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HALL - Hallmark Financial


valuedontlie
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This stock is down more than 80% YTD and now trades at $3 (from $17+)...

 

It's a not-so-special P&C insurance company. Commercial auto has given them some heartburn over the years and they recently announced a plan to exit that business (https://platform.mi.spglobal.com/IRW/file/103415/Index?KeyFile=403085208)... Commercial auto was $114m gross premiums out of ~$800m... Prior loss developments for 2016-2017 looking like $64m hit to equity and potentially more coming...

 

Equity was $296m at 9/30/19... After the $64m commercial auto impact gets you ~$230m... maybe tack on another $30m hit to the $660m investment portfolio? Call it $200m in book value or $11+ per share...

 

I'm not going to argue this is an amazing insurer, or has a stellar management team, or a great investment portfolio... This has been a profitable company outside the commercial auto loss developments...

 

At less than 0.3x book, looks interesting...

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price looks compelling, but tough to buy an insurer that has had some screw ups on the liability side and whose asset side looks more aggressive than most.

 

I am not an insurance expert, but it strikes me as unusual to have 18% of the portfolio in CLO's and 15% in in-house picked stocks, and there's no way that it's all CLO AAA (which I'd regard to be money good even in this environment) based upon the yield cited and their ratings breakdown (they have more in CLO's than their whole portfolio has in AAA, ergo they own some more junior tranches . It's probably still mostly IG, I assume, but nevertheless it is structural leverage.

 

https://www.aresmgmt.com/media/535618/Understanding-Investments-in-Collateralized-Loan-ObligationsvF.pdf

Note: all CLO stats sourced via bloomberg "Palmer Square CLO indices", no idea how close to reality those are.

 

CLO AAA generally have 35-40 points of credit protection, so the AAA tranche represents the 0-60% LTV of a diversified pool of shitty covenant lite loans to dicy private equity and public LBO / roll-up borrowers, the next tranche (the AA) might be the 60-70% tranche and do on and so forth down to the equity. While it takes a lot of problems to impair the AA tranche [not aware of a AA ever actually experiencing losses], I would note that in the most recent turmoil, AA spreads went from ~170 to 400+ (now at 267). Even AAA blew out and declined in price from (102-->92) but has since rebounded to 96. The BB price index (more junior) is down from $98->$67.

 

As loan default rates start to go up and losses begin to be realized, I'd be concerned of additional markdowns in their CLO book. a 10% hit to their $120mm of CLO's honestly doesn't seem like a problem in the context of the valuation, but I'd want a little more clarity that it's not indicative of a broader problem of excess risk taking.

 

with 15% of investment portfolio in equities, non AAA CLO's, some shorter term corporate debt that yields just a little too much for my taste, and potential problems on the insurance side of things, I kind of get why it trades where it does.

 

what do we know

 

1. 3 VIC write-ups over 11 years, all of which were wrong regarding how the acquisition strategy + hedge fund managed portfolio insurer would work out

 

2. failed to file its most recent 10-K on time

 

3. 15% stocks, 18% CLO, remainder in short duration corporate fixed income, whole portfolio yielded 3.5% as of 9/30/2019. At the time the treasury curve was 1.9-2.1% so a credit spread of 140 bps, investment grade spreads were lower at the time. At December 2018, the portfolio was BBB+ on a weighted average basis with 19% in BB's, 3% in un rated, and 1.5% in the C/CC stuff. there's credit risk in the fixed income portfolio.

 

4. problems with some cquisitions/insurance stuff.

 

all point to high risk taking and potential for more problems

 

certainly juicy from an upside perspective though.

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RE: auditor / late filings -- most likely due to the issues around commercial auto, not a huge surprise

 

RE: investment portfolio -- agree it is an unusual practice but historically hasn't been a cause for heartburn (dating back to 2004)...

 

here's a link to the 9/30/19 investor presentaiton -- https://www.hallmarkgrp.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/HALL-Investor-Presentation-Q3-2019-FINAL.pdf

 

again, this is no berkshire hathaway... the big risks (to me) are the $1.5bn in assets on potentially $200m in equity (levered), the tail risk of my losses from commercial auto, and hoping they have enough equity as it stands today...

