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Archive for the ‘Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS)’ Category

Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) has had an amazing run over the last few weeks, up more than 50% since the end of September to hit a 52-week high yesterday. We’ve decided to close our position because it’s trading at a substantial premium to our estimate of its liquidation value and we don’t think the underlying business is all that great (not that we have any particular insight into these things). At its $1.63 close yesterday, our position in ACLS is up 171.7% on an absolute basis. The S&P500 closed at 906.65 on the day we opened the position, and closed yesterday at 1,073.18, an 18.4% gain, which means we’ve outperformed the S&P500 over the same period by 153.3%.

Post mortem

We started following ACLS on January 8 this year (see our post archive here) because it was trading at a discount to our estimate of its liquidation value with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. The picture for ACLS looked fairly grim at that stage. We noted that it had been “making substantial operating losses that have widened over the last five quarters” that had prompted “Sterling Capital Management to detail to ACLS management an aggressive restructuring strategy to salvage for stockholders what value remains.” Shortly after we opened the position ACLS failed to make a payment required under its 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, which meant that the company was required to repay the outstanding principal amount of the notes plus a maturity premium and accrued interest (a total payment of approximately $85 million) on January 15. On February 26, in a remarkable deal given the extremely difficult conditions, ACLS managed to sell to Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) of its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, its joint venture with SHI, for proceeds of $122.3 million. ACLS received around $35.9M in cash after applying $86.4M of the proceeds to meet its obligations to the Convertible Senior Subordinated Noteholders. The company hit its low of $0.17 on Feburary 25, at which point our position was down over 70%. From its February 25 nadir, ACLS is up approximately 860% to close yesterday at $1.63, which gives the company a market capitalization of $170M.

We last estimated ACLS’s liquidation value at around  $113.6M or $1.10. Its net current asset value at the last reporting date was a little higher at around $180M or $1.77 per share. We still think that cash burn is a significant issue for ACLS, and we suspect that both the liquidation and net current asset values will be lower at the upcoming reporting date. At the rate of cash burn prevailing at the last reporting date, we estimated the company had around six months before its liquidation value was around $0.60, and around a year before it was worthless. We think that’s an improbable – but not impossible – outcome.

ACLS’s recent run-up may be attributable to attention it has now started receiving from the mainstream media and larger investment banks. Citi thinks ACLS could be worth $3, noting that “while we are far from bullish on business prospects and we acknowledge that there’s risk to ACLS’ ability to raise much-needed cash in the next several months, we think the company will be able to raise sufficient capital w/o going to the public markets.” The Wall Street Journal also ran an article yesterday in which it quoted an analyst as saying “the stock is undervalued, since there were concerns about whether the company would survive. It was one of the hardest hit in the downturn … partly because it had market-share losses amid a cyclical semiconductor decline before the financial crisis even hit. … Now it looks like the company will probably make it, so there’s a correction in valuation.” That may be so, but we’ve got no particular insight into the business or the industry, and so we’re closing the position.

[Disclosure:  We don’t have a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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The always superb Manual Of Ideas has nine new additions to its list of activist targets. Companies on the list must have a “strong balance sheet that could be recapitalized or liquidated to achieve activist value creation; and insiders must own less than 20% of the shares, implying an inability to exercise voting control over the company:”

  • Semiconductor equipment provider Axcelis Technologies (ACLS) joins the list in first place, based on a ratio of “net net” current assets to market value of 1.3x, making ACLS a Ben Graham-style bargain stock. We calculate “net net” current assets as current assets minus total liabilities. A ratio of 1.3x suggests that the liquidation value of ACLS may exceed the company’s market value, potentially attracting the interest of activist investment funds.
  • Biotech drug developer Myriad Pharmaceuticals (MYRX) joins the list in second place, as the company has net cash of $169 million versus market value of $135 million. Insiders own virtually no shares of the company, making Myriad vulnerable to activist shareholder action.
  • Communications equipment provider Radvision (RVSN) joins the list in 12th place. Radvision shares recently tumbled to a market value of $115 million, only $8 million above the company net cash balance. The stock price decline came on the heels of Cisco’s announcement that it would aquire video conferencing company Tandberg. Radvision provides such technology to Cisco, with the latter Radvision’s largest customer.
  • Specialty steel product maker Universal Stainless & Alloy (USAP) joins the list in 30th place. The shares trade at 0.8x price to tangible book value, and the company has 19% of its market value in net cash. “Net net” current assets account for two-thirds of USAP’s market value, making the company a potentially interesting recapitalization candidate.
  • Biopharma company Progenics Pharmaceuticals (PGNX) joins the list in 34th place. The shares trade within 10% of their 52-week low, reflecting the stock’s lack of participation in the recent stock market rally. With a market value of $155 million and more than $100 million of net cash, the shares could attract the attention of activist investors familiar with the biopharma industry.
  • Cancer drug discovery firm Infinity Pharma (INFI) joins the list in 36th place. While the company is losing money as it advances its drug development pipeline, management has stated that the company has sufficient liquidity through 2013. INFI has a market value of $152 million versus a net cash position of $150 million.
  • Zoran Corp. (ZRAN), a provider of digital solutions for application in the digital entertainment and imaging markets, joins the list in 42nd place. The company recently posted strong sequential revenue growth in key business segments and returned to positive cash flow generation. With 63% of the market value in net cash, the company may be in a position to aggressively repurchase shares, thereby boosting shareholder value on a per-share basis.
  • Semiconductor equipment company Rudolph Technologies (RTEC) joins the list in 43rd place. The company’s Q2 revenue growth exceeded guidance, but investors continue to shun the stock. RTEC has one-third of its market value in net cash and nearly two-thirds in “net net” current assets.
  • Finally, fabless semiconductor company Sigma Designs (SIGM) joins the list in 44th place. With one-half of market value in net cash and an enterprise value-to-revenue multiple of 0.9x, the shares appear quite cheap. The company may be in a position to boost shareholder value by using excess liquidity to repurchase shares or pay a one-time cash dividend.

