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Posts Tagged ‘MathStar Inc (OTC:MATH)’

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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The Zanett Group has increased its stake in MATH to 6.58% according to its most recent Schedule 13D amendment.

We’ve been following MATH since December last year when it was trading at $0.68. We initiated the position because MATH is a net cash stock with two substantial stockholders lobbying management to liquidate. The stock is up 19% to $0.87 yesterday, giving it a market capitalization of $8.0M. We estimate MATH’s liquidation value still to be more than 80% higher at $14.4M or $1.57 per share. That value is predominantly cash and short term investments and doesn’t take into account any further value that the sale of the FPOA technology and intellectual property may yield. The two activist investors, Mr. Zachary McAdoo of The Zanett Group and Mr. Salvatore Muoio of S. Muoio & Co., have been urging MATH’s board to consider liquidation rather than a merger. MATH’s board seems to agree, twice rejecting unsolicited merger proposals, suspending the company’s operations and exploring “strategic alternatives, which could include merger, acquisition, increasing operations in another structure or liquidation.”

The Zanett Group’s most recent share purchases were undertaken between January 22 and February 19 this year at prices between $0.81 and $0.90.

[Full Disclosure: We do not have a holding in MATH. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only.]

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MathStar Inc (OTC:MATH) has taken the first steps to liquidation, announcing that it is preparing to sell its Field Programmable Object Array (FPOA) technology and intellectual property.

We started following MATH in December last year when it was trading at $0.68 because it was a net cash stock with a substantial stockholder lobbying management to liquidate. The stock is up 29.4% to $0.88 yesterday, giving it a market capitalization of $8.1M. We estimate MATH’s liquidation value still to be around 80% higher at $14.8M or $1.57 per share. That value is predominantly cash and short term investments and doesn’t take into account any further value that the sale of the FPOA technology and intellectual property may yield. Two activist investors, Mr. Salvatore Muoio of S. Muoio & Co. and Mr. Zachary McAdoo of The Zanett Group, have been urging MATH’s board to consider liquidation rather than a merger. MATH’s board seems to agree, twice rejecting unsolicited merger proposals, suspending the company’s operations and exploring “strategic alternatives, which could include merger, acquisition, increasing operations in another structure or liquidation.”

The company’s announcement of the sale of the technology and intellectual property is as follows:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – January 26, 2009 – Core Capital’s Electronics and Semiconductor Group (ESG), an investment banking firm with an electronics and semiconductor focus, announces that its client, MathStar, Inc. (OTC: MATH), has prepared its technology for purchase. MathStar, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in high-performance programmable logic, is finalizing its Field Programmable Object Array (FPOA) technology and intellectual property package for sale. Arrangements have been prepared to assist prospective buyers to evaluate the opportunity, including a webinar, a private “data room” web portal, and access to key creators of the technology.

MathStar began its sales efforts in early October 2008, when it signed with the Core Capital Electronics and Semiconductor Group to complete a strategic sale of MathStar’s technology and intellectual property.

[Disclosure: We do not presently have a holding in MATH. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only.]

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The Official Activist Investing Blog has published its list of activist investments for December (the investments with links are to our latest update at the time of this post):

