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Radisys Fourth Quarter Update: Expected and Unexpected

I was bracing myself for a beat down when Radisys reported their fourth quarter earnings.  And I was right!

There were two problems with the quarter:

  1. Guidance was poor
  2. The signs that guidance would be poor were ignored by analysts.

Let’s take a look at the signs.

On the third quarter conference call Brian Bronson, the company’s CEO, talked about having low $40’s (in millions) of revenue in the first two quarters of 2017.  In January Radisys disclosed an updated credit agreement where they made reductions to the EBITDA covenants for the first and second quarters that were consistent with a level of $40 million of revenue.  Finally, if you took in the color around trials from the third quarter call and the Needham conference, you would be led to conclude that material revenue was unlikely before at least the second quarter, more likely the second half of the year.

So it was actually pretty easy to see what the guide would be for the first quarter and full year.  I made the following estimates after reading through the EBITDA covenants of the credit agreement (but before the guidance was announced).  I shared these thoughts in the comment section here.

ebitda

My estimates turned out to be pretty close.  They would have likely been even closer if it hadn’t been for the fall off in the legacy business (which I will get to in a minute).

Nevertheless analyst estimates heading into the quarter were much higher.  Most had $50 million of revenue for the first and second quarter.  So when the first quarter number came in lower, the estimates were slashed.

So that was a big part of why the stock has done poorly.  But it’s not the only reason.  The company also announced news that the legacy business revenue, referred to as embedded systems, would decline more in 2017 than previously anticipated.  Embedded systems revenue is now expected to be $55 million in 2017.  As recently as January Radisys had said it would be around $75 million.

Its unfortunate.  But not crippling.  The embedded systems business is not a reason to own Radisys.  Its just a distraction.

The reason to own Radisys are the new products and services offerings.   And here the company did okay, though not enough to offset guidance revisions and the negative perception around embedded.

My hope for the quarter was a firm new order for DCEngine.  Given where Radisys had stated they were in trials I knew this was a long shot.  Indeed, no such big announcement came to pass.

Instead they gave a positive but mostly qualitative update.  Here’s a summary:

  • Making progress with their North American Tier 1 communication service provider (CSP) that is in trials with their DCEngine rack – they have three DCEngine units in the lab and Radisys expects commercial revenue could begin as early as the third quarter.
  • A second DCEngine trial with a customer that will be, in turn, selling to a Tier 1 customer who I am guessing is AT&T, giving Radisys a foot in the door there.
  • A new FlowEngine use case for an existing customer (Verizon?).
  • In Europe, an expansion of the existing hardware and services contract with the Tier 1 (this was a contract related to the open-source Central-Office-Redesigned-as-a-Datacenter or CORD initiative that I wrote about in my earlier post on Radisys)
  • Also in Europe, a new Tier 1 engagement again revolving around CORD.

Overall the company said they were ahead of their plan to have 10 tier one engagements by the summer.

It’s all directionally positive, but as of yet there has been no big win to add to Verizon and Reliance Jio.  And its clear that color alone is not going to move the needle unless revenue can be tied to it.

So what do you do from here?

I’ve waffled a couple of times but in the end have added a little to my position.  I think the bad news is most likely out.  We know from the Needham conference that the European CSP engagements are initially targeting professional services around CORD but that they will likely include a DCEngine component as well (if you go back and listen to the Needham conference again the language is pretty clear: expect that little can be announced by the February earning call but that more engagement with this CSP, around DCEngine, is to come).

We know that the new FlowEngine product will be launched mid-year and in fact a press release just came out today that it is now available for field trials (this is ahead of the end of March date they had previously suggested).  We know that Verizon (and likely others?) are waiting on the new version before purchasing more FlowEngine products.  Interestingly, Radisys mentioned Gigamon, F5 and A10 as competitors whose space they looked to infringe on with this new product.

There was a press release earlier this month describing a partnership with China Unicom to build open-source PODs for mobile 5G.  If this is successful one would expect follow-on orders for DCEngine. China Unicom is a very large service provider.