 

i don't have those answers but if they make it, shoul be 2x or more... even 0.6x p/b at $200m in equity gets you $6+

 

worth digging into for me...

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RE: auditor / late filings -- most likely due to the issues around commercial auto, not a huge surprise

 

RE: investment portfolio -- agree it is an unusual practice but historically hasn't been a cause for heartburn (dating back to 2004)...

 

here's a link to the 9/30/19 investor presentaiton -- https://www.hallmarkgrp.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/HALL-Investor-Presentation-Q3-2019-FINAL.pdf

 

again, this is no berkshire hathaway... the big risks (to me) are the $1.5bn in assets on potentially $200m in equity (levered), the tail risk of my losses from commercial auto, and hoping they have enough equity as it stands today...

 

i don't have those answers but if they make it, shoul be 2x or more... even 0.6x p/b at $200m in equity gets you $6+

 

worth digging into for me...

 

I agree that there is substantial potential upside in this situation. I'm not crazy about their investment portfolio but also do not think that it alone should warrant such a low valuation.

 

I think a more serious problem is that they disagreed with their auditor and fired them. The purpose of an auditor is not to simply agree with management and sign off. On the other hand, they are a specialty insurer and certainly understand their business better than any third party.

 

From 8K:

"During the two fiscal years ended December 31, 2018, and the subsequent interim periods through the filing of the Company’s Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2019, there were no disagreements (as defined in Item 3.04 of Regulation S-K) between the Company and BDO. Subsequently, a disagreement arose regarding certain matters related to (a) the Company’s processes for estimating reserves for unpaid losses and loss adjustment expenses, (b) the resulting potential impact on the Company’s assessment of the associated internal controls over financial reporting, and © the resulting potential impact on recorded amounts of those reserves, all as of the quarter ended September 30, 2019, and the year ended December 31, 2019. The Audit Committee has discussed the subject matter of the disagreement with BDO and has authorized BDO to respond fully to the inquiries of any successor independent registered public accounting firm concerning the subject matter of such disagreement."

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There is that saying of cockroaches and how they rarely come alone... Levered finco makes me yuck. Perhaps look at Atlas Financial - taxi insurer with savy finance guys onboard... Had a good run and then bang! Old losses came to haunt them. Disagreement with auditor, and adverse loss reserves, makes me question whether BV is worth much in this case.

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does anyone have a view/experience with what the trigger is for regulators to get involved?

 

what is the insurance equivalent of "capital requirement" and are we at risk of breaching those?

 

I am asking out of ignorance in that I don't know what happens when an insurance company announced 30% of its equity went away overnight and what would be the consequences if they lose another 5% 10% 25% etc.

 

I tried to short the bonds because I don't think they should be in the low $90's given the optionality of some very very bad headlines but there's no borrow available.

 

also, in looking at the NAIC filings they have this structure where they re-insure themselves. it reminds me of the Florida hurricane insurers that I (INCORRECTLY) thought would blow up. Can someone explain the business rationale for this structure?  i assume it is nothing, but just trying to understand better.

 

Item 23: Reinsurance:

 

http://platform.mi.spglobal.com/Cache/IRCache/12e92e83-ea45-f2bd-57b2-c4ef39f8d99e.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=12e92e83-ea45-f2bd-57b2-c4ef39f8d99e&iid=103415

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Hallmark Financial Gains on Report of Sales Process

 

We’ll find out private market/strategic value soon it looks like, nice job valuedontlie. I think there’s a chance this isn’t worth the price but credit where it’s due!

 

ednesday, April 29, 2020 10:24 AM

By Joshua Fineman

 

(Bloomberg) --Hallmark Financial rose as much as 29%, the most intraday since March 17, after Insurance Insider said the company is running a sales process and using Raymond James as adviser.

Options include equity raise, private investment in public equity (PIPE), private share offering or a full sale

Insurance carriers, PE firms have been approached on potential interest in past few weeks; appears to be difficult to find a buyer

HALL declined comment to Insurance Insider

NOTE: April 17, Hallmark Financial Cut to Market Perform at Raymond James

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