Stock Sonar

  • Each week, we post interesting highlights from our bottom-up research
  • If we come across a tactical trade idea (about twice a month), we post it here
  • Most posts are meant to be informational

Stock Sonar #53 - 4/17/2024

Alphawave (LSE:AWE) — mrkt cap £904mm; Price £1.24; EV/EBITDA 13.1

STARTER POSITION INITIATED. In our most recent stock report, we discussed AWE. Although we believed it was a promising company to capitalize on burgeoning AI networking trends, we found assessing its competitive positioning challenging and did not take a position. Recently, AWE guided for lower revenues in 2024, which led to a significant 30% decline in share price. This adjustment was primarily attributable to a strategic reduction in exposure to Chinese markets. Concurrently, AWE announced several design victories with top-tier AI and Data Center clients, focusing on cutting-edge chip technologies. These achievements mark initial indicators of AWE’s ability to compete with established industry leaders such as Broadcom and Marvell. Following the recent price drop, we have initiated a starter position in the company.

Match Group (NAS:MTCH) — mrkt cap $8.7B; Price $32.4; EV/EBITDA 11.3

PASS. MTCH, an online/app dating conglomerate, has declined roughly 85% from its all-time high in 2021. Owning major platforms like Tinder, Hinge, and Plenty of Fish, the online dating market has evolved from high turnover to a more oligopoly-like structure, dominated by Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and Grinder. MTCH faces challenges as Tinder, which generates about 60% of its revenue, has stalled following monetization efforts, casting doubt on its ongoing popularity. Conversely, Hinge, known for its efficient matching algorithm, is growing rapidly and might compensate for declines in other areas. MTCH exemplifies the complexities of managing a conglomerate where some subsidiaries grow while others may shrink, making the overall calculus difficult. MTCH is especially challenging since the overlapping target markets of its subsidiaries pose a risk of cannibalization. Although the valuation might attract some, the inherent difficulties lead us to pass.

MDA Ltd. (TO:MDA) — mrkt cap $1.7B; Price $14.28; EV/EBITDA 12

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. MDA has served as a provider of advanced space technology services to the global space industry for several decades. The company’s offerings encompass a wide range of technologies, including space robotics, antennas, and engineering payloads. Recently, MDA has benefited from the trend of decreasing costs in space flights, coupled with increased government expenditure. This has resulted in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25% in revenues over the past four years. With positive trends and a reasonable valuation, we plan to meet with Investor Relations (IR) to discuss the company’s strategic direction and gain deeper insights into their execution capabilities. The trends are positive and the valuation is not demanding. We will be meeting with IR to discuss in depth the company’s strategy and execution.

Stock Sonar #52 - 4/10/2024

Centrus Energy (NYSE:LEU) — mrkt cap $684mm; Price $43.70; EV/EBITDA 8

SPECULATIVE POSITION INITIATED. We have previously written about Centrus Energy. We saw it as a compelling play on the future of US uranium enrichment. It is the sole US-owned uranium enrichment manufacturer, representing hundreds of millions to billions of dollars of IP and centrifugal technology. Over the course of a year, the position returned several hundred percent as a global sentiment shift on nuclear energy occurred. We subsequently divested from the position due to LEU’s significant reliance on uranium sourced from Russia, which we assessed as vulnerable to potential trade restrictions. Continued bipartisan support for nuclear energy, increasingly viewed as a vital complement to renewable energy sources, underscores the sector’s relevance. Notably, a recent allocation of $700 million to domestic High Assay Low Enriched Uranium production, for which LEU stands as the sole producer in the United States, signals strong governmental backing. Given the escalating energy demand driven by manufacturing onshoring, EV penetration, and the growth of data centers, we anticipate a significant surge in HALEU adoption. Combined with a diminished risk of sanctions on Russian uranium imports, LEU’s prospects justify the initiation of a speculative position.

PodcastOne (NAS: PODC) — mrkt cap $51mm; Price $2.22; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. This company is a pure play in podcasting. They acquire distribution and advertising rights for popular podcasts and have revenue split arrangements with creators. PODC appeared on both our spin-off and special dividend screens. The parent company, LiveOne, spun off PodcastOne in September of last year via direct listing and paid a special dividend to shareholders. This is clearly an industry that could benefit from value-add consolidators like PODC but the company is also tainted with controversy – it acquired IP rights from Kast Media whose CEO was purported to have reneged on financial arrangements with creators (creator Theo Von put them “on blast”). PODC should be protected from any legal ramifications but nonetheless it is not a good sign. More work needs to be done on the relationship between their parent LiveOne but we are passing for now.