And finally there was a second press release today describing a new 5G RAN version of Cell Engine.  It is probably not coincidence that also today CORD and xRAN announced project alignment. Three large telecoms, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom or SK Telecom, are all mentioned in the release.  Radisys mentioned that the new Cell Engine was “developed in close collaboration with a leading mobile operator”, likely one of the three mentioned in the CORD/xRAN collaboration.

Away from the news flow and looking at numbers, when I parse the guide for 2017 it’s not hard to spin it bullishly.   We all knew the first and second quarters were going to be poor, low $40s revenue at best.  But given $40/$40 (million) in Q1/Q2 the implied Q3/Q4 guide is a range of $55/$55 to $70/$70 (million).  These are solid revenue numbers particularly given that they are going to be more heavily weighted to the new products than in the past.

So I’ll wait.  Some more.   But as so many of the other positions in my portfolio scream higher (Identiv, Combimatrix, Hortonworks, Ichor and Attunity of late) and I still sit with a decent percentage of my portfolio tied up in Radisys, I certainly hope it’s worth it.

Oclaro Second Quarter Update: No sign of the inflection yet

I’ve owned Oclaro since last spring, first wrote about the company here, and subsequently here.  Oclaro has their year end in June, so the company recently reported their second quarter results.

Oclaro had another very good quarter, which had been expected after a preliminary announcement two weeks prior.  Revenue grew 14% sequentially and 64% year over year.  I calculate that adjusted EBITDA was $41 million in quarter, more than double what it was in the first quarter.

oclrincomestmt

Digging a little further, the growth came almost entirely from the telecom/line side of the business.  Just to recap (see my earlier posts for more details), Oclaro makes transceivers and laser components that are used for optical data transfer.  Oclaro divides this business up between a client side, which consists of shorter length lasers (they have names that start with CFP or QSFP 28), and line side, which consists of longer length lasers of which the most significant is their new CFP2-ACO product.  Below is the breakdown between the telecom and datacom sides.

oclrrevenuebreakdown

Growth coming from telecom/line means that the aforementioned CFP2-ACO product was responsible for much of it.  This is a relatively new transceiver (see here for a bit of background) that was pioneered by Oclaro.  Being first to market, they are enjoying a window of 100% market share as the competition races to develop their own versions of the transceiver.  The CFP2-ACO was expected to be the growth driver in the quarter.

Competition is going to come into the market beginning in 2017, as the company conceded on the conference call.  Acacia, Finisar and Neophotonics is are developing their own CFP2-ACO products.

Still Oclaro has a significant lead and has used their head start to lock down customers for this fiscal year (ending June) and their fiscal 2018.  From the conference call:

[We] negotiated or are completing negotiations of several multiyear contracts or extensions contracts for some key product like the ACO that run as long as through calendar year 2018

The CFP2-ACO sales have centered on North America and Europe so far, but Oclaro did say on the call that they are seeing sales from China begin to pick up.  China buys a lot of Oclaro products (40% for the quarter), and in the past these have been lower end of the spectrum transceivers (the modulators and lasers that go into the transceivers).  China revenues for Oclaro grew 9% sequentially in the second quarter.

While the telecom side drove growth last quarter, the client side products continued their strength of prior quarters but are constrained by production limitations.  The lower end CFP product remains sold out (probably in part because of China?).  Oclaro hasn’t gotten as much traction on the higher end products (CFP2, CFP4, QSFP28) but they expect this to pick up, and they “do expect to shift [to] the CFP2, CFP4 and QSFP28 transceivers to accelerate through the summer”.

Its worth noting that the CFPX and QSFP28 will have lower average selling prices (ASPs) than the CFP, which could be a drag on top line revenue, but that margins for these products will be higher than the CFP, so the bottom line should improve.

At the Needham conference in January (here is the replay) Oclaro said that the growth of their business relied on 3 end markets: Datacenter, Metro 100G and China.   There wasn’t anything on the second quarter call or in the guidance Oclaro gave to suggest any of these 3 markets have slowed yet.

For the third quarter Oclaro guided $156 million to $164 million, which is another sequential increase from the $154 million in the second quarter.  To a large degree growth is being driven by the sold-out conditions of many of their products.  Management gave some color around how they would like to ramp production faster than they have been able to.

