My first Activist Investor column for TheStreet.com in March featured GeoEye ( GEOY), a satellite company in which I had just started an activist campaign.
This investment is down more than 20% since the start of the year (despite a 50% run-up since mid-July); however, the company's management has been receptive to recent behind-the-scenes activist efforts. GeoEye looks ready to make significant gains in the remainder of this year and into next year after the launch next Thursday of its newest satellite (GeoEye-1). GeoEye leads the market, in terms of revenue, in operating satellites that capture geospatial images used by government and businesses. Its images are used by such customers as Google Earth, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as agriculture companies, city developers and planners, real estate developers, video-game makers and companies that develop location-based applications. GeoEye offers a whole set of tools and services for customers to package its images (including historical images from its library) and help them analyze and dissect the information. What first attracted me to small-cap GeoEye was its low valuation. It had a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 12 in February, despite projections of growing earnings by 20% each year for the next five years. Unfortunately, that figure kept dropping until it was below 6 in early July. Up until the last couple of quarters, when the company started losing some orders to competitor DigitalGlobe, which currently operates the newest satellite in the sky, GeoEye was generating $200 million in revenue with operating margins in excess of 45%. If you assume a rapid return to these numbers (and likely higher) once GeoEye-1 launches next week, this company's shares can be bought for just above 4 times next year's earnings.