On September 16th and 17th hundreds of investors will get together in New York City for the Value Investing Congress (VIC). And since last year, the Congress has added a bonus to your run-of-the-mill investment presentations and cheese platters by introducing a little competition — an investment idea contest called the Value Investing Challenge.
A panel of judges made up of top financial professionals will take a look at these three ideas, plucked tirelessly from hundreds of submissions to the competition's co-sponsor, SumZero — a networking site for buy side professionals. The ideas are then ranked, and a winner is chosen from the three finalists.
The first prize winner gets to present their winning idea to the VIC, $50,000 cash, 1 free year's subscription to FactSet (another sponsor of the Challenge), and free attendance at the VIC's investing workshop.
Until then, you can judge the ideas yourselves. This year's final three ideas are in — two shorts and a long position. Each thesis is published in full at valueinvestingchallenge.com, but we've got the bullets for you below.
First up, David Swartz, a financial analyst at Pacific West Land, LLC.
He's short Lifelock (LOCK:US), an identity theft protection service, and here's a bit of his pitch:
LifeLock (LOCK) appears to be noncompliant with marketing restrictions that were imposed by a 2010 FTC Order
LifeLock CEO Todd Davis suffered at least 13 instances of identity theft after he put his Social Security Number in LifeLock’s adsLifeLock is valued at more than $350 / subscriber while direct competitor Intersections (INTX) is valued at about $50 / subscriber
The next short comes from Travis Cocke, the co-founder of investment firm Southpaw Capital LLC.
He's bearish on Exact Sciences, a molecular diagnostics company that focuses on cancer detection. Check out some of his take below:EXAS is a single product cancer diagnostic company with overly optimistic expectations priced in, whose product is yet to be approved by the FDA and has a long history of spectacular commercial failure.
The stock is much like TSLA, in that it has already gone up a lot, has a compelling narrative about a supposed breakthrough for a very large addressable market, and has a previously successful and highly promotional CEO, which leads to a very zealous, almost militantly bullish shareholder base that makes an investment based heavily on blind faith in the CEO.
This is a case of extreme competitor neglect. Their product won't gain mass adoption due to cheaper, more effective and easier to use colon cancer screens.
Even if the product does work and they deliver on optimistic projections, the stock would still be massively overvalued on both a relative and absolute basis. E.g. shares have 30-50% downside to peer group even if bull case plays out, thus no upside and shorting it represented an asymmetric bet skewed heavily to the downside.
Bottom line: 1) History of previous failures with similar products 2) Product will not sell due to better competing products 3) Even if bull case plays out, stock would still be overvalued, representing asymmetric short bet
The last thesis is long, and comes from Daniel W. Lawrence, a Managing Partner and Founder of Elmrox Investment Group.
He's long Ashland, (ASH:US), a chemicals company. Check out a few bullets on why below:The stock's a misunderstood asset transformation story with significant upside and catalysts
Market incorrectly views Ashland as a lower margin, more cyclical commodity chemical business versus a less cyclical, higher margin specialty chemical firm.
The market does not assume a turnaround in water that is currently unfolding. If turnaround fails, water will be sold.
Market ascribes little value to Valvoline, which could be spun off and/or converted to a master limited partnership. There are six financial professionals judging this contest, Alexander Roepers (Atlantic Investment Management), Jamie Mendola (Scout Capital), Lisa Rapuano (Lane Five Capital Management), Manny Singh (Tiger Management), Mohnish Pabrai (Pabrai Investment Funds), Zeke Ashton (Centaur Capital), andWhitney Tilson (Kase Capital).
Last year's winner, Ryan Fusaro of LionEye Capital, went on to be named one of Forbes' 30 under 30 after he won the contest. His idea — a long thesis on Jack In The Box — is up 54% since this time last year.
The finalists of this year's contest will be on CNBC getting grilled, congratulated, etc. today at 2:00 pm.
May the best idea win.
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