I’ll continue to hold Oclaro.  I’ve expressed my concerns in the past about not knowing when this cycle is going to peak.  The color I get from listening to the company and its competition is that we are still at least a few quarters off.  There is much talk of consolidation in the space, and I would hate to sell just before an offer comes in for the company.  So I will continue to management my uncertainty via a reasonable position size, and hold out for a selling price in the mid teens.

Hortonworks Fourth Quarter Update – The hadoop adoption cycle continues

Hortonworks is the second of the three companies I own that reported on Thursday night.  The first, Ichor Holdings, I wrote about yesterday.   The third, Radisys, I’ll get to shortly.

I originally wrote about Hortonworks along with another company Attunity in November after doing some research on Hadoop and concluding that its adoption presented a good growth opportunity for the companies involved.  At the time the stock was trading at $6, had recently been issued a sell recommendation from Goldman Sachs, and was pretty hated all around.

Nevertheless the company was growing like a weed (40% annually).  It was also bleeding cash flow like a sieve.  But at an enterprise value of less than 2x revenue I found it difficult to pass up the growth.  Knowing Wall Street loves those growth stories, I figured a couple solid quarters would put the stock quickly back on its feet.

Fast forward a few months and that is exactly what you got.  The company is still growing like a weed (revenue was up 39% in the fourth quarter, guidance was for 28% year-over-year growth in 2017), they are not bleeding cash flow quite so materially (cash flow in the fourth quarter was actually close to flat), and the stock isn’t hated quite so much.

At $11 and with a $1.40 of cash the stock is still trading at 2.4x revenue.  So the valuation is actually not that different than when I bought it.  One key difference is that back then the cash level was higher (roughly $130 million), the shares outstanding were lower (the company issues stock like toilet paper) and the price per share was lower, so cash was a much bigger piece of the overall valuation and that was partly what I found interesting.

The most interesting thing about the fourth quarter was that growth in their Hortonworks Data Flow platform has really taken off.  I wrote about HDF in my original write-up.  I’ll repeat how the company described HDF at the Pacific Crest conference last year:

Now [customers] want to have the ability to manage their data through the entire life cycle.  From the point of origination, while its in motion, until it comes to rest and they want to be able to drive that entire life cycle.  It fundamentally changes how they architect their data strategy going forward and the kind of applications and engagements they can have with their customers.   As they’ve realized this in the last year its changed everything about their thinking about how they are driving their data architecture going forward starting with bringing the data under management for data in motion, landing it for data at rest and consolidating all the other transactional data.  So it’s a very big mind shift that’s happening.

I still think HDF could be a big growth driver for the company and we are starting to see that.  They said on the fourth quarter conference call that HDF grew 6x year over year in the fourth quarter.

So there is lots of reason to think growth will continue.  Nevertheless, I am reluctant to add.  It’s the cash flow that still gives me pause.   While the fourth quarter number was good, they’ve approached break even cash flow in the past only to diverge again into big losses the following quarter.   They said on the call that they expect mid-teens negative operating cash flow in the first quarter.

More optimistically, they also said that they expect break-even cash flow in the third or fourth quarter.  So that would be a turning point.  But then in response to a question about whether we should expect free cash flow after that, if felt like they were trying to scale back expectations:

Yes, I don’t want to talk beyond that yet, Q3, Q4 seems a long way out, but from a – if you think about free cash flow we have been running may be $2 million to $3 million a quarter on CapEx. Q4 was a little light, I think it was under $2 million, but I think once we get to the sort of breakeven number sometime between Q3 and Q4 we will reassess to how much above that we want to punch.

So I’m not sure what to think.

Hortonworks also issues a lot of stock, which while it doesn’t factor into the cash flow number, does dilute shareholder value.  The shares outstanding have gone up by almost 3 million in the last couple of quarters.

On the other hand is my experience with Apigee.  Another high growth company, with cash flow, that was issuing lots of shares, and the company never really sorted any of that out yet the stock tripled from the $6 price I bought it at to the almost $18 where it was bought out by Google.  Hortonworks could easily follow that path.

There are certainly reasons to add.  Strong growth, ramping of HDF.  They announced another new product launch, enterprise data warehouse in February, and are gaining traction on their Azure and AWS offerings.  They also stand to gain visually from accounting changes enacting in 2018 that will allow them to defer less revenue and spread out commission expense, in turn improving the income statement.

