HypeZero10 Returns 11.5% Last Quarter

For those investors new to HypeZero, I run an automated portfolio of 10 of the best investment ideas from the best hedge funds called HypeZero10.

We take the quarterly holdings of the best hedge funds, and then run our sophisticated algorithm on those holdings to pick the 10 ideas.

This algorithm has returned over 223+% since 2004 exclusive of dividends. A $10,000 investment would be worth almost $32,300 in over 8 years.

For the November 15th, 2012 to May 15th, 2013, HypeZero10 returned 31.2% as compared to 23.9% for the S&P.

This quarter there are two new positions as News Corp (NWSA) and BankUnited (BKU) have been discraded:

  • BP plc (BP)
  • Exco Resources (XCO)

I will have more to say about these companies in future posts.

Disclosure: I am still long AIG

Federated National (FNHC) Earnings

Federated National Holding Company (FNHC), a company I wrote about over a month ago, reported first quarter earnings last Thursday. Results were great as revenue increased almost 50% and earnings per share increased 123%. Shares were up over 13% on Friday.

Even though the stock is up over 25% from the time I purchased it, I believe there still be more upside left. During the conference call, the CFO stated that business is booming in the current quarter. Last quarter, they were writing $2 million in new business a week. Just last week, they wrote $3.5 million in new business and are on pace to do the same this week. Here is what Peter J. Prygelski, the CFO said:

“I can tell you things weren’t trending favorably for a quite awhile where we used to write a $1 million and then went to $2 million, clearly since we’ve turned on all state, volume has increased. We’ve had more underwriters and more adjusters. I have no reason to believe that flow of premium will slow down. We’ve been at that – we’ve been kind of got up to that level of $3.5 million and I think we are going to hit probably close to that again this week.”

All my previous points remain in tact about FNHC. So, I will continue to hold the shares. The only concern I have is that hurricane season in Florida is approaching and a bad season is always scary for insurers. 

Homeowners Choice (HCI)

Another Florida insurer that has done quite well (much better than FNHC) has been Homeowner Choice (HCI). Even though, I own their bonds, I have concerns about this company:

  • The company was founded in 2006. It does not have much of a track record during the worst hurricanes seasons (2004-2005)
  • HCI has grown solely from assuming policies from the state owned Citizens and defunct companies such as Homeowners Choice. They have assumed policies from them in November of 2011 and 2012 (conveniently after hurricane season). Because hurricane seasons have been tame, the company has done quite well from assuming these policies. Look for them to do the same this year in November. If they don’t, expect revenue and earnings to decline.
  • Company trades at over 2.5 time book value (expensive for an insurance company).They hold most of their assets in cash and do not earn much money from investment income.
  • The company has 20% of their float shorted.
  • Nobody knows how profitable the assumed policies are due to the tame hurricane seasons. Also, the certain Citizens policies have restrictions on rate hikes. 

I don’t see much upside left in this stock. In fact, the company could in for a huge fall if:

  • A major hurricane hits Florida and we find out how profitable/risky these assumed policies are. To quote Warren Buffett, “You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out”
  • At some point, they will not be able to assume policies from Citizens. At this point, expect earnings and revenue to decline.

Buying puts on this stock might be a good strategy.

Disclosure: I am long FNHC and HCJ 

Dean distributing WhiteWave Shares

Dean Foods (DF) will distribute an “aggregate of 47,686,000 shares of WhiteWave Class A common stock and 67,914,000 shares of WhiteWave Class B (WWAV) common stock on May 23, 2013, the distribution date, as a pro rata dividend on shares of Dean Foods common stock outstanding at the close of business on the record date of May 17, 2013.”

Based on the number of shares outstanding on March 31, “Dean Foods common stock will receive approximately 0.256 shares of WhiteWave Class A common stock and approximately 0.364 shares of WhiteWave Class B common stock in the distribution.”

