If you run a net-net screen of some kind, it’s likely that you’ll have come across this (very) small-cap stock. Titon Holdings is a Ben Graham net-net in almost every way.
It’s a manufacturer, it has property, plant, fittings, fixtures and equipment to bolster its tangible asset value. It also has virtually no debt and a large cash safety cushion in the bank.
It currently has a net-net ratio of about 0.66. For the mathematically gymnastic, this means that it’s trading at around 2/3rds of its net-net value which was the maximum value that Graham would typically pay.
The company is also cheap enough to make it onto my modernised version of Graham’s strategy. You can read the original modern net-net strategy article here.
The price may be low, but is it good value?
Titon’s fortunes are tied to the housing market in many ways, and since the end of the housing bubble in 2007, they have barely made a penny in profit. What they haven’t done is lose a ton of money, either.
Add to that the fact that they have net cash of around £2.8m and an interest INCOME of about £35,000 (fuelled by the £2.8m cash balance). It seems that there’s little chance of the banks stepping in to take over.
So if bankers aren’t the main worry, what about short-term creditors?
They’re unlikely to be a problem either. The quick ratio is very healthy at more than 2, and the current ratio is over 3. In fact, there’s more cash in the bank than there are short-term liabilities, and there are effectively no long-term liabilities.
As the final icing on the cake, there’s a 5% dividend which, if sustainable, will be a possible driver of capital gains, especially if the dividend ever gets back to the 4p or 6p of the past (which would be rather attractive given today’s share price of 35p).
A Problem with micro-caps
Titon is both tiny and has a relatively illiquid stock. The bid/ask today is 34p/37p, which means that if you buy at 37p, you have to make a 9% gain to break even (since your shares immediately become worth only 34p).
You can get around this to some extent with long holding periods (I use five years as the default), which gives each stock plenty of time to generate as much return as possible, thereby overcoming the drag of a large spread.
The 21st century net-net model portfolio
Titon is now in the 21CNN model portfolio (which had a £50,000 starting value on Jan 1st 2012) at 37p with a weighting of 1.7%, and it sits alongside other great companies, including AGA and Home Retail. At some point, I’ll start posting the performance chart, but since it’s currently more than 90% cash, there’s not much going on.