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Posts Tagged ‘Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO)’

Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital has a superb article at Forbes (How a “Cash-Rich Split” Could Take Yahoo! to $41/Share) setting out his “cash-rich split” analysis of Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO). Here’s Jackson’s analysis:

A “cash-rich split” is the ideal way that Yahoo! should deal with its Asian assets. Furthermore, Yahoo!’s advisers – Goldman Sachs (GS) — must know this. They are smart guys and this is so obvious. If Yahoo!’s board is not yet convinced of this, they should be. Any leveraged recap plan or selling only a small piece of Yahoo! to private equity would be highway robbery of the shareholders by the board compared to a “cash-rich split.”

  • What is a Cash Rich Split? Here is a definition.
    • A cash-rich split-off is an M&A technique whereby the Seller exchanges stock of the Company for stock of a “cash-rich” subsidiary of the Company (“SplitCo”) on a tax-free basis
    • Benefits of cash-rich split-off for Company:
      • Opportunity to tax-efficiently dispose of a non-core asset
      • Opportunity to repurchase shares at attractive price
      • Company should seek to negotiate a share of Seller’s tax savings through a discount in the valuation of the shares repurchased
    • Benefits of cash-rich split-off for Seller:
      • Tax-free disposition of Company’s low tax basis stock by Seller, substantially for cash
      • Seller can negotiate with Company to contribute operating assets which Seller seeks to acquire
      • Alternative use: can also be used to unwind a stock-for-stock monetization structure on a permaently tax-free basis (e.g. Time Warner Cable/Comcast)
  • How would this work for Yahoo? The pre-tax value of Yahoo!’s 40% preferred stake in Alibaba Group is around $14 billion based on related transactions over the past two months (and Yahoo!’s last earnings call). The pre-tax value of Yahoo!’s 35% stake in Yahoo! Japan is $6.5 billion at Yahoo! Japan’s current market price of Y25,000. Let’s discount this to $5.5 billion as Yahoo! Japan might need an incentive to participate and liquidity. Only 66% of the compensation involved in a “cash-rich split” can be in the form of cash. So for their $14 billion of Alibaba Group stock, Yahoo! would receive $9.2 billion in cash and $4.8 billion of “other” assets. The $5.5 billion for Yahoo! Japan shares would be roughly $3.6 billion in cash and $1.9 billion in “other” assets.
  • Where do Alibaba Group and Yahoo! Japan get billions in cash for this transaction? Jack Ma could sell shares of Alibaba Group to Temasek (main contributor) and perhaps other interested parties (such as DST, Silver Lake) also participate. Yahoo! Japan already has around $2.5 billion in cash today. The rest can come from Softbank (who’s also involved in both Alibaba Group & Yahoo! Japan) or a secondary offering.
  • What are the “other” assets that Alibaba Group & Yahoo! Japan can contribute? This looks like a key issue with Alibaba Group’s tangible assets of only a $2 billion and Yahoo! Japan without a non-core asset of significance. The key is that only 5-10% of the total contribution has to be from an asset owned for more than 5 years. The remaining assets (23-28% of total spin value) can be acquired as part of the deal. Hulu might be an interesting asset for $3 billion (or whatever the market price is) and would be a great strategic fit. There are many other content, video, and social acquisitions that could be additive to Yahoo!’s core business.
  • What restrictions would Yahoo! have with the SplitCo proceeds? Yahoo! would have access to the cash the day the transaction closes.
  • What would Yahoo! look like post the 2 “cash-rich splits” of their Asian assets? You’re waiting for $41/share. We’re getting there. This is where it gets very interesting. Post split, Yahoo! would have close to $16B in cash ($3 billion of their existing cash + $9.2 billion from Alibaba Group + $3.6 billion from Yahoo! Japan). Yahoo! would also control almost $7 billion of “other” assets contributed as part of the splits. And Yahoo! would still have their core search and display biz worth $7.5 – 12 billion (based on a 5x – 8x multiple). It’s hard to see this portfolio of assets worth much less than $30 billion vs. the current market cap of $20 billion. That translates to fair value of $25/share.
  • What is the bull case if this plays out as described above? Yahoo! would be advised to use their cash to conduct a massive equity shrink, using a series of tender offers. And, of course, the lower the buyback price, the more shares they could buy back and the higher Yahoo!’s fair value rises. Let’s say Yahoo uses the $16 billion in cash to buy back as many shares as they can for $18/share. The number of the shares outstanding will go from 1.25 billion to 350 million. Yahoo! would still own the $7.5 billion core business + $7 billion of assets (not including any value for the patents which is ludicrous). $14.5 billion/350m shares = $41 stock. And the board — if they were really channeling John Malone — could conceivably lever up and buy back more shares. Simple sensitivity around the average buyback price and leverage is a very interesting exercise for one to play with. You can get to above $45 and $50/share very quickly.
  • What are the risks? 1) I’ve said it before and I stand by it — this is the worst corporate board in America. They could make a dumb decision. Fortunately their advisers understand the “cash-rich split” potential and Dan Loeb is standing at the ready to ensure the board makes no bozo moves. 2) They could name a new CEO first, before explaining the rest of the plan. This gets back to point 1 and a dumb board. 3) There are obviously many parties involved and all have to agree on price, timing, etc.

