is on the way, thanks in part to an acceleration in planned investment. It is not a case of an acquirer picking off a company that has invested but has yet to benefit from the sunk expenditure.

International Paper has revealed that its offer for Smurfit consisted of € 22.00 in cash and 0.3028 of its shares for each share of Smurfit Kappa. Despite Smurfit’s objections, this does not strike me as a derisory offer.

Based on International Paper’s closing price on March 5, its offer valued Smurfit Kappa at € 8.65 billion ($10.7 billion) or € 36.47 per share, a 27.4% premium over its closing price that day. That is 15.4X consensus 2018 earnings, 325X Smurfit’s Shareholders’ Equity and 136.6% of its € 9.0 billion assets less its € 2.7 billion of long-term debt. Note that Smurfit Kappa is an aggressively acquisitive company: 30% of those assets consist of goodwill and intangibles.

This article was written by

John Abbink profile picture
I am the author of Alternative Assets and Strategic Allocation, released in 2010 by Bloomberg Press/John Wiley. I have been involved with investments of all types on both sides of the Atlantic since 1980, as an equity analyst, portfolio manager, research director and corporate planner. I have established the investment function at several firms and introduced alternative investments where they had not previously been employed. I was deeply involved with shaping European Union securities legislation and have consulted widely to investment management firms, central banks and ministries of finance. I am also the author of articles appearing in the Journal of Risk Finance and the Journal of Trading. I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Comments (5)

mjtroll1 profile picture
regardiing this statement

"All time low January 2016?" What are you referring to?

I was referring the the IP/SPY "pair"
regarding your purchase in February 2016 ..nice trade as the level on the pair was near its all time low set in jjanuary of same year.. I am looking for a retest of that level on the pair giving me an estimate price of 50 ..thank you for your inquiry
mjtroll1 profile picture
good article

the IP/SPY pair has decisively broken below bottom of multimonth range.. stock has been a multiyear underperformer.. would expect continued weakness targeting all time low set in january 2016 ..assuming no change in market would likely target near 50 on stock .comments welcome
rlp2451 profile picture
"All time low January 2016?" What are you referring to?

IP was $7 during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

Unless something similar occurs I would not expect much below $50 in the near term. I bought in February 2016 and have nearly doubled my investment since then.
Doc Hopey profile picture
I am a shareholder of Smurfit Kappa and I like the management. It's still a bit like a family business, even though I think the family only owns around 5% or so. They have a really good track record over the decades, so I'd like them to stay and move forward with Tony Smurfit.

They had a bad timing with a big acquisition and debt back in the last financial crisis, but now they seem to have gotten out of it, now earning stable and high roes between 17% and 20% since 2015, even though they are sensible about debt, trying to get it down. The stock is nearly a 20-bagger since the bottom in 2009, but of course that's when all stocks were on sale and especially Smurfit wasn't loved by Mr. Market. Financial leverage stood at nearly 5 times equity within the crisis, but they have gotten it down to a more conservative ratio of 3.7. I'd like it being even more down, but with

A first look to International Papers at Morningstars tells me, that they don't seem to be sensible in that case. Financial Leverage is very bumpy, swinging between 3.7 and nearly 8 (!) times equity from year to year. Today it stands at a ratio of 5.2 and I wouldn't call that a perfect timing for such a big acquisition. On the other hand return on assets look ok over time and within the last couple of years that resultet in really good roes. But that's been the good years and even though we don't know when, ultimately there will be really bad years someday in the future. And interest rates are rising yet. Markets are highly valued, debt ist cheap, interest rates are rising and a business with not too less debt wants to buy another company. All too often that has been a perfect recipe for disaster, so my first gut feeling isn't overwelmingly positive.

Would be interesting to learn a bit more about international papers, their management, history and how they have done within the last crisis and before. So I have to read the annual reports - or has somebody a link to a a blog article, analysis or something?
John Abbink profile picture
I wrote an article a year ago that might be helpful:https://seekingalpha.c....
A solid -- and highly critical -- SA 'Pro' article on IP came out three weeks ago: https://seekingalpha.c....
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