Tag Archives: ASFI

Exited Asta Funding

I exited my position in Asta Funding (ASFI) last week when the share price made a small jump after the company announced that it settled it’s debt obligations with the Bank of Montreal. Asta Funding was the first write-up on this blog more than two and a half years ago. It was at the time a high conviction idea and it constituted a big part of my portfolio, but unfortunately the performance of the stock was mediocre. While my portfolio gained more than 100% in this time frame my investment in Asta Funding returned just 4.3%.

Looking back I think I was partially unlucky, but also partially wrong. In my initial analysis I overstated the upside potential because I didn’t account for G&A expenses (rookie mistake). This is something I realized long ago, and also taking this in account there appears to be significant upside potential based on the asset value of Asta Funding.

The bigger problem is that management is less shareholder friendly than I thought. My thesis was that Asta Funding was undervalued because of the complex balance sheet, but I now think that the discount exists mostly because of how management is running the company. While I could have spotted some of these issues back in 2011 I think this is also a bit of bad luck. At the time management looked a lot better because they just announced a big share repurchase program that was also (partially) executed after some delays. Unfortunately it now seems that everybody at Asta Funding is getting paid well, except shareholders: they even cut the dividend that was pretty mediocre to begin with…

I still think that at current prices Asta Funding is interesting, but I prefer opportunities where I have more faith in how fair the management team is.

Disclosure

Author has no position in Asta Funding anymore

Earnings season updates (AWDR.OL, PVCS.L, CNRD, ASFI)

It’s earnings season again, and that’s always an interesting time for an investor since it’s the moment of truth: is your thesis playing out as expected, or is reality throwing a wrench in the wheels?

Awilco Drilling

Awilco reported results for the second quarter earlier today, and they are excellent. Revenue was 59.5 million thanks to slightly higher contract rates and a revenue efficiency of 97.3%. The company also announced a second quarterly dividend of 1 USD, giving the company a dividend yield of more than 20%. Other good news came earlier this week when the company announced that it signed a 3 year contract for the lease of WilPhoenix, increasing the value of the backlog with 424 million to 860 million. If the stock price stays at the current levels I’m probably going to increase my position slightly.

PV Crystalox Solar

Crystalox Solar also reported today, and the results for the first six months of 2013 seems to be alright. The business is in trouble, but the company does have a lot of cash and it anticipated that it should be roughly cashflow break-even in 2013 after restructuring. Cash from operations before changes in working capital is slightly positive while reported earnings are slightly negative. So that look good to me. The return of cash to shareholders is taking more time than I expected, but according to the company that should happen sometime later this year.

Conrad Industries

Conrad Industries reported yesterday and the results were simply excellent, and it appears that the company is on track to earn a record amount in 2013. The backlog is up 218% compared to previous year and the new construction site that was build on the land adjoining the Conrad Deepwater facility was taken in use this June. A slight negative is that it seems that the BP claim is being delayed, although that’s not a surprise given the fraud BP has to battle.

Asta Funding

ASFI reported results a week ago, and the most interesting development is the settlement with the Bank of Montreal on the non-recourse debt that backs the Seneca portfolio. Asta Funding has prepaid $15 million on the loan, and the next $15 million in of collections will also go to the bank. After this Asta Funding can recover the $15 million prepayment, and further collections will be split 70/30 between ASFI and the bank while the interest rate on the loan has also been lowered. Seems like there is a bit of value after all in the Seneca portfolio for Asta Funding, although it’s not going to be a lot.

Disclosure

Author is long AWDR.OL, PVCS.L, CNRD and ASFI

Couple of quick updates (RELLA.CO, ASFI, IAM.TO)

While I was on vacation last week a couple of companies released their yearly results (RELLA.CO and ASFI), and another holding of mine was finally sold (IAM.TO). I’ll briefly discuss the various developments.

Rella Holding A/S

Rella is the holding company that owns the biggest part of Aller, a Scandinavian publisher of mostly weeklies. Aller only reports once a year, so when they do it’s a good moment to review how the company is performing. Comparing the balance sheet of Aller with previous year version should give a good indication on what happened with the asset value:

Rella/Aller 2011 and 2012 balance sheets side-by-sideWhile the share price of Rella is up roughly 25% since I first wrote about the company it’s almost just as cheap today as it was then. The book value of Aller is growing while it’s repurchasing shares and paying out dividends, and as a result Rella is owning an increasingly bigger part of Aller. At the same time Rella is using the dividends received from Aller to repurchase it’s own shares. That’s a combination I like!

