The webinar was recorded June 17, 2021.
You can find the slides here.
Chris Preston [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to today’s Cabot Wealth webinar Two Contrarian Stocks for a Momentum World. I’m your host, Chris Preston, chief analyst of the Cabot Wealth Daily advisory and Vice President of content here at Cabot Wealth Network. With me today is Bruce Kaser, chief analyst of our Cabot Turnaround Letter and Cabot Undervalued Stocks Advisor newsletters. Today, Bruce is here to talk about his contrarian approach to value investing that has helped him identify undervalued, underappreciated stocks for more than twenty five years with great success. He will also tell you what two contrarian stocks he likes, today as the title of today’s webinar suggests. This is an interactive webinar, which means we’ll be fielding your questions after Bruce’s presentation concludes. So if you have a question, feel free to ask it at any time. We will try and get to as many of them as time allows once Bruce wraps up. Just keep in mind we cannot offer advice in regards to your own personal investing situation or portfolio. First, let me introduce Bruce. Bruce Kaser has more than twenty five years of investing experience in managing institutional portfolios, mutual funds and private client accounts. He has led two successful investment platform turnarounds, co-founded an investment management firm and was principal of a three billion dollar employee owned investment management company. Previously, he led the event driven small and mid-cap strategy for Ironwood Investment Management and was senior portfolio manager with RBC Global Asset Management, where he co-managed the one billion dollar Value Core Equity platform for over a decade. He earned his MBA degree in finance and international business from the University of Chicago and earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance with honors from Miami University of Ohio. And he joined Cabot last year as chief analyst of our Cabot Turnaround Letter and Cabot Undervalued Stocks Advisor services. Bottom line, Bruce knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the contrarian approach to value investing. So I’ll let him do just that. Bruce, take it away.
Burce Kaser [00:02:09] Great, thanks, Chris. And welcome, everybody to the seminar today, I think we’ll spend 30, 40 minutes walking through a number of things, as Chris outlined. We’ll talk a little bit about the contrarian mindset, kind of what does that mean and how do we think about it? And then we’ll go into a little bit of the tools and methods of how we find good contrarian stocks. And then we’ll talk about two stocks that we currently have recommended there on a recommended list. And we think they look pretty interesting here.
Burce Kaser [00:02:38] So just a quick introduction to the Cabot Turnaround Letter, as Chris described, Cabot Turnaround Letter has been around for a long time, a little over 30 years, was founded by George Putnam. Yes, that George Putnam. And I’ve been running it for a little over five years, really running the entire letter, all the research, picking the ideas and everything as George had stepped way into the background. And we were really happy to join Cabot about a year ago. And it’s been a great transition. They’ve been a great, great company to work with. We’re pretty excited to be a part of the team there. So the purpose of the Cabot newsletter, Tunararound Letter is, as it describes here, to provide profitable contrarian investment ideas. It is backed by rigorous research. The research I’ve done in my whole professional life, I apply to this and it’s built a pretty strong following of professional and private investors over the years, we’ve had some members who have been subscribers for 10, 20 years at least. And then, of course, for all people who read the letter, does it produce good returns? Well it has produced great returns over the short term and long term. We put up a couple of stats here over the past 12 months, up about one hundred and sixty percent. It’s been certainly helped by the pandemic. But these are really strong returns. And they’ve been they’ve been audited by an outside from these not our numbers. An outside firm does all the research on the performance that we provide based on the letters. This year, we have our top five for twenty twenty one. That’s up eighty seven percent. And again, every December we pick our top five stocks and we see how they do for the coming year. Last year we picked five stocks in December and they’ve done quite well this year so far, so good near-term performance and in the long term as well. The letter’s produced really strong returns over the past twenty years, the returns have been about eleven point four percent compounded compared to about eight point four percent for the S&P five hundred. Compounding by three percentage points a year adds up fast. I think using rough math, you’d have eight point seven times your original investment with those returns compared to about five times with the S&P. So we are performance oriented. We want to see the numbers. Everything we recommend goes on to that performance data. And so it’s pretty important we track that. And it’s something we look at pretty carefully. So we have two advisories I oversee both of those the Turnaround Letter as we just described and then the Undervalued Stocks Advisory. Cabot Turnaround Letter is more higher risk, higher return. We look for returns over a two to three year period of fifty percent. One hundred percent or more. These are sort of higher risk names. Again, they have higher return. We also recommend on a regular basis one stock every month. And we’ll have articles where we’ll talk about additional stocks. Subscriber would get about one hundred new names, maybe more every year that aren’t as in-depth research. But ones that do have a pretty interesting turnaround potential to them, then the Cabot Undervalued Stocks Advisories that comes out every week and it has a little bit shorter time horizon at two years return potential is twenty five to fifty percent, but both use the exact same philosophy, same approach. One’s a little more high risk, high return than the other, and they all fit within Cabot’s mission, which is, as the bottom slide provides to be a trusted, independent source of research and advice for our subscribers who want to take control of their investments. And Cabot has a number of products that if you visit our website, you can look through the products and that covers a wide range of investing advisories. And these are the two value advisories that Cabot Cabot has. So Chris described who I am, I’m your investing partner, really a lot of experience, most of my experience has been on the institutional professional investing side. And I feel really lucky that I can now really just do this full time and it’s really a luxury where I can invest for my family’s money full time. This is what I do full time. And I really enjoy it, I’ve been doing the same strategy approach really forever. And one thing I think that’s important for for you guys to know, people who subscribe to the letter should know, is that these ideas that I put in both of these letters, well, these are just ideas I like on my own and I send them out to subscribers. These are my investments for my at risk equity money. This is pretty much everything I own between the two Advisories. I think there’s maybe 50 different stocks. I own all of them. And I follow my advice and follow my ratings. And this is what I own. So I’m really sharing with you what I own. I love doing this and you’re really seeing what I’m seeing and you’re eating the same cooking that I’m eating. So it’s really a kind of a proprietary product and it’s it’s my stuff, as it were.