Nevertheless my gut, informed by the aforementioned concerns about cash generation and stock issuance, is telling me not right now.

I think if the stock pulled back on a market pullback I would be more likely to add.  But it’s hard for me to double up at this price, as I have been prone to do with other ideas that start to work.

So I’ll probably sit with my 2-3% position and watch what the stock does.  I prefer to take the safe route when my gut is giving me pause.

Fourth Quarter Update: Ichor Holdings beats and beats

I have a lengthy update on Oclaro that I finished a couple of days ago and was planning to post this weekend but it will have to wait a few more days because I wanted to write a few short posts about what was a busy day on Friday.  After going a few days without any significant earnings updates, I was blitzed on Thursday night with 3 sets of year end results: from Radisys, Ichor and Hortonworks.

Two of these companies, Ichor and Hortonworks, produced unquestionably solid reports.  The third, Radisys, was considered a disappointment by analysts.  Of the three names, I added to my position in one, and it wasn’t the one with positive results.

I’ll start with the beats in this post by talking about Ichor.

Ichor Holdings

I wrote up the reasons for taking a position in Ichor about a month ago.

This was the first quarter that Ichor reported as a public company.   The report was very good, and the guidance for the first quarter was excellent, but all of this was expected.  Ichor pre-announced both in early January.

The most interesting new tidbit came from the conference call, where in response to a question asking ‘what if things get even better?’, management described their recent capacity additions.  They said that they had recently added or were adding enough capacity to support $200 million of quarterly revenue.  This is quite a large number.  Consider that with the “big beat” in the fourth quarter the company had $131 million of revenue, and that they are guiding to $150 million in the first quarter.  Only a year ago Ichor was generating a little over $60 million a quarter.

As strong as business has been, this has to be considered an indication that management sees it getting even stronger.

Given the growth (over 104% year over year and 24% sequentially in the fourth quarter), the concern of many, myself included , is that at some point this turns.  These capacity adds, which presumably are being done now because of some visibility of what is to come, allay those concerns in the near term.

The company supplies its gas and liquid delivery systems to two major customers, Lam Research and Applied Materials.  These two customers make up 90% of its revenue.  Both of these companies have projected a slower second half.  But even that level, which was described as a 55/45 H1/H2 breakdown on the call, is significantly higher revenue than Ichor was generating a year ago.

The company trades at a reasonable multiple considering the growth that is occurring.  If you annualized the fourth quarter results, the stock price is at 7x EBITDA.  The multiple shrinks to even less than that as revenue ramps higher in the first quarter.

Yet I struggled to add to my position on Friday even as the response to the report was somewhat muted.  I worry about being blindsided when the turn comes, as I feel like I have very little insight into the catalysts that will precipitate it.

It could happen in second quarter or in two years, I just don’t know.  The company suggests it may be more prolonged than many expect, as the drivers, which are 3-D NAND and multi-layer designs, are becoming ever more prevalent, and in the gas delivery business they have room to take market share from smaller competitors.  They are putting their money on that by investing in more capacity today.  But I wonder if Ichor is so far down the food chain that when the inflection comes they will be one of the last to know.

Thus I suspect that Ichor is destined to remain a 3-4% position for me, which I hope through appreciation eventually becomes a 5-6% position, but which I find unlikely I will be inclined to accumulate further and make it a portfolio changing score.

Community Bank Earnings: SFBC, SBFG, PKBK

 

Owning community bank stocks is boring.  Even on earnings day they often trade less than 1,000 shares.  The shares move up and down on so little volume that you never really believe the moves are real.  They seem like dead money, but then a year passes and you check out your account and you own a bunch of stocks up 20% and you can’t figure out how that happened.

So get ready for a boring but quite possibly profitable update.

I’ve had a number of the community banks I own report fourth quarter results.  All of the results were good so far.  I’m going to go through 3 of them here.

