Inside the Market’s roundup of some of today’s key analyst actions
While the rebound in travel stalled with the emergence and spread of the Omicron variant, National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen sees several reasons to be optimistic about Canadian airlines moving forward.
“CATSA airport screening data shows that in the latest week passenger screenings were at approximately 31 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, down from as high as 56 per cent during the peak holiday period in December,” he said in a research note released Thursday. “As a result of the softer demand, airlines have cut capacity in Q1/22, and we have adjusted our forecasts to reflect lower capacity expectations for our airline coverage names.
“However, there are several encouraging signs for the sector. Firstly, the worst of the current wave of COVID appears to be receding in much of Canada so a return to a more positive backdrop for consumer confidence in travel in the next several months seems possible. Secondly, we believe Canada will soon start to ease some travel restrictions including the elimination of the arrival PCR test. Thus, we believe a rebound in traffic for Canadian airlines can resume in Q2/22, and we still expect a strong summer, albeit not back to pre-pandemic levels.”
Despite that optimism, Mr. Doerksen did warn of a series of emerging headwinds facing the sector, including “much” higher fuel prices and increased competition.
“The current spot price of jet fuel is 94 cents per litre, well above the 74 cents per litre seen in Q3/21 and the 60 cents per litre in early 2021,” he said. “Sustained higher fuel prices will negatively impact Air Canada and Transat, in particular. New competition is also a concern with start-up Lynx Air planning to launch flights in April. Indeed, based on the incremental fleet additions announced by Flair Airlines, Porter, Canada Jetlines, and now Lynx, the potential seat capacity expansion for the Canadian airline industry would approach 30 per cent. Growing competition has the potential to depress prices, and we are already seeing some aggressive fare sales across the industry.”
After updating his financial projections, Mr. Doerksen made a pair of target price adjustments to stocks in his coverage universe. They are:
* Air Canada (AC-T, “outperform”) to $28 from $30. The average on the Street is $29.63.
“The Omicron wave is a setback to the rebound the company was experiencing through the late summer and into the fall and higher jet fuel prices will increase costs in the near term so we reduced our Q1/22 forecasts accordingly,” he said. “However, we believe the worst of the Omicron impact is now over and we expect Air Canada to see a resumption of the travel rebound in Q2 and into the summer, which may accelerate if travel restrictions ease in Canada and international markets. Air Canada is also scheduled to hold an investor day in late March at which we expect the company to provide post-pandemic targets for margins, cash flows and leverage. Air Canada will report its Q4 results on February 18.”
* Chorus Aviation Inc. (CHR-T, “sector perform”) to $4.30 from $4.85. Average: $5.23.
“For Q1/22, Chorus’s flying levels for Air Canada under the CPA may take a step back from the 75-80 per cent of 2019 levels expected in Q4/21 as Air Canada adjusts its schedule to account for the Omicron impact. However, this will not impact cash flow as Chorus receives a fixed fee per aircraft regardless of flying levels. The resurgent pandemic globally in recent months may also impact some of Chorus’s leasing customers resulting in a slowing of the recovery in lease collection levels in Q1/22 (was at 77 per cent in Q3/21), but we believe the global airline industry will continue to recover over the course of 2022 which should support a return to more normal conditions for lessors.”
He maintained an “outperform” rating and $51 target for Exchange Income Corp. (EIF-T) and an “underperform” rating and $3.50 target for Transat AT Inc. (TRZ-T). The average is $52.50 and $3.55, respectively.
“Our preferred names in the airline space are Air Canada and Exchange Income (which has multiple non-airline related positive drivers),” said Mr. Doerksen.
ATB Capital Markets analyst Tim Monachello sees Enerflex Ltd. (EFX-T) as “a compelling investment opportunity despite mid-term risks and uncertainties” following its all-stock acquisition of Exterran Corp. (EXTN-N).
“While EFX shares have not responded positively to the announcement (down roughly 17 per cent), we believe the combination offers strong strategic merit and an attractive value proposition,” he said. “Overall, while we believe EFX is likely to endure a period of increased leverage and negative FCF over the coming 12-18 months following close, timelines for ongoing project deployments provide reasonable visibility to significantly improved free cash generation and leverage ratios by mid-to-late 2023.
