Archive for July, 2010

Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management has disclosed a 6.6% stake in Family Dollar Stores Inc (NYSE:FDO). The Purpose of Transaction item on the 13D discloses fairly standard boilerplate, although a buyback seems to be in the plans:

The Filing Persons acquired the Shares and Options (collectively, “Issuer Securities”) because they believe that the Shares are currently undervalued in the market place and represent an attractive investment opportunity. The Trian Group has met with Howard R. Levine, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer and members of senior management of the Issuer to discuss the Issuer’s business and strategies to enhance value for the Issuer’s shareholders. During these discussions, the Trian Group communicated its view that there is an opportunity to enhance shareholder value by improving the Issuer’s operational performance. The Filing Persons look forward to working with the Issuer on operating initiatives such as increasing sales per square foot to peer levels, improving the Issuer’s operating leverage and optimizing the number of new store openings. The Trian Group also discussed how the Issuer could utilize its capital structure and significant free-cash flow, including by considering the use of prudent amounts of leverage to increase the size of the Issuer’s stock repurchase program. In addition, the Trian Group provided examples of previous investments they (and/or entities affiliated with them) made in which they had helped create significant value by working together with management teams and boards of directors to improve operations and cash flows and enhance shareholder value.

Says the NYTimes.com in an article:

Family Dollar has been one of the retailers to benefit from the recession as more consumers come into its stores hunting for bargains. Family Dollar has seized on the opportunity, expanding its food offerings, lengthening store hours and accepting food stamps in all its stores. Peltz’s investment arm, Trian Fund Management LP, owns large stakes in a variety of major American businesses including upscale jeweler Tiffany’s & Co., food company H.J. Heinz Co. and fast-food chain Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc., of which Peltz serves as chairman.

FDO has been an extraordinary stock since the late 70s. It’s up around 24,000% excluding regular dividends. The last 5 years have not been as kind to the stock price, but it hasn’t been a disaster for shareholders either – the stock’s up 55% and the company has paid an increasing, regular quarterly dividend. It’s a situation worth watching.

No position.

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Barron’s has some interesting “sum-of-the-parts” analysis on the publicly traded limited partnership units of KKR & Co. L.P. (NYSE:KKR). Says Barron’s:

KKR ran $55 billion in assets across a variety of strategies as of March 31. Simply valuing the management fee stream from these assets at a 15 price-to-earnings multiple, in line with other money managers, and placing a lower multiple on its capital-markets unit, yields $3.25 or so per share in value, fully taxed. Adding the straight book value of its private and public direct investments produces another $6.25 per share, for a total implied value of $9.50, right at the present share price.

The next trick is valuing potential future performance fees on the $27 billion of deals housed in its private-equity funds, as well as those of deals not yet done and funds not yet raised.

One hedge-fund manager who has been buying the stock pencils in as plausible an 8% annual gain in the private funds, calculates the present value of the resulting performance fees (or the 60% of performance fees that flow to shareholders after employees get their taste) and gives this line item a 10 multiple to arrive at $3.70 a share in value. That produces a total sum-of-the-parts target above $13, more than 35% above the current price.

Analysts at Keefe Bruyette & Woods go even further, figuring KKR’s operating business to be worth $9 to $11 per share and the private-equity portfolio worth another $6.22 atop that, for a total value between $15.22 and $17.22.

Read the article.

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Market Folly has T2 Partners’ presentation to the 7th Annual Value Investing Seminar, in which they discuss three opportunities in BP, which I’ve discussed in the past, MSFT and BUD. Says Jay:

On Anheuser-Busch InBev, T2 Partners says, “you can currently buy BUD with an entry FCF yield of 10% for a business that can probably grow at GDP + inflation for a long time, giving you a long term IRR of at least 15% without any multiple expansion.” We’ve previously covered a separate and specific T2 Partners presentation on BUD worth checking out as well.

