The PHH Corporation story is pretty well known at this point. Before two weeks ago, it operated in two unrelated businesses: mortgage origination/servicing and fleet management leasing. At the insistence of an activist campaign
(which the activist curiously exited last week) the company sold off it's fleet management business
to Element Financial Corporation for $821MM net of taxes ($1.4B pretax) to create a purer play on mortgage origination and mortgage servicing rights.
The mortgage origination business is struggling in the current environment, refinances have mostly dried up as those who could refinance already have and the home purchase market has yet to really show signs of strength as consumers are struggling with debt and stagnant wage growth. The servicing side of the business however should become more valuable as interest rates rise and fewer mortgages are refinanced stretching out the length of time borrowers maintain their mortgage and increasing the servicing fees collected by PHH. The business is at a cyclical low, layoffs are in the thousands across the industry, sentiment is low, and that creates a potential opportunity when teamed with the sale of the fleet management business.
The market cap of the company is only $1.4B, so the sale of the fleet management business represents a large cash infusion, PHH laid out it's plans in a recent investor presentation:
PHH is planning on repurchasing up to $450 million in stock over the next 4-5 quarters, including $200 million shortly after the 2nd quarter earnings release, or a total of ~32% of the market cap. PHH's shares trade at 0.75x proforma tangible book value (with the optionality of the mortgage servicing rights value increasing in a rising rate environment) and within a few weeks there will be a large indiscriminate buyer in the market scooping up shares. Approximately 30% of the shares are short, and 40% of the shares are in the hands of Hotchkis & Wiley, PIMCO, Citadel, and DFA, plus another 10% in index funds, sets itself up for a potential small short squeeze rally. So in the end, you get a business that's retooling itself for the next stage of its business cycle at a cheap price with a near term catalyst.
Disclosure: Long a small amount of PHH
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