We’ve been following Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) since January 8 this year (see our post archive here) because it is an undervalued asset play with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. ACLS has completed the sale of its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, its joint venture with Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) to SHI for proceeds of $122.3 million. ACLS received around $35.9M in cash after applying $86.4M of the proceeds to meet obligations to the holders of the company’s 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, upon which ACLS defaulted in January. Our position in ACLS is up 120% to $1.32, which gives the company a market capitalization of  $137M. We’re not quite as bullish on ACLS as the Manual of Ideas. We last estimated ACLS’s liquidation value at around  $113.6M or $1.10, because we think that cash burn is a significant issue for ACLS. At the current rate of cash burn, we estimate the company has around six months before its liquidation value is around $0.60, and around a year before it’s worthless. That said, Citi thinks ACLS could be worth $3 (for what that’s worth):

Citi upgrades Axcelis Technologies Inc (Nasdaq: ACLS) from Hold to Buy. Price target lowered from $5.50 to $3.

Citi analyst says, “Following the collapse of its merger talks with Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) and subsequent ~70% decline in stock price, we think the stock is now trading below liquidation value. So, while we are far from bullish on business prospects and we acknowledge that there’s risk to ACLS’ ability to raise much-needed cash in the next several months, we think the company will be able to raise sufficient capital w/o going to the public markets.”

Axcelis Technologies, Inc. (Axcelis) designs, manufactures and services ion implantation, dry strip and other processing equipment used in the fabrication of semiconductor chips.

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) has filed its 10Q for the period ended June 30, 2009.

We started following ACLS on January 8 this year (see our post archive here) because it is an undervalued asset play with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. ACLS has completed the sale of its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, its joint venture with Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) to SHI for proceeds of $122.3 million. ACLS received around $35.9M in cash after applying $86.4M of the proceeds to meet obligations to the holders of the company’s 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, upon which ACLS defaulted in January. We last estimated ACLS’s liquidation value at around $117.8M or $1.14 per share. Following our review of the 10Q, we’ve reduced our estimate to $113.6M or $1.10, which is around 80% higher than its $0.60 close yesterday. Cash burn is a significant issue for ACLS. At the current rate of cash burn, we estimate the company has around six months before its liquidation value meets its current price, and around a year before it’s worthless.

The value proposition updated

During the three months ended June 30, 2009, ACLS continued to burn cash in its operations, which it attributes to the depressed semiconductor equipment market and the resultant decline in revenues. Cash and cash equivalents at June 30, 2009 were $56.8M, compared to $71.2M at March 31, 2009. The company attributes the $21.4M decrease in cash and cash equivalents to the cash used in operations and payments of fees and other costs associated with the sale of the investment in SEN. The company anticipates net cash outflows from operations in the remainder of 2009. Set out below is our adjusted balance sheet for ACLS (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

ACLS Summary 2009 6 30

We’ve been quite kind to ACLS by assuming only $50M of cash burn over the next twelve months. On its current form, $80M would have been closer to the mark. We’re assuming management takes some action to staunch the flow, but an assumptions like that might make us look like fools.

Conclusion

ACLS has made substantial operating losses over the last two years, and it is likely to be continue to do so. While its liquidation value of around $113.6M or $1.10 per share is more than 80% higher than its close yesterday of $0.60, it is likely to deteriorate while it continues its operating losses. ACLS continues to be our problem child, and we don’t think there is any good news on the horizon near-term, but we find it difficult to exit the position while it’s trading at a such a large discount to its (albeit deteriorating) liquidation value. Accordingly, we’re going to hold on for the moment, and see how the position plays out. If we get an opportunity to exit at close to value, however, we’ll take it. If the position hasn’t improved by the next Q, we’re likely sellers.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Update June 16, 2009: SOAP has announced that it proposes to liquidate. See our post below.

