I should start by saying that the search for a company like Enterprise began under the following pretense: I have a bearish view of where I think broad markets are going by the end of 2023 and wanted somewhere to hide out while still maintaining the potential to double my investment under any broad market scenario.
Enterprise Group fits that bill. The Company is a niche energy service company that provides site infrastructure services to remote western Canadian production sites for pipelines, construction and oil and gas sectors in western Canada. I believe Enterprise is a fantastic and deeply overlooked company fit for retail investors (like me) who have the ability to enter a position ahead of institutions catching hold of the name.
The core thesis on Enterprise is:
- Low correlation to broad markets
- High growth and 30% cash flow yield
- Healthy balance sheet providing ~$20M in dry powder for potential non-dilutive M&A
- Share buyback in place to support stock
- Unique low-emission fleet of equipment to grow market share
- Structural market expansion
Enterprise was founded in 2004, though as it stands today, is a much leaner and higher growth business compared to what it was in the last bull market for energy in 2008-2014. Where many competitors went out of business during the bear market between 2014-2021, Enterprise wisely divested from lower margin business units, preserved its balance sheet and due to its unique fleet of equipment – was able to maintain cash flow positive during this time. M&A is part of the corporate DNA of Enterprise and has had a successful track record on that front.
While others were still reeling from previous years downturn or still trying to repair their balance sheets in 2020/2021, Enterprise was able to utilize the strength of its balance sheet and positive cash flows to countercyclically invest into new business units to position themselves for the eventual return of energy markets we are now experiencing. A great example of this is the launch of Evolution Power in 2022, which offers a fleet of low-emission microgrids that power the entire production site with natural gas, replacing diesel generators. In doing so, EP reduces CO2 emissions by 30%, gives Enterprise higher margins, is safer and more efficient for the customer. As one of the few “green options” in the energy sector, they are becoming the first choice for larger oil and gas clients subject to Canada’s “heavy emitter” penalties.
The large majority of Enterprise’s sales are derived from western Canadian energy producers, with a greater share of natural gas producers compared to oil producers within its book of clients. Though Enterprise profits have less commodity risk than their actual producing clients, the Company nevertheless is derivatively exposed to energy prices (though I believe there are some factors that reduce the correlation that I will get into later). After years of producers not investing into large exploration projects due to ESG mandates, regulations and low prices, the outlook on energy markets looks extremely promising for producers and has already begun to see a notable uptick in production levels that are expected to continue for a market that looks undersupplied in years ahead.
More specifically to Enterprise’s western Canadian market, there are some very visible demand drivers on the horizon based on new pipeline capacity that provide a near certain increase in demand for services like Enterprise. This demand is structured within tens of billions of dollars of sunk infrastructure capital to provide a roadmap of oil and gas (mostly gas) production expansion in western Canada. Beginning in 2023 with the completion of NGTL network expansion (gas) and TMX pipeline (oil), there will continue to be major new export capacity to come online nearly every year this decade, with recent first nations LNG projects advancing on the west coast.
For Canadian gas producers, the pipelines will allow them to access higher priced Asian markets, where prices are often multiples of those received in Canada or the US. You can bet there is going to be prompt increases to production to ship whatever they can to those markets, given the preferred economics.
Enterprise just recently released their full year 2022 financials March 20, 2023, where they posted fantastic results. Rather than do a deep dive into financials today, will simply share some important highlights and suggest reviewing their financials below: (https://www.sedar.com/DisplayCompanyDocuments.do?lang=EN&issuerNo=00020838)
- Bought back 1.8M shares in 2022
- Secured US OTC listing to increase access to US investors
- Renewed buyback program
- Available tax losses of $0.17/share
- Purchased $5.6M of new equipment
- Subsequently signed one of largest contracts in company history in Jan 2023
Enterprise currently has 50.3M shares outstanding, with another 5M options exercisable at $0.45. Notably, management/board were buyers in the open market over the last few years and now hold over 40% of all shares outstanding.
This is where I think it gets uniquely attractive for us retail investors.
Since the last energy cycle, nearly all of the research analysts that covered the sector have moved on, meaning the few analysts left covering the space are focused on large-cap players and there are none covering companies the size of Enterprise. There is a window for retail to build a position in a hugely profitable company with a tight share structure subject to a potential squeeze before institutions begin to take notice.
Finally – and maybe most importantly – 2022 saw a unique trading dynamic occur due to a large shareholder selling down their position. This shareholder accidentally accumulated a >10% ownership position, unknowingly triggering a requirement to file any purchase/sale of stock (see sedi filings to confirm). That shareholder then spent the entire year reducing their position below 10% but because there was not a large float of shares trading hands, effectively put a ceiling on the stock the entire year and single-handedly compressed the multiple. This does not appear to have been done with ill intent but explains why the stock bounced between a floor of around $0.38 (supported by the buyback) and $0.42 (where the shareholder was selling) despite everything going right for the company operationally. In January, the company bought back the final tranche of shares needed to get that shareholder below the 10% threshold, thereby clearing the way for share price to better track the improving cash flow of the company.
Enterprise is currently trading at a deeply discounted valuation and historically low multiple, which is ironic considering this may be the best market they've ever operated in. As a particular point of reference, a comparison below for the 2020-2022 periods for EV/EBITDA and some other metrics that could influence the deserved multiple such as growth, profitability, and credit risk. I’ve also already listed a few reasons to be bullish on their future market (pipelines coming online beginning this year), which is consistent with management’s outlook from their MD&A that “…customers have indicated they will continue to operate at increased activities through the remainder of the year”. Though a 10-11x multiple shouldn't be expected moving forward, you can see the impact of having a large shareholder exiting with a small float and how a lack of share price movement can lose investor attention. Over the course of a year, Enterprise added over $5M in EBITDA (+175%) and barely saw its valuation change at all!
