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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tenet Healthcare Equity Thesis in Three Words

“Screw the bondholders”, Larry Robbins says.

Ok maybe not in those words.  But at a recent conference, Larry Robbins of Glenview Capital suggested that as Tenet Healthcare (THC), the hospital operator, digest its recent Vanguard acquisition, THC should take advantage of the credit markets to maintain 5x leverage. THC’s debt currently stands at 6x EBITDA (> 70% debt/enterprise value!), but instead of deleveraging, Robbins suggested the company can buy back stock.

Robbins is a power player in healthcare space and supposedly has so much influence on THC management that he actually drove Vanguard deal.

To be fair, THC has other things going for it. Synergies from Vanguard acquisition is one. ObamaCare is another. The company has a sensible strategy of teaming up with reputable non-profit players like the Yale New Haven system. Hospitals industry is ripe for consolidation and THC could be buyers (with more debt?). The conference notes link above noted more. There are concerns about the hospital industry as a whole, and I mentioned some in my HCA write up here, but nothing that can’t be overcome.

Valuation is ok -  ~8.5x EBITDA and 18x 2015 P/E (consensus is expecting some explosive EPS growth). P/E is less relevant here because THC is so highly leveraged (both financial and operating) that any little revenue growth juices earnings disproportionately. By 2016 P/E could easily be under < 15x.

So still, the equity story goes back to leverage. When a company has 6x debt/EBITDA and still want to buy back shares, there ought to be a creditor revolt. But the bond vigilantes are silent. Tenet Healthcare’s 8% senior notes due 8/20 (rated B3/CCC+ by Moody’s/S&P respectively), are yielding a mere 4.4%. What can they do? The Fed started a QE orgy, the ECB is holding the bondholders down, and the BOJ is manning the door. It’s clear that “high yield” bond managers have nowhere else to go.  

Larry Robbins is enjoying this party and he’s inviting all equity investors to join in.


I’m in.­


4/22/2016.  Minor edit as I look back to this very old post. I sold this stock long time ago but this post could be clearer. Added "When a company has 6x debt/EBITDA and still want to buy back shares, there ought to be a creditor revolt. But the bond vigilantes are silent.

1 comment:

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