Update June 3, 2009: We’ve pinned this post to the front page. Any new posts between now and July 4th will appear below this post.

June 1, 2009 marked the end of Greenbackd’s second quarter. It’s time again to report on the performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio and the positions in the portfolio, discuss the evolution of our valuation methodology and outline the future direction of Greenbackd.com.

Second quarter performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio

The second quarter was nothing short of a blockbuster for the Greenbackd Portfolio, up 74.2% on an absolute basis, which was 52.8% higher than the return on the S&P500 return over the same period. A large positive return for the period is heartening, but our celebration is tempered by the fact that it is difficult to avoid a good return in a market that rises 25.0% in a quarter. Our Q1 performance was -3.7% (see our first quarter performance here), which means that our total return since inception (assuming equal weighting in each quarter) is 67.8% against a return on the S&P500 of 11.6%, or an outperformance of 56.2% over the return in the S&P500.

It is still too early to determine how Greenbackd’s strategy of investing in undervalued asset situations with a catalyst is performing, but we believe we are heading in the right direction. Set out below is a list of all the stocks in the Greenbackd Portfolio and the absolute and relative performance of each from the close of the last trading day of the first quarter, Friday, February 28, 2009, to the close on the last trading day in the second quarter, May 29, 2009:

Greenbackd Portfolio Performance 2009 Q2You may have noticed something odd about our presentation of performance. The S&P500 index rose by 25.0% in our second quarter (from 735.09 to 919.14). Our +74.2% performance might suggest an outperformance over the S&P500 index of 49.2%, while we report outperformance of 52.8%. We calculate our performance on a slightly different basis, recording the level of the S&P500 index on the day each stock is added to the portfolio and then comparing the performance of each stock against the index for the same holding period. The Total Relative performance, therefore, is the average performance of each stock against the performance of the S&P500 index for the same periods. As we discussed above, the holding period for Greenbackd’s positions has been too short to provide any meaningful information about the likely performance of the strategy over the long term (2 to 5 years), but we believe that the strategy should outperform the market by a small margin.

Greenbackd’s valuation methodology

We started Greenbackd in an effort to extend our understanding of asset-based valuation described by Benjamin Graham in the 1934 Edition of Security Analysis. (You can see our summary of Graham’s approach here). Through some great discussion with our readers, many of whom work in the fund management industry as experienced analysts or even managing members of hedge funds, and by incorporating the observations of Marty Whitman (see Marty Whitman’s adjustments to Graham’s net net formula here) and Seth Klarman (our Seth Klarman series starts here), we have refined our process. We believe that what started out as a pretty unsophisticated application of Graham’s liquidation value methodology has evolved into a more realistic analysis of the balance sheet and the relationship of certain disclosures in the financial statements to asset value. Our analyses are now quantitatively more robust than when we started and that has manifest itself in better performance.

Tweedy Browne offers some compelling evidence for the asset based valuation approach here.

Update on the holdings in the Greenbackd Portfolio

There are eleven stocks remaining in the Greenbackd Portfolio:

  1. VXGN (added March 26, 2009 @ $0.48)
  2. DRAD (added March 9, 2009 @ $0.88)
  3. ASYS (added March 5, 2009 @ $2.78)
  4. CAPS (added February 27, 2009 @ $0.60)
  5. DITC (added February 19, 2009 @ $0.89)
  6. SOAP (added February 2, 2009 @ $2.50)
  7. NSTR (added January 16, 2009 @ $1.91)
  8. ACLS (added January 8, 2009 @ $0.60)
  9. MATH (added December 17, 2008 @ $0.68)
  10. ABTL (added December 11, 2008 @ $0.43)
  11. AVGN (added December 1, 2008 @ $0.65)

The future of Greenbackd.com

We are taking a brief vacation. We’ll be back full-time after July 4th, always reserving the right to post interesting ideas in the interum and update our open positions. If you’re looking for net nets in the meantime, there are two good screens:

  1. GuruFocus has a Graham net net screen ($249 per year)
  2. Graham Investor NCAV screen (Free)

Greenbackd is a labor of love. We try to create new content every week day, and to get the stock analyses up just after midnight Eastern Standard Time, so that they’re available before the markets open the following day. Most of the stocks that are currently trading at a premium to the price at which we originally identified them traded for a period at a discount to the price at which we identified them. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to trade on our ideas (not that we suggest you do that without reading our disclosures and doing your own research). If you find the ideas here compelling and you get some value from them, you can support our efforts by making a donation via PayPal.

We look forward to bringing you the best undervalued asset situations we can dig up in the next quarter.

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) has filed its 10Q for the period ended March 31, 2009.

