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Contrary Wise
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I am an engineer by profession. Over the last 8-10 years I have developed the skills necessary to analyze and evaluate companies. I have been using these skills to independently evaluate numerous companies and invest in some promising ones.
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  • Houston Wire And Cable - Cheap Value

    Houston Wire and Cable (NASDAQ:HWCC) founded in 1975, is one of the largest providers of electrical and mechanical wire and cable, hardware and related services to the U.S. market. The company has positioned itself in the supply chain between wire and cable manufacturers and the end customer. In addition to providing a greater breadth and depth of inventory than any single manufacturer, it offers value added services such as custom cutting, cable coiling and custom slings and harnesses. It also provides efficient just-in-time product management cable management large capital projects.

    The company is headquartered in Houston with 22 distribution facilities located throughout the US. The company served approximately 6,300 customers in 2014, and no customer represented 10% or more of its 2014 sales. The company's top five suppliers in 2014 were Belden Inc., General Cable Corporation, Lake Cable LLC, Nexans Energy USA, Inc. and Southwire Company.

    Houston Wire and Cable's products are used in repair and replacement work, and related projects, larger-scale projects in the utility, industrial and infrastructure markets and a diverse range of industrial applications including communications, energy, engineering and construction, general manufacturing, marine construction and marine transportation, mining, construction, infrastructure, oilfield services, petrochemical, transportation, utility, and wastewater treatment.

    The company currently has about $54m in debt. Most of the debt can be attributed to money borrowed for an acquisition the company made in 2010. One notable feature of the company's balance sheet is that over the past 5 years it has had little or no cash and cash equivalents. Given the current low returns on cash, this could be considered a positive. The company has returned cash to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock repurchases or reinvested in the business itself. The company has paid a quarterly cash dividend since August 2007. Over the past 4 years return on invested capital has stayed above 10%. The negative aspect of having no cash on hand is that any sudden unanticipated need for cash will result in the company incurring more debt.

    Over the last 4 years the company's revenues have stayed in the $380-$400m range. During the same time frame the operating margin as a percentage of revenue has stayed above ~ 7%. A conservative DCF analysis gives the stock a value of $11-$12 per share. The shares are currently trading at $9 and change. For the year ended December 31, 2014, cash dividends were $0.47 per share for a yield of ~ 4.9%.

    The company estimates that approximately one-third of its sales are to the oil and gas markets - this could be a reason for the recent decline in its share price. Spending in the company's other end markets is projected to increase in low single digit percentage in 2015. This should allow the company to maintain and possibly increase its value in the years to come.

    Tags: HWCC, long-ideas
    May 08 7:21 AM | Link | Comment!
  • MAIDENFORM BRANDS (MFB) - Temporarily out of shape?
    Maidenform Brands is a global company with an 88 year history. It had annual sales of 556.7m for the year ended January 1, 2011. It designs, sources and markets an extensive range of intimate apparel products, including bras, panties and shapewear. The company sources its products from approximately 36 third party manufacturers located in approximately 10 countries, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region. The company has distribution centers in Fayetteville, North Carolina and Shannon, Ireland.
    In 2010, 42% of the company’s net sales were to department stores and national chain stores, 28% were to mass merchants, 20% were to other retail channels, and 10% were through company-operated outlet stores, kiosks and carts and websites. The company’s major wholesale customers include Belk, Costco, JCPenney, Kohl's, Macy's, Marmaxx, Target and Wal-Mart.
    Over the last 6 years sales have shown a CAGR of 7.8%. The operating profit margin as percentage of sales has averaged about 12% over the past 5 years. Though sales and market share increased in Q3 2011, earnings were below expectation. Earnings were impacted by a decline in customer traffic and liquidation of overstocks. The resulting drop in share price from about $26 to $17 and change provides an attractive entry point.
    Some of the conditions seen in this quarter may persist in the fourth. This in combination with uncertain macro economic conditions may drive prices lower in the short term. However, if the company manages to grow its net operating profit after taxes at an annual rate of 1%, a conservative DCF analysis indicates that the shares should be worth about $25 each. An investor willing to ride out near term (6-9months) turbulence should be able to realize this value.
    One of the factors in the company’s favor is that though it is in the apparel business, its line of apparel should be less subject to the boom and bust associated with strictly fashion sensitive apparel. The stock also has significant insider/institutional ownership. From the most recent 10-K “As of February 25, 2011, our executive officers, directors and current 5% or greater stockholders (based upon the most recent filings with the SEC with respect to each such stockholder) together beneficially own approximately 54% of our common stock outstanding”.
    Pricing pressures are a risk to profitability in the company’s line of business. However brand name recognition and a focus on quality and product innovation should mitigate these risks. Given its current stock price, Maidenform Brands should shape up well for the patient investor.
    Tags: MFB
    Nov 14 12:02 AM | Link | Comment!
  • MOCON – How well does this stock measure up?

    MOCON is a small company (make that very small – annual revenue for year ended 2009 was $26.6m) located in Minnesota. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services products to detect, measure and monitor gases and chemical compounds. It also provides consulting services. The company’s products are used for the detection, measurement and analysis of vapors and gases in niche markets ranging from foods and beverages to oil and gas exploration and industrial safety. Think – measuring moisture in your sealed bag of dry cereal to ensure the crunch.


    Despite the company’s small size, it has facilities in Germany and China and sales representatives in Canada. The company also has a minority equity investment in Ireland based Luxcell Biosciences. This investment is partly targeted at research that would expand the company’s core competencies. Over half the company’s revenues come from international customers. 


    The company has no debt and has generally stayed that way. Sales have shown an upward trend over the past 5 years, with an understandable year over year drop of approximately 10% for 2009 compared to 2008. The operating profit margin as percentage of sales has averaged about 16% over the past 5 years. A conservative DCF analysis gives this stock a value of $13-$14/share. A recent run up in its price has left it in this range. If the company manages to grow its net operating profit after taxes at a rate of about 1%, a very achievable target based on historical results, the shares should be worth $16-$17. The company should be worth more to a potential acquirer.


     MOCON has paid quarterly cash dividends without interruption or decline since 1988. It currently pays out 0.095 per share every quarter and with the shares trading at $13.27 provides a yield of 2.8%; about 0.3% more than the current yield on 10yr. treasury notes.  The company weathered the financial crisis without missing a beat. With cash and marketable securities of around 10.6m on the balance sheet, the dividend should be reasonably safe. Though the company’s sales will fluctuate with the broader economy,

    it manufactures a product that is essential and not reliant on changing tastes or fashions.


    One of the downsides to owning this stock is that due to the size of the company, the trading volume is low thus rendering the shares relatively illiquid and volatile. MOCON recently received a significant order from China’s State Food and Drug Administration. Though this would normally be considered a positive, this particular customer should give us pause. MOCON’s survival depends to a significant extent on technological innovation. The company spends 6%-8% of consolidated sales on R&D. For a small company, sales in a country where intellectual property has little or no meaning, and where even large deep pocketed corporations have trouble protecting their IP are a mixed blessing at best. Here’s to hoping that management does have a contingency plan in place to protect its IP.

    Disclosure: Long MOCO
    Tags: MOCO, Valuation
    Oct 23 2:31 AM | Link | Comment!
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