Why You Should Invest in Turkey

Why You Should Invest in Turkey

I’m a big believer that investing in overvalued Canadian or U.S. stock markets will not go very well over the next few years. Instead, I urge investors to check out other options. First I took a look at investing in Poland. Today’s post will be about Turkey, and in a couple weeks we’ll explore investing in Russia. 

Ah, Turkey. The country that for whatever reason named itself after a delicious bird. I approve of this name. China named themselves after dishes and I’m pretty sure Costa Rica is named after a sex act, so in comparison, Turkey isn’t so bad.

Turkey has been making the news because of an attempted coup d’etat, capturing the world’s attention for all of 20 minutes until it became obvious President Erdogan would escape unharmed. We then turned our collective attention back to things that matter, like the latest episode of The Bachelor.

Immediately after the coup, Erdogan declared a state of emergency. He used it as an excuse to fire a bunch of secular judges, teachers, and whoever else opposed his move towards a more Muslim-friendly country.

Erdogan told the world a story of how he narrowly escaped capture, leaving a hotel just moments before an elite commando force showed up. Numerous bystanders have disputed the story, pointing out he actually left hours before. It doesn’t really matter which story is the truth; common Turks believe Erdogan’s version and that’s all that matters.

In fact, there’s mounting evidence the whole coup itself was staged, an elaborate lie just to give the leader a chance to further consolidate his powers. Hitler approves of this plan.

Turkey has other problems too. It’s regularly voted as one of the worst nations on the planet in which to do business. No matter how hard it tries, it’s just not considered white enough to make it into the European Union (although it does have a free trade agreement with the EU). It’s located near both Russia and Syria. And crazy Isis supporters regularly blow up small parts of it.

Turkey has a lot going for it too, like a young population, GDP growth of more than double us here in North America, a low-cost labor force which is attracting European manufacturers, and most importantly for us today, one of the world’s lowest CAPE ratios. Turkey has a CAPE ratio of 9, which means investing in Turkey is expected to earn 9.6% annually for the next decade. North American returns are expected to be flat at best.

So how should you invest in Turkey? Here are a few ideas, starting with individual companies and then working our way to ETFs.

Individual companies

Adese is one of Turkey’s largest grocery store chains. It has a number of different classes of shares and I analyzed it using Google Translate, but as far as I can tell it trades at about 70% of book value and less than six times earnings.

Turkcell, which I’m assuming is the largest provider of phone, TV, wireless, and internet, trades at less than 10 times earnings, but it is encumbered by a lot of debt.

Then there’s Denizbank, which trades at eight times earnings and is controlled by a Russian bank. It trades for about 90% of book value.

And so on. If you can read Turkish, Istanbul is awash in cheap stocks.

ETFs

The obvious choice for investors looking for exposure to the former Ottoman Empire is through an ETF. The biggest is the iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (NYSE:TUR).

This ETF has exposure to 70 Turkish companies. 45% of assets are in financials, 13% are in consumer staples, 12% are in industrials, and so on. It has $364 million in assets, 9.5 million shares outstanding, and 190,930 shares in daily volume. The management fee comes to 0.62%.

 

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The ETF is cheap on a more traditional basis as well. It has a trailing P/E ratio of 9.1, a price-to-book ratio of 1.2, and it pays a dividend of a little under 3%.

One of the reasons why Turkey is so cheap is because it has gotten hammered by other markets over the last five years. $10,000 put into the ETF five years ago would have actually lost money, even after collecting dividends. Hell, even if you had invested in the fund when it was first introduced in 2008, you’d still be down.

There’s also a fund that invests in Turkey, Russia, and other Central European stocks. It’s ran by Deutsche Bank with 54% of assets in Russia, 23% in Turkey, 16% in Poland, and a small smattering in other countries. It has a high management fee of 1.37%, but investors can take comfort in knowing it trades at about 15% under the value of the underlying stocks held. It’s common for closed-end funds to trade at a discount, but not that large of one. It trades under the ticker symbol CEE on the NYSE.

Wrapping it up

Saying Turkey has some issues is like saying Jack the Ripper could use a little counseling. There’s definitely a reason why the country has such a cheap stock market. You have to be brave to invest in Turkey.

I firmly believe the best returns are generated to investors who go where the rest of the world doesn’t want to be. This might be in trashy small-cap stocks, or in bigger companies everyone else has written off as dead. Turkey certainly qualifies as an unwanted part of the market. Perhaps the country is waiting to break out after years of underperformance.

