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Inside the Market’s roundup of some of today’s key analyst actions

Though the “robust, demand-driven surge” in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) prices continues to “handily” exceeded his already bullish forecast and “boasts strong fundamental underpinnings” heading into the second half of the year, Raymond James analyst Steve Hansen downgraded his rating for Nutrien Ltd. (NTR-N, NTR-T) on Tuesday in response to “outsized” gains thus far in 2021.

With the Saskatoon-based company’s shares up 26.4 per cent year-to-date, versus a 15.6-per-cent gain in the TSX Composite, he lowered it to “outperform” from “strong buy.”

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“Fertilizer industry dynamics have gone from loose to extraordinarily tight in a matter of months,” said Mr. Hansen. “Indeed, it was only last August that we were lamenting over how, despite emerging signs of optimism, grain prices were languishing under the prospect of a bumper NA harvest and weak ethanol demand, and international potash prices were stuck near their cycle lows. Fortunately, the turn of the calendar ushered in an entirely different macro backdrop. As we suggested back in February, evidence was already accumulating to suggest global crop fundamentals were turning glaringly tight, a backdrop that we viewed as fundamentally constructive for crop input demand and, ultimately, fertilizer(NPK) prices. Fast forward to today and NPK prices have proven even more robust than expected, seemingly underpinned by robust demand as growers look to ‘swing for the fences’ with respect to yield maximization and, more recently, a series of unexpected supply concerns, most notably in potash.”

Based on that strong macro outlook, Mr. Hansen raised his revenue and earnings expectations for Nutrien through 2022. His earnings per share projections for 2021 rose to US$4.07 from US$3.40 and his 2022 forecast jumped to US$4.52 from US$4.

With that view, he hiked his target for Nutrien shares to US$82 from US$75. The average is US$67.69, according to Refinitiv data.

“While we currently view the stocks recent strong price appreciation as indication to step down to Outperform 2 as the stock becomes more reasonably valued (vs. Street/mean expectations), we continue to argue that it is less expensive than it looks, with company guidance (& Street expectations) still far too conservative, in our view,” he said.

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A day after its third-quarter results fell short of expectations, sending its shares down 6.5 per cent, Hexo Corp. (HEXO-T) was downgraded by ATB Capital Markets analyst David Kideckel to an “underperform” recommendation from “sector perform.”

“In our view, the Canadian market remains highly fragmented and competitive, posing challenges for HEXO and other LPs to maintain market share and reach sustainable profitability. Moreover, we believe that HEXO’s aggressive M&A strategy poses significant near-term integration risks. Given these factors, we are moving to an Underperform rating on the stock,” he said.

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Mr. Kideckel cut his target for Hexo shares to $6 target from $9.75 previously. The average on the Street is $8.43.

Other analysts making target adjustments include:

* Desjardins Securities’ John Chu to $7.50 from $8 with a “hold” rating.

“HEXO’s 3Q shortfall was more internally related than industry-driven, which suggests its products continue to fare well with consumers,” he said. “Management is confident that it can recoup lost market share; however, headwinds from these internal issues should linger for the next couple of quarters. How quickly sales will rebound afterwards remains a question and, more importantly, we continue to have concerns about the company’s ability to successfully integrate three acquisitions in the coming quarters.”

* Canaccord Genuity’s Matt Bottomley to $7 from $9 with a “hold” rating.

“Although we believe HEXO’s recently announced M&A continues to position the company with a top-three market share in Canada, in our view, FQ3/21 represented a step back with respect to the company’s execution in its core legacy business (particularly in Quebec). As a result, we have lowered our near-term revenue forecasts and increased our recreational discount rate,” he said.

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* CIBC’s John Zamparo to $10 from $13.50 with an “outperformer” rating.

