Friday, June 11, 2010

A Public Hedge Fund

Hedge fund investing is generally restricted to investors meeting minimum asset levels (i.e. rich people, the thinking being that they'll be all right if they lose a bunch of money) or those making large minimum investments (the thinking being that investors who plunk down $150K on an investment will do their due diligence, unlike the typical retail investor). But for all intents and purposes, it appears that Quest Capital (QCC) is trying to convert itself into a quasi hedge fund!

Long-time readers of this site will already know that Quest Capital has been a stock favourite of ours for a while now. In a move to increase its returns and stock price, Quest appears to be changing business lines, and is taking on a lot of characteristics that one normally associates with hedge funds.

Hedge funds are known for their high, but incentive-laden compensation structures and high management ownership levels, with the idea of aligning shareholder interests with those of managers. Quest is emulating this strategy with its proposed move.

Rather than pay salaries and offer bonus/option plans to managers, Quest will pay a management company 2% of its asset value (annually), and 20% of the excess returns it generates. Furthermore, this company will make a $25 million investment in the firm, thus better aligning its interests with those of shareholders. Unfortunately for existing shareholders, this investment will happen at a price that is below the company's current book value, thus diluting the shares of existing investors.

Quest shares rose around 15% yesterday on the news, further reducing the difference between this company's market value and its book value. But while the market cheered the news, value investors should be cautious going forward. The company is now entering a new line of business, and will have exposure to commodity prices. Commodity prices are inherently volatile, and their prices are very difficult to predict. If prices drop sometime in the future while Quest has a full book of loans receivable, there could be a slew of defaults and a significant loss in value.

For shareholders who are not interested in being a part of this new line of business, Quest is offering to buy back a number of investor shares tendered in a Dutch auction. Unfortunately, the maximum price for this auction is still a good 10% below book value, putting shareholders who want out, but who feel the price isn't quite right, in a bit of a quandary.

Disclosure: Author has a long position in shares of QCC

9 comments:

tscott said...

Ya thank god the new fee structure is not on the existing net assets.

It's so frustrating that management talks about how the shares are undervalued and then decides to issue shares below book.

Still holding for now though.

another value investor said...

Given the dutch auction has a max offer price of $1.60 and the shares are trading at $1.49, is this a good special-situation opportunity?

Anonymous said...

What are you thoughts on HQS? You have investing in Chinese stocks like Orsus Xelent, so you might have some more insight to this. They trade below NCAV, a large portion of their market cap in cash, and have been profitable for the last couple of years.

Paul said...

What do you guys think about this? I'm pretty new to the value investing concept, so I appologize if this one is stupid. But, if we look at FTAR, a former footwear manufacturer that is liquidating. On page 4 of the 10q, it looks like shareholders have liquidation value of over $16 million, but the market cap is only about $6.6 million. I'm probably missing something, but would certainly like to get anyone's thoughts. Thanks!

Saj said...

Hi Another VI,

Where do you see the opportunity? I'm not sure I see what you see.

Hi Anon/Paul,

I don't know much about HQS/FTAR. I'll take a look sometime soon; if I find anything interesting I'll post it here.

another value investor said...

Saj,

My view is that management will try to buy back as many shares as possible. The quantity they seek is likely to be greater than the number of shares tendered, and thus the stock will be tendered at its max price of $1.60, creating a quick $0.11 (7.4%) profit for the investor who tenders his shares.

I know this is closer to an arbitrary opportunity than value investing, but the idea of limited downside with good upside (annualized) stays.

Saj Karsan said...

Hi Another VI,

I'm not sure it's such a lock that $1.60 will be offered for everyone tendering. But anything's possible, you may be right.

Saj Karsan said...

Hi Paul,

When I look at the 10-Q, I only see $8.7 million available for liquidation...are we looking at different files?

Saj Karsan said...

Hi Anon,

I've written my thoughts on HQS here:

http://www.barelkarsan.com/2010/06/are-those-really-sales.html

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