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Posts from the ‘Air Canada (AC)’ Category

Week 324: Underlying Conditions

Portfolio Performance

Top 10 Holdings

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

Thoughts and Review

The late spring and early summer months were a trying time for my investments.

I haven’t written up my portfolio in a while.  Part of that was due to the summer, being away and not having the time to do my usual work.  But I also went through a 3 month period, from mid-May to mid-August, where I lost money and struggled with why. That dampened my spirits for putting pen to paper.

Losing money is hard enough, but it is harder when you have been generally right in your decisions.   I try, like the namesake of this blog, to analyze underlying conditions and let that determine my general bent on sectors and the market.  Where there is a bull market I like to be very long those stocks, and when there is a bear market I like to pull back significantly, retreat into cash, and go short where I can.

Throughout the spring and summer I found myself in a general bull market in US stocks, one that had made me a lot of money throughout the winter.  I was, quite rightly, very long US stocks.  The market kept going up, albeit in fits and starts.  But I began to lose money.  Now I didn’t lose money quickly.  In retrospect that may have been a better route as at least I would have been forced to discover my error.  But instead my losses slowly accumulated over the months of May and June.

What’s more, I did not see noticeably poor performance from any of the stocks I owned.  Sure my names weren’t breaking out to new highs, but my core positions at the time, the likes of Radcom, Silicom, Sientra, Combimatrix, Identiv and Vicor were not by any means breaking down (I leave out Radisys as it is a separate discussion).

It wasn’t until my portfolio was down about 6%, in the middle of June, that I woke up to the fact that something was wrong.  I scoured my list of stocks but found nothing worrisome with the names I held.  I knew that the Canadian dollar had been rising so that must have been having some effect but I had never really quantified my currency exposure.  I had always thought of currency as an afterthought, something that balances itself out in the end.

As I crunched through the numbers on my currency losses, I realized that while in the very long run my theory that currency balances itself out might be correct, in the short run a currency can make or break you.  The Canadian dollar was in the midst of unwinding 2 years of gains in two months.  Measuring my losses from the portfolio top in mid-May, I was 6% down, of which 5% came from currency.

It is here that I made my first big mistake. I was armed with the information I needed to act decisively.  I knew my problem: stocks were in a bull market, but clearly the US dollar was not, and I was, rather unwittingly, very long the US dollar.

So what did I do?  Something that, in retrospect, was absurd.  I made only a token effort towards the problem, taking only the excess US dollar cash in my portfolio and putting it into a Canadian currency ETF.  This effort, while directionally correct,  impacted about 15% of my US dollar holdings and thus did nothing to alleviate the problem.  I followed this up with an even more inexplicable move, even to me looking back on it now.  I put on index shorts to hedge my long positions.

Here I was with losses proving that I was wrong.  I had determined the source of those losses.  And what did I do?  I did something that was likely only to exacerbate them.

It really goes to show how wrong one’s logic can be when you are trying to cling to what you had. The reality, I think, is I didn’t want to do what was right.  What was right was to sell my US stocks.  Not because my US stocks were going down. They were not.  Not because the theses behind these positions was not sound.  They were.  But because I was losing money on those US stocks.

Unfortunately I could not wrap my head around this.  All I saw were good stocks with strong catalysts.  How could I sell my positions?  It’s a bull market!

I spent most of June compounding my problem with band-aid solutions that only dug me in deeper. I fell back on oil stocks as a Canadian dollar hedge.  This had saved me the last few times; in the past the Canadian dollar had risen because oil had risen, so I had gone long oil stocks and my losses on currency were more than compensated with my gains on E&Ps.  I was saved a lesson and left none the wiser to how impactful currency could be.

But this time around the currency was not rising because of oil.  My appraisal that I should be long oil stocks was based on the flawed logic that what works in the past must work again regardless of conditions.  That is rarely the case.  In June and July I bought and lost money on companies like Resolute Energy, US Silica and Select Sands, all the time continuing to hold onto US dollars and lose on them.

I also went long gold stocks on the similar thesis that if the US dollar is weak then one should be long gold.  In this case I was at least partially correct.  That is the right thing to do given conditions. But my conviction was misplaced. Rather than being long gold stocks because I thought gold stocks would go up, I was long gold stocks to hedge my US dollar positions.  You cannot think clearly about a position when you are in it for the wrong reasons even if a right reason to be in it exists.  Thus it was that in late July I actually sold a number of my gold stock positions. It was only a couple weeks later, finally being of a clear head (for reasons I will get to) that I bought them all back, for the right reasons this time, but unfortunately at somewhat higher prices.

As I say it was at the beginning of August that I finally was struck by what I must do.  I’m not sure what led me to the conclusion but I think an element of deep disgust played a part.  I had just seen my biggest position, Combimatrix, get taken over for a significant premium. My portfolio took a big jump, which took down my losses from my mid-May peak from -10% (over 8% due to currency!) to -7.5%.  But then in the ensuing days I saw those gains begin to disappear.  Part of this happened because Radisys laid an egg in their quarterly results, but part of it was just a continuation of more of the same.  Currency losses, losses on index short hedges, some losses on my remaining oil stocks, and the ups and downs of the rest of my portfolio.

I simply could not handle the thought of my portfolio going back to where it was before Combimatrix had been acquired. I was sick of losing money on currency.  And I was reminded by the notion that you never see conditions clearly when you are staked too far to one side.  So I sold.

When I say I sold, I really mean I sold.  I took my retirement account to 90% cash.  I took my investment account to 75% cash.  There were only a couple of positions I left untouched.  And I took the dollars I received back to Canadian dollars.

I continued to struggle through much of August, but those struggles took on a new bent.  I was no longer dealing with portfolio fluctuations of 1%.  The amounts were measured at a mere fraction of that.   This breathing room afforded me by not losing money began to allow me to look elsewhere for ideas.

I don’t know if there is an old saying that ‘you can’t start making money until you stop losing it’, but if there isn’t there should be. When you are losing money, the first thing you need to do is to stop losing it.  Only then can you take a step back and appraise the situation with some objectivity.  Only then can you recover the mental energy, which until that time you had been expending justifying losses and coping with frustration, and put it towards the productive endeavor of finding a new idea.

In August, as my portfolio fluctuated only to a small degree but still with a slight downward slant, I mentally recuperated. And slowly new ideas started to come to me.  It became clear that I was right about gold, and in particular about very cheap gold stocks like Grand Colombia and Jaguar Mining, so I went long these names and others.  I realized that being short the US market was a fools errand, and closed out each and every one of those positions.  I saw that maybe this is the start of another commodities bull run, and began to look for metals and mining stocks that I could take advantage of.  I found stocks like Aehr Test Systems and Lakeland Industries, and took the time to renew my conviction in existing names like Air Canada, Vicor, Empire Industries and CUI Global.

Since September it has started to come together.  I saw the China news on electric vehicles and piled into related names.  Not all have been winners; while I have won so far with Albemarle, Volvo, Bearing Lithium and Almonty Industries, I have been flat on Leading Edge Materials and lost on my (recently sold) Lithium X and Largo Resources positions.  Overall the basket has led to gains.  I’ve also been investigating some other ways of benefiting from the EV shift.  It looks like rare earth elements and graphite might be two of the best ways to play the idea, and I have added to my position in Leading Edge Materials (which has a hidden asset by way of a REE deposit at the level of feasibility study) to this end.  Likewise nickel, which is not often talked about with electric vehicles and has been pummeled by high stock piles, has much to gain from electric vehicles and could see a resurgence over the next couple of years.  I’m looking closely at Sherritt for nickel exposure and took a small position there so far.

I saw that oil fundamentals were improving and got back into a few oil names, albeit only tentatively at first.  Such is the case that once you are burned on a trade, as I was when I incorrectly got into oil stocks in June and July for the wrong reasons, you are hesitant to return even when the right reasons present themselves.  Thus it has taken me a while, but over the last couple of weeks I have added positions in Canadian service companies Cathedral Energy and Essential Energy, and E&Ps Gear Energy, InPlay Oil and even a small position in my old favorite Bellatrix.  A company called Yangarra Resources has had success in a new lower zone of the Cardium, and I see InPlay and Bellatrix as potential beneficiaries.  These newer names go along with Blue Ridge Mountain Resources, Silverbow, and Zargon, all of which I held through the first half slump in oil.

I even saw the Canadian dollar putting in the top, and converted back some currency to US dollars a couple of weeks ago.

Most importantly, got back to my bread and butter.  Finding under the radar fliers with big risk but even bigger reward.  I have always said it is the 5-bagger that makes my returns.  If I don’t get them, then I am an average investor at best.

I found Mission Ready Services, which hasn’t worked yet but I think is worth waiting for.  I found some other Canadian names that I think have real upside if things play out right (in addition to the above mentioned metals an oil names, I added a position in Imaflex). Most profitably, I was introduced to Helios and Matheson after reading an article from Mark Gomes.

I don’t completely understand the reason why, but good things do not come to you when you are mired in a mess of doing things that are wrong.  It is only when you stop doing what is wrong that other options, some of which may be right, will begin to present themselves.