“HEXO’s FQ3 will not inspire confidence in the company’s growth plans, but we view the sizeable miss in the quarter as largely a short-term, self-inflicted event,” said Mr. Zamparo. “A combination of a cultivation error with suboptimal product sent to market was exacerbated by a shift in the timing of international sales, and ongoing struggles across the sector from store operating limitations. HEXO’s lack of immunity to challenges and/or missteps seen from nearly the entire Canadian landscape reinforce why we view the M&A strategy so positively, particularly the quality Redecan asset, whose sales volatility is among the lowest in the country.”

* Alliance Global Partners’ Aaron Grey to $12 from $14 with a “buy” rating.

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National Bank Financial analyst Gabriel Dechaine raised his target prices for a group of Canadian bank stocks on Tuesday.

His changes include:

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  • Bank of Montreal (BMO-T, “outperform”) to $139 from $136. The average on the Street is $136.19.
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM-T, “outperform”) to $159 from $156. Average: $154.02.
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RY-T, “outperform”) to $140 from $137. Average: $136.88.
  • Canadian Western Bank (CWB-T, “sector perform”) to $40 from $39. Average: $39.73.

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BTIG analyst Mark Palmer thinks Mogo Inc.’s (MOGO-Q, MOGO-T) “offers an attractive means through which investors can play both the digital disruption of the Canadian financial services industry and the increasing adoption of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.”

Also feeling the upside in the Vancouver-based firm’s stake in Coinsquare, which he values at US$5 per share, is being “underappreciated” by investors, he initiated coverage with a “buy” recommendation.

“MOGO during 1H21 has used acquisitions and investments complementary to its existing offerings to accelerate its development of a comprehensive digital wallet that has quickly evolved into a Canadian version of a “super app” comparable to SQ’s CashApp,” he said. “The company’s acquisition of payments processor Carta Worldwide in January, the stake it purchased in crypto exchange Coinsquare, and its acquisition of Moka Financial Technologies have meaningfully enhanced the value of its platform, in our view.

“Including the contributions from those acquisitions, MOGO’s FinTech platform now includes lending, bitcoin trading, saving and investing, B2B payments and a Visa prepaid card. We believe the company is well positioned to add meaningfully to its base of 1.6 million customers over the next few years. We also anticipate that management will eventually shift its focus to monetizing MOGO’s customer base and boosting its average revenue per user (ARPU) and subscription and services revenue. Inasmuch as management points to the approximately $1,300 in annual revenue generated per user that is posted by Canadian banks, the potential upside for MOGO if it is able to capture even a fraction of that amount of annual revenue per customer would be very significant, in our view.”

Mr. Palmer emphasized Mogo’s advantageous position in the Canadian market, which he called “a laggard on the FinTech innovation front” in comparison to the United States, which has seen PayPal, Square and Robinhood all make “significant” traction.” He thinks it has “created opportunity for MOGO to leverage its digital platform to disrupt the space by better addressing the underserved financial needs of the country’s consumers.”

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“MOGO’s valuation does not reflect the scarcity of its platform in the market it serves or its growth prospects, in our view,” he said.

The analyst set a target of US$13 per share. The average is currently $14.33.

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Pointing to bullish natural gas price sentiment, Scotia Capital analyst Cameron Bean upgraded Peyto Exploration & Development Corp. (PEY-T) to “sector outperform” from “sector perform.”

“We see the strong outlook for natural gas prices into 2022 (the full year strip is just below US$3.00/mmBtu and up 16 per cent year to date) and improving investor sentiment toward the natural gas weighted sub-sector as key catalysts for PEY’s equity to continue outperforming,” he said. “Moreover, we see the company’s improved financial position (PEY previously noted that it will exit covenant relief during 1H/21), stronger capital efficiencies, and line of sight to reduced hedging losses in 2022 as additional catalysts.”

Mr. Bean’s target is now $10, rising from $8 and exceeding the $7.42 average.

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“While the stock has done well so far in 2021 (up 141 per cent vs. the XEG at 56 per cent) we see room for further outperformance as the market looks to the SMid-cap group for additional natural gas exposure,” he said.

