Monthly Archives: May 2012

Introducing the “Boss score” (Boring sexy stocks) – part 1


As I have discussed a couple of times, in value investing screeners can be a helpful tool if you use them right. In theory one has two possibilities: One can use screeners in order to create a more or less automatic investing strategy or one could use a screener for idea generation.

Screeners for automatic investment strategies

In order to come up with a screen for an automatic investing strategy, you have to do a lot of number crunching and backtesting. Mostly you end up with something which combines a few single attributes (P/E, P/B, past perfomeance) which have performed best in the past. Usually there is a periodic requirement (for instance every year on June 30th) to redo the analysis and adjust the portfolio.

Many people, especially with a mathematical background, like this kind of investing, because it doesn’t really require to know anything about the companies. To be fair, it requires a lot of discipline to hold through this aproach especially if the startegy doesn#t work for a subsequent number of years

The most famous startegies of this kind are strategies like “Dogs of the Dow”, Greenblatt’s Magic Formula and the results from O’Shaughnessi’s epic book (which still is on my pile to read).

In a very interesting article Joel Greenblatt is comparing the performance of “fully automatic” accounts versus accounts where peple manually followed the Magic Formula. Not surprisingly, the auotmatic system outperformed by a wide margin. The reasons for this underperformance seems to be relatively clearly market and/or strategy timing. People buy more after good performence and sell after bad performance.

Without having proof for that, I would nevertheless assume the follwoing: In my opinion many of the strategies work in the long term, but only few people are actually “mentally equipped” to follow them through.

For me personally, it wouldb e really hard to invest in companies I don’t really like so i guess I would not hold through the magic Formula for instance.

Screens for idea generation

Another type of screener would be a screener, which, based on certain pre defined attributes, tries to identify interesting companies to be analysed further. Those screens are not back tested but rather rely on subjective assumtions what could make a stock intersting.

The “Magix Sixes Screen” I often use for instance is a good possibility to find potential “fallen angels”. The only stock out of this screen where I really invested, Autstrada, didn’t work out, so why bother further with those screens ?

As I discussed several times, I have certain ideas what risk characteristics my portfolio should have. For instance I prefer below market volatility because this helps me avoid any market timing actions even in the worst times. As I have only a limited amount of time per day to work on analysis (maybe 1-2 hours) and I want to have at least 20-25 different investments, one has to think about how to distribute the capacity best.

My “special situation” investments are usually rather “high maintenance”, so I prefer for the rest of the portfolio more “low maintenance” stocks. Low maintenance for me means the following primary characteristics:

1. company has a stable unexciting business with respective results over a long period in the past

2. company is cheap compared to “intrinsic value” to limit downside

3. company has shown historically that it adds value above cost of capital

So in the end, I am looking for companies which have a boring (non-volatile) business model and a sexy (cheap) valueation..

I think additionally it makes sense to define what I am not necessarily looking for in the first place

– deep value turnaround situations (too risky)
– net nets (usually no ongoing value creation)
– “moat” stocks (too crowded)
– growth stocks (too risky)

In the next post I will follow up how I actually calculate the “Boss” Score.

CS Euroreal closed as well

Already yesterday’s news but here ist the link (German).

So not really a surprise, the price chart showed already clearly the outcome:

In the wake of this process, also the other funds lost further, which kind of makes sense as now even more real estate is hitting the market:

For instance the Axa fund lost even more:

As I have mentioned before, I think at some point in time, the funds could become interesting again, but there is no need to hurry now.

Edit: According to this article, business for the remaining open funds seems to be really good. So at some point in time we might see some selling activity from the closed funds.

David Einhorn’s “Go Ups” – a first look (Microsoft Example)

David Einhorn is a guy which is clearly moving the markets these days. When he spoke at the famous Ira Sohn hedge fund conference last week, he even managed to move a stock by not speaking about it (Herbalife).

However, the second part of his presentation which I linked to in the “Weekly links” did not get so much attention but for me, as a Corporate Finance/ capital structure guy is much more interesting:

The “Greenlight Opportunistic Use of Preferreds” – Short Go Up.

First thing to notice: If you want to promote something, make sure you have a great acronym for it…….