Burce Kaser [00:07:37] So let’s talk a little bit about the contrarian mindset. What is it? How do we think about it? When we think about contrarian and think commonly people say well that’s going against the grain. And that’s kind of what it is. But I think a different way to look at it is, it’s kind of how you look at stocks and how you look at the market. Instead of perhaps assuming the market is always right, and I know academics assume the market’s right and media and everybody looks at stocks and say, well, the market’s right. Our approach is, well, maybe the market’s not right. And we take that approach instead of assuming the market’s right, we take the approach of asking if the market’s right overall or an individual stock or at a sector level that really changes how one thinks about investing. The market’s right a lot of times we look for places where the market, it may not be right. And in some cases it can be really, really wrong. And those are the ones that we want to find. So it requires thinking independently and thinking for ourselves, doing our own research, asking questions, second guessing. A lot of what we do is second guessing. Is it really, is that the case? Let’s look into that and see if that’s really true or not. And we’re looking again for those stocks where the market is terribly wrong. And there’s a quote here from from Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, really a great source of wisdom. And he says, The market, Mr. Market is there to serve you, not guide you. And that’s our approach, is the market’s going to do what it’s going to do and we’re going to take opportunities where the market gives it to us. We’re not going to let the market guide us if the market’s really strong, well, we’re not going to say, hey, we’ve got a pile in. And if the market’s really weak, we’re not going to say, well, the market must be right. We’re going to bail out. We ask questions, is the market right? Let’s make money from the market. Let’s not follow the market just as a knee jerk reaction. So that’s a really good quote. It’s been somewhat of an informative formative view to my philosophy. Market’s there to serve you, not to guide you. Seth Klarman is another really good investor. He’s actually here in the Boston area, started a long time ago and now he has thirty plus billion dollars. I think the slides is long only. I think he is actually a short book as well, but primarily long only. And he kind of captures the value and contrarian mindset with this quote, ‘value investing is at its core, the marriage of a contrarian streak and a calculator.’ I think it’s really what we do. We take a contrarian streak and then we apply a lot of math to it and ask a lot of questions to see if we have an opportunity there. And then he has another quote here. I just kind of toss this in, ‘those who take advantage of Mr. Market, they are the ones who generate the best long term returns.’ And again, those are kind of things we think about. It’s how we look at the market. And it’s kind of very different from, you know, maybe a momentum mindset. Who’s right, who’s wrong. It’s really just what we think and how we look at it. There’s a lot of different philosophies and styles for everybody. This is know this is ours and and it’s worked pretty well. I think one question that everybody asks when when they hear, well, I’m a contrarian or a value investor, they go, gee, gosh, why bother? The market’s going up. It’s been going up for five, ten years. It’s just been super strong. Why bother with contrarian approach? And we think our view is a couple of things. One is that they don’t all go up forever. Not every stock’s going to go forever. At some point they’re not. And at some point the market’s not going to go up and the market goes up and down a lot. We want to be able to think clearly, take advantage of those opportunities, not necessarily just ride the momentum. We want to find opportunities when the market’s kind of sloppy. Another aspect of this is really unappreciated, I think, is that most of the work in contrarian investing goes into buying the stock. Once you have a stock you like, maybe half the work or more is already done. There’s a saying that if you buy it right, you’ve already made your money. And we take that philosophy to heart where we do a lot of upfront research. And then after that, it’s more just monitoring and babysitting. And we don’t have to necessarily watch it every day. Worry about the individual performance of the stock, how’s it doing today, yesterday. The Fed’s going to raise rates or they’re not. We don’t really look at that so much. We just keep in mind it’s a business. We own a piece of it, and we hope everybody at the company is doing the right thing and making it worth more so we don’t have to babysit it quite as much. It’s much lower stress, stressful, a way to to invest. Me personally, I like being an owner of a real business. When I look at a company that I own a piece of, I think I own some of that. And now I can think like the people who own that business. So it’s an intangible value that I think is really important to me and really to most contrarian investors to be an owner of a business. And then the other thing too again, this gets back to money are we making money here? It’s one of the most common ways that the great investing fortunes have been made. You look at through history, Seth Klarman, as mentioned earlier, you know, Warren Buffett, a lot of these other guys, they make their money as value investors and they must be doing something right. So we kind of take that to heart as well. So the next question, does contrarian investing still work in a growth world or where things are becoming obsolete and