We started following ACLS on January 8 this year (see our post archive here) because it is an undervalued asset play with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. ACLS has completed the sale of its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, its joint venture with Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) to SHI for proceeds of $122.3 million. ACLS received around $35.9M in cash after applying $86.4M of the proceeds to meet obligations to the holders of the company’s 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, upon which ACLS defaulted in January. We last estimated ACLS’s liquidation value at around $147M or $1.43 per share based on our reconstruction of the balance sheet following the sale. We’ve now had an opportunity to review the actual balance sheet and reduced our estimate to $117.8M or $1.14 per share, which is more than 170% higher than its close yesterday of $0.42.

The value proposition updated

During the three months ended March 31, 2009, ACLS continued to burn cash in its operations, which it attributes to the depressed semiconductor equipment market and the resultant decline in revenues. Cash and cash equivalents at March 31, 2009 were $71.2M, compared to $37.7M at December 31, 2008. The $33.5M increase in cash and cash equivalents was primarily attributable to the net cash proceeds from the sale of its investment in SEN, offset by cash used in operations. Set out below is our adjusted balance sheet for ACLS (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

ACLS Summary 2009 3 31

Conclusion

ACLS has made substantial operating losses over the last two years, and it is likely to be continue to do so. While its liquidation value of around $117.8M or $1.14 per share is more than 170% higher than its close yesterday of $0.42, it is likely to deteriorate while it continues its operating losses. ACLS has been our problem child, and we don’t think there is any good news on the horizon near-term, but we find it difficult to exit the position while it’s trading at a such a large discount to its (albeit deteriorating) liquidation value. Accordingly, we’re going to hold on for the moment, and see how the position plays out. If we get an opportunity to exit at close to value, however, we’ll take it.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) has completed the sale of its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, its joint venture with Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) to SHI for proceeds of $122.3 million. ACLS received around $35.9M in cash after applying $86.4M of the proceeds to meet obligations to the holders of the company’s 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, upon which ACLS defaulted in January.

We started following ACLS on January 8 this year because it is an undervalued asset play with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. In our initial post we estimated ACLS’s liquidating value at around $134.9M, or $1.31 per share. We’ve now updated our estimate following completion of the sale to $147M or $1.43 per share, which is more than 250% higher than its close yesterday of $0.41.

Streetinsider.com has the article:

Axcelis Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: ACLS) has completed the sale of its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, an SHI and Axcelis Company (SEN), to Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI). The Company received net proceeds from the sale of approximately $122.3 million after advisor fees and other expenses and will recognize a gain on the sale of approximately $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2009.

Axcelis has applied $86.4 million of the sale proceeds to meet its obligations on its 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, which were due in January. As a result of the payment, the trustee for the notes will withdraw litigation filed in connection with Axcelis’ default on the notes.

The sale was completed pursuant to a Share Purchase Agreement that Axcelis and SHI entered into on February 26, 2009. SEN was licensed by Axcelis to manufacture and sell certain implant products in Japan. Prior to the completion of the sale, it was owned 50/50 by Axcelis and SHI.

Hat tip to manny.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Greenbackd Portfolio Q1 performance and update

March 1, 2009 marked the end of Greenbackd’s first quarter, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to update you on the performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio and the positions in the portfolio, discuss some changes in our valuation methodology since our first post and outline the future direction of Greenbackd.com.

First quarter performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio

We get many questions about the content and performance of the portfolio. We had originally planned to report on a six-monthly basis, but we have now decided to report on a quarterly basis so that we can address these questions on a more frequent basis. Although it is still too early to determine how Greenbackd’s strategy of investing in undervalued asset situations with a catalyst is performing, we’ve set out below a list of all the stocks we’ve included in the Greenbackd Portfolio and the absolute and relative performance of each at the close on the last trading day in our first quarter, Friday, February 28, 2009:

greenbackd-portfolio-performance-2009-q13The absolute total return across the current and former positions as at February 28, 2009 was -3.7%, which was +7.0% higher than the S&P500’s return over the same periods. A negative return for the first period is disappointing, but we are heartened by the fact that we outperformed the market by a small margin.

You may have noticed something odd about our presentation of performance. The S&P500 index declined by 18.0% in our first quarter (from 896.24 to 735.09). Our -3.7% performance might suggest an outperformance over the S&P500 index of +14.3%. We calculate our performance on a slightly different basis, recording the level of the S&P500 index on the day each stock is added to the portfolio and then comparing the performance of each stock against the index for the same holding period. The Total Relative performance, therefore, is the average performance of each stock against the performance of the S&P500 index for the same periods. As we discussed above, the holding period for Greenbackd’s positions has been too short to provide any meaningful information about the likely performance of the strategy over the long term (2 to 5 years), but we believe that the strategy should outperform the market by a small margin.