“Longer-term, we believe the combination of EFX and EXTN represents a rare opportunity for both companies to significantly increase scale and geographic diversity, thereby reducing risk and providing a path to lower costs of capital – a feature which we believe is vital to the successful capitalization of sizable long-term growth opportunities in gas compression and processing, water processing, and in promising energy transition end markets such as CCUS.”
Mr. Monachello now sees Calgary-based Enerflex “scaled to take on a world of opportunity” following the US$735-million deal, seeing it “well positioned to capitalize on significant growth opportunities while also deleveraging and likely increasing distributions to shareholders over the mid-term.”
Keeping an “outperform” rating, he raised his target for its shares to $12.50 from $12. The current average is $11.
On Houston-based Exterran, he added: “We believe the combination with EFX in an all-stock deal is a highly advantageous proposition for EXTN shareholders. The combined entity offers lower leverage, increased scale, and meaningfully improves its capital structure issues in terms of both access to and cost of capital. In our view, the all-share nature of the combination provides a better positioned entity to realize upside for investors and – given increased scale and the eventual dual listed nature of EFX shares – the combination should allow for better trading liquidity for investors. We also believe the 112-per-cent equity premium (based on pre-transaction valuations) provides immediate upside for EXTN investors.”
Citi analyst Prashant Rao lowered his financial expectations for Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE-T) to account for the firm’s view for “flat oil prices retracing meaningfully lower as 2022 progresses.”
He’s now projecting fourth-quarter 2021 funds from operations per share of $1.07, down from $1.29 but in-line with the Street’s forecast. His full-year 2022 estimate slid to $4.05 from $4.21.
However, Mr. Rao did raise his target for Cenovus shares to $21 from $17, maintaining a “buy” rating. The average is $20.95.
“Our target moves up to $21 and remains based on our DCF [discounted cash flow] analysis, where we roll forward our assumptions to 2022 net debt of $5-billion (which seems potentially conservative given cash-on-hand and 2022 earnings) and lower our WACC [weighted average cost of capital] slightly (60 basis points) to 11.8 per cent based on updated CAPM [capital asset pricing model] assumptions,” he explained.
“We rate CVE shares Buy. CVE’s superior oil sands SAGD assets are disproportionately discounted in the equity’s valuation (20-plus year reserve life at implied sub-5 times EV/DACF using Citi’s proprietary Oil Vision analysis). Furthermore, we see a softer, firmer path for Canadian commodity price resolutions in the coming quarters.”
Scotia Capital analyst Robert Hope thinks the “highly visible and resilient growth profile” for Canadian utility and renewable companies “could be attractive to investors longer term as well as during periods of market uncertainty as we are experiencing now.”
In a research report introducing his 2024 financial estimates, he projected earnings per share compound annual growth of an average of 6 per cent for the space.
“The growth outlook for the renewable power space is more volatile and in part driven by projects entering service,” said Mr. Hope. “The group has a median free cash flow 2022-2024 CAGR of 9 per cent, with Northland Power leading the way.
“We prefer the renewables over the utilities given our view that the group is attractively valued and their growth outlooks continue to strengthen. While we continue to field many questions on the group, it appears that sentiment has not yet turned the corner. Overall, our favourite renewable names are Northland, Brookfield Renewable, and Boralex. AltaGas is our favourite utility name, though this is in part due to its midstream growth potential. Our favourite pure play utility is Emera.”
Mr. Hope made a series of target price adjustments. They are:
* AltaGas Ltd. (ALA-T, “sector outperform”) to $31 from $30. The average on the Street is $30.77.
“AltaGas remains our favourite utility stock. It should not only benefit from an above average rate base growth outlook (8-10-per-cent CAGR out to 2026) but also low capital, higher return midstream projects,” he said. “At this point, we are not including meaningful midstream expansion projects in our estimates and valuation, which provides an avenue of upside. Even still, we see AltaGas as having the strongest growth profile of the utilities.”
* Altius Renewable Royalties Corp. (ARR-T) to $12.50 from $13.50. Average: $13.50.
Analyst: “We continue to like ARR’s unique business model and remain confident the company will be able to deploy its significant available capital over the next two to four years while maintaining and achieving its return target range of 8 per cent to 12 per cent. While not inimitable, we believe the ARR model provides investors with embedded value upside. We see the shares as being attractively priced.”
