Year-end 2014: Rearranging my portfolio
This year, 2014, my portfolio has lagged the market substantially. It’s due to a number of factors but principally 1) my concentration in two large positions (AIG and BAC warrants) that lagged the market, 2) a large cash position and 3) the significant decline in Fortress Paper. What can I say? It’s been a very disappointing year. So I’ve decided to change tactics for 2015, diversify a bit and focus more on special situations in smaller cap stocks. We’re now getting to the end-of-the-year and so its time to take advantage of year-end tax selling … not my selling! other people selling their ‘losers’ (my future winners).
Reducing AIG position
To accomplish this rearranging I started by downsizing my largest position, AIG. I still believe AIG is considerably undervalued. It may double again in the next 5 years as it has doubled for me in the past 3… but, then again, it may not. Despite the steady operating improvement over the past couple of years investors have not rewarded the company with even a market multiple. Perhaps its the company history, perhaps it’s because a number of institutional investors were burned by the stock in 2008/9, perhaps its the ongoing Star trial and potential liabilities it could spell for AIG. For whatever reason, investors have stayed away from the stock this year and the share price has pretty much languished. Of course, that sets it up for a good 2015 were investors to have a change of heart, but I want to look for something a little bit less mainstream, so I’ve sold off 1/4 of my position so that I can diversity my portfolio and delve a bit more into special situations (well, at least smaller cap companies with some kind of catalyst for value enhancement)
Another liquidation situation
My first purchase under my new strategy was a repurchase. As I indicated in my response to Dan’s comment on my post on Winthrop Realty Trust I’ve put some money back into Gyrodyne Corporation of America (GYRO). I posted about GYRO back in 2011 (see here, here and here) and made a tidy 57% profit on the stock in 10 months. This time GYRO is in the final throes of liquidation… or is it? Last year in an effort to minimize the tax impact to shareholders GYRO management devised an extremely complicated mechanism, in effect splitting the company into two, one part that holds ownership in the properties and one that manages the properties. Only one of these, GYRO, the management company, continues to be a publicly traded company. They made it even more complicated by introducing another type of security, a Global Note, which they used to pay out last years ‘earnings’ (remember GYRO is a REIT and REITs have to pay out 95% of their income to retain their REIT status). Management seems to have shot themselves in the foot with all these gyrations (yes, pun intended); the plan was to remerge the two ‘companies’ into an LLC before proceeding to liquidation by YE 2016. The problem is that the merger requires a 2/3 majority vote of the public company shareholders and management can’t seem to get the needed shareholder votes for whatever reason. The special meeting to approve the merger has been postponed twice so far. Shares of GYRO have been trending steadily downward since the end of December 2013 when a large cash payment ($45.86) was made and the management and operating assets were split. Right after the distributions the public company shares were trading in the $7-$8 range but have since traded down to a recent $4.10-4.40 range. My guess is that this is the result of 1) a reassessment of value based on a closer look at the remaining assets, and 2) uncertainty surrounding the timing of the liquidation that the postponement of the special meetings has introduced.
What’s great about liquidations is that management has to provide their estimate of what the liquidation distributions will be in the filings. Generally these estimates are VERY conservative as management has no interest in provoking a shareholder lawsuit. (Strangely, shareholders never sue when the liquidation distributions are GREATER than management estimates, but often do when they are LESS…) So what do the liquidation estimates tell us about the value of GYRO? Well, in the merger of GYRO, GSD (the owner of the properties) and the ownership interest of the global notes into the new entity to be known as Gyrodyne LLC, GYRO owners should get 15.2% of the ownership. The latest book value of GYRO shares at Sept 30 2014 was $5.52. However, we have to subtract from that the dividend of $.46 payable to shareholders of record at the end of September, so that leaves us with a post dividend BV of about $5.06/share. This should reflect management’s take on liquidation value, but may be overstated (or subsequently diluted) by the notes in lieu of interest that will be paid on the Global Notes distributed in December ’13. That isn’t a lot of upside from today’s price of around $4.20 but, as I said, management tends to be conservative. In any case, I think the downside is protected. The big IF is when the liquidation can be completed and when the distributions can be made.
There are a five other situations I have started positions in, but they are not yet full positions so I’ll hold off discussing them until I complete my purchases. This touches on one of the most difficult aspects of investing for me: buying, as in how to get into a full position, how many tranches to divide the purchase into and at what price. First I make an overall decision on how big a position I want to take, then I try to buy in, say, thirds or fourths. Sounds simple, right? The problem I have is that once I buy an initial stake I never want to pay more for incremental purchases. I know this is stupid and gets me into only those stocks that are declining! The ones that are trending up leave me with a partial position and a bad taste in my mouth. It’s just a psychological hang-up that I’m trying to get over. Perhaps the subject of a future post!