The biggest part of Rella’s value consists of the securities on Aller’s balance sheet, but it’s also important that the operating entity remains profitable. The results of primary activities were down significantly in 2012 compared with 2011: 142M DKK in 2012 versus 246M DKK in 2011. This decease is primarily due to employee costs in connection with staff reductions. Revenue is actually up a tiny bit, and I also think it’s positive to see that prepayments from subscribers are up a bit compared to last year. Weeklies aren’t dead yet, and next year should also be slightly profitable:

Based on the current activity level and the 2012/13 budget figures from the leading subsidiaries and the accounts for the latest time periods, a result of primary activities (EBIT) of DKK 100-150m is expected.

As long as Rella continues to trade significantly below tangible asset value, Aller remains profitable and both companies continue repurchasing shares I’m not going anywhere.

Asta Funding

After a bit of a delay Asta Funding finally published it’s 10K last week. I haven’t found any big surprises in the 10K compared with the press release that was issued a month ago. Due to some accounting peculiarities it’s not directly visible how cheap ASFI is based on it’s asset value, but it certainly is. The company has currently a $123M market cap while it owns $106M in cash and investments, and it does not have any big liabilities (there is only non-recourse debt). Besides the cash we find $12.3M in consumer receivables on the balance sheet and $18.6M is invested in the personal injury litigation financing business.

Besides these assets that are visible on the balance sheet the company also owns a large number of consumer receivables that have zero book value (fully amortized portfolio’s). Last year these assets generated $36.4M in zero basis revenue. Since the company is not replacing it’s aging portfolio of consumer receivables we should expect that revenue’s will drop in the future, and this could become problematic if there are a lot of fixed costs. They can’t continue on the current path indefinitely. So this is something to keep an eye on, but so far ASFI is still cheap and using a lot of cash productively by repurchasing shares.

Integrated Asset Management

Buying this company last year was a mistake. It looked cheap because it had a negative enterprise value and had a history of profitability, but in what could best be described as a beginners mistake I  failed to realize that there were a lot of accounts payable and a lot less accounts receivable. So logically the company had to use a bunch of their cash this year, and IAM was not as cheap as I thought. At the same time the financial performance of the company was also disappointing last year. Since the company is very illiquid it took some time for me to exit my position, but managed to do so this month at a small loss (-3.4%).

Disclosure

Long RELLA.CO and ASFI

Asta Funding reports FY2012 results

Asta Funding (ASFI) announced today the results of the 2012 fiscal year. While the share price has gone up a bit since I initiated my position (just ~10%) I think the company is actually cheaper today than a year ago. The following quote from the CEO illustrates nicely how much value was realized last year:

Mr. Stern continued, “At September 30, 2012 our cash and cash equivalents and investments totaled $106.3 million as compared to $106.9 million at September 30, 2011. During the fiscal year 2012 we invested over $20 million in personal injury claims and repurchased over $16 million of Asta Funding, Inc. shares.

So what we see is that the cash balance has basically remained constant last year implying that the company managed to generate ~$36 million in free cash flow. Combine the free cash flow and the cash on the balance sheet with the current market cap ($120 million) and I think it should be quite obvious that Asta Funding is still very undervalued. Given the aggressive share repurchases that’s actually great news for me!

In the category “who the hell cares?”:

In addition, I am announcing that the Board of Directors of Asta Funding, Inc. has approved the payment of the 2013 annual dividend totaling $0.08 per share, payable to shareholders of record on December 24, 2012 and payable on December 31, 2012. The special dividend reflects the confidence of the Board of Directors in the strong cash position and the Company’s solid balance sheet. The management team and Board of Directors would like to thank the shareholders for their continued support.

Moving the 2013 dividend forward sounds great until you realize that it’s less than a 1 percent yield and it’s going to cost the company just one million dollar. They could have paid ten years worth of dividends and it’s still wouldn’t significantly impact the balance sheet.

Disclosure

Long ASFI

Asta Funding Q2 2012 results

Asta Funding (ASFI) announced financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 today. The company disappointed in the previous quarters because of the lack of share repurchases after it announced a $20 million discretionary buyback program in the summer of 2011. It switched to a non-discretionary stock repurchase plan on March 9 and it seems that this move has had the intended effect since the company managed to repurchase 116,438 shares at a cost of $923,000 in just three weeks (the quarter ended March 31). Hopefully the pace of the buybacks has remained the same this quarter.

Asta Funding remains very cheap, and hopefully stays that way in the foreseeable future since this would increase the value of the share buybacks for remaining shareholders. The company has $116.4M in cash and securities which is close to it’s current market cap of $132 million. At the same time the company remains profitable, and cash flows from fully amortized portfolios (remember these assets have zero book value!) was $9.25M this quarter, actually up a bit from $9.05M previous year.

One big development of ASFI is the move in personal injury financing. It’s still way too early to tell how this is going to work out, but the company is starting to see the first revenue from this business. This quarter approximately $492,000 of income came from the Pegasus Funding joint venture, and so far the company has invested $8.3M in this business the past six months.

Disclosure

Author is long ASFI