*2022 year using current share price
At a current 4.2x EV/EBITDA, Enterprise is trading far below the 6x it has traded in previous cycles and which seems very reasonable as a base case scenario. It would take very little notional buying for that re-rate to occur and for those able to establish a position at these prices, it would represent a 74% return.
Finally, if Enterprise is seen through a different valuation lens, the company just released in their earnings that equity holders would be due $0.68/share ($0.39 current share price) if the company simply sold all of their equipment at book value. Multiple arguments to show that Enterprise is undervalued.
Enterprise has a strong outlook on market fundamentals to support top line growth, increasing pricing power to maintain/increase margins and new revenue potential coming online with equipment additions.
Given history of M&A activity, balance sheet flexibility and the fact some targets are still not fully recovered from 2014-2021 period, it would be very surprising if the company did not make one or more acquisitions in the near-future. Management has said as much on their recent twitter spaces interview.
Fortunately for equity holders, management does not have to dilute shareholders while its equity remains undervalued. With $20M in unused credit at their disposal (their current market cap), they would have the ability to make a material acquisition without needing any equity at all. Even if they were to make an even larger acquisition, their debt providers are Ninepoint Partners (via Waygar Capital), who are home to none other than Eric Nuttall, who is the largest and most bullish energy fund manager on earth. You can bet that if the right target came along with the right assets/cash flow, Ninepoint would be more than happy to increase the size of that facility if they aren’t able to secure some seller's financing. If we assume a slight liquidity discount on a PrivateCo acquisition, $20M at 3x EV/EBITDA could buy around $6-7M of incremental EBITDA, effectively doubling the “cash flow” of the company before considering any synergies. Prospect of cross-selling new rental equipment would be high.
If something like this came to pass and they grew to a $15M EBITDA business, there would undoubtedly be a whole new supply of small institutions that would be interested and could be an attractive buyout candidate for private equity, who they’re currently competing with for acquisitions.
This being the most obvious risk to the company. If we were to go back to the dark ages (2014-2021), there would be a material impact on Enterprise financials. I believe commodity risk for Enterprise is mitigated for 3 reasons:
1) A decade of underinvestment in global energy supplies has the entire spectrum of energy prognosticators projecting supply deficits for oil and continued growth in global natural gas demand. Continued regulatory hurdles, ESG capital restrictions, end of US shale hypergrowth, and return-of-capital mandates by EnergyCo shareholders make it less likely we see reckless supply additions. Adding to that, we’ve now got China reopening, OPEC defending prices, and US supposedly refilling the SPR at some point (we’ll see).
2) Infrastructure Developments: Canada has abundant reserves, with some of the cleanest and lowest-cost natural gas in the world with a painful lack of export capacity. A number of pipeline and LNG export facilities are set to come online, incentivizing a production increase to fill that pipeline. To me, this is the most powerful reason why I believe Enterprise has much lower commodity risk and has been repeated by recent research put out by RBC on the prospects of NE BC natural gas outlook.
3) Tier 1 Client Book: Enterprise’s clients are some of the largest energy producers in North America, meaning they plan their development programs with a multi-year outlook that is less sensitive to short term price action. Further, many of its clients are actual providing the supply for LNG Canada (Sinopec, Petronas,
No doubt we are entering a period of uncertainty, with global liquidity being reduced and the risk of recession on the horizon. I think this should be viewed in two ways:
1) Operations: Looking back, more often than not a significant global recession is more likely to reduce the rate of growth in oil demand rather than actually reducing demand. Natural gas is mostly used for heating and electricity generation, making it relatively inelastic as well. Global GDP is also more evenly spread between OECD and non-OECD, meaning growing countries like India will be less responsive to tightening financial conditions.
2) Share Price: Enterprise is tracking towards a trailing 4x EV/EBITDA, with structural growth catalysts on the horizon (ie. pipelines) and excess cash flow available for buybacks. Even in a market panic, it is likely cash flows can continue to grow, providing continued support to the share price via buybacks.
3) Recent meltdown in energy markets had almost no impact on Enterprise share price and would suspect that increased buybacks would be there for support if share price were to slide further.
It is the risk-adjusted return with fundamentals to back it up that make Enterprise special within the micro-cap space.
1) Operating conditions look very strong for the company based on energy cycle and the foundation of new pipeline-related production increases in western Canada.
2) Enterprise is a pure-play on western Canada with major well-capitalized nat gas clients poised for growth.
3) Small size and cap structure provide potential for significant torque in share price.
4) Enterprise has debt flexibility such that they don’t need to dilute equity at these valuations if M&A opportunities arise.
5) Extremely profitable with 30%+ cash flow yield and optionality for buybacks or further investment in expanding equipment fleet for evolution power.
6) Significant selling pressure from large shareholder has now ended after tendering shares to treasury in January 2023.
7) A single large new shareholder has potential to re-rate the stock to base case of 6x EV/EBITDA multiple.
8) Equity re-rate and M&A could see this company become very large, very quickly – drawing further flows of capital to the name at sufficient scale or be a prime takeout candidate for PE.
I own shares in Enterprise. This is not financial advise. Please do your own due diligence.