Annual Reminder: Dividend Investors Are Doing It All Wrong

 

"Do you expect me to eat those hot dogs? Because I will."

“Do you expect me to eat those hot dogs? Because I will.”

Not gonna lie, it’s a little creepy how much that kid looks like 15 year-old Nelson.

There’s a certain group of investors who, as the expression goes, are all about the dividends. Before we go making fun of these investors, let’s take a little closer look at the thought process.

There are many actual advantages to focusing on companies that pay dividends, including:

  • Dividends have historically been a large component in total return.
  • Dividends tend to be an indicator of consistent profitability, which is an attractive feature in an investment.
  • Dividends give a steady source of cash that can either be spent, reinvested, or tucked into stripper underwear.
  • Dividends take away the need for retirees to sell stocks to generate income, which is especially powerful in bear markets.
  • Dividends are taxed favorably, especially when compared to employment income or interest.
  • Dividend stocks are widely thought to be more stable.

But at the same time, I can offer counterpoints to each and every one of these points.

  • Dividends have been a large component in total return because they’re paid. It’s not dividends that drive profits for investors, it’s just the way investors get part of their return. It’s the whole chicken/egg argument.
  • It’s not a perfect indicator of profitability. Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and other companies consistently make money and don’t pay dividends.
  • There are many other sources of cash, like bonds, employment income, or rent from a house. Or, you can create your own dividend by selling some shares.
  • A diversified portfolio (including bonds, real estate, etc.) will minimize damage during bear markets, leaving more of a portfolio intact compared to just owning equities.
  • Prudent moves can minimize your after-tax income as well, like selling equal amounts of winning and losing stocks.
  • Again, it’s a cause and effect argument. Coca-Cola would be a more stable stock than Facebook even if it didn’t pay a dividend.

Now before I continue, I want to point out my own personal philosophy on dividends. I don’t hate dividends, nor do I refuse to invest in stocks that have the AUDACITY to pay monthly or quarterly distributions. The last three purchases I made for my value portfolio all pay dividends, and generous ones  too. I’m not opposed to getting paid if the company generates excess cash not needed to keep the business going.

The issue I have is when investors pigeonhole themselves into not only buying dividend stocks, but buying only a certain group of dividend growth stocks. It just seems silly to limit yourself to fifty or sixty of the “best” stocks of the last 25 years, a list that is ripe with survivorship bias. Just because a stock has done well over the last 50 years doesn’t mean it’ll outperform over the next 50. If you think the future for Philip Morris, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s is as bright as the past has been, you’re delusional.

There’s another reason why folks are all over the dividend payers, and that’s because of the outperformance over time. If you’re any sort of student of the markets, chances are you’ve seen this chart.

dividend-payers-over-time

Okay, a little old, but you definitely get the picture. Dividend lovers will present this picture as the equivalent of DROPPING THE MIC on us maroons who don’t care about dividends, telling us exactly what’s up in the process. Who wants to miss out on those kinds of returns?

But wait. That data covers the last 40+ years. How about some more recent history? Will that change the picture?

Oh, there’s a graph for that.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 2.00.27 PM

 

Source for this graph and the next one are here, btw. It’s interesting stuff if you’re into that.

The graph shows that for most of the last 20 years, non-dividend payers have outperformed dividend stocks. For the most part, the only time it paid to own dividend payers is during the recessions, since the dividend payers performed better. But after each recession, the non-payers rebounded much more quickly.

Keep in mind that this graph excludes Apple, which is large enough these days that it would skew the results.

The next graph busts another myth, which is commonplace in dividend growth investing. The thought process is that folks should choose reasonable dividends with the potential to grow, settling for 2-3% with a decent growth rate. Those types of yields would probably go in the 2nd or 3rd quartiles if you were looking to measure it.

But it turns out they got trumped by the very thing dividend investors aren’t supposed to do — chase yield.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 2.03.56 PM

 

Essentially, the two charts say this:

  • S&P 500 stocks that don’t pay a dividend aren’t such a bad investment. The above graph which compares dividend payers to non-dividend payers compares every stock, not just the good ones.
  • Pick the highest yielding S&P 500 stocks to outperform. Note that this probably includes names like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and so on these days — names that probably won’t do as well over the next 20 years.
  • Like with everything, investing isn’t as easy as just buying dividend payers and holding forever.
  • The focus should be on high quality companies, not dividends.