* Boralex Inc. (BLX-T, “sector outperform”) to $45.25 from $51. Average: $45.60.
Analyst: “We continue to have a favourable view of Boralex due to its strong growth profile and diversified asset base. Overall, our long-term thesis of material upside from the growth path and development pipeline remains intact. Like many of its peers, BLX has undergone significant valuation contraction over the past year, despite the absence of downward estimate revisions and bolstered long-term industry growth prospects, We view the shares as being attractively priced.”
* Fortis Inc. (FTS-T, “sector perform”) to $61 from $60. Average: $59.61.
Analyst: “Fortis remains a go-to, core utility pick for many investors given its track record, strong management team, and liquidity. That said, we recently moved it to Sector Perform as its shares are now at levels that we view to be fairly valued.”
* Hydro One Ltd. (H-T, “sector perform”) to $32 from $31. Average: $33.35.
Analyst: “Hydro One has a strong balance sheet and ESG profile, though a slightly lower growth outlook than Emera and Fortis in our view. In recent years, the company has grown rate base by 5 per cent. With its recently filed rate case, it is looking to tilt this growth profile up to 6 per cent. We expect that the regulator will push back on some of this growth request, and that in 2023, EPS growth will be muted by some productivity gains returning to customers. We expect EPS growth to recover to 5 per cent in 2024, in-line with our expected rate base growth. We believe the shares are in a holding pattern until there is clarity on its 2023-2027 rate application decision, which should come later this year. Until then, we don’t see any meaningful positive or negative catalysts.”
* Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. (INE-T, “sector perform”) to $20.25 from $26.50. Average: $23.25.
Analyst: “Like many of its peers, INE has undergone significant valuation contraction over the past year. We forecast a host of projects being developed between now and 2024 including the Palomino solar project, the Boswell Springs wind project, as well as four solar plus storage projects located in Hawaii. While there still exists some risk that not all these projects will move forward we are confident in management’s ability to maintain growth similar to that forecasted through either greenfield opportunities or via acquisitions.”
* Northland Power Inc. (NPI-T, “sector outperform”) to $42.25 from $47.75. Average: $46.87.
Analyst: “Northland is best poised for valuation expansion as contributions from the company’s offshore wind and onshore renewables growth initiatives come into view. Overall, our long-term thesis of material upside from the company’s development pipeline remains intact. Like many of its peers, NPI has undergone significant valuation contraction over the past year, despite the absence of downward estimate revisions and bolstered long-term industry growth prospects, We view the shares as being attractively priced.”
* TransAlta Renewables Inc. (RNW-T, “sector perform”) to $18.50 from $19. Average: $18.69.
Analyst: “The issues regarding the Kent Hills foundations have weighed on the shares. We believe the issues are isolated to Kent Hills and more than priced into the shares. That said, sentiment remains negative on the shares. We prefer TransAlta Corp. over TransAlta Renewables.”
Following Wednesday’s release of mixed fourth-quarter 2021 results, Desjardins Securities’ Gary Ho called AGF Management Ltd. (AGF.B-T) a “free-cash-flowing machine.”
The Toronto-based firm reported earnings per share of 19 cents, exceeding the analyst’s 16-cent estimate and the consensus projection on the Street by a penny. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization from its weal management business of $25.9-million missed his $28.1-million forecast.
“We favour AGF’s setup for the remainder of 2022 given several catalysts — potential divvy increase with 1Q results, DSC ban benefiting FCF (approximately $100-million per year or $1.43 per share), significant rampup of its private alt buildout (to $5-billion by the end of FY22), and continued retail and institutional net sales momentum,” said Mr. Ho.
“We foresee a few near- or medium-term positive catalysts: (1) retail net sales momentum; (2) redeploy capital for organic growth, seed new private alt strategies and share buybacks; (3) growth in fees/earnings from its private alt platform; (4) execution on SG&A cost reduction to improve EBITDA and EBITDA margins; and (5) DSC ban benefiting FCF and EPS.”
