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Archive for the ‘Ditech Networks Inc (NASDAQ:DITC)’ Category

In the Spring 1999 Piper Jaffray produced a research report called Wall Street’s Endangered Species by Daniel J. Donoghue, Michael R. Murphy and Mark Buckley, then at Piper Jaffray and now at Discovery Group, a firm founded by Donoghue and Murphy (see also Performance of Darwin’s Darlings). The premise of the report was that undervalued small capitalization stocks (those with a market capitalization between $50M and $250M) lacked a competitive auction for their shares and required the emergence of a catalyst in the form of a merger or buy-out to close the value gap.

In the first follow-up, Endangered species update: The extinct, the survivors, and the new watch list, from Summer 2000, Murphy and Buckley (Donoghue is not listed on the 2000 paper as an author) tested their original thesis and provided the “Darwin’s Darlings Class of 2000,” which was a list of what they viewed as “the most undervalued, yet profitable and growing small cap public companies” in 2000.

In the Fall of 2001, Donoghue, Murphy, Buckley and Danielle C. Kramer produced a further follow-up to the original report called Endangered Species 2001 (.pdf). Their thesis in the further follow up should be of particular interest to we value folk. Putting aside for one moment the purpose of the report (M&A research aimed at boards and management of Darwin’s darlings stocks to generate deal flow for the investment bank), it speaks to the very fertile environment for small capitalization value investing then in existence:

In the last few of years, many small public companies identified this [secular, small capitalization undervaluation] trend and agreed with the implications. Executives responded accordingly, and the number of strategic mergers and going-private transactions for small companies reached all-time highs. Shareholders of these companies were handsomely rewarded. The remaining companies, however, have watched their share prices stagnate.

Since the onset of the recent economic slowdown and the technology market correction, there has been much talk about a return to “value investing.” Many of our clients and industry contacts have even suggested that as investors search for more stable investments, they will uncover previously ignored small cap companies and these shareholders will finally be rewarded. We disagree and the data supports us:

Any recent increase in small-cap indices is misleading. Most of the smallest companies are still experiencing share price weakness and valuations continue to be well below their larger peers. We strongly believe that when the overall market rebounds, small-cap shareholders will experience significant underperformance unless their boards effect a change-of-control transaction.

In this report we review and refresh some of our original analyses from our previous publications. We also follow the actions and performance of companies that we identified over the past two years as some of the most attractive yet undervalued small-cap companies. Our findings confirm that companies that pursued a sale rewarded their shareholders with above-average returns, while the remaining companies continue to be largely ignored by the market. Finally, we conclude with our third annual list of the most attractive small-cap companies: Darwin’s Darlings Class of 2001.

Piper Jaffray’s data in support of their contention is as follows:

Looking back further than just the last 12 months, one finds that small-cap companies have severely lagged larger company indices for most periods. Exhibit II illustrates just how poorly the Russell 2000 compares to the S&P 500 during the longest bull market in history. In fact over the past five, seven and ten years, the Russell 2000 has underperformed the S&P 500. For the five, seven and 10 year periods, the S&P 500 rose 82.6 percent, 175.6 percent and 229.9 percent, respectively, while the Russell 2000 rose 47.9 percent, 113.4 percent, and 206.3 percent for the same periods.

The poor performance turned in by the Russell 2000 can be attributed to the share price performance of the smallest companies in the index. Our previous analysis has shown that the smallest companies in the index have generally underperformed the larger companies (see “Wall Streets Endangered Species,” Spring 1999). To understand the reasons for this differential, one must appreciate the breadth of the index. There is a tremendous gap in the market cap between the top 10 percent of the companies in the index, as ranked by market cap (“the first decile”) and the last 10 percent (“the bottom decile”). The median market capitalization of the first decile is $1.7 billion versus just $201.0 million for the bottom decile. There is almost an 8.0x difference between what can be considered a small cap company.

