By David Sterman
Investors often look for stocks that are "selling below book value." That's a fancy way of saying that the company's stock market value is even lower than the assets (minus debts) it has sitting on its balance sheet. I've found three stocks that look good by an even stricter measure. These companies are worth less on the stock market than the cash, accounts receivable and inventory sitting on their balance sheet. These items are also known as current assets. Add in their other assets, and these stocks are super cheap.
Before we take a closer look, you should know that these companies aren't so undervalued simply because investors are unaware of them. Instead, investors simply find them to be unappealing based on tepid operating trends. These businesses will need to improve to see shares move sharply or management will need to figure out ways to unleash those current assets to boost shares, perhaps in the form of a big buyback. The real charm of these stocks is that they are unlikely to get any cheaper, even if the broader market tanks.
Audiovoxx (Nasdaq: VOXX)
This micro-cap (worth just $155 million) still meets my threshold of talking about companies worth at least $200 million, because its current assets are worth well more. Roughly speaking, this maker of consumer electronics has $100 million in cash, in inventory and in accounts receivable. That adds up to $300 million, or twice its market value.
Many of Audiovoxx's product lines are "me-too" products that are often a cheaper version of more popular items such as stereos, speakers, etc. That's not an especially appealing business, but Audiovoxx has some real sizzle cooking: the company has signed up a host of new customers for its in-car entertainment systems. Ford (NYSE: F), GM, BMW and Chrysler have started installing the company's rear-seat entertainment systems (at dealerships), known as FLO TV. Roughly 5,000 dealers have been signed up to install the systems.
But don't look for a buyback with all that cash. Management vows to keep acquiring smaller industry players to broaden its product lines. All it takes to get this stock moving is some nice uptake on that in-car TV system, or some growth-inducing acquisitions. Even without those catalysts, Audiovoxx is profitable and should continue to bolster that impressive set of current assets.
At the moment, this company is nothing but a balance sheet. It recently sold off several operating divisions, leaving it with an empty income statement while the company looks for ways to spend its money. And it has plenty of that. After the recent asset sales, the company has more than $3 a share in cash. Thanks to a history of operating losses, the company has accumulated more than $160 million ($1.30 a share) in Net Operating Loss Carryforwards (NOLs), which effectively shield future income streams from taxes. That could prove to be attractive to anyone looking to buy out the company. Add the NOLs together, and you're looking at around $4.50 a share in value -- more than +50% above the current stock price.
This asset play has caught the eyes of investment firm Steel Partners, which has steadily been buying shares on the open market and now owns more than a quarter of the company. Steel would like to find companies for ADPT to acquire. ADPT's response? "We remain committed to providing value to all of our stockholders and will aggressively pursue opportunities to deploy the cash and liquid assets on hand to create value for our stockholders, including exploring acquisitions of businesses, engaging in stock buybacks, paying cash dividends, or any combination thereof," noted the company in its last 10-Q.
In the absence of any concrete plans, investors should give ADPT credit for all that cash and at least half of its NOLs, pegging the company's value at around $3.75 a share. That's nearly +30% above current prices.
Investors should know that while the company is not in operating mode, its shares have been relegated to the pink sheets. That means you should call your broker and specify prices in which you are willing to buy the stock. For example, shares currently trade for about $2.93, and you can specify that you will not pay more than $3 for any shares.
Imation (NYSE: IMN)
This company, which was spun off from 3M (NYSE: MMM) in the mid-1990s, sells a range of data storage and consumer electronic products, from magnetic tape devices to Blu-ray DVDs. The company's best days are behind it, as annual sales likely peaked at $2 billion in 2008 and now hover closer to $1.4 billion. But even at that level, this is a cash cow. Imation routinely throws off more than $50 million in annual free cash flow, which makes the balance sheet stronger by the quarter.
In the most recent quarter, Imation had $250 million in cash, $240 million in accounts receivable, and $220 million in inventory. The company's $869 million in total current assets dwarf the stock's market value of $370 million.
On the most recent conference call, management hinted that a large stock buyback or a dividend reinstatement may be in the offing. The company used to pay out $0.50 to $0.60 a share in dividends before suspending it during the financial crisis of 2008. A fresh $0.50 dividend today translates into a 5.6% yield. By my math, the company could pay out a $1 annual dividend, but instead will likely opt to split the difference between buybacks and dividend payments.
These are truly "special situations" that activist hedge funds like to pounce on, usually to unlock shareholder value. Just as Steel partners is loading up on ADPT, Legendary value investor Seth Klarman has been loading up on Audiovoxx. Follow their lead, and you may see some tidy gains in these stocks. And they're so cheap that you're unlikely to get burned.