I also don’t know which of what I am doing now will turn out to be right, and what will turn out to be wrong.  I will monitor all my positions closely and try to keep a tighter leash than I have been.  What I do know is that I will not continue to be wrong in the same way I was through the months of May to August.  And that is a big step in the right direction right there.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last eight (!!) weeks of trades.  Note that in the process of writing this update I realized I do not have a position in Gear Energy or Essential Energy in the practice portfolio.  I have owned Gear for over a month and Essential for a few weeks.  This happens from time to time.  I miss adding a stock I talk about and own in my real portfolio.  I added them Monday but they are not reflected below.

Note as well that I can’t convert currency in the practice account.  I know I could use FXC but in the past I haven’t, I have just let the currency effects have their way with the practice portfolio. Thus you won’t see the currency conversions that I talked about making in my actual portfolio.  I may change this strategy the next time the Canadian dollar looks bottomy but as I am inclined to be long US dollars at this point, I’m leaving my allocations where they are for now.

Week 254: Just a Bunch of Company Updates

Portfolio Performance

week-254-yoyperformance

week-254-Performance

Top 10 Holdings

week-254-holding-concentration

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

Thoughts and Review

First some house keeping.  RBC’s has added new tools to make it easier to show performance for practice accounts.  I’ve maintained my portfolio manually through an excel spreadsheet for the last couple of years because RBC screws up the purchase values on their portfolio holding page and the gain/loss on individual stocks are, at times, ridiculous (my average cost is sometimes negative).

Recreating the results, even after building a visual basic routine to update the month of trades, was quite cumbersome, so I welcome these new tools.   At the beginning of the post I showed a list of my top ten holdings and below are all my positions, both are from the new tools.

The only information that is lost in this new format are the position by position gains and losses. While this is unfortunate, its so much less work compared to the process I had to go through before that this is how its going to be.

With that said…

I didn’t purchase any new stock in the last month so this is going to be a bit of a boring update.  I’ve be dedicated the space below to a discussion of a few of my larger and/or more interesting positions.

With April/May being an earnings period, there is a lot of information to consume.  I had mostly good news from the companies in my portfolio. I’ve tried to stick to names with solid operating momentum, staying away from those that might be turning it around but where good news has yet to trickle out.  And that has served me well.

As I have remarked before, my portfolio has been sitting in a holding pattern for the better part of a year.  While I am still waiting on a break out from the range, I feel better about the stocks I own than I have for a while.  Not all of them will pan out of course, but a few will, and hopefully 1 or 2 will be the multi-baggers that I depend on for out-performance.

Radcom

There is a lot to write about Radcom.

Radcom’s first quarter results were fine.  The company had revenue of $6.5 million and generated non-GAAP income of 15 cents per share. Perhaps the only negative about the quarter came out in a subsequent filing, that over $5 million came from their Tier 1 client, AT&T.

For the first time the company provided revenue guidance for the full year, a range of $28-$29.5 million.  They said that they were very confident in their ability to achieve this guidance as 80% of it was already secured with contracts.  In a later filing they said that 50% of their revenue in 2016 would come from North America.

Putting that together, Radcom is saying that they will generate about $14-$15 million from AT&T, and another $14 million from their existing non-NFV deployment.

Overall this is all as expected to slightly positive.   But the quarterly results and guidance don’t begin to tell the whole story here.  In fact what is most telling about guidance is what is left out; it does not include any contribution from additional Tier 1 service providers.

The company is actively pursuing additional Tier 1 customers for their virtual probe solution (MaveriQ).  They said they are in discussions with carriers from North America, Western Europe and APAC.  I’ve heard that the number of Tier 1’s is in the range of a handful.

It was reiterated on the conference call that MaveriQ is well ahead of its peers. Competitors either haven’t rolled out an NFV product, or if they have they don’t have real world implementation on it, and it is still tied to hardware.

We have competitors in the market but to our best understanding and everything that I am hearing from the CSPs and say they enrolled out an NFV product, some are saying that they have – they don’t have real world implementation on it. Some seem to be still in the hardware area and you cannot monitor an NFV network with the equipment, that’s why we believe they were the first mover and we were widening the gap with our competition.

This is inline of what I have gathered from one of the leaders in physical probes, Netscout, who recently said that their first virtual device would not be released until May.  I listened to Netscout’s webinar dedicated to NFV where they talked about their virtual probe technology and I was not impressed.  It felt like the event was put together to prove that they were in the game.

I note that Mark Gomes wrote the following on Friday, which corroborates with scuttle I had picked up from a different source:

In fact, word is spreading that RDCM’s product (MaveriQ) scored a perfect 100/100 in its lab trials, while the nearest competitor could only manage a 70/100. In other words, RDCM’s technology lead is wide, making them the de facto leader for NFV Service Assurance.

Amdocs provided some color around the cost advantage of virtual probes in this interview.  Justin Paul, head of OSS marketing at Amdocs, said the following:

The fixed video network model uses virtual probes instead of physical probes. This is because traditional, physical probes can’t probe a virtual network and the cost of a virtual probe is significantly lower than a physical one. We’re working with Radcom to implement a vProbe solution with a North American CSP and we’re seeing from the work we’ve done there that physical probe is 20-25% less costly than a physical probe. In addition, you can throw up a ring of probes around a specific area to address a specific peak in demand and redeploy those licences elsewhere when the peak has passed. They’re cheaper to buy and they offer greater flexibility and agility to operators because of that redeployment capability.

Since the results of the first quarter Radcom announced a share offering.  What has followed is an ensuing sell-off in the shares ha culminated Friday when the pricing of the shares came in at a disappointing $11.

Maybe I am too sanguine but I am not worried about the sell-off and while the dilution is unfortunate it is not overly material compared to the eventual upside.

Whether Radcom did a poor job selling their story, were poor negotiators, or just deemed the institutional backing and analyst coverage as being worth the cost of dilution at a somewhat low-ball price is unclear to me.

In the same article I quote above Gomes commented about over-subscription.  I have heard similar comments from another source.  The price action on Friday where the stock traded enormous volume and did not dip below the offer price suggests significant demand even as some shareholders throw in their cards in frustration after what could be perceived as a poor deal.

So the evidence is that the offer price is not a function of lack of interest and not a reflection on investor enthusiasm for their business prospects or for the strength of their MaveriQ solution.  And that was the real negative here; does $11 reflect poorly on Radcom’s business?  If it does not, and is a function of their willingness to concede in order to improve their balance sheet and get institutional support then really its not very negative at all.

I added to my position in the days leading up to the pricing.  That’s unfortunate.  I could have gotten those shares lower on Friday. But I do not see any reason to back track on those purchases.

I sat on a 1-2% position with Radcom for a couple years, all along thinking that this was an interesting little company with a promising technology that was worth keeping close tabs on in case they were able to step into the big time.  That is exactly what they’ve done with AT&T and are on the cusp of doing with other Tier 1’s.  I would be want not to do exactly what I anticipated doing in the event of such a progression.   And in the long-run I don’t think I will care too much that I bought the stock a day or two too soon.

Radisys

The first quarter results marked another step along the trajectory towards transforming Radisys’s business. The company continues to add to its suite products and services designed to facilitate the migration of service providers towards virtualizing their networks.

The company hit the high end of their guidance and then raised their guidance for the rest of the year.  They raised revenue to the range of $195-$215 million from $180-$200 million previously.  They left earnings per share guidance with the range of 22-28 cents on the expectation that additional costs would be incurred to support the expected revenue ramp.

he guidance raise was in large part due to the new DCEngine product.

DCEngine is a rack frame pre-installed with open-architecture software and white box hardware.  Its designed to be an alternative to the “locked in architecture” sold by the incumbent providers, and is consistent with the move to virtualize network functions (as opposed to tying them to hardware) so that upgrades, additional capacity and new functionality can be installed via software installs rather than hardware swaps.

DCEngine had its first order from Verizon, a $19 million order, at the end of the fourth quarter and this order was fulfilled in Q1.  On the first quarter call the company said the order from this service provider was expanded to $50 million, with the rest of the order expected to occur in the second quarter.

While this a large order for a company Radisys size, what is most interesting is that Brian Bronson, the CEO, referred to it as a “rounding error” in comparison to what Verizon needs to build out.

DCEngine is a low margin product, somewhere south of 20% gross margins.  But volumes could be significant, and management said that once the product gains traction that DCEngine orders “should be in the hundreds of millions.”

In addition, there is ancillary revenue to be gained from DCEngine sales.  Right now Radisys populates each rack with two white box switches.  In the second half of 2016 the company’s FlowEngine product will be upgraded and allow Radisys to replace those switches with it.  FlowEngine is a 60%+ gross margin product.

Second, the move from central office to data center is complicated and often requires support services from Radisys.  Providing the rack positions Radisys as the natural support resource, which on the call the company said can add another 10 points of operating income.

The company painted a positive picture of growth going forward.

They said that in addition to the Verizon order they were in discussions with a dozen service providers for DCEngine and expect to have 4 to 6 in trials by the end of the year.

With MediaEngine Radisys continues to ship product to their Asian servicer provider customer and said they are  “increasingly confident in our ability to secure further orders.”

They also see strong orders for FlowEngine in the first half from their Tier 1 carrier and while that might taper off somewhat in the second half they are still expecting revenues for FlowEngine to double year over year and there is the opportunity that more orders will materialize in the second half.

