Analyst BullS#!T!

My friend Frankie posted an aptly titled piece (Beware the Broker BullS#!T!) on analyst’s actions awhile ago (along with a followup) which struck a nerve as my early investing career had several of the pitfalls mentioned.  While I did evolve to settle primarily on a modified DGI strategy, I have to wonder as to the due diligence exercised by some of the broker’s clients. In the US, there are some shops that are essentially pay for play schemes, meaning pay us money and we’ll cover your business.  One of these is Taglich Brothers (which has a clearing business relationship with Pershing, LLC in which I am a shareholder (BK)).  Taglich, through it’s press release with NXNN (a spec holding of mine) disclosed, “In October 2017, the company paid Taglich Brothers a monetary fee of $4,500 (USD) representing payment for the creation and dissemination of research reports for three months.  After the first three months, the company will begin paying Taglich Brothers a monthly monetary fee of $1,500 (USD) for the creation and dissemination of research reports.”  Unbiased?  Unlikely. Another take on them was provided by D/M/O.  Point of reference, Orchids Paper (TIS), mentioned in the article was formerly in my portfolio and subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection (I had sold prior to the filing).

Another angle on alternative strategies was brought front and center this week with the publication of Spruce Point’s analysis on Church & Dwight (CHD).  Spruce Point is a small, short focused firm similar to Muddy Waters Capital or Kerrisdale Capital that use Seeking Alpha, Twitter and other social media to broadcast their research.  Spruce Point takes a short position, runs a campaign and determines the traction being gained. In the words of the founder Ben Axler, “Because I run a small business, we don’t have a lot of time to waste going down rabbit holes where there’s a dead end,” he says. “I can generally sniff out a company pretty quickly.”  OK, then.  

I admit that CHD is richly valued and perhaps they overpaid for some acquisitions.  I also submit that Spruce Point is highly vocal for their smallish size. They have, however, been building a little bit of a track record in this bull market.  On first blush, it appears the Spruce Point results have been stellar thus far in 2019 with a by moving the market in their intended direction 77% of the time on the day their report is released – translating into an average market loss of their targets of 3.78%.  I would posit their gain is even greater as I suspect their investors and subscribers get a first look at the reports. My guess would be a 5-10% short term gain.  

As of Sept 7, 2019

In the shorting game, the real money is to be had by riding a target down, but to do so requires conviction, stamina and staying power.  Based on Ben’s comment, I doubt they are riding the targets down other than a select few high conviction ones. My reasoning being that they would be booking a loss for 2019 as their targets, in aggregate, are 2.88% higher post call.  The three that would have rocketed their results lost 49%, 26% and 25%. Conversely the three they should have exited quickly gained 86%, 51% and 12% for the longs.

Over the weekend Spruce Point has continued their campaign against CHD using Twitter to gleefully proclaim success as CHD has not chosen to engage in their antics.  Although some of Spruce Point’s issues have some validity, in large I feel they are overstated – essentially a headline grabber.  

One issue they raise is the use of factoring to manipulate results.  Possible, but it depends on whether it is recourse or non-recourse. Spruce Point also takes issue with an undisclosed UK acquisition.  My take is with sales in the £764,000 range this is negligible. The current year “slowing dividend growth” could be explained by prudence in digesting its last two acquisitions.  I suspect this dividend trend may be the new normal for a period of time if management executes on their goal of expanding their “power brands” to twenty.

In summary, they could very well be right. They could also be playing a manipulation game. If weakness intensifies my thoughts are that a buying opportunity may be at hand. Then again – I may be wrong 🙂

Crazy Free

I decided to pause my 3Rs series to review one particular event of this past week.  No, not the political spectrum (guilty pleas/verdicts in the US and a new PM in Australia) but the bloodbath incurred in the discount broker space following JP Morgan’s announcement of the commencement of a free trade platform.  In the event you missed it, the Tuesday morning market shudder (per Seeking Alpha) was:

Online brokers slump in premarket trading after JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) says it’s introducing a mobile investing app bundled with free or discounted trades.

TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) slides 6.5%, Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW) -4.9%,  E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC-4.5%, Interactive Brokers (NASDAQ:IBKR-3.5%.

JPMorgan +0.7% in premarket trading.

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Johnny-come-latelies

Generally I refrain from back-to-back posts with similar topics but decided to make an exception this week as the moving parts have kicked into high gear.  My post last week addressed my uneasiness with cryptocurrency as well as my interest in the underlying blockchain technology.  It appears that my view has some support as two blockchain ETFs debuted on January 17th (BLOK and BLCN) and one January 25th (LEGR).  This should be followed by KOIN next week.  Horizons and Harvest (HBLK) also have ETF applications pending.  Grenadier penned a piece on Seeking Alpha that did some analysis on the first two.  Four of LEGR’s top five holdings are included in either one or both of the originals so it will probably be similar.  David Snowball highlights this sentiment in his piece There’s no idea so dumb that it won’t attract a dozen ETFs stating, “…there are no publicly traded companies that specialize in blockchain; there are mostly companies with a dozen other lines of business that have some sort of efforts going into blockchain.”  This is 100% correct.

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Ringing In The New Year

As I wait for the last three dividends of 2017 to post to my account, my final accounting report will delayed into next week.  Sure I could just accrue said dividends and release the report but where would the fun in that be?  Especially since I can lay claim to being the first official victim of the new tax plan, aka the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  As it’s not even effective yet, I guess this is the first – of probably many – unintended consequences to emanate from this bill.  This week I’ll also cover my last minute 2017 moves and my first 2018 activity.  But first …

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Recent Buy – AKO.B

ako

Keeping with my Coca-Cola bottler strategy, yesterday I added a new holding to my portfolio.  Embotelladora Andina S.A. is based in Chile with territory covering Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay in addition to Chile.  Their product line includes Coca-Cola products in addition to bottling and distributing outside brands including Amstel, Dos Equis (XX), Heineken and others.  They have an integrated operation, meaning they manufacture the bottles, cases and caps used in their bottling operation.

Andina has two share classes, the A shares carry greater voting power while the B shares pay a higher dividend.  As I don’t expect to accumulate enough shares to impact the board, I chose the higher dividend.  The shares are traded on the NYSE as an ADR administered by Bank of New York Mellon (BK), another of my holdings.  The ADR ratio is 6 shares of Andina-B (Chilean exchange) to 1 AKO.B (NYSE).

A dividend is paid almost quarterly (Feb, Jun, Sep, Nov) but is variable as the cycle is Provisorio/Adicional.  The company’s goal is to pay approximately 35% of earnings to shareholders.  The TTM for the ADR is $.70 which translates into a current yield of 2.88% at my $24.25 purchase price.  The forward (12 month) yield would be about 3.1% depending on actual declarations and the future exchange rate.

A also added to my TD holdings making it a full satellite position (1.5% of portfolio dividends) due to weakness (can you say Wells Fargo?).

Closing the Primerica Experiment

One year ago I embarked on a mission to determine whether Primerica stock (PRI) was a better investment then the sum of its’ parts – well at least most of the parts.  SEC filings were scoured to identify their investments as insurance companies are required to maintain reserves (the float).  A portfolio was established (3Q 2015) , funded (4Q 2015) and tracked (Oct 2015 to Sep 2016) to be able to declare a winner.

And the winner is … Primerica by 16.15%.  Now I realize that a single snapshot in time may not be reflective of reality, but to my surprise Primerica outperformed the basket through this snapshot in time.

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Madness (Pt 2) Updated

Last year I published Methods To My Madness Pt 2 where I presented part of my non-core investing strategies.  One section has seen some activity in the broader market recently to the point I figured an update was warranted.  The section in question:

Not so obvious are Webster, UMB Financial, Health Equity, UnitedHealth and Xerox.  Each of these companies operate Health Savings/ Flexible Spending Plans.

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