Despite that optimism, Mr. Ho reduced his estimates for 2022 and 2023 narrowly to reflect the recent decline equity markets, leading him to cut his target for AGF shares to $10.50 from $10.75 with a “buy” recommendation (unchanged). The average is $9.
Elsewhere, Scotia Capital’s Phil Hardie raised his target to $10 from $9.50 with a “sector perform” rating.
“We believe stock performance over the next 12-18 months will be driven by AGF’s ability to execute on operational momentum and effectively redeploy excess capital toward opportunities that will generate stable earnings growth,” he said.
TD’s Graham Ryding trimmed his target to $9 from $9.50 with a “buy” rating.
“We continue to see share-price upside potential, given our view of the solid fundamentals and attractive valuation. AGF is showing healthy retail flows momentum (institutional remains lumpy). The balance sheet is solid, with $86-million in net cash, which provides financial flexibility to add AUM and earnings from the alternatives platform,” said Mr. Ryding.
Citing “the lack of clarity surrounding the reserve reduction and consideration for the current selloff,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Kevin MacKenzie lowered Gatos Silver Inc. (GATO-N, GATO-T) to “hold” from “buy.”
The Colorado-based company’s stock plummeted almost 69 per cent in New York on Wednesday after announcing it has found errors in a 2000 technical report on its Cerro Los Gatos mine in Mexico as well as “indications that there is an overestimation in the existing resource model.” It now estimates a reduction in the metal content of CLG’s mineral reserve ranging from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.
“At present, it’s not clear if there are other considerations which led to the overestimation, nor how pervasive or localized such errors are within the model,” said Mr. MacKenzie. “Furthermore, it’s not clear at this point what the net impact to overall grade and tonnage will be.
“Gatos is now working with independent engineering consultants to better understand the magnitude of the overestimation, and plans to issue updated resource and reserve estimates, along with an updated life of mine plan, in H2/22.”
The analyst cut his target for Gatos shares to US$4 from US$15.50. The average is US$5.60.
“While we view this announcement as a material setback for Gatos Silver, we believe that the company is well-positioned in the near term to maintain operations at CLG,” Mr. MacKenzie said. “As of year-end 2021, the company had $20-million in cash, with $13-million drawn on its revolving credit facility. Within the release, the company provided 2022 guidance and noted that the identified reserve reconciliation issues are not expected to impact 2022 guidance.”
Elsewhere, CIBC World Markets analyst Cosmos Chiu cut the stock to “neutral” from “outperformer” with a US$7 target, down from US$17, while BMO’s Ryan Thompson cut his target to US$4 from US$12.50 with a “market perform” rating.
In a research note previewing fourth-quarter earnings season for oilfield services providers, Canaccord Genuity analyst John Bereznicki made a series of target price adjustments.
His changes were:
- CES Energy Solutions Corp. (CEU-T, “buy”) to $3.50 from $3.25. The average is $3.27.
- Ensign Energy Services Inc. (ESI-T, “hold”) to $2.50 from $2. Average: $2.49.
- Secure Energy Services Inc. (SES-T, “buy”) to $8.50 from $8. Average: $7.81.
- Total Energy Services Inc. (TOT-T, “buy”) to $10 from $9.50. Average: $8.69.
“Oilfield equities have historically been a high-beta play on recovering commodity prices due to the compound impact of improved activity, stronger pricing and margin expansion,” he said. “As operators largely focused on balance sheet repair in 2021, we believe their capital discipline drove a significant underperformance in OFS equities relative to their E&P counterparts last year. While we expect producers to shift their focus to returning cashflow to shareholders in 2022, we nonetheless believe they have the financial capacity to fund a meaningful increase in capital spending. In our view, growing producer conviction in a post-pandemic recovery could set the stage for even further capital spending increases in 2023. With sector valuations depressed by historic standards, we see value in a space that enjoys strong free cashflow growth prospects through 2023 despite an inflationary environment.”
“Our focus names remain SES and CEU but we recommend TCW and TOT for those seeking relative natural gas exposure.”