there’s a lot of value traps, does it really work? And it absolutely does work. And that’s because most investors don’t want to invest this way. So when they invest in a different approach, that’s fine. But it leaves opportunities for contrarians to look for things that maybe people have missed or just wrong on. And there’s always going to be stocks out of favor. Every stock can’t be in favor all at the same time. So we look for the ones that are out of favor and and there always are going to be those. I just highlighted a couple of reasons here, why people don’t like contrarian investing. And one is it makes investors uncomfortable. The narrative is wrong. Something’s not right with the company. It doesn’t go over well when I talk to friends and professionals about it, they go, well, why are you investing in that? It just doesn’t seem right. So it makes a lot of investors uncomfortable. Wall Street will just never, never jump onto a contrarian name until it starts to work. One of our names is up, I think over two hundred and fifty percent and we were early on, it worked out great. We just saw sell side analysts say, wow, great. We we’ve gone from underweight to the market perform. We think there’s 20 percent left. So they are really late on the names. They do their job. That’s fine, but we do ours. We find a lot of opportunities where the street just really has to wait until they regain respectability. Too nuanced for quantitative strategies. Quant strategies try to apply the same algorithm to a lot of different names. But these are really one offs. And if you apply an algorithm to down-and-out stocks, no matter how you tease them out, it’s just not going to work because the nuances are just too great for quantitative strategy to to tease out. Holding period is just too long for most investors. Three, six, nine months is pretty much the market’s typical waiting period. Anything longer than they just don’t don’t like it. Investors are skeptical of a strong return potential. They just don’t believe it. And so they don’t really tend to to look at it. And it goes back to that efficiency thing. If the market’s efficient. Well, there shouldn’t be 50 percent return potential stocks out there. There are, but you just need to find them. Most investors, just as the next line says, it’s just too much work. I don’t want to work that hard. There’s things you got to go research. It takes too much time. I just don’t want to do it. So a little bit is a specialty niche. I’ve been doing it a long time, so I kind of know ways to make the process a little faster, a little more efficient. It’s still you’ll get the research in.
Burce Kaser [00:15:48] So how do you find worthwhile contrarian stocks? There must be some out there. How do we find them? Well, we look for stocks that are out of favor. And I think that’s in many ways the most important aspect. It’s half the battle simply looking for these stocks instead of avoiding them. You put you in the mindset to be a contrarian. Look for stocks that – we’ll go into some of the tools and methods. But it’s just looking for those out of favor stocks is really a great important starting point. Then real value. There has to be value there just because they’re out of favor. There may be no value there. You know, those who made rotary phones or the buggy whip or they went to zero because it just wasn’t real value there. So we look for real value and then we want to find a positive catalyst, something that’s going to make the stock and the company turn around. We don’t want a cheap stock that stays cheap forever. We want to make sure that something that’s going to make it worth more. That’s the significant positive change or the catalyst. And the other thing, too, is if you want to stock with a great return, you have to look for those. The ones that don’t have that great return potential. You want to set them aside, maybe wait for the stock to go down or just maybe not look at them at all. But you got you got to hunt for the big ones if you’re going to find them. And so we look at kind of these four criteria here to see if we can pick them up.
Burce Kaser [00:17:15] And so a little bit more in depth, contrarian investing focus focuses on unpopular stocks, there’s something wrong with them. We listed some of the reasons why stocks are out of favor and almost all of oursw will fall into one of these categories. The most prominent one is revenues are not growing. Wall Street worships at the altar of growth. And if it’s growth, that’s great. The more growth, the better. If it’s not growing, it must be bad. And if it’s shrinking, then it must be awful. And it’s fascinating. If a company is growing at zero point zero zero one percent, well, that toggles it into a growth ish category and that’s OK. But if it’s shrinking at point zero zero zero one percent, it’s almost a mathematical negligible difference. But now it’s a shrinking company and the multiple will just go down a lot. So revenues aren’t growing is really something that investors cannot stand. And that’s a reason why a stock can become pretty unpopular. And then some of the other ones, margins are shrinking. A lot of companies make acquisitions that just didn’t work out. Some stocks go into bankruptcy. Those are great to avoid. But as soon as they come out, those can be pretty interesting. But nobody wants to touch them. Once they come out, they just have taint. Temporary problems, uninspiring near-term prospects. Narrative is off. All these reasons why people will make stocks, stocks will become unprofitable. We think the universe is about 10 to 20 percent of investable stocks is really considered out of favor for us. It’s not big, but there’s enough there to to get started.
