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When I subbed for Rev Shark in the Trading Diary in late May, I
asked readers to send me their ideas for a list of cheapie tech stocks to consider going long. My inbox was promptly filled with more than 200 suggestions.
To review, here's the text from that day's diary:
I've been getting some great input from my last post, but I think I need to clarify what I mean by "cheapie." First, I'm talking about trading at, below or near cash with very little debt relative to that cash. Next, we want something that hasn't moved more than 100% in the past month or so or 500% in the past six months. I'd also consider stocks trading at, below or near tangible book value or even those with clean balance sheets trading at some fraction of sales. I don't consider any highly leveraged stock to be a cheapie. I don't consider any stock trading at 10 times cash to be a cheapie unless it's trading at a fraction of revenue. Finally, we certainly don't want random penny stocks. I don't pay any attention to the actual stock price. It's the valuation we're looking at.
Interestingly, I could find no "cheapness" in many of the stocks offered up as cheapies. Among those mentioned, I even found a few stocks that are part of my highflying tech short basket, such as
( FDRY). (I've been stopped out of a big portion of that position, but I want to rebuild it in the next few weeks.) I even found a few new short ideas, such as
, which for some reason had not been on my radar lately (thankfully, given that it's pretty much been hitting new 52-week highs for days on end).
It's taken me more time than I had hoped to get this list out, simply because I'm backlogged with work. Some of the better suggestions have already been creeping up, so although I haven't entirely worked my way through the list yet, I wanted to get a first tranche out so you can analyze these ideas further and perhaps begin building a new list.
I want to mention up front that I'm having a hard time doing much buying for my fund right now, as I'm worried that much of this rally has played itself out. I've even begun trimming some of the long-term core positions in my newsletter's model portfolio. With that caveat, here are some of the more interesting suggestions:
( CALP): I like the balance sheet and what I've read about this company since a reader flagged it for me. That said, I know very little about its business, which enables fluid experiments to be done via a chip. Interesting stuff, but I'll have to do some serious homework before I'd jump in. With the stock trading slightly below the net cash position of $140 million, it certainly fits the cheapie-tech criteria. The biggest red flag is the sequential decreases in sales for four of the past five quarters. It was lately trading at $4.74.
Proton Energy Systems
( PRTN): Again, I'm not very familiar with this company and will have to do a lot more homework on it. I have a really hard time being turned on by a company that is doing almost no sales at all ($173,000 in revenue booked last quarter, down about 90% year over year). Nonetheless, the stock is trading well below cash, so it's worth a flag, I guess. It was recently at $3.41.
: Capstone, like Proton Energy, is seeing sales disappear quarter over quarter. But it's also trading well below cash, and its supposed leadership in the fuel-cell industry makes it worthy of a flag. It was trading at $1.42 Monday.
( COMS): Here's a company I already own as part of my existing basket of cheapie techs. With a flush balance sheet and a new joint venture with
in China, I think 3Com has a good risk-to-reward ratio vs. its Foundry/Extreme cohorts. (I loved Extreme at $4 and change when I put in my newsletter's model portfolio, but have been trimming it here). 3Com is now at $5.05.
( APRS): This stock is trading at net cash, and sales have seemingly stabilized at this customer interaction technology company. I'm not thrilled about the underlying business, and the stock has made too much of a move for my liking. But you can decide for yourself, as it does fit the cheapie tech criteria. It's at $2.54.
( SMRA): Here's one that I'm kicking myself for not having had in my last basket. The company sources telecom equipment and wholesale services for service providers. It's not a bad little business, and the company has a pristine balance sheet with lots of cash and no debt. I wish I'd owned it when it was at cash, but nonetheless, I'm doing a double take at these levels and will consider nibbling on some. It's lately at $1.62.
: I'll never forget the time, a few years ago, when I talked to the good folks at Storage Networks. They were trying to tell me about their "exciting" new product line of designing and building storage area networks for competitive local exchange carriers and Internet service providers. They were also adamant that they were fully funded, even though I argued otherwise. Anyway, they now have the right business model (i.e. paring back everything until they figure out what they actually do) and they've recapitalized their balance sheet, which makes the company at least interesting at these levels. Today, it's at $1.36.
Finally, my two favorite cheapie tech names are already in my basket. Even though they've both made some relatively nice moves off their recent lows, I think both are still way undervalued.
( ITXC): I owned and followed this stock closely for years (although I hated the stock at $18 when I first met management). Now, I think the company looks very compelling at around $2, trading at less-than-tangible book value, just over cash and at a fraction of sales.
: It remains a good-looking value here at $16, trading at just over cash and at a fraction of revenue. The company has the balance sheet and savvy management to become a consolidator of distressed assets if and when telecom services finally rebounds.
With the moves that these most of these tech stocks have made lately, though, it's important to be very careful and set some tight stops if you're going to step into any of these names.
Cody Willard is a partner in a buy-side firm and a contributor to TheStreet.com's RealMoney.
He also produces a premium product for TheStreet.com called
The Telecom Connection and is the founder of
Teleconomics.com. The firm in which Willard is a partner may, from time to time, have long or short positions in, or buy or sell the securities, or derivatives thereof, of companies mentioned in his columns. At time of publication, the firm in which Willard is a partner was net short Foundry, long 3Coms and ITXC and net long IDT.c, although positions can change at any time and without notice. None of the information in this column constitutes, or is intended to constitute, a recommendation by Willard of any particular security or trading strategy or a determination by Willard that any security or trading strategy is suitable for any specific person. Willard appreciates your feedback and invites you to send it to