In other analyst actions:
* In response to Wednesday’s post-market announcement of its 2022 guidance, Desjardins Securities analyst David Newman cut his Chemtrade Logistics Income Fund (CHE.UN-T) target to $9.50 from $10 with a “buy” rating, while Raymond James’ Steve Hansen lowered his target by $1 to $11 with an “outperform” recommendation and BMO’s Joel Jackson trimmed his target to $7.50 from $8 with a “market perform” rating. The average is $9.64
“CHE released lower-than-expected 2022 EBITDA guidance of $265–295-million vs our estimate of $293-million (was $317-million) and consensus of $308-million, driven by: (1) a higher-than-expected impact of the three-week turnaround at North Vancouver (chlor-alkali) in 2Q22 (negative $11-million on EBITDA); (2) flat year-over-year sodium chlorate production of 365kMT, likely given the lingering COVID-19 impact on paper demand (work-from-home/hybrid); and (3) persistent raw material headwinds (aluminum and sulphuric acid) in WSSC,” Mr. Newman said.
* Resuming coverage of George Weston Ltd. (WN-T) following the sale of its fresh and frozen bakery business to FGF Brands andits ambient bakery business to Hearthside Food Solutions, Scotia Capital analyst Patricia Baker rraised her target to $167 from $134 with a “sector outperform” rating. The average on the Street is $162.14.
“There has been, and will continue to be, speculation as to whether WN will ultimately be privatized,” she said. “Management have repeatedly indicated this is not their intention but in the absence of a diversification opportunity for the holding company, it is not unreasonable to assume this could be a possibility at some point in the future. In the meantime in the context of the current valuation on WN shares, WN provides a vehicle for investors willing to invest in both retail and RE to acquire exposure to L and CHP.un at a discount. As such we reiterate our Sector Outperform rating and a revised higher one-year target which reflects our higher NAV as well as an assumed lower holdco discount. The sale of the baking assets removed the weakest performing asset from the WN portfolio and removes the uncertainty that weighed on an eventual turnaround of this business, one that had already been several years in the making. Investors should be far more attracted to the potential of the return of cash than to a potential turnaround in a business that represented on less than 10 per cent of WN’s NAV.”
* Expecting its third-quarter to be “challenged,” Ms. Baker cut her Saputo Inc. (SAP-T) target to $36 from $40 with a “sector outperform” recommendation ahead of the Feb. 10 earnings release. The average is $37.
“SAP continued to face supply chain and labour challenges in Q3, particularly in the U.S.,” she said. “As such, despite some sequential improvements, Q3 results will reveal lower year-over-year EBITDA and EPS. We forecast Q3 EPS of $0.30 ($0.51 last year); consensus is $0.32. We look to adjusted consolidated EBITDA of $321.9-million ($325.9-million consensus), substantially lower than Q3 F20 ($431.1-million). The U.S. business continues to be SAP’s most challenged market; to date, pricing action has not offset cost headwinds. While demand remains strong, labour shortages are impeding SAP’s ability to deliver and infill rates remain below historical levels, impacting cost absorption. The company has committed to EBITDA of $2.125-billion by the end of F25; however investors will need to be patient while waiting for the improved operating performance. ‘IF’ SAP executes well against the plan, we could see good value creation.”
* After last week’s release of its fourth-quarter production results and 2022 guidance update, Canaccord Genuity analyst Carey MacRury trimmed his target for B2Gold Corp. (BTO-T) to $8 from $8.50 with a “buy” rating. The average is $7.82.
“Overall, the company had another strong year with its 13th consecutive year of record production,” he said. “Despite the strong year operationally, BTO’s shares were down 30 per cent in 2021 (vs. a 10-per-cent decline for the S&P/TSX Gold index) largely on geopolitical concerns in Mali (and despite no impact to the company’s operations), which we view as overdone. For 2022, we believe BTO is well positioned for another strong year. Our BUY rating is based on the company’s solid track record of execution, exploration potential, strong FCF and balance sheet and peer leading dividend yield of approximately 4.5 per cent. We view B2Gold as attractively valued at 0.50 times NAV [net asset value], well below the senior average of 0.8 times NAV and BTO’s average P/NAV multiple of 0.8 times over the past 2 years.”
* Ahead of the Feb. 3 release of its third-quarter 2022 results, Scotia Capital analyst Paul Steep reduced his Lightspeed Commerce Inc. (LSPD-N, LSPD-T) target to US$74 from US$103 with a “sector outperform” rating. The average is US$71.73.
