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Friday, September 13, 2013

Value at Work: The Credit Crisis and Beyond

Now that we have launched the Tim Melvin Deep Value Newsletter and Banking on Profits we have seen a steady flow of subscribers and I think over time we will grow this service. I have been told that if I would be more self-promotional and dramatic about my offerings we could probably accelerate the sales process. I am just not that guy. Even if I wanted to pose in front of fancy cars with half naked women all gained as a result of my terrific trading advice I am pretty sure my wife would kill me for even suggesting it. The fact that I drive an old Jaguar that fits me like a glove and I refuse to part with might also hamper my efforts in that type of marketing.

I am not going to make shrill dramatic pronouncements about my ability to make you millions of dollars in minutes a day. Value investing does not work that way. This is a long term approach to the markets that puts margin of safety first and lets the upside take care of itself. It works but it won’t make you rich overnight either. It is a service for investors who are tired of the hype and the promises and want a way to earn solid returns over time and build their net worth the way private equity and other long term investors do it by buying cheap assets and selling them when they are fully valued.

Rather than try to convince you to subscribe to my newsletters with hype and promises I am just going to run on my track record. Listed below are comments dating back to 2006 that were recorded in my personal blog or published on Real Money, Daily Speculations or one of the other sites where my work has appeared over the years. This is value investing at work over the long run. It runs through the credit crisis when investors were losing a fortune ,the late 2008-2009 period when everyone was terrified to buy and up to 2011 when we started to feel like the worst was behind us. Judge for yourself if my approach to investing makes sense for you and is worth the small cost of an annual subscription. I think it is and hope you will join me by subscribing to the newsletters and putting deep value investing to work for you.
Good luck to us all,



You might be able to sell me the fact that this market is fairly priced, providing I’ve been drinking heavily, but undervalued, I can’t see it. The bond market and the dollar are telling you it’s just not that good out there right now. We have rallied almost 12% since August without a real pause of any length and anybody who is not cautious now pretty much deserves what they get.

April 1, 2008
Even if I am dead wrong here I think the risk of being fully committed to stocks carries too many risks for the idea of a margin of safety to exist. I am willing to miss this run up to protect capital. There appears to be very little common sense being used on Wall Street these days when it comes to the overall economic and financial matters, as well as a total lack of fear. Bottoms are accompanied by fear and loathing not cheerleading and bottom predictions. The bullish arguments are laughable. Anyone who does not clearly see that the recent pullback in gold and other commodities is deleveraging by hedge funds in light of recent volatility is not looking close enough. Anyone who thinks that the bank write offs are at an end has just simply lost their mind. Yes, eventually they will write all this crap down too far and it will create an opportunity. I particularly look forward to moves like that of UBS to separate the bad assets into separate vehicles as this will create huge pools of underpriced and unloved mortgage assets that no one wants to own, reminiscent of the Texas bad Banks of the late 80s and early 90s. But that time is not now. Small community banks will thrive and benefit from the tighter credit conditions and steeper yield curve. But not yet. Patient investors will see one of the best buying opportunities of their lifetimes. But it is too soon. 

June 20,2008
Interest rates are starting to rise. I continue to think that only an illiterate deaf mute kamikaze could be aggressively long the US stock market. Of course there are lots of those around. We call them mutual fund managers.

As for the market itself there is a fortune to be made over the next several years. I see companies that are profitable trading for less than 3 times E/EBITDA. I see an ever growing list of companies that sell for less than cash in the bank. We are fast approaching the depths of an ugly bear market and there is money to be made. I am buying DAR, HDNG, DOW,ASH and other like a crack addict at a rock convention.


You can buy stocks like ADPT, TECD, and ESIO for less than the value of the company’s liquid assets. You can literally build a portfolio of 40-50 of these that have a good credit scores, viable businesses and excellent recovery prospects. That’s enough to make me salivate at the possibilities for gains over the next several years.

DIS trade for about two thirds of my appraisal value. That is provided we give no value at all to the film library or character rights and price the parks as raw land and put a 5 multiple on after tax earnings .DELL trade for less than two cash. HTH is a pile of cash in the hands of a proven investor in distressed banks and other financials. As a bonus the company landed a back door bank charter and will be able to bid on distressed assets and institutions. Southwest Airlines is stupid cheap, trading below tangible book value. Oil service companies like RDC and PTEN trade below net asset value at these levels. I like the idea of buying the Forest City senior debentures at a 30% YTM and what looks to be more than adequate asset coverage. Whitman has been a buyer and although struggled with everyone else last year, he is one of the best credit analysts and distressed guys around.  

This is the type of trade I am hoping begins to develop in earnest in the first half of 2010. As commercial and real estate woes continue to fall I am looking for the market to wake up to the problems facing the small banks. When it starts the stock market, being the bastion of irrational insanity that it is ,the baby will go out with the bathwater. This type of activity created a situation back in the early 1990s that allowed many people to literally get rich over the next decade. When the good get sold with the bad I am looking to buy up a portfolio of small banks below tangible book value that have low loan losses and adequate reserves. As real estate improves-and it will someday- we will start to see a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the banking community. These transactions will occur at multiples of book, not at a discount. Those solid bank stock bought in this next sell off will show tremendous gains for those bold enough to step up.

  August 8,2011

The current turmoil in the markets is creating some opportunities. Any type of corporate disappointments is leading to a steep and drastic sell off. Right now foreign banks are god-awful, point of maximum pessimism cheap. I like two of the larger Japanese banks, Mitsubishi UFJ (MTU) and Mizhou (MFG). Both sell at a fraction of tangible book value and for an investor with a time horizon of five years or more should be very profitable. The same is true for Royal Bank Of Scotland (RBS). The stock is at 40% of tangible book and management has a solid plan to de-risk the balance sheet and return to profitability. As a final foreign excursion the shares of Dutch insurer Aegon (AEG) are also very, very cheap. They have repaid the Dutch government for the emergency funding and should pay a dividend again starting next year.

Here at Home Hudson City Bancshares (HCBK) have sold off sharply. After the reorganization of the balance sheet the bank should do very well going forward and at a discount from tangible book and yield of 4.40% it’s an attractive long term investment. First Bancorp (FBNC) is also cheap and replacing the TARP funding with Treasury Small Business program funding will be an enormous boost to the bottom line. Locally Shore Bancshares(SHBI) has been a severe disappointment as loan losses have continued to mount. I am going to hold that name and add Severn Savings (SVBI) at this price. I have a lot of faith in the Hyatt families’ strong desire not to lose the millions they have invested in the bank. Insiders have been buying so it’s worth a shot at one third of book value.

Force Protection (FRPT) missed earnings and is now trading at very cheap prices. This company should have sold out last year and now I think it is just a matter of time. They have a decent business but will function better as a division of a larger defense contractor. LB Foster has decent earnings but there is a product liability claim with Union Pacific involving 1.6 million rail road ties. The question becomes is that worth the 50% of market cap the stock shed? They will be a huge winner when we finally get all this crap behind us and our economy is once again growing to the point that infrastructure spending resumes. Demand for computers and other tech products may be slow but it will come back when the economy does. That makes Micron Technology (MU) a screaming long term buy at 75% of book value in my opinion.

I like the idea of buying a small package of mortgage REITS here. I would buy a little Annaly (NLY) and a little Invesco Mortgage (IVR) here with the idea of building the position over an extended period of time. You are likely to get a chance to buy lower based on conditions and volatility in the bond markets going forward. However they are cheap and the yields of 15 and 20% respectively make them worth a shot here.

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