Sunday, May 07, 2006

Grasping at straws

Any time a hedge fund goes sniffing around a company, I've learned to take notice. So my Spidey sens was tingling today, when I read that San Francisco-based hedge fund ValueAct Capital Partners LP has doubled its stake in health sciences company MDS Inc.

This is only of note because we have a tattered history, MDS and I. During my long, circuitous route towards gainful employment in journalism, I've had a variety of gigs which could passably claim to be writing related, and in roughly 2002, I actually worked at MDS Sciex for a time, doing technical writing. (Editor's note: Incidentally, if you're currently trying to calibrate the nebulizer on a MDS-built mass spectrometer by reading the instruction manual, and you're left with the distinct impression that the writer doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about, my apologies. He didn't still doesn't.)

Given that my job could literally have been done by a monkey with a typewriter (if he had any sort of predilection for technology) and since I was just getting my feet wet as an investor, the downtime on that job gave me a lot of resources to do some independent research on my employer.

My rating? Buy, buy, buy. I remember gleefully coming home and telling my dad why he should buy stocks in the company, since my expert analysis had deduced that at a little over $20 (where it was trading at at the time) it was undervalued. Wisely, my dad ignored the suggestion. The stock, of course, proceeded to do basically nothing for the next four years, and the rest, as they say, is history.

By doubling their stake in MDS now, through, it appears that ValueAct is hoping to squeeze a little more shareholder value from the company, just as I had misguidedly hoped to do all them years ago. A few analysts have suggested good on them for trying, but the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked.

That's beside the point, I say. The real important thing to remember here, is that I was right. Just, four years early.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

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