Monday, September 26, 2011

Crusty Hasn't Written Because All My Ideas Have Lost Money

I've served all my readers faithfully by not opining about the bargains I've found over the past weeks. Lots of good companies have been pounded and could have been picked up for low valuations, even with a decent haircut to future earnings. The ones I bit on also pay a nice dividend and have low-to-reasonable pay-out ratios. However, they are all worth less today than what I paid. My vision seemed clearer when I entered the trades.

A week ago I had cataract surgery on my left eye. I can see like an eagle! Yet my vision of the future resembles the above eye chart. I'm pretty sure the stocks I buy are like the Big E, but things are kind of fuzzy. Over time, decent dividend payers should regain value and provide income. But what do you do with speculative positions that were blurry to begin with? Good question.

Most of my specs are solid, turnaround, companies. They've been killed and I think they still have value so I continue to bleed. But one company has been amazing and has actually made the past months fun, sort of.  When I bought it my vision was clear: hold for five years and let management build the brand and sell out to a larger company. Three plus years into the holding period my vision is foggy, but enjoyable. The company is my old friend Smart Balance [SMBL].

Twelve months ago SMBL sold for $3.50. Today it is pushing $5.50! During the market's last leg down, it has gained about 18 percent. BB&T upgraded the stock, but, other than that, nothing has changed. Management remains competent, the niche has promise, and they are not over-leveraged. But, they also don't make much money and sell at a salty valuation. The spreads business is not growing fast and milk hasn't been a huge success. Their new gluten-free products have not juiced sales/profits yet. I'm still a believer, and extremely happy as SMBL is one of my rare performers, but I wish my vision was clearer concerning the stock performance.

Next week I get my bionic right eye and with coordinated, clear eyesight, maybe I'll be able to see exactly why Smart Balance has been making me so happy. If not, who cares as it's fun to have a security that doesn't make me feel ill and stupid.

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