“Despite the improving sentiment toward natural gas, we believe the equities are still trading at a material discount to the commodity ... In our view, the macro fundamentals support ~US$3.00/ mmBtu Henry Hub, leaving ample room for the natural gas weighted equities to outperform. Within this context, we see PEY as a good way to add natural gas exposure in the SMid-cap group. The company has a long history as a go to name for natural gas and its market cap has moved well above $1.0-billion, which should put it back on the radar for a wider range of investors.”

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Calling it a “premier” dental care provider possessing an “established and repeatable acquisition playbook,” RBC Dominion Securities’ Douglas Miehm gave Dentalcorp Holdings Ltd. (DNTL-T) an “outperform” recommendation.

“We see upside potential for Dentalcorp’s valuation as the company executes on its strategy to acquire recurring, non-discretionary revenues from independent dental practices on an accretive basis, underpinned by steady, cash flow positive organic growth from its existing portfolio,” he said.

Mr. Miehm was one of several analysts on the Street to initiate coverage of the Toronto-based company on Tuesday after coming off research restriction following its $950-million public market debut on May 21.

With the $18-billion Canadian dental market remaining largely independently owned, Mr. Miehm sees Dentalcorp having “ample runway to progress its acquisition strategy accretively over the medium term.” He emphasized it aims to create operational efficiencies through “economies of scale and proprietary technology rollouts” and feels its “value proposition to dental partners supports ongoing consolidation. “

“Over the next two years, we assume that Dentalcorp acquires practices adding $35-million of EBITDA annually at a 7.75-times multiple (GAAP basis, after rent payments), similar to its recent pace of acquisitions,” he said. “We forecast this to drive revenue growth from $1.1-billion in 2021 to $1.5-billion by 2023, with EBITDA increasing from $198-million to $302-million (from $164-million to $258-million on a GAAP basis, after rent), with manageable LTM pro forma net debt/ EBITDA of 3 times at year-end 2023. We estimate Dentalcorp could acquire up to 100 practices annually while maintaining pro forma net debt/EBITDA less than 4 times.”

Mr. Miehm set a target of $18 per share. It closed at $14.39 on Monday.

Others initiated coverage include:

* CIBC World Markets’ Scott Fletcher with an “outperformer” rating and $18 target.

“With a highly repeatable M&A program, substantial white space to continue expanding the network, and multiple initiatives to improve same-practice sales growth, Dentalcorp is well positioned to continue executing on its growth-through-acquisition strategy,” he said. “Our forecast includes contributions from future practice acquisitions, with expectations that the pace of practice acquisitions returns to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.”

* BMO Nesbitt Burns’ Stephen MacLeod with an “outperform” rating and $18 target.

“We view Dentalcorp as a unique Canadian growth stock with a niche market position and multi-year opportunity to continue to grow its market-leading network of 434 dental clinics (market is 95-per-cent unconsolidated),” he said. “The successful execution of Dentalcorp’s acquisition and organic growth strategy would lead to peer-leading growth rates (five-year revenue and EBITDA CAGR of 15.8 per cent and 20.0 per cent, respectively). We see attractive risk-reward in the stock, with multiple expansion opportunity over time.”

* Jefferies with a “buy” rating and $17 target.

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Touting it as an “ambitious new streamer” featuring “accelerating” growth, Scotia Capital analyst Tanya Jakusconek initiated coverage of Triple Flag Precious Metals Corp. (TFPM-T) with a “sector outperform” rating and $17 target.

The Toronto-based mine financing company began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange in late May following a US$250-million initial public offering.

“TFPM has generated impressive returns on investment from its high-quality portfolio of stream and royalty assets and it has a strong organic growth outlook,” she said. “We believe this profile supports a premium valuation, yet TFPM trades at 1.1 times NAV compared with its mid-tier peers averaging 1.3 times NAV, which presents a compelling value opportunity, in our view. Longer term, we believe TFPM could re-rate toward the senior royalty company group valuation range (around 2 times NAV) if it continues to successfully execute its investment strategy, develop a greater capital markets profile, and improve its trading liquidity.”