Secondly, Tilson and Tongue argue that Microsoft (MSFT) is undervalued. They write, “MSFT’s closing price on 7/12/10: $24.83, so assuming $2.40/share of FY 2011 earnings (midpoint of analysts’ estimates and our own), plus $4 share in cash, here are possible stock prices and returns (plus there’s a 2.1% dividend): 10x multiple = $28 stock = 13% return. 12x multiple = $33 stock = 33% return. 15x multiple = $40 stock = $61% return.” They highlight the company has $4.24 cash per share, shareholder friendly capital allocation (buybacks & dividend), as well as a new product cycle in tow (Microsoft Office, Windows 7, etc). T2 Partners says that the rumors of Microsoft’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

See the T2 presentation.

No positions.

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The WSJ has an article on Standard & Poor’s Valuation & Risk Strategies list of 10 publicly traded companies that could be LBO targets:

Analysts at S&P Valuation & Risk Strategies chose companies in the consumer discretionary and industrial sectors, because these sectors, along with financials, have been especially active for buyouts. Also, they picked companies that have market values of $1 billion to $4 billion, in keeping with the size of recent top LBOs. And finally, they picked companies trading at less than their respective industry’s coming year-end price-to-earnings ratio, which would indicate that the market currently undervalues them.

S&P’s top pick for an LBO is Eastman Kodak, with a market capitalization of roughly $1.2 billion. Private-equity firm KKR already owns a stake in Eastman Kodak. Here is the rest of the list:

  • Eastman Kodak ($1.2 billion)
  • Oshkosh ($2.8 billion)
  • GameStop ($2.9 billion)
  • EMCOR Group ($1.6 billion)
  • Cooper Tire & Rubber Co ($1.3 billion)
  • DSW ($1 billion)
  • TRW Automotive ($3.6 billion)
  • Dillard’s ($1.4 billion)
  • Alaska Air Group ($1.7 billion)
  • Gymboree ($1.2 billion)

Read the article.

No positions.

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The NYTimes has an article on Anthony Ward and his attempt to corner the cocoa market. The British news media has amusingly christened him “Chocolatefinger” in homage to the Bond villain Auric Goldfinger:

LONDON — To some, he is a real-life Willy Wonka. To others, he is a Bond-style villain bent on taking over the world’s supply of chocolate.

In a stroke, a hedge fund manager here named Anthony Ward has all but cornered the market in cocoa. By one estimate, he has bought enough to make more than five billion chocolate bars.

Chocolate lovers here are crying into their Cadbury wrappers — and rival traders are crying foul, saying Mr. Ward is stockpiling cocoa in a bid to drive up already high prices so he can sell later at a big profit. His activities have helped drive cocoa prices on the London market to a 30-year high.

Mr. Ward, 50, is not some rabid chocoholic, former employees say. He simply has a head for cocoa. And, through his private investment firm, Armajaro, he now controls a cache equal to 7 percent of annual cocoa production worldwide, a big enough chunk to sway prices.

Read the article here.

The article notes that attempts to corner markets come and go in the rough-and-tumble world of commodities trading. During the 1970s, Nelson Hunt and his brother, William, tried but failed to corner the world market in silver. For more on the Hunt brothers, see Silver Thursday: How Two Wealthy Traders Cornered The Market.

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Interesting commentary out of Minyanville (Today’s Market Is Missing Valuation, Fundamental Metrics) from a self-described “old valuation guy” lamenting the disappearance of value and value investors from the market. I usually enjoy these articles. I like sitting on Uncle Warren’s knee while he talks about the time he swapped a bag of cocoa beans for a controlling interest in Berkshire Hathaway:

For several weeks I busily bought shares, sold beans, and made periodic stops at Schroeder Trust to exchange stock certificates for warehouse receipts. The profits were good and my only expense was subway tokens.

Great story, Uncle Warren. I’m right now trying to buy Pfizer with a paper clip and some pocket lint, but I digress. I was just getting settled onto Old Valuation Guy’s lap when he springs this one on me:

One of the most frustrating aspects of the current market to an old valuation guy is the complete absence of a focus on fundamental valuation metrics and apparent lack of understanding of the relationship among leverage, growth, and value. Old Mr. Market is just not doing what he’s supposed to.