There are a lot of evolving parts with Radisys which make it difficult to pinpoint a forecast.  If I assume that revenue can grow 10% in 2017 on top of midpoint of guidance growth in 2016, that gross margins stay constant and SG&A and R&D costs increase modestly, I easily get to an EPS above 40c in 2017.  This seems like pretty conservative projections and yet it should easily support a stock price that is 50% higher.

guidanceWhat is interesting is how sensitive the numbers are to incremental revenue growth.  15% revenue growth produces and EPS above 50c while 20% revenue growth in about 60c.

What this makes clear is that there is real upside if the product suite begins to gain traction and realizes some of the expectations management alluded to one the conference call.  The speed of the move up above $4 makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where one should add to their position, but I feel like somewhere in the low $4’s, high $3’s will look like a good price in the long run.

Medicure

I was pleased with the first quarter results announced by Medicure.  Sales were down to $6 million from $9.5 million in the fourth quarter.  Earnings per share were 5c again down from the fourth quarter.  None of this was unexpected after the run-up in earnings in Q4 due to Integrillin shortages.

Earnings as reported by the company are also being depressed by higher intangible amortization due to Medicure reversing some of the write-down of intangibles related to Aggrastat in the fourth quarter of last year.  These intangibles show up in the cost of goods sold (which is why margins were down to 86% in the quarter) and most drug companies exclude them from their adjusted earnings.  Without the intangible earnings would have been 8c per share.

As the slide below, from their first quarter presentation, demonstrates, first quarter sales of Aggrastat were down sequentially as wholesalers that had stocked in the fourth quarter due to shortages of Integrillin purchased less but still up from the third quarter.

q1salesThe company also provided data for hospital bag demand, which was down again from the fourth quarter but to a lessor extent than sales, and up significantly from Q3.

q1bagdemandInterestingly, the company gave a couple data points to help investors normalize their sales data.  They said that first quarter sales understated demand by “a couple million dollars” because of the destocking.  They also said that they are currently shipping 1,700 bags per week, which works out to 20,000 per quarter and means that bag demand has continued to ramp subsequent to the first quarter.

The day before earnings Medicure announced that they are in the process of filing for bolus vial format approval – this will make it easier for hospitals to use Aggrastat. Some hospitals struggle with delivering high dose bolus via intravenous pump instead of syringe. The company provided the following clarification on the conference call:

Although the current bag format can be used to deliver the HDB as well as the maintenance infusion, some physicians and hospital catheterization labs prefer to administer the initial bolus dose with a smaller volume of drug product.  Moreover, the availability of a ready-to-use bolus vial will provide greater operational similarities and efficiencies for hospitals transitioning to AGGRASTAT.

Finally, although there is nothing concrete yet, the company reiterated its interest in purchasing Apicore, the generic supplier that they own 5% of, have a purchase option on the remaining interest, and are in partnership with for the production of a as of yet unnamed generic later this year.

There were a couple of questions in my last post about Medicure.  In particular what generic Integrillin meant to Aggrastat and second, whether Aggrastat itself would have a generic equivalent soon.

The second question came up because when you look at the patents that Aggrastat has, some of them run out as soon as 2016.  While its still not totally clear to me everything I have read suggests that when a drug is approved for a new indication it extends the exclusivity of the drug.   Medicure was granted patent until 2023 on the high dose bolus.

I still haven’t found the smoking gun that addresses this type of situation specifically but I did find a number of resources that indicate that generics will not be allowed until the high-bolus patent expires. This link to the FDA describes the periods of exclusivity for various NDAs. This slide show describes how a new drug is patented and how the exclusivity period is determined.  This q&a describes how a patent is extended with a label change for a new indication and how that will keep a generic off the market. In the book “Cracking the Code” authors Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi write:

Quite often, drug companies therefore try and extend patent life by tweaking the molecular structure of their drugs, changing the dosages or combining their drugs with other therapies to try and create a novel but similar product that allows the patent life to be extended.

Also worth noting is that Medicure does not refer to generic tirofiban (the drugs name) competition as a risk factor in their AIF.

As for the generic competition from Integrillin, it is real and occurring but Medicure allyed concerns by updating their price competition slide to include the cost of the generic.

pricecomp

Aggrastat remains the cheapest of the bunch.

I have added to my position around the $5 range and even caught a couple purchases in the $4’s.  Unless I am wrong about the direct generic competition being years away I think the stock is too cheap and should trade up to a high single digit number on the current level of Aggrastat sales alone.  If there is a positive event with Apicore, the new generic introduction, or additional sales from new indications for Aggrastat, then all the better.

Air Canada

I continue to believe that Air Canada is misunderstood.  Maybe some day I will be proven right.

The stock trades at a significant discount to all of its peers.  The justification behind the discount amounts to:

  1. Air Canada has a lower operating margin
  2. Air Canada has a comparatively higher debt load
  3. Air Canada’s strategy of capacity additions is bound to end in tears

I get that (1) and (2) validate a somewhat lower multiple than a debt free, high margin peer.  But the current discount is too much.  As for the third justification, I think it fails to recognize what Air Canada is trying to accomplish.

Air Canada is adding capacity, but it is not to serve a slow Canadian economy. Capacity is being added to international flights in what they see as under-utilized Canadian/international hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.  The strategy is to pin-point international demand where the location of the hub and cost structure puts them at an advantage against the competition.

Air Canada is also taking advantage of what is actually a lower cost structure on some routes (due to Canadian dollar based expenses and new airplanes with better efficiency) to claw back trans-border traffic that they lost to US carriers during the dark period of their bankruptcy and near-bankruptcy.

Finally Air Canada has added new planes and routes that increase their flexibility to redistribute the fleet during slowdowns like the one that we have seen in Alberta.  It didn’t seem to get a lot of focus in the first quarter follow-up but the Alberta slowdown barely blemished their results.

I think its instructive that with few exceptions when Air Canada comes up on BNN’s Market Call, the pat responses is:

  1. The Airline industry is always terrible
  2. Air Canada has gone through bankruptcy before
  3. It can’t be different this time

What is unfortunate is that there is no quick fix to this perception.  The past couple of years of mostly excellent results are proof that it is going to take time, maybe a full cycle, before portfolio managers become comfortable with the idea that Air Canada has positioned themselves to withstand economic weakness and grow the business in good times. Perhaps when oil prices recover and we see the Canadian economy turn up investors will start to conclude that hey, that was the downturn, and look, Air Canada is still standing.  I’m willing to wait that out as long as the company continues to perform.

Health Insurance Innovations

Health Insurance Innovations turned in a very good first quarter but they haven’t gotten a lot of credit for it.  Revenue was up 88% to $42.5 million. EBITDA grew from a negligible amount in the first quarter of 2015 to $4.2 million in 2016.   Policies in force grew from 195,100 to 258,000 sequentially while submitted applications grew from 153,300 to 192,200.  They saw growth from all their sales channels but in particular Agilehealthinsurance.com, their online sales channel, doubled from 11,000 policies submitted in the fourth quarter to 23,000 policies submitted in the first quarter.  Both revenue and EPS guidance were increased for the year.

I’m not sure why the stock hasn’t responded better.  There is a large short interest, which I don’t really understand, so maybe those players have been doubling down on their bet.  The mid point of EPS guidance is 40c, so the stock trades at 15x this years earnings which does not seem expensive given the growth they are beginning to experience.  I suspect that comments on the conference call are partially responsible for the muted response.  They said their baseline assumption is that growth will level out at Agile until the next open enrollment:

we’re taking a view that says a lot of people bought it during open enrollment that’s why we’re still strong and things are going to level off until the fourth quarter when open enrollment comes in.

Hopefully, we’re wrong and we have dramatic sales in between these open enrollment periods, but frankly given the dynamism of this market, we’re not sure and so we’ve done our best to forecast sales at Agile and the rest of the company over the next six months and that take place in our guidance.

I think this might be conservative.  The story seems to be getting better.  At the current price the growth trajectory that has began to emerge over the last couple of quarters is not priced in. While something has held the stock down since the release of the first quarter results, I doubt that can continue with the release of another strong quarter.

Shorter thoughts on a few other names

Granite Oil

Granite Oil had their credit line reduced from $80 million to $60 million.  While I expected some reduction, this was a bit larger than I had anticipated given that the company has such modest debt levels compared to its peers.  Fortunately the company only has $40 million drawn so the reduction is not really an impediment.

Intermap

Intermap still hasn’t received initial payment to allow it to start its SDI contract in the Congo.  I never expected this to be easy and I acknowledge that the stock is a flyer so I have it sized accordingly.   The bottom line is that the risk reward remains attractive if you treat the position like an option that could expire worthless (or close to it anyways) but also could be a ten bagger.  I note that Mark Gomes, who I quoted above, is involved in Intermap as well and has written a number of good posts on the name.

Rentech

Rentech had a not unexpectedly terrible quarter.  In the fourth quarter the company was pretty clear that the ramp at Atikokan and Wawa wasn’t going smoothly, needed more equipment, that they were still tweaking operation plan, and that they were not even sure Wawa would reach original capacity.  In the first quarter they appeared to get Atikokan on-track which leaves Wawa.  Here is what they said about Wawa on the conference call:

Our production shortcomings appear to be the product of limited experience operating the plant at higher levels of throughput and sustained operations as a result of our past conveyor problems. We are now experiencing the operational and production issues that we should have witnessed last year, but for the conveyor problems.

