Thursday, August 31, 2006


The WSJ's "Heard on the Street" column discusses IAC/InterActive (IACI), saying that over the past decade, CEO Barry Diller has done some 100 deals valued at $20bn to create IAC, a hodgepodge of Web co's. But as shares of other Internet co's have soared, Wall St. has had a weak stomach for IAC. Now some investors feel that IAC is finally getting it right as it refocuses on Internet searches and other businesses that depend on Web-ad sales. Until recently, IAC's Internet businesses relied mostly on transactions, particularly those in the travel business. Last summer, IAC spun off its travel arm, Expedia, and at about the same time spent $1.7bn to acquire Ask Jeeves. IAC has made Ask the centerpiece of its Internet strategy. Mr. Diller readily admits that he is changing his Internet strategy as he goes along. "God knows we have plenty of money with which to screw up," he says, referring to IAC's $1.1bn in available cash. If Mr. Diller's bet is successful, IAC's shares would be an attractive buy. They have been bouncing around in the $24-30 range for about 2 years. The mkt cap is now $9.5bn. The P/E ratio is 16.7x projected '07 earnings, excluding option expenses. Google's (GOOG) ratio is 30.7 and Yahoo's (YHOO) is 35.8.

Barron's Online highlights Cooper Companies (COO), whose stock is down 42% since hitting a record high in Mar'05, the stock has sharply lagged the S&P 500 index amid falling profits, lost mkt share and dimming financial forecasts. Cooper has faced challenges absorbing the contact-lens maker Ocular Sciences, which Cooper purchased last year for $1.2bn. And Cooper has been slow to launch a new type of extended-wear contact lens rapidly cornering the mkt. Yet with P/E multiples bouncing off 3-year lows and new types of contact lenses expected to resuscitate falling profits next year, Cooper offers value investors an eye-catching opportunity. "The stock is at an inflection point," says J.C. Davies, manager of Rochdale Darwin Portfolio. "Expectations are low and so are multiples. But there is a lot of potential for upside opportunities with the launch of these new contact lenses." Or as Lawrence Keusch, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, puts it, "This is a good value turnaround story."

According to the "Inside Scoop" section, Warburg Pincus may have heard a little voice in its head telling the private-equity firm to buy more shares of Nuance Comm. (NUAN). Never mind the facts that shares of theco are far off their highs, that Warburg is already the co's largest shareholder, and that Nuance insiders are selling. However, this month was the first time Warburg ventured into the open mkt to buy Nuance shares. The bulk of Warburg's holdings were acquired through a series of private-financing transactions. Noting Warburg's reputation in the private-equity world, Jonathan Moreland, director of research at, says: "I think it is a bullish sign that Warburg was not quick to cash out their gains" earlier this year. "These guys are obviously long-term owners and now when the stock is down, far from panicking they are loading up again," adds Moreland, though he would question why Nuance execs have not followed suit.

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