Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hidden Cash

Liberty Acquisition (LIA) was formed with the intent of buying a business operation. As such, it is flush with cash. You wouldn't know it by looking at stock screeners, however: both Yahoo and Google Finance show the company as having just $7 million of cash. The reality, however, is that the company has over $1 billion in cash.

The reason for this discrepancy is the way the company classifies its cash: as a long-term asset, since it will be used to purchase a business. As a result, Yahoo has the billion dollars listed as "Property, Plant and Equipment" and Google has it listed as a vague "Other Long-Term Asset". For this reason, and others we have discussed, relying on these sites for company information is not a good idea.

Unfortunately, the company trades for $1.4 billion, despite a book value of just $700 million. As such, it is probably of little interest to value investors at this time, despite the huge cash balance. Nevertheless, it may be a useful company to watch in the future as a time may come when market sentiment turns negative on this stock. Furthermore, the knowledge that certain data on sites such as Yahoo Finance and Google Finance can be misleading should lead to improved investment processes on the part of investors.

Thanks to Ankit Gupta of Selected Financials for pointing this out, and for noting that a deal employing this company's cash may be very close to occurring.

Disclosure: None


Unknown said...

I have noticed this kind of thing before. For instance, UUU is on my watchlist. What google reports as a $12.5 million long-term asset is a majority equity stake in UUU's Hong Kong venture, which has its balance sheet nicely itemized in their SEC filings.

The HK venture is rich in current assets, and UUU's share of it has a NCAV (current assets minus all liabilities) of about 6 million.

I doubt the market realizes this, so I smell a potential opportunity.

Ryan Yates said...

LIA is definitely not cheap. LIA is a "blank check company," and should be trading a no more than cash value. I've written a couple posts on my blog about this. see