This distinction in size is important, because it is the smallest companies in the Russell 2000, and in the market as a whole, that have experienced the weakest share price performance and are the most undervalued. Exhibit III illustrates the valuation gap between the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 indices. Even more noticeable is the discount experienced by the smallest companies. The bottom two deciles of the index are trading at nearly a 25 percent discount to the EBIT multiple of the S&P 500 and at nearly 40 percent below the PIE multiple on a trailing 12-month basis.

This valuation gap has been consistently present for the last several years, and we fully expect it to continue regardless of the direction of the overall market. This differential is being driven by a secular trend that is impacting the entire investing landscape. These changes are the result of:

• The increasing concentration of funds in the hands of institutional investors

• Institutional investors’ demand for companies with greater market capitalization and liquidity

• The shift by investment banks away from small cap-companies with respect to research coverage and trading

The authors concluded that the trends identified were “secular” and would continue, leading small capitalization stocks to face a future of chronic undervaluation:

Removing this discount and reviving shareholder value require a fundamental change in ownership structure. Equity must be transferred out of the hands of an unadoring and disinterested public and into those of either: 1) managers backed by private capital, or 2) larger companies that can capture strategic benefits. Either remedy breathes new life into these companies by providing cheaper sources of equity capital and shifting the focus away from quarterly EPS to long-term growth.

They recognized the implications for secular undervaluation which lead them to make an impressive early identification of the re-emergence of modern shareholder activism:

Unfortunately, many corporate executives continue to believe that if they stick to their business plan they will eventually be discovered by the financial community. Given the recent trends, this outcome is not likely. In fact, there is a growing trend toward shareholder activism to force these companies to seek strategic alternatives to unlock shareholder value. Corporate management is now facing a new peril – the dreaded proxy fight. Bouncing back from their lowest level in more than a decade, proxy fights have increased dramatically thus far in 2001 and are running at nearly twice the pace as they were last year, according to Institutional Shareholder Services. In fact, not since the late 1980s has there been such attention devoted to the shareholder activism movement.

As shown in our Darwin’s Darlings list in Exhibit XX, page 23, management ownership varies widely among the typical undervalued small cap. For those that were IPOs of family-held businesses, management stakes are generally high. In these instances in which a group effectively controls the company, there will be little noise from activist shareholders. However, companies with broad ownership (i.e., a spinoff from a larger parent) are more susceptible to unfriendly actions. In fact, widely held small caps frequently have blocks held by the growing number of small-cap investment funds focused on likely takeover targets.

Regardless of ownership structure, these companies typically have the customary defensive mechanisms in place. They are also protected because they are so thinly traded. In most cases it can take more than six months to accumulate a 5 percent position in the stock without impacting the share price. While we expect most of the successful acquisitions in this sector to be friendly, small-cap companies will have to increasingly worry about these unfriendly suitors.

There are several consistent factors that are driving the increased frustration among shareholders and, consequently, the increased pressure on Management and Boards. These factors include the aforementioned depressed share prices, lack of trading liquidity, and research coverage. But also included are bloated executive compensation packages that are not tied to share price performance and a feeling that corporate boards are staffed with management allies rather than independent-minded executives. Given the continuing malaise in the public markets, we believe this heightened proxy activity will continue into the foreseeable future. Companies with less than $250 million in market capitalization in low growth or cyclical markets are the most vulnerable to a potential proxy battle, particularly those companies whose shares are trading near their 52-week lows.

Here they describe what was a novelty at the time, but has since become the standard operating procedure for activist investors:

Given the growing acceptance of an aggressive strategy, we have noticed an increase in the number of groups willing to pursue a “non-friendly” investment strategy for small caps. Several funds have been formed to specifically identify a takeover target, invest significantly in the company, and force action by its own board. If an undervalued small cap chooses to ignore this possibility, it may soon find itself rushed into a defensive mode. Thwarting an unwanted takeover, answering to shareholders, and facing the distractions of the press may take precedence from the day-to-day actions of running the business.