Based on today’s price of WWAV, that is a distribution of almost $11/share. Dean will keep  34,400,000 shares of WWAV after the distribution, which are worth about $600+ million or $3.2+ based on todays price. However, “Dean Foods expects to dispose of its retained shares of WhiteWave Class A common stock within 18 months of the distribution in one or more debt-for-equity exchanges or other tax-free dispositions.” So, most likely investors are not going to see any dividends from the rest of kept shares.

Invest in WWAV or Dean?

I would continue to stay away from both Dean and WWAV. When I originally wrote Dean being undervalued, I was mistaken about 2 things:

  • Dean was going to distribute all of WWAV shares. If they had distributed all the shares, the stub (what was left over would’ve been pretty cheap).
  • Some of the Morningstar sale proceeds would be distributed to shareholders.

I would assume that WWAV shares would go down initially after the distribution as the new shares flood the market. However, there are two events that might make the shares go higher:

  • Earnings report on May 9th.
  • Rumors about takeover speculation.

Here is the news release on the distribution.

Disclosure: I do not own shares of DF or WWAV

Apple Earnings

This Tuesday Apple is reporting second quarter earnings. I have been debating for a while about whether to start initiating a position in Apple in wake of the significant drop in price. If the price of Apple stays at around $390, I will initiate a position in Apple before earnings for the following reasons:

  • Trading at 6+ times this years earnings if you back out the cash. Hopefully, they can at least maintain earnings over the next couple of years.
  • Limited downside. I do not ses Apple stock dropping below $300. If it drops after earnings, it will allow me to buy at a cheaper price.
  • Low expectations this quarter. Verizon and Cirrus Logic’s results gave investors a peek into what will be a bad quarter by Apple’s standards.
  • Rampant negative sentiment on Apple shares.
  • Apple should announce what they plan to do with its cash pile very soon if not at earnings announcement. A $15 dividend would give the stock a yield around 4%.  A preferred stock would give the biggest boost to the stock price. However, I do not think this will happen.
  • Investors will start focusing on what’s next for Apple after the earnings report. Historically, this is when the stock makes a run. There are plenty of concrete things to look forward to: iPhone 4s, cheaper iPhone, iPhone introduction on China’s largest mobile network, China Mobile.
  • Even talk of potential new products whether it be a tv or watch could be a catalyst to the stock price.
  • Over the next couple of years, a lot of iPhone users 2 year contracts will be expiring which should give a boost to iPhone sales.

What’s preventing me from buying a ton of shares of Apple?

  • Limited upside. I do not see the stock going above $500 in the near term. It is now a value stock as opposed to a growth stock. 
  • Half of revenue dependent on iPhone.
  • If the stock price drops even further it will allow me to buy more shares.

Commonwealth

Commowealth (CWH) board is still battling hedge funds on control of the company. I own a small amount of shares I bought during the financial crisis. There was a good article in barrons this week recapping the battle. I urge any significant holders of the stock to join the battle against the board.

Orchard Supply Hardware Stores

Orchard (OSH) crashed after it hired restructuring lawyers. It trades below $2 now. I shorted at $14, but had to cover once it went below $5. I am still short the other spinoff Sears Hometown (SHOS). However, my brokerage made me cover some shares recently. A lot of value investors are bullish on Sears Hometown, but I have yet to be convinced.

Disclosure: I own CWH 

Harvard Bioscience spinoff of HART

Harvard Bioscience (HBIO), “a global developer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of tools to advance life science research and regenerative medicine”, is spinning off its subsidiary, Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology, Inc. (HART). HART, a regenerative medicine company, has no revenue and will use to proceeds to general corporate expenses. 

Here are the details of the spinoff:

  • Selling 1.7 million share at a range of $10-$12. Underwriters also have the option of exercising an additional 255,000 shares at the IPO price.
  • HBIO will own over 80% or 8 million shares after the IPO.
  • HBIO plans to distribute the shares to shareholders 4 months after the IPO.

