2017 Mid Year Correction

Each year I establish a basic plan to govern my investing activity based on sectors, segments or locales able to deliver a little alpha to my portfolio.  The past couple of years had a focus on the Financial industry with the outcome being rewarded with mergers (small banks) and outsized dividend increases (money center banks).  I also began increasing my Canadian allocation in 2015 from 2.5% of my dividends to the current 8.6%.  Since the election, I was accelerating the increase in my other foreign holdings to the current 13.6% on two theories, 1) gridlock in Congress would persist as the Republican majority would be too narrow to push through sweeping changes, and 2) this inaction would result in a weaker dollar.  It appears I was correct on both counts as the US dollar is now at an eight month low.

With my alpha agendas now too pricey (at least for slam dunk results), a re-prioritization is in order. With the Fed Chairs’ testimony this week indicating that GDP growth of 3% would be difficult, the Trump agenda which projects a higher growth rate is likely in peril – even ignoring the self-inflicted wounds.  Without an improvement in the GDP, deficit hawks will be circling.  It is likely the last half of the year will present some opportunities, but my view these will be predicated on external events.  My eyes will remain open to the USD exchange rate – on strength I may buy foreign issues.

My portfolio allocation between holdings labeled Anchor, Core and Satellite have been imbalanced for a year or two primarily due to merger activity and the acceleration of adding foreign issues.  Now that the major mergers have completed, the last this past January, and other alternatives are slim, I figure it’s time to get back to basics.

My going forward strategy can be summarized as follows:

  1. Non-US equities when secured at a favorable exchange rate
    a)I have 2 Japanese, 2 Swiss, 1 UK and 1 Swedish company on my watch list in the event an attractive price presents itself
  2. Assess corporate actions (spins, splits, mergers) for opportunities
    a) Generally I’m agnostic to splits except when the result would be a weird fractional.  I can easily manage tenths or hundredths of shares.  Smaller sizes are troublesome so I avoid when possible.
    b) Spins (and mergers) are assessed to prevent (if possible) weird fractionals.  For instance, I added to my MET position earlier this month as their spin will be at a ratio of 11:1 which would have otherwise delivered a weird fractional.
  3. Assess portfolio for average down and other opportunities
    a) An example of this was last months’ purchase of KSU.  To this end, I recently updated my Dividends (Div Dates) Google sheet to flag when the current price is lower than my cost basis.
    b) An example of “Other Opportunities” would be BCBP which is resident in my Penalty Box due to dilution.  The dilution (secondary) might be explained (now) with their announced acquisition of the troubled IA Bancorp.  If the regulators provide their seal of approval, it may be time to remove BCBP from Penalty status and perhaps add to this 3.5% yielder.
  4. Add to holdings that are below target weighting
    a) This is where I expect most of my second half activity to reside.

Of my 26 stocks labeled Anchor, Core or Satellite; 5 can be considered at their target weight (within .5% of the target) and 4 I consider to be overweight.  The remaining 17 will receive most of my attention.  As most of these rarely go on sale, I’ll likely ignore price and place a higher priority on yield and events – at least until I’ve exceeded last years’ total dividends.

The following table highlights this portion of my portfolio:

JAN/APR/JUL/OCT

COMPANY TYPE DIVIDEND %
Kimberley-Clark/KMB A-(6%) 4.01%
First of Long Island/FLIC C-(3%) 0.85%
Sysco/SYY C-(3%) 1.81%
Bank of the Ozarks/OZRK C-(3%) 0.67%
PepsiCo/PEP S-(1.5%) 1.51%
First Midwest/FMBI S-(1.5%) 0.3%
Comcast/CMCSA S-(1.5%) 8.32%
Toronto-Dominion/TD S-(1.5%) 1.58%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

