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Archive for April, 2011

Weekend reading

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Top Marginal Tax Rates: To understand the actual tax rate paid by top income earners you really need to understand how marginal tax rates impact the top earners

Discount rates in calculating pension liability: The big impact on pension liability based on judgmental discount rate used

Security Analysis, 6th Editon: The bible for value investors

Buffett’s bodyguard: Even people 30 years younger have a hard time keeping up with Buffett

Commodities: No Bubble Here: GMO’s Grantham believes that we are at ‘giant inflection points’ that could lead to higher prices for commodities

Categories: Uncategorized

Weekend reading

April 22, 2011 4 comments

Southeastern Asset Management’s Q1 Letter: Good read

Gut bacteria can classify people in groups: What blood types did for classification of humans, now gut bacteria could lead to similar classification

Lloyd Blankfein’s journey from nowhere: Lloyd Blankfein’s journey from nowhere to the CEO of GS

Stan Ovshinsky’s latest invention: One of the great inventors of our time is now, at age of 88, working on making Solar cheap

Pickens advocating his Nat Gas Act: T. Boone Pickens working this PR to get the Nat Gas Act passed

Categories: Reading

Weekend reading

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Kaplan’s success and Washington Post’s struggles: The new regulation’s impact on Kaplan’s business model and the scrutiny on the Washigton Post’s management

India’s Tata finds home hostile: This highlights some of the problems for businesses in India

Leucadia’s Annual Letter: Good read from two of the best investors around

Munger never gave up: Inspiring story about Munger’s past

Pabrai presentation at Columbia University: One of my favorite value investors

Categories: Reading

Q1 Performance

April 13, 2011 8 comments

In Q1, I was up 7.25% compared to the S&P 500 that was up 5.42%.

This year is off to a great start. At a straight performance comparison the Q1 results might not look that spectacular. Although, looking at the individual holdings the performance was spectacular. For the quarter, I averaged around 16% of the assets in cash and was still able to beat the market. 8 of the holdings substantially outperformed the market (HNR was up 25%, ATS Corp up 64%, HEK up 30%, HHC up 30%). The two biggest holdings at the start of the quarter (GGP and Yukon-Nevada Gold) underperformed the market and had the biggest negative impact on the quarter’s performance. GGP was flat and YNG was down 22%. I believe on the long-run both of these companies will do well.

During the quarter, I was increasing my position in HEK, HNR and KVHI as the shares pulled back at the start of the quarter. I sold out of WCG and RSYS, to allocate the funds to other holdings and reduced my holding in GGP. I also built new positions in Dolan Company, Hallmark Financial, and Community Banker’s Trust. This quarter was quite busy for me, with the crisis in Middle East and tragedy in Japan created opportunities to buy companies that got cheaper even though they were not directly related to these events.

At the end of the quarter, I had cash accounting for 15% of the assets. There are a few companies that I’m currently looking into that could eat up some of the cash. Although I will keep a high cash balance, so it is more likely that I will cut my holding in other companies to build up new positions. Just after the quarter ended, I sold out of Avino Silver and bought more Hallmark Financial.

Thoughts on my holdings:

Avino Silver: In the 4 months that I held the shares, the company was up 56%. I sold out after the quarter ended. There is plenty of upside still remaining, although I already have a decent exposure to commodities via YNG and Reed Resources.

Reed Resources: The company is making progress around realizing value from its 3 main assets. The company announced changes to its profit sharing deal with Mineral Resources. Mineral Resources converted its 40% interest in the profits from the Mt. Marion assets into a 30% equity of a new entity, which will own 100% interest in the Mt. Marion assets. This is the first step in creating a structure which will allow Reed to spin-off/sell/partner on the Mt. Marion assets.

Also a recent research report puts a valuation of $1/share ($10 for each ADR share) for the company. I believe this to be a very conservative valuation and the upside could be much higher.