Financials

HBIO is a $168 million dollar company. In 2012:

  • Its net income, if you exclude discontinued operations, was $1.5 million.
  • Amortization of intangible assets amounted to $2.7 million
  • Expenses for HART were around $6.7 million. HBIO will earn around $4.6 million at the current tax rate after HART expenses are wiped off the books.  

After the HART IPO, HBIO looks to have about $9 million in FCF. If we value it at 10 times FCF, HBIO will have a value of $90 million. The 8 million shares HBIO will own after the IPO will be valued at $88 million if HART IPOs at $11/share. 

So, the total sum of parts value of HART is around $178 million. It is not that undervalued. However, a lot of it depends on the price of HART. I will keep an eye on both of these stocks after the IPO to see if there ever a huge value discrepancy.  

Disclosure: I do not own any of the stocks mentioned.

Sallie Mae Preferred Looks Interesting

Sallie Mae (SLM), the education loans company, has a preferred floating rate stock that is very interesting.

  • Par Value is $100.
  • Currently trade around $60.
  • Dividend is floating based three-month LIBOR plus 1.70% per annum. Three-month LIBOR is at an all time low. Here is the libor rates history. The last four dividends add up to $2.14 or 3.5% at the current price. 
  • They are callable at anytime at $100. They do not mature.
  • They trade on NASDAQ under the symbol SLMBP. 
  • The are non cumulative meaning if the company misses a dividend payment, they don’t have to pay later.

The positives:

  • For every 1% the libor rate goes up, the stocks yield will go up 1.67% due to discounted stock price.
  • If LIBOR rates go up from historic lows, the stock price will go up significantly. For example, in 2006-2007, the three-month libor was around 5+%. If rates go up to that level, this stock will yield 11+% at the current price of $60. During that time, the stock was trading around par value or $100.
  • 3.5% is a decent yield in this environment. 
  • SLM is a $9 billion company.
  • Taxed at 15% dividend rate.

The negatives:

  • Need to more research on SLM. The security is only good as the viability of the company. 

I will update the site once I do more due diligence on SLM.

Disclosure: I do not own SLM

Federated National – Part 2

A reader Jeff S. sent me a good write up about potential risks about insurance companies in general. In the rush of posting this article yesterday, I should have mentioned them as they are important:

Book Value

Insurance companies hold a lot of assets, mainly bonds. The value of those assets shift dramatically depending on market conditions and thus, book value can go up and down dramatically. For example, Federated holds $150 million in cash and investments and the majority of it is in bonds. If the value of those bonds goes down say 10%, we are talking about a $15 million hit to book value or about $2/share. 

When you are investing in insurance companies, you are investing in bonds. Right now, it is not a great time to be an investor in bonds (especially, long term bonds) because of the low interest rates. About 16% of Federated’s portfolio bond portfolio, is in bonds that mature after 10 years. Another point is that any extra cash flow that the company gets will be invested in more bonds at the current anemic rates. 

Loss and loss adjustment expenses

Insurance companies not only have to expense actual paid losses, but also losses they expect to pay in the future. As a result, an overly optimistic management team could increase earnings by underestimating losses they may have to pay in the future.

It is worth noting that losses this year for Federated were stable even with a 20%+ new business. Also, unpaid losses and LAE has gone down $10 million year over year from $59 to $49 million.

Management attributed it to “primarily to a reassessment of our losses by line and increased underwriting procedures to manage our risks.” Federated has been focusing on writing more profitable policies. This has resulted in lower reinsurance premium rates and obviously lower losses. However, I am not a huge fan of the first reason (reassessment of our losses). 

Takeout

One thing I like about Federated is that they have grown organically and not from takeouts (taking business/premiums from other insurance companies). Takeouts result in instant premium growth and a boost to earnings. Homeowners Choice, Inc. (HCI), an another florida insurer, has growth this way, but the Federated CEO is not a fan of this approach and is adding business policy by policy.