Even with these recent challenges, we’re still learning how to respond to or prevent these causes of production disruption that are typical of ramp-up of new pellet mills, such as sparks, jams, plugging, dust, moisture content, silica content, truck dump outages, hammer mill clogging, et cetera.

On top of that they experienced weather related weakness at NEWP.  The warm winter in the North East reduced demand for wood pellets.

I have only taken a small position in the stock and I don’t plan to add more until we see positive momentum from the Canadian operations.  But I look at these plants like a mine, which I have quite a bit of experience investing in, and the two things I have learned about starting a new mine is that A. it never goes smoothly and B. the initial start-up problems are typically figured out after some time.  So I think Rentech will get their hands around this, and I want to be ready when they do.

Mitel

I sold out of Mitel, at least for now.  The acquisition/merger with Polycom takes the company further down the path of being a hardware provider for enterprise telecom solutions, which is not really why I found the stock interesting.  The justification around the deal is mostly about cost reductions and synergies, not growth, which again is not inline with my original thesis.  And the combined entity still has to compete against Cisco which is significantly larger and has been taking market share from Polycom.  Until I get a better understanding of where Mitel is going from here, I thought it best to exit my position.

TG Therapeutics

I bought back into TG Therapeutics at $7 last week.  There hasn’t been any negative data to justify the fall in the stock of late.  My original investment thesis still stands, just at a price now that is about 2/3 of what it was at the time.  Really, if anything we are getting closer to the conclusion of their Phase II and Phase II studies.

By the way, if anyone can recommend any good books for understanding biotechnology please send me an email liverless@hotmail.ca.  Thanks!

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.  Note that the 224 share AdjIncr transaction is because when Swift pink sheet equity converted to new equity I lost my shares in the practice account and so I had to restore those manually.

week-254

Week 227: No pain no gain

Portfolio Performanceweek-227-yoyperformance

week-227-Performance

 

See the end of the post for the current make up of my portfolio and the last four weeks of trades

Monthly Review and Thoughts

Over the last few months I have been focused on minimizing the fluctuations in my portfolio.   This has kind of worked.  I haven’t had the up’s and down’s that I might have had otherwise, given the volatility.  But I also haven’t had the returns.

The reality is that I very rarely do well without experiencing a lot of pain beforehand.  Let’s look at a few examples to prove that point (I’m going off of memory here so allow me a little leeway in the exact figures):

  1. Tembec and Mercer both fell ~30% from my original purchase price before rallying to be triples.
  2. PHH went from $15 to almost $10 before eventually running into the mid-$20s
  3. I originally bought MGIC at $2.50, watched it fall to almost 50c, before finally selling the stock over $8.
  4. YRC Worldwide fell from $8 to $6 before making its run to $30.
  5. I watched Extendicare go from $7.50 to $6, adding extensively on the way down.  Now its at $9
  6. Every time I buy New Residential it seems to fall incessantly for days or weeks after my first purchase before I finally wind up making a good return on the stock.

Unfortunately, the fall is part of the reason for the gain.  These situations turn out to be big winners is because

A. I get to know the story really well (as the name falls, I worry and fret about whether I have screwed up (because I screw up a lot) and in the process I learn a lot more about the position

B. I add to my position.

I know I say I have a rule that I don’t add to losing positions and I cut positions after a 20% loss.  And that is mostly true.  But its not totally true.  What I actually do is dramatically escalate my level of worry at that threshold, which in most cases leads to nausea and good riddance.  But sometimes I find the story compelling and I get stubborn, and in these cases I add.

The mental capital that I expend in these situations is enormous.  I grump and fight depression as the position falls.  I feel elated when it finally rises only to be sent back into gloom as it falls again. Its a gut-wrenching experience and one that I have come to dread.  But it is, unfortunately, an absolutely necessary part of the process.  I know of no other way to capture returns.

I haven’t been doing this lately.  I have been too scared to take risk.  The consequence is that I have sold a number of stocks way too soon.  I sold Hawaaiian Holdings at $26.  I sold Bsquare at $6.  I sold Apigee at $8 (I realize its back at $8 but that was before going to $10+).  I sold Impact Mortgage at $17.  And so on.  In no case have I been willing to scale up.

This month I decided to change my tack.

First, I took a brief but very large position in Concordia Healthcare in the midst of its free fall.  It may not have been prudent and it was probably born out of frustration as much as anything, but as Concordia dropped to $25 Canadian on October 21st I just kept adding.  At the low, I had a 15% position in Concordia and by 11am, as it hit $25 (I believe that was around $19 US) I had fully reconciled myself with the possible carnage I was risking.

I actually sold half of the position at what turned out to be essentially the low.  But seconds later I felt the fear of copping out at a bottom to be more overwhelming than riding the position all the down.  Or maybe I had a rational moment where I considered that the CEO had just been on BNN basically dispelling any connection to the troubles with Valeant and thinking to myself that maybe its just taking a few minutes for the market to catch on to what he just said.  So I bought the whole thing back and more.  I remember my hands were shaking and I was walking around in a daze.  I put a fork in the microwave at lunch.

Fortunately what appeared to me to be unwarranted actually turned out to be.  The stock moved up slowly then quickly, ending the day at $34 and two days later at $44.

I’d love to say I held the whole stash for the run but I didn’t.  Happy with the relief of turning big losses into reasonable gains, I sold stock at $30, at $34 and again at $38 the next day.  I let go of the rest a few days later at $42.

The event, which quite honestly was harrowing, was another reminder.  I have to be willing to be scared if I am going to make money.  This may have been an extreme example, and looking back on it I don’t think it was probably the sensible thing to do, but nevertheless taking a risk on a situation that doesn’t make sense to me is the essence of what I need to be able to do.

Since that time, having woken up again to the necessity of risk, I made a couple of other bets that are more “risky” than what I would have attempted a couple months ago.  I took two reasonably large positions over the last two weeks; one in Air Canada and one in New Residential.   I took a third on Friday with DHT Holdings.

I actually wrote this part of the write-up earlier last week, on Wednesday, but I had to delete it and write it again over the weekend.  When I wrote on Wednesday, my position in New Residential looked to be under never-ending selling pressure and my position in Air Canada felt like it would never move up.  So I wrote a couple paragraphs about how I was going to stick with these positions because I really thought I was right here and even as I was tearing my hair out and becoming angry at the world I still believed I would prevail in the end.

Fortunately things started to turn around.

What can I say.  I got kicked in the teeth for most of October.  I was literally down 9 straight days at one point.  Not down big mind you, but nevertheless I was down every freaking day.   Keep in mind that this happened as the market roared to new heights.  It felt like a never-ending assault.

Things started to turn last Thursday (the 26th) when Radcom put out a pretty so-so quarter but hinted at some excellent Tier 1 opportunities on the conference call last Thursday.  This was followed up by a solid quarter from Radisys.

Last week was up and down until Thursday when Air Canada reported a quarterly beat and the stock actually held its gains, Mitel reported a solid quarter and was up a buck, Granite Oil showed that someone can make money at $45 oil, raising its dividend and moving up a dollar and New Residential, while pulling in a modest 10c rise, pulled off an intraday reversal and a glimmer of hope.  Friday was even better with big gains from all of the above mentioned names.

I’m hoping its the start of something.  I’ve had enough pain.

New Residential

I’ve taken a fairly large position in New Residential.  At $12, which is where I was really adding, I think it is just too cheap, with a 15% dividend, positive exposure to higher rates, and below the book value of $12.40 which doesn’t even account for the $5-$10 of value that their call right portfolio could eventually yield (more on that below).

I’ve talked about their mortgage servicing portfolio on numerous occasions so I am going to leave that for now.  I’ll focus instead on the two other portfolio segments, servicer advances and call rights.

Servicer Advances

Here’s how it works.  New Residential buys a pool of outstanding servicer advances and with it the base fee component of the related mortgage servicing right (MSR).   The price of the purchase is a discounted cash flow value of the outstanding and future advances and the base fee.

Typically New Residential already owns the excess MSR in these pools.  The base fee they purchase would likely be around 20 basis points depending on the type of mortgage they are servicing.  Nationstar or Ocwen would remain the servicer and perform all the servicing duties in return for a servicing fee that New Residential pays them.  The fee structure of the servicing fee is described in the 10-Q and appears to be quite different for Nationstar than for Ocwen, but the essence of both is that there is a base fee paid and an incentive or profit sharing fee that is made once a return threshold has been reached.

New Residential makes money via the spread between A. the base fee they receive on the MSR and B. the combination of the fees that they have to pay the servicer (Nationstar or Ocwen) and the interest expense that they have to pay on the advances.  They explained it like this on the first quarter conference call:

The way that we get compensated, we receive a portion of the MSR off of the $251 billion UPB of non-agency loans. This compensates us for our advances. Our advances are currently funded with $7.9 billion of debt with an approximate advance rate of 90% and an interest rate of — cost of funds of 2.2%. On our debt, 50% have fixed-rate coupons, which will also help mitigate interest rate risks. And as I pointed out earlier, our life-to-date IRR on our advance portfolio has been 34%.

