American International Group
AIG had another nice quarter, exceeding expectations and announcing the initiation of a $0.10 dividend and another $1B in share repurchases. These moves were surprising given the drama surrounding the ILFC sale to a consortium of Chinese buyers, which has seen several deadlines come and go. They're still working with the consortium to see if a sale can be completed, the deadline has been pushed back to the end of August, but AIG is also preparing for an IPO of ILFC later in the year that would de-consolidate ILFC (meaning they'd sell at least 51%) from AIG's financial statements.
AIG's book value is now $61.25, and its recently trading for just under $49, so the discount to book value has been closing fairly quickly. While I still view AIG as a long term hold, I would consider selling for around 95% of book value which is still a little while off. In the meantime hopefully book keeps growing with retained earnings and gets accelerated with AIG repurchasing shares at below book.
Calamos Asset Management
Calamos Asset Management's (CAM, but CLMS is the ticker) market value hasn't moved much since I initially profiled the company a few months ago, but the assets under management have taken a 10% slide to $27.4 billion as of 7/31. As a result, pre-tax earnings are down over 30% from last year's run rate, proving the operating leverage in the asset management business works both ways. Their flagship Calamos Growth and Calamos Growth & Income funds are suffering large outflows due to poor recent performance; the Calamos Growth Fund is in the bottom 92% of its peer group over the last five years, according to Morningstar, making it a dreaded one-star fund. What financial advisor wants to answer the "why am I in a one-star fund" question from a client?
Calamos has been countering their growth fund strategy issues by introducing several new value and alternative strategy funds to diversify their revenue business model. The alternatives segment is the one strategy where Calamos is seeing net inflows, and I think that it has the most potential as its not a strategy that's easily replaced by an index or passive fund. Financial advisors are moving assets to index and passive mutual funds, traditional managed A share type funds are at best out of favor and might be in a permanent secular decline. Alternative mutual funds are an easy sell after the past decade of volatility and given their complexity, one where the management fee is a more justifiable, maybe.
The value in Calamos is still primarily in the odd corporate structure that causes the operating company to be consolidated with CAM, but where CAM only owns 22.1% of the operating company. This consolidation hides the assets that are attributable just to CAM, which are worth roughly half the market capitalization. Based on the same assumptions as my original valuation, I put the CAM's current value at roughly $16.39 per share today.
My natural gas pick, Ultra Petroleum, had another good/boring quarter as they continue to keep capital expenditures within cash flow and just tread water until natural gas prices fully recover to a more normalized level.
One interesting takeaway from the conference call was when CEO Michael Watford said the following about how they value their assets:
$4.50 gas might be farther away than it sounds as prices have moved back down to under $3.50 in the past few weeks. On my favorite slide in their presentations, Ultra doesn't forecast $4.50 prices until 2016, but its a comment that I wanted to keep highlighted for future reference. The other management comment I liked was the possibility of a share buyback or dividend in the future with their free cash flow, versus all the talk of an acquisition last quarter. Given the high returns of their Pinedale asset, I don't see why they'd be looking to dilute those returns unless it was an acquisition for acquisition's sake.
I picked up some shares in the $16-17 range earlier in the year, and recently sold an equal amount of higher cost basis shares to reduce my position size to a just above average weighting. I wanted to take some risk off the table and with Ultra's share price increasing with natural gas prices decreasing, seemed like a good opportunity.
Disclosure: I own shares of AIG, UPL, no position in CLMS