FEB/MAY/AUG/NOV

COMPANY TYPE DIVIDEND %
Clorox/CLX A-(6%) 3.68%
PNC Financial Services/PNC C-(3%) 0.30%
Legacy Texas Financial/LTXB C-(3%) 1.48%
Starbucks/SBUX C-(3%) 1.07%
Blackstone/BX S-(1.5%) 2.58%
Apple/AAPL S-(1.5%) 1.26%
Lakeland Bancorp/LBAI S-(1.5%) 1.04%
Webster Financial/WBS S-(1.5%) 0.82%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

MAR/JUN/SEP/DEC

COMPANY TYPE DIVIDEND %
WEC Energy/WEC A-(6%) 5.61%
3M/MMM C-(3%) 0.76%
Home Depot/HD C-(3%) 7.32%
Blackrock/BLK C-(3%) .22%
ADP/ADP C-(3%) 1.60%
Southside Bancshares/SBSI S-(1.5%) 0.96%
Chevron/CVX S-(1.5%) 9.52%
Norfolk Southern/NSC S-(1.5%) 1.99%
Flushing Financial Corp/FFIC S-(1.5%) 0.99%
Wesbanco/WSBC S-(1.5%) 1.14%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

I will provide the caveat that this plan is subject to not only the whims of  the market but of my own as well.  In addition, this plan may be changed if/when a better idea comes along.

An Infrastructure Rebuttal

Subsequent to the US election, many have pondered the impact to the economy at-large or at a micro level.  Consider Cramer’s Trump stocks or the Trigger app as examples.  I too have not been immune as I bought into Europe, Canada, Mexico and Australia as presidential comments resulted in temporary pricing weakness.  The question remains what – if anything – can be accomplished on his agenda. With healthcare and tax reform fraught with partisan politics, it appears the best option of the remaining campaign promises is infrastructure as on the surface there still is the hope of bi-partisanship.  Yet aside from a vague “public-private” partnership, details have been lacking probably due to resources allocated to the aforementioned agenda items.

Continue reading

June 2017 Update

June was an interesting month in that the Tech sector hit a rough patch, some IPOs had trouble getting out the door and financials had a second wind.  Frankly I think a lot of the action had more to do with repositioning as some funds/traders’ positions didn’t perform as anticipated and are now playing ‘catch up’ during the last half of the year.  The S&P ended the month up 0.48% while my portfolio recorded a gain of 1.44% largely on the heels of the bank CCAR results.  For the first half of the year, I’m ahead of the index by 5.02%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 6/12 – HYH explores sale of surgical line (infection prevention)
  • 6/12 – SBSI acquires Diboll Bancshares
  • 6/14 – OUT acquires Dynamic Outdoor
  • 6/23 – IBTX sells 9 Colorado branches to TBK
  • 6/23 – CM completes PVTB merger
  • 6/23 – Upon merger, POT/AGU to be renamed Nutrien
  • 6/27 – V takes stake in Klarna
  • 6/27 – XRX sells France research center to NHNCF
  • 6/29 – MET spin finalized
  • 6/30 – OCFC to acquire SNBC

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to KSU
  • Added to CLX

Dividends:

  • June delivered an increase of 31.84% Y/Y with, once again, the vast majority of the increase being attributable to foreign dividend cycles (larger, although less frequent).  With one exception this should now be normalized.
  • June delivered an increase of 12.4% over last quarter (Mar).    The breakdown of the increase is:
    • 37.4% replacement for TIS (which paid in April (late) and suspended the div)
    • 36.2% April purchase for tax reduction
    • 14.8% foreign cycle
    • 11.3% purchases from dividends/dividend increases
    • For the second month in a row, no new cash invested
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.82% with 56.5% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
  • YTD dividends received were 59.58% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in early November

Note: My portfolio additions have begun migrating back to US equities as the weakness in the US dollar has been faster than I forecast.  Unless geopolitical events occur to reverse this trend I suspect fewer foreign issues will be acquired.