They also explain the whole process fairly well on slide 10 of their first quarter presentation:

serviceradvancesummary
Here is a table they provided on the same slide showing the advances and UPB of their 3 servicer advance portfolios:
serviceradvanceupb

The way to think about the investment is that its just another way to get at the monthly servicing income.  Instead of paying for the excess servicing right with only up-front capital, you pay for it with a combination of up-front capital and the on-going servicing fee and the interest on the advances.  But the essence is the same; its a perpetual income stream as long as the mortgage is not paid back or delinquent.  So it is pretty similar to the excess MSRs that New Residential is better known for.  I’m not sure whether the investment community sees it that way though, which may present an opportunity once the steady cash flows become appreciated.

Non-agency Call Rights

A call right is the ability to “call” securities once certain criteria have been met. My understanding, which admittedly isn’t perfect, is that the criteria to call for the non-agency securities in New Residential’s portfolio, triggers when the UPB of the underlying loans pays down to 10% of the original balance.

New Residential has been acquiring call rights as part of the private label servicing that they have acquired.  It seems like the call rights have been something of a free-bee thrown in with the mortgage servicing right in many cases.

This means that New Residential’s call right portfolio is not recorded as a significant asset on the balance sheet.  Management drove this point home on the first quarter conference call:

Douglas Harter – Crédit Suisse AG, Research DivisionSo just to be clear: there’s no value on the balance sheet today for those call rights?

Michael Nierenberg – Chief Executive Officer, President and DirectorThat’s….

Jonathan R. Brown – Interim Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer and TreasurerThere’s essentially no value on the balance sheet. When we acquired them, we put a small number on, but it doesn’t move with the mark-to-market.

So book value calculations for New Residential ignore the value of the call rights.

Now for a little bit about how it works.

First, New Residential is going to look at the bonds underlying the call right and, where possible, purchase these bonds at a discount to par.   The call right gives New Residential the ability to call the bond at par plus expenses.  When the market is in their favor they do this, and then take the performing loans and repackage these into new securities which they sell at a premium to the par that they called the bonds.   The delinquent loans stay on the balance sheet and New Residential takes interest from these loans and liquidates them as opportunity permits.

To reiterate the process, here is how management described it on the second quarter conference call:
we buy bonds at a discount that accrete to par when we call them. We call the collateral at par plus expenses, we then securitize or sell the loans at a premium. The delinquent loans that we take back are retained on our balance sheet at fair market value and that those get liquidated or modified over time. Since we’ve begun this strategy, we’ve been averaging approximately two to three points of P&L per deal.

New Residential has about $200 billion of UPB in call rights (they said $240 billion UPB in the first quarter but have since then referred to it only as over $200 billion).  Impressively, this amounts to 35% of the outstanding legacy non-agency market.  Right now about $30 billion that meets the 10% UPB criteria to be called.  Therefore it can be called be if New Residential finds that it is accretive to do so, meaning specifically if the market conditions for the new securitizations are favorable.

That $200 billion will amortize over time, so the actual UPB at the time it is called will be somewhat less.  They think the eventual UPB will be in the $100-$125 billion, as they described on the first quarter call:

There is going to be amortization to get to a 10% clean-up call or 10% factor on the underlying deals. So in our best case or our best guess-timate at this point, that $235 billion at the time of call will be between $100 billion and $125 billion.

The economics of the deals were discussed on the first quarter call as such:

Our recent experience when we’ve called deals, the way to think about this, has been we’ve been making approximately 2 to 3 points per deal. Now some of this will be dependent upon rates, but as you think about it, on a $100 billion portfolio of call rights at the time of call, 2 points would be — would correlate to about $2 billion. Thinking about it, with 200 million — 198 million shares outstanding, it should bring in approximately $2 per share.

So I am quite certain Michael Nierenberg, the CEO, misspoke on the $2 per share comment.  This has caused me a bit of consternation because he actually said the $2 comment twice.  But I’ve read a few brokerage reports and the value they are more inline with what the other numbers imply.  Undiscounted the earnings potential here is more like $10 per share.   Piper Jaffrey gave a $5 per share value to the call right portfolio here.  UBS gives a value of $6 per share to the portfolio.

So that is a crazy big number for a company trading at $13.  Its why, even if we get a little run here to $14, I will be reluctant to part with my position.  I need to keep reading and making sure that I am not missing anything, but this feels to me like another one of these fat pitches that I see coming along every so often.  If there is one thing I’ve learned its that you have to take on some risk when these opportunities present themselves.

Nationstar Mortgage

I would not have bought Nationstar had I not had such a big position in New Residential.

I haven’t followed Nationstar closely for a while.  Last year I owned the stock for a short period but exited for a loss after giving up trying to determine how much of their net income would be absconded via a more watchful regulator, and a closing of loop holes like force-placed-insurance.

Fast forward a year.  The company’s earnings have taken a hit, in large part due to the aforementioned scrutiny.  I’ve found at least one lawsuit that they settled regarding force-placed insurance (here).  They paid another $16 million in borrower restitution for in-flight mods, which is where a borrower gets a modification from one servicer even as the loan is being transferred to another.  It looks like some of the executives at Nationstar were even sued on allegations that they did not properly disclose just how large the impact of the regulator crackdown to earnings would be.  The company paid out $13.9 million in the third quarter and $37.3 million in the 9 month period for legal fees and settlements.  Its worth noting that Nationstar still ranks as a below average servicer among customers.

So there are problems.  Nevertheless I bought the stock, primarily because, after listening to the third quarter conference call, I felt there were enough signs of a turnaround in place to warrant at least a bump in the stock price.  Witness the following:

The servicing business had a better quarter, servicing margins were up to 3.6 basis points, which was a 1.3 basis point improvement over Q2.

Nationstar thinks that by the fourth quarter they can get servicing margins up to 5 basis points. 1 basis point of that increase is expected come from improved amortization (which I essentially think means that rates are higher and so they can assume a longer amortization trend) with the rest coming from operational improvements.

For 2016 they are targeting 5-7 basis points of margins.  The average servicing unpaid principle balance (UPB) was $400 billion in the third quarter and they ended the quarter with $408 billion UPB.  A move back to 5 basis points would be $14 million more in pre-tax profits (or 13c).  7 basis points would be $36 million incrementally (33c).

Here is how servicing has trended over the past number of quarters. Note how much of an impact the increased amortization has had.  Amortization is going to look a lot better at higher rates.

servicing

While Nationstar may not be a leading edge servicer, they are starting to see improvement on prepayments (CPR), which dropped 4% in the third quarter.  Delinquency rates have improved from 10.6% to 7.2% over the past year

 servicingstats

Net of recapture CPR was down to 13.3% from 14.1% in the second quarter. The overall recapture rate was 28%

In October Nationstar signed a $50 billion sub-servicing agreement with “a major financial institution”. That is 15% growth to their existing UPB.  The company said in response to questions that this new UPB will add $30-$40 million of income once fully boarded in 2016.

Also interesting were the comments made around their online home selling platform, Xome.  Xome’s results were somewhat underwhelming, revenue was down from $122 million in the second quarter to $109 million as they sold less units than in the second quarter:

xome

But if you parse through the data the decline was generated entirely by REO units sold. So Xome actually saw year over year growth in third party transactions. Third party revenue was up 34% year over year an makes up 37% of revenue now.  And its third party transactions that will ultimately determine the value of Xome.

In response to a question regarding the strategic process to find a partner for Xome, Nationstar said that the valuations they were getting from prospective buyers were in the $1 billion range

Overall, earnings right now are in the $1.20 range adjusted for mark to market adjustments of the MSRs.  You get a possible upside when value is realized on Xome and you get potentially improved servicing margins as rates rise.  Its not a sure thing but there is upside potential.

Patient Home Monitoring

Patient Home Monitoring (PHM) has been beaten up over the past few months.  When I bought it in the mid-50 cent range I thought I was getting into the stock as it moved off the bottom.  This unfortunately proved to be premature, and it has since slumped back down to the lows.

PHM owns a variety of healthcare businesses that revolve around home based services for patients with chronic conditions.   They provide home sleep testing to patients that sleep apnea, home medical equipment such as oxygen nebulizers, and mobility devices, they have a complex rehab business, a pharmacy business – special programs to Medicare Part B programs, and a post acute respiratory care business.

They brought these businesses together via acquisitions, so they are a roll-up strategy, which has become a four-letter word over the past few months and which is partially responsible for the poor stock price performance.

The strategy is that you buy these smallish, single shop operations at an accretive price and then take advantage of their patient database to cross-sell the other products in your portfolio.  The former CEO, Michael Dalsin, described it as such in an interview last year:

a lot of these new devices and new technologies and new reimbursement codes are not immediately adopted by the large multi-billion dollar companies in our space. They are adopted by the entrepreneurs who are usually the sales reps of the device company, sometimes doctors themselves think they can make more money doing this care coordination than being a physician. So it’s small little companies all around the country – $10-20 million in sales, usually highly focused on one disease space. So they might only service pulmonology disease. And the reason they do that, ultimately, is because they know that market. They know the sales reps, they know the doctors, they can get prescriptions, they know pulmonology. And as they start developing their market, they become a little bit profitable – they make a couple of million dollars a year – but for us, the most important part of that acquisition is the patient database

Lets take a look at some of the acquisitions.  In September they closed their acquisition of Patient Aids for $23 million.  They expect Patient Aids to generate $17 million of revenue and $6 million of EBITDA annualized.  Patient Aids is a supplier of home health products and services in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.  Product lines include things like power mobility equipment, vehicle lifts, nebulizers, oxygen concentrators, and CPAP and BiPAP units.