Ocado (LSE:OCDO) — mrkt cap £3B; Price £3.67; EV/EBITDA 30

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. Ocado Group is a company that both sells online grocery technology to other businesses and operates its own online grocery retail business. Ocado boasts marquee clients such as Kroger and Casino Group. Although revenues have doubled in the last decade, cash flows have yet to materialize. Ocado stands to significantly benefit from the burgeoning online grocery trend, which is anticipated to gain further momentum in the foreseeable future. Further analysis is required to assess whether Ocado’s financial performance, particularly its profitability, will evolve in response to its competitive positioning and operational execution.

Stock Sonar #51 - 4/3/2024

Hawaiian Electric (NYSE:HE) — mrkt cap $1.2B; Price $11.01; EV/EBITDA 5

PASS. Hawaiian Electric is the primary provider of electricity in Hawaii, serving 95% of the population. HE currently faces bankruptcy risk due to causing a major wildfire incident in Maui with share prices down approximately 75%. Legal action has ensued, with HE facing lawsuits from the families of the nearly 100 individuals who perished, as well as for the significant property damage caused. HE’s market valuation hovers around $1 billion, contingent upon the resolution of these claims, which may amount to as much as $6-7 billion against net assets valued between $4 – $5 billion. Given the extent of negative publicity and ill will, we believe that claims will reach these higher estimates. Despite the slight possibility that not all fires were directly attributable to Hawaiian Electric, its current market price is too high to warrant even a speculative investment position.

Gencor Industries (NYSE:GENC) — mrkt cap $250mm; Price $16.75; EV/EBITDA 8

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. Gencor Industries is a leading manufacturer of machinery used in the production of highway construction materials. The company’s core products include hot-mix asphalt plants, soil remediation plants and combustion systems. Its backlog has increased by 50% yoy from strong demand due to road work driven by the IIJA. Although trends seem favorable, more research needs to be done to evaluate supply chain risks and the scalability of the business given its complex and custom product offerings.

Intellicheck Inc (NAS:IDN) — mrkt cap $66mm; Price $3.39; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. IDN provides digital and physical identity validation solutions for various sectors including financial services, retail, and law enforcement. Around 2018, when CEO Bryan Lewis took the helm, the company drastically shifted their go-to-market strategy away from selling to bars and liquor shops. Competitors generally have an increased suite of security offerings, but Intellicheck’s competitive advantage appears to be an industry-leading fraud detection rate of 99.9%. More work needs to be done on why this cannot be replicated, but it appears they have long-standing relationships with state authorities and have a unique understanding of barcode formats. The company is close to cash-flow neutral and has recently undergone widescale changes to its sales force. Although there are definitely areas of the tech we like, this appears to be a company that is experiencing a high degree of flux regarding its operations and the efficacy of its sales strategy. We will wait for more clarity before proceeding.

Stock Sonar #50 - 3/27/2024

SIFY Technologies (NAS:SIFY) — mrkt cap $240mm; Price $1.3; EV/EBITDA 7

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. SIFY is the fourth largest data center provider in India and was one of the few reasonably priced companies on our AI screen. As the notion of Sovereign AI (the idea that countries will want to have their own AI in domestic data centers) gains momentum, we believe data center providers in other nations stand to benefit from this centralization of data and computation.  However more research needs to be done on the growth of demand and the infrastructure to be able to ascertain future economic prospects of the data center industry.  

CXApp (NAS:CXAI) — mrkt cap $35mm; Price $2.3; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS.  CXAI went public via SPAC and is another name that surfaced on our AI screen. Despite the cleverly named ticker, the company does very little with AI and is a SaaS business that is developing a “workplace super app.” While there are undoubtedly technological needs that employers could use to facilitate a WFH world for the laptop class, the CXApp currently fills only a small portion of those needs – helping employees order from the company cafeteria and book desks and conference rooms. They focus on firms with > 500 employees, and each contract requires significant custom build. The company is still in nascent stages, with revenue forecasted at an optimistic $30mm in 2025. We will pass for now and potentially revisit later on.