The YHOO situation is starting to get very interesting with Dan Loeb and Third Point holding a position and agitating for change. With a potential $41/~$15 payoff, it’s worthy of further consideration.

No position.

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Greenbackd is dedicated to unearthing undervalued asset situations where a catalyst exists likely to remove the discount or unlock the value. My favorite stocks are those trading at a substantial discount to net current assets or liquidation value, with an activist pushing for a catalyst to unlock the value. Those opportunities, however, are few and far between. I can frequently find deeply undervalued asset situations with no obvious catalyst. I can often also find activists in stocks that are not undervalued on a Graham asset basis.

A little over a year ago in a post titled Net Net vs Activist Legend I started a thought experiment pitting Dataram Corporation (NASDAQ:DRAM), a little Graham net net, against activist investing legend Carl Icahn and his position in Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) (click on the links to laugh at how rudimentary Greenbackd looked then). The idea was simple: Compare the performance of two stocks, one a net net / net cash stock lacking a catalyst, and the other a stock not obviously undervalued on an asset basis, but nonetheless pursued by an activist investor, Carl Icahn.

In the blue corner, YHOO, the super heavyweight

Here’s what I had to say about YHOO at the time:

YHOO is a stock that is not cheap on an asset basis but it does have a prominent activist investor with a 5.5% stake and two seats on the board. At its Friday close of $11.66, which is around two-thirds lower than Microsoft’s May 2008 $33 bid, YHOO still trades at a 70% premium to our $6.82 per share estimate of its asset value. Activist investor Carl Icahn’s presence on the register, however, indicates that he believes YHOO is worth more. Icahn has paid an average of $23.59 per share to accumulate his 5.5 percent stake. At $11.66, YHOO must more than double before Icahn will see a profit. He’s unlikely to sit idly by to see if that happens.

YHOO is not cheap on any theory of value we care to employ. It is trading at a substantial premium to its asset backing, which means the market is still generously valuing its future earnings. It is generating substantial operating cash flow and earnings, which in a better market might be worth more, but it’s not obviously cheap to us.

The best thing about YHOO from our perspective is the presence of Carl Icahn on the register. His holdings were purchased at much higher prices than are presently available and he is unlikely to sit idly by while the stock stagnates.

Buying YHOO at these prices is a bet that Icahn can engineer a deal for the company. Given his legendary status as an activist investor earned through canny acquisitions over many years, we think that’s a good bet. But a bet is what it is – it’s speculation and not investment. If speculation is your game, then we wish you the best of luck but know that the price might fall a long way if he sells out. If you’re an investor, the price is too high.

YHOO closed Friday at $11.66 and the S&P 500 Index closed at 876.07.

And in the red corner, DRAM, a light flyweight

Here’s my take on DRAM’s chances:

DRAM, at 58% of its liquidating value and 76% of its cash backing, is very cheap. We believe that it is worth watching but, with no obvious catalysts and a high cash burn rate, probably one to avoid unless you are willing to bet that its remaining cash might attract an activist or the business will turn around before it runs out of money.

The risk with DRAM, as it is with any net net or net cash stock, is that the company might not make a profit any time soon and won’t liquidate before it dissipates its remaining cash. As we said above, we’ve got no insight into DRAM’s business and don’t know whether it can trade out of its present difficulties and back to at least a positive operating cash flow. According to the 10Q, the company is authorized to repurchase 172,196 shares under a stock repurchase plan but this is an immaterial amount in the context of the 8.9M shares on issue and the plan has been in existence since 2002. The best hope for the stockholders is that the company re-institutes its dividend, which, given its $16M in cash, it certainly seems able to do. No noted activists have disclosed a holding in the company, which means management have no incentive to do anything so stockholder friendly.

Let’s get ready to rumbllllllllllllllllllllllllle…..

Here’s the call of the fight:

The first 10 rounds were to YHOO, but DRAM landed a crushing blow at the end of the 10th. From there, DRAM pounded away while YHOO got the staggers. At the final bell, YHOO managed a respectable 34.2%, but it wasn’t in DRAM’s league, up an incredible 192.8%.

Post mortem

There’s nothing statistically significant about this little experiment, but, regardless, I think it’s interesting. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, small investors have a huge advantage over larger, professional investors. There is nothing easier to analyse than a Graham net net or liquidation play (here’s my post on Graham’s liquidation value methodology), and, as Professor Henry Oppenheimer demonstrated, the returns to a very simple buy-and-hold-for-a-year-and-repeat strategy will put investment professionals to shame. Graham’s methodology is robust and has withstood the test of time. With a little patience, investing like Graham did provides a tailwind that forgives many investing sins. Here’s to the little guys.

Gonna fly now

Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Goooooooooo…..

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