Nicholas Financial (NICK): On The Block

Nicholas Financial, Inc., established in 1985, is a consumer finance company, that specializes in purchasing and servicing auto loans made by franchised and independent auto dealers, via a network of company owned and operated branch offices.

This analysis was provided by Eddy Elfenbein in his Crossing Wall Street blog last night. Check his Buy List. If you (1) own, (2) are hunting or (3) are stockwatcher following one of these companies for your investment club partners — we’d urge you to bookmark Crossing Wall Street. Eddy will help you.  Thanks, Eddy.

Nicholas Financial Gets Buyout Offer

After the closing bell on Wednesday, Nicholas Financial (NICK) announced that it “received an unsolicited, non-binding indication of interest from a potential third-party acquirer.” In English, this means probably someone wrote down a price on a napkin, slid it to the board and said, “How’s this?” I have no idea who it is or how much they’re offering, but it’s serious enough for NICK to reveal that it happened. The firm has retained Janney Montgomery Scott to advise them in evaluating “strategic alternatives.”

Some of you may remember that the same thing happened to NICK in early 2011. At the time, the stock was at $10 and it soared 18% following the news. In the end, NICK shot down that offer. Again, I don’t know what the offer was, but I’m almost positive it was too low and NICK’s board did the right thing in walking away. It’s tough to turn down a buyout offer, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. NICK’s stock is up about 50% since then, and that doesn’t include the big dividend we got in December.

This time around, I’m far more open to NICK being sold. The senior management is close to retirement age, so they may be looking for an exit as well. The difference between now and two years ago is that NICK has proved to the world that it navigated the financial crisis. Their portfolio is solid, and according to the Fed, short-term interest rates are going to stay low for a while more. This is a very good environment for NICK’s business. On Thursday, the stock got as high as $15.15. Obviously, I want as high a price as possible, but if I were a member of the board, I’d set $18 as a minimum.

Here’s the reality: In a world of zero interest rates, there’s a massive hunt going on for yield. This is one of the distortions that Bernanke and the Fed are worried about. Fund managers are looking anywhere and everywhere for higher rates without too much risk. Eventually, that led someone to NICK. Fortunately, we were there first.

Let me warn shareholders that these situations can become dramatic, and it’s largely out of our hands. If the deal is shot down or withdrawn, the shares will take a hit. But on the plus side, it’s possible that a bidding war will ensue, and the shares will be ratcheted higher. For now, I’m going to raise my Buy Below price to $16. Stay tuned for more news.

We shared the following MyStudy to illustrate that an offer in the $18 range wouldn’t be out of question.

Nick mystudy 20130321

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