Management

You need a good management team to manage risk. In regards to Federated, I can’t say either way they are good or bad, but I do like that they are saying the right things in the conference call.

Conclusion

With any investment, there is risk, but insurance companies are riskier. Federated is still a buy for me as I wrote in my previous article, but  investors should invest with caution.

Disclosure: I own FNHC

Buy Federated National (FNHC)!

Federated National (FNHC) provides homeowners insurance in Florida. It is a very small company:

  • Market capitalization of less than $60 million.
  • No analyst coverage.
  • Average volume of less than 14,000 shares traded daily.

It just reported good fourth quarter earnings over a week ago and since then the stock has surged almost 20% from $6.17 to $7.30 yesterday. However, further gains could be in store for this company as revenues should get a huge boost in 2013.

Background

The state owned Citizens is the largest insurer in Florida. Due to concerns about whether Citizens would be able to pay out claims if major hurricanes hit the state, it has been state approved raising rates over the last couple years with the hopes of writing profitable policies and pushing customers to the private sector. This has had a positive impact on Federated:

  • Over 20%+ growth in gross premiums written in 2012 to almost $120 million.
  • State approved rates rises and disciplined underwriting have decreased loss ratio and increased net income to .53/share in 2012.

2013

Based on management’s comments in the earnings call, 2013 should be even a better year:

  • Significant growth in new business in 2013. Last quarter the company was doing $1 million in new business and this quarter it is doing $2 million business and the CEO feels they could reach $2.5 to $3 million in business. Based on normal retention rates of 90% of existing customers, gross premiums will increase anywhere from 50% to 100%.
  • A signed deal which would allow 700 Allstate agents to write business for Federated has not gone into effect yet. This should help grow new business. 
  • Earnings should increase at a higher rate. Even though most of expenses such as reinsurance are variable, some of the smaller costs are fixed which should significantly help the bottom line with the revenue growth.
  • It is possible that earnings could be over $1/share and book value could increase from $8.26 to over $9+ share.

I bought some shares at $6.59, $7.10, and $7.15. I will most likely buy more at the right price.

There is a good seeking alpha article on the stock.

Disclosure: I own FNHC. 

All Companies Should Issue Apple’s iPrefs

moneyIn order to increase the sagging Apple (AAPL) stock price, famed hedge fund investor David Einhorn suggested that the company should issue perpetual cumulative preferred shares. Here is the presentation if you have not seen it. 

The basic idea is that Apple should distribute to its shareholders one of more of $50 denominated iPrefs that pay an annual dividend of $2. The shareholders can either sell them on the open market where Einhorn expects them to trade at around $50 or keep them a get 4% yield per year ($2/$50).

The main reason for the iPrefs over other ways to distribute income (dividends, share buybacks, etc..) is that it will significantly increase the value of Apple’s shares. For example, if Apple issued 10 $50 iPrefs for each share, it would have to pay an annual distribution of $20/share ($2*$10) and theoretically, you could sell the shares for $500. $500 is above todays Apple share price of around $430. If you add the earnings that are left over after the distribution ($20+share and the $137 billion in cash), Apple would probably trade around $250-$300 post distribution.

The more iPrefs Apple distributes, the higher their valuation will be. The iPrefs also have other advantages:

  • There is no default or bankruptcy in the event that Apple cannot pay the dividend.
  • Apple can wait to bring over the cash pile they have overseas and not have to worry about the tax implications.

The iPrefs will definitely unlock value. How much value will depend on two factors:

  • The number of iPrefs they issue.
  • The price they trade on the open market. I think Einhorn is being too optimistic. They will most likely trade at a 5% yield or $40/share. 

The reason the iPrefs will unlock value is that there is discrepancy between what stable high quality companies trade for and where long-term bond yields are at. With iPrefs, Apple is just levering up the company in a smart way and distributing the proceeds to shareholders.

