Hey, sports fans. As you may recall, I ran a series of articles during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in tribute to this year's three major upset teams -- the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, the Winthrop Eagles, and the Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin' Rebels. Those scrappy sleepers inspired me to seek out companies that investors were perhaps underestimating in the teams' hometowns.
To uncover the underdogs, I turned to our Motley Fool CAPS community in search of low-rated firms that I thought had the potential to beat the S&P 500 this year. Now that we're approaching half a year out from my picks, I thought it was about time we checked in on the results thus far. I'm interested not only in errors of commission -- picking dogs rather than underdogs -- but also errors of omission. So we'll take a look at the companies I left on the bench as well.
My search began in VCU's home base of Richmond, whose most prominent company is Circuit City
I also passed on title insurer LandAmerica Financial
Activist hedge fund Pirate Capital hasn't made much headway in its efforts to break up the company, but my thesis doesn't depend on such a catalyst. Though Brink's has fallen a bit behind since my outperform pick, I still think it has the potential to beat the S&P down the stretch. CAPS players are also feeling more secure about the company, which now sports a healthy four-star ranking.
When the Winthrop Eagles gave Notre Dame the bird in the first round of March Madness, I decided to check out this town near the North Carolina border. It took me a while to find a public company headquartered in Rock Hill, but I eventually turned over enough rocks to discover 3-D Systems.
This interesting firm builds 3-D printers, which is cool, but not profitable. Not yet, anyway. Ever since I declined to call this one an upset, 3-D Systems has reported some solid top-line growth, and the shares are thus far outpacing the broader market. I would need to see a much more rapid uptake of this company's products before reassessing my neutral take, however.
Maybe I should have laid down a few more chips while I was looking at various underdogs in UNLV's hometown. Wynn Resorts
The odds on gaming-technology companies looked particularly long back in March. Both Progressive Gaming International
Bally looks like it's in even better shape. We still don't have current financials to go by, but the company has reported a return to profitability, and it expects to file its 10-K next month. I got thrown off the scent here by focusing on the last available filings, rather than looking forward. That's a rookie mistake, and a reader was right to call me out in my breezy dismissal of this gaming-systems company.
Rather than going all in on Wynn or putting on the rally cap for Bally, I flew into the arms of a discount travel company, Allegiant Air. Allegiant has turned in some excellent results. It's sending fuller flights to its leisure destinations while expanding capacity in a big way. Even more impressive than its big net-income gains, operating margins roughly doubled this quarter.
Unfortunately, macro factors appear to be weighing in here. I noted my hesitation with the initial outperform call, concerned about a housing-led slowdown of the economy. Perhaps I should have gone with my gut on that one, but Allegiant has a very strong balance sheet, and it should weather upcoming turbulence relatively well. Shares will likely be beaten down with the rest of the airline sector, but as long as the firm's profitability remains on solid footing, I'll view a dip in the price as a chance to double down, rather than walk away from the table.
The Foolish bottom line
We're only about five months into this "season," but there have already been plenty of surprises so far in Upset City. I look forward to updating you early next year, when we'll see whether there's at least one true Cinderella among the contenders.
Check out all of the original Upset City pieces:
- I'm feeling pretty secure about my pick from Richmond, Va.
- Rock Hill, S.C., is not strictly for the birds.
- There's possible turbulence ahead for my Las Vegas call.