Before Patient Aids PHM made its largest acquisition, Sleep Management.  Sleep Management provides ventilators to patients with Chronic Pulmonary obstruction.  The management of Sleep Management took on senior positions at PHM after the acquisition was complete.  Note that this transition has been partially responsible for the decline in the stock price, as investors were surprised by the CEO shuffle and the fact that the former CEO, Michael Dalsin, sold his stock upon his departure.   But according to an interview with Bruce Campbell I listened to on BNN, Sleep Management has grown by 100% over the past three years.   This was a $100 million acquisition that they expect will generate $18 million EBITDA annually.

Prior to Sleep Management there were a number of smaller acquisitions.

There was Legacy Oxegyn, which they paid a little over $4 million for and of which they are expected to generate $750,000 of EBITDA.  They have a business similar to Sleep Management, offering home-based medical equipment and services for patients with chronic pulmonary conditions in addition to wheel chairs, hospital beds, and other mobility aids.  They operate in Kentucky and Louisiana.

Before that was Blackbear Medical, which operates in Maine and provides home medical equipment like canes, crutches and walkers.  West Home Healthcare provides a similar set of products in Virginia.

All of these acquisitions are expected to cross-sell the array of PHM products over time.  I cobbled together the following table of pre and post-acquisition revenues.  They have a reasonably good track record of increasing sales from the businesses they acquire.

acquisitions

I don’t think there is any magic to these businesses.  They are basic product and services businesses that generate fairly low (10-15%) operating margins.  Those margins can potentially increase after they are brought into the fold and higher margin products, like COPD, are added to the product/services mix.  Meanwhile the stock seems pretty reasonable at around 4.5x EBITDA.  At this point its basically a show-me story where the operating performance over the next few quarters will determine how well the stock does.

Concordia Healthcare

Last month when I wrote up my reasons behind Concordia Healthcare I kind of rushed through it at the last minute and didn’t do a very good job.  The problem with these write-ups is they take time, and trying to write consistently every fourth week doesn’t always line up well with life schedules.  For example the weekend of my last write-up was Canadian Thanksgiving.

So I don’t own Concordia right now.  I think, however, that there is a good chance I will own Concordia in the future.  Given that Concordia is complicated and given the absolute roller-coaster ride the stock has been on it seems that a more thoughtful write-up is appropriate.

As I tried to make clear in my original write-up, Concordia is not a perfect stock.  It has the following problems:

  1. They have taken on a lot of debt with recent acquisitions.  Currently at a 6x Debt/EBITDA multiple
  2. They are labeled baby-Valeant by the financial press which means that every bit of bad news for Valeant is conferred to them
  3. They have relied at least partially on price increases in the past to boost revenues and lever returns from acquisitions

With those three negatives understood, Concordia also has a number of positives.

  1. They generate a tremendous amount of free cash from their portfolio of pharmaceuticals
  2. The product portfolio consists mostly of older drugs that have stable to slightly declining revenues but with predictable future revenue profiles
  3. At the current stock price the stock trades at a very attractive free cash flow multiple of around 5x
  4. They are less than 1/10th the size of Valeant, so the potential to continue to grow by acquisitions remains, even if one of the models of that growth, acquisition + price increases, is no longer viable

Concordia’s Acquisition History

Concordia hasn’t been around that long.  Their acquisitions started small and grew larger, with the biggest being the recent acquisition of AMCo.  Below is a table of all of Concordia’s acquisitions pre-AMCo.

acquisitionsLet’s go through each of these acquisitions in chronological order.

Kapvay, Orapred and Ulesfia

These three drugs were acquired May 2013 from Shionogi.  Concordia paid $28.7 million including a $2.3 million inventory adjustment.  There was also a pay-out clause that if revenue of Kapvay exceeds $1.5 million per year in the first 18 months Concordia would have to pay 30% of incremental revenue.  It looks like they had to pay at least some of that amount.

Kapvay is used to treat ADHD.  Ulesfia used as topical treatment for head lice.  Orapred is an anti-inflammatory used in the treatment of certain pulmonary diseases such as asthma.

Kapvay and Oraped face generic competition.  Both only became generics after Concordia acquired them.  Kapvay started to have generic competition in fourth quarter 2013 while Oraped first faced generic competition in fourth quarter 2014.  Ulesfia does not face generics yet.

Two of the three drugs experienced price increases by Concordia after they were acquired. From the 2014 AIF: “since acquiring Kapvay, Ulesfia and Orapred, the Corporation has increased such product prices by 52%, 43% and 10%, respectively, without any adverse prescription volume effect.”  All of these drugs appear to have prices inline with competition:

kapvay-orapred-ulesfiapricing

Here are sales of each drug:

 

kapvay-orapred-ulesfiaIts worth noting that Kapvay sales did plummet once the drug was exposed to generic competition in the fourth quarter of 2013.

kapvay

Photofrin

Photofrin was acquired in December 2013 for $58 million that consisted of $32.7 million of cash and 5 million shares at $5.63 per share.  Photofrin is used to treat Esophageal Cancer, Barrett’s Esophagus and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Photofrin is kind of an interesting treatment.  The drug itself, which is called Photofrin, is administered intravenously.  This is followed up by a laser treatment focused on the tumor.  The laser reacts with the drug, oxidizing it and the tumor in the process.

I believe that pre the Covis transaction Photofrin was the only drug in Concordia’s “orphan drug division”.  Because of the unique combination of drug and device, they do not expect Photofrin to face generic competition.

Prior to being acquired Photofrin had $11 million of revenue in 2011 and $13 million of revenue in 2012.  The orphan drug division as a whole had $10.7 million of revenue in 2014, presumably all attributable to Photofrin.  In the first half of 2015 orphan drug division had $5.9 million of revenue.  Overall Photofrin appears to provide a steady revenue stream.  I don’t see any evidence of price increases on Photofrin.

Zonegran

Concordia acquired Zonegran for $91.4 million in cash including approximately $1.4 million for purchased inventory.  I believe that what was purchased was specifically the agreement to market the drug in the US and Puerto Rico.

Zonegran is an epilepsy treatment.  According to pre-acquisition financials Zonegran has $12.4 million of revenue in the first half of 2014 and $22 million of revenue in 2013:

zonegranrevsAccording to spring presentation in 2014 Zonegran revenue was 8% of Concordia’s $309 million of total revenue or about $25 million.

zonegranhistoryThe essentially flat revenue suggests hasn’t been much in the way of price increases for Zonegran.  It looks like Zonegran is inline with the costs of other Epileptic treatments.

Donnatal

Donnatal was purchased in May of 2014. This was the biggest acquisition Concordia had made at the time  Before the Covis acquisition Donnatal made up 41% of Concordia’s revenue, or about $150 million.

Donnatal treats irritable bowel syndrome and has been around for more than 50 years.  Therefore it predates the current FDA approval process, it is not a reference listed drug, and, according to the 2014 AIF: “at this time there is no defined pathway for approval of a generic competitor to Donnatal”.  Though to qualify this, there are a number of other irritable bowel drugs on the market that compete directly with Donnatal.

Donnatal is probably the most notable example of price increases.  The CEO of Concordia admitted as much last week during a BNN interview (segments one and two here and here).  What’s interesting is that while Concordia did raise the price of Donnatal significantly after acquiring the drug, similar cost increases appear to have been made even before the acquisition.  Also worth noting  is that Donnatal is well within the price range of its competition:

donnatalcomp

Here is Donnatal prescription volumes over past few years:

donnatalvolumesCovis

Covis was acquired for $1.2 billion on April 21 2015.  Things begin to get more complicated here, because Covis is a big acquisition with many drugs.   Covis added 18 branded or generic products.  Here is a list of what they got:

covisproductsOf these products Concordia focuses on the following four as being the most important:coviskeyproductsWhat’s key about most (but not all) of these products is that they are old, they have generic competition, and they have stable or falling demand profiles.

I haven’t been able/had time to dig up information on the individual drugs.   As a whole, Covis had revenue of $47 million to $52 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, so just before acquisition.   2014 revenue as a whole was was estimated by Concordia to be between $140 million to $145 million at the time of acquisition.

Post-acquisition, Covis had revenue of $38.7 million in the second quarter.   Given that the acquisition closed on April 21st, that revenue accounts for 68 of the 91 days in the quarter, so pro-forma over the full quarter revenue would have been $52 million, which inline with the fourth quarter results.

Amdipharm Mercury

Concordia sells the Amdipharm Mercury acquisition as a way to increase the diversity of their revenue and expand the overall platform, which sets them up to more easily compete in future acquisitions.  The acquisition is a departure from past acquisitions, which targeted either a drug or portfolio of drugs, as Amdipharm is a complete company purchase.

This wasn’t a cheap acquisition.  The total price at the time of the stock offering was $3.5 billion.  Concordia paid around 12x EV/EBITDA based on a little less than $300mm EBITDA for Amdipharm.  This included the assumption of $1.4 billion of Amdipharm debt.  They also issued 8 million shares at $65 USD.  The acquisition is closer to 10x EBITDA for those of us looking at the stock now with the shares having depreciated significantly.  But that is no consolation for the folks that bought at $65.

