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Buying RadioShack's Ugly, Undervalued Stock

Admittedly, I did not like RadioShack shares at $7, when it first hit my radar last March. But when shares fell below the company's net current asset value -- a deep value technique devised by Ben Graham that's calculated by subtracting total liabilities from current assets -- I took an initial position. Shares currently trade at 1.01 times NCAV. That's an indication that shares are either very cheap or that the company is headed for the scrap heap.

Despite its challenges, RadioShack still has a decent balance sheet. The company ended last quarter with $566 million, or $5.67 per share, in cash. It also has $675 million in debt, $375 million of which matures in 2013, while the rest matures in 2019.

As for its monstrous 12.6% dividend yield, I have very little faith that it will be maintained. In fact, I am expecting that it will be eliminated altogether as the company conserves its cash. I did not take a position in the stock for the yield.

While the first quarter was rough, and the company badly missed earnings estimates, RadioShack has still been able to generate 64 cents in free cash flow per share in the trailing 12 months. The market does not believe that will continue. As for the analyst community, the consensus calls for $4.49 billion in 2013 revenue and earnings per share of 38 cents.

Warren Buffett might describe investing in distressed companies such as RadioShack as "cigar-butt" investing. I believe there may be a puff or two left in RadioShack. Much of the investment world sees the company as a "value trap," and it is priced accordingly.

As a postscript, back in 2003, Circuit City was also trading below NCAV. During the subsequent four years, shares rose nearly 300%. Owning Circuit City in those days was not a bet that the company would survive and ultimately thrive longer term. Rather, it was a bet that shares were cheap at a given point in time. We'll see if history repeats itself with RadioShack. It's certainly not for the faint of heart; only those with an iron stomach need apply.

At the time of publication, the author was long RSH.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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