Hugo Boss (BOSS-DE) — mrkt cap €3.9B; Price €54.94; P/E 14.5

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. Hugo Boss (BOSS), a renowned German fashion brand, has seen stagnant growth since 2015, with revenues hovering around €2.8 billion through 2021, attributed to lost consumer relevance and misaligned strategies under CEOs Claus-Dietrich Lahrs and then later, Mark Langer. Lahr’s luxury positioning in China and pricing strategies led to complications and impairment of revenue from the European wholesale channel, while Langer’s focus on operational efficiency over brand investment resulted in further stagnation. The appointment of Daniel Grieder as CEO in 2021 signals a promising turn, with strategies aimed at modernizing the brand and leveraging European wholesale relationships. The valuation is somewhat attractive but we have more work to do to understand how the brand revitalization is progressing.

Stock Sonar #49 - 3/20/2024

Red Robin (NAS:RRGB) — mrkt cap $100mm; Price $6.5; EV/EBITDA 3.7

SPECULATIVE POSITION INITIATED. Red Robin is an overly indebted U.S.-based casual diner with roughly 500 restaurants located predominantly on the west coast. We passed on this name late last year but have recently had another look given the stock is down 45% YTD on higher-for-longer rate outlooks (RRGB debt costs are variable) and an overall challenging environment for restaurants as consumers shift spending to grocery stores. In November of last year, we spent time with the CFO discussing their “back to roots” strategy. New management has done away with Virtual Brands, discounting, and lack of investment. The company is guiding for 65mm EBITDA for FY 2024, with about ~30mm of that going to capital expenditure and ~22mm going towards interest payments. Sale-leasebacks will continue to reduce debt this year and are in part responsible for lower EBITDA targets (additional lease expense). We think highly of management and they have taken appropriate steps to improve RRGB. Given the recent sell-off, the risk/reward skew is attractive, and we are happy to initiate a position.

Zillow (NAS:Z) — mrkt cap $11.1B; Price $47.9; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. Zillow has ambitions to become the housing super app. The name sold off ~16% after a seismic news event dropped in the real estate world (NAR Settlement 418mm). To summarize, buyers’ agents’ commission will likely have to negotiate fees directly with the buyer instead of being entitled to a commission on the sale. This will totally upend the way buyers’ commissions are currently paid. Roughly 65% of Zillow’s revenue is generated from buyers’ agents. Zillow generates leads, and agents pay monthly fees to receive these leads. Zillow generates additional revenue from their Rentals and Mortgage segment. And although they exited iBuying (instant buying), they have partnered with Opendoor as a risk-free way to reenter this market. We think there could be significant impacts to the ruling that have yet to reflect in Zillow’s stock price, and we will be patient, waiting for a better opportunity. (After any significant news event, we take a fresh look at names that are impacted – this is a good example).

Vimeo (NAS:VMEO)  — mrkt cap $937mm; Price $5.58; EV/EBITDA 22

PASS. VMEO was founded in 2004 and is a niche alternative to Youtube. It caters to high quality content creators, businesses, and Youtube outcasts (either they have been kicked off the platform or convert people to Vimeo given the lower revenue share). Users that upload videos pay Vimeo with different tier subscription plans as Vimeo does not serve advertisements. Although its TAM is limited, VMEO has a robust business model and generated positive cash flow in 2023. We will wait for a pullback in price before considering a position.

Stock Sonar #48 - 3/13/2024

Card Factory (LON:CARD)  — mrkt cap £323mm; Price £0.94; EV/EBITDA 3.6

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. A UK vertically integrated specialist retailer of greeting cards, gifts, and celebration essentials. The business struggled post-COVID as they shut down their 1,000-store retail footprint and the sale of greeting cards moved to grocery stores. Since then, the company has slowly regained its footing, with revenue growing steadily since FY ’21. The market doesn’t think too highly of the retail greeting card business, probably due to online competition, e-cards, or a general belief that fewer people are buying greeting cards. We have a few reasons to disagree but still have research to do on the industry. Additionally, more research needs to be done on CARD’s growth drivers. But so far, we like what we see.

PubMatic (NAS:PUBM) — mrkt cap $1.1B; Price $23.0; EV/EBITDA 23

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED. PubMatic runs an online marketplace that connects digital content creators with advertisers. They make it convenient for buyers (advertisers) to review ad space supplied by publishers and then have a bidding structure in place that allows for purchase. They generate a large portion of their revenue not only by selling ad space to advertisers but also by selling this ad space to other platforms. The digital ad space is complex and seems to be in a state of constant evolution. We have previously discussed how media fragmentation is an underfollowed megatrend. CMOs are struggling with complexity such as where to advertise (Google, Meta, OTT, Linear TV, etc.). PUBM is solving some of these problems by selling ad space on a variety of formats, including streamed content. The valuation does seem rich but perhaps the business model and market opportunity warrant it. Still more digging to do.