Burce Kaser [00:18:55] And some of the tools we use to find these stocks, we have a lot of stock screens. We have maybe two, three, four or five thousand stocks in a database that that we’ll grind through. And we’ll use a lot of different sort of statistical methods or other methods to kind of just find them. We can then take a look at them in more depth. That’s one really powerful way to cover a lot of stocks quickly is to go through a good stock screen. Another is a chart. Almost any time I hear about a stock, I just look at the chart. Is it out of favor or is it not? That’s a really good way to find laggards. We have some data services that we use. These aren’t fancy services, but they save us a lot of time, might look for holdings that other contrarian investors have, are happy to borrow ideas from them. Any of those kind of services sometimes look through those. And we do a lot of reading. A lot of people say, gosh, all you guys do is read. All I do is read, but I read good stuff. I read very credible sources, whether it’s the media or other journals or whatever, and then also a lot of company stuff, a lot of reading, kind of like a I live in a library, I guess is kind of what’s called. I don’t read social media. I just have found that there’s so much out there that’s just worthless noise. It really sops up a lot of my time. I want to sort of mine for gold with the gold is and I’ve got a pretty good methodology to apply those. And these are ones that I use most often.
Burce Kaser [00:20:27] And then, as we mentioned earlier, a weak stock is only half of the strategy. You can’t just buy a stock, it’s down and out. You want to find one that’s going to turn around and it’s going to do great things potentially. And it’s got to be a catalyst that has a lot of power to it. We’ve listed some of the ones here. New management is by far the most powerful catalyst because it can change the entire nature of the company. We spend a lot of time focusing on management, but there’s others too credible shareholder exerting pressure. Exxon was in the news because a very tiny shareholder put a lot of pressure on them. They had a lot of other people that joined the campaign. Can get pretty powerful, pretty powerful catalyst. Spinoffs, a lot of interesting opportunities there. Some are not worthwhile, but some could be really pretty interesting. Cyclical upturns, comimg out of bankruptcy. A lot of interesting catalysts. We actually publish something for the Turnaround Letter, something we call the Catalyst Report, and it lists all the catalysts that come out every month, maybe 30 to 50. That’s a great starting point to see what companies have a catalyst. And then let’s go back and see if their stock is weak. It’s a pretty powerful report. There’s nothing like it on the street. I use it all the time. It’s a pretty interesting product.
Burce Kaser [00:21:49] And then tools we use to find catalysts. A lot of this is just an automated process. We have algorithms that go out and look at the web to find these. We get a list of those every day and then you get credible media, financial sources, so forth. And then we’ll check on these, will see a catalyst and then we’ll we’ll look at make sure. Is it really there or is it just something else? And then some data services help us as well. So kind of combining that two where do we look for opportunity? It’s in the intersection of out of favor stocks and catalysts and that’s where we can get the really strong upside where the street’s not there yet. It’s a good story. The stock is cheap, a lot of value. In some ways this is the most important slide of the entire philosophy. If you didn’t know anything about what we do and you saw this picture, that’s that’s really what we do.
Burce Kaser [00:22:43] And then. Where is the real value? This is the part where we decide and try to figure out is there something there or is there not really something there? And we list the three drivers of stocks, valuation, fundamentals and relative strength. Fundamentals. We probably should put management first because management has to be sooner or later on board because they guide what the company does and where it spends its money. And so we look at management. We want to make sure they have the right mindset, shareholder friendly, focused on profits, focus on good returns, good capital allocation, and then that they have the ability to lead, think, produce results. That’s really important. And then we look at the business itself. Are the products relevant? Do they have some stability to the revenue stream? We may not necessarily want growth, but if the revenue is declining 30 percent a year, that’s probably just not enough there for us to work with. We want to make sure the margins are reasonable. We also like a balance sheet that’s pretty strong. We’d love to see cash flow. We want to know the fundamentals of the business. Then for valuation. We want to see something that’s cheap as it kind of sits there. And really meaningful on an on a post turnaround basis – this kind of goes with the tool below it, enterprise value to EBITDA. That’s really just what’s the company value compared to its cash operating profits. We use that a lot. We use the price earnings multiple some price to tangible book value. These are conventional methods, but we use them in an unconventional way. And one of the ways we use them unconventionally is look at the company on a post turnaround basis and then apply our valuation metrics on the business and maybe two, three or four years. By combining these, we get around some of the short sighted nature of some of these multiples. They may or may not be cheap on current multiples, but we want to see what’s going to be worth when it’s when it’s finished with a transition and the turnaround. That’s kind of how we use these metrics. So valuations really important to us. That’s kind of the way we talk about a value investor is a contrarian with a calculator. This is where the calculator comes in and then relative strength stocks go up and down. We want to buy it at the right time. You buy a little early. That’s painful. As long as it works, it’s OK. But we want to try to buy it right and sometimes that means just waiting, waiting, waiting until the stock really gets really gets cheap.