SB Financial (SBFG)

SB Financial was the first to report, a couple weeks ago.  The company made 37 cents EPS in the fourth quarter and $1.37 for the year.  The stock has traded up since the report, but even at $17.50 the PE multiple remains low at 12.5x 2016 earnings.

sbfg_eps

One of my criteria for buying a bank was loan growth and deposit growth.  These are the two pillars that will lea to eventual earnings growth (as long as the bank is well run and can leverage their expenses).  Loan growth at SB Financial continued in the fourth quarter, up another $15 million or 14% year over year. Deposit growth was up $20 million or 15% year over year.

sbfg_loansanddeposits

My one complaint was that earnings were somewhat low “quality” compared to the past few quarters.  Fee income was a little lower ($1.5 million versus $1.6 million in the second quarter), while the company got a big gain from the mark to market of its mortgage servicing right portfolio.   I’ve talked about mortgage servicing rights in the past. The mark to market adjustments from servicing rights can be large as they are very sensitive to changes in interest rates.  But this doesn’t really reflect health of the underlying banking business and if anything it portends to lower originations.

Nevertheless return on equity (ROE) was 10.72% and return on assets was 1.14% which are solid numbers.  Non-performing assets remain a small percentage (0.65%) of total assets.  I am happy with the results.

Sound Financial (SFBC)

Sound Financial put together a similarly good quarter.  Loan growth was 8.4% year over year.  Yield on loans reached 5.19%, which is a 10 basis point bump in the last year.  Deposit growth was 6.3% year over year.  Non-interest bearing deposits, which are the best because they are essentially free, rose to 13.6% of total deposits from 11.5% of deposits the previous year.

sbfg_loansanddeposits

Deposits should continue to increase in the first quarter after the pending purchase of deposits from Sunwest bank in October:

Sunwest Bank of Irvine, California to acquire approximately $17.7 million of deposits for a core deposit premium of 3.35% and its University Place, Washington branch located at 4922 Bridgeport Way West.  The cost of funds from this branch is an attractive 17 basis points and the cash received is expected to be used to pay down FHLB borrowings.

Earnings per share were 63 cents in the fourth quarter and $2.16 for the year.  On a trailing basis the stock trades at 13.4x earnings.


sfbc_eps

Like SB Financial, Sound Financial suffered from lower fee income which declined from $647,000 to $586,000. I’m not sure the cause of these declines and whether there is general pressure on the industry.  It is something to keep an eye on.  Also like SB Financial, they took a gain on mortgage servicing rights, though the servicing portfolio is much smaller so it was to a much smaller degree.

Book value rose 80c in the quarter and is now $24.  Return on assets crept up to almost 1%, at 0.97% up from 0.89% at the end of last year.  Return on equity was at 9.4%.

Non-performing assets are up a little, to $4.5 million from $2.9 million a year ago, but this is still a tiny 0.77% of assets so nothing to worry about.  Again, solid performance and it remains a cheap stock.

Parke Bancorp (PKBK)

This is going to feel repetitive.  Parke Bancorp had a good quarter as well.  They saw year over year loan growth (15%) and deposit growth (18.6%).

pkbk_loansanddeposits

Diluted earnings per share for the quarter were 38c.  For the year, earnings per share were inflated because in the second quarter the company sold its small business admin loan business for a $9 million gain.  Excluding that sale I estimate diluted earnings for the year would have been about $1.50.  That trades the stock at 13x earnings.  Below is diluted earnings ignoring the sales of the SBA business.

pkbk_eps

Earnings likely would have continued to grow in the third and fourth quarter had the company not chosen to monetize their SBC business.  I’m not sure why the bank sold it?  In the second quarter press release they referred to it as a “unique opportunity”.  It’s possible they just got a great offer, which the profit (over $1/share) suggests.  They still plan to offer SBA loans through their bank, but it probably won’t be at the same scale.  There were no SBA loans sold in the third quarter and no the fourth quarter press release there was no mention of SBA loans sold.

Parke Bancorp has somewhat higher non-performing assets than the other banks I own, at $21.7 million or 2.4% of total assets.  Over half of that amount is real estate owned.  In the fourth quarter press release the bank mentioned one property in New Jersey that has been written down from $12 million to a little over $3 million.  The trend on non-performing assets is in the right direction though, they stood at $30 million a year ago.

The bank has opened two branches in the last year, which is helping deposit and loan growth.  The first is in Collingswood New Jersey and the second is in Chinatown Pennsylvania.   These banks are still ramping and should help fuel growth in 2017.