Below are my thoughts on some of my current holdings:

ATS Corp: ATS Corp is basically a waiting game. We know the company has announced that it is pursuing strategic alternatives. We are just waiting for the details. In the meanwhile, the company keeps racking up big contract wins. The backlog is now at 1.3x the annual revenue run rate. Although I like this company and the near term catalyst, I might sell these shares incase other holdings get cheaper.

KVH Industries: The company is setup for a monster 2011. In Q1, the company announced sales of its TracPhone v7 unit to a company w/ over 125 vessels. In late 2010, the company announced a major TracPhone v7 deal w/ the US Marine Corps. The company’s 2010 deal basically covers all the company’s costs for the airtime business. With the 2011 deal, the company’s incremental sales of TracPhone airtime would lead to mouth watering margins. The TracPhone airtime business has great operating leverage with additional revenue not requiring huge expenses. The installation of these TracPhone sales takes 6-9 months, so we won’t see the cash flow implications of these new deals until late 2011. I’m excited about KVH’s future prospects. I was buying shares early in Q1 as there was a pull-back in the shares.

Harvest Natural Resources: Q1 was spectacular for HNR. In all aspects the company performed exceptionally good. The company reported huge increases in its Venezuela reserves, positive results from its Indonesia drilling, and a letter of intent signed with Transocean for drilling in Gabon. The company jumped over 10% in early March when it reported an operational update (discussing the reserves). The company announced the sale of its Utah assets for net cash of $205M. The company will use the cash to payoff the $60M debt and likely use the remaining cash to expedite the development of the Indonesia assets. Even with the jump in share prices, the company is still selling at a huge discount to the true value of the company. The next 3-5 months will be very interesting, I expect the company to either sell some of its assets or the entire company. I was buying shares early in the quarter as the shares were dropping for no apparent reason.

Heckmann Corp: The company reported a good Q4 and raised projections for 2011. 2011 looks likely to be a huge year for the company, it will prove the company’s business model and setup the company for huge growth in the coming year. The company increased its FY’11 guidance drastically, increased revenue by 50% (from 100M to 150M) and EBIDTA by 100% (from 20M to 40M) (Yes, this business has good operating leverage). The company announced that in early 2011 the company acquired 1 company and is working on closing 4 more deals. These 5 deals are included in the projections for FY’11. The company is looking at more acquisitions and these future acquisitions are not included in the projections. My bet is the company will easily bet its projections. The company also bought back 1.5M shares. Overall, I think we are looking at a very strong 2011. I think we could see the company do 100M+ in EBIDTA in 2-3 yrs. Management has hinted that revenues could more than double each year in the near term (I think at least 4-5 yrs). Given the operating leverage, the upside is huge. One of the catalyst for Heckmann’s services is the pending Natural Gas Act, that is currently pending approval from Congress. I believe we should shortly see approval of this bill which should make way for diesel trucks to convert to LNG. This will create a huge demand for HEK services.

Yukon-Nevada Gold: Gold prices are at all time highs. The company has an cost of production of $600/oz compared to gold prices of $1,300. The company should be able to produce 140oz per year. Although the company reports extremely poor production numbers. Why? Its the weather. Sounds like the ‘dog eat my homework’ excuse. As bad as it sounds, YNG has been severely impacted by bad weather and poor preparation to handle the conditions. YNG recently announced expedited conversation of warrants at 18% discount to conversion price. I think management made a smart move by taking a hit on the cash proceeds, allowing the company to be prepared for the next winter. In turnarounds you are bound to have road blocks. I think the company is still on track for some amazing growth in production for the next 5 yrs. The shares took a hit in Q1 but I think this is only temporary. The company expects to produce around 400oz of gold in couple of years. Management has said they expect to hit 1M oz of production by 2015, so the upside on this is huge.