Burce Kaser [00:25:11] A couple of key concepts to our approach, long term mindset, think like an owner by as if we’re buying the entire company. You can’t sell for two or three years. Sometimes people use the analogy of a house. Just because the house maybe goes down in value by a couple of percentage point it doesn’t mean it’s time to sell it. And if it goes up 20 percent, you don’t necessarily sell that either. Think like an owner. We own this entire company for two or three years, maybe longer. We want to think with that mindset that helps us understand and put the day to day noise in a little bit of a little more perspective. And the other part is, is ignoring the noise, I think about ninety nine percent of what goes on in the financial markets, in the news and everything is just pure noise. And so we try to block all that out and focus on the end game, sometimes even company earnings reports, there’s nothing there. They put out a 30 page press release, slide decks and chitter chatter and everything and it’s well, that just did nothing. So even that can be noise sometimes. And then setting a price target again on the post turnaround scenario, price targets are really important because they do give us a excuse me a second. Sorry about that, so we get a price target. It really helps us monitor the company’s progress. We look for revenue, profit margins, net cash, which is debt, less cash, and then the multiple on all that. And we look at those four metrics as long as we’re making progress on those metrics. Kinda don’t really care about much anything else. So it helps us monitor where we are along that turnaround toward that end game scenario. And it also helps to anchor our resolve when the stock price goes down. Investing is is just so emotionally driven when a stock goes down, all of us. Oh, my gosh, it’s down. I want out. So this helps us provide this provides us some resolve so that we don’t trigger all these emotions to want to get out. It helps us staying with the game. We know what the end game is, let’s stick around. It’s working even though the street doesn’t like it today. That’s a really important, really important reason we have price targets. Then it helps time the exit. When do we sell is one of the most important questions all investors ask. This kind of tells us when to sell, when it hits that price target. Sometimes a story is really, really good and we will raise that price target. One of our stocks we’ve kept raising and raising, raising the price target. I think we had an initial target that was up maybe fifty, seventy maybe seventy five percent when the initial initially put the price target out stock is now a triple and we still think it’s cheap. So there’s a little bit of an art to that. But the price target really helps us think clearly on that and then sell. We sell again when it approaches, reaches our price target, assuming we don’t raise it. Sometimes turnaround’s just don’t work. Things are unraveling. The company’s lost. In some cases we’ll ride these into bankruptcy. Painful, but fortunately, we often have a lot of winning stocks to offset that. And the track record that we saw earlier, that includes all the bankruptcies. That stock goes to zero. It’s in that track record. So it’s a frustrating part of the process. Sometimes it’s very rare, but we just aren’t going to sell. If the stock price goes down, we want to see that fundamental deterioration. And if the story is good, but the stock goes down, we’re not going to sell the stock. We might actually buy more. It’s, again, a different, different mindset than in what is commonly thought of with with investing. And everybody has different styles. For us, we want to see if a stock goes down, we’ll just buy more. I think somebody gave me an interesting analogy and I kind of pass it along and it’s well, if somebody is selling you dollar bills for seventy five cents and then they say, well, you know I’m going to drop the price to 50 cents, you don’t want to turn around and go, gosh, no, my dollars are worth nothing anymore. You’re going to go, No, I’m going to buy more. I’ll take more of those. So that’s kind of how we think about think about that.
Burce Kaser [00:29:39] Just some of our recent closeout recommendations in every Cabot Turnaround Letter monthly issue, we list all the recommendations as well as the recent closed out recommendations. Typically that might go back eight months, maybe a year. So this is right out of the June issue and it’s been a very strong year. Some of these, of course, are driven by the pandemic we bought really, really well at the bottom. Others we’ve had for a few years and have turned out quite well. So we track our performance. You can see it. We’re pretty performance driven. So we want to make sure that our our results and our numbers are clear.