Combimatrix: Just too cheap

I stumbled on Combimatrix shortly after taking a position in Nuvectra.  The companies have similarities.  Both are very small biotechs trying to gain momentum on sales.  Both have showed recent growth.  And both have a large part of their market capitalization tied up in cash.

But Combimatrix is cheaper.  To be honest, I don’t quite understand why Combimatrix is as cheap as it is.  It’s possible that there is an element to the story I a missing.  When I bought the stock, in the low $3’s, the market capitalization was a little over $8 million.  It’s closer to $10 million now.  The company has over $4 million in cash and very little debt.

While there are many biotechs around that boast high cash percentages (Verastem, for example, remains with a cash level well over 2x their market capitalization) these companies aren’t generating any revenue.  Combimatrix has a revenue generating business, and the business is growing.

Combimatrix provides reproductive diagnostics testing.  They offer three types of tests: microarray, karyotyping and fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH).  I believe these are the only three commonly used testing methods for such diagnostics.

Of the three, Combimatrix’s primary focus is on microarray testing.   It makes up about 70% of their testing volumes.  Microarray is (I think) the newest test method (based on what I’ve read, though there is some indications that FISH being applied to some reproductive diagnostics is new).  It seems that microarray tests have the advantage over karyotyping and FISH in that they provide more information about potential problems (from this article):

chromosomal microarray, detected more irregularities that could result in genetic diseases — such as missing or repeated sections of genetic code — than did karyotyping, which is the current standard method of prenatal testing.

But it is also a more expensive test.  Which has led to problems getting insurance coverage:

The tests can cost $1,500 to $3,000 in addition to the cost for the amniocentesis or C.V.S. procedure. Karyotyping can cost $250 to $1,500. Insurance does not always pay for microarray testing since it is not considered the standard of care for prenatal testing.

Looking back I believe that this is where some of Combimatrix’s problems have come from.  Insurers have been slow to adopt microarray tests into their coverage.  The company hasn’t ramped revenue they way they had anticipated.  There have been cash issues, and capital raises.  But this seems to be changing.  In August Combimatrix put out a press release with the following comment:

“There are now at least 20 health insurance providers this year that have revised their medical policies to include coverage for recurrent pregnancy loss testing,” said Mark McDonough, President and Chief Executive Officer of CombiMatrix.

Below are charts showing volume growth for the 5 segments that Combimatrix reports.  Growth is lumpy, but overall there has been a trend towards increasing tests.  They also seem to have pricing leverage, as similar charts showing revenue by product line (not shown) trend more clearly left to right.

volumes

Management has reiterated on a few occasions (most recently in the third quarter conference call) that they will be cash flow breakeven by the end of next year.  This seems reasonable as adjusted EBITDA has been trending towards that level for 2 years now.

adjusted_ebitda

So it’s a cheap stock with a business that is pointed in the right direction.   The only reason I can think of for the stock being so cheap is the risk of further dilution.  As they approach the breakeven mark this concern diminishes and hopefully the stock price responds.  At least that is my expectation.  We will see.

Week 290: Renewal

Portfolio Performance

week-290-yoyperformanceweek-290-performance

 

Top 10 Holdings

week-290-holding-concentration

See the end of the post for my full portfolio breakdown and the last four weeks of trades

Thoughts and Review

I came into the new year wanting to reduce my exposure.  I had racked up gains last year that I had held onto for tax gain reasons.  It’s also been a good run, and there are at least a few signs that the market is topping out.

I also find too much exposure leads to poor decisions.  The lack of cash causes me to ignore ideas I might otherwise pursue and I start to feel stuck with the positions I have.  I end up “hoping”.

When it comes to investing “hope” is a dreaded word for me.  Hoping that a takeover happens.  Hoping that a news release comes out.  Hoping that this quarter is different.

Moreover, hope is inextricably tied to patience and patience, while not so toxic as hope, has a love/hate relationship with me.  Patience is necessary.  You have to wait to have your ideas play out.  And I do this.  I sat on Willdan for 3 years before it decided to more than triple in 6 months. You can’t cash out on the first gain or jump ship on the first sign of loss.