Graftech (NYSE:EAF) — mrkt cap $480mm; Price $1.87; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. We first wrote about EAF in September of last year. More research was needed to determine how their business was evolving with EV demand. Since then, it has fallen by more than 50%. To recap, EAF is a vertically integrated manufacturer of graphite electrodes. These are used in electric arc furnaces (EAF) to produce steel. Potential green shoots for them involved converting their needle coke into anodes for EV batteries. However, there has been no headway here (with prospects likely years away) and supply from India and China will continue to keep prices depressed in the electrode segment. Coupled with their high margin long-term agreements expiring this year, EAF is in for a tougher time ahead.

Stock Sonar #47 - 3/6/2024

Guess, Inc (NYS:GES) — mrkt cap $1.4B; Price $25.76; EV/EBITDA 6.8

PASS. Guess is a global brand and retailer that sells apparel and accessories. They have made recent strides to improve profitability, including closing ~280 stores. While this is positive, cost cutting is now most likely in its final innings, and the business does appear to be fully mature—it is hard to determine where their next growth opportunity lies. In many cases, an acquisition by management is effectively an admission that they lack growth opportunities. We believe Guess’ acquisition of Rag & Bone is an indication of this. We maintain a bias towards organic growth, and although Guess is most likely slightly undervalued, we cannot gain conviction in the business’s future strength. We will wait for a better opportunity elsewhere.

KKR & Co (NYS:KKR) — mrkt cap $86B; Price $97.2; P/E 24

PASS. KKR is a large Private Equity (PE) firm that has grown its assets to 550 billion (up 10% yoy). Private Equity companies enjoy an (unfair?) advantage over public equity managers in that their underlying investments have stable market values, giving LPs the illusion of security. Even if PE expected returns edge downwards, we believe institutions and HNW individuals will continue to increase exposure. Additionally, larger managers enjoy access to large bases of LP capital and have the ability to charge fees on uncommitted capital. In short, these are durable advantages that make them great businesses. It’s important to remember, despite the rebrand, Private Equity firms are LBOs, and as a result, their opportunity set is a function of debt markets and the broader economy. Higher interest rates and a weaker economy will reduce investment opportunities. Fundraising has been challenging for private equity markets over the last year; however, KKR’s geographic diversity has acted as a stabilizer. Unfortunately for us, KKR’s stock price has run up ~75% in the last four months, and we will wait for a better entry point.

Marvell Technology (NAS:MRVL) — mrkt cap $68B; Price $78.73; EV/EBITDA 70

PASS. MRVL is a leading fabless semiconductor company that designs and develops a wide range of components that facilitate the movement, storage, processing, and security of data. This ranges from Hard Disk Drive processors to DPUs to switches. MRVL holds significant market shares across these categories. As data center demand for larger data storage, lower latency switching, and faster data transfer compounds, MRVL will be a large beneficiary. However its lofty valuation, especially given it has legacy segments that are declining, will keep us on the sideline. 

Stock Sonar #46 - 2/28/2024

Farmer Bros (NAS:FARM) — mrkt cap 76mm; Price $3.59; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. Farmers Brothers provides a portfolio of coffee supplies for approximately 40,000 businesses, mainly convenience stores and restaurants. Our research on FARM towards the end of last year suggested that “more research was needed” following the sale of their low-margin segment and management replacement. Since then, we’ve had several calls with the new management. While they seem highly competent, it’s evident that significant operational enhancements are necessary for sustained profitability. If successful, these improvements could yield significant operational leverage. However, gaining a concrete understanding of how effectively management will address the numerous operational overhauls required remains challenging for us.

Bayer (OTC:BAYRY) — mrkt cap $32B; Price $7.88; trailing EV/EBITDA 12

PASS. BAYR has had a tumultuous period with zero share price appreciation over the last twenty years. The reason for this is an ill-timed acquisition of Monsanto which saw them pay legal bills to the tune of 11 billion due to a class action suit claiming that Roundup was carcinogenic. Bayer has dropped roughly 70% since that acquisition. At the current valuation, the market is ascribing little value to the 32 pharma drugs in the pipeline which cost BAYR roughly ten billion dollars. There is still some litigation overhang and coupled with a decline in profitability from the crop science segment due to a normalization of prices, we believe a more attractive entry point can present itself in the near future.