Burce Kaser [00:30:22] All investing has pitfalls. Everybody makes mistakes. We try to list some of the common mistakes here. We try to avoid them. There is risks to turn arounds. They don’t always work. Sometimes the losses can be pretty high and diversification is critical. You don’t want to buy one or two turnarounds that way. If one doesn’t work, you want to sell them all. You want to have a number of turnarounds. So if one is not working, it’s probably one that’s working and it provides a nice diversified portfolio to take again, some emotional stress out of being a turnaround investor. So it listed some of the common mistakes here and how we can help you avoid these. One is misreading the depth of the operational problems or management’s capabilities. We’ve been doing this a long time. We can see where these problems are and avoid them. It’s something that we are. We’ve done pretty well with, but we’re always learning. I spent a lot of my time learning new things in other industries and reading books. We can help with avoiding that very common problem of misreading the operational turnaround or operational problems or or management’s capabilities or sometimes lack of capabilities before we get into a name. Not paying enough attention to the debt. Sometimes when interest rates are zero or two or whatever percent, it’s easy to avoid it because we’re not paying much interest. But debt is out there and we want to make sure that our companies can handle it. And we want to make sure that ideally working down that that debt. So again before we get into a name, we’re going to be comfortable with that debt level. And then not having a handle on the endgame and the mathematics of the opportunity. We’re pretty math focused, so we want to make sure that all this kind of works and a lot of it’s spending time with math and models. We got a lot of models. It helps us understand where the game is going and make sure that that we’re following along as we as we go. Catalyst’s really important to have those. If they’re available. We use the Catalyst Report. We provide you those. Timing of buying and selling. It’s really hard to buy these. Right. Part of our services, we tell you when to buy and when to sell and of course, when to hold. We provide a lot of updates along the way to help you stay informed so that you’re able to stay patient and hold onto the names as long as we do and as long as the story looks pretty good.
Burce Kaser [00:32:49] So our first name is Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. This is a Boston based specialty pharmaceutical company, about one point nine, two billion dollars in market value. This company is seen as a failed pharmaceutical company, everybody in pharmaceutical investing wants either the reality of growth or this company is growing fast. We love it. Or the prospects of fast growth. Maybe they have a couple of exciting things in the pipeline. Hard to put a value on those. But people love those. The last thing pharmaceutical investors want is a company with no pipeline. They have patent expirations coming up in several years. There’s nothing going on that I’m making any money. This is all the things everybody hates about pharmaceutical companies. And so investors over the years have ignored it. And this chart here just shows how this company done compared to the S&P. Five hundred, it’s done pretty poorly. So we jumped in in December at about twelve dollars. It’s sitting about twelve dollars. Now, why do we like this stock when everything looks so bad? So what we like about it are really a couple of things. One is they have a franchise for a product which is used for irritable bowel syndrome. This is they have a variant that they treat. And it’s variant is it’s not – It’s painful. It’s hard to live with. Their variant, their treatment, Linzess treats this this ailment. And they have a really good product. It’s the leading product for that ailment and so far has been providing steady revenue. Growing volumes would offset the slow price per unit decline. So revenues are growing. People don’t really give it credit for that. The product is licensed and marketed to to AbbVie. AbbVie’s a giant pharmaceutical company. Thousands and thousands of reps out there who are seeing doctors all day long. And they market this product along with all their other products. So it’s not little Ironwood marketing this, it’s AbbVie. And that’s a huge, huge benefit. And Ironwood split’s revenues and profits with AbbVie. So they’re both incentivized to make this thing work well. And so one of the things they have done is since they have no pipeline, they have no other products, they really don’t need a lot of people around. So what they’ve been doing is slashing their expenses and sending all these costs away. And that’s starting to generate real profits as they remove all of these costs. Profits will be about one hundred and seventy million dollars this year. They were unprofitable two years ago. Things are moving in the right direction. I love cash, love profits. They’re generating a lot. We talked earlier about the importance of having an outside activist investor. So Alex Denner is on the board of directors now. He joined last, I believe, October. He’s very respected and he’s exerting his influence both in cutting costs and changing the leadership to make sure this thing moves forward in a way that is profitable. He owns, I think, about sixteen percent of the company right now, I’m sorry about 10 percent of the company. So he’s very motivated to make sure this thing works. I think it’s the largest holding of of his hedge fund. He’s had some success at other funds as well. I mean, the companies as well. So we are really enthusiastic about having him on the board here. And some other things are important. Generating a lot of free cash flow. Cash is accumulating on the balance sheet. Cash now exceeds the debt. So we like that. Shares are undervalued. We think it’s worth probably nineteen dollars a share, which is a nice gain from the twelve-ish or so that it’s at now. So it’s Ironwood Pharmaceutical.
