In over ten years of investing and trading in markets, I have never seen any market so dominated by pessimism when it comes to stocks trading below net book value. Once a stock hits around half of book value, investors tend to write off the stock for good, classifying the business as "a dud." No matter what the intrinsic or underlying value of the issue truly is, investors have an extremely short attention span these days. In many ways, right now is a great time to invest in below book value names, but because of the negative view of activist investing and the increasing grip of corporate insiders over Wall Street and investor interests, below book value investing has never been as difficult in years past as it is today. For one thing, CEO pay is not based on performance anymore and greedy CEOs can quickly bankrupt a company that is in need of major rehab and/or a turnaround strategy already in place. Here are 3 Below Book Value Stocks that appear to be undervalued to us based on a going concern and/or liquidation value analysis, but be as these stocks are riskier than the average common equity.
Bunge (NYSE:BG): Bunge was recently downgraded by Goldman based on falling prices for the soft commodity complex, however, I feel that the current discount to tangible book value more than compensates for commodity price risk with this investment. Trading at just 78% of tangible book value and for around 9X historical earnings, Bunge looks like a bargain from a distance. Obviously, as with any investment below book value, an analyst must y dissect the company financial statements to see what a conservative investor would pay to own this business outright.
AIG Corporation (NYSE:AIG): Just because something's cheap does not always make the stock a good investment in the short run. Just ask investors in the Fairholme fund which owned this stock as the fund's biggest holding in the $65 range last winter only to see the shares collapse by some 50% by midsummer. The stock was arguably cheap on book value back then and is arguably that much cheaper today. The real money will be made figuring out what the real going concern value of this enterprise is, and handicapping with a degree of certainty as to whether AIG will need another round of bailing out. My personal take: Don't bet against Bruce Berkowitz.
Imperial Sugar (NASDAQ:IPSU): Imperial Sugar stock tanked recently after the company announced it was suspending the two cent per quarter dividend: (From 8 K 11/2011) "in light of the continued pressure on its gross margins and liquidity primarily caused by sustained high raw sugar prices and competitive refined sugar pricing."
Imperial shares have taken it on the chin over these "liquidity pressures" with shares down to $3.25 from $23 on August 3rd! Talk about a rough quarter ... The company also revealed that their upcoming 10K would include a clause about the company's ability to remain a "going concern." While these are clearly bad developments for the shareholders of IPSU, there is always a chance the company can right the ship and fix the problems at hand. In my view, IPSU has a little too much hair on it to make the grade, but if any positive developments emerge, we will keep readers posted.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.