Shorts, Values, and Quick Takeaways: Thoughts on the Pre-Conference Workshop

Takeaways from the start of the Value Investing Congress

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, April 2, 2014

I always like to squeeze in the pre-conference workshop at the Value Investing Congress, because in that much smaller group we tend to get more discussion and deeper analysis… and the stories aren’t all blogged by a hundred people and on CNBC, so there’s usually time to consider them.

It takes me some time after this Congress, the main sessions of which start tomorrow, to sort and sift what I’ve learned and choose the ideas I find most compelling… or even buy a few of them myself… so I can’t share a lot of definitive analysis of the things I heard about today, but I can give you some first impressions that might either spark some discussion or give you ideas for further research. To that end, let me give a quick rundown of the things that jumped out at me from the four presenters who talked today:

Whitney Tilson talked twice, for a total of about four hours (he’s a hedge fund manager and one of the cofounders of the Congress, and I like his work a lot), so there was a lot to think about in his presentations — he made relatively brief short arguments about 3D Systems (DDD) and Questcor (QCOR) that were pretty convincing (overvaluation and hype at DDD, fraud at QCOR), and if I were to assume that everything everyone said at today’s presentations was accurate and verifiable then the absolute first thing I would jump into would be a short position in QCOR (probably buying puts actually, at least six months out to give time for regulatory action and preferably further out than that), but I won’t do that right away because I’m writing about these ideas for you.

Tilson’s long ideas were interesting and well argued, but have warts — Platform Specialty Products (PAH) is a very impressive first step in rolling up the specialty chemicals sector as the CEO did with his previous companies, but it’s so expensive that it’s a pretty aggressive bet on management… and MagicJack (CALL) is an interesting stock because of the huge value proposition and the turnaround, but I’m not quite buying the growth prospects yet. His other long bets, on Delta Airlines (DAL) and Micron (MU) are interesting cyclical growth stocks in industries that are better than most investors think because of tremendous consolidation in the last couple years … but those ...

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