Burce Kaser [00:36:32] Then the next one is a much larger company, Nokia. Everybody knows Nokia major telecom equipment provider, giant. Thirty one billion dollars of revenue based in Finland. The narrative, of course, is that they were great during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but they totally missed the smartphone business. They bought Alcatel-Lucent, which was a horrible deal and it’s just been downhill since then. And frankly, they’re kind of right. Weak number three, number four and 5G. Losing share to Samsung, Huawei and Ericsson should actually be on here too, they’re losing share to everybody. And that is probably because the products aren’t very competitive. They’ve missed a lot of things. The margins aren’t very good. They have no pricing because the products aren’t really competitive. They suspended the dividend. So that kind of ticked off a lot of investors. People look at Nokia and they say just no, no, there’s nothing, nothing there. Thank you, I’ll move on. Or maybe I’ll buy Ericsson. Our view is very different. New capable CEO joined about a little more than a year ago, he came back from having been elsewhere and was a Nokia veteran a long time ago. He’s done some things we really like. Acknowledged the core problem and he’s getting Nokia back in the game, back in the 5G game, but focusing on products and research and then also lowering costs to boost profits, give them the cash and the endurance to make this thing last and benefit from 5G when that really starts taking off, starting to work. They generated positive sales in the first quarter, first quarter, nine percent on a currency adjusted basis. That’s that’s encouraging. And we think they could probably continue to do that. In the tightening the focus, he divided the business into four different divisions and now there’s a lot more accountability focusing on generating those returns, standalone profits, not just let’s have all these products, let’s make sure the products are ones that people buy. Let’s make sure we can sell them profitably. On here, it says dual- a possible duopoly with Ericsson, maybe, we think ultimately Huawei is shut out of the western market. That means you have a duopoly or maybe a triopoly with Samsung in there. That would be a pretty appealing market. The story is not contingent on that, but that would make an extra tailwind if that happens. Generating free cash flow, generated one point two billion euro. That’s about a billion dollars or so, something like that, it’s a lot of money that they’re generating in the first quarter. You see that continuing strong balance sheet. They used to have a cash deficit where they have more debt than cash. Now they have more cash than debt, we think they’re going to start the dividend maybe later this year. Stocks probably worth twelve dollars a share at least. We’re pretty excited about Nokia.
Burce Kaser [00:39:39] And then just kind of a summary slide, these are the kind of four keys to success or turnaround, investing, patience, patience, patience, avoid the noise, know the valuation. Be very picky. While the stocks we look at maybe one out of every two hundred are ones we pick. So we’re kind of picky and then know the management, very critical and then diversify. And this is a quote from Jim Grant. I think he is a great, great writer and great analyst. ‘Successful investing is having everyone agree with you later.’ So we’ll kind of end on that note, I’ll turn it back over to Chris.
Chris Preston [00:40:22] Yeah, thanks, Bruce. Here, let me pull my camera back up here. We do, I’ll give you a chance to catch your breath. We do have some questions rolling in. But first, I want to tell you a little bit about, if you like what you’ve heard from Bruce today, and are interested in signing up for his Cabot Turnaround Letter, we have a special offer for listeners of today’s webinar. Ninety dollars for 90 days. And what you get in return is monthly issues featuring new investment ideas and stock recommendations. Weekly, a weekly podcast and note providing recommended updates and market commentary, special bulletins alerting you to changes in ratings, exclusive access to Bruce’s Catalyst report, twenty four seven online access to our exclusive subscriber website and analysts’ archives and direct private access to chief analyst, Bruce Kaser, for answers to your investing questions. Again, if you’re listening to today’s webinar, you can try out Cabot Turnaround Letter for ninety dollars for ninety days, one, one dollar a day. Quick math tells me. So, act now by visiting CabotWealth.com/webinarspecial to get your special introductory offer.
Chris Preston [00:41:42] Now let’s get to your questions. Cole, who’s been waiting patiently to get a good question, he asks, “Is there a difference between turnaround stocks and value stocks?”
Chris Preston [00:41:56] Yeah, that’s a good question. And there’s certainly a lot of overlap overlap for a turnaround stock. It’s certainly a value kind of stock. So it’s maybe a niche within value investing. Value investing is often thought of stocks that are cheap on a price to earnings or price to book basis. Really may maybe a good way to think about value investing is just not growth per se. So, turnaround investing is a niche within value investing.
Chris Preston [00:42:31] OK, kind of a similar question from Raj, but it’s more specific to Cabot, “It seems turnaround is a patience game and most of the Cabot advisories are momentum driven. How do you so how do you balance this game? It’s truly contrarian.”
Chris Preston [00:42:48] Yeah. So one thing that’s great about the the Cabot program, the Cabot platform is that each analyst does what they think makes sense for their strategy. And so Cabot doesn’t necessarily have a universal momentum or whatever strategy mindset. Let’s put out research and Advisories that that are kind of pure, as it were. And so this one is very different from the momentum driven strategies. We look at all stocks, but these are the ones that we we focus on. These are the ones that I invest in. So part of what Cabot does is provide a menu for different investors. And there’s so many different kinds of investing. This is one particular niche and our products focus on on that niche.
Chris Preston [00:43:42] OK, here’s the question, “What role do dividends, dividend yields have in your strategy?”
