This impish sign belies the fascinating success story of a micro-cap company, founded in 1970 as a minuscule futon-cleaning service, which has grown to a market cap of approximately $16M in US dollars. I would imagine that Toshio Fukuhara (Founder and CEO) ran a very tight ship then, and he certainly runs a tight ship now.
|Current||5 Yr Avg|
Care Service Co., Ltd. is a Japan-based company principally engaged in the provision of nursing care services in the vicinity of Tokyo. The Company operates in three business segments:
- The Nursing Care segment is engaged in the provision of daycare services, home visiting and bath services, home visiting and care services, home care support services, nursing care equipment rental services, as well as the sale of certain nursing care equipment mainly in Tokyo Metropolitan area. Nursing Care represents 74% of revenue, but only 53% of operating income.
- The Angel Care segment is engaged in the provision of washing services, as well as cosmetic, dressing and coffin (CDC) services for the deceased. Angel Care represents 21% of revenues, but 40% of operating income. This segment offers the most promising margin and growth opportunities for the company, and will be a focus in the next few years.
- The Houses with Services for the Elderly segment is engaged in the provision of houses with home-care services for the elderly.
I was floored when I saw the financial performance at Care Service Company. Return on Invested Capital has averaged around 10%. For the past year, a turbulent one for the company, ROIC was over 12%. Since the installation of a new CFO in 2008, Free Cash Flow Yield has stayed between 5-40% per share, factoring in a stock split in June of last year. Furthermore the demographic trends in Japan are promising from the standpoint of Care Service Company.
Japan has the world’s highest percentage of population over 65 years of age, and the trend is set to grow further. The modern Japanese family has gone nuclear, with a very similar corollary to the American version. Working-age children of the elderly would rather pay someone to care for their parents than sacrifice work-time. This bodes well for industry prospects over the next 10 years or so. Annual elder care costs will more than double by 2026, to 19.8 trillion yen ($212 billion), from March 2013, the Japanese health ministry estimates.
Recent changes to health insurance law in Japan have changed the industry dynamic. Currently over 70% of Care Service Company’s Nursing Care business comes from Japanese health insurers. The health law changes will force them to trim payments for daycare and home visiting services by 1-3%. Management has determined that the best way forward is to go high-end, to target wealthier patrons who are willing to pay outside of the health insurance system.
Interestingly, here in the U.S. managed care providers have essentially made the same cost-cutting choice, forcing companies like LHCG and NHC to adjust accordingly. Comps were hard to come by. There really aren’t any big Japanese players in the space, but here are some international comparisons.
Now for the DCF.
I estimate historical WACC to have been approximately 5%. The Discounted Cash Flow analysis uses 6%, enough to factor in some rate rising on Japanese bonds. At current prices, the base case would yield a 33% upside.
Insiders control 73% of the company, leaving only 27% for the float. The founder alone controls 52.28%. He has no record of stock sales. Some investors might be wary of hitching their cash to someone else’s wagon. The float has continuously shrunk from 38% in 2006 down to the current 27%.
The public debt level in Japan remains unsuitably high, additionally investing in a foreign company naturally entails some foreign exchange risk. Though investing in a single well-chosen company is arguably far safer than macro bets on currency movements. A prolonged economic downturn in Japan could completely change the current family dynamic, and increase cross-generational living situations.
The Founder is 70
Losing Toshio Fukuhara could damage the company prospects. No clear family succession in place, though the Senior Manager (CEO) has been in place for over a decade and is only 43 years old.
Cost of Labor Continues to Rise
A big factor on the company’s bottom line lately has been cost of labor. New regulations foisted new training and education programs on the firm. Rising wages have raised salary costs as well. Robots have been touted by news agencies as a possible solution. I personally doubt this would be practical. The real solution is immigration reform, but it could be a long, long time before a country as insular as Japan starts raining visas on immigrants.
Management has a strategy in place and will continue to execute. By shifting towards the Angel Care segment, the firm can grow both the top and bottom line. Additionally, the firm has a strong foothold in the Tokyo area and is continuing to emphasize it’s regional focus.
At only a $16M market cap, Care Service Company stock is almost impossible for institutional investors to acquire at the meaningful sizes of shares they would need. This leaves small investors who can access the Japanese markets with a distinct advantage.
The new CFO, Mitsuru Iwahara, has had a hugely positive impact on finances, the founder still has his hand firmly on the company till, and has not sold any shares. Additionally, the demographic trends in Japan promise top-line growth within the industry. Mr. Fukuhara has been through booms and busts aplenty, and will find ways to stay profitable. Any firm which can shift from cleaning futons, to nursing the elderly, to funeral services is at no risk of failing to evolve at the pace of business. For those willing to take the risks, Care Service Company offers a compelling value proposition.