General Growth Properties: GGP had its first conference call post-bankruptcy. The company provided no specific guidance. Although listening to the management’s plan it is clear that GGP has a strong future ahead. In the next 12 months we should see the company recapitalize large chunks of its debt (already they have the longest maturity of all REITs), shed non-core assets, invest in core assets, and negotiate better lease rates. In the long run, the company has mentioned plans to expand outside US (I think it is Asia, Canada, and Brazil) and I could see them acquiring strong assets in US. Although the shares have run up substantially since my initial purchase, I still see no reason to sell. The only reason I would consider selling is if I need cash for new purchases, as I did late in the quarter. I sold 30% of my holding. GGP still is my largest holding.

Hallmark Financial: The Q4 numbers were bad. The bad winter that hit most of US had a big impact on Hallmark. I work for a P&C Insurance company, so I was aware of the impact the bad weather had on my company and most insurance companies. Although I believe the shares sell for a decent discount to book value and there is plenty of growth opportunity w/ a very good management team at the helm.

Community Bankers’ Trust: This is a new buy. The company is a small bank that is selling for a big discount to book value and is a turnaround play. I have been watching this company for many months now. The biggest problem for the company was the management was not executing and seemed very reluctant to take steps to turn the company around. In the last few months the BoD has replaced the CEO, added new members to the Board, sold off some assets, and started to increase fees for services. The shares of the company dropped from $3 to $.77, management was buying shares at each dip. There have been no insider sales. And finally the company’s performance is starting to turnaround.

Palladon Ventures: The company signed up two major customers to purchase its iron ore. The customer invested cash in the company, allowing the company to build out its concentrator plant. Once the plant is built, in 2012, the company should be processing 2M tons per year. In the meanwhile the company is going to sell its run of mill product to generate decent cash.

I ended the quarter w/ cash making up 15% of funds. I like to have a cash balance much higher, so I will likely be building up cash in the next couple of quarters as some of my ideas work out.

Finding Ideas

With the run up in the market in the last 6 months, I’m not finding many investment opportunities. I’m finding plenty of turnaround situations but most turnarounds are unlikely to be successful so I have been staying away from them. The investment opportunities that I have found (Dolan Company and Hallmark) will likely become more concentrated positions.

As I review my portfolio, I realize that in the last few months I’ve gotten away from my emphasis on a concentrated portfolio. A portfolio with 12-15 investments would be considered concentrated by most folks. Although when I’m managing my personal funds and there is no outside pressure on the liquidity requirements, I would like to see a much higher concentration. When you look at what Buffett did in his early days, he would be holding 4-5 investments.

As I look at my current holdings, if I had concentrated my investment in the top 7-8 ideas the returns would have been much better. Also, I would have been more focused on the companies and be able to research them in further detail. I will likely start getting out my least favorite holdings and concentrating further in my top holdings.

Categories: Performance

Weekend reading

April 8, 2011 3 comments

Stepping on the gas: Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize, writes about the history of NatGas and where we currently stand

Mapping the economic power of Cities: McKinsey research report on the top 600 economic cities in 2025 and the impact on the world economic power

Buffett on US moving to plutocracy: Good interview w/ Buffett during his trip to South Korea

Measurements that  Mislead: We know that in investment world short term results don’t mean you will get similar long term results. But this is also true in many other fields

Categories: Reading

HEK: Leading the diesel to LNG conversion

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Heckmann announced a deal w/ Westport Innovations and Enaca Natural Gas to convert 200 trucks from diesel to LNG. Westport Innovations is one of the leaders in building solutions for diesel trucks to convert to LNG. The 200 truck deal is the biggest deal for conversion to LNG. Enaca will develop fueling stations for Heckmann’s trucks. This is just the beginning of a large scale conversion of heavy duty trucks to LNG. Once the Pickens Plan gets through Congress we should see a pickup in these orders.

Categories: Updates

Palladon Ventures: Future Upside

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Just ran across an interview w/ Jared Sturdivant of O-Cap Management (Jared was previously a MD at Jana Partners). O-Cap is focused on distressed investment. Jared talks about their outlook on Palladon Ventures. He put out some expected EBIDTA number once the company has is concentrator plan in production.

Categories: Updates