Sallie Mae Preferred Opportunity

A couple of days ago, Sallie Mae (SLM) announced that they would split the company into two to increase share holder value. 

Company A will be “an education loan management business comprised of the company’s portfolios of federally guaranteed (FFELP) and private education loans, as well as most related servicing and collection activities.” It’s “principal assets are likely to consist of approximately $118.1 billion in FFELP Loans, $31.6 billion in private education loans, $7.9 billion of other interest-earning assets; and a leading education loan servicing platform that services loans for approximately 10 million federal education loan customers, including 4.8 million customer accounts serviced under the company’s contract with the U.S. Department of Education. In aggregate, this company will own approximately 95 percent of Sallie Mae’s existing assets and remain obligated for the company’s senior indebtedness.”

Company B wil be a “private education loan origination and servicing businesses.” The “assets are likely to include approximately $9.9 billion of total assets comprised primarily of private education loans and related origination and servicing platforms; cash and other investments; and the Sallie Mae Upromise Rewards program.”

The transaction is expected to close under a year. Here is the slide deck. I have never been a fan of SLM’s business, but there may be an opportunity in the preferreds.

I wrote about the floating rate preferred (SLMPB) a couple months back. The preferred went down a bit after the announcement after Moody’s downgraded all debt and preferred because they would be lumped with Company A. However, a funny thing happened, a reader of hypezero emailed me saying that it is possible that the preferred could be redeemed at full par value ($100, currently trading below $70) at the day of the announcement. Here is his explanation:

  • “Unlike bondholders, Preferred Shareholders are owed a “Fair Allocation” in NewCo. If the plan is to redeem the Preferred Shares before spin-off, obviously no “Fair Allocation” in NewCo. is necessary.  Since no disclosure/guidance on Preferred “fair Allocation” was provided I expect the shares will be redeemed prior to spin off.”

I was a bit skeptical, but yesterday/today it is up over 10% on huge volume. The volume yesterday was over 1 million compared with the average volume of 64,000+  Maybe someone with more resources has figured this out as well. The other explanation I thought could make sense was in the preferred prospectus. It says:

  • “The board of directors maintains a committee whose purpose is to monitor and evaluate our proposed actions that may impact the rights of holders of our outstanding preferred stock.” Obviously, this split would be a detriment to the preferred. Here is a link to the prospectus.

Risks

Obviously, there are risks to this investment:

  • The planned split off does not go through.
  •  The preferred is just part of Company A making it a riskier investment. An analyst did ask about the preferred on the call and the CFO said that the preferred will stay with Company A.

Disclosure: I am long SLMBP

 

Year end review

Happy new year! I took some time to disconnect over the last two weeks and enjoy the holidays. For the first post of 2013, I thought it might be a good to review all the picks from the last 3 months to see how I fared.

AIG (AIG)

AIG is still one of my top picks. It is up about only $2 from the price I paid for the stock. However, I feel it still has significant upside. Mainly all the arguments I made previously still apply:

  • It trades at half of book value.
  • The government completely sold AIG shares at the end of 2012. It now only holds warrants in the company.
  • AIG sold its stake in AIA. It also has agreed to sell a majority of its stake in ILFC.
  • The company can now focus on its core insurance operations and improve its return on assets.

Dean Foods (DF)

I sold Dean at a little bit of a loss. I still think Fresh Diary Direct segment is undervalued. However, the volatility of Whitewave was too much for me to take. I think the best way to play Dean is to wait for them to distribute the Whitewave shares and buy it before the distribution date if the current prices remain as they are.

General Motors (GM)

GM is one of my biggest winners. It is up nearly 50% for me. The government sold off 200 million shares of its stake in the company to GM recently. This should have a positive impact on EPS. If the economy improves in US and Europe and vehicle sales return to a normalized state, earnings could easily be over $5 over the coming years. Also, it is slowly removing the overhang of the pension liabilities. This could also be a big boon.

With the stock to almost $30, I might cut my position in half and book some profit. The auto industry is very capital-intensive and very competitive.

Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) & Sears Hometown & Outlet (SHOS)

I have written a lot about these two Sears spin offs and I am short both. As I mentioned in my previous articles, I am convinced Orchard will go under. So far, it has been a very profitable short for me. I am not 100% convinced on Sears Hometown, so I only have a small short position there. Both of these plays are a bit risky, since they are cheap on a revenue multiple basis. Sears Outlet is a wild card for SHOS. If it can grow that successfully, the stock may have upside. I have no faith in the Sears Hometown business as it has had negative same store sale numbers for years. I know a lot fellow financial bloggers are long SHOS and I am open on seeing their analysis. So far, I have been wrong as SHOS. It has bounced nicely from $30 to $35 recently.

Xerox (XRX)

I bought Xerox around $6.50. The stock is around $7.20 today. Nothing fundamentally has changed about the company since I wrote the bullish case. It still trades at a significant discount to FCF and has increased its dividend. I still think there is significant upside.

Genie Energy (GNE)

Genie was a quick arbitrage trade on its offer to exchange common shares for prefered shares. I booked little less than a 10% profit on the trade. I still think there may be an opportunity on this type of trade in Genie in the future. Nobody will exchange the common for the preferred as the common is trading higher than the preferred.

Pandora (P)

I have a small short position in Pandora. So far, it has not been a good trade as the stock has shot up from $8 to $10. I continue to believe that this company will not exist in the future. It really has no barriers to entry, no competitive advantage, and is not profitable. Obviously, a lot of Pandoras profitability depends on the outcome of the Internet Radio Fairness Act. However, there is no doubt that there will be more competitors in this space in the future. I will keep this short position.

Susser Holdings (SUSS)

Susser is up about a $1 from what I bought it at. It may take some time for this stock to go up. However, it should be able to expand a lot faster after the spin-off of SUSP. I have a small position and will keep that position.

Others

I also missed out in some of my other bullish calls such as Facebook, Lumos Networks, Nacco Industries and Einsteins. I wrote a bearish case on Western Union, but the stock has been up since then. I still believe in the bearish case. I believe that Western Unions biggest competitor Moneygram will have a tough 2013 due to Western Unions price cuts. I will be looking to short in 2013.

DIsclosure: I own or am short most of the positions

Best Way To Play Teavana

Teavana LogoTeavana (TEA) “operates as a specialty retailer of loose-leaf teas, tea wares, and other tea-related merchandise in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.” Earlier this month, Starbucks (SBUX) bought Teavana for $15.50 in cash and the deal was expected to close by the end of the year.

However, a week back, a short seller Glaucus Reasearch claimed that “independent laboratory tests show that Teavana’s teas contain pesticides in amounts that exceed U.S. and EU regulatory limits.” It advised that Starbucks walk away from the deal. Teavana shares immediately crashed below $15 and continue to trade between $14 and $15.

Glaucus Research does thorough work and focus on fraud at public companies. They have mostly focused on Chinese companies before Teavana. Their report is pretty through.

Now, I have no idea if the deal is going through. Obviously, the probability is still high that it will go through based on the Teavana stock price and option pricing. But there are some interesting ways to play this deal.

$15 May 2013 Calls

The simplest and best way to play this deal is to sell the $15 May 2013 calls. You can currently sell them at $.45 right now. For some reason they traded as high as $.50 yesterday and $.49 today. 

I am assuming that if the deal goes through, it closes at $15.50 and nobody comes in with a higher offer. If it does not, it goes below $15 and stays there. The stock was trading at around $10 before the deal and probably will drop below that if Starbucks reneges on the deal.

At the $.45 price, the probability the deal goes through is 90%. That is the highest out of all the options play. For example, the May 2013 $15 puts were trading around $1.50. If Teavana falls to say $7.50 if the deal falls through, it is pricing a 80% probability of the deal going through.

If you sell the 10 calls, your upside is $450 and downside is $50. A great risk/reward ratio.

Arbitrage Play

Since the probabilities are different for different option plays, there is more interesting ways to take advantages of this discrepancy. For example:

  • Sell 20 $15 May 2013 calls at $.45.
  • Sell 1 $15 May 2013 put at $1.50. 

You make money based on 2 simplistic scenarios.

 Scenario 1: Deal goes through at $15.50. You lose $100 on the calls, but make $150 on the puts for +$50.

Scenario 2: Deal does not go through and Teavana stock price goes to $7.50 and stays there till May. You lose $600 on the puts and make $900 on the calls for a profit of $300+. 

I have put in an order to sell May $.50 calls hoping somebody bites, but I may sell May  $.45 calls. 

Disclosure: I do not own any positions.