So how did the companies perform? Here’s the chart:

Almost 90 percent of the 1999 class and about half of the 2000 class pursued some significant strategic alternative during the year. The results for the class of 1999 represent a two-year period so it is not surprising that this list generated significantly more activity than the 2000 list. This would indicate that we should see additional action from the class of 2000 in the coming year.

A significant percentage (23 percent of the total) pursued a sale or going-private transaction to provide immediate value to their shareholders. Others are attempting to “grow out of” their predicament by pursuing acquisitions and many are repurchasing shares. However, many of Darwin’s Darlings have yet to take any significant action. Presumably, these companies are ignoring their current share price and assuming that patient shareholders will eventually be rewarded through a reversal in institutional investing trends, or perhaps, in a liquidity event at some later date.

The actual activity was, in fact, even greater than our data suggests as there were many transactions that were announced but failed to be consummated, particularly in light of the current difficult financing market. Chase Industries, Lodgian, Mesaba Holdings, and Chromcraft Revington all had announced transactions fall through. In addition, a large number of companies announced a decision to evaluate strategic alternatives, including Royal Appliance, Coastcast, and Play by Play ‘Toys.

The authors make an interesting observation about the utility of buy-backs:

For many of Darwin’s Darlings and other small-cap companies, the share repurchase may still have been an astute move. While share price support may not be permanent, the ownership of the company was consolidated as a result of buying in shares. The remaining shareholders were, in effect, “accreted up” in their percentage ownership. When a future event occurs to unlock value, these shareholders will reap the benefits of the repurchase program. Furthermore, the Company may have accommodated sellers desiring to exit their investment, thereby eliminating potentially troublesome, dissenting shareholders. There are circumstances when a repurchase makes good sense, but it should not be considered a mechanism to permanently boost share prices.

Piper Jaffray’s Darwin’s Darlings Class of 2001, the third annual list of the most attractive small-cap companies, makes for compelling reading. Net net investors will recognize several of the names (for example, DITC, DRAM,  PMRY and VOXX) from Greenbackd and general lists of net nets in 2008 and 2009. It’s worth considering that these stocks were, in 2001, the most attractive small-capitalization firms identified by Piper Jaffray.

See the full Endangered Species 2001 (.pdf) report.

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The board of Ditech Networks Inc (NASDAQ:DITC) has agreed to nominate Lamassu Holdings’ representatives, Alan B. Howe and Frank J. Sansone, to be elected to the board at DITC’s next annual meeting. It seems that the board’s concern in nominating Howe and Sansone was that they not participate in any “withhold the vote” campaign or disparage the board. It’s a big win for Lamassu, and it appears their letter writing campaign was successful. The stock is now trading at a premium to our estimate of its liquidation value, which value is continuing to deteriorate, so we’re exiting the position. The stock is up from our initial $0.89 to close Friday at $1.75,which is an absolute return of 96.6%. The S&P500 closed at 788.42 when we opened the position, and closed Friday at 1,0472.73, which means our outperformance over the S$P500 was 64.4%.

Post Mortem

We started following DITC (see our archive here) because it was trading below its net cash value with an investor, Lamassu Holdings LLC, disclosing a 9.4% holding in November last year. Lamassu had previously offered to acquire DITC for $1.25 per share in cash. At that time, Lamassu said that it “[anticipated] its due diligence requirement [would] take no more than two weeks and there [was] no financing contingency.” Lamassu then nominated two candidates for election to the board “who [were] committed to enhancing shareholder value through a review of the Company’s business and strategic direction.” Lloyd I Miller III subsequently disclosed a 5.9% holding. Miller came out in support of the director candidates nominated by Lamassu as “candidates who [were] independent of management.” Miller said he sought “to encourage greater attention to corporate governance by all members of the Board of Directors.”

