ASFI, Asta Funding, BIW, CLNY, Colony Financial, Conwert, correlation, CWI, distressed assets, FIG, financial crisis, Fortress Investment Group, intrinsic value, Karl Ehlerding, KWG Kommunale Wohnen, Leverage, majority control, Merry Xmas, Price/Book, Stavros Efremidis, TRIB, Trinity Biotech
Asta Funding (ASFI:US) $9.37: I’ve marginally trimmed my stake from 3.8% to 3.6% – consider this to be purely risk ‘house-keeping‘. This realizes a +22% gain vs. my write-up price on this small slice, and a +31% gain vs. my actual net entry price (which inc. the impact of dividends). I never got around to an Asta follow-up, as the share price (& NAV) just steadily chugged higher. Despite the rising share price, I’ve been bemused (even encouraged) by the general air of neglect still attached to this stock. Even ASFI shareholders have expressed a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the company’s progress in the past year! This is particularly in reaction to the company’s diversification into personal injury & divorce financing. Which puzzles me…
I’d counter this distaste in a number of ways: i) This new direction was prompted by Asta’s reluctance to pay up to acquire new distressed consumer receivable portfolios*. Personally, I’m delighted – how often do you see management take an absolute, rather than a relative, approach to value? [Picking up distressed debt at 9 cts on the dollar, while everybody else pays 10 cts, doesn’t mean you’ve bagged an actual bargain!] And to resist pissing away idle cash burning a hole in their pockets is quite admirable too. Of course, returning capital (via share buybacks) is a great alternative – Asta’s pursued this to a limited degree during the year. However, considering current metrics, I consider the short term return/attraction of a buyback is fairly even balanced against the potentially higher returns on offer from a (gradual) investment of their cash into distressed assets.