Those “Go Ups” should work as follows:

1) A company creates a new class of preferred shares which have a liqidation preference and carry a 4-6% coupon hich only has to be paid at full discretion by the issuing company (although he mentions unpaid coupons are “cumulative”)

2) Those pref shares then get distributed “for free” to the shareholders like with a normal stock split

His basic argument to support is very simple and sounds convincing enough:

There are many great companies with great balance sheets that suffer from low valuation multiples in the current environment, when market participants have enormous appetite to pay for yield, but little appetite to pay for earnings. The traditional advice to such companies is to offer a dividend, but dividends often don’t work. A stock with a low P/E multiple often just becomes a stock with a low P/E and an attractive dividend.

He then adds a spreadsheet which shows his assumption for a couple of cash rich companies like Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Marvel and GM.

To take Microsoft as an example, he calculates the following way:

Microsoft has now a share price of USD 30.21 USD and a market cap of 255 bn USD. With 6.56 USD cash per share and an estimated 2.84 USD Earnings for 2012, you get an P/E of 10.6 including cash and 8.3 excluding cash.

In the next step, he assumes that Microsoft will issue 250 bn of “Go Ups” carrying a coupon of 4% and distributes them pro rata to shareholders (so shareholder would get a nominal of around 30 USD pref on top of the existing shares).

When he then compares the result with the initial market cap, he makes the following assumptions:

1. the 4% pref share trades at par
2. the Microsoft Share trades at the initial “after cash P/E mupliple” of 8.6 based on the reduced earnings (1.66 USD after ref share dividend) plus the unchanged cash position

The sum of that than is 65% higher than current market cap and this is “value unlocked”.

So let’s stop here and summarize what Einhorn is proposing:

If you divide existing cashflows of a company into two seperate securities, the “sum of parts” will be significantly higher than the previous security. This is of coure a punch in the face of all “efficient market” fans who would argue (apart from tax effects) that in theory the total value (Enterprise value) of a company does not change due to capital structure.

So let’s quickly look at the main assumptions of Einhorn which support his case:

1. Equity multiple

His argument is: The stock will trade at the same multiple before and after the “spin off” of the preferred. I would argue that this is at least “optimistic”.

Somwhere in the presentation he mentions that the preferred dividend should be cumulative, meaning that non paid dividend will accumulate and have to be paid at a later date. This is important !!!

If we go back to the Microsoft example, we have the following EPS before and after Go Ups:

2.84 USD per share before Go Up, 1.66 USD after Go Up (1.18 are Go Up interest).

So what happens, if the profit of Microsoft for some reasons falls by -20% ? Without go ups, of course profit per share drops by 20% to ~2.27 USD per share.

With Go Ups, however, we have to distribute the 2.27 USD between the fixed interest of Go Ups (1.18) and shares which results in a 1.09 EPS including Go Ups. Not surprisingly, the change in EPS of (1.66-1.09) = -0.47 is percentage wise much higher with (0.47/1.66) =-27%.

So his first assumption implies that shareholders are indifferent about a higher leveraged EPS which I think is unrealistic.

2. Valuation of Pref share

Einhorn assumes,that the Go Us will trade at par after issuance. How realsitic is that ?

A 4% Microsoft pref share will have a duration of around 26 years. This is even longer than a 30 year treasury bond. 30 Years treasury yield at the moment is around 3%. So Einhorn assumes a 30 year (deeply) subordinated spread for Microsoft is only 1% p.a.

I don’t know how realistic this is, but a deeply subordinated security is of course much more risky than a corporate bond. For instance if Microsfot starts to issue more senior bonds, the subordinated bonds get less and less liuidation value.

It is also important to mention, that such a Go up will react quite sensitive to any changes in interest rates or credit quality of the underlying. If for instance 5% would be th correct yield, with a constant duration of 26, the Go Up will drop 26% in value.

So to summarize this:

Einhorn’s underlying assumptions are very very “optimistic” if not to say (totally) unrealistic. So why is he doing this ? He is for sure one of the smartest investors alive and knows all this stuff much better than I do ?

I think his startegy could work quite well in the short term:

Under his proposal, “normal investors” of course would feel richer. Imagine, you own a Microsoft stock at USD 30 and you suddenly get a 30 USD bond “for free”. The bond (Go up) will be very difficult to value. This leaves a nice “window of opportunity” for the smart guys to profit from mis pricings as the stock price might not dirctly reflect the “true discount” and the Go Ups might trade above “intrinsic value” for some time.

