“Travis, can you break this please?”

Checking out the "15 cent stock only a fool would ignore" teaser pitch

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, February 4, 2014

Who can resist an entreaty like that?

Several intrepid Gumshoe readers sent along pleas for a solution to this one today … and we are, as always, happy to oblige. I know you have a choice when it comes to blathering internet chatterboxes, and I want to thank you for choosing this one today.

The pitch is from the Agora folks, and this is the part of the spiel that caught my eye:

“At 15 cents, you could pick up 2,700 shares for just $405.

“And we have reason to believe that on Feb. 19, you could see that $405 turn into a down payment on a house… or a luxurious vacation… or whatever you want!”

We’re expecting a foot of snow here on Gumshoe Mountain tomorrow, so a “luxurious vacation” sounds just about right. What, dear sirs, must I do to achieve said vacation?

Turns out, all we have to do is just buy up some shares of this teensy weensy company, and when news hits in a couple weeks we’ll be rolling in dough and cackling like Scrooge McDuck in his Money Bin.

Gosh, it’s excellent that it’s so easy!

And if only someone could invent a little emoticon to denote sarcasm.

So what is this stock that has something to do with top-secret military technology, will run you just 15 cents, and is going to turn your $405 into a luxurious vacation? Let’s check on those clues …

“… unlike investing in the big blue chips, this breakout doesn’t take a fortune to get started.

“If their technology works out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a starting stake triple. Or even rise 10-fold….

“The share price could begin moving up starting as early as this February 19th. That’s when I expect major news out of this tiny company….

“Their technology is a scientific breakthrough. Its accuracy was audited by the Department of Defense in late 2012.

“The DOD’s findings?

“According to the government’s own report:

“This technology worked 100% of the time.”

Hmmm, OK, this is actually starting to sound a little bit familiar now. Might be we’ve chewed on some previous iteration of this pitch before. How about some more details?

“The Defense Logistics Agency just mandated that all supplies provided to the Department of Defense use this small firm’s technology.

“Not 25% of supplies. Not even half. It’s an important point, so I’ll repeat…

“All items coming into the defense industry supply chain must have this company’s technology applied.

“Said a different way, this tiny firm… with just 47 employees… has been granted a rare monopoly status by the United States government….

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“… in mid-September of 2012 the company’s share price more than doubled in just a two-week period!”

Hmmm. Yep, certainly smells like something we’ve run through the Thinkolator before. I’ll keep you in suspense for just a moment while we figure out why they think it’s about to hit another price-galloping catalyst:

“If I’m right, the announcement will be made during a small meeting being held in Los Angeles, California .

“Similar conferences go for as much as $5,000 just to attend… They’re reserved for the heavy hitters in the industry.

“But you have a chance to be among those “in-the-know” as news from this company breaks…

“And have the opportunity to buy into this tiny company (should you choose to do so) before a possible stampede of money.”

Did I mention who this ad is from? It’s a pitch for Breakthrough Technology Alert, which has teased and hinted at dozens of microcap companies over the years under Patrick Cox, but they’ve now got a new editor named Stephen Petranek — like Cox and many in the business, he’s a former mainstream journalist (he ran Discover Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Life, etc.). I think this is his first foray into investment tipping, so I guess we’ll find out how it goes.

And interestingly enough, he’s coming to our attention now with … a stock his predecessors at Breakthrough Technology Alert touted off and on over the last 18 months or so. The pick they’re pitching today is: Applied DNA Sciences (APDN)

APDN is primarily an anti-counterfeiting technology company — the military stuff is that APDN’s SigNature DNA marking is used to secure microchips in the defense supply chain, a mandate made by the Defense Logistics Agency late in 2012 (and yes, saying that “all items coming into the defense industry supply chain must have this company’s technology applied” is a gross exaggeration … right now, it’s all microcircuits, and they’re considering expanding that to a few other categories including bearings, fittings, etc.

I covered this when it was first teased by Patrick Cox back in December of 2012, a far more aggressive campaign than this one, and at the time he and the copywriters were calling it the “best 19 cents you can spend” — since then it has bounced around between 10-30 cents or so, and right now it is indeed right around 15 cents a share, giving it a market capitalization of roughly $125 million.

And, as it was then, it’s a “future” story — they are continuing to make at least small inroads with their security technology and anti-counterfeiting technology, which basically uses plant DNA as a code they implant in a spray or a swab on products, or in the case of soft goods weave into products, and that code, either on the product itself or on the packaging, can be scanned and tested at points along the supply chain to ensure that counterfeits aren’t making their way into the marketplace. The Defense procurement system is obviously a “high value target” for them because the industry is more willing to pay for counterfeit protection than they are to absorb occasional failures of faulty chips or parts, and their waves of press releases make it appear that they’re gaining some traction in the fashion industry, too, but it’s very slow going when it comes to actual revenue.

For the last year, APDN has revenue of about two million dollars — twice what their sales were two years ago, but still minuscule. Their share count has also doubled over the last two years, and they’ve accumulated almost $200 million in losses over their life as a public company. So as I said, you can’t look at their financials and conclude, “hey, what a great company!”

But perhaps you can look at their future and see a huge royalty stream, if their technology is indeed implemented across more of the Defense procurement supply chain, and if premium fiber makers and semiconductor and banking customers jump aboard for their anti-counterfeiting technology. That all depends on how many companies jump aboard, and how much APDN can charge either for the equipment for testing their SigNature DNA marks or for royalties on using this system. As far as I can tell, it’s completely story-based and guesswork right now — there is some likelihood that Congress will force faster adoption of anti-counterfeiting in the Defense supply chain, which could help increase APDN’s revenue base, but they need some real ramping-up of revenue if they’re to grow into their cost base right now. The optimism about the future and the current state of affairs is summed up pretty well by management in their last conference call, the transcript of which is here.

And yes, they are presenting at a Defense electronics conference that’s taking place in a couple weeks, though their talk will actually be on February 20. And I suspect no news will be made, from what I can tell it’s just a conference where they’re spreading the word and probably trying to drum up more customers, but you can see the preliminary program here if you’re interested.

The market is absolutely huge enough to make a company like this a real winner, but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily have any traction or pricing power in the end … I’ll keep my fingers crossed for them, it’s undoubtedly cool, but they could easily go up 300% or down 80% — it’s all about the story and the future, not about the financials at all, and it looks like the new editor at Breakthrough Technology Alert is just as excited about the story as the previous two were.

So … sound like the kind of stock you’re interested in? Think this company’s technology is compelling enough that the company should be worth $125 million or more? That’s the real question — and the one I can’t answer at all, you’re on your own there.

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