2007 in Review: The Canadian Stocks

Benj Gallander and Ben Stadelmann
Friday, December 21, 2007

Well, once again another year is moving towards the history books, which means it’s time for us to tally up the Canadian results while Santa bundles up his sleigh. We like to be harmonious with Santa. In a couple of weeks, the American side will receive a gander.

Early this year, Imax was the subject of one of our columns. We mentioned that it was sitting on our Stock Watch List, of sufficient interest to receive consideration, but not attractive enough to pull the string on a buy. It is unfortunate that we didn’t grab it; lounging in the $4.50 range then, the price jumped this month when a deal with AMC Entertainment was announced. Currently it sits at $6.65.

In February we wrote about one that we sold, R.R. Donnelley, which happened to be the topic of our very first column back in 2000. This position was purchased as Moore Corporation, became Moore-Wallace and finally was consumed by the Donnelley folks. Our purchase price of $14.52 (CAN) turned into a sale on the American side for $37.44 (USD). That pleased us. The stock continued to do well, reaching a high of $45 in July, but then cooled off abruptly when the corporation took a huge hit to goodwill from those old acquisitions.

In the same column, three other Canadian stocks were mentioned and we wrote, “All appear to have excellent upside potential.” Those were Abitibi Consolidated, which is now AbitibiBowater, Kelman Technologies and Cygnal Technologies. The first two have been bruised since our words were written, but we are content to sit with them and maintain Kelman on our Buy list. The latter, Cygnal, has been decimated and gone into CCAA. It was our worst mistake since The Contra Guys formed during the ice age. Currently, the stock can be had for a penny or two.

Zarlink is another where the result is severely under water. At $1.86 when featured, the current price is less than half that. Our Initial Sell Target of $11.49 is looking ever more outlandish. Insiders have been huge accumulators of the stock, enhancing our hope. Critical to future success is the integration of Legerity Holdings, which just about doubled the size of ZL. This is another that remains on our Buy list, albeit it is testing our patience.

Also down in the dumps is ATS Automation Tooling Systems, which has taken a further beating since our article with the stock at $6.50. Currently available at $3.85, this appears to be a bargain. The folks at Goodwood Inc. and Mason Capital Management LLC were instrumental in replacing the board of directors and top management and installing their own people, including the recently crowned CEO Anthony Caputo. The most recent quarterly included a scalding loss but our confidence remains undeterred and though our target of $22.24 is distant, this is another position that remains in the Buy camp.

Hartco Income Fund was given hold status while sitting around $4.00, a distance from our purchase from $3.02 to $3.46. This information technology company shuttered their CompuSmart division and that should help boost results into sustained profitability and enhance cash flow going forward. The monthly distribution of five cents makes for a sweet payout and we’re happy to keep clipping the coupon.

We’re scouting around to add to the current portfolio that sits with its fewest number of positions since the earliest Contra days, but few promising are being unveiled by our methodology. That’s unfortunate, as our mixed bag of winners and losers is skewed towards the latter, and that will knock down our 15-year 26 percent annualized return.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you all wonderful holidays and a healthy, prosperous 2008.