Happiness Is Being Ahead of the Curve

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- One of the potential benefits of value investing is that you can sometimes be ahead of the curve; discovering and identifying out-of-favor names before the markets discover that there's value there. That's the objective.

This often means buying companies that have a compelling array of assets, but that also may have a "flea" or two. The fleas are what keep other investors away, but sometimes these negatives are either fixable or cause severe overreactions, pushing stock prices below reasonable value.

In the past year, I've had a couple of names in my portfolio acquired. Force Protection ( FRPT), a small manufacturer of military vehicles, was acquired last November by General Dynamics ( GD). Force had a very clean, cash-rich balance sheet and, at times, traded very close to its net current asset value. General Dynamics got it on the cheap at $5.50 a share. Then in March, auto repair name Midas ( MDS) was acquired by TBC. Midas was real estate rich, owning a number of its store location, but was not delivering great operating results. TBC, in my opinion, got a great deal at $11.50 a share.

It does not always work. I owned Callaway Golf ( ELY), a former high flying name that fell on tough times, for a few years with the belief that it would make a nice brand acquisition for one of the bigger names. Unfortunately, the company's "recovery" continues to be pushed out farther into the future and, despite a decent balance sheet, there's been no interest (that I'm aware of, anyway). That's a name I finally gave up on.

Fast food name Wendy's ( WEN) was also a disappointment, unable to show much operating progress in the past couple of years. For a time, I thought that the company might be taken private, but other than rumors, nothing else materialized. I threw in the towel here, too.

I still believe that Krispy Kreme ( KKD) would make a nice target for a bigger fish trying to expand its portfolio of brands. This company has experienced a solid turnaround in recent years, yet the company's enterprise value is still around $500 million.

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