Bonus Buy Note: Real Money Portfolio

I bought a first-day IPO for the first time ever this week

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, March 19, 2017

I must confess having made another iconoclastic little investment this week — even as I make clear that although I’ve really invested in it, and it’s in my Real Money Portfolio (with a likelihood that I will ignore it for a while as it settles in as a newly public company), it’s extremely illiquid and my investment is perhaps premature. The stock could easily settle down to a substantially lower price over the next few month, though that depends on what their first reports as a public company are like.

Yes, that’s right — I bought shares of the stock that had one of the biggest IPO pops of the year.

No, it’s not Snapchat. It’s NI Holdings (NODK), which is among the smallest and most boring IPOs you’re likely to see — it’s a North Dakota P&C insurance company, mostly focused on crop insurance through a partnership with the Farm Bureau, that just finished the first step of their “demutualizing” process. The shares were sold to policyholders at $10, and as soon as they hit the public market in the IPO they jumped straight to $14… though with dramatically less volatility than most IPOs, and with essentially no attention at all from the media (it is, after all, a tiny and very boring business).

You may well be familiar with the difference between mutual banks or insurance companies and stock companies — mutuals are owned by their depositors or policyholders, like MassMutual is owned by its insurance policyholders, Vanguard is owned by its account holders, and credit unions and many small local savings banks are mutually owned (though that number dwindles every day). Stock companies are owned by shareholders like you and I who buy shares, folks who may or may not have any other relationship with the company.

Generally, the process of demutualization is best understood for small savings and loan banking operations — and it has been a very profitable process for many investors. Chris Mayer, now at Bonner and Partners, is probably the newsletter guy who has been most enthusiastic about banks that are going through what is generally a two-step conversion to stock companies (probably because he’s a former banker), but there are several hedge funds and many institutional investors who jump on these deals as well. A large part of the point of going from a mutual company to a stock company is ...

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