Greenbackd’s valuation methodology

We started Greenbackd in an effort to extend our understanding of asset-based valuation described by Benjamin Graham in the 1934 Edition of Security Analysis. Through some great discussion with our readers, many of whom work in the fund management industry as experienced analysts or even managing members of hedge funds, we have had the opportunity to refine our process. We believe that what started out as a pretty unsophisticated application of Graham’s liquidation value methodology has evolved into a more realistic analysis of the balance sheet and the relationship of certain disclosures in the financial statements to asset value. We’re not yet ready to send it into space, but we believe our analyses are now qualitatively more robust than when we started and that has manifest itself quantitatively in better performance (more on this below).

The two main differences between our early analyses and our more recent ones are as follows (these are truly cringe-worthy, but that’s why we undertook the exercise):

  1. We didn’t take account of the effect of off-balance sheet arrangements and contractual obligations. This caused us to enter into several positions we should have avoided, including BGP and VVTV.
  2. We were using overly optimistic estimates for the recovery rates of assets in liquidation. For example, we started using 50% of Gross PP&E. We now use 20% of Net PP&E. We now apply Graham’s formula as the base case and deviate only when we believe that Graham’s formulation doesn’t reflect reality.

The effect of these two broad errors in analysis was to create several “false positives,” which is to say that we added stocks to the portfolio that wouldn’t have passed our current, more rigorous standards. The performance of those “false positive” stocks has been almost uniformly negative, and dragged down the performance of the portfolio. As an exercise, we went back through all the positions we have opened since we started the site and applied our current criteria, which are more stringent and dour than our earlier standards. We found that we would not have opened positions in the following eight stocks:

  • BRN (-13.1% on an absolute basis and +4.9% on a relative basis)
  • BGP (-10.8% on an absolute basis and -21.6% on a relative basis)
  • COBR (-17.1% on an absolute basis and +3.6% on a relative basis)
  • HRT (-25.3% on an absolute basis and -9.7% on a relative basis)
  • KONA (+87.8% on an absolute basis and +81.9% on a relative basis)
  • MGAM (-24.2% on an absolute basis and -5.0% on a relative basis)
  • VVTV (-25.0% on an absolute basis and -23.1% on a relative basis)
  • ZLC (-72.0% on an absolute basis and -61.1% on a relative basis)

It seems we got lucky with KONA, but the performance of the balance of the stocks was wholly negative. The performance across all stocks listed above was -12.5% on an absolute basis and -3.9% on a relative basis. Excluding these eight stocks from our portfolio (i.e. treating the portfolio as if we had not entered into these positions) would have resulted in a slightly positive absolute return of +0.7% and a relative performance over the S&P500 of +12.5%. This is a compelling reason to apply the more dour and rigorous standards.

We like to think we’ve now learned out lesson and the more dour and rigorous standards are here to stay. Set out below is an example balance sheet summary (for Chicago Rivet & Machine Co. (AMEX:CVR)) showing our present base case discounts from book value (circled in red):

example-summary-2

Readers will note that these are the same base case discounts from book value suggested by Benjamin Graham in the 1934 Edition of Security Analysis, more fully described in our Valuing long-term and fixed assets post under the heading “Graham’s approach to valuing long-term and fixed assets.” Why we ever deviated from these standards in the first place is beyond us.

Update on the holdings in the Greenbackd Portfolio

Leading on from our discussion above, four of the stocks we picked using the initial, overly optimistic criteria no longer meet our more stringent standards but haven’t yet been removed from the portfolio. We’re going to take our medicine now and do just that. To make it clear, these stocks aren’t being removed because the value has deteriorated, but because we made a mistake adding them to the portfolio in the first place. As much as we’d like to treat these positions as void ab initio (“invalid from the beginning”), we’re not going to do that. We’ve made a full accounting of the impact they’ve had on the portfolio in the First quarter performance of the Greenbackd Portfolio section above, but we don’t want them affecting our future performance. The stocks to be removed from the Greenbackd Portfolio and their absolute and relative returns are as follows:

  • BRN (-13.1% on an absolute basis and +4.9% on a relative basis)
  • HRT (-25.3% on an absolute basis and -9.7% on a relative basis)
  • MGAM (-24.2% on an absolute basis and -5.0% on a relative basis)
  • COBR (-17.1% on an absolute basis and +3.6% on a relative basis)

We’ll provide a more full discussion of where we went wrong with these stocks at a later date, but suffice it to say for present purposes that all were errors from the second bullet point in the Greenbackd’s valuation methodology section above (i.e. overly optimistic estimates for the recovery rates of assets in liquidation).

There are fifteen stocks remaining in the Greenbackd Portfolio:

Eight of these positions (ABTL, ACLS, ARCW, CAPS, CRC, CRGN, NSTR, and VOXX) are trading at or below our nominal purchase price and initial valuations. The remaining seven positions (AVGN, DITC, IKAN, MATH, NENG, NTII, and SOAP) are trading above our intial purchase price but are still at varying discounts to our valuations. We’ll provide a more full update on these positions over the course of this week.

