If you're a Ceradyne
That's good news, and the stock's reaction, an 8% skip upward to a new all-time high around $40, is even better news. (That puts it at about a 25% return since I recommended it in the latest installment of our annual stock-picking guide, Stocks 2005, and more than a 100% return if you had the guts to buy when the stock tanked -- for no good reason -- earlier this year.)
But the more intriguing news today is something that didn't, apparently, rate a press release. Ceradyne also filed a mixed shelf registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, for $200 million in notes, shares, warrants, or any combination.
Ceradyne isn't much of a serial acquirer, though it hasn't shied from purchasing businesses that figure to accrue pretty directly to the bottom line. Last year's purchase of German raw material provider ESK is one of these. By capturing the source of one of the prime ingredients to its moneymaking ceramic armor plates, the company not only helped its margins, but it also ensured itself a piece of the action when competitors such as Armor Holdings
But back to that $200 million. What is Ceradyne going to spend it on? A few weeks ago, the chat boards were throwing out theories that there might be some consolidation due in the "body armor" business, especially with DHB Industries
Despite its recent defense-spending-borne good fortune, Ceradyne has done an admirable job of sticking to its knitting, and that means high-tech ceramics. The company has also taken steps to make sure that defense spending, fickle by nature of the source -- governments -- isn't the only game in the future. That's why I doubt that $200 million is earmarked for anything in that space. Current plans to expand into vehicle armor are in the early stages, and absent any news there, it seems unlikely that the company would need capital to get things moving on that front.
In past conference calls, CEO Joel Moskowitz has referred to "material" potential opportunities in the oil business. Could it be something there? It could be something as boring as restructuring the current bank debt. It could be anything, judging by the registration statement.
But I have a feeling it's something special. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait three days for the conference call to see whether we get further clues. Stay tuned.
Ceradyne was hidden, and it has certainly turned out to be a gem. If you're interested in similar small-cap opportunities, take a free trial of Motley Fool Hidden Gems.
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Seth Jayson can't wait for the Ceradyne conference call. That's because, at the time of publication, he had shares of Ceradyne, which have treated him quite well, thank you. He has no positions in any other firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here . Mine Safety is a Hidden Gems recommendation. Fool disclosure rules are here.