This column was originally published on RealMoney on April 5 at 3:25 p.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
In 1996, I played a joke on a friend who was in the business of doing practical jokes. He was a former sitcom writer who was pitching a TV show to a network television channel. The premise of his show was similar to the premise of "Punk'd" -- he would play practical jokes on well-known targets and document the results. One of the ideas in his original pitch, which he went on to do, was a practical joke on a well-known music television company, which I will refer to as NTV.
He called an executive in the original programming division of NTV and said, "My younger brother is 'afflicted' and has only one request in his life: He wants to go to the NTV Summer Beach House." NTV got excited and started making preparations -- they would fly the 'afflicted' kid up, have a concert, etc.
I decided to have some fun. I broke into the NTV email system (I had no affiliation at all with NTV) and sent my friend an email from Legal@ntv.com stating that prosecution was beginning and he could expect an indictment shortly. My friend went into a state of panic and was about call NTV and his lawyers to work out some sort of plea when I told him what I did. I then called some people at NTV and told them how they could fix their email system to prevent stuff like this from happening.
Ten years later, I think people still underestimate the lack of computer and network security. I don't care if
is going to get into the security business (this possibility is the reason why many security stocks are undervalued). There will always be a need for independent companies to develop firewalls, security appliances, virus-detection software, anti-adware software, etc. It's not as easy to hack into a company's systems as it was in 1996, but I'm willing to bet it's still easy enough for any random Russian hacker who sets his mind to it.
keeps bumping up against 52-week lows. The stock is currently just below $17, a buck and a half above its 52-week low and 40% below its 52-week high. It has $1.5 billion in net cash, and that number is growing by about $1 billion a year. Cash flows from operations were $1.4 billion over the last 12 months, giving it an enterprise-value-over-cash-flows multiple of slightly over 10. Growth has been steady, with revenue rising 65% year over year.
( MFE) is another security company that has gotten cheaper, thanks to fears of competition from Microsoft. With a market cap of $4 billion, net cash of $1 billion and cash flows from operations of $419 million over the past 12 months, it's an excellent candidate for a buyout if
decides to get into the game or a player like
decides to expand its security offering.
And VeriSign, though it's up considerably since I first wrote about it in the
in October, is still in the cheap category. The company has almost $1 billion in cash, an enterprise value of $5 billion and cash flows from operations of $500 million over the past 12 months.
I expect all of these companies to log substantial growth over the next year as Microsoft rolls out its Vista operating system and new versions of Office 2007 and as businesses embark on the next network-upgrade cycle.
James Altucher is a managing partner at Formula Capital, an alternative asset management firm that runs several quantitative-based hedge funds as well as a fund of hedge funds. He is also the author of
Trade Like a Hedge Fund
Trade Like Warren Buffett. At the time of publication, neither Altucher nor his fund had a position in any of the securities mentioned in this column, although positions may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Altucher appreciates your feedback;
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