Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 2016 update – Single Names

It’s been a while since I last wrote. Here I will just give a quick update then sketch out a couple stock ideas I’m still in. I will leave the forward looking macro view for the next post.

It’s been a good month for all investors and I’m no exception. Post the Trump win I loaded up on financials (SLM and WFC), and tripled my holdings in Sterling Constructions (STRL). These are concentrated 7%-12% positions. I also went long the US dollar against yen and euro, riding USD/JPY from 105 to 115. A week ago I cut back on STRL, exited WFC completely, then went long Russian rubles.

This series of frantic trading and macro maneuvers paid off. In the last month I did better than the S&P index even with all my large cash holdings/shorts/hedges. I started taking chips off the table as the market looks extended again.

Single Names I'm still Bullish On

I’m still very bullish on Salle Mae and Sterling Constructions over the next 3 years. FNF is another that can double. Below are a just some bullet points.

Sallie Mae (SLM)

So the stock trades at $10.8 at the time of writing. Downside is $10-$10.5. Upside could be $15+ and a highly probable one.

This is a company that was doing well even before the election – strong growth, strong ROE, and solid capital levels. Management is also trying to improving cost efficiency. The only thing that held back the stock was Democrats’ various attempts to undermine the private student loan market (free college, student loan forgiveness, and general hostility toward lenders…etc).

After November, all the sudden we have 1) decline in regulatory risk, 2) potential market size expansion as Republicans might scale back government funded student loans, 3) higher rates and steeper yield curve driving higher net interest margins, 4) a big tax cut (SLM pays a high 35-40% and their preferred dividend further leverages EPS to tax cuts). The last point alone could juice their earnings by 30%+.

Here’s how I roughly think about floor value and upside. The stock was trading in the $7-$7.5 range before election. Republican president and congress removes an existential threat to the business and should make this worth $8-$8.5. Tax cut improves earnings by 30%+, so add another $2/share and we’re already at $10-$10.5 as floor value – not far from where the stock trades now.

And that’s before factoring in better net interest margin and market size expansion! All together, there’s a high probability that SLM earns $1.5/share within 3 years. At a fair 10x multiple SLM could easily be worth $15/share.

We have a nice bet here. SLM represents 7-8% of my portfolio and I will look to add on weakness.

Sterling Construction (STRL)

Although a construction/infrastructure stock, this is not really a “Trump Trade”, as I wrote about Sterling Construction back in July here. The thesis has not changed much, but the emphasis has shifted from company specific factors to the industry and macro pictures, which has gotten much better.

The company is highly leveraged to gross margins, which was already improving back in July, but now will likely go higher due to 3 factors. First, management has stated their intention to go after higher margin, non-highway projects (commercial, airports…etc), and have in fact started to win them. Second, the local projects passed during November 9th will be supportive for industry competitive landscape and margins.

Finally, Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan threatens to take margins, and by extension STRL’s stock, to a whole new level.

So both the probability and magnitude of a win are much higher now. Right before the November election, I would say STRL’s floor value is about $6.5 and ceiling about $8.5. Now I would say the floor is ~$7.5 and the upside is uncapped until the teens’ or even $20’s.

The key is to not get ahead of ourselves too much though. I’m looking for improved quarterly results, new contract wins, or legislative progress on Trump’s plan to add to my positions.

Fidelity National Financial (FNF)

This is the largest title company and the most profitable one. The company operates in an oligopoly with captive customers - title insurance is mandatory purchase. At $34 per share, the stock is acting incredibly bearish right now. But a catalyst has surfaced.

Currently there are 2 negatives holding back the stock in my opinion. First is structural complexity. FNF consist of the core FNF title insurance company, a publicly traded subsidiary Black Knight Financial (BKFS) and the FNFV tracking stock (which represent a portfolio of side bets like restaurants). The second problem is commercial title revenues are slowing down.

There's a catalyst coming next Fall. Management announced they will address the structural complexity issue by cleanly splitting out core FNF title division, BKFS, and FNFV. This would allow the core FNF business be included in indices.

The core FNF title business then has a path to double once commercial revenue stabilizes. Here's what could happen with some back of the envelope math:
  • Home sales picks up. Perhaps because millenials are reaching the 30-40 age zone for peak home buying, or because Trumponomics puts more money in peoples pocket. Say home sales up 5% and housing price up 5%, that's a 10% revenue gain. With operating leverage you get to 15% gain pretax.
    • 3 years from now pretax grew by 1.15^3-1 or 50%.
  • Tax rate cut from 35% to 20-25%. That means EPS could be 70%+ higher in 3 years
    • Just making up some numbers - right now $1 pretax get you 0.65. In 3 years you have $1.5 pretax at 25% tax rates. That results in an 70% higher EPS.
  • P/E multiple of core title business re-rates from 12-15x because revenue outlook reverted to growth. Removal of structural complexity in the FNF complex also helps. That's another 25% gain.
Compounding these effects get you a double. I already have a solid position on this. But I could really go big (thinking like 20% position) if I see commercial title revenue to stabilize.

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