So, in honor of the great holiday that is St. Patty's Day I decided to post some research on Irish ADRs so that readers (well, the ones who have sobered up at least) can hopefully find a pot of gold among the stocks below.
Investor Note: beware the jealous Leprechaun for nary a pot of gold is left unguarded by these mean and nasty little men!
The Bank of Ireland (IRE): IRE is actually a pretty interesting stock at current levels, which represent a discount to book value of nearly 60%. While bank stock book values are tough to analyze, IRE looks potentially undervalued at current prices if things stabilize in their loan portfolios. Though the bank is heavily leveraged, Ireland's low tax rates and investment incentives could help IRE rebound from their shaky leverage ratios and unlock value for shareholders. Prem Watsa has apparently been purchasing stock in IRE from the Irish Government, and Watsa is largely considered to be the "Warren Buffett of Canada." Watsa is known for his investment acumen and for placing capital with the highly talented management teams. The Bank of Ireland is one of Watsa's largest holdings. While this forty one cent dollar looks cheap, I think the fundamental and Macro backdrop may actually be supportive towards this stock. All in all, I like IRE here for a 2-5% position in a well diversified value investing portfolio.
CRH (CRH): This company is like the Irish version of Home Depot crossed with Cemex, but the company is mainly thought of as a Cement business. While CRH looks expensive at 20X earnings, the 4% dividend yield and growing tangible book value per share over the long term suggest that CRH is a well run, shareholder friendly company. The fact that shares are trading for only a slight premium to book value suggest that CRH shares are not trading in a speculative bubble by any means as the company spits out around 1.2 Billion per year of free cash flow and the stock is valued at around 16 billion. Okay, maybe not dirt cheap, but on a price to operating cash flow ratio things look pretty good here if you think the DIY and construction industries are ticking up.
Elan Corporation (ELN): Elan is one of those bucking bronco drug stocks that can either double your money in six months or lose most of your capital in just as quick a fashion. That's because most biotech stocks are bets on future events that may or may not pan out the way corporate insiders would like them to -- investing in biotech is a tricky game, but finding companies with breakthrough discoveries can be extremely rewarding if you get in early.
Looking at ELN's financial data, I can't really get behind a stock with around 150MM of annual free cash flow and a market capitalization of 8.5 Billion -- to me, this stock is simply too expensive to own. Though ELN is trading for just 15X trailing earnings, analysts expect Elan's earnings to fall over the next year and peg ELN at 72X forward earnings estimates. Clearly, this stock is no bargain and astute hedgers may want to consider hedging their biotech or Ireland exposure with an ELN put spread or a bear call spread on this stock.
Trinity Biotechnology (TRIB): Trinity shares look cheap to us relative to ELN and investors may want to look at a long/short pairs trade with TRIB as your long and ELN as your short. TRIB is trading for just 14X trailing earnings and 11X forward earnings. The company pays a small dividend and the shares are trading for a more reasonable 1.46X book value. Compare that to ELN's lofty 10X book value multiple and you get a pretty good idea of where to find value in the Irish biotech ADR space. Trinity is seeing growth in its HIV business and the company is making some smaller acquisitions which could help fuel future growth. Keep an eye on this stock as it may be a long term winner for current investors. If shares traded below $9 I would think a position on the long side here would be rewarding, but I would want to wait for the right pitch to swing at first as far as price/value is concerned.
Unfortunately, as a trader I have to recognize charts as well as company fundamentals and at this point ELN has a much stronger chart than TRIB. TRIB is trading below resistance of $11 per share while ELN is breaking out to new highs. If you are going to put any long short trade on with these two names I recommend using stop loss orders.
ICON Plc. (ICLR) -- Icon provides outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. While the stock is in an incredibly hot sector, the fundamentals are a little worrisome to me as earnings have been slowing in recent years. 2011 saw net income drop to $22MM from $87MM in 2010 and the stock is trading for pretty rich multiples. Though we wouldn't short this without much more research and without using stop loss orders, the stock does look to be a better short candidate than a long idea in our view until positive earnings momentum returns. If management can bring earnings back to 2010 levels and grow them from there ICLR could reward shareholders over the long run as the stock is trading at a reasonable price to book value ratio for a technology firm and ICLR is only putting up a 3% return on equity -- definitely not what we look for in a stock, but it does leave substantial room for improvement.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.