The company describes the acquisition as accretive to earnings, and I believe that’s true based on my own number crunching, but you have to realize that its accretive because they are taking on so much debt.  The debt is roughly $3 billion of the $3.5 billion acquisition price.  The accretion is because this is a very profitable drug portfolio, so even after subtracting interest costs there is significant earnings remaining on the bottom line.  The downside is that it made Concordia very levered up.

The benefits are diversification, as Amdipharm was primarly in the UK and Europe.  Concordia is now only 40% exposed to the US and 10% exposed to state funded plans, a global footprint, which Concordia suggests will make it easier for them to cross-sell their existing pharmaceuticals and expand with further acquisitions.  AMCo also appears to have a fairly stable product base, most of them have been off-patent for a long time, many of them are difficult to manufacture, and 88% of the portfolio have two or fewer competitors.  Of course cynically you could look at these points and say what a great portfolio to implement price increases on…

Amdipharm has 190 products, which makes it a lot more difficult for me to analyze.  Here are the top ten by revenue:

amcotop10products

Valuation

What continues to make Concordia tempting is that on a free cash basis they trade extremely cheaply.  The company’s guidance for cash earnings is $6.29 to $6.77 per share.  It looks to me like cash earnings has followed closely to free cash flow.

But I’m nervous about the debt and the short-selling.  Total debt is around $3.5 billion.  Given the company’s EBITDA estimate of $610-$640 million for 2016, Concordia trades at about 8x EV/EBITDA.  On a pure enterprise value basis that leaves them somewhat undervalued compared to other pharmaceutical companies (which seem to go for around a 10-11x EBITDA multiple).

Clearly there was short-selling involved that caused the precipitous drop to the teens a few weeks ago.  That they have their sights on Concordia is cause for concern for owning the stock.  As long as Valeant is in the headlines Concordia is at risk whether its warranted or not.

Other Adds: Alliance Healthcare, Nevsun Resources, Northstar Realty, Acacia Research

I bought Alliance Healthcare because I thought that at $8 it was getting just a little to cheap.  At $8 the market capitalization was only a little more than $80 million.  While the company’s debt remains enormous ($507 million) they continue to generate a lot of free cash ($40 million in the first nine months of the year, though this is before minority interests so the actual number attributable to the company is somewhat less than this).  The stock has been under pressure since their major shareholder, Oaktree Capital Management, sold their shares at $18.50 to Fujian Thai Hot Investment Company.  Thai Hot now has a majority interest in the company but as part of the deal has agreed to make no further purchases of shares, which essentially prohibit it from supporting their position.  The whole thing is weird, but at $8 I have to think most of the damage is done.

I bought Northstar Realty and Nevsun for similar reasons.  Northstar is a hated property REIT mostly operating in the healthcare and hotel sectors that has been beaten down to a 15% yield.  I don’t see anything particularly wrong with their property portfolio, and I suspect that the incessant selling has more to do with year-end and being a former hedge fund darling.

Nevsun is an $800 million market capitalization (Canadian dollars) copper miner with almost $600 million of cash on the books.  While the low copper price has hurt them, they are still generating free cash.  They operate one mine, called Bishna, in Euritania.  While I admittedly haven’t had time to go through the third quarter data, I bought the position off of the second quarter numbers where they showed $97 million of cash flow from operations and $53 million of capital expenditures, meaning decent free cash generation.  I also like that they are transitioning from being a primarily copper miner to a copper and zinc miner in 2017.  The supply/demand outlook for zinc looks pretty interesting and so they may benefit from higher zinc prices right around the timeI’ll try to talk about these positions in another post, as this one is already way, way too long.

Acacia Research partners, a patent litigation firm that partners with patent owners to realize the value of their patents, got creamed on a pretty terrible headline quarter.  I bought after the carnage had appeared to run its course.  So we’ll see if that’s the case.  At the current price the company has a $330 million market cap and $168 million of cash on the balance sheet.  The thing here is that a bad quarter doesn’t necessarily mean anything about future performance.  Acacia has a portfolio of patents that they are moving towards litigation.  The companies that they are litigating against generally hold-out against settlement until the very last minute.   The poor revenue number this quarter (it was $14 million, versus $37 million last year in the third quarter and an average of $37 million the last two quarters) simply reflects delays in a few of their cases, some of which were actually brought about by evidence that strengthened Acacia’s case.  From the third quarter conference call:

The third quarter developments created paradoxical outcomes. On one hand, our marquee portfolios were strengthened through Markman inter-parties review and new patent issuance wins, and now have even greater future value. But on the other hand, we experienced a delay in collecting on that value.

This is a stock that is going to whipsaw up and down on what will always be very lumpy results.  I think you have to buy it when the whipsaw down is extreme.  There is a very good writer on SeekingAlpha (he also has his own blog) who follows the stock closely and wrote a good piece on the company here.

What I sold

I reduced my position in the few gold stocks I bought after the latest Federal Reserve view on the economy came out.  I still hold a couple small positions here because for the miners outside of the US, even as the price of gold falls their costs are falling just as fast and in some cases faster.  The market doesn’t care about margins yet though, so there is no point fighting the headwind too hard.

I bought and sold Digirad within the month for a gain.  I bought Digirad on the morning of their takeover of DMS Health for $35 million.  The acquisition was accretive and after doing some quick math, on the morning of the acquisition the combined entity had a $77 million enterprise value and a 4.5x EBITDA multiple.  I thought this was likely too low so I bought, but the stock has risen since to a more respectable level and so I have since sold my shares.

I bought and sold Enernoc for a loss.  I played the swings from $7 to $9 on Enernoc successfully a couple of time an then got burnt when they released quarterly earnings.   Fortunately while it was pretty clear that the earnings were awful, the market gave a small window first thing in the morning to get out in the $6’s.  I took that opportunity.

I sold Gilead for a loss when I clearly shouldn’t have.  I did this before I made the decision to hold to my convictions a bit more firmly and I got spooked out on a dip below $100 that was clearly more of a buying opportunity in retrospect.

And of course I sold Valeant, for a loss, but thankfully well before things really got out of hand with the stock.  Better to walk away when things begin to smell bad.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.

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Week 223: Playing the Volatility

Portfolio Performance

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week-223-Performance

See the end of the post for the current make up of my portfolio and the last four weeks of trades

Monthly Review and Thoughts

I was on vacation for three of the past four weeks, so my portfolio changes have beeen minimal.  It was nice time away but the timing was unfortunate; the market swooned but bounced back before I got back.  There were plenty of opportunities I missed out on.

As it were, the only two I was able to capitalize on were Mitel Networks and New Residential.  In both cases I had old stink bids that got hit (a little over $6 for Mitel and $12.50 for New Residential).  But even in these cases, the positions I ended up with were much smaller than I might have had I been actively watching the action.  I’ll talk about Mitel a little later on.

I haven’t been tweeting a lot either, but I can’t attribute that entirely to being away.  I find my mind hesitating on any conclusion.  Its very difficult to tweet when each comment requires a couple of caveats a maybe and at least two possible scenarios.  There are only 140 characters.

David Tepper was on CNBC a few weeks ago sharing his thoughts about the current state of the market (click here for one of the clips).  Most of the summaries I’ve read focused on his comments about the S&P possibly going to 1,800.

What I took from the interview was uncertainty.   The direction of money flows are criss-cross, whether the tide is still coming in or starting to go out is more uncertain then it has been in recent years. When quantitative easing was in full swing there was a clear easing of liquidity, now its much more muddled.  And Tepper isn’t really sure where it will all settle out.  It might be higher, but he seemed to suggest that he thought it was more likely to resolve itself lower.

If David Tepper isn’t sure of path of least resistance, I bet you can say the same for the market.  And that to me says we are in for volatility.  Which is what we are getting.

If we are going to be in market where directionality is wanting and volatility rules then the right approach is to not believe too much too fast.  Sell the rallies and by the dips.

If I’ve done one thing right in the last four weeks it is that I have manifested these convictions in my trades.  I sold out of a lot of positions as the market rose last week.  I will be ready to buy them back if the market falls back far enough.  Without QE, without China, and without sensible leadership from any of the market groups, I think we simply flounder around aimlessly, at worst with a downward bent.

A Position in Mitel

Mitel develops and installs unified telephone systems for businesses.  They also provide white label back-end services and software for carriers so they can offer their own telephone products to business.

With Mitel’s legacy business, called the “premise” segment, they install a telephone platform on location, including the phones, connections and back-end.  Upon sale of a telephone system Mitel generates revenue from upfront hardware and software sales, and a small amount of recurring revenue for maintenance and support.

The premise business has been shrinking as companies migrate toward a cloud solution.  The cloud system Mitel provides is similar to premise in terms of functionality: the business gets a telephone platform that operates and connects its devices, provides unified voice mail, conferencing, all of the functionality you’d expect.  But the system runs through the cloud, so the hardware component is mostly absent.

With the cloud product Mitel receives recurring revenue for each end-user that is hooked up.  For their retail customers (those who purchase cloud services directly from Mitel) they receive around $45/month revenue per user.  For their wholesale clients (carriers who resell the service as their own) they receive somewhat less, but at a much higher margin as they are only providing the software and support.

