Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm Hopeful Flexsteel Will Not Join My Herd Of Turkeys

Gerts and I were out for our morning walk when I noticed a small herd[?] of wild turkeys in a neighbor's yard. They didn't pay any attention to us, but they got me thinking about my portfolio of under-performers. I often get enamored with a good company that seems to be a bargain, thus ensuring great profit, yet continues to languish for months or years before returning to an upward trajectory. These turkeys drive me crazy because I know I'm right and the market doesn't agree. Damn machines and kids!

Yesterday Flexsteel, the Dubuque, IA based manufacturer of furniture and seating, was taken out to the woodshed and paddled. It happened again this morning. I cannot find any bad news or forecasts. The company released record yearend and quarterly profitability, plus said current trends should continue.Sounds good to me.

FLXS doesn't have any debt and is paying a nice dividend. The yield is 3.0% and they are paying out only 25% of earnings. The current price is 1X book value, .4X sales, and less than 6X cashflow. Liquidity isn't an issue as they have a 4:1 working capital ratio. Looks like a well run Midwestern company.

I've pushed the buy button several times today and hope to get back quickly some of the 15% the stock price has fallen the past two days, plus a nice, growing, dividend.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Friday I pitched an old friend, Smart Balance [SMBL], as I believed it had risen too far, too fast. I enjoyed the ride, but the stock had moved from about $5 to $11.50 in a little over two months. It rode on the back of momentum and hope, not earnings or sales growth. Two acquisitions of gluten-free products vaulted the company into the orbit of organic foods and the race was on.

But the basic spreads business has been stagnating and the milk business has not really taken off and depends on heavy couponing. The move into gluten-free is a change of game plan. Additionally, they will be facing higher input costs going forward and they already sell high priced products. So I became nervous and satisfied at the same time which meant sell.

My sell decision often means that a buy order is appropriate for others as stocks continue to rise longer than they should. Also, Steve Hughes will sell SMBL at sometime and I could be really disappointed that I missed the deal, but for now I'm content on the sidelines.

Where did the proceeds go? Some went into PFXF, a new ETF that owns preferred stocks of "non-financial" companies that has a good yield. It really does own financial companies, just not banks, as it has some REITS and insurance companies. Some more went into another old friend that I had divorced a year or so ago, Neutral Tandem, IQNT. It has become obvious, at least to me, that they are setting the stage to be acquired. Several months ago they hired an advisor and recently announced that they will be making a special dividend of about $5 in the Fall and buying back stock. Their returns will look better with a lot of the cash gone and they sound confident that they will have enough cashflow to fund ongoing capex. The earnings shouldn't be under any additional pressure the ROE and cashflow/EV returns will be more attractive. Even though the price will decrease with the dividend, I will at least have some money back and hopefully the company will have found a suitor.

Time to sign off as I'm becoming increasingly interested in a beaver that is sitting in a tree in my backyard. I'm pretty sure it is a beaver but I didn't know they climbed trees and eat leaves. This one is stripping limbs and chomping on leaves and is fat. Since it is hard to type and peer through binoculars, I'm going to stop typing.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Like most investors, I've spent the last several months vacillating between euphoria and despair. A self proclaimed smart investor descends into stupidity. Over and over again.

Of late, I've been encouraged by the performance of a couple of my holdings. Proof that a value investment approach can work over time. Markets will dive and confidence will sag, but some stocks will go up. I'm not discounting luck as a reason.

My last two posts, Smart Balance [SMBL] and Constellation Brands [STZ] are the holdings that have helped hold my net worth together during the market's flight away from commodities, Europe exposure, and other out of favor sectors. Since the first part of April, SMBL is up more than 70% and STZ has risen  over 45%. Both of these companies have good management and operating performance has been OK, but acquisitions have enlivened analysts and investors.

Mario Gabelli jumped on board Smart Balance and bought 5% of the company. He, and others, liked SMBL's acquisition of two gluten free product companies. The party at STZ didn't start when they owned Robert Modavi and a host of wine and spirit names plus 1/2 of Mexico's Modelo American distribution. But it sure started when they announced the purchase of the other half of Modelo's U.S. distribution. The financing is in place, but the final capital structure of the $1.5 billion deal isn't known. I'm sticking with SMBL longer term and may bail after awhile on STZ.

Now the whiff. I've written about Teva before stating that it is under valued and should produce good returns. When? It continues to act like a dead worm in the swimming pool out back; it just keeps sinking. I'm hopeful it has hit bottom and is resting at its low point. The same mindset that hated SMBL and STZ is at play with TEVA. It's hated for patent expirations, litigation, and who knows what else. Those concerns a overblown. Analysts are calling for $5.40 eps in 2012 and $5.80 in 2013. As a $39 stock the P/E is about 7X. Even as a "slow grower" it's worth more than 7X as the balance sheet is decent.

