A Look Back at 2011’s “Big” Winning Teases

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, December 22, 2011

We’re preparing to shut down Gumshoe HQ for a week or so — one vestige of my former life in academia is a strong belief that no one should work between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so we will not be publishing anything new until next year (don’t worry, we’ll still keep an eye on our email — nothing too dastardly will slip by for long). And we’ll give your inboxes a break, too, and not even send out reruns to keep you busy next week — so there’s another reason to count your blessings!

But before we close up shop, we need to check in on our tracking spreadsheets and see what has worked this year — we focus on the stinkers each year at Thanksgiving as we sift through to find our “Turkey of the Year,” but as we close out 2011 we want to have a wee bit more optimism … to blow our little horns and throw our confetti in hopes that yes, we will pick those exciting 400% gainers in 2012.

And yes, thanks to the nose-to-the-grindstone work of our most industrious Gumshoe minions (Ok, minion), the tracking spreadsheet is now up to date again for the first time in many, many months. There are still a few bad lines of data in a few of the sheets, particularly the older ones from previous years where we might have missed a stock split or a ticker change here and there, but for the most part the tracking is live and current and accurate. I don’t want to use too much hyperbole of my own, but it’s dang near a Christmas miracle.

So now that we’ve got the info, which ideas rang the bell over the last twelve months?

Well, as has been fairly typical in most years about a third of the teased picks have had a positive return and about two thirds have lost money (that’s by absolute return — we don’t have the computing chops with our Google spreadsheets to give you relative returns, though we’ll check that for a few of the standouts).

Unlike most years, there aren’t any doublers that were picked this year — we have usually seen at least a few stocks that provided a return of more than 100% as the year closes, but not in 2011 (there have been a few 100%+ gainers on price spikes, but they didn’t hold those gains). Like most years, as we noted in November, there have been a handful of near total losses — down anywhere from 80-100% for stocks that were either just promoted junk, or microcap gambles … or plain old bad ideas or bad luck from resource or biotech stocks that always seem to be just a spot of news away from doubling or collapsing (ie, Money Map’s BioSante Pharmaceuticals and their collapse on the failure of their “female viagra”, or DeHaemer’s Petro Matad on their dismally disappointing drilling results).

We do have a week left of 2011, so things could change a bit, but of picks that were teased in 2011 these are the standouts:

Takeover targets usually top the list, since even if the market swoons a bit that cash buyout offer is entered in permanent ink on the spreadsheet — so two of the top teaser performers this year are stocks that were either taken over, or are in the process of being acquired: Motorola Mobility (MMI) is the number one teaser pick of the year, with a 75% gain for Hilary Kramer as Google proceeds with their attempted friendly takeover, and Nalco Holdings is number three with a 44% gain for Mitchell Clark thanks to their merger with EcoLab (ECL).

Both of those picks were made in June, when the S&P was almost 10% higher than it is now, so they did even better on a relative basis — and interestingly enough, if you had taken the ECL shares instead of cash for your Nalco shares you would have been even slightly better off than the cash settlement, not what I would have expected after a generally rough six months for the market.

Squeezed in between those two takeover picks was a stock that made its own catalysts, apparently — no takeover talk I’ve seen, but Pizza Inn has made a remarkable gain in just over two months for a pretty new penny stock newsletter. This one actually was first covered in the Friday File, so not everyone had the chance to see it but we did rerun the article for non-Irregulars a few weeks ago during our annual membership drive for charity.

PZZI is a tiny stock, a Texas-based pizza chain that has some interesting potential to build a new chain on top of their nostalgia-driven existing network, and it’s now well off its highs of a few weeks ago (it reached $7 briefly, it’s now at $5.50). It’s only a $50 million company, so it doesn’t take much to make them move, but they are surprisingly profitable for such a small chain and I’ll be keeping an eye on them — if they can become a growth company they could potentially have a nice run.

The fourth place finisher at this point is one that I wrote about so long ago that I had forgotten the story — it was teased way back in January by Louis Basenese and the White Cap folks, Mitek Systems (MITK). This one was pitched as a stock with great potential as they provide mobile banking software to financial firms — specifically remote deposit capture software to let you take photos of checks with your iPhone instead of bringing your deposit to a bank teller or ATM. The shares did uplist to a “real” listing on the Nasdaq, and they’ve been putting up nice revenue growth numbers — this is one of those picks that actually did double this year, albeit briefly, getting to $13 for a few minutes in September before falling back down. Not many analysts covering this name yet, the two earnings estimates are widely variable (one guesses 25 cents in earnings next year, the other 52 cents … so take your pick). A nicely emerging stock so far, though it didn’t help that their last quarter came in at a small loss instead of the small profit that many had been expecting.

And number five? That’s our old friend