Two Potential Catalysts

This week saw a couple of potential catalysts arrive for two of our companies in Tarpon. First, the unexpected one.

Pentwater Capital Management, the fifth-largest holder of shares in Leap Wireless (LEAP), is going activist. As in, it’s nominating three directors to the board to give the existing directors and management a few swift kicks in the pants. My words, not theirs. Pentwater does believe Leap is “significantly undervalued” though – I’ve been saying the same thing – and they have apparently had enough.

Here’s a link to the letter Pentwater wrote to the LEAP board. A little hyperbolic to be sure – the fourth quarter was strong for LEAP – and though most activist investors are often just whiners with clout, in general, I’m all for Pentwater turning the heat up a bit over there.

The second catalyst was expected, although the timing of it was uncertain until today. According to this filing, North American Financial Holdings or NAFH, which owns 83% of Capital Bank (CBKN), has scheduled a conference call with its investors to disclose that it is seeking regulatory approval to combine the three banks it owns – Capital Bank, TIB Bank down here in the Keys and NAFH National Bank (which contains three formerly failed banks it bought on the cheap from the FDIC). NAFH will likely seek to combine its holding companies, too.

Disappointingly, the authors of several of the press reports I read this afternoon seemed to be shrugging their shoulders at what happens next. Well, I’ll tell ya what I think happens next: exactly what page 48 of last December’s CBKN proxy said would happen. Specifically:

“…the Purchaser intends to use the logos, brands, trademarks and service marks of the Company and the Bank to market the businesses of other banks and bank holding companies in which it has a majority equity interest.”

Which, when corroborated by a handful of local news stories up in North Carolina, would seem to mean there is a high probability that all the banks NAFH owns will soon be under just one masthead…that of our little ol’ CBKN. And that new and improved version of the bank will have assets of about $4.5 billion and a footprint stretching from Raleigh to Miami.

No guarantees and a lot more to it, of course, including some fuzzy accounting rules and some contingent value rights, and, yes, the consolidation could happen in any number of ways, some of which could be detrimental to us newer minority CBKN shareholders…but for a number of reasons, I doubt it. Margin of safety and all. Here’s the slide from the annual meeting a few weeks back that mentioned our investment in Capital Bank.

In any case, Tarpon is also sitting on some cash right now, so I’m back in the cave on a handful of potential new companies. Could be a bit, so shoot a flare if you need anything.

In the meantime, here’s to hoping we see a few more down days in the market. Where’s a completely irresponsible emerging market government when you really need one?

Disclaimer: My investors and I own shares of Leap Wireless and Capital Bank. This post in no way constitutes investment advice. Commentary on this blog should never be relied on in making an investment decision. So, if you go out and buy shares in either company based on the above, you are on your own, knowwhatImean?

Cale Smith

About Cale Smith

Portfolio Manager at Islamorada Investment Management.
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