It's only a matter of time with TEVA and you get a 2% yield while waiting. Something will spark the investing community, maybe an acquisition like the other two companies or some break through drug or blockbuster generic opportunity, but it will happen and the upside is significant. I've been saying that for quite awhile, but I remain a believer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Karate Kid Investing

I don't understand rapid fire trading, either by machines or humans. It's far from investing and only becomes, possibly, meaningful if you add lots of leverage. In terms of purchasing power, backing out inflation and new capital raising, I'm not sure much money has ever been made with this approach. But it can sure swing the markets and garners lots of press.

Mr. Miyagi's advise to the Karate Kid was "wax on, wax off". Today's hedge fund gurus practice the martial arts of "risk on, risk off". "Wax on, wax off" practice helped the Kid, but investing/trading shouldn't be practice, make believe, or foolish. It needs to be serious, since it involves other peoples' money. How does "risk on, risk off" grow wealth? Making a correct, big macro bet will make a person feel prosperous, but the next big, macro bet is likely to go the opposite direction and drive one to the ledge. Taking small amounts on and off the table in "risk on, risk off" maneuvers, only increases transaction costs. How does fleeing to Treasuries, only to return shortly benefit wealth creation?

How do you survive mentally in an investing world dominated by children with machines? Keep enough cash on hand to live, stay invested, and dabble around the edges with options. Pay very little attention to daily market movement.

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Officers Are Selling Smart Balance Shares

I'm either wisely patient or stubbornly stupid when my investment in Smart Balance [SMBL] is subject to critique. This past year has seen a nice move upward in stock price, due to operational improvements and the acquisition of Glutino, the leading gluten-free natural foods brand. But will 2012 be another good year or am I facing a return of dead money?

All of the financial metrics indicate continued progress. Market share and retail shelf space improvement should continue that trend. Healthy eating trends seem to be trumping family budget constraints. Okay, Crusty is convincing himself. How do the officers of Smart Balance feel?

Positive! No one has diversified or unconcentrated their net worth. A number of officers purchased shares over the past two years when the share price dipped to the $3-5 range. Hopefully that means they think there is more upside coming, as no one is selling.

Now everyone go out and eat a slice of Glutino gluten-free bread slathered with Smart Balance spread and wash it down with some Smart Balance milk. I can go on forever and I hope ConAgra, Kelloggs, General Mills, and are thinking about it as well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Robert Mondavi Just Went On Sale

The past several days have been grim market days. No QE3 forthcoming and traders are beside themselves, driving the markets lower. One of the few green arrows during that time span has been Constellation Brands [STZ]. The catalyst for STZ's rise was Goldman's new Buy rating from Neutral. I don't know what specifically convinced Goldman to increase their enthusiasm level, but I'm glad they are on board and am comforted.

This morning STZ reported results that didn't lift Wall Street's spirits even though spirits are their business. They make Robert Mondavi and a host of other wine brands, several well know vodkas and whiskeys, and import Modelo and Corona beer. That mixture didn't produce the intoxicating results that some traders were looking for and the stock is off 13%, about $3. That's as good as finding a coupon in the newspaper that I can take to Publix. So I bought some.

While net was off expectedly from last year, the adjusted eps for the quarter beat analysts guestimates by a ton. Their divestitures and operational changes must be working. However, guidance was less than had been expected and that's the rub. Twenty less cents eps for this year and down you go. But the Company is still calling for eps of about $2 which is a P/E of 10-ish, not a steal, but reasonable. The balance sheet is decent and they are set to buy back stock which may help stabilize the share price.

Constellation isn't a home run at these levels, but I think it will beat the market this year, and so does Goldman. This morning is a good entry point. My middle son arrives for Easter this afternoon and I'm sure the two of us will goose Constellation's revenue. If the rest of the country does likewise I'll get my 20% up swiftly. TaTa.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Feeling Smart Again

The past several months were void of posts as it is nearly impossible to type when you have assumed the fetal position. Brilliant investment decisions all turned into losers no matter how well thought out. Why write positive pieces about soon to be disasters and feel somewhat responsible for readers losing money? So I laid down the pen and continued to lose money silently.

Thank goodness that has changed and the year finished decently. My brilliant purchases have been looking better. The dividend portion of my portfolio and the options that I write against them allowed a reasonable return and the speculative group is behaving well except for solar which still resembles a rat hole. Oh well, at least I've removed my helmet and now stand erect, my crouching days behind me.

While not screaming bargains, I did add some names during the hiatus. Thermo Electron [TMO], Jones Lang LaSalle [JLL], and Nordic American Tankers [NAT]. The first two are top notch outfits and worthy of holding onto for a long time. NAT is much riskier as it hasn't been earning its dividend, but the balance sheet is solid, at present. It bears close watching, but the dividend is 8 percent and the board of directors has stated they feel comfortable with the payout.

Enough rambling, I need to assemble some shelving in the garage. That project also languished during my fetal period as its also hard to work with hand tools when crouched over in a ball. TaTa.
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