That’s the big problem with the people who blindly say “dividend payers outperform non-payers.” It’s not quite that simple. It’s more accurate to say “dividend payers outperform garbage stocks,” but keep in mind that a dividend is usually the effect of running a successful company. Thus, all you’re really saying is “successful companies outperform terrible ones.” Well, duh.

Remember, dividends aren’t the be all and end all of figuring out whether a company is successful. There’s much more to it than just comparing payout ratios and growth rates. That’s the important message I want to get out, not that dividends are evil.

Aberdeen International: Who Said Investing Had To Be Boring?

Normally when it comes to the world of investing, YOUR BOY Nelly follows a similar pattern.

  1. Finds undervalued stock
  2. Does research, including writing down my thoughts for y’all
  3. Buys some, but also keeps some dry powder just in case it drops more
  4. Patiently twiddles thumbs until it goes up
  5. Sell when it hits the target price

Step 4 is the hard part, since it often takes years before a stock starts to go up. Remember Reitmans, the stock I’ve been talking about since May of 2013? It was basically dead money for a year and a half before surging more than 25% in December alone. The company’s results have continued to just be okay, so I’m not exactly sure why the surge happened. Maybe people are bullish because of oil hitting the skids, giving the ladies more disposable income? I dunno.

The point is that the waiting is supposed to be boring. There really isn’t much you can do in the meantime besides just keeping an eye on it, so you move onto other things, like hopefully reading this blog and clicking on all the ads. Nelly needs to get paid to keep referring to himself in the 3rd person, yo.

Sometimes, things are a little more exciting, like with the case of Aberdeen International (TSX:AAB), a lowly company with a $14M market cap that invests in private and publicly traded securities of precious resource stocks. Shares currently trade at $0.14.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any longer than a couple of minutes, you’ll know those investments are probably very undervalued by the market. You’d be right. The company has a book value of more than $31M, putting the shares at a 55% discount assuming the value of the company’s private investments is what management says.

There’s strike one. Unlike with Jaguar Financial, it’s not so easy to value the assets. With that company, you’re getting BlackBerry shares at less than 40 cents on the dollar, plus an additional 30% of the company’s assets for free. Aberdeen has lots of private investments, which we really don’t know how to value. We’re stuck taking management’s word for it.

Plus, Aberdeen’s management is paid well for a company with such a dismal track record. Since peaking in 2011 at $1.00 per share, 85% of shareholder value has been eroded. That’s not entirely management’s fault because the gold sector has been terrible, but it seems silly to reward these guys with stock options during such a dismal performance.

That’s exactly what’s been going on, at least according to Ryan Morris of Meson Capital, a San Francisco-based hedge fund that specializes in activist investing. According to Morris, Aberdeen International has bought back $9M in shares over the last year and has rewarded them back to management in easy to achieve stock options.

So Morris took a 5% position in the company and immediately started pushing for change.

Management ran more scared than a six-year old in a haunted house. Even though the company was sitting on more than $3 million in cash as of the last filings, management decided it needed to raise an additional $2 million by issuing 10 million shares each attached with a warrant to buy an additional share at 30 cents. Essentially, management issued a bunch of shares that had the effect of destroying a full 3 cents per share of book value.

Management claims it raised cash to do some buyin’ of some undervalued gold stocks. Morris doesn’t buy it, saying that 100% of the shares were purchased either by Aberdeen’s management or by sympathetic parties. Morris contends that the whole reason for the share issue was to put more shares in the hands of senior managers.

It gets better. When Morris got word of the private placement, he claims to have contacted the company on several occasions with a better deal. Management denies this, saying that Morris wanted in on the original deal and when he didn’t get his way, he backdated a tender offer to give the company the better price. According to Aberdeen, the offer was never officially on the table and so they closed it. This is interesting, you’d think they’d wait a couple of days if they were serious about maximizing shareholder value.

Morris has since accumulated enough votes to be able to call a special meeting of shareholders, which takes place February 3rd in Toronto. (If I lived in Toronto, I know what I’d be doing that day) He’s looking to replace the entire board of directors with his own guys, and although he hasn’t said it publicly, I’m assuming he’s going to liquidate Aberdeen’s investments and pay out shareholders. Or maybe he’ll control it and start his own mini Berkshire Hathaway with it.