Ticker Company Name Activist Investor
ACLS Axcelis Technologies Inc Sterling Capital
AEPI AEP Industries KSA Capital
ARS Arris Group Shamrock Activist Value fund
ATML Atmel Corp. Microchip Technology
AVGN Avigen Inc Biotechnology Value Fund
BCSB BCSB Bancorp Financial Edge Fund
BIOD Biodel Inc Moab Partners
CAMD California Micro Devices Corp Dialectic Capital Management
CKEC Carmike Cinemas Mark Cuban
CPWM Cost Plus Stephens Investment Management
CRXX CombinatoRX, Incorporated Biotechnology Value Fund
CTO Consolidated Tomoka Land Co Wintergreen Advisers
DANKY Danka Business Systems PLC DCML LLC
DDS Dillard’s Inc. Barington Capital; Clinton Group
DIN DineEquity Inc Southeastern Asset Management
DPS Dr Pepper Snapple Group Trian Fund
DUSA DUSA Pharmaceuticals SRB Management
DVD Dover Motorsports GAMCO
ESIO Electro Scientific Industries Nieremberg Investment Management
FIC Fair Isaac Corp Sandell Asset Management
FSFG First Savings Financial Group Joseph Stilwell
GGP General Growth Properties Pershing Square Capital
GLOB.OB Global Med Technologies Victory Park Capital
HIFN Hifn, Inc Adaptec, Inc
ICGN ICAgen, Inc Xmark Opportunity Partners
INFS InFocus Corp Nery Capital Partners
ITP Intertape Polymer Group KSA Capital Management
JAVA Sun Microsystems Southeastern Asset Management
JTX Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Shamrock
KANA.OB Kana Software KVO Capital Management
KFS Kingsway Financial Services Joseph Stilwell
KONA Kona Grill Mill Road Capital
LAQ The Latin America Equity Fund City of London Investment Management Co
LCAV LCA-Vision Inc. Stephen Joffe
MAG Magnetek Inc Riley Investment Management
MATH.PK Mathstar, Inc Salvatore Muoio; Zannet Opportunity Fund
MGAM Multimedia Games Dolphin Limited Partnership
MGLN Magellan Health Services Shamrock
MOVE Move Inc. Nierenberg Investment Management
MVCO Meadow Valley Corp Carpe Diem Capital
NDD Neuberger Berman Dividend Advantage Fund Western Investment
NTMD Nitromed Inc Deerfield Capital
OFIX Orthofix International Ramius Capital;
OPTV OpenTV Corp. Discovery Equity Partners
ORNG Orange 21 Costa Brava Partnership
PHMD PhotoMedex, Inc. James Sight
PIF Insured Municipal Income Fund Bulldog Investors
PPCO PenWest Pharmaceuticals Perceptive Advisors
PRXI Premier Exhibitions, Inc Sellers Capital
RDC Rowan Companies Steel Partners
RHIE RHI Entertainment Baupost Group
RIVR River Valley Bancorp Davee Thomas
SLRY Salary.com Cannell Capital
SLTC Selectica, Inc Versata
SUG Southern Union Co Sandell Asset Management
SUTM.OB Sun-Times Media Group Inc. K Capital
TIER Tier Technologies Inc Discovery Equity Partners
TLGD Tollgrade Communications Inc Bradford Capital
TMI TM Entertainment & Media Bulldog Investors
TRGL Toreador Resources Nanes Delorme Partners
TRMA Trico Marine Kistefos AS
TXCC TranSwitch Corp Brener International Group
TXI Texas Industries Southeastern Asset Management
WBSN Websense Inc Shamrock
WEDC White Electronic Designs Corp Wynnefield Capital
WOC Wilshire Enterprises Bulldog Investors
WRLS Telular Corp Simcoe Partners

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Welcome back to Greenbackd and happy new year for 2009. We hope that you had a good break. There have been a number of positive developments in the companies we discussed last year. Set out below is an update on those positions we had open in the Greenbackd Portfolio at the close of 2008:

  • Trilogy has increased its stake in ABTL to 7.4%. ABTL is up 18.6% since our first post but we are maintaining our position because we think it’s still worth 50% more.
  • BVF has endorsed the MNOV offer for AVGN. AVGN is up 20% since our first post but we are holding on because we think the merger presents an opportunity for AVGN’s stockholders to receive around $1.20 per share in cash (almost 60% higher than AVGN’s $0.78 close Friday) and the possibility of “an extraordinary, uncapped return” if MNOV is successful post-merger.
  • BRN has filed its September 10Q and we believe that its liquidation value has increased from $6.52 per share to $6.91 per share. The stock is up 41% since our initial post. We still see the liquidation value some 40% higher than BRN’s Friday close of $4.95, so we will maintain our position.
  • CRC is down 6.3% from our initial post. Other than the retirement of the CFO, we have no other news to report. With CRC in a liquidity crisis, the retirement of the CFO is a worrying development. That said, we see CRC’s liquidation value at around $2.45 per share, which is more than 450% higher than its Friday close of $0.43, so we propose to maintain our position.
  • A group of “high-powered executives” plan to save INFS from “New York sharks.” The stock is up 15.9% to $0.73 since our initial post. Its liquidating value is still some 58% higher at $1.15 per share and so we are maintaining the position.
  • We’ve closed our position in KONA for an 88% gain in 18 days.
  • A new activist investor has filed a 13D for MATH and is lobbying the company to liquidate. MATH is up 17.7% since our first post but it’s still trading at half its liquidating value and a little more than half its net cash backing, so we’re maintaining our position.
  • ZLC is off 16.8% from our initial post. We’ve estimated its liquidation value at $7.63 per share, which is still 90% higher than its $4.01 close Friday, so we are maintaining our position in ZLC.

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. This is the standardized format we propose to adopt to track Greenbackd’s performance at 6-monthly intervals:

Current holdings (As at January 5, 2009)

greenbackd-portfolio-current-holdings-performance

Former holdings (As at date of our closure of the position)greenbackd-portfolio-former-holdings-performance

The absolute total return across the current and former positions as at January 5, 2009 is 14.2%, which is 8.4% higher than the S&P500’s return over the same periods. As we discussed above, the holding periods 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.

We look forward to bringing you the best undervalued asset situations we can dig up in 2009.

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A new investor has filed a 13D notice in relation to MathStar Inc (OTC:MATH).

When we started following MATH, it had a market capitalization of just $6.2M based on its December 16, 2008 close of $0.68. We estimated its liquidating value to be more than 120% higher at $14.4M or $1.57 per share. The value in liquidation was predominantly cash and short term investments in the amount of $14.8M. The board had largely suspended the company’s operations and was in the process of evaluating its “strategic alternatives, which could include merger, acquisition, increasing operations in another structure or liquidation.”  MATH had twice rejected unsolicited merger proposals and Salvatore Muoio of S. Muoio & Co. LLC had been urging MATH’s board to consider liquidation rather than a merger.