In April Mitel expanded into a third segment, mobile, with their purchase of Mavenir for $520 million. Mavenir offers a 4G LTE solution to telecom carriers.  4G LTE is the next evolution of telecom transmission.

4G LTE is slowly being adopted by carriers for its functionality and costs. With respect to functionality, 4G LTE allows for something called Rich Communication, which makes it easier to do things like video calling, group messaging or video streaming over mobile.  As well 4G can deliver voice over the LTE connection rather than the legacy voice network which is expected to improve call quality.

For carriers the cost advantage is that once installed 4G LTE uses less bandwidth, which limits the requirements of additional spectrum that they have to buy.

Mitel’s shift to cloud and mobile means that the overall business model is shifting towards one of  recurring revenue through subscription/licenses.  Below is a snapshot of recurring revenue growth for each of the segments.

recurringrevs

The overall premise business is shrinking by about 5% to 8% per year as companies migrate to a cloud or hybrid cloud/premise solution.  The cloud business has been growing at 20%. Mavenir grew at 30% in the second quarter.

Overall the company has been growing only nominally as the premise business, which makes up 75% of revenue, declines have overshadowed the smaller, growing cloud and mobile businesses.  But this will change as the other two segments become larger.

The early indications are that the Mavenir acquisition is going well.  Second quarter revenue for the mobile segment (which is essentially Mavenir), was $45 million.

mobilerevs

On both the second quarter conference call and at subsequent conferences Mitel has noted an acceleration in Mavenir’s wins since they have been acquired.   The concern of many carriers with respect to choosing the Mavenir solution was that it was a small company with limited resources and a small global footprint.  Mitel’s acquisition has alleviated those concerns.  At the time of the acquisition Mavenir had 17 footprint wins with carriers.  Since April Mitel/Mavenir have won 10 more footprints including 1 major cable company in the United States.

Mitel provides the following roadmap for earnings in 2017.

earningsroadmap

If I use the above roadmap and assume that Mitel can continue 20% growth in both the cloud and mobile business and that the premise business declines at 5%, I can see Mitel earning over a dollar in 2017.

I only wish I would have bought more of the stock when it was in the $6’s.  The timing was unfortunate.  As it is, I am contemplating adding to the position if it dips back into the $7’s.

There are a couple of decent Seeking Alpha articles on Mitel here and here.

Wading into the Biotech Controversy

I decided to jump in with the sharks and take a position in Concordia Healthcare.  I also took a very small position in Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

Concordia has a similar business model to its much larger competitor Valeant.   Its a roll-up strategy.  In the last year they have acquired three pharmaceutical companies: Donnatal, Covis and AMCo.  In the process they have increased their revenue from a little over $100 million in 2014 to over $1 billion in 2016.  Below is a table of the companies acquisition pre-AMCo.

acquisitions

The stock has been hammered as Valeant has been singled out for pushing through price increases on many of its newly acquired drugs.  The comparison is not unwarranted as Concordia has much the same strategy as Valeant, raising prices on newly acquired drugs where the market has been inelastic.

In both the cases I haven’t been able to get a solid handle on the extent of the price increases.  Articles point to 20% plus increases in some drugs.  Others go on to point out that these list price increases are not representative of what is actually paid, and that the actual price increases are more modest.

Valeant is also suffering from its own opacity.  There is an excellent four part blog series that I would recommend reading before investing in either Concordia or Valeant.  It is available here.  The author illustrates numerous examples where Valeant had questionable disclosures and raises some questions about the performance of their acquisition post-integration. Most important though, it provides an overview of how to think about the valuation of both companies that I found extremely helpful.

Concordia is not quite as opaque as Valeant, though some of this is a function of its size.  Until very recently the company only owned a few drugs and depended heavily on Donnatal for its revenue.  So its not too hard to separate the contributing parts.

Unlike Valeant, I don’t see evidence that Concordia’s acquisitions have underperformed after being acquired. Donnatal, being Concordia’s largest acquisition prior to 2015, is illustrative.  Donnatal was purchased in May of 2014.  In 2013 Donnatal had revenue of about $50 million.  In 2014 Donnatal had revenue of $64 million.  In 2015 Donnatal is expected to bring in between $87-$92 million of revenue.

Of course some if not most of that revenue increase was due to price increases.  How reasonable are future price increases on newly acquired drugs?  Without a doubt the potential has diminished.  But I think that as the front page headlines fade the reality will appear less dire than it does now.  Keep in mind that the price increases are not comparable to the 5000% jack-up by Turing Pharmaceuticals an other aggressively managed hedge-fund like pharma providers.  Meanwhile Concordia is down 50% in the last month; surely the more robust expectations have been priced out of the stock.

The bottom line is that both Valeant and Concordia have real negatives but they have also experienced really dramatic falls in valuation.  Concordia was a $100 stock (Canadian) a few months ago.  Valeant was over 30% higher.

I can’t take a big position in Valeant because I can’t really figure out how well its doing and I think the difficulty of performing their roll-up strategy  increases with size.  With Concordia performance is easier to evaluate and they are still small enough to be able to find interesting acquisitions and fly under the radar of the news. I think the question is more one of: are the negatives priced in?  And I think there is a reasonable chance that is the case.

A Few Small Bets on Gold Stocks

Gold stocks have been so beaten up that it just had to turn at some point soon.

I also thought I saw was kind of a win-win situation with respect to the September rate hike decision.  Either the Fed was going to hike rates, which would mean the event had finally passed and the stocks could stop pricing in its inevitability, or they wouldn’t, in which case the legitimate question would resurface as to whether we are really passed the QE-phase.

Additionally, there has been a shift quietly occurring in the gold sector.  Many producers are getting their costs under control.  This has been helped by improving currencies for non-US based producers, by lower energy costs and by lower construction costs.  While the market seems to have a curious focus on valuing gold companies on the price of gold, which has been stagnant to down, the margin they make have been improving.

Let’s take Argonaut for example, which is one of the companies I took a position in.  Argonaut has 155 million shares outstanding and trades at about $1.50, so the market capitalization is about $250 million.  Debt is nil and the cash position is around $50 million.  They have been improving their performance year over year.

yoycomp

Argonaut produced cash flow from operations before working capital changes of $28 million in the first half of 2015 (cash flow including working capital was $38 million, but because changes in inventory are such a big and fluctuating part of a gold mining operation I think they need to be ignored).

Sustaining capital expenditures and capitalized stripping at Argonaut’s operating mines (El Castillo and El Colorada) runs at about $5 million per quarter.  So free cash (so before expansion and development capital) is around $35 million for the year.

Argonaut, and other gold producers like them, are not expensively priced at $1,100 gold.  That means there is no expectation of higher gold prices priced into them.  I think there is a reasonable chance we see higher gold prices as there is a reasonable chance that the economy continues to muddle.  These stocks are multi-baggers if that happens.

Oil

I have had some strong opinions on oil over the past few months but I don’t have a strong opinion now.  When oil was in the low $40’s I once again bet on a number of oil stocks including Crescent Point, Baytex and Jones Energy.  I went through some consternation as Goldman Sachs came out with their $20 oil call and I listened to the twitter universe decry the inevitability of a collapse in the oil price.  But in the end it all worked out, and I sold Baytex for a quick 50% gain, Crescent Point for a 40% gain, and Jones for a 20% gain.

With oil back in the $50’s I feel much more non-committal.  For one, I think that at least some of this move is due to geo-political concerns, which isn’t a firm footing to base a stock purchase.  For two, earnings season is upon us and there is at least some risk that the lack of drilling leads to downward revisions in production forecasts for companies like Baytex and Crescent Point.  And for three, pigs really do get slaughtered, so when the market gives you a big gain in a couple of months I have found it more often than not prudent to take that gain and run.

I will be a bit sick to my stomach if Baytex runs quickly back up to $8, or Crescent Point to $25 but this doesn’t seem like the sort of market to be trying to squeeze out the last 10%.

What I sold (and one more I added)

As I already said I sold out of most of my oil stocks.  I also used the run-up in tanker rates (they breached the $100K per day rate last week) to sell out of DHT Holdings in the mid-$8s and Ardmore Shipping at $13.  I took some quick profits on my small position in Apigee, which ran back up from $7 to $10 on just as little news as what precipitated its move down from the same level.  And I sold out of Alliance Healthcare after the rather bizarre acquisition of shares by a Chinese investment firm (another case where poorly timed holidays contributed to a larger loss than I might have otherwise taken).

I also had a bunch of stocks that I neglected to add to my on-line portfolio, mostly previously held names like Enernoc, Espial Group and Hovnanian.  I took small positions in these stocks during the last dip but sold out them of quickly as they rose.  My plan is to continue to do this sort of cycling, taking advantage of dips and selling the rips.

With that in mind, I did re-add one last position on the last downdraft that hasn’t recovered like I had hoped and that I think will at some point soon.  Air Canada.  The third quarter is mostly passed and there isn’t a lot of evidence that overcapacity from Air Canada and WestJet is going to hinder their performance.   The stocks has barely budged from $11 while other airline stocks soar.  I think it catches up some of this performance in the near term. (Note that I forgot to add this one to the online portfolio but will correct that when the market opens on Tuesday).

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last four weeks of trades.

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