Other firms initiating coverage on Tuesday include:

* RBC Dominion Securities with an “outperform” rating and $18 target.

* National Bank Financial with a “sector perform” rating and $21 target.

* Credit Suisse with a “neutral” rating and $17.50 target.

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After a stronger-than-expected start to 2021 driven by multiple expansion, Desjardins Securities analyst Kyle Stanley expects Canadian REIT investors to become increasingly focused on asset class fundamentals and both internal and external growth potential, emphasizing “the ‘value trade’ has largely run its course.”

“In our 2021 outlook (published December 18, 2020), we communicated our view that the Canadian REIT sector should reward investors with modestly positive total returns. Performance has exceeded our expectation thus far,” he said.

“As of Friday’s (June 11) market close, the S&P/TSX Capped REIT index has generated a year-to-date total return of 21.1 per cent. By comparison, the broader Canadian market (as measured by the S&P/TSX Composite) is up 16.9 per cent. South of the border, total returns for the S&P 500 and MSCI US REIT indices are 13.8 per cent and 25.7 per cent, respectively.”

In a research report released Tuesday, Mr. Stanley adjusted his three best ideas for the sector, prioritizing the desire to add additional multifamily exposure and “capitalize on year-to-date relative underperformance.”

His picks are:

  • InterRent Real Estate Investment Trust (IIP.UN-T) with a “buy” rating and $18 target. The average on the Street is $16.76.
  • Minto Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust (MI.UN-T) with a “buy” rating and $22.50 average. Average: $24.53.
  • Dream Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust (DIR.UN-T) with a “buy” rating and $16 target. Average: $15.69.

Previously, Mr. Stanley had selected WPT Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust (WIR.UN-T), Summit Industrial Income REIT (SMU.UN-T) and Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (CAR.UN-T).

At the same time, he downgraded his rating for Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust (CRR.UN-T) to “hold” from a “buy” recommendation based largely on valuation.

“Strong relative performance in 2020 (negative 4-per-cent total return vs a decline of 13 per cent for the S&P/TSX Capped REIT Index) has been followed by robust unit price appreciation (up 29 per cent year-to-date),” said Mr. Stanley. “We fully appreciate the stability of CRR’s grocery-anchored portfolio and the long-term upside potential inherent in its large-scale development pipeline. However, the stock is now trading at an FTM FFO [forward 12-month funds from operations] yield spread of 488 basis points, 130 basis points lower than in February 2020. Although we have increased our target price ... the implied potential total return is only 5 per cent. We therefore recommend that investors look for a better entry point.”

Mr. Stanley’s target rose by $18.50 to $17.50, which is the current consensus.

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Highlighting its “attractive” long-term organic and acquisition growth potential and the “defensive characteristics” of its asset class, CIBC World Markets analyst Scott Fromson initiated coverage of Flagship Communities Real Estate Investment Trust (MHC.U-T) with an “outperformer” recommendation on Tuesday, seeing a valuation that he considers “compelling on both relative and absolute bases.”

The REIT, which owns and operates a portfolio of manufactured housing communities (MHC) located in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, began trading on the TSX following a US$93.75-million initial public offering in early October of 2020.

“The MHC asset class has proven to be defensive through periods of economic turmoil,” said Mr. Fromson. Flagship delivered positive organic growth through the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and has done so again during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, MHC REITs have generally outperformed other asset classes over the past 10 years. Flagship significantly reduces capex and depreciation risk by focusing on lot rentals rather than unit rentals.”

“As traditional forms of housing (single-family owned homes and multi-family rentals) have become increasingly unaffordable for many – a secular trend that looks set to continue – we see a clear path for continued MHC demand growth. However, significant barriers to new supply have resulted in no material new MHC developments in the last 15 years within the REIT’s target markets (to the best of our knowledge). This supply/demand imbalance provides an excellent foundation for robust long-term growth in lot rental rates (we estimate 4.9 per cent in 2021 and 4.0 per cent in 2022 vs. a 3-4-per-cent industry average).”

