The conclusion of the 6th annual Value Investing Congress in New York City was momentous. Amongst the list of notable investors were David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital and Zeke Ashton of Centaur Capital. The ideas were as diverse as the individual investors were. While some presenters merely gave vague outlooks on the future state of the economy, the event still held some investment ideas that were worth consideration.
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Zeke Ashton opined his belief that equity investment companies are undervalued due to the overall lack of interest in equities. In fact, several equity management firms are trading below net asset value. MVC Capital (NYSE:MVC) is one name Ashton has mentioned at previous value investing forums. The $300 million firm looks quite attractive from a variety of statistical measures. Shares trade for 75% of the book value of $17.36 per share and trade for under 10 times earnings. On top of that, the shares yield nearly 4%. Ashton also likes Calamos Asset Management (Nasdaq:CLMS), which trades for 150% of book value and yields just over 2%.
More than one guest speaker at the Congress mentioned insurance companies. The industry is currently suffering from a soft market cycle, which at some point will turn in the favor of insurers. It's only so long that premiums can remain unattractive, at least from an underwriting perspective. As premiums improve, the quality insurers should see a surge in profitability. A favorite of many is Canadian insurer Fairfax Financial (OTCBB:FRFHF), run by Prem Watsa, who is often considered the Warren Buffett of Canada. Fairfax made a hugely profitable bet against the credit markets in 2008 and has an impressive long-term track record of value creation. Another name given was Aspen Insurance (NYSE:AHL), a property and casualty insurance company trading for 70% of book value and under 7 times earnings. The dividend yield is 2%. Finding quality insurance companies trading below book value can be an incredible bargain, especially when the pricing environment improves. (For more, see Water Cooler Finance: Who Is The Next Buffett?)
While these ideas come from investors with varying degrees of successful investing backgrounds, they are all meant to be ideas for further research. However, since the presenters are willing to stand behind their ideas, their suggestions warrant consideration. (For more, see Activist Hedge Funds: Follow The Trail To Profit)
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