Kobex Capital: A pile of cash, trading at a discount, with an impending catalyst

(KXM is an illiquid Canadian stock with a market cap of $26M.)

Kobex’s liquidation value is in the ballpark of 70 cents/share and currently trades at 55 cents/share.

Kingsway Financial Services is going activist on Kobex Capital.  This makes me like the stock a little more as the catalyst of activism should raise the internal rate of return on a position in the stock.  However, I’m a little wary of activist investing mainly because management teams often like to fight activists with shareholder money. The legal fees and any severance payments will likely reduce the value that’s left for shareholders.

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Residential solar makes little sense

Residential solar makes little sense compared to larger forms of solar energy such as utility-scale solar (building solar farms in non-urban areas) and commercial solar (solar panels on the roof of commercial buildings).  The economics are inferior for various reasons:

  1. Economies of scale in labour costs (engineering, installation) and in equipment costs.
  2. Larger scale solar tends to place solar panels in areas with the best sunlight conditions and other economic factors.  Some residential roofs are obscured by trees or are not strong enough to support solar panels.  There are some frictional costs when people waste time figuring out that a particular residential roof is not a good place to place solar panels on (e.g. customer service, engineering).

Larger scale solar projects have inherent advantages over residential solar.

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AAMC update Aug 2015

I previously described AAMC as a “royalty on yield chasing“.  AAMC’s economics can potentially be extremely attractive because asset managers can generate extremely high returns on capital.  Currently, the stock is trading at very depressed levels.  Two explanations for the share price:

  1. Luxor capital and other major shareholders may be liquidating.  Luxor suffered a lot of losses on the Bill Erbey family of stocks.
  2. AAMC generated close to no fees in the past quarter.  Either you think that management screwed up or that there is a temporary hiccup in revenue recognition.  Rental revenue, selling the home/mortgage, and marking the asset to BPO value all generate GAAP profits.  There is a time period after a BPO (broker price opinion) and before a home is rented out (or sold) where the home will not generate any GAAP profits, which can result in less fees for AAMC.

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My approach to diversified shorting

The investing strategy I understand the best and feel most comfortable with is diversified shorting- taking a large number of very small positions in common shares of crappy stocks.  I mainly short stock promotions and pump and dumps, where I think I have a sizable edge over other market participants.  The performance of my strategy backtests to ~15% from May 2014 to August 2015.

The key to making this strategy work is being able to quickly find a large number of awful stocks.  This is possible because stock fraud is an industry.  Scumbags network and share knowledge with each other.  Fortunately for me, this makes them really easy to find.

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Ignore the cloud / the future is cloudy

In my opinion, investors should mostly ignore the hype around “cloud” computing.

There are different definitions of so-called “cloud” computing.  In a literal sense, cloud computing refers to computers attached to a network.  Such technology has been around since the 1960s.  The current interest in cloud computing largely has to do with the pervasiveness of fast Internet connections.  “Cloud” software can be thought of as “software that requires a fast Internet connection”.  The widespread adoption of broadband Internet allows certain forms of cloud technology to become more viable.  For example, backing up large amounts of data over an Internet connection now makes sense.

However, all software companies are largely on the same footing when it comes to cloud computing.  If cloud computing makes sense for a particular market segment, anybody can (re-)design their applications to take advantage of fast Internet connections.  Software has always been an arms race between competitors improving their product with new features.  Cloud computing is simply part of that arms race.  Personally, I don’t see cloud computing as being a paradigm shift like the Internet was.

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