Meade Instruments Corp (symbol: MEAD) is a classic Benjamin Graham Net Net stock which we are long in equity portfolios. Meade is a manufacturer of telescopes and telescopic instruments, with hardly a taint of excitement or sex appeal. Meade is your typical boring, mundane, blase…well you get the picture, its a boring company in a boring industry.
Unless you’re a financial geek in search of Margin of Safety stocks where looking at the company’s balance sheet Net Current Asset Value (NCAV) is larger than the valuation of Meade’s market value by a sizable amount.
As of 9/2/2010 Meade shares are trading at $3.24 a share. They have 1.17 million shares outstanding and the total market cap is a nano-sized $3.79 million dollars.
Cash on hand amounts to $3.33 a share, which is a drop of $1.2 million from last year due to losses in the company’s operations.
Inventory amounts to $6.72 a share
Book Value $10.18 a share
Current Assets $12.27 minus Current Liabilities $3.42 = $8.85 a share
At present Meade is losing money and the cash drain might tap out current cash levels in one to two years, assuming no reduction to inventory levels which could be converted to cash. The company is faced with increasing foreign competition resulting in lower sales, reduced distribution outlets and the reality of being the manufacturer of a discretionary item in a weak domestic economy. Higher end and more profitable telescopes are less favored by consumers nowadays than lower end, lower margin scopes.
To compensate Meade is cutting costs ranging from administration and employment costs, R&D and reducing manufacturing costs. In addition, Meade has sold three divisions: Simmons, Weaver and Redfield for gross proceeds for approximately $15 million.
It would be hard to make a valid rationale for the purchase of shares from a growth perspective since there is no growth, quite the opposite in fact. Meade is facing the reality that the manufacture of telescopes with competition from lower cost manufacturers in China is likely going to be a losing proposition.
The investment appeal: Management has a great deal of incentive to at least preserve the value of the company and its shares. Management owns approximately 36% of the shares. Based on the latest SEC filings Hummingbird Capital (a private small stock value oriented hedge fund) Paul Sorkin owns at least another 10% of MEAD shares. There are a few other value managers who might take an activist role who’ve purchased shares.
My belief is the company is preparing itself for the potential of being sold. The disparity between the share price and current cash + inventory of $10 a share is much too great a gap. The majority of shareholders have a great incentive to close the gap, preserve the Meade brand name and allow it to operate as a division of a larger company.
Estimates to the potential sale price might largely depend on the value given to their sizable inventory of $6.72 a share. If we were to reduce the value of inventory to half or $3.35 a share then add back the current cash of $3.33 we arrive at $6.68 which could be a conservative estimate. The aggressive estimate would likely be closer to the current book value of $10.18.
This is a risky stock and shares are thinly traded. The company may choose to nothing which would drain their cash reserves and further reduce book value. The company could sell off its entire operations and convert to an all cash company and reinvent itself. Time will tell but I do feel the rewards could be in the range of 100% to 200%.
Disclosure: Long MEAD