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 🙂

Advertisements

Randomness For July

Typically I gain inspiration from the news or other bloggers – or a combination thereof. When a thought – or concept – materializes my research kicks in to validate (or invalidate) the idea. Unlike others, my approach doesn’t follow a given model nor does it lend itself to a generic screening process. This isn’t to imply I ignore PE ratios, Dividend Growth Rates, Dividend Coverage, et.al., because I don’t. It’s just that outside the core 36 holdings I want to see a story, a compelling reason or something that makes me scratch my head and think.

Hidden in plain sight this week were a few that fit this category, so without further introduction, I present these for your consideration.

Bottling/Snacks Skirmish?

Pepsi announced the acquisition of South Africa’s Pioneer Food Group. I believe this intensifies the battle between the two giants and provides Pepsi a leg up in the snack segment, adds some bottling and expands their distribution capabilities. Conversely, Coke has pretty much divested their bottlers with the exception of Africa. So the question becomes, “What’s up with Africa?” and which one holds the answer to this riddle. Category: scratching my head

Watch List Addition

A friend of mine sent me a link to the Australian version of 60 minutes with an interesting (but non-standard) treatment for stroke victims. There are many more questions than answers with this treatment, most notably sustainability, yet the initial findings hold some promise. Ever the sucker for a speculative play in the realm of strokes (remember my Nexeon investment – (currently tardy in their filings)), perhaps a small investment may bear fruit. The drug in question is Etanercept and the company is Amgen. Bonus points for AMGN paying a dividend. Category: Good Story

Political Thought

We’ll delve into the political arena a little as the Democrats have initiated an opening salvo illustrating to the world they might be able to walk and chew gum simultaneously. This effort is in the form of a Senate bill provocatively titled, “Stop Wall Street Looting Act of 2019“. This bill aims to stem some of the more egregious acts of private equity firms when they take companies private. Assuming this gets through the proverbial roadblock in Mitch McConnell and the unrelenting lobbyists, I have a one minor concern (outside the name) that should be addressed in order for bipartisan support to be obtained. Section 309 is applicable to workers and places a higher priority on pension funding, which is well and good. The issue I have is in the charge to bankruptcy judges to consider job retention in a liquidation (sale) event. If I thought I could profit via productivity gains (technology) at the expense of labor, I would have no incentive to prevent full on bankruptcy – waiting to buy the pieces after the fact. Category: Compelling Reason (probable GOP inaction to avoid debate)

With these thoughts, I hope the week ahead is good for you!

Game Therapy

Today takes us off the beaten path with a more personal, rather than investing, theme. As many of you already know, in 2013 I suffered a series of five strokes which overnight turned my world upside down. 2014 was a blur of procedures, tests, medicine calibration and therapies centered on relearning some basic functions such as speaking (I now stutter), walking (with a cane) and basic logic function (depends on the side of the brain). The most difficult issues for me – (my wife’s may differ) – were walking with some right side paralysis, inability to drive and loss of basic math skills. The brain is a weird beast in that I can’t add and subtract but I can perform complex algebra.

Through this journey I’ve uncovered many things that frustrate me, one being walking as a therapy (doctors’ orders) is inherently boring – particularly when cross-country hiking is out of the question. That is until my granddaughter introduced me to Pokémon Go in July of 2016. Since then, I’ve experienced improved dexterity in the fingers on my weak side, an element of improvement in low level strategic thinking and an impetus to get my rear in gear.

The results I’ve had have now been replicated in government funded research studies – one of the reasons I’ve long had Nintendo (NTDOY) on my watch list, included Nexeon MedSystems (NXNN) in my portfolio and am closely monitoring Niantic’s funding rounds. This may be one reason the popularity of Pokémon Go has continued to increase rather than being a flash-in-the-pan. Other games, such as Fortnite, are generally too intense or fast moving for folks like me. I even have difficulty in Las Vegas with the strobe lights on the machines.