“Old Mr. Market is just not doing what he’s supposed to.” Say what? Isn’t the whole point of Ben Graham’s Mr. Market analogy that Mr. Market is a manic depressive who does silly things? What Mr. Market is supposed to do is act irrationally. You say he’s acting irrationally? He’s doing what he’s supposed to! I don’t think Old Mr. Market is the problem here. I think Old Valuation Guy is the one who’s not doing what he’s supposed to, which is to say, valuing things and taking advantage of Old Mr. Market. Reading between the lines, I think what Old Valuation Guy is saying is that the market refuses to go up. In my book, that’s not conclusive evidence that you’re not a value investor, but it’s strike one.

So-called Old Valuation Guy continues:

For those of us who grew up with a nod to Graham and Dodd, efficient market theory, or even discounted cash flow, this is one tough time, as increased volatility, whipsaw-like moves, and technical “tells” seem to be in ascension. Perhaps this is the inevitable volatility reflecting the combined uncertainty about the upcoming elections, the outlook for global recovery, and general economic uncertainty, and Mr. Market is merely going through the inevitable digestion required after the gluttony of the last decade; but I’d posit that there’s a bigger risk sitting in the wings.

Placing the words “efficient market theory” right after the words “Graham and Dodd” is vanishingly close to blasphemy. Wash your mouth out, and strike two. I’d give you a third strike for that line about “increased volatility” and “whipsaw-like moves”, but then you’d be out of strikes, and I want to send you to the showers for this gem:

Should investors and professional money managers come to believe that metrics like P/E ratios, TEV to EBITDA, book values, hurdle rates, or WACC are meaningless and antiquated tools in the current post-Armageddon financial meltdown, it may be a long time before folks come back to the market and provide the necessary liquidity to break us out of the doldrums.

WACC? WACC?? WACC is meaningless. And useless. And meaningless (Did I mention that?). Strike three. You’re outta here. I’ve got news for you, Old Valuation Guy: You’re not a value guy.

Value guys like volatility. Crazy, gyrating market? Giddyup. Whipsawing prices? Yee hah. “Uncertainty about the upcoming elections?” Beautiful. Follow that red herring. No liquidity? Along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favorite things. Why? It is axiomatic to value investing that volatility is not risk, but the generator of opportunity. We want Mr. Market manic depressive for the rest of our lives. We want him bucking like a bronco. We want him scaring people away.

These articles pop up occasionally. Remember the article What Would Warren Do? where Megan McArdle interviewed a fund manager under the Omaha twilight who suddenly said, “The only way to make money these days is leverage”?  This sort of fuzzy thinking needs to be beaten back with a stick. If you’re going to go around calling yourself a value guy, at least have the common decency to find out what a value guy believes. A good place to start would be that Graham and Dodd book you nodded at as you were coming up.

Read the rest of it here. It improves slightly until he asks if “Edwards and Magee [have] finally beaten Graham and Dodd? Have momentum investing, computers, and flash trading killed the value investor?” Ugh. No.

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Greenbackd readers, get your exclusive $1,800 discount for the 6th Annual Value Investing Congress on October 12 & 13, 2010 in New York City. This offer expires in 8 days, so get your ticket now using dicount code: N10GB4.

The Value Investing Congress is the place for value investors from around the world to network with other value investors. I went to the May event earlier this year in Pasadena, and it was well worth it. The speakers seem to mingle freely and are generally available for a chat. Weather permitting, I’ll be in New York for this event.

Speakers include:

  • David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital Management
  • Lee Ainslie, Maverick Capital
  • John Burbank, Passport Capital
  • J Kyle Bass, Hayman Capital
  • Mohnish Pabrai, Pabrai Investment Funds
  • Amitabh Singhi, Surefin Investments
  • J. Carlo Cannell, Cannell Capital
  • Zeke Ashton, Centaur Capital Partners
  • Whitney Tilson & Glenn Tongue, T2 Partners

This offer expires midnight on July 30. Use using dicount code: N10GB4 and get your ticket now .

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