Mr. Zachary McAdoo on behalf of The Zanett Group – the new investor entering the fray at MATH – filed its 13D notice on December 30, 2008 and attached the following letter to the company:

December 30, 2008

Douglas Pihl
Chairman of the Board
Mathstar, Inc.
19075 NW Tanabourne, Suite 200
Hillsboro, OR 97124

Dear Mr. Pihl,

I am writing to express my opinion as a shareholder that we strongly urge the
Board to liquidate Mathstar, Inc. rather than acquire another company.

Sincerely,

Zachary McAdoo, CFA

Short, sweet and to the point. Hopefully management can hear the drum beats calling for liquidation.

MATH is up around 18% since we started following it, but it’s still trading at half its liquidating value and a little more than half its net cash backing, so we’re maintaining our position.

[Disclosure: We do not presently have a holding in MATH. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only.]

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MathStar Inc (OTC:MATH) is another tiny net cash stock with a substantial stockholder lobbying management to liquidate the company. The stock closed yesterday at $0.68, giving it a market capitalization of just $6.2M. We estimate the liquidating value to be more than 120% higher at $14.4M or $1.57 per share. The value in liquidation is predominantly cash and short term investments in the amount of $14.8M. MATH has twice rejected unsolicited merger proposals. The board has largely suspended the company’s operations and is in the process of evaluating its “strategic alternatives, which could include merger, acquisition, increasing operations in another structure or liquidation.” Salvatore Muoio of S. Muoio & Co. LLC filed a Schedule 13D on December 15, 2008 urging MATH’s board to consider liquidation rather than a merger.

About MATH

MATH is a fabless semiconductor company engaged in the development, marketing and selling of high-performance, programmable platform chips and design tools required to program chips. The company’s investor relations website can be found here.

The value proposition

MATH has rapidly burned cash throughout the year, mainly on research and development. The company has now put a stop to its R&D activities, which has reduced the cash burn significantly from $6.6M in the June quarter to $1.6M in the September quarter. From the Business Overview section of the September 10Q:

During 2008, sales of our field programmable object array, or FPOA, did not materialize as expected, and development of the next generation of FPOA fell even further behind schedule. As a result, on May 20, 2008, the Board of Directors voted to suspend research and development activities and ongoing operations while analyzing strategic alternatives to protect the remaining value and increase the liquidity to the stockholders. The Board of Directors continues to explore these strategic alternatives, which could include merger, acquisition, increasing operations in another structure or liquidation.

Set out below is our summary analysis of the company’s 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):

math-summary

The company has a net cash position (i.e. cash remaining after paying out all liabilities) of $13.9M or $1.52 per share, which is around 120% higher than MATH’s closing price yesterday of $0.68.

The catalyst

This is one of the rare instances where management seems to have taken proactive steps to protect the company’s remaining value. The board also appears to be seeking a way to unlock that value through a merger, acquisition, increasing operations in another structure or liquidation. Salvatore Muoio of S. Muoio & Co. LLC annexed to his 13D filing the following letter setting out his preference for a liquidation over a merger:

December 12, 2008

Mr. Douglas M. Pihl
Chairman of the Board
MathStar, Inc.
19075 NW Tanabourne, Suite 200
Hillsboro, OR 97124

Dear Mr. Pihl,

Thank you for taking time out to speak with me today about MathStar’s history and current status.

To reiterate, and for the record, given the current business environment and the company’s assets and prospects, we strongly urge the Board to pursue a path of liquidation.

We have been investors in the securities of companies in liquidation for over 25 years and believe the process to be relatively straight-forward, in particular for companies as clean and litigation-free as MathStar.

As I mentioned, we don’t believe the current environment represents an attractive opportunity to merge with a speculative business in need of the company’s cash. We also don’t believe the incremental but uncertain future value of the company’s NOL in a merged entity offsets the hard cash equivalent value shareholders would receive in a liquidation in the current environment.

In addition, we would be particularly concerned if a transaction were to be announced where any appearance of a conflict of interest were present.

Sincerely,

Salvatore Muoio, C.F.A.
Managing Member

Conclusion

MATH is one of the best prospects we’ve run across recently. It is undervalued at $0.68, trading at 45% of its net cash of $1.52 per share. Management has already taken proactive steps to reduce its formerly significant cash burn rate and seems to be actively seeking a way to unlock the company’s value. We feel more comfortable that Salvatore Muoio is keeping an eye on management’s exploration of strategic alternatives and has expressed his strong preference for a liquidation. As always, the risk is that MATH is unable to unlock its value before dissipating its remaining cash but in this instance we believe that risk is low.

MATH closed yesterday at $0.68.

The S&P 500 Index closed yesterday at 913.18.

[Disclosure: We do not presently have a holding in MATH. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only.]

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