A number of commenters have identified in the notes to ValueVision Media Inc. (NASDAQ:VVTV)‘s latest 10Q that VVTV has substantial cash obligations under the cable and satellite agreements and operating leases falling due over the five fiscal years from 2009 to 2012 and not reflect in VVTV’s balance sheet. The worst case scenario is that these obligations represent an additional $185M liability. If this is the case, then our previous estimate for VVTV’s $55.7M in liquidating value is obviously wrong and VVTV may have no value in liquidation.
The value proposition
We’ve previously posted about VVTV here and here, writing that it seemed to us to be one of the better opportunities available because it’s a net net stock (i.e. a stock trading for less than its net current assets) with other apparently valuable assets and noted activist investor J. Carlo Cannell of Cannell Capital holding an activist position in it. The company also seemed to us to be taking steps to realize its value, publicly announcing that it had appointed a special committee of independent directors to conduct an auction to be completed by February 2, 2009. We estimated VVTV’s liquidating value at $55.7M or $1.66 per share. We may have to alter this estimate now to account for the “contractual cash obligations and commitments with respect to [VVTV]’s cable and satellite agreements and operating leases.”
The offending statement is to be found under the Financial Condition, Liquidity and Capital Resources – Cash Requirements section and reads as follows:
In addition to the potential preferred stock redemption cash commitment mentioned above, we have additional long-term contractual cash obligations and commitments with respect to its cable and satellite agreements and operating leases totaling approximately $185 million over the next five fiscal years with average annual cash commitments of approximately $44 million from fiscal 2009 through fiscal 2012.
We don’t know the terms of the cable and satellite agreements and operating leases and so it is impossible to determine whether the “contractual cash obligations” are absolute or contingent on VVTV continuing to use the services contracted. The worst case scenario is that the obligations are absolute, and therefore represent an additional $185M liability not carried in VVTV’s financial statements. If this is the case, then VVTV may have no value in liquidation.
This is a particularly unfortunate situation because we don’t know how to deal with the “contractual cash obligations.” If any commenters have a suggestion, we’d be keen to hear it. We note that Williamss commented as follows:
Operating leases are notorious for making the balance sheet appear much better than it actually is. If you add these back to the balance sheet, and combine it with the 44.6 million coming due as part of the GE capital redemption for the preferred shares, then I worry that this company seems to be rapidly headed towards illiquidity, if not insolvency.
When we run into an issue with a financial statement, we generally return to first principles. Graham writes in Security Analysis
A company’s balance sheet does not convey exact information as to its value in liquidation, but it does supply clues or hints which may prove useful. The first rule in calculating liquidating value is that the liabilities are real but the assets are of questionable value. This means that all true liabilities shown on the books must be deducted at their face amount.
We have to take the most conservative position, which is that the liability is real and a “true liability” and must therefore be deducted at its face amount. On that basis, VVTV has no value in liquidation and we’re out.
As we’ve discussed in our About Greenbackd and About liquidation value investing pages, we apply Graham’s liquidating value methodology because it’s conservative, it doesn’t require a great deal of sophistication – it’s a simple formula – and it doesn’t require the heroic leaps in reasoning required to forecast future earnings. We believe that this type of analysis will yield reasonable results given a sufficiently large sample size and sufficiently long period of time, even allowing for our mistakes. We’ve committed a real howler with VVTV.
VVTV closed yesterday at $0.33. We liked it at $0.44, so we’re down 25% on an absolute basis.
The S&P 500 closed yesterday at 871.63 and closed at 888.67 (-1.92%) when we liked VVTV first, so we’re down 23.08% on a relative basis.
Hat tips to commenters Williamss and Jim.
[Disclosure: We do have a holding in VVTV. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only.]
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