The Krakow-based gaming studio Starward Industries S.A. was founded by former employees of the most famous Polish games developer CD Projekt S.A. The CEO Marek Makuszewski is the company’s largest shareholder with a stake of 18.2%, while members of the management and supervisory board and employees own in total 31.9% of the company.
Starward Industries owns the rights to the IP of Stanislaw Lem, the author of the world-famous science fiction novel “Solaris”. According to our research, the licensing contract, which was signed with the heir of Stanislaw Lem, comprises a single-digit percentage fee on future sales of the company’s products.
Based on Mr Lem’s IP, Starward Industries is currently working on the AA+ game “The Invincible”, which it expects to release in 2023E for PC, Google Stadia, and all next-gen consoles. The game, which is currently No 79 on Steam Global Wishlist, has so far cost PLN 12m/EUR 2.7m. The marketing of the game will be financed by Starward’s new publisher 11bit Studios S.A., which has developed the successful games “Frostpunk” and “This War of Mine” and is considered one of the best-managed Polish video game companies.
According to its representatives, Starward Industries currently employs 34 people, thereof 25 developers and 9 marketing, communication, legal and administration staff. Many of them have worked at the largest Polish video game studios Techland and CD Projekt in the past. As almost all employees are or will soon be the company’s shareholders, the fluctuation is very low. When it comes to software developers, Starward has all necessary skills on board and thus does not need to outsource much work. In our view, this gives it full control over the quality.
In 2021, Starward Industries had a net loss of PLN 2m with zero revenues from product sales. In H1/22, the net loss equalled PLN -878k and the free cash flow PLN -867k. We estimate the company’s current net cash at PLN 6.5m, which according to its representatives will be sufficient to finance operations until the release of “The Invincible”, which we expect in September 2023 at the latest (in Q4, usually all the largest game premieres take place).
Summary & Conclusion
In our view, Starward Industries is one of the best gaming studios on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. We like the committed management team, the fact that insiders incl. employees hold >30% of the shares, the track record of the team and the publishing agreement with 11bit Studios, which also holds a stake of 5.1% in the company.
Based on our estimates, we forecast that with 800,000 copies sold Starward Industries will generate revenues of PLN 134m and a net profit of PLN 45m in 2023E. This would imply a highly attractive P/E 2023E multiple of 2.6x at present. We expect that Starward Industries will pay out a significant share of its net profit as dividends. In our view, the payout ratio could reach 40%, which would correspond to a dividend yield of 15.5% at present.
The main risks, which investors should be aware of, are (1) delays with the production of the game, and (2) bad quality of the end-product, which would negatively affect its sales.
Apart from the Warsaw Stock Exchange, Starward Industries’ shares can also be traded in Germany.