Spinoffs:

MET has declared their spinoff – Brighthouse Financial (BHF) – effective August 4th.  Holders as of July 19th will be entitled to 1 share for each 11 MET shares owned.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien), SGBK/HOMB remain pending

 

The Big Boys are Playing

I was starting to wonder when – not if – and how the big guns would start deploying their cash stash.  Most have investors to answer to and it has been a relatively quiet year so far – so it must be time to begin prowling for deals to bake and pots to stir.

First out of the chutes was the kingpin Warren fresh off the aborted Unilever deal.  Leaving 3G in his dust, last week he ran one from his playbook that worked before.  This time the victim being Home Capital Group which required a cash infusion following a run on deposits.  His $C2B 9.0% loan is at better terms than the one currently in place provided by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.  He’s also getting a discounted share price on a stake that could equal 38%.  The advisors were RY and BMO in which I’m long both.  As an aside … if the US dollar weakens further, profits could be booked on the FX angle as well.

Then only this morning he announced a 9.8% stake in Store Capital.  This one should provide support for REITs in general while (at least on paper) be an investment that meets his standards for playing nice.

This morning brought the announcement that Dan Loeb’s Third Point has amassed a 1.3% stake in Nestlé.  This appears to be a ploy to pressure the company to create ‘shareholder value’ by shedding assets and taking on debt.  It could be argued that Nestlé’s stake in L’Oreal is a slight hedge against commodity pricing and their conservative nature is an asset rather than liability.  I see this as more of an attempt at greenmail with minimal risk.  If pundits are correct, the Swiss Franc should get stronger versus the US dollar this year.  If so, even without spurring corporate change, profits could be booked on the currency.

In today’s most twisted play, the title goes to Tiger Global who reportedly have shorted Tesco plc while being long Amazon.  Not a bad call with Amazon’s Whole Foods announcement last week hurting grocery retailers.  But if the FT report is correct and this position was initiated in January, one has to wonder if they were privy to inside information?  Especially when initiated anonymously through an offshore entity?

So much for this week’s questions … and onward toward month end.

Small Banking Revisited

Periodically I encounter an article that hits at the core of one of my strategies.  As many of  you know, I’m currently a little overweight financials with an emphasis on regional banks.  This was not always the case as I (fortunately) exited the sector in late 2007  reentering only in early 2013.  My five year pause was bookended by what Richard J. Parsons refers to as the Great Panic of 2008-2009.  His article, Finding Alpha In Reliable Dividend Banks(14 June 2017) struck a chord with me and illustrated some of the style I came to embrace for a time. Though I’m not selling my banks, other than special situations, I’m currently not a buyer either.  If you are a bank investor (or considering being one) I’d recommend reading his article.

His article highlights 30 regionals that actually raised dividends during the Panic.  By comparison, my hypothesis was segmented into three ‘buckets’ which were:
1.Good dividend payers
2.Stock dividend payers
3.Acquisition candidates

Although he includes some stock payers (CMBH, AROW, SBSI, and FLIC (roundups on splits)) this is not his article’s focus.  I’ve written on these before so I’ll exclude them.

His article also points out that only one of the original 30 was acquired which is a slight disappointment when one of my goals is to obtain a merger premium.  Several on his list were acquirers which kind of proves my rationale to expand the universe to include potential acquisition targets in my bank holdings a couple of years ago.

Leaving us with his list.  One notable point is his geographic analysis.  “Certain states are more likely to be home to these reliable dividend banks: Indiana, Texas, California, Kentucky, Missouri, and upper state New York.”  This melds with my findings though I attributed this to state regulatory agencies as certain states had disproportionate numbers of bank failures.  Therefore I excluded western (California) and southern US banks.  To his mix, I found Pennsylvania to be a viable candidate as well.  This difference could be that mutual conversions (notably preeminent in PA, NY, NJ, VA and MA) were identified as likely targets by my study.