Morris went on the offensive, creating FreeAberdeen.ca (maybe the .com was taken?) which outlines his problems with the company’s management. Management has fired back with their own document that outlines how awesome they are. Both are pretty entertaining if you’re interested in this kind of stuff.

Now that management know their jobs are on the line, they went ahead and added a very important clause in their employment contracts. The four main guys at Aberdeen International will now get rewarded more than $6 million in payments if shareholders punt the existing board of directors, under something called a “change of control” clause. This is in addition to the more than $13 million in compensation they’ve collected since the beginning of 2011.

There are already rumblings shareholders were getting fed up. During the last shareholders meeting, most directors only received 80-85% of the shares in their favor, which is a pretty big vote of non-confidence. It’s obvious Morris has researched this one carefully.

Even though Morris has been successful in getting the votes of the new shares to not count at the meeting, I’m still avoiding this stock. Upper management already owns 15% of the stock, and who knows how much is owned by parties sympathetic to management. The bad guys only need 35% of the remaining 85% to win, and remember that if somebody doesn’t vote then those shares automatically vote yes. I’m not sure Morris is going to win this fight. If he loses, the last thing I want is to be stuck with the current management team.

FP Newspapers: It’s Cheap, But Not Cheap Enough

After talking about popular companies for the last couple days, I’ve had enough. I hate things that are popular. It’s like grade 9 all over again.

Instead, let’s talk about another unloved Canadian small-cap, FP Newspapers Ltd. (TSX:FP), which is the owner of several newspapers in Manitoba, most notably the Winnipeg Free Press and the Brandon Sun. It also owns a half dozen weekly community papers, along with a commercial printing division.

Yeah, it’s a newspaper. If you remember, I talked about Torstar back in the day, the parent company of the Toronto Star. I presented it as a way to profit off the Rob Ford crack scandal, all while getting paid a generous dividend. Plus, it has the highest circulation in the country, even beating out the nationally distributed Globe and Mail.

I didn’t end up investing in it, because I waited too long. I was hoping for the stock to dip below $5, but Prem Watsa showed up and announced a big stake in the company at about $5.20. I would have been up almost 50% if I would have bought then, and even 37% if I would have bought back when I wrote about it.

Oh well.

There are a lot of similarities between Torstar and FP Newspapers. Both are solidly profitable, even though revenues keep slowly declining. Both have dominant positions in their home market, and both pay succulent dividends. Both have traded at a huge discount to book value as well. And I think FP has a couple of potential catalysts that could propel the stock higher.

FP Newspapers has been publicly traded since the early 2000s (I’m too lazy to look up the exact date, but it’s been awhile). 51% of the company is privately owned, while the other 49% is publicly traded. The current market cap is $26.4 million, with 6.9 million shares outstanding. This stock isn’t as illiquid as others I’ve talked about, trading about 6,200 shares per day.

Throughout its history as a publicly traded company, PF has paid out just about all of its earnings to shareholders. It did the same while it was an income trust, and then paid out a little less when forced to convert back to a corporation. The stock currently pays out $0.05/share as a monthly dividend, good enough for a 15.67% yield. No, that’s not a typo. You’re really getting a 15.7% yield.

Well, at least for now.

2014 hasn’t been a kind year so far. Print advertising revenues have fallen by 7.7% compared to last year, while circulation revenue also took a bit of a hit. Folks are still (mostly) buying the paper, but advertisers are continuing to withdraw their ad dollars.

Of course, this problem has been going on for years, and FP is no stranger to it. The company continues to cut costs and lay off workers in interesting ways. The latest offering was giving several senior staffers an incentive to take a cash deal on their pensions. Here’s the money (plus a little extra), now get out so we can not replace you.

Earnings have been slowly declining. Let’s look at the last dozen quarterly profits, on a per share basis. Remember, the stock pays a $0.15 dividend each quarter.

  • 2014 Q2 – $0.17
  • 2014 Q1 – $0.08
  • 2013 Q4 – $0.23
  • 2013 Q3 – $0.12
  • 2013 Q2 – $0.22
  • 2013 Q1 – $0.14
  • 2012 Q4 – $0.29
  • 2012 Q3 – $0.14
  • 2012 Q2 -$0.19
  • 2012 Q1 – $0.12

We’ll stop there. You can see the gradual reduction in earnings, something that’s bound to continue over time. Therefore, investors should expect the dividend to slowly creep down. It could hit $0.04/monthly as soon as next year, but unless the business really takes a dive, it’s reasonable to expect it to continue, albeit maybe at a lower value.