Chris Preston [00:43:51] Yeah, that’s a good question. So I love cash. I love cash in my pocket. And one thing that, of course, dividends do is they put cash in my pocket. So the more dividends that a company pays. I love that. Balancing that out, though, is that if they pay a dividend that’s not sustainable, well, I will have to think about when they’re going to cut that. One great example is like AT&T had a great yield. I kept looking at and looking at it. I didn’t really like the business necessarily overpaid for acquisitions, which really just meant that they had too much debt. So I knew they’re going to cut the dividend as a matter of time. So it just wasn’t interesting because I knew as soon as they cut it, the stocks are going to go down five, 10, 15 percent or whatever. So if the dividend is sustainable, I’m pretty excited about that. But it’s not a key part of the strategy. It’s a way to put cash into my pocket as long as it’s sustainable. If they’ve signaled there’s going to be a dividend cut. OK, that’s fine. Everybody knows that. So there’s some nuances with investing. This is not a high yield strategy per say. I’ll take the high yield. One of our names does put out a pretty attractive yield. So it’s a we’ll look forward if we can get it, but it’s not a critical part of the strategy.
Chris Preston [00:45:19] OK, here’s one, “What books about value investing do you recommend?”
Chris Preston [00:45:26] So that’s a great question. I love reading and I love learning from other investors and you know, one, it’s always out there, is “The Intelligent Investor” by Graham and Dodd. That’s a great book to read. A lot of important nuggets in there. Any one of Warren Buffett’s shareholder reports from Berkshire Hathaway. Those are really good. There’s a couple of the books that they’re less common but are really valuable and one is called “The Most Important Thing.” And that’s from Howard Marks. Howard Marks is one of the founders and leads the Oakmark Capital investment firm. Really, really good book about thinking about thinking about risk and return and value investing. Then another one, which is that has not gotten a lot of press, but it’s very entertaining and has another lot of good stories in there about activist investors. Was written by Jeff Gramm. G-R-A-M-M. And it’s called “Dear Chairman”. And I think there’s a longer part of it, but it’s a really good book you can get on Amazon. It’s a fun read. It’s not necessarily a weighty tome, but he’s got some good stories in there as well. And then one of my favorite books, but it’s really hard to get. I was able to borrow a copy is by Seth Klarman. It’s called “Margin of Safety.” If you want to buy it, it’s like twelve hundred dollars on Amazon. So you pay twelve hundred dollars for book. You can’t be a contrarian investor. It’s kind of an industry joke about the name, but it’s, it’s a really good book. You can get your hands on that. That’s one to read as well.
Chris Preston [00:47:06] I will do one or two more questions. “Who is, you mentioned Alex Denner earlier, Bruce, the activist on Ironwood’s board. What can he do to help the company? And what can any activist investor do?”
Chris Preston [00:47:24] Yeah, so Alex is kind of an interesting guy. His company is Sarissa Capital. It’s his company, he started it in 2011, they have about a billion in assets, very focused investor. I think they hold maybe 10 or 15 different stocks. Ironwood is something like 10 to 15 percent of his entire portfolio. So he’s very focused on just a few names and he has a good background. He started, I think, at Morgan Stanley and their investment management business and then went to Viking Global, which is a very well-run hedge fund, and then that with Carl Icahn for, I think five or 10 years. So he learned at the knee of the expert on how to do it from Carl Icahn and started in Sarissa in I think 2011. So his approach is engaging with management, getting on the board of directors and making big changes when it’s needed. He’s a pretty smart guy. He’s he’s not a finance guy who knows nothing. He actually knows a lot. He has an engineering degree from MIT. He has an engineering master’s degree from Yale, and then he has a PhD from Yale as well. So he’s a pretty smart guy and he knows his stuff. He’s specializes in biotech. He’s made money for us before on Bioverativ. They were spun off from Biogen and also ARIAD Pharmaceutical. He got on their board and sold that company at a premium. So he’s a money maker. He’s very good. Doesn’t always happen quickly, but he’s is a very good reputation for producing results. And he’s only one. There’s ten people on the board. But the board of of Ironwood is pretty knew of the ten people. I think seven, seven have joined since April of 2019. So kind of a reconstituted board. The board is full of pretty sharp people who have high reputations. So they probably don’t want to be on a company that languishes for too long. They think they’re all there to make changes and move this forward, maybe sell the company, if nothing else, at least make it worth more. And so his background and experience and knowledge that bridges both investors and the biopharmaceutical industry. I think he can make a lot of changes there that create value for shareholders. We’re pretty interested in what he’s doing there.
Chris Preston [00:49:55] Well, thanks, Bruce, and thank you all for joining us today and for your questions. Bruce, if you don’t mind, just advancing to the next slide real quick. Just a reminder, if you’re interested in signing up for Cabot Turnaround Letter, the website again is CabotWealth.com/webinarspecial to get your special introductory offer. And we’ll be back next month on Thursday, July 22nd with a webinar titled How Government Spending Can Turn into Investment Gains, hosted by our Nancy Zambell, chief analyst of our Wall Street’s Best advisories. So come back next month for that presentation. And again, that’ll be Thursday, July 22nd at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. That does it for us, For Bruce Kaser and the entire Cabot Wealth Network network team. I’m Chris Preston and we’ll see you next time.