Vital Farms (NAS:VITL) — mrkt cap $740mm; Price $17.88; trailing EV/EBITDA 17

PASS. Vital Farms is a company that specializes in producing ethically sourced pasture-raised eggs. VITL has grown revenues at a 30% CAGR for the last five years and currently is in over 25k stores nationwide.  VITL’s brand allows for premium prices which is why their gross margins are almost 2x that of other egg producers. Ethically produced is a core value for VITL; their eggs consistently rank among the healthiest (VITL allows for more than 100 sqft of pasture for each chicken while competitors allocate <1 sqft). VITL has ambitious targets and is aiming to reach 1B in revenue by 2027 with 12% EBITDA margins. We believe it is likely they can reach this however the multiple is a little rich for us and we will wait for a pullback to initiate a position.

Stock Sonar # 45 - 2/21/2024

Yellow Corporation (YELLQ) — mrkt cap $234mm; Price $4.5; trailing P/E NA

EXIT. We have exited this speculative trade. We first entered Yellow Corporation at less than a dollar a share and our returns have been several hundred percent (we wrote about entering YELLQ originally on 7/19/2023 at $.99c). Clearly, this has worked out unbelievably well and we were fortunate with our timing. Our latest thesis was that asset sales would generate north of 1.5B which would more than offset balance sheet liabilities. However, the risk still remains, and one we were willing to underwrite, that large off-balance sheet liabilities could wipe out equity holders. We have taken gains and are looking to recycle proceeds into other opportunities. Generally, speculative trades are not something we go looking but something that arises naturally from the bottom-up research process.

Coursera (NAS:COUR) — mrkt cap $2.5B; Price $16.52; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. COUR operates in the online education industry. This is an industry that has almost unlimited supply capacity and has platforms like youtube to udemy to universities having their own online courses. As a result, the only means to bring revenue through the door is with heavy marketing which is why COUR and UDMY spend almost half of their revenue here (this is an advantage that top universities will always have as they already have share of mind and social proof). Although COUR is well capitalized, unit economics will unlikely ever improve given these industry dynamics.

Select Water (NAS:WTTR) — mrkt cap $945mm; Price $7.85; EV/EBITDA 9

More Research Needed. WTTR is a water solutions provider for the O&G industry. A necessary input and byproduct of fracking is large amounts of water. It is estimated that almost 2T gallons of water has been used for fracking since 2011 with about 50% of current needs met by recycled water. These water amounts will only get larger as horizontal fracking methods continue. WTTR is building the infrastructure needed to supply and treat water for these players from the pipelines to treatment facilities to storage tanks. Although the trends of the industry are in WTTR’s favor, long term unit economics to be assessed as a large part of WTTR’s current expenses and capex are in building out their infrastructure.

Stock Sonar # 44 - 2/14/2024

Powell Industries (NAS:POWL) — mrkt cap $1.77B; Price $147.94; EV/EBITDA 20

PASS. We wrote about POWL in our January 17th stock sonar. We were still in our diligence phase and unfortunately the stock has run away from us on good earnings and is up almost 100% since. We believe that Powell Industries fundamentals will likely continue to do well but it is hard to underwrite the multiple with considerable cyclical exposure. To recap, POWL is a leader in custom design and servicing of electrical distribution solutions and although a large part of its business has been historically tied to the O&G sector, it has recently seen demand from the electrical infrastructure upgrade and data centers.

Everquote (NAS:EVER) — mrkt cap $508mm; Price $15.50; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. When originally researching this name, we thought that Everquote was a comparison platform for insurance quotes. Think something like a but for insurance. Instead, Everquote is a lead-generation platform. They spend significant amounts of ongoing marketing dollars to drive traffic to their site and then turn around and sell this customer information to insurance carriers – primarily to Progressive and State Farm (~30% of revenues). For Everquote to be successful, there would need to be evidence that they are growing into a consumer brand and providing value to customers by helping them compare and save money on premiums. Furthermore, they have unsuccessfully tried to expand into different insurance verticals and are heavily weighted to the auto insurance cycle.

Cryoport Inc (NAS:CYRX) — mrkt cap $730mm; Price $14.90; EV/EBITDA NA

PASS. Cryoport Systems is a market leader in temperature-controlled supply chains for the life sciences industry. CYRX caters to the growing cell and gene therapy market which in particular needs cryogenic solutions. This market is set to grow 15% annually for the next ten years. Being the IBM of temp controlled solutions, CYRX is chosen as the defacto provider and the growth of the gene industry should accrue to CYRX. CYRX currently does not generate profits and trades at over 5x revenue. Coupled with their pro cyclical share buybacks in which they repurchased shares at almost 3x the current share price, this gives us pause. We will wait for a further drawdown before considering a position.