Herstelt slecht geleid GW zich? Kirby exit

Op het dieptepunt van de Age of Sigmar-crisis schreef financieel journalist Richard Beddard een interessante financiële analyse van Games Workshop. Interessant met name omdat hij een aandeelhoudersvergadering bezocht, en de indruk kreeg dat GW een nogal cynisch businessmodel had. Hem viel op dat GW in omzet en winst een vrij flinke veer had moeten laten. Games Workshop had nu dan wel een lijn ingezet, maar was vrij kwetsbaar in zijn nichemarkt. En zorgwekkend arrogant.

The company only seemed to be interested in big-spending older customers. By and large these customers have stopped playing Warhammer, the war game that got them into the hobby as teenagers. They often pay modellers to assemble and paint elaborate models costing up to a thousand pounds. No doubt these are highly profitable customers, but the company’s inability to lift revenue despite rising prices suggested the number of customers was slowly diminishing. To maintain profitability Games Workshop threw its efforts into manufacturing and retail efficiency, churning out millions of models as cheaply as possible and selling them through its new one-man store format. There was very little talk of the game in annual reports and, since gamers were complaining about cost and rule changes that required them to buy new models, I though the company may be throttling the next generation of hobbyist. Frankly, I didn’t know whether to believe the hypothesis or not. It seemed incredible to me that the company would be so short-sighted, especially considering its oft-repeated ambition to remain in business forever. But the results suggested something was wrong.

Voor een samenvattend overzicht van zijn eerdere analyses, zie hier.

Hij is inmiddels positiever. Is it a buy? vraagt hij zichzelf af, na de cijfers van dit jaar met een omzetstijging van 21% en een verdubbelde winst. Hij geeft verschillende verklaringen.

Some of this supercharged performance was due to good luck. 75% of Games Workshop’s revenue comes from abroad, so it benefited from the devaluation of the pound.
Most of it was due to a plethora of Games Workshop initiatives, though, including the one-man stores, rebranding them Warhammer, relaunching the classic Warhammer game in a simpler guise as Warhammer Age of Sigmar, providing a wider range of miniatures at different price points and a drive to recruit better managers.

Hij ziet enige verbetering in de toonzetting van het jaarverslag. Het cultuurtje blijft hem tegenstaan.

Rountree and chairman Tom Kirby still strike a somewhat maniacal tone, though. They brook no criticism from outside the company, or within. The biggest risk they say, is ego. Not their own egos, but those of their managers and they will not allow private agendas to rule. They give the impression of a cult. Reading the testimony of employees on Glassdoor, a site that invites reviews of employers, reinforces that impression. If you don’t fit in – you won’t last long. I don’t think I’d like to work there

Kirby krijgt ondanks zijn pensioen nog 250.000 per jaar als consultant. Mooi pensioen!

Los daarvan, gezien de betere resultaten, kopen dus?

Not so fast, hot shot. First of all, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. This was a year in which a lot of things went right. It won’t always be so. My expectation is the Games Workshop of the next 10 years will probably be more profitable than the Games Workshop of the last 10 years. I doubt it will always reach the amazing heights it achieved this year, though.

Verder is de waarde van de aandelen nogal gestegen, waardoor het op dit moment geen winstgevende aandeleninvestering meer is, aldus Beddard.

NB: ik denk zelf dat hij een punt maakte in 2015 dat nog steeds geldig is:

The essence of the changes, more efficient distribution, makes sense, but only if Games Workshop invests enough to maintain the cult, which is to an extent a social activity centred on its stores. Customer alienation is not a good sign.

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