Wednesday, November 18, 2020

NexPoint Strategic Opportunities: Exchange Offer

Back in August, I wrote up a quick post on NexPoint Strategic Opportunities ("NHF"), it is a closed end fund that is transitioning into a REIT over the next 18-24 months (they'll technically be a REIT in 2021, but won't fully transition the assets until later, quite a bit of wood to chop here before its a clean story).  To summarize the thesis, NHF is trading at 57% of NAV and they'll be selling much of those assets presumably somewhere near NAV to invest opportunistically in real estate -- there should be no shortage of attractive opportunities coming out of the pandemic -- add in some leverage and it could have quite the multiplier effect (see what the same team has done with NXRT).  And to get the negatives out of the way, NHF hasn't articulated a clear strategy at this point other than saying it will be a diversified REIT and there's the potential for double dipping on fees, much of what NHF owns today are investments that were at one time or are now managed by NexPoint/Highland, it has sort of acted as a dumping ground for them.

The stock's reaction to the conversion news has been muted and it hasn't rallied much recently in comparison to the market or other real estate assets.  The company came out with an exchange offer structured as a Dutch tender that expires 12/10, shareholders can exchange common shares for a combination of 80% in a newly created preferred stock and 20% in cash, the range is set at $10-12 and the stock currently trades at $9.50.  The $10-12 number is highly dependent on the value the market prescribes to the newly issued preferred shares, the company is trying for a 5.5% dividend rate on the prefs, that feels a bit aggressive, but more on that later.

I love the idea of the exchange, the maximum amount is $150MM on a $433MM market cap company, the exchange will essentially force a portion of the shares to be valued at NAV accruing that closed discount value to the remaining shareholders.  It also further tightens the spring when they do fully transition to a REIT, this is already going to be a levered vehicle.  But again, the 5.5% dividend yield feels a bit aggressive on the preferred shares, so thinking through the possibilities of where the preferred could trade after the exchange, I came up with a little table:

The x-axis is where the Dutch tender prices at and the y-axis is where you think the preferred shares should trade on a yield basis incorporating the 20% cash component.

I've also played around with different scenarios based on how many shares are actually tendered and what it would do to the NAV ($16.70/share as of the latest proxy) of the remaining shares, just based on the share price and my uneducated view, seems like the market is skeptical of the exchange.  The minimum amount is $75MM.

Then my last table is using the NAV in the table above, what the price/NAV ratio would be (using a $9.50 share price, or a 57% starting point):

I've spent a lot of time in the last few months on the commercial mREITs (maybe more posts to come), most of them have preferred shares that have yields well above the targeted 5.5% NHF management is shooting for and that might be skewing my view of where the prefs will trade following the conversion.  NHF is likely to be focused on either self storage or single family homes, maybe both, equity REIT preferreds in those sectors do trade below 6%.  I took a look at the holdings of PFFR, a REIT preferred index fund, and here are the names that trade sub-6.0%, some of these didn't surprise me as they're seasoned and/or loved REITs, but others were a bit surprising.  

For example, Office Properties Income Trust's (OPI) 5.875% pref trades just above par, this is an externally managed REIT of RMR Group (RMR) that has a history of abusing minority shareholders and is in the office sector.  Is 5.5% too aggressive?  Possibly, but not by that much in a zero interest rate world.

I've added to my NHF position.  I'm currently thinking about the exchange like this: I'm planning on tendering a portion of my shares somewhere in the middle of the range (could change as we get closer to the expiration date), but still leaving behind a relatively full position.  If there is enough interest where I don't get filled on the tender and it goes closer to the lower-end of the range, common shareholders should benefit as the NAV increases even more and they've obtained cheap financing.  If I get filled, I still feel comfortable that the trading price of the prefs following the conversion should result in a good short term IRR.  Either way feels like a win to me.  NHF could also bump up the yield on the preferred shares if there isn't enough investor interest (they got a rating agency to put a BBB- rating on the prefs, presumably to head off investor skepticism on the proposed dividend yield), even paying 0.5-1.0% more in yield to entice shareholders to exchange would be very accretive to the remaining common.

Disclosure: I own shares of NHF

Friday, November 6, 2020

LGL Group: Warrant Dividend, SPAC Sponsor

LGL Group is an illiquid small (~$55MM market cap) aerospace and defense parts maker I covered once before in 2017 when they did a rights offering while at the same time an acquisition offer was outstanding for their operating business.  That thesis didn't quite work out as planned, the acquisition offer never materialized into a deal, but maybe for the best, the operating business has performed quite well over the last three years, growing revenue 50% (total, not annualized) and EBITDA has jumped by 300%.