Lamassu then initiated a pointed letter campaign aimed at DITC’s board. In the first letter, Lamassu accused DITC management of “spending as though Ditech Networks has money to burn, adding to the amount of money you have already lost for shareholders during your tenure,” “aggressively [overstepping] the bounds of good corporate governance” and “clearly [violating] your fiduciary responsibility.” In the second, Lamassu claimed that the “decisions of this board [had] shown a pattern of director entrenchment characterized by prioritizing the interest of its members in the face of poor results at the expense of the shareholders” and called for shareholders to “receive ample representation on the board.” The campaign was succesful, and DITC agreeing to nominate Lamassu Holdings’ representatives for election to the board. The stock is up from our initial $0.89 to close Friday at $1.75, which gives the company a market capitalization of $46M. We last estimated the net cash value at around $32.2M or $1.23 per share and the liquidation value at around $43.4M or $1.65 per share. With the stock at a premium to the liquidation value, and that liquidation value deteriorating, we’ve decided to exit the position for a 96.6% gain.

The proxy statement for DITC’s 2009 annual meeting of stockholders more fully describes the agreement between Lamassu and DITC thus:

The Board of Directors currently has seven members. There are two directors in the class whose term of office expires in 2009. Both of the directors currently in serving in this term will not be standing for re-election. The Board of Directors has nominated two new persons to fill these positions. The two nominees, Mr. Alan B. Howe and Mr. Frank J. Sansone, are not currently directors of Ditech. The nomination of each of Mr. Howe and Mr. Sansone was recommended by a securityholder. If elected at the annual meeting, each of the nominees would serve until the 2012 annual meeting and until his successor is elected and has qualified, or until the director’s death, resignation or removal.

On September 2, 2009, Ditech and Lamassu Holdings L.L.C. and certain of its affiliates (collectively, “Lamassu”), entered into a letter agreement in which Ditech and Lamassu agreed that each of Mr. Howe and Mr. Sansone would be nominated to be elected to the Board of Directors at this annual meeting. In addition to the nomination of each of Mr. Howe and Mr. Sansone for election to the Board of Directors, the letter agreement also provides that:

• If Mr. Sansone is unable to serve as a director at a time when Lamassu owns at least 5% of the Ditech common stock, Ditech will appoint a replacement director designated by Lamassu and reasonably acceptable to Ditech Networks;

• Mr. Sansone and any replacement director will sign a conditional resignation from the Board of Directors, which may be accepted by the Board of Directors in the event that Lamassu’s beneficial ownership of Ditech common stock falls below 5% of the outstanding Ditech common stock;

• Lamassu will vote all of the shares it beneficially owns in support of the slate of directors nominated by the Board of Directors at this annual meeting of stockholders (and will not support or participate in any “withhold the vote” or similar campaign, or support any other nominees other than the slate of directors nominated by the Board of Directors);

• Lamassu withdrew its previously announced notice of its intent to nominate directors with respect to this annual meeting of stockholders;

• For a period ending 90 days from the date of this annual meeting of stockholders, Lamassu will not (i) make any public statement regarding Ditech, the Board of Directors or any of Ditech’s officers, directors or employees, except for the press release attached to the agreement or as may be required by law, or (ii) disparage Ditech, the Board of Directors, or any of Ditech’s officers, directors or employees, in any manner, including in any manner which could be harmful to Ditech or its business, the Board of Directors or its reputation, or the business reputation or personal reputation of any officer, director or employee of Ditech.

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in DITC. 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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Lamassu Holdings has sent another scorching letter to the board of Ditech Networks Inc (NASDAQ:DITC). In the letter, Lamassu claims that the “decisions of this board have shown a pattern of director entrenchment characterized by prioritizing the interest of its members in the face of poor results at the expense of the shareholders” and has called for shareholders to “receive ample representation on the board.”