The future of Greenbackd.com

We are going to trial some small changes to the layout of the site over the next few weeks. We’ve already made the first change: the newest comments now appear at the top of the list. We’ll also be amalgamating some pages and adding some new ones, including a page dedicated to tracking the portfolio with links to the analyses. We’re also considering some options for generating income from the site. At the moment, Greenbackd is a labor of love. We try to create new content every week day, and to get the stock analyses up just after midnight Eastern Standard Time, so that they’re available before the markets open the following day. More than 80% of the stocks that are currently trading at a premium to the price at which we originally identified them (NTII, SOAP, IKAN, DITC, NENG, MATH and AVGN) traded for a period at a discount to the price at which we identified them. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to trade on our ideas (not that we suggest you do that). If you find the ideas here compelling and you get some value from them, you can support our efforts by making a donation via PayPal.

We look forward to bringing you the best undervalued asset situations we can dig up in the next quarter.

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) has announced that it has agreed to sell its 50% interest in SEN Corporation, its joint venture with Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) to SHI for Y13 billion, or approximately $133 million, in cash. This is an outstanding achievement by ACLS management under difficult conditions. The sale will provide the liquidity necessary to meet the $85M due to the holders of the company’s 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes, upon which ACLS defaulted in January.

We started following ACLS on January 8 this year because it is an undervalued asset play with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. In our initial post we estimated ACLS’s liquidating value at $134.9M, or $1.31 per share. Assuming the sale is completed, we estimate ACLS’s liquidating value to be slightly higher at $147M or $1.43 per share, which is more than 300% higher than its close yesterday of $0.35.

The value proposition updated

ACLS is generating substantial and increasing operating losses, reaching a $22.8M nadir for the September quarter (see the September 10Q here). We have adjusted the September 10Q balance sheet to account for the sale of the SEN JV and to back out several other payments and projected it forward to March (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

acls-summary-sen-sale1This summary balance sheet assumes that the $133M to be received in March 2009 from the sale of SEN is used to pay off the notes first (approximately $85M) with the remainder added to cash. We have backed out a further $15M in termination payments from cash. This summary balance sheet also assumes that ACLS burns an additional $22M in cash in the current quarter. The company is still making substantial operating losses that have widened over the last five quarters, so these amounts are likely to be substantial on an ongoing basis.

The press release

ACLS has not yet filed an 8K but the press release is as follows (via Tradingmarkets.com):

Axcelis Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq:ACLS) today announced that it has entered into a Share Purchase Agreement in which Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (“SHI”) will purchase Axcelis’ 50% interest in their joint venture, SEN Corporation, an SHI and Axcelis Company, (“SEN”), for Y13 billion, or approximately $133 million, in cash at current conversion rates. Axcelis and SHI each currently own 50% of SEN, a Japanese company that is licensed by Axcelis to manufacture and sell certain implant products in Japan.

It is anticipated that the transaction between Axcelis and SHI will be completed on March 31, 2009. Axcelis will use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of its SEN interests to meet its obligations under its 4.25% Convertible Senior Secured Subordinated Notes, which were due in January. Pending the closing, the trustee for the notes has agreed to stand down on litigation filed in connection with Axcelis’ default on the notes.

Mary Puma, Chairman and CEO of Axcelis, said: “This transaction serves the best interests of Axcelis shareholders as it enables us to fulfill our senior debt obligations and gives us greater financial flexibility during this difficult economic climate and semiconductor industry downturn. Axcelis will continue to fully focus its efforts on tight cash and cost controls and on developing and selling innovative products like our Optima implanters and Integra dry strip tools, both of which have received strong customer reviews. With these products, Axcelis believes that we can compete and gain market share once demand for semiconductor equipment returns.”

As part of the transaction, at the closing Axcelis and SEN will enter into cross licenses that will allow the two companies to continue to use certain patents and technical information owned by the other to make and sell ion implant systems on a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual basis. Axcelis’ license to SEN would not include patents, licenses, or technical information developed by Axcelis for the Optima HD, Optima XE, or any non-implant products. The transaction will terminate all existing agreements among Axcelis, SHI and SEN relating to the SEN joint venture.

More information can be found in the Form 8-K that Axcelis will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission at http://www.sec.gov.

Hat tip to manny.

[Full Disclosure:  We have a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) has failed to make a payment required under the company’s 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes. The company was required to repay the outstanding principal amount of the notes plus a maturity premium and accrued interest (a total payment of approximately $85 million) on January 15. The failure constitutes an event of default under the notes. As a result of the failure to make the required payment, ACLS must pay the entire overdue amount, plus interest at a rate of 8.0% per annum, plus certain additional costs and expenses associated with the collection of such amounts.