The company is effectively controlled by the Gabelli family, they own/manage the top three spots on the shareholder register:

Mario's son, Marc, is the chairman of the board and steering the ship here, although his father hasn't been shy about expressing his views in the past.  The Gabelli's have done a number of corporate actions in the last decade to increase their investment in LGL, the stock is illiquid, so in order to meaningfully increase their exposure to the business, they do things like rights offerings and backstop them.  Back in 2013, the company issued a warrant dividend with a 5 year term and a $7.50 exercise price, despite the stock trading below the exercise price on expiration, Mario exercised the warrant and added to his position.  So clearly they want more of it and are up to a similar transaction announcing a new warrant dividend to shareholders.  Here are the details from the press release, the stock trades at ~$10 as I type this:

The LGL Group, Inc. Declares a Warrant Dividend


ORLANDO, FL, October 29, 2020 – The LGL Group, Inc. (NYSE American: LGL) (the "Company") today announced that on October 27, 2020 the Board of Directors declared a dividend of warrants to purchase shares of its common stock to holders of record of its common stock as of November 9, 2020, the record date set by the Board of Directors for the dividend. Each holder of the Company’s common stock as of the record date will receive one warrant for each share of common stock owned. Five warrants will entitle their holder to purchase one share of the Company's common stock at an exercise price of $12.50. The warrants will be "European style warrants" and will be exercisable on the earlier of (i) their expiration date, which will be the fifth anniversary of their issuance, and (ii) such date that the 30-day volume weighted average price per share, or VWAP, of the Company's common stock is greater than or equal to $17.50. The warrants are expected to be issued on or around November 16, 2020, and the Company intends for the warrants to be listed and traded on the NYSE American on or around such date, subject to NYSE American approval.

Part of LGL's stated strategy is to be an acquisition vehicle, but since that 2017 rights offering the company hasn't made a significant deal and has mostly let cash pile up on the balance sheet, currently at $22MM (including marketable securities which is in a Gabelli fund and can swing net income around a bit).  Thus another rights offering probably doesn't make sense, but a warrant dividend could as a way to get more exposure to the company, either through adding in the secondary market if the warrant trades poorly or just in another five years, exercise the warrant again.

LGL has two main operating businesses, MtronPTI and Precise Time and Frequency, both sell highly engineered products into the aerospace and defense sectors.  The operations did about $4MM in EBITDA in 2019, with a market cap of $55MM and $22MM in net cash, you're paying about 8.25x EBITDA for the business today.  They do other things to signal the operating businesses might be undervalued, like break out the accumulated depreciation of their PPE which is multiples of the carrying value of the assets on the balance sheet.  But the most interesting asset inside LGL is an ownership stake in a SPAC sponsor, its 2020 after all, the SPAC is LGL Systems Acquisition Holdings (DFNS) which is targeting a defense business, thus the ticker.  

Being the SPAC sponsor is a great deal, depending on the final details of the deal, but often the sponsor ends up with ownership in the proforma company worth 20% of the SPAC trust fund.  If DFNS does an attractive deal and doesn't negotiate a discount of the sponsor shares, the result could be a material asset for LGL.  DFNS raised $172.5 million and trades at a 1.7% discount to the net asset value of the trust.   DFNS has about another year to find a merger, the deadline is 11/12/21, otherwise they'll send the money back to the SPAC shareholders and the sponsor is out of luck.  Here are the details on the SPAC investment:

In November 2019, we invested $3.35 million into LGL Systems Acquisition Holdings Company, LLC, a subsidiary that serves as the Sponsor of LGL Systems Acquisition Corp (NYSE: DFNS), a special purpose acquisition company, commonly referred to as a “SPAC” or a blank check company, formed for the purpose of effecting a business combination in the aerospace, defense and communications industries. Prior to a business combination, the Sponsor holds 100% of the shares of Class B convertible common stock outstanding of DFNS (the “B shares”) along with 5,200,000 private warrants at a strike price of $11.50. The B shares equal 20% of the outstanding common stock of the SPAC. Upon the successful completion of an acquisition the proforma ownership of the new company will vary depending on the business combination terms.

The Company is expected to own approximately a 43.57% interest in the Sponsor through its direct investment. Assuming the terms of the business combination are identical in capital structure as that of DFNS, the Company anticipates its economic interest will include approximately 8.7% of the SPAC’s pro-forma equity immediately following a successful business combination. There can be no assurances that this scenario and the resulting ownership will occur, as changes may be made depending upon business combination terms.