We’ve been following DITC (see our archive here) because it is trading below its net cash value with an investor, Lamassu Holdings LLC, disclosing a 9.4% holding in November last year. Lamassu has previously offered to acquire DITC for $1.25 per share in cash. Lamassu says that it “anticipates its due diligence requirement will take no more than two weeks and there is no financing contingency.” Lamassu has now nominated two candidates for election to the board “who are committed to enhancing shareholder value through a review of the Company’s business and strategic direction.” Lloyd I Miller III has also disclosed a 5.9% holding and has come out in support of Mr. Leehealey and Mr. Sansone – the director candidates nominated by Lamassu Holdings for election to the board of directors at the DITC annual meeting – as “candidates who are independent of management and he seeks to encourage greater attention to corporate governance by all members of the Board of Directors.” The stock is up 47.2% from our initial $0.89 to close yesterday at $1.31, giving the company a market capitalization of $34.5M. We last estimated the net cash value at around $32.2M or $1.23 per share and the liquidation value at around $43.4M or $1.65 per share. While the deterioration in value is a concern, Mr. Miller’s support of Lamassu Holding’s director candidates introduces a new element to the position. We’re inclined to hold on to see how the annual meeting plays out.

The press release setting out the text of the open letter from Lamassu Holdings is set out below:

Lamassu Holdings LLC Says Ditech Network’s Board of Directors Benefits at Shareholders’ Expense

Lamassu Holdings LLC files an open letter to the Board of Directors of DITECH NETWORKS, INC. (NASDAQ: DITC)

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamassu Holdings, LLC has sent the following letter to the Board of Directors of Ditech Networks, Inc.

Dear Board of Directors:

The purpose of this letter is to inform you that while you have historically operated with impunity in your role as Directors of Ditech Networks (NASDAQ: DITC – News), going forward your actions will be regarded with a much higher degree of scrutiny. The decisions of this board have shown a pattern of director entrenchment characterized by prioritizing the interest of its members in the face of poor results at the expense of the shareholders. In light of this trend, it is time that the shareholders receive ample representation on the board.

We have taken the time to go through the company’s filing and pull out some of the decisions that were clearly made to benefit the board while adding no value to shareholders. It is worth noting that these decisions were, for the most part, made by the same people who currently serve. We believe these decisions illustrate that, with the exception of Mr. Simpons and Mr. Dramis, all of the currently serving members, including Mr. Harper, Mr. Manoliu, Mr. Sugishita, Mr. Hasler and Mr. Avis, have established a clear pattern of rewarding themselves while shareholders suffer.

In 2003 (see Figure 1), Ditech Networks moved from a policy in which board members were paid in options to one in which they were paid with both cash and options. It is worth noting that during the three years prior to this change, there was a dramatic drop in the equity value of the company. In short, since the options you awarded yourselves were no longer worth anything, you chose to guarantee your compensation regardless of performance.

In 2005, after another very difficult period for shareholders, shown in Figure 2, the Board again rewarded itself with pay raises. Beginning on July 15, 2005, non-employee directors began receiving an annual retainer of $16,000; the chairman of the Audit Committee received an additional annual retainer of $5,000; and the chairmen of the Compensation Committee, the Corporate Governance Committee and the Nominating Committee received additional annual retainers of $2,500.

The final insult is the most recent decision made little more than a year ago. As the table below shows, effective May 1, 2008, the Board raised its salaries and several other fees. Ironically, you even actually raised the amount you get paid for “phoning it in” [“Special (telephonic)” line items below]. To put these pay increases in their full context, at the time you granted these raises for yourselves the stock was hitting all time lows on a daily basis and wouldn’t ultimately level off until it reached well below a dollar. In addition, the fundamentals of the company were never as bad as they had been. As a result of poor decisions and failed strategic maneuvers by the Board of Directors, the company had lost millions and millions of dollars. Despite this backdrop, you rewarded yourselves with additional cash at a time when the company apparently didn’t have enough money to buy back its own stock, despite the record low levels.

Lamassu Letter Table

(The table above has been modified from the original to fit this space)

Had compensation increases been used to attract new talent to the Board of Directors and resulted in new directors that brought with them a history of sound business decisions and responsible business practices, then the pay raises could be justified. However, the pay raises were not used for this purpose. Instead, in the face of massive shareholder equity losses and a long list of bad investments, the Board increased its pay with no regard for the massive losses the shareholders were experiencing—losses that were painless for the members of the Board due to their low levels of stock ownership. It is clear that under the current leadership, it has been more financially rewarding to be on the Board than to be a shareholder. For this reason and many others Lamassu has moved to replace two of the current board members with its own nominees. It is our hope that this will both give shareholders a direct voice on the Board, as well as bring about a level of fiduciary responsibility that we believe is currently lacking.