For awhile I’ve been struggling with the how and why of sharing this as I’m generally a private person. Then I ran across Captain Zach Brooks story and how his struggles parallel mine – though mine is a walk in the park by comparison. I saw his success as an inspirational guide and figured that perhaps mine could do likewise (in addition to answering the question as to the eclectic nature of some of my holdings). While my daily routine includes my walks (weather permitting), there is also a dose of Pokémon Go as well. And if you play the game and need another friend my trainer code is: 8321 0821 5972

Dec 2018 Update and Year End Review

he fourth quarter swoon continued in earnest this month resulting in an annual loss for the markets.  While the final trading day closed higher (DJIA up 265, NASDAQ up 51 and the S&P up 21) it was nowhere near close enough to avoid the worst December since 1931.  Though surprised by the resiliency of the US dollar, last year’s intent to migrate further into foreign equities was largely preempted by tariff uncertainty. My other 2018 concern of rising federal deficits stifling the economy did not manifest itself as yet – though I remain skeptical of  administration claims that growth can outpace the deficit. For the month, the S&P index dropped by 9.18% while my portfolio dropped by ‘only’ 8.44%. For the year the S&P posted an unusual loss of 6.65% while my overall loss was 3.57%. In an otherwise ugly ending to the year, my primary goal of exceeding the S&P’s return was attained marking the 33rd year (of 38) that I’ve been able to make this claim.

Continue reading

June 2018 Update

At month end, the first of the tariffs took effect with the markets basically going sideways while trying to figure the impact.  My impression is the first industry to be impacted (via retaliation) will be the lobster industry.  Other industries will be later as the supply chains run off.  Even the US dollar is taking the noise in stride resuming its’ ascent.  Finally, the CCAR results were released with approval of the majority of the capital return plans of the banking sector (additional dividend growth on the horizon).   Through this I generally stayed the course, the only exception being the implementation of a hedge on two mergers.  June saw a rise in the S&P of 0.48% while my portfolio underperformed by registering a rise of 0.14%.  YTD I still lag the S&P by 0.69%.

Continue reading

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 …

Continue reading

October 2017 Update

This month was pretty solid with the market continuing its upward grind.  Earnings season was in focus with good reports outweighing the bad.  Most of the attribution to the hurricanes was legitimate but a few did raise my eyebrows.  The US dollar turned in a second rising month.  The S&P index increased by 2.22% while my portfolio lagged (again) by only increasing 2.03%.  The two culprits were international currency weakness and a drop in value in my October (speculative) purchase.  For the year I’m still ahead of the index by 2.7%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 10/3 – IRM acquires Bonded Services Holdings from Wicks Group, LLC
  • 10/4 – IBM acquires Vivant Digital (pvt)
  • 10/5 – YUMC initiates quarterly dividend scheme
  • 10/5 – IRM buys CS datacenters in London and Singapore
  • 10/6 – K acquires Chicago Bar Company LLC (RXBAR)
  • 10/11 – BHB sells insurance business
  • 10/11 – FHN acquires Professional Mortgage Co.
  • 10/16 – SJI buys NJ/MD assets from SO
  • 10/17 – SYY acquires HFM Foodservice
  • 10/18 – India approval for POT/AGU merger received. awaiting  US and China.
  • 10/18 – DGX to acquire Cleveland Heart Lab
  • 10/19 – JNJ acquires Surgical Process Institute
  • 10/25 – AAPL acquires PowerbyProxi
  • 10/30 – DGX aquires some California Laboratory Associates assets
  • 10/30 – TU to acquire Xavient Information Systems

Portfolio Updates:

  • initiated position in NXNN

Dividends:

  • October delivered an increase of 24.59% Y/Y with the about half of the increase being attributable dividend increases and the other half purchases.
  • October delivered an increase of 8.53% over last quarter (July).
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.91% with 70.62% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension).
  • YTD dividends received were 103.83% of total 2016 dividends which exceeded last years’ total on October 25th.

Spinoffs:

Spirit Realty Capital (SRC) has been announced.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien) remains pending.

Summary

With the primary goal of exceeding last year’s dividends completed, my focus turns to developing a strategy for 2018.  Meanwhile adding NXNN (speculative) in October and DRE for November’s primary purchase.  DRE as they go ex-div next week and a special dividend is likely in December as a result of the sale of their Medical buildings to HTA this past May.