If DFNS is able to come to a deal, the value of the shares attributable to LGL could be worth ~$15MM, certainly material for a company of this size.  A couple of the DFNS executives joined the LGL board in August, possibly signaling that being a SPAC sponsor isn't a one-time affair (the mania is showing signs of cooling, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch).  Either way, it is some built in optionality inside of LGL, and could have a bit of double leverage, the SPAC shares and warrants inside of LGL and then the LGL shares and warrants.

Even though I play around with options quite a bit, not an expert at valuing the warrant itself, but if you plug in terms of the warrant into a calculator and use a 50% implied volatility, spits out about a $0.75 per warrant (need 5 of them for one share of stock).  Could trade a bit like a spinoff and certain shareholders might be inclined to sell it immediately.

Disclosure: I own shares of LGL

Catabasis Pharmaceuticals: Selling at 50% of Cash, Reverse Merger Candidate

Here's another entry in my sporadic biotech reverse merger candidate investment theme, Catabasis Pharmaceuticals (CATB) is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that recently announced their lead product candidate, edasalonexent -- a potential treatment for a form of muscular dystrophy, did not meet its primary or secondary end points of their Phase 3 trial.  I'll keep this pretty brief, from the sounds of the press release it sounds like this is game over for Catabasis:

BOSTON, MA, OCTOBER 26, 2020 – Catabasis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:CATB), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, today announced that the Phase 3 PolarisDMD trial of edasalonexent in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) did not meet the primary endpoint, which was a change from baseline in the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) over one year of edasalonexent compared to placebo. The secondary endpoint timed function tests (time to stand, 10-meter walk/run and 4-stair climb) also did not show statistically significant improvements. Edasalonexent was observed to be generally safe and well-tolerated in this trial. Catabasis is stopping activities related to the development of edasalonexent including the ongoing GalaxyDMD open-label extension trial. The Company plans to work with external advisors to explore and evaluate strategic options going forward.


“We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the results of our Phase 3 PolarisDMD trial,” said Jill C. Milne, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Catabasis. “I want to sincerely thank all of the boys, their families and caregivers, investigators and the trial sites that participated in and enabled this program. The entire Catabasis team has worked tirelessly to find a treatment for this progressive disease. We hope that our data and work to date can be used to benefit ongoing and future research in DMD.”


The Phase 3 trial was a one-year placebo-controlled trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of edasalonexent in boys ages 4-7 (up to 8th birthday) with DMD. The global trial enrolled 131 boys across eight countries, with any mutation type, who were not on steroids. Edasalonexent was well-tolerated, consistent with the safety profile seen to date. The majority of adverse events were mild in nature and the most common treatment-related adverse events were diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and rash. There were no treatment-related serious adverse events and no dose reductions. The global COVID-19 pandemic had no meaningful impact on the trial or its results. Data from the PolarisDMD trial will be further analyzed and are expected to be presented at an upcoming scientific conference and published.


“These results are disheartening for the Duchenne community, and specifically for the boys who participated in this trial and their families. However, the results contribute to the natural history data of Duchenne and add to the knowledge base that will one day produce a foundational, long-term therapy for this disease,” said Pat Furlong, Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD). “The continued advancement of research and the development of possible treatment options will remain of critical importance to our community. We appreciate Catabasis’ efforts and commitment to every family that is or has ever been affected by Duchenne.” 


The Company expects to report Q3 2020 financials in November of 2020. As of September 30, 2020, Catabasis had cash and cash equivalents of approximately $52.9 million.

The company is pre-revenue, R&D is likely at a full stop now, general and administrative expenses have run a little under $3MM:

Now that the company is a cash shell, the burn rate should be lower, but let's just call it $1MM a month going forward.  Cash and marketable securities were ~$54MM as of 6/30, Catabasis does have an ATM program they have been hitting for incremental cash, so to square the cash burn against the $52.9MM they reported in their press release, let's assume they've issued another 1 million shares, bringing their total to approximately 20 million shares outstanding.  At a price of $1.36, that gives us a market cap of $27MM versus a cash balance of ~$50MM, almost a 50 cent dollar.  And since CATB never generated revenue, we have a large NOL here as well of approximately $200MM. 

The most likely outcome is in the next few months a privately held biotech will merge into and come public through a reverse merger with CATB.  Effectively using CATB as a capital raising transaction with a deSPAC like transaction except here a target has more certainty in the actual amount of cash raised.

Disclosure: I own shares of CATB