Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Value Investing Congress: David Einhorn on St. Joes

Today ended the sixth annual New York Value Investing Congress, and the day's action did not disappoint. Once again, John Schwartz and Whitney Tilson put on a great event.

One of the conferences best presentations was this morning from Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn. A well respected colleague of mine joked just yesterday after seeing the title of Einhorn's presentation (If You Build it They Won't Come), that he hoped that Einhorn was not referring to St. Joes (JOE), a name in which my colleague has a small position. Its also a name that I previously owned, and we previously covered here at Cheap Stocks. In fact, a few years back David Einhorn took exception to some of our comments about JOE, and we invited him to write a response, which we ran unaltered.

Indeed, Einhorn's very detailed, very well delivered presentation was about St. Joe's. He left no stone unturned, and weaved together a very compelling case that JOE is overvalued at current levels. In fact, Einhorn suggested that JOE is worth no more than $7 to $10 to an acquirer now, and perhaps less if the company continues to sell property in order to cover operating expenses.

In a similar style used in his book "Fooling Some of the People All of the Time", Einhorn laid out his case. He used photos, and video of some of the current St. Joes developments, some of which appear to be ghost towns. He also used detailed property sales data, to reach the conclusion that St. Joes should probably be writing down the value of some of it's properties. It was indeed a sobering look of a company that we were bullish on in previous years.

While we never quite reached the same devastating conclusion as Einhorn, our patience did ultimately wear thin, when we realized that the company might have difficulty converting its only assets into cash.

Once again we give Einhorn a great deal of credit. His analysis was incredibly well done, and he's probably one of the brightest guys in the business. Time will tell whether he's nailed the St. Joes story the way he did with Allied Capital in "Fooling Some of the People..."

*The author has no positions in any of the securities mentioned. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only.

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