Figuring out the skill of mining CEOs

In my opinion, the best method for a CEO to make shareholders richer is to be good at wheeling and dealing.  CEOs like Brian Dalton and Kevin Mcarthur (Tahoe and ex-Goldcorp CEO) are very good at valuing assets and structuring deals.  These CEOs are good at shuffling paper around and making deals in a way that more wealth accrues to their shareholders.  They look for undervalued assets and sell shares/assets when they are overpriced.

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AAMC revisited – A royalty on yield chasing

(AAMC has a market cap of $490M and the shares are fairly illiquid.)

AAMC (original writeup) is the asset manager of RESI.  Asset managers can be extremely attractive investments because they have the potential to grow earnings dramatically.  The underlying business model revolves around buying up non-performing loans (NPLs) and resolving them (e.g. loan mods, selling REO properties, and converting NPLs into rental units).  Over time, RESI will accumulate rental housing units.

I think of AAMC as a play on investors chasing yield in the current low-interest rate environment and doing silly things such as overpaying for dividend yield.

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Misadventures in reading a financial statement / absorption costing

When reading financial statements, I pay particular attention to costs that have been capitalized.  Capitalizing costs boosts income in the short-term and is often a sign of aggressive accounting.  I often use the shortcut “Crtl + F” to search for instances of capitalized costs in an annual report.  However, it turns out that I don’t understand accounting rules such as absorption costing for inventory.  Under US GAAP, Canadian GAAP, and IFRS… absorption costing is the only method allowed for valuing inventory.  Companies must capitalize fixed manufacturing overhead (e.g. rent) into inventory.  I wrongly assumed that footnotes describing this practice was a sign of unusually aggressive accounting (it isn’t).

On Tuesday, I attended a stock picking competition where 3 teams of MBA students (the finalists) analyzed an obscure and illiquid Canadian company called Buhler Industries (BUI.TO).  It is from skimming through Buhler’s annual report (page 16 of the annual financial statements on SEDAR) that I erroneously thought that Buhler may have been inappropriately capitalizing overhead costs into inventory.  From talking to others, it turns out that I’m not the only person who didn’t understand that Buhler management was simply following the rules.  I suppose the lesson here is that there are so many unintuitive and/or complex accounting rules that most investors are not aware of all of them.

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Closed my RGR call option position

Given today’s surge in stock price, I closed my RGR call position (my calls are deep-in-the-money and expire two days from now).  I think the stock is fairly valued at these levels (or arguably a little undervalued if you really, really like the CEO).  What I missed originally is that the gun market has mini-cycles because consumer demand has random surges related to panic buying.  I wish I had waited for the shares to trade at depressed prices (e.g. the company is buying back shares and the CEO isn’t selling) before putting on a position.

Over the long term, I think Ruger will do extremely well as long as Michael Fifer is the CEO.  If the stock falls below $40, there is a strong chance that I will have a long position again.

*Disclosure:  No position.
EDIT (4/15/2015): When I first wrote about the stock in Nov 2013, the shares were around $74.   The overall trade worked out ok because I was buying the dip as RGR stock fell below $40.  The current price is around $54.  Because I owned calls, the huge drop in share price was not a big deal.

Egregious accounting fraud in retail

I’ve been thinking a lot about how somebody could commit fraud in retail.  In my opinion, accounting fraud in retail is a bad idea.  Fraudsters cannot both (A) avoid jail and (B) inflate earnings by a meaningful amount or otherwise significantly mislead investors.  Smart fraudsters gravitate towards mining, oil & gas, pharma, etc.

While fraud is a bad idea in retail, some fraudsters are crazy enough to commit fraud even if there is significant risk of jail time.  I think some people are biologically wired to steal and cheat even if it doesn’t make sense.

For investors, detecting accounting fraud in a retailer may be extremely difficult.  I have not figured out reliable methods of independently verifying a retailer’s numbers.

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The restructured HLSS/NRZ deal is good for OCN and ASPS

On April 6, 2015 HLSS and NRZ announced that they have restructured the Feb 22 merger agreement between the two companies (press release).  The new deal:

  1. Reduces the value received by HLSS shareholders.
  2. In the near term, HLSS has agreed not to transfer subservicing away from Ocwen.  Ocwen has given up a little bit of value to reduce some of its unusual risks.

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Google Trends

Google Trends may be an interesting tool for investors.

  1. It allows investors to gather data on a company that’s fresher than the last quarter’s earnings release.  This can be helpful in turnaround situations such as Aeropostale (ARO) and Cafepress (PRSS).
  2. Having leading earnings indicators can be helpful for manufacturing companies (e.g. RGR, SWHC) where there is not much data on consumer demand due to fluctuating inventory at the retail and distributor level.
  3. In rare cases where fraud is suspected, Google Trends may provide some indications about actual revenues.

Here is an example of Google Trends in action:

google-trends-ARO

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