So Einhorn basically tries to create a what I call “special situation” where normal share holders most likely do not know what to do or value the secrities correctly. I am pretty sure, in the long run this will not increase the total Enterprise Value of the sample companies. But in the short run, it could create a nice arbitrage opportunity for hedge funds like Einhorn’s Greenlight and give the stocks a “quick pop”.

As Einhorn owns most of those stocks, one could summarize Einhorn’s proposal as “talking his own book”. Perfectly fair but one should be aware of this. I nevertheless highly doubt that this is changing the theory of Corporate Finance…..

AIRE KGaA – Increase of Tender offer to 18,25 EUR per share, Q1 report and Uncle Sam

What a day again for the AIRE KGaA stock.

As reader AS has commented already, AIG has increased the tender offer again up to 18.25 EUR per share.

To make the situation even more interesting, the Swiss fund Alpine Select filed that they have increased their share holding to close to 17%.

In parallel, AIRE published today the Q1 report 2012 which did not contain any news. Money is still coming back. Interestingly they showed on page 8 that 55% of the portfolio is residential real estate, I assume most of this in the US. Current NAV is around 20 EUR.

One funny aspect of the current situation:

I was quite confused that the US Treasury Department was disclosing a stake in AIRE KGaA, ut the i read this sentence:

These voting rights are to be attributed pursuant to sec. 22 para. 1 sentence 1 no. 1 WpHG via American International Group, Inc., United States of America.

As the US Treasury is still holding the majority in AIG, effectively one can sell now the AIRE shares to Uncle Sam.

I think I will soon start selling the shares as the upside seems to be now relatively limited. at the current price it will e the first real “Double”.

Quick news: WMF, Walmart, Praktiker


According to a Boersenzeitung article, for some reason WMF is considering exchanging the Pref shares into ordinary shares (full article can be found in the W:O Thread)

I do not really understand how Capvis could profit from an exchange, unless they already have bought a lot of Pref shares. Then it would be a good deal for them.

Interestingly, the Pref shares now more or less are back to the level of the regular shares.

Maybe time to sell on good news ? Q1 numbers seem to have been really good. For the time being: no action.


Walmart issued unexpected positive Q1 numbers today. Here I will definitely ue the momentum and sell the shares at today’s VWAP.

For some reason I do not believe in the US recovery story, at least not for “physical” retailers. Even if Warren is still buying…..It was never a “high conviction” play anyway, although it made good money.


Praktiker seems to have found an U Hedgefund for its “secured” loan, US Hedgefund Acnhorage. Although it is too early to assess, the downside scenario for the bonds would now be of course more severe, however the proabality of a deafult is lower. No action yet.

Update DJE Real Estate, SEB and CS Euroreal

DJE Real Estate

Thanks to a friend a received the link to the recording including the slides.

Most important points:

– cash payment of ~17-20% of NAV in Juli (1.30-1.50 EUR)
– however overall cash flow to fund holders much slower than initially thought

In the original post I wrote the following

A) around 2/3 of the fund’s investments (based on NAV) are relatively liquid. It should be no big problem for DJE to return 5 EUR or more within the next 12 months or so. This would mean that at current prices, the investment itself should flow back pretty soon and the discount to intrinsic value could decrease equally soon

This seems to be have been overly optimistic. As far as I understood, a couple of funds have extension options from the side of the fund and some of the still open funds need at least 12 months notice to get the money.

According to management, the secondary market for those funds seem to be very illiquid with large discounts.

So for the portfolio, I will start selling the fund from today on, as my investment case which implied signifcant cash flows in the next 12 months does not really hold.

SEB & CS Euroreal

As now already widely known, the SEB has closed for good beginning of last week.

The CS Eurreal is trying its luck now with Monday, May 21st as the last day where investors can ask for redemptions.

Current price action and price to NAV for the CS indicates a very low propability of reopening:

So potential real estate buyers will see a large pipeline of real estate offers from all those funds with sometimes quite similar objects.

One thing which is interesting is that as far as I know, the funds do not really have to sell all obejcts within the communicated timeframe (i.e. SEB 5 years, AXA 3 years). If they don’t manage to sell, the deposit bank has to take over.

As the deposit banks most likely will not want to be involved in those cases (there will be a wall of law suits along the way) they most likely will directly auction off the properties.

So the end could be quite ugly in the worst case. On the other hand, if prices fall further, the run off funds could become interesting again.

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