Seeing acquisitions as a key driver moving forward, Mr. Fromson set a target of US$23 per unit, noting a “significant” valuation gap to its closest peers. The average is US$20.13.

“At current unit prices, Flagship trades at a 23-per-cent discount to our NAV estimate, which compares to a 14-per-cent premium for the U.S. MHC peer group (and an 18-per-cent premium to NAV for the large caps),” he said. “On a forward P/FFO basis, the REIT trades at 16.9 times, a 12-point discount to the peer group (and a 14-point discount to the large caps). Given that Flagship’s growth profile largely mirrors that of the peer group, we believe a relative discount of this magnitude is unwarranted.”

Elsewhere, after the closing of a US$81-million equity offering on Monday, Scotia Capital analyst Himanshu Gupta raised his target by US$1 to US$19.50 with a “sector outperform” rating, while Canaccord Genuity’s Mark Rothschild moved his target to US$20 from US$19.50 with a “buy” recommendation.

“Flagship Communities REIT (Flagship) has picked up the pace of external growth with its largest acquisition since completing its IPO in 2020,” said Mr. Rothschild. “While announcing $66-million of acquisitions, the REIT also raised $81imillion of new equity, which will both fund these transactions and reduce leverage. We view these announcements positively as they provide evidence of the REIT’s ability to complete acquisitions while also raising additional equity to fund growth. Going forward, the REIT is well positioned with acquisition capacity to complete more than $50-million of acquisitions without requiring new equity.”

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With “no let up” in its post pandemic growth, PI Financial analyst Ben Jekic initiated coverage of AirBoss of America Corp. (BOS-T) with a “buy” recommendation on Tuesday.

“Market recently priced into BOS lower ability to defend 2020 metrics after a solid 1Q21,” he said. “The Company continues to see ADG’s ongoing medical restocking, strong defense pipeline and higher ARS/AEP profits. With no pre-2020 pullback, growth in BOS’s operating assets adds to our conviction.”

Seeing an “attractive buying opportunity,” Mr. Jekic set a $51 target. The average is currently $48.60.

“With minimal net debt, a 43-per-cent dividend hike, earnings optionality from new products and M&A potential, 40-per-cent trading discount to Hexpol AB/Avon Rubber reflects potential for an imminent re-rating of BOS, in our view,” he said.

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Following its first Investor Day event in three years, Canaccord Genuity analyst Yuri Lynk sees Finning International Inc. (FTT-T) “well positioned to move on acquisitions, continue to increase the dividend (building on 19 years of consecutive growth), and buyback stock.”

On Monday, the Vancouver-based company said “robust” execution through 2020 has put it back on track to achieve its 2018 investor day objectives. It’s projecting mid-cycle annual net revenue to be in the $7.1- to $7.5-billion range between the third quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022 and expects to achieve earnings per share in excess of $2.00 per share and consolidated return on invested capital above 15 per cent.

“We found management’s plan to increase revenue to $7.3-billion at the midpoint from $5.8-billion on a trailing 12 months’ basis credible,” said Mr. Lynk.

He added: “Finning’s digital initiatives represent interesting upside. The company introduced CUBIQ, a new name and brand for Finning’s digital services. The CUBIQ platform provides clients with services such as condition monitoring, parts ordering, and productivity analysis among others. The cost for a client with more than 100 assets is $3-million with a margin comparable to product support. We peg the addressable market for CUBIQ at $600-million based on Finning having more than 200 customers globally with more than100 assets.”

Mr. Lynk increased 2021 EPS estimate by 12 per cent to $1.94 (from $1.73) and his 2022 forecast by 20 per cent to $2.34 (from $1.95.)

That led him to raise his target for Finning shares to $42 from $37 with a “buy” rating. The average is $40.17.

Other analysts making changes include:

* BMO Nesbitt Burns’ Devin Dodge to $35 from $34 with a “market perform” rating.