But too much patience, at least for my style of investing, is counterproductive.  It wastes capital of all kinds.  When I am too patient with my positions it also means I am not looking for new and better ideas.

So every so often, maybe once or twice a year.  I take a hard look at every position and ask myself if I really want to own it?  Do I really believe in this idea?  And I force myself to sell at least some of them.

I have to go through a renewal.  I sell off a bunch of positions, reduce a bunch of others, and, at least in terms of my own mindset, I start over.

I did my last big reset last January and that one was sparked by the market moves.  It was not pleasant.  This reset was more minor.  I shook things up enough that I could refresh my perspective.  It seems to be working so far.

Changes to the Portfolio

I sold a number of energy positions: Jones Energy, Resolute Energy, Gastar, Granite Oil and Key Energy Services.  I didn’t time these sales particularly well, as many of these names have rallied further after I sold.

You might ask why I sold Key Energy Services so soon after buying them?   Partly it was logistics; in the account I track with the practice portfolio I wanted to raise cash and so I had to look for names to sell.

Second, it had appreciated 20% from my original price and, in light of my first reason, seemed like an easy gain.  Energy services is a tough business and so this isn’t a stock I wanted to hold for a long run.  Nothing has changed with the company though, and in my actual account I still hold my warrants, which give me exposure to upside in the stock.

I also sold Contura Energy.  I did more research on the met and thermal coal market and I concluded it was more likely that coal prices would decline than increase.  In particular, much of the increase seemed to be because of closures in China that could just as easily be reopened and there was evidence that was already happening.  I’ve been in and out of the coal market since 2006, I know how volatile it can be (especially met) and I also have experienced that when the coal price is declining it doesn’t necessarily matter how cheap the company appears, the stocks will follow the price of the commodity.  Maybe that won’t happen in this case, maybe Contura is “cheap enough”.  But I couldn’t ignore the precedents I had seen.

Even with these changes I still don’t have enough cash in the practice portfolio.  I’m running about 20% cash in my regular portfolio and am a little less than flat with the online account.

As for my remaining positions…

I still have reasonably big positions in Radcom and Radisys, but along with many other stocks I reduced these positions as well.  I am balancing my expectation that the first and second quarter results from each of these names will likely be modest with the awareness that positive news in terms of new contracts could happen at any time will send each stock much higher.  However I did decide to add a little Radcom back on Monday, which is not reflected in the update.

I also reduced Willdan.  Its just gone up so much.  I took some off at $27 and $29, which turned out to be a little early as the stock briefly hit $31.  I don’t plan to sell any more; I still really like where the company operates (energy efficiency), they should see some benefit from infrastructure plans, have the ability to pull together cheap accretive acquisitions and will also benefit from changes to the tax code (their tax rate has typically been above 40%).

Finally I reduced my positions in Attunity, Hudson Technologies and Nimble Storage.  I’m not completely confident that the results for these companies in the next quarter are going to be stellar.  I prefer to wait to see the results an add back depending on the reports.

And a few new positions…

I took five new positions in the last month.  I wrote up two of them, Ichor Holdings and Nuvectra.

I tweeted that I took a position in Vaalco Energy (hat tip to @teamonfuego)

And I tweeted that I took a position in Combimatrix:

I have a write-up in the works about Combimatrix and have plans for one on Vaalco after that.

The last position that I took was in Gigamon.  I have written in the past that I been waiting for this stock to correct and continually regretted not buying it when it was lower.   The company announced poor numbers for the fourth quarter and the stock took a massive beating.  I was happy to step in.  The stock could go lower but I am not convinced that their announced portends a trend so I wanted to get at least started with a position here.  If the stock dipped into the $20’s, I would double down.

Last Thought

I’m very edgy about Trump and his economic agenda.   Given the role that Steve Bannon has taken on, its worthwhile to read and listen to what he has said.  I might do a more detailed write-up on this in the future, but for now consider this speech.    Bannon’s ideas remind me of what you hear from gold bugs and all those economic podcasts that portend the financial end of the world.    He talks about the contingent liabilities, the trade deficit with China, its all those things you hear from the newsletter writer/economic podcast cohort.  Some of what he is saying has merit, but if he is going to attack what he sees wrong I don’t know if this plays out well.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.

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