$NXEOW Warrant Recap (& Maybe Post-mortem) $UNVR

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It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed the Nexeo warrants, which are now tied to Univar’s stock performance following the acquisition. At one point, I’m pretty confident this blog was the go-to place for information on the merger and its impact on the warrants.

Unfortunately, none of that matters now. We have 145 days to expiry and the strike price is $27.8034 vs. UNVR currently trading at $20.64. History would tell me that this isn’t unsurmountable, but it may not be likely that UNVR is in the money.

But  I try to be an optimist (especially because I still own a lot of NXEOW), so I do have a couple points on why I think the warrants could possibly make it. To be clear, I’m grasping for straws here because Univar really needs to make it to $30 to get the warrants sufficiently in the money.

UNVR has materially underperformed its peers  

This chart compares returns for a broad set of chemical stocks. UNVR has materially underperformed, but that makes no sense. UNVR distributes these company’s chemicals! If the suppliers are doing well, odds are UNVR should be doing well.

If UNVR had performed in line with the average of these names, it would be at $28.70 right now, not closer to $20.

Macro Data is Suggests Chemicals Should be in Strong Demand

Ok, the last chart was pretty hand wavy. But it makes sense why the chemical stocks have ripped. The underlying data is suggesting a really strong economy.

PMI is “an index of the prevailing direction of economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors. It consists of a diffusion index that summarizes whether market conditions, as viewed by purchasing managers, are expanding, staying the same, or contracting”

So PMI is a measure of expansionary or declining conditions, with 50 being neutral. Clearly we are expanding in these markets.

This isn’t a perfect comparison, but look at PMI vs. the basic materials index. You can see the correlation in their performance. The only thing to remember is that XLB is a basket of stocks that should build value over time whereas PMI can only bounce between 0-100.

In my view, there’s no reason why UNVR shouldn’t be performing better. Commodity prices have improved, industries such as autos and housing (which consume a lot of chemicals) are doing much better. And all of UNVR’s suppliers are doing much better. I guess we’ll find out if they can close the gap.

Post Mortem

Since this may not pan out, I’ll go ahead and write my brief post mortem. I DON’T have regrets investing in these warrants. I say that despite the fact that I stand to lose a decent chunk of change on them.

I had strong conviction Nexeo was being underappreciated by the market and the warrants were a levered bet on that view. Nexeo was indeed taken out, despite tons of pushback from people saying Univar wouldn’t ever do it. I saw the opportunity to possibly 6x my money with downside being the ticket to play the game.

Once people digested what the acquisition meant, the warrants basically doubled in a day. But there are some real lessons here.

  • First, try to avoid warrants in companies that play in commodities. Commodities can swing to the upside putting you quickly in the money, but it can obviously go the other way too.
  • Second, pigs get slaughtered. When you’re up a lot on a warrant or call option, just get out. I should have sold all my warrants and just bought UNVR’s stock if I thought it was still good (even though in hindsight I know it has underperformed now).
  • Third, don’t be duped by a long time to expiry. “I have so much time until these warrants expire… a lot can happen”. Yes, a lot CAN happen. Including a global pandemic.  I should have instead said, “you know what, I think Nexeo / Univar will build a lot of value over 3 years and I should just ride the equity”

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