Sincerely,

Lamassu Holdings, LLC

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in DITC. 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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Lamassu Holdings has blasted the board of Ditech Networks Inc (NASDAQ:DITC). In a letter to the board, Lamassu Holdngs accuses DITC management of “spending as though Ditech Networks has money to burn, adding to the amount of money you have already lost for shareholders during your tenure,” “aggressively [overstepping] the bounds of good corporate governance” and “clearly [violating] your fiduciary responsibility.”

We’ve been following DITC (see our archive here) because it is trading below its net cash value with an investor, Lamassu Holdings LLC, disclosing a 9.4% holding in November last year. Lamassu has previously offered to acquire DITC for $1.25 per share in cash. Lamassu says that it “anticipates its due diligence requirement will take no more than two weeks and there is no financing contingency.” Lamassu has now nominated two candidates for election to the board “who are committed to enhancing shareholder value through a review of the Company’s business and strategic direction.” Lloyd I Miller III has also disclosed a 5.9% holding and has come out in support of Mr. Leehealey and Mr. Sansone – the director candidates nominated by Lamassu Holdings for election to the board of directors at the DITC annual meeting – as “candidates who are independent of management and he seeks to encourage greater attention to corporate governance by all members of the Board of Directors.” The stock is up 44.9% from our initial $0.89 to close yesterday at $1.29, giving the company a market capitalization of $33.9M. We last estimated the net cash value at around $32.2M or $1.23 per share and the liquidation value at around $43.4M or $1.65 per share. While the deterioration in value is a concern, Mr. Miller’s support of Lamassu Holding’s director candidates introduces a new element to the position. We’re inclined to hold on to see how the annual meeting plays out.

The press release setting out the text of the letter from Lamassu Holdings is set out below (via Yahoo Finance):

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamassu Holdings, LLC (“Lamassu”) has sent the following letter to the Board of Directors of Ditech Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:DITC – News) (“Ditech Networks”) Members of the Board:

Over the past month a significant number of shareholders have either publicly, through filings, or privately rejected your leadership by expressing their support for Lamassu’s director nominees. Instead of listening to these shareholders and correcting your course, you push forward spending as though Ditech Networks has money to burn, adding to the amount of money you have already lost for shareholders during your tenure. Your recent decision to tie executive compensation to a level of investment associated with mStage/toktok, an unproven technology that to date has produced no revenues and has no immediate prospects, is outrageous and limits management’s ability to make the hard but intelligent decisions to reduce investment in that technology if its prospects for revenue continue to be elusive. With this measure we believe you have aggressively overstepped the bounds of good corporate governance and have clearly violated your fiduciary responsibility.

Investors in Ditech Networks (NASDAQ: DITC – News) are not venture capitalists and did not sign up for this type of speculative investing with such a large portion of the Company’s assets. Management needs to have the latitude to make the decisions that are appropriate given the revenue prospects of each product and the Board should ensure that no individual investment puts the Company in as much jeopardy of total failure as the mStage/toktok investment does.

In addition, given the level of support for Lamassu’s slate of director nominees, we remain completely perplexed by your apparent desire to engage in a pointless proxy fight and waste Company resources to protect your own interests. It is obvious shareholders will aggressively reject the idea of spending millions of dollars of their money in this manner when the addition of Lamassu’s nominees to the Board will clearly provide a much needed new perspective that is not steeped in the countless mistakes of the past or married to visions and dreams that produce little or nothing in the way of actual revenue.

