LOS ANGELES (
) -- Newspapers are like dinosaurs, and the ice age is almost here.
Newspapers were late to the Internet game. While they've since built a presence online, they haven't figured out how to profit from Web content. Falling advertising revenue has made the situation increasingly dire for companies that own them, such as the
New York Times
The Los Angeles-based
seems to be bucking that trend. With a market cap of $80 million and an average trading volume of 700 shares per day, this stock sees very little action. However, that might change as more investors discover this gem.
The Daily Journal has avoided the problems afflicting other news organizations by targeting niches, such as lawyers and readers in small communities in California. This tactic has lead to a profitable mix that capitalizes on the weak coverage of local news on the Web. The company also provides specialized information and software to courts.
The company's operating results have been phenomenal. Its return on equity of 28% and net margin of 22% leave the New York Times and Washington Post in the dust. The company is on solid financial footing, with no debt and a current ratio of 2.8. Its shares have climbed 45% in the past year, while the
S&P 500 Index
Russell 2000 Index
lost more than 10%.
The bull market of the past six months has propelled the company's investments. The company had $3 million in cash in June, up from $994,000 in September 2008, and another $41 million in securities, including unrealized gains of $25.8 million.
The company's shares are trading for more than $50, which seems high compared with the New York Times' $8 shares. This is a small price to pay for such as solid company. And because the Daily Journal is so thinly traded, any investment could push its stock higher, making it difficult to get in at today's quote.
Opportunities to invest in a company with no debt and fantastic returns aren't common, especially in an industry as unstable as publishing. We rate the company "buy."
-- Reported by David MacDougall in Boston.
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Prior to joining TheStreet.com Ratings, David MacDougall was an analyst at Cambridge Associates, an investment consulting firm, where he worked with private equity and venture capital funds. He graduated cum laude from Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in finance and is a Level III CFA candidate.