Selling on a Change of Direction

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, December 16, 2014

Not the direction of a stock, I mean, but the direction of a company — the decisions and changes made by managers of a company whose stock I own.

Today I sold my shares of Mongolia Growth Group (YAK in Canada, MNGGF on the pink sheets). I would normally be patient with a stock that’s declining, not needing to harvest tax losses for this particular account… but I don’t like what the company is doing.

Last month, I did like what the company was doing. They had brought in an expert real estate development guy, Paul Byrne, to be the new CEO, replacing founder and hedge fund manager Harris Kupperman, because they had a vision of becoming a strong real estate development and management company in the rapidly growing capital (and only real urban center) of Mongolia, Ulanbator. He had more than six months on the job at that point, and I liked what he had done for the company — and I was feeling fairly positive about political reform in Mongolia that showed promise for increasing foreign investment again.

But now, with a depressing note about “economic reality” in Mongolia, they’ve realigned — bringing in “small cap” Canadian stock folks to the board and getting rid of Paul Byrne (he’ll still be an advisor), with Harris Kupperman returning to the CEO role to cut costs (he’ll continue to take zero compensation, which is good). If they’re not going to be moving forward quickly to grow their real estate management role, including managing properties that they don’t own or securitizing some assets, then they are not worth even the price you’d pay now for the shares. Particularly, I’m afraid, because Russia is one of only two major trading partners they have (the other is China), and I think we’ve all seen what a mess the Russian economy is right now.

I have no independent assessment of the real estate market in Ulanbator. I do think the Mongolian economy should continue to grow rapidly, and it makes sense that there has been substantial demand for retail space in the Capital as the economy continues to modernize, but apparently that’s not enough to support Mongolia Growth Group’s current valuation — the stock is falling further, and I’m taking a loss both on the shares I’ve held for a couple years and the shares I added more recently.

I ...

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