The company attached the following press release to its announcement:

Axcelis Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: ACLS) today announced that it is continuing to engage in negotiations on financing and strategic alternatives that will serve the best interests of the company following a missed payment on Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes that was due on January 15, 2009. The payment consisted of the outstanding principal on $75 million of 4.25% Convertible Senior Subordinated Notes plus a maturity premium of 11.125% and accrued interest for a total of approximately $85 million. As such, Axcelis is continuing discussions with its note holder as well as other lenders.

Axcelis emphasized that it is highly focused on preserving the company’s financial health, including aggressively reducing expenses.

Like a number of companies impacted by the freeze up in the global credit markets, Axcelis has been hindered in the refinancing of its debt. Axcelis’ efforts in this regard also have been impacted by the protracted decline in the semiconductor industry and the discussions with Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. regarding an acquisition of Axcelis last year, among other factors.

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS) is a new addition to the Greenbackd Portfolio at its $0.60 closing price yesterday. ACLS is an undervalued asset play with an activist investor, Sterling Capital Management, holding 10.7% of its outstanding stock. At $0.60, the company has a market capitalization of $61.8M. We estimate that its liquidating value is more than 110% higher at $134.9M, or $1.31 per share. The caveat? The company is making substantial operating losses that have widened over the last five quarters, prompting Sterling Capital Management to detail to ACLS management an aggressive restructuring strategy to salvage for stockholders what value remains.

About ACLS

ACLS designs, manufactures and services ion implantation, dry strip and other processing equipment used in the fabrication of semiconductor chips. In addition to equipment, ACLS provides aftermarket service and support, including spare parts, equipment upgrades, maintenance services and customer training. The company owns 50% of SEN Corporation (SEN), a producer of ion implantation equipment in Japan. SEN licenses technology from ACLS  for certain ion implantation products and has exclusive rights to market the licensed products in Japan. The investor relations website is here.

The value proposition

The last five quarters have not been kind to ACLS, with the company generating substantial and increasing operating losses in each, reaching a $22.8M nadir for the September quarter (see the Q3 10Q here). At present, some value remains on the balance sheet (the “Carrying” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

acls-summary1

ACLS’s liquidating value is predominantly carried in its $177M in inventory, which we’ve written down by a third to $119M or $1.15 per share, and its long term investment in $136M SEN, which we’ve written down by 80% to $20.4M or $0.20 per share. The company has around $49.7M or $0.48 per share in cash and a further $12.6M or $0.12 per share in restricted cash. The company also has around $36.6M in receivables, which we’ve discounted by a fifth to $29.3M or $0.28 per share. Deducting the $1.38 per share in liabilities (including $0.80 per share in debt) leaves a value in liquidation of around $134.9M or $1.31 per share.

The catalyst

Sterling Capital Management has been in regular contact with ACLS since acquiring its original stake in October 2007. They began communicating with ACLS in November of that year, “[encouraging] management and the board of directors to move forward on several actions designed to enhance shareholder value” including “[hiring] an investment banking firm to solicit interest for a minority, majority, or strategic investment in [ACLS].” (See the full text of Sterling Capital Management’s first letter to ACLS here.)

In February 2008, Sterling Capital Management again pushed ACLS to “immediately hire an advisor and fully explore strategic alternatives.” When Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI), ACLS’s SEN joint venture partner, offered to acquire ACLS for $5.20 per share, Sterling Capital Management wrote:

We strongly encourage [ACLS]’s Board to fully engage SHI and work to determine if a combination is appropriate. Further, we also would expect the Board and its advisors to solicit interest from other parties that might have a desire in partnering with [ACLS].

In a subsequent February 2008 letter, Sterling Capital Management argued that the initial bid of $5.20 per share for ACLS was “clearly too low,” writing:

Even with strong industry headwinds and lack of traction to-date, it is appropriate to value [ACLS] assuming some modest level of Optima success. Our analysis would indicate that a fair price for [ACLS] under this scenario would approximate $7.00 to $7.50 per share.

When SHI increased its offer to $6.00 per share, Sterling Capital Management wrote in March 2008:

[It] would appear that we are no closer to achieving an open dialogue between Axcelis and SHI.

We are concerned that the Board and its advisors are utilizing overly optimistic assumptions regarding Optima’s ultimate market share gains and consequently embracing an intrinsic value which is not achievable.

Sterling Capital Management argued in a May 2008 letter that the failure of nominated directors at ACL’s Annual Meeting of Stockholders to receive a majority of the shareholder vote in support of their re-election demonstrated shareholders’ “discontent with the failure of the Board to fully engage SHI in negotiations that could ultimately lead to a transaction that fairly values our company.” Clearly growing frustrated with ACLS, Sterling Capital Management wrote:

Rather than battling your shareholder base, we encourage you and the Board to embrace the steps necessary to drive shareholder value via a transaction with SHI.