“We expect LSPD shares to remain highly volatile on a quarterly basis given the ongoing impact of shutdowns and supply chain disruptions,” he said. “Since November, Tech sector valuations have compressed, with high-growth peers trading at 12.3 EV/revenue (calendar 2022), down from 20.5 times on November 5. Key risks and factors for the stock are the potential for lockdowns to slow near-term location growth, the impact of macro supply chain issues on LSPD’s retail clients, and the uptake of LSPD payments in new regions.”
* Raymond James analyst Brad Sturges raised his Automotive Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (APR.UN-T) target to $15.50, exceeding the $14.70 average, from $14.25, keeping an “outperform” rating.
“In January, APR acquired 2 dealership properties in the Greater Montreal Area (GMA), and underlying land at its dealership asset in Langley, BC,” he said. “Looking ahead into the rest of 2022, the prospects of rising interest rates this year could in fact make it more appealing for Canadian dealership groups to monetize real estate holdings as a source of growth capital, and support greater Canadian dealership property consolidation opportunities for APR.”
* Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett upgraded Cronos Group Inc. (CRON-Q, CRON-T) to “hold” from “underperform” with a US$3.24 target, down from US$5.54. Elsewhere, CIBC World Markets’ John Zamparo cut his target to US$5 from US$7.50 with a “neutral” rating. The current average is US$3.57.
* Mr. Jefferies also raised Hexo Corp. (HEXO-Q, HEXO-T) to “hold” from “underperform” with a 53-US-cent target, down from US$1.07 and below the US$4.73 average. He cut his target for Tilray Brands Inc. (TLRY-Q, TLRY-T) to US$17 from US$22, exceeding the US$9.06 average, with a “buy” rating.
* Credit Suisse analyst Andrew Kuske raised his Emera Inc. (EMA-T, “neutral”) target to $63, exceeding the average by 10 cents, from $60. He also increased his targets for Fortis Inc. (FTS-T, “neutral”) to $63 from $60 and Hydro One Ltd. (H-T, “neutral”) to $34 from $33. The averages are $59.54 and $33.35, respectively.
“Over a longer timeframe, assuming no meaningful regulatory changes, rising interest rates typically translate into stronger regulated earnings growth – albeit a generally constant spread on the risk-free rates (with some exceptions). Yet, the more important factor near term is the reality of rising rates impacting funds flow away from the core regulated Utilities sector and moving towards more cyclical assets. In the context of the current environment, funds flow does not look to favour part of the Canadian regulated utility sector and the potential CAD performance could be another headwind for the U.S. skewed stocks,” he said.
* RBC Dominion Securities analyst Andrew Wong raised his Ag Growth International Inc. (AFN-T) target to $45 from $42, keeping an “outperform” rating. The average is $47.44.
“We expect another solid quarter in Q4 but note that seasonality could weigh on revenue and EBITDA quarter-over-quarter,” he said. “Still, we think the setup for 2022 is positive due to a combination of record backlogs, a very favourable ag environment, and the potential for margin improvement as steel prices come off record highs. We continue to focus on AGI’s strong fundamentals, and we think that shares could re-rate as the overhang from the bin incident fades and the company moves to de-lever the balance sheet.”
“We anticipate another strong year for transaction activities, particularly leasing as we expect companies will finally return to long-term office planning,” he said. “We anticipate that sales transactions may slow given the exceptional 2021 but still see significant pent-up demand in several asset classes (i.e. office). However, we are most excited by the evolution of CIGI’s rapidly growing IM platform, which now represents approximately 23 per cent of consolidated EBITDA including the recent acquisitions of Basalt/Antirion. In our view, the combination of Harrison Street’s niche demographic-based CRE focus and Basalt’s mid-market infrastructure expertise, provides a highly compelling and differentiated investment strategy that is poised to capitalize on the record levels of capital chasing long-life, low-volatility real assets. Additionally, it positions CIGI to capitalize on the trend of fewer, larger funds as institutional investors look to consolidate managers.”
* Credit Suisse analyst Michael Binetti cut his Canada Goose Holdings Inc. (GOOS-T) target to $60 from $70, reaffirming an “outperform” rating. The current average is $58.50.