DLH Holdings Corp. (DLHC) – decent business with near term catalysts
An introductory writeup for DLH Holdings Corp. in order to introduce the opportunity. I came across this one a few months ago, and wish I had gotten to it sooner. Shares are up some 18% since December but the risk/reward is still somewhat interesting. Nothing sexy or fast-growing about this business. The situation reminds me a lot of Skyline Champion Corp. (SKY). A small cap manufactured housing business that conducted a large merger and announced huge guidance that materially undervalued the business. The market was asleep after the deal, allowing investors to purchase shares at a pro forma valuation of less than 10x EBIT. Shares doubled within a few months. I look forward to digging into this one more and providing more detail.
DLH Holdings Corp. is a government services business that delivers professional healthcare and public services to government agencies. The company has a 50 year history with a presence in 7 countries and 45 states. DLHC boasts past and current customers that include the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and many more of the top government agencies.
To give you a simplified idea of the types of services DLHC provides, let’s say the Department of Veteran Affairs wants to better utilize or expand their mail-order-pharmacy program to deliver medications to their veterans. They would hire DLHC to help manage the program or the buildout of the program, identify cost savings, and improve efficiencies. Another example would be the Office of Head Start (existing to aid underprivileged children in school readiness and health services) utilizing DLHC in order to manage the administrative or back office functions of the business, as well as being available for customer support, so that the OHS can focus on core activities of grant writing, funding and assisting their local offices.
I’ve seen services businesses cut both ways – good and bad – in terms of the economics, and DLHC is probably somewhere in the middle. It’s a decent business, albeit lower gross margin, but asset light which means EBITDA is a good proxy for free cash flow, something DLHC has grown quite nicely over the past five or six years.
I originally became interested when in June of 2019, DLHC acquired Social & Scientific Systems (SSS) for $70mm. SSS provides research and program management services also to government clients (such as the Department of Health) and is one of the leading public health service companies on the East coast. The final purchase price was $63mm, and DLHC utilized a new term loan + revolver of $95mm to make the acquisition.
At the time of the acquisition, DLHC estimated that SSS would contribute around $65mm in sales on a go-forward basis (putting the purchase price at around 1.0x sales and 11x EBITDA according to the acquisition presentation), with $346mm of backlog at closing, $40mm of which is funded. So there was some near term visibility into revenues, and quite significant given DLHC’s market cap at the time of the purchase of around $65mm.
The market hasn’t yet reacted positively to the acquisition, with shares dropping at one point some 25% following the purchase, and currently sit around December 2018 levels. Of note, shares are up about 18% over the past month or so.
DLHC’s most recent investor presentation from August outlines pro forma revenue for 2019 of $200mm, but this is very much still a ‘wait and see’ story, with YTD revenues (9 mo.) in 2019 coming in at $106mm.
However, it’s still early days for the acquisition, and what caught my eye when reading through the investor presentation was a specific slide regarding value creation initiatives illustrating how DLHC thinks about growing their business. This is pretty thoughtful, and something you don’t see often among microcap presentations/management teams.
CEO Zach Parker owns 8.5% of the business, which is a good sign, especially since the acquisition stretched the balance sheet a bit (3.85x debt/EBITDA). I’d want to see some real skin in the game behind a transaction like that with the feeling that management is confident in their capital allocation decisions.
Comps/Backlog Funding Data:
General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) is best in class, with 75% of its $43.7 billion in backlog funded.
Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) has funding for 54% of its $33.8 billion.
Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) — an even 50% out of $61 billion.
ManTech (NASDAQ:MANT) — 22% of $2.87 billion.
DynCorp (NYSE:DCP) — just 21% of $5.8 billion
DLHC recently filed an 8K pre-announcing FY 2019 results, where they reported unaudited revenues of $159mm and further debt reduction to $56mm, bringing the leverage ratio below 3.0x, while announcing that the continued use of free cash flow will be to de-lever.
Assuming a conservative 7% EBITDA margin on that $159mm in revenues gets us to $11mm in EBITDA for 2019 (we’ll see where it actually ends up). That’s 9.8x EBITDA, which is below peer multiples and doesn’t seem to be factoring in any acquisition synergies, revenue growth, share buybacks or continued debt reduction.
Things get interesting when thinking about the longer term potential of the business, and what the valuation will look like once acquisition related and corporate costs roll off the books, and DLHC can reach some sort of steady state revenue/EBITDA numbers.
If the company can manage to hit the $180mm-$200mm revenue mark (pro forma guidance is $200mm), as well as maintain their 7-9% EBITDA margins, investors would be looking at an EV/EBITDA multiple of 8.8x, using the low end estimates ($180mm revenues, 7% EBITDA margins).
At peer multiples of 11-13x EBITDA, you’d be looking at a share price in the $5.40 – $7.10 range, or 22-58% higher than today’s price. Cost reductions, operating leverage and debt pay down should further accelerate the multiple increase.
There’s nothing sexy here, but appears to be a stable, growing business that just made a transformative acquisition that has yet to be priced in to the stock, with a solid management team demonstrating good capital allocation ability.
Government budget changes
Debt load – 3.47x EBITDA, not really part of my process
Lack of organic growth
Reporting higher than normal EBITDA due to growing deferred tax balance?
Organic growth has stalled? If S3 acquisition fails to produce, could be an issue