SmartPros Could Be a Smart Move

| About: Graham Holdings (GHC)
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SmartPros (NASDAQ:SPRO) provides learning and training solutions for professional markets, including accounting/finance, legal, engineering, securities and insurance, as well as information technology (NYSE:IT) professionals. The company also provides corporate governance, ethics and compliance training for the general corporate market. It offers off-the-shelf courses and produces custom-designed programs with delivery methods suited to the specific needs of its clients. Its customers include professional firms and companies of all sizes. The company's e-marketing and e-commerce business sells ads on its website and develops newsletters and marketing programs for clients.

Depending on which numbers you choose to believe, unemployment currently sits somewhere between 9% and 14%. In these uncertain times I believe that companies such as SmartPros should do well as unemployment figures soar. Those of us lucky enough to be employed will most likely be looking for ways in which to become more valuable to our employers in order to retain our positions, and those of us who have suffered the loss of their job will inevitably be looking for ways in which to stand out from the crowd in the competition for the limited openings available. This is where SmartPros comes into its own. The company offers courses in the very skills that many people will be looking to add to their resumes.

The company reported excellent figures for 2008 and I expect a similar trend to be observed in 2009. As of December 31, 2008, the company had approximately $6.63 million in cash and cash equivalents, $5.6 million in deferred revenue, stockholders' equity of $12.1 million, and no debt. SmartPros trades at a P/E of 8.1 and a price/book of 1.17 with a current ratio of 1.36 and a gross margin of 57.9%. Also, the acquisition of Loscalzo last year appears to have been a smart one, leading to a number of cost cutting measures and an increase in ROIC.

In the company annual report Chairman and CEO, Allen Greene stated “We are proud to have finished the year strong and are looking to carry that momentum into 2009.” “We continue to show revenue growth year-over-year and our operating profits were at an all-time high. Further, we believe that operating profit and EBITDA numbers provide the best comparative narration because it removes the influence of interest rates and the tax benefit treatment.” Greene holds almost 5.6% of the company stock and is one of several insider holders. Also of note, real estate investor Zohar Ben-Dov announced a 10.5% stake in the company in March this year.

The company boasts a large course library and a large customer base, however, it is a competitive industry with a relatively low barrier to entry, meaning that the company has to continually strive to protect its niche. This being said, I believe that SmartPros represents good value at its current price of $3 a share and would be looking at a 12-month target price of around $5.

Disclosure: At the time of writing the author did not hold shares in SmartPros Ltd (SPRO).