A paradigm for programmatic investment — 388% gain with Mind CTI

As it is the case for all postings in this blog, my standard disclaimers apply for this posting.  However, since this posting discusses investments, I urge you to review the disclaimers laid out in the About section with extra diligence. Moreover, even if you have already reviewed these disclaimers in the past, you need to review them again, as they are subject to change without notice.  Do it now, and remember that whatever I say in this blog posting is simply my opinion — it is not science, it is not advice, and it is not an attempt to make you act in any way whatsoever.

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ISO-computer3Tomorrow, February 25th, 2014, Mind CTI Ltd. releases its financial results for its 2013 fiscal year.

As the reader of this blog probably knows by now, Mind CTI is an Israeli company that I follow with a lot of interest and believes yields a significant earnings opportunity for investor.

A quick glance at Mind CTI does not reveal something very exciting. The company is small and its equity is trading at the sub-$5 level of a micro-cap stock.

Look behind the facade, however, and you will find an extra-ordinary dividend investment opportunity anchored in a rock-solid company with a stellar record of producing lots of cash, providing something quite unique: The opportunity to make substantial gains through a programmatic investment paradigm — the holy grail for any long-term investor.

I will explain, but first let me provide some background.

In 2008/2009, the per share price of MNDO, the Nasdaq traded equity of Mind CTI, experienced significant troubles because of the company’s investment of approximately $20 million into inherently worthless Auction Rate Securities (read more about how that came about on Mind CTI’s Wikipedia entry (here) — a tale of fraud and deceit by professionals in the securities industry) and in spite of a rock-solid operation and stable cash-flow.

Had you in 2008, when the company’s shares in a reaction to the Auction Rate Securities debacle reached a per share price level of less than $1, analyzed the company’s situation and fundamentals and reached the conclusion that the Auction Rate Securities issue was annoying, but, fundamentally, irrelevant, you could have acquired MNDO shares cheaply.

Had you also recognized that Mind CTI’s operational and cash-flow performance was not a fluke, you could have laid out a very simple mechanism for generating very substantial long-term gains: (1) settle in for a long run, (2) pony up $100,000, (3) every year re-invest the entire dividend payout (less a mandatory 25% (or so.. the amount varies from year to year) dividend tax withholding) by buying additional shares exactly 90 days after the previous dividend was paid out, and (4) — and this is the really important step — ignore any and all temptation to trade the equity, game the system, or cash in on short term gains in the per share price.

Had you done so, you would today be holding 177 thousand shares, valued at $380 thousand if you liquidated your position now, or — if you were to keep applying the programmatic approach, generating $42 thousand in dividend in 2014.

Moreover, should you decide to liquidate your position, it will be taxed on the basis of a long-term investment at a rate of 15%, making your post-tax payout $338 thousand, for a post-tax gain of $238 thousand, or a 338% return on your investment. More importantly, however, you had achieved this staggering return with near-zero risk, negligible heart-burn, limited transaction expenses, no portfolio oversight, and no exhausting discussions with the IRS — in other words with little or no fuss. It would quite literally be the easiest money that you ever made.

Here is an immensely simplified table showing how this would have gone down:

(c) Per Jacobsen, 2013 and 2014. All rights reserved

(c) Per Jacobsen, 2013 and 2014. All rights reserved

Now, if you had followed MIND CTI in detail, you may also have arrived at the conclusion that the company’s intrinsic value exceeds its market value by a significant margin (read here about Mr. Igor Novgorodtsev’s conclusion that the gap is 40% to 56%) and that the per share price of MNDO would grow to $5, $7.50, or $10 over 3 years, and, so, you may conclude that 177 thousand shares alone (i.e. not including the increase in shares that you would experience over the next three years,) would reach a value of $884 thousand, $1.3 million, or 1.8 million, respectively.

Ok, I hear Hold it a minute buddy…. Surely, the depressed value is a function of the dividend policy and resulting payouts, and, so, there cannot be any gains.

Well, not really. In an efficient market, a conservative no-debt company that consistently throws off the sort of dividends that we are talking about here (a yield of between 10% and 20%) should be worth far more than Mind CTI’s capitalization implies.

Ok, so let’s assume that we put the efficient market aside for a second… If Mind CTI was to suspend its dividend, then the cash being horded would automatically — and dramatically — increase the company’s value (and, presumably, its market capitalization.)

And guess what? If the company did not suspend its dividend, then the worst thing that would happen to an investor would be that he or she would be provided with an option to let the programmatic approach continue to do its job, offering a continuous accumulation of MNDO shares.

Even in an inefficient market, the per share price of MNDO will, of course, eventually, go up, as it did in 2011 when it exceeded $3.45, probably at part of a cycle where the financial market turns away from flashy social media shares with excessive valuation and seek out solid, debt-free, cash-producing companies such as Mind CTI.

By the way. Had you, in our not-so-hypothetical scenario, exited in 2011, at a per share price of $3.45, you would have netted $500 thousand before taxes or $440 thousand on a post-tax basis. Not shabby for an investment that does not have the sex appeal of Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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