If I was an Apple shareholder (which I’m not), I would continue to hold the shares because as the shares go down, there is a greater chance that they will issue iPrefs. I will most likely start buying the shares at around $400, if they ever get there.

Microsoft

If Apple ever does issue iPrefs, the first company I will buy is Microsoft (MSFT). This will most likely be Einhorn’s next target. It has a similar profile as Apple:

  • Tons of cash on the balance sheet.
  • Trades at less than 10 times earnings and generates tons of cash ever year.

Last quarter, Einhorn increased his stake in Microsoft by over 40% to over 10.8+ million. 

Other companies that could follow suit are other tech giants such as:

  • Cisco
  • Oracle
  • Dell (if the takeover falls through)

Eliminate dividends

I would take it one step further and eliminate dividends and issue iPrefs to take advantage of the aforementioned discrepancy. It would be a big boost to the stock market.

Disclosure: I do not own any of the companies mentioned above. 

Short Thoughts

As many of my readers know that I am short some stocks that I have written about on HypeZero:

With the market trending up the last couple of months, both Pandora and SHOS have skyrocketed costing me some money. However, Orchard has really tanked which has helped my short portfolio pretty much break even. Not bad in this market. 

I am keeping all three shorts as nothing fundamentally has changed from a business perspective at any of these three companies.

Because the market has gone up quite a bit, I am looking to add to my short portfolio. Here are some companies that have caught my eye as possible short candidates:

Zillow/Trulia

I have written that Zillow is better than Trulia based on sheer numbers. However, as I read more about this industry and these companies a couple of things concern me:

  • When I search for real estate in my area, I don’t use Zillow/Trulia because their information does not come from MLS so it is sometimes inaccurate or outdated. I use the realtor site run by Move Inc (MOVE).
  • I don’t see much of a difference between Move’s business plan and that of Zillow or Trulia. In fact, Move has better data.
  • Move has been around for a while and they have been struggling growing annual revenue past $200 million. Zillow is half the size at only $116 million in annual revenue, but worth 4+ times as much. As Zillow gets to Move’s size it will have similar growth problems.    
  • Sales and Marketing expenses are going up at a faster rate than revenue. If the market is so big and these companies have such a small percentage of the market size, why is it so hard to grow revenue? In 2012, Zillow revenue grew over 75+%, but sales and marketing grew over 100%. 2013 forecast calls for 45% revenue growth and 70% growth in sales and marketing expenses.
  • Both companies are trying to enter other markets by acquiring companies at premium prices. This is a big hint that the current business model does not justify the current valuation.
  • Zillow is barely profitable and Trulia is not profitable.

One thing that these companies have going for themselves is that the housing industry is bouncing back. This could result in real estate agents increasing their advertising spending on sites like Zillow. 

Moneygram (MGI)

I wrote that Wester Union is a value trap a couple of months back. Moneygram is Western Union’s biggest competitor, but it is smaller and does not enjoy Wester Union’s premium pricing. A couple of things concern me about this industry:

  • They charge the poorest people high prices to transfer small amount of money. Every year fees per transaction keep going down and there is constant pricing pressure. They need to increase the number of transactions per year just to keep revenue and profits from going down. Western Union, a huge cash cow, has been making $1 billion in profits for over 8 years.
  • Wester Union is performing price cuts across certain corridors and this should have an impact on Moneygram in 2013. 
  • New competitors (Xoom) and the wide adoption of smart phones will impact this industry in the future.

Monster/Dice

LinkedIn (LNKD) is hitting on all cylinders and the by-product of this that sites like Monster (MWW) and Dice (DHX) are hurting. Monster is at a 52 week low and I think Dice, a career website for technology professionals may be next. Even though the technology market is hot, Dice is barely growing revenue and profits. 

I will do more research on these companies before I short any of them.

Disclosure: I am short Pandora, Sears Hometown and Orchard Supply