Three reasons to buy

Forget the dividend for a second. Yes, it’s nice to collect, but it’s silly to buy into a company with nothing going for it but a big dividend. There are a few other catalysts that could send shares higher.

1. Paywall

This is the weaker argument, so we’ll explore it first.

In the company’s last quarterly report, management openly mused about instituting a paywall, strongly hinting that something could be happening on that front sometime soon. While a paywall will cut down traffic to the website significantly, it will also bring in steady revenue. This could help stem the tide.

The company has a sort-of paywall now, for folks outside of Canada. I did a little poking around and saw that I needed to hit 50 articles before the paywall kicked in. That seems a little generous.

A paywall would help, but it’s not a game changer by any means.

2. Strong, local brand

The circulation numbers in Winnipeg aren’t even close. Counting all print and digital sales, The Free Press is the winner by a mile, distributing 687k copies weekly. The Winnipeg Sun only manages to do about half of that, or 391k copies weekly. Metro Winnipeg is a distant 3rd, coming in at a weekly circulation of 207k. Metro is a free paper, but is printed by FP.

To put those numbers into perspective, they’re pretty much on par with the leaders in other cites with larger populations. The Calgary Herald has a total distribution of 708k, just a little higher than the Free Press, but with a significant population edge. The Vancouver Province has a circulation of 840k, but it has pretty significant competition with the Vancouver Sun, which leads it by 130k.

It’s the same thing with larger cities like Edmonton (The Edmonton Journal leads with a circulation of 583k), Ottawa (The Ottawa Citizen leads with a circulation of 661k), and even Montreal, which has more than 5x the population but its leading newspaper — Le Journal — only has a circulation 3x that of the Free Press.

Per capita, the Free Press might be the strongest newspaper in Canada. Buying the best is important in a weak industry.

3. Consolidation

Last week, Postmedia made news (heh) when it acquired Quebecor’s English speaking newspapers. These mostly include the Sun papers across the country, as well as a bunch of small community weeklies. The purchase price was $316 million, give or take a few bucks.

The reasoning is simple. Postmedia owns most of the dominant players in Canada’s major markets. It owns the Herald in Calgary, the Journal in Edmonton, the Citizen in Ottawa, both the Province and Sun in Vancouver, and so on. In most markets, the Sun is squarely in second place. The plan is to run both papers separately, while getting synergies by doing stuff like having one sales force and consolidating office space.

Does this mean FP is the next target? It makes sense, depending on how well this works in other markets.

It isn’t just Postmedia that’s consolidating the media space. Torstar owns dailies around the Toronto area, as well as a stake in most of the Metro papers across the country. Power Corporation owns 7 daily newspapers in Quebec. TC Media (a division of Transcontinental) owns 11 daily papers across the country from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan. Even Glacier Media owns 7 dailies in B.C., including the only daily in Victoria, the Times Columnist.

FP has a market cap of $26 million, which represents half the company. It isn’t a big deal for one of these larger players to acquire it. Torstar is flush with cash once it closes its sale of Harlequin romance novels to News Corp. for $445 million. Transcontinental has a market cap of over $1 billion. Power Corporation has all the money in the world. There are plenty of potential buyers, and it makes sense to consolidate the space.

Wrapping it up

While I like the name, I think you shouldn’t be in any rush to buy it. At least, I’m not.

The stock does tend to move with the TSX, and there’s no end in sight for the slaughterfest that is the index. If I was in charge, I’d probably use this general weakness to cut the dividend to 4 or 4.5 cents, but I can understand management’s thought process in keeping the divvy intact.

When it does cut the dividend, reaction should be pretty muted. There’s still plenty of cash flow to cover a slightly lower dividend, and earnings are still holding up pretty well. Expect to see more of the same going forward — a slow deterioration of the business.

FP Newspapers offers investors the chance to invest in an income stream that should return greater than 10% for the foreseeable future. It returns 15% now, and earnings are only slowly deteriorating. If you add in the potential for a takeover, FP could be a winner. But be patient, I think you’ll be able to buy at a lower price.

 

I Dodged A Bullet With Greenstar Agricultural

About once a month, I run various stock screens looking for my kind of investment — former high-flying companies that are beaten up and currently trade for less than liquidation value. These companies tend to have very little debt and strong balance sheets,  They tend to be small-caps, often companies most of you haven’t heard of. Sometimes they pay dividends, but that doesn’t factor into the screen at all. And for the most part, I ignore the mountain of regional U.S. banks, because a) I don’t have the patience to go through all of those and b) I’m not that smart of a bank investor.