“Finning’s Investor Day presentations highlighted the progress the company is making on many of its key initiatives such as product support growth, expanding/growing its digital services offering, and streamlining its cost structure,” said Mr. Dodge. “Moreover, the demand recovery is tracking ahead of prior projections, with FTT expecting to reach mid-cycle demand over the next 12 months. However, we believe the prevailing uncertainty in Chile will remain an overhang until there is better visibility into the political landscape and the climate for foreign investment.”

* CIBC’s Jacob Bout to $44 from $41 with an “outperformer” rating.

“Coupled with a positive macro backdrop (better outlook for infrastructure/commodity end-markets), FTT provided better-than-expected mid-cycle guidance (our 2021 and 2022 adj. EPS estimates rise by 6 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively),” said Mr. Bout. “The one wildcard is political/regulatory issues potentially impacting longer-term Chile copper mine production.

* RBC Dominion Securities’ Sabahat Khan to $41 from $39 with an “outperform” rating.

“The outlook and the growth strategies highlighted by management reaffirm our positive view, and we believe the company is well positioned to capitalize on the growth opportunities available across its three regions,” he said.

* Scotia’s Michael Doumet to $40 from $38 with a “sector outperform” rating.

“We thought the shares should have performed better following the release,” said Mr. Doumet. “For about 15 years, FTT shares have been range-bound. While the ‘trading psychology’ so far prevails, Finning’s outlook, which targets a record EPS of more than $2.00 over the next five quarters and further incremental EPS growth in a sustained upcycle, enhances the prospects of the shares hitting new highs in the near term.”

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In other analyst actions:

* UBS analyst Lloyd Byrne upgraded Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE-T) to “buy” from “neutral” with a $16.50 target, up from $12. The average on the Street is $13.07.

“We see an acceleration in cash flow/free cash flow growth on factors including upside to indicated synergies, maximization of returns from oil sands assets, higher refining earnings on successful integration of Husky assets (market concern), along with continued favorable price environment,” he said. “CVE has made important progress on the integration of Husky assets since the completion of the transaction in Jan. 2021. The company realized two-thirds of the $400-million workforce reductions synergies, on track to achieve $600-millin capital efficiencies synergies, lowered Foster Creek and Christina Lake transportation costs by 24 per cent year-over-year and 19 per cent year-over-year (through optimization of combined pipeline assets), and delivered reliable performance on the refining business with U.S. operations set to post higher earnings for the remainder of 2021.”

* In response to the sale of its Milestones assets to Foodtastic Inc., Scotia Capital analyst George Doumet cut his target for Recipe Unlimited Corp. (RECP-T) to $24.50 from $24 with a “sector outperform” rating. The average is $24.25.

“We see strategic merits to the transaction as Milestones is neither a growing banner nor a more mature one that generates healthy margins and FCF,” he said. “Additionally, we highlight that the banner has struggled and has been in decline. While we estimate that the transaction is modestly dilutive to value, it is accretive to book value and franchise mix, and positions the company for higher structural corporate store margins, longer term. Looking ahead, we certainly don’t rule out additional divestitures of RECP brands, likely in the more challenged and more corporate-heavy pub area.”

* Following the $20.6-million acquisition of Tiger Filtration, Canaccord Genuity analyst Yuri Lynk bumped up his target for Xebec Adsorption Inc. (XBC-T) to $4.50 from $4 with a “hold” recommendation. The current average is $5.41.

“The acquisition of TFL is in line with management’s objective to make 3-4 more acquisitions in 2021 (2-3 remaining) and the stock has decreased 53 per cent year-to-date, making the risk/reward more compelling,” he said. “However, we maintain our HOLD rating as we would like to see improving results on the back of more RNG wins as well as management prove-out its recent transformational acquisitions before considering moving to a Buy.”

* National Bank Financial analyst Maxim Sytchev trimmed his Bird Construction Inc. (BDT-T) to $10 from $11, reiterating a “sector perform” rating. The average is $11.38.

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