For the sake of all investors we encourage you to radically alter your behavior and begin listening to shareholders as opposed to pursuing your own interests and extremely risky agendas. While you personally will not be significantly harmed if mStage/toktok is unsuccessful and Ditech Networks ultimately fails, many investors are not in a position to so casually lose their money.

Sincerely Lamassu Holdings, LLC

Hat tip to Toby.

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in DITC. 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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Lloyd I Miller III has disclosed a 5.9% holding in Ditech Networks Inc (NASDAQ:DITC). According to the 13D filing, Mr. Miller supports Mr. Leehealey and Mr. Sansone – the director candidates nominated by Lamassu Holdings for election to the board of directors at the DITC annual meeting – as “candidates who are independent of management and he seeks to encourage greater attention to corporate governance by all members of the Board of Directors.”

We’ve been following DITC (see our archive here) because it is trading below its net cash value with an investor, Lamassu Holdings LLC, disclosing a 9.4% holding in November last year. Lamassu has previously offered to acquire DITC for $1.25 per share in cash. Lamassu says that it “anticipates its due diligence requirement will take no more than two weeks and there is no financing contingency.” Lamassu has now nominated two candidates for election to the board “who are committed to enhancing shareholder value through a review of the Company’s business and strategic direction.” The stock is up 49.4% from $0.89 to close yesterday at $1.33, giving the company a market capitalization of $35M. We last estimated the net cash value at around $32.2M or $1.23 per share and the liquidation value at around $43.4M or $1.65 per share. While the deterioration in value is a concern, Mr. Miller’s support of Lamassu Holding’s director candidates introduces a new element to the position. We’re inclined to hold on to see how the annual meeting plays out.

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in DITC. 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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Ditech Networks Inc (NASDAQ:DITC) has filed its 10Q for the period ended April 30, 2009.

We’ve been following DITC (see our archive here) because it is trading below its net cash value with an investor, Lamassu Holdings LLC, disclosing a 9.4% holding in November last year. Lamassu has previously offered to acquire DITC for $1.25 per share in cash. Lamassu says that it “anticipates its due diligence requirement will take no more than two weeks and there is no financing contingency.” Lamassu has now nominated two candidates for election to the board “who are committed to enhancing shareholder value through a review of the Company’s business and strategic direction.” The stock is up 49.4% from $0.89 to close yesterday at $1.33, giving the company a market capitalization of $35M. We last estimated the net cash value to be $34.3M or $1.31 per share and the liquidation value to be around $47.5M or $1.81 per share. We’ve now reduced our estimate of the net cash value to around $32.2M or $1.23 per share and the liquidation value to around $43.4M or $1.65 per share.

The value proposition updated

DITC has continued to consume cash in its operations through the last quarter, bringing the cash burn over the last year to $22.6M. At April 30, 2009, all of DITC’s short-term and long-term investments were held in corporate notes and asset backed auction rate securities. According to the 10Q, the long-term investments are tied to auction rate securities that failed to settle at auction beginning in fiscal 2008, and for which there appears to be no near-term market. Although these securities would normally be classified as short-term, as they typically settle every 28 days, DITC has reclassified them long-term pending them settling at auction. At June 30, 2009, DITC continued to hold auction rate securities with a par value of $13.7 million. Our updated valuation follows (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):

DITC Summary 2009 4 30In the last 10Q, DITC wrote that it believed its “legacy business to be at or near cash flow break even” which would “begin to be more evident in our financial results in the coming quarters.” That rosy prognosis has not manifest itself this quarter. Maybe DITC management meant the next quarter.

Off-balance sheet arrangements and Contractual obligations

According to the 10Q, DITC has around $4.0M in contractual commitments (including $247M in operating leases and $2.7M in purchase commitments), around $2.6 of which falls due this year and the remainder falling due within the next 3 years. DITC has no other material commitments or off-balance sheet liabilities.

Conclusion

The deterioration in DITC’s value is a concern, but, for reasons we’ll discuss in the next post, we propose to continue to hold DITC in the Greenbackd Portfolio for the time being.

[Full Disclosure:  We do not have a holding in DITC. 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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