Friday, March 26, 2010

Transaction Alert: Sold MDS, Inc. (MDZ)

I'm getting very aggressive (and hopefully opportunistic) with my MDS, Inc. trades as I just sold my remaining 1100 shares for $8.23. Here's my rationale:

It was reported today that the old reactor is going to take longer to repair than originally anticipated (thus leaving MDS without their primary supply of isotopes). While this is a problem in and of itself, the real concern is that the Canadian government may abandon their nuclear program altogether. Afterall, they build a new reactor but can't get it to work and their old reactor is literally falling apart. If you go to my original post,, this is the first outcome I listed and would be a worst case scenario.

However, and here's where it gets interesting, MDS is only down 3% today because IMO the Reverse Dutch Auction has essentially created an artificial price floor. The auction ends Monday, March 29th (thus removing the price floor), and after the results are publicized I think there could be significant selling pressure. I discussed this selling pressure in my previous post,, but now I think it has an increased liklihood of happening and my guess is it will be greater in magnitude.

If the price falls enough I may reinitiate a position in MDS. If you go back to my first post I outlined 4 possible outcomes. Based on the news today outcome #2 became less likely and outcomes #1, #3, and #4 all became more likely, so this could still be a highly profitable investment. If I'm wrong and the selling pressure doesn't materialize, then at least I've locked in my gains and I'll sleep well at night.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Transaction Alert: Adding to GMXR

Today I bought an additional 400 shares of GMXR, bringing my total share count to 1400. This stock looked cheap when I originally bought it on 2/5/2010 for $9.94. Assuming I'm right, at $8.65 it's even more of a bargain!

Additionally, I wanted to bring the position back up to around 10% of my portfolio (10% is a pretty standard bogey for any one stock). Lastly, I have a very large cash stake (about 26K of my 117K portofio is cash after today's purchase), so I'm looking for attractive opportunities to deploy it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Transaction Alert: Trimming MDS, Inc.

Today I sold 400 shares (leaving me with 1,100) of MDS, Inc. (MDZ) at a price of $8.50. I bought this stock on November 13th and December 24th for an average price of $7.65, so my IRR is pretty decent. My rationale for this transaction is discussed below.

MDS, Inc. has gone up over the last few days, probably as a result of arbitrageurs buying up the stock in hopes of a quick gain (an opportunity created by the mechanics of a Reverse Dutch Auction). As a result, this one position accounted for around 11% of my portfolio before today's sale.

As you can see from my previous post (here's the link: there are a number of potential outcomes for MDS, not all of them good. I also emphasized MDS is one of my first special situation investments, so there's a chance my thesis could simply be wrong. Therefore, having such a large % of my portfolio allocated to this one position made me a little nervous, and my thought was it would be prudent to sell a portion of my shares.

On a side note, if the arbs currently buying up the shares are unable to tender them via the Reverse Dutch Auction, they will probably scramble to sell. This in turn could pull the stock down, creating a second buying opportunity. I have absolutely no idea whether this will happen or not, but it's something I'm going to watch for and if the stock falls far enough I may buy more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Transaction Alert: Sold Sears (SHLD)

Today I sold all my shares of Sears Holdings (SHLD) for $106.73. I initially purchased SHLD in February 2008 and continued buying sporadically until February 2009. My average price per share was $61.36. Overall I'm quite happy with the way this investment turned out. I'll write another post in the next couple of days outlining my rationale behind this transaction.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Special Situation in Canada, hey?

I’m writing to introduce MDS Inc., which is one of my portfolio holdings (ticker is MDZ). MDS is undergoing a significant transformation, and as a result I think there is a special-situation-type investment that could produce very good returns.

WARNING: This is one of my first “special situation” investments; my past performance has been driven by plain old value investing (see the “My Returns so Far…” link). So, please recognize there’s a chance my thesis could be flat-out wrong. Additionally, I’m a little nervous b/c there are no structural characteristics that would create a mispricing (i.e. spinoffs and companies coming out of bankruptcy may have forced/non-discriminating sellers, which can create an opportunity to buy the stock cheap). BTW if you haven’t read Joel Greenblatt’s excellent book, “You Can be a Stock Market Genius,” I highly recommend picking up a copy as it’s a great introduction to special situation investing.