By the time I narrow down the list using those criteria, these days there’s barely 500 stocks left over, on both sides of the border. I tend to only glance at the mining companies, since exploration companies trading at 0.9 times book value more common than me ending a sentence with a lame attempt at a joke. After that, it becomes a pretty manageable list.

In 2009 I’d get at least triple the amount of stocks when I’d run the same screen. I truly squandered that opportunity.

Anyhoo, while running a screen about a year ago I stumbled upon a Canadian company called Greenstar Agricultural (TSXV:GRE). Upon first glance, I had to frantically fan myself from the excitement. Here was a company that traded at three times earnings and price to book ratio of 0.25. It traded at $0.80 per share, and had $1.10 per share in cash. It paid a $0.04 annual dividend, practically a 5% yield. I was practically drooling with anticipation, ready to give some stupid seller my money.

And then I took a step back and thought about it. This was obviously too good to be true. I found the most recent annual report and had a look. The company owned a bunch of fruit farms in China, mostly oranges, peaches, and tomatoes (are tomatoes a fruit? Damned if I know.). They harvested the bounty, canned it, and sold those cans around the world, but mostly to China and its neighbors.

There was the problem. It was Chinese.

Flash back to 2011, when YOUR BOY Nelly made the biggest boner (heh) of his investing career. I bought a very similar company that traded on the NYSE called Duoyon Printing. It had the same sort of characteristics as Greenstar Agricultural. It traded at low P/E and P/B ratios, had management that seemed legit, and was located in China, the hot place. Duoyon had fallen some 80% from its high, so I took a small position in the company. If it went relatively well I intended to diversify into other Chinese stocks that were beaten down.

I didn’t get the chance. A few months later it was clearly a fraud, and shares fell 99.3%. They still trade today, on the pink sheets, for 2 cents each. STILL A CHANCE TO AVERAGE DOWN. I still hold this stock in my account because it teaches me a valuable lesson every time I look at it — do your research, you putz.

So yeah. Not my proudest moment.

But still, Greenstar was a little different. It was an IPO that listed on the Venture Exchange, not a reverse take over like Duoyon was (A reverse takeover is when a company buys a super-small NYSE listed stock just so it can have that stock’s listing on the stock exchange without having to go through all the steps to do so). It had a couple of Canadian mutual fund managers on the board of directors, guys who had serious money invested in the name.

I was watching BNN one day in December, and noticed that one of the board members, Jason Donville, was on Market Call. I tweeted in a question about Greenstar Agricultural, just to see if he would touch it. To my surprise he did, but didn’t have much of anything to say. It was a very canned response to the effect that he used to hold a bunch of it but had since moved on, and investors would have to make their own choices.

At that time, Greenstar’s website still listed Donville on the board of directors.

Upon further research, I discovered a couple of things. The company was making an acquisition of a tomato processing facility in Inner Mongolia for the equivalent of $4.3 million Cdn. Even though the balance sheet said the company had something like $15 million in cash, it raised nearly $2 million in three different private placements. Why would a company sitting on that much cash need to raise more money?

That was enough for me to nope out of that investment. I put the stock on my watch list to keep an eye on it, but mostly out of curiosity. At the time, the stock traded between 85 and 90 cents per share.

The company hit a high of $1.10 back in Feburary when it announced that the quarterly dividend was going up to 1.5 cents per share, and started to fall shortly after. The reason? The company never bothered to release its audited financial statements.

Oops.

Management reassured investors, saying it was just the auditor’s fault, even though one of the directors resigned at the same time. In the early part of May management was barred from trading the company’s stock. In the latter part of May it issued a press release essentially saying “we’re working on this, and we’ll let you know when we’re done.”

Finally in the first part of June, shares officially stopped trading. They were at 41 cents. Investors are still in limbo, with no word from the company since. I just sent an email to the company to see if they have anything to say about it, and will update you guys if they actually respond.

Anyway, three lessons to be taken from this:

  1. Do your research. On the surface, this thing looked terrific. I only discovered the cockroaches when I started digging
  2. I hate to say this, but avoid anything Chinese you haven’t heard of. There’s just too much crap out there
  3. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

And that’s how I dodged the Greenstar Agricultural bullet.