Another note on his analysis, “…a few critical factors influence long-term success in banking: hands-on expert management…”  In fact he elaborates a little on this in the comment stream.  A tidbit is both Missouri banks on his list were established by the Kemper family.

So the actual question is how do my portfolio holdings stack up against his list?  Half of the thirty are owned.  Of the nine owned by Richard, seven are owned (one obtained via a merger).  One being in California was excluded by geographic screening.  I’m not sure offhand though, why I excluded CBU out of New York.  My primary takeaway from his article was a validation of my strategy and I need to further investigate a few.

His complete list follows:

Access National ANCX 1.4B VA
Arrow Financial Corp. AROW 2.7B NY
Auburn National Bancorp AUBN .8B AL
BancFirst Corp.   BANF 7.2B OK
Bar Harbor Bankshares  BHB 3.4B ME
Bank of Marin Bancorp BMRC 2.0B CA
Bryn Mawr Bank Corp. BMTC 3.3B PA
Bank of Oklahoma   BOKF 32.6B OK
Commerce Bancshares   CBSH 25.3B MO
Community Bank System CBU 8.9B NY
Cullen/Frost Bankers CFR 30.5B TX
Community Trust Bancorp CTBI 4.0B KY
First Capital  FCAP .8B IN
First of Long Island Corp.  FLIC 3.6B NY
Farmers & Merchants Bancorp  FMCB 3.0B CA
Horizon Bancorp   HBNC 3.2B IN
National Bankshares NKSH 1.2B VA
Norwood Financial Corp.  NWFL 1.1B PA
Bank of the Ozarks OZRK 19.2B AR
Prosperity Bancshares  PB 22.5B TX
People’s United Financial, Inc.   PBCT 40.2B CT
Stock Yards Bancorp  SYBT 3.0B KY
Tompkins Financial Corp.  TMP 6.3B NY
United Bankshares UBSI 14.8B WV
UMB Financial Corp.  UMBF 20.6B MO
Westamerica   WABC 5.4B CA
Washington Trust  WASH 4.4B RI
First Source  SRCE 5.5B IN
First Financial THFF 3.0B IN
Southside Bancshares SBSI 5.7B TX
Bold-owned by Richard, Italics-owned by me

Recent Buy – KSU

ksu

Usually I don’t announce my incremental purchases, preferring instead to report in bulk as part of my monthly recap.  There are occasions when an exception is warranted so I figured I’d share my thought process with this week’s post – and the subsequent events.

Kansas City Southern is the smallest of the Class I railroads in the US and operates in Mexico through a wholly owned subsidiary.  Since the election, it has been beaten down as Mexico is reviewing its’ concession, concerns over NAFTA trade and a weakened peso (impacting earnings).

While reviewing my holdings last weekend, I noticed:

  1. The price appeared to have hit bottom and began moving higher
  2. The current price was significantly lower than my $115.07 cost basis
  3. The ex-dividend date was around the corner (Jun 12th)
  4. The Mexican peso has risen over 5% (now 6%) against the USD since October

Figuring there was minimal downside left, on Monday (June 5th) I bought enough (at $95.87) to average down my cost basis to $98.69 – though it’s still less than 1% of my portfolio.

Where it gets interesting is:

  • June 6th – US and Mexico reach agreement on sugar trade – KSU closes at $96.57
  • June 7th – US appears to seek resolution in lumber spat with Canada ($97.46 close)
  • June 8th – Guy Adami (CNBC’s Fast Money) announces position ($98.86 close)
  • June 9th – Pete Najarian (Fast Money) announces position ($99.59 close)

I certainly did not expect this level of activity but sure am glad I chose to average down when I did.  Also not sure what option activity got Fast Money’s attention but suspect we’ll see a little pullback as we go ex-dividend.  Still, 3.7% price improvement in a week and now I’m no longer underwater plus the dividend (small though it may be) – have to say it was a good week!

Now to attempt an encore …