Anyway, back to MDS. First go to to learn the basics about the company’s operations and transformation. As you can see, it’s all about their Nordion division going forward. Nordion gets their isotopes (which are used for medical applications) from a very old nuclear reactor run by the Canadian government, and the reactor ain’t doing so hot (no pun intended). However, if the reactor has a good year Nordion can earn about 75 MM in EBITDA, but if the reactor has a bad year then there’s a supply disruption and results suffer. So let’s be conservative and say this business is worth 4x our assumed EBITDA, or 300 MM. Currently, MDS has a market cap of 1B, but due to a recent divestiture they’ve also got about 650 MM of net cash on their balance sheet.

So here’s where it gets interesting; 400 to 450 MM of that cash (let’s just say 425 MM) will be used to repurchase shares via a Reverse Dutch Auction. Based on the auction price range, 40% to 46% of all outstanding shares will be retired (let’s just say 43%).

After the auction, MDS will have 650 less 425, or 225 MM of cash on their balance sheet. They’ll also have a market cap of 570 MM (current market cap less 43%). This gives them an Enterprise Value of 345 MM. NOTE: This makes sense – remember we gave MDS an EV of 300 MM, so we’re in the same ballpark. Thus, the logical conclusion is the market is valuing MDS fairly and there’s no opportunity here.

But Wait! MDS is suing the Canadian government for 1.6 billion (yes, with a “b”)! It turns out MDS had invested 350 MM with the government to build a new reactor. However, after running into significant problems and budget overages, the government suspended construction. As a result, MDS is suing to get their initial investment back along with the foregone profits that surely would’ve ensued had the government actually built the plant.

So, here are the possible outcomes:

1) MDS loses the lawsuit and, because they can’t get the new reactor online, Canada discontinues their nuclear program. In this case MDS is really not worth much more than the cash on their balance sheet, Ouch!

2) MDS loses the lawsuit and continues getting isotopes from the problem riddled nuclear plant. MY guess is not much will happen to the stock price here, as it appears the market is already valuing the stock under this assumption.

3) MDS wins the lawsuit. With 225 MM in cash and a market cap of 570 MM, a settlement of 350 MM will basically bring MDS’s cash balance up to today’s market cap. In other words, you get the business for free!

4) The Canadian government says to heck with it and finishes building the new plant. With a predictable, steady stream of isotopes MDS could probably earn about 100 MM in EBITDA. Also, the market would probably pay a premium, maybe as high as 8 to 12x.

Some last items worth mentioning. It looks like MDS management as well as the largest shareholder will be holding on to their shares, which is definitely a good sign (see FAQ's on the MDS website). I have no insight into the timing of the lawsuit/settlement, but my guess is management wants to do the auction b/c it will be resolved sooner rather than later. Also, my guess is management would not change the operations and capital structure of MDS so radically if they did not have confidence in Nordion going forward, which makes me think outcome #3 or #4 is more likely than #1 or #2. Lastly, MDS is just over 10% of my portfolio as of today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Introduction

Welcome! As this is my first post, I’d like to take this space to introduce myself and introduce my blog. In general, this is a blog about VALUE INVESTING, but more specifically it will track my investment desicions and the results of my personal stock portfolio.

I started investing seriously in 2005, as I was a few years out of college and had built up some savings. I started out reading books on EMT, but eventually found myself drawn to value investing. Beginning in late 2005, I began actively picking stocks using this philosophy to guide my decisions.

On Jan 1, 2006 I started diligently tracking my investment returns and comparing them to what I would’ve earned had I invested in the S&P instead. My reasoning went something like this:

Even if value investing works, there’s a good chance I don’t have the temperament or intelligence to execute on it. After several years, if I’m not earning returns in excess of the S&P, I’ll just move everything to a Vanguard Retirement fund.

HOWEVER, this has not been the case! After four+ years of actively picking stocks I’ve managed to earn an annual return of 19.5%! My hypothetical S&P (w/ dividends reinvested) would have returned just 1.5% (returns are as of 3/5/2010, the detail can be seen on the “My Returns So Far…” page to the right).

So, going forward I will discuss all of my investment decisions on this blog, as well as my existing holdings and the stocks on my watch list. Generally speaking my portfolio has high concentration and low turnover (you can see my current portfolio by clicking on the “My Current Holdings” link to the right). Currently, I only own 8 stocks and have less than 10% of my portfolio in cash.

If this strategy appeals to you, I encourage you to follow my blog. If nothing else it might provide some interesting food for thought. Since I’m just starting out (and I have a very full work week with my job), my goal is to write about 1 post per week, Enjoy!