Editors' Note: This article covers stocks trading with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
2013 was a very interesting year for Public IP Companies (PIPCO). Investors watched as Parkervision (NASDAQ:PRKR) took on a giant in Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and landed a very large jury verdict. A whole new host of PIPCO's formed with various business models and opportunities. A political firestorm brewed in Washington that targeted "patent trolls" through the Goodlatte Bill. The returns on PIPCO were generally very poor with some big losers. I wrote a series of analysis on the 2nd half of 2013 on PIPCO investment strategies. Here are the results:
I proposed three different catalysts that were expected in Virnetx (NYSEMKT:VHC) to occur in the 2nd half of 2013. Unfortunately, none of them occurred. 2013 was a very frustrating year for investors after a Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) loss in March, a never ending stream of Inter Partes Reviews being filed/dismissed, and a long wait by Honorable Judge Davis in Texas to rule on the outstanding post-verdict motions on both the Cisco and Apple cases. Virnetx shares are down 34% year to date. Thankfully my covered call strategy has created cash generating gains in the absence of a material development. 2014 should be an interesting year going forward as investor continue to wait for the catalysts I discussed six months ago.
Vringo (VRNG) has had a very interesting 2nd half of 2013, with many risks and concerns I had with the investment alleviated. My first concern was the base number for the IP Engine v Google case. Honorable Judge Jackson in an order determined the revenue base should be 20.9%, which was excellent news for investors and removed substantial amount of risk associated with the investment. A settlement conference with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is scheduled for January 22, 2014. The investigation into the Google workaround continues, to determine if Google implemented a change to no longer infringe on the IP Engine patents. It is my opinion that this is the only substantial risk remaining with the investment. My worst case scenario would be running damages through the workaround date, which would yield roughly $120M in damages. This assumes that Google has a workaround that no longer infringes the patents. My best case scenario (without a laches reversal) would be close to $500M over the rest of the patent life.
My main bullish investment thesis is related to the family of patents that were purchased from Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and are being asserted initially against ZTE. It is my opinion and research that VRNG is aiming for a global settlement for all jurisdictions outside of China, as it is nearly impossible to collect patent revenue through the Chinese Courts. A global settlement should yield a low nine figure settlement from ZTE alone, which will benchmark the portfolio to target additional companies. Vringo has already secured two favorable results, one in India and another in Germany, which yielded two standard essential patent injunctions. These two events and subsequent trials in 2014 should provide substantial negotiating leverage in managements goal of securing a worldwide patent license.
My recommendation to wait for a resolution on the Google case and to wait until September to position for the ZTE case was dead on. A position could have been initiated in the $2.70-$2.80s, which would present a very good opportunity for 2014. So much risk has been removed from the investment and management has been executing flawlessly on a global front. For one reason or another, investors have not rewarded the investment with an increased valuation after substantial developments that will yield favorable results in the future and removes a substantial amount of risk. I expect 2014 to be a fantastic year for Vringo and expect shares to return at least 50% for investors.
Marathon Patent Group (NASDAQ:MARA) has had a fantastic 2013, with a 20%+ gain over the 2nd half of 2013. The company has executed almost a dozen patent settlements and licenses across a number of their portfolios. The company continues to acquire new patent portfolios, which present fantastic opportunities for 2014. The company has filed nearly 30 new lawsuits against some very large targets, which should yield sizeable returns in the future. Management has done a fantastic job in building the company and communicating their vision to shareholders. The only catalyst that I missed was an uplist onto a senior exchange. I am hopeful the company can secure the uplist during the first half of 2014, which will attract a new class of investors who are unable to buy OTCBB investments. I continue to add MARA common stock to my portfolio and have not traded around my core position, as I believe there are substantial gains to be made in 2014.
MGT Capital Investments (NYSEMKT:MGT) had a very poor year as I predicted with shares down 36% from my article published date. The core business only generated $40,000 in revenue as of 9/30/2013. The Markman hearing is still scheduled for June 2014, which still presents a long period of time in between. MGT has executed a number of acquisitions to bolster the core business. MGT also announced today a $8.5M ATM cash raise, with a floor of $2.50. I am still in no rush to buy shares and will wait until the 2013 10K to be filed. I am hopeful it will detail the core business further and provide some insight into what to expect for 2014 and beyond.
Last, we come to Spherix (NASDAQ:SPEX), which had a wild ride over the 2nd half of 2013. Shares skyrocketed to an intraday mark of over $27 before settling back down in the low teens. Shares are down over 20% from my 9/10/2013 article publish date, which recommended to avoid Spherix for now. There are still a substantial amount of convertible notes remaining, which I believe will continue to pressure the investment downward. I have softened my stance on the patents acquired from Rockstar and believe there is a substantial revenue opportunity going forward in 2014 and 2015. How the market absorbs the dilution from the convertible notes is my main concern.
With 2013 thankfully in the bag, 2014 will present a number of opportunities for investors to take advantage from. Being selective and understanding the various dynamics or opportunities continues to be key in investing in PIPCOs.
Disclosure: I am long VHC, VRNG, MARA, . I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.