How activist investor Politan Capital can increase profitability at Centene

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Firm: Centene Corp. (CNC)

Activist: Politan Capital Administration

Proportion Possession:  ~2.0%

Common Value: n/a

Activist Commentary: Politan Capital Administration was based by Quentin Koffey. Most lately, Koffey led the activism technique at Senator Funding Group. Previous to that, he led the activist observe at DE Shaw and earlier than that he was at Elliott Associates. Koffey is working Politan extra like a personal fairness fund than a conventional long-short fairness hedge fund, as it may draw down locked up capital to present it sufficient time to perform its targets by energetic engagement with boards and administration groups to enhance governance, operations or strategic course. Politan seems to be for (i) prime quality companies that underperform their friends or potential, (ii) the place there’s a clear repair and (iii) a transparent pathway to implement that repair.

What’s Taking place?

Behind the Scenes:

Centene is a managed care group that gives well being plan protection to people by government-subsidized and industrial applications. Centene is employed by states, and it really works to enhance the standard of take care of Medicaid beneficiaries, in addition to these of different authorities applications. The corporate receives a contracted premium per member and is accountable for medical prices. This reprices yearly. Centene offers its companies to many states, which in flip additionally work with Centene’s friends. This results in a really steady, predictable income circulation for Centene. Furthermore, the states work with Centene and its friends to supply actuarially sound margins, stopping these corporations from making or shedding a windfall on their companies.

This can be a very low margin enterprise, with web revenue margins from 2% to 4%. When 2 share factors of margin is the distinction between doubling your income or not, the valuation of those companies largely is determined by how prices are managed. On this regard, Centene has been considerably underperforming its friends with a 2.4% revenue margin versus WellCare (which Centene lately acquired) at 4.2% and Molina Healthcare at 4.5%. A part of the explanation why Centene’s margins lag its friends is as a result of it has been rising primarily by acquisitions, most lately buying WellCare at a transaction valued at $19.6 billion. These acquisitions have to be built-in and operations have to be centralized.

Luckily, there’s clear a roadmap to success right here, as that is precisely what administration at WellCare and Molina did to carry their margins up. However, this course of has to begin on the Board, and that is the place Koffey’s activist experience will come into play. Traditionally, he has partnered with skilled trade operators as board candidates (i.e., CoreLogic – Invoice Foley, Lowe’s – David Batchelder) and on this state of affairs he has introduced in Kenneth Burdick and Wayne DeVeydt. Burdick is the previous CEO of WellCare who oversaw its margin enchancment and DeVeydt is the previous CFO of Anthem Inc. They’re apparent selections so as to add to the board and with 5 spots up this yr on the corporate’s Board, we count on Politan to call two extra and sure numerous nominees.

This can be a board that’s desperately in want of refreshment – the common tenure of the present Board is 11 years and the common age of the administrators is 70 (each can be larger however for the brand new administrators added solely due to the WellCare merger). Over half the board has a tenure of over 15 years (versus 1% of all S&P 500 administrators). The corporate’s CEO is 78 years previous and has served on the board for 25 years. Its lead director is 87 years previous, has additionally served on the board for 25 years and has been lead director that complete time (versus a mean lead director’s tenure of 4 years for S&P 500 corporations). This firm wants for the primary time because it went public, a board of skilled administrators and contemporary eyes to carry administration accountable and develop a complete succession plan.

Politan’s fashion is to amicably and quietly work with administration to realize its targets. They don’t ship offended public letters, and they don’t search proxy fights. Nevertheless, they may also not again down from a proxy combat if their hand is compelled: Koffey confirmed that at CoreLogic and Hess. Politan is probably going going to strongly advocate for Burdick and DeVeydt as administrators. In the long run, they are going to be extra targeted on how certified and engaged the administrators are – and fewer involved with the place they got here from. This can be a state of affairs that ought to settle, but when this does go to a proxy combat, we count on that Politan will prevail. A brand new board that holds the suitable administration crew accountable can replicate what Burdick did at WellCare, and getting the margins to 4.5% may result in a tripling of the corporate’s inventory worth.

Ken Squire is the founder and president of 13D Monitor, an institutional analysis service on shareholder activism, and the founder and portfolio supervisor of the 13D Activist Fund, a mutual fund that invests in a portfolio of activist 13D investments.