In Sterling Capital Management’s most recent 13D filing they write:

We believe that [ACLS] management is making good progress in addressing the company’s short term financing issues. Further, the recently announced restructuring effort should assist the company in weathering an environment of continued weak spending However, given the highly cyclical nature of the semiconductor capital equipment market, it is imperative that management actively explore all opportunities to better position [ACLS] for long term success and creation of shareholder value. As such, Sterling Capital has communicated to management of [ACLS] a concept of separating its systems business from the more stable aftermarket business. In addition to separating cyclical from non-cyclical businesses, this initiative would allow for efficient utilization of the cash currently residing on SEN’s balance sheet and the tax benefits associated with extensive NOLs at [ACLS].

Sterling Capital Management also attached their most recent letter to ACLS (reproduced below):

Ms. Mary Puma
Chairman and CEO
Axcelis Technologies, Inc.
108 Cherry Hill Drive
Beverly, MA 01915-1053

Dear Mary,

These are certainly unprecedented times which we all are trying to navigate through. We appreciate the focus and effort the entire team at Axcelis has demonstrated during the current environment. However, given the challenges facing the company, we would strongly encourage Axcelis to embrace an altered strategy which would produce both immediate and long term value for all constituents.

The initiative described below attempts to utilize all of the many resources and assets that Axcelis claims which clearly are not being recognized by the public markets. Further, we believe that the ultimate corporate structure it defines provides a more appropriate division between
cyclical and stable businesses.

Please consider:

o In March of 2008 SHI made an offer to purchase all of Axcelis’ outstanding shares for $6 per share or approximately $618 million dollars. Combined with debt on the balance sheet of Axcelis the total offer equated to $700 million. Through direct conversations with SHI and public documents it was clear that the motive behind this transaction was to consolidate the ion implant business of both Axcelis and SEN. Such a combination would yield significant cost synergies as well as enhanced product offerings.

The plan outlined below would allow SHI to achieve their initial goal, resolve short and long term financial challenges at Axcelis, and importantly create significant value for shareholders.

o Axcelis sells its implant/ dry strip systems business along with its 50% interest in SEN to SHI for $136 million. This figure approximates the book value of the SEN investment on Axcelis’ balance sheet. Importantly, such a price tag would require minimal net cash outlays by SHI as this transaction would give them immediate access to the entire $140 million of net cash currently on the books at SEN. SHI would have the ability to merge these operations and garner the synergies available.

o Axcelis Corporation would become solely focused on the aftermarket business which would include exclusive rights for SEN/Axcelis legacy accounts. The aftermarket business generates approximately $120 million in annual revenue and claims gross margins in excess of 50%. If properly sized such a business should be able to produce operating margins near the 20% level.

o Axcelis would retain existing NOLs which total $150 million and could then be applied to the operating profits generated by the aftermarket business. These NOLs could be fully utilized as no change of control event would be triggered.

o After repayment of the $85 million of debt the newly restructured Axcelis would have net cash of approximately $100 million. Given the low capital intensity of the aftermarket business and its relative stability, at least $50 million of this cash could be used for share repurchases. Assuming an average repurchase price of $1.50 per share Axcelis could retire 33 million shares.

o The new Axcelis would have approximately 70 million shares outstanding (after repurchases) and be generating $0.30 in eps. Applying a 10X multiple on this business would equate to a stock price of $3 per share. Revenue and earnings could grow at the new Axcelis as the market rebounded and SEN proved successful expanding its market share.

o The new Axcelis would have additional assets including net cash of $50 million and an unencumbered headquarters/ property which was recently appraised at almost $60 million.

Clearly, the above scenario is very different than the outcome we had all hoped for just a few months ago. However, there is no question that the world has changed and that looking forward and embracing the altered landscape is a prerequisite for future success. We hope that the Board might give full consideration to our proposal and we look forward to continuing to work with you in moving Axcelis forward.

Sincerely,
STERLING CAPITAL MANAGEMENT LLC
Brian R. Walton, CFA
Managing Director

Conclusion

At its $0.60 closing price yesterday, ACLS is trading at less than half of our estimate of its $1.31 per share value in liquidation. Its substantial and widening operating losses over the last five quarters have led management to make some efforts to restructure, which Sterling Capital Management believes will help ACLS in “weathering an environment of continued weak spending.” The company has thus far resisted Sterling Capital Management’s efforts to have ACLS negotiate with SHI or another bidder. Sterling Capital Management appears tenacious and so we think they may be able to persuade ACLS to create significant value for stockholders. With a downside limited by its presently substantial value in liquidation, we think ACLS is worthy addition to the Greenbackd Portfolio.

ACLS closed yesterday at $0.60.

The S&P500 Index closed yesterday at 906.65.

[Disclosure:  We don’t have a holding in ACLS. We have now acquired a holding in ACLS. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

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