Monday, July 07, 2008

BCE -- too good to be true?

I did something very unlike me this morning -- I bought a stock that I have absolutely no intention of owning for more than a little while, for no other reason than its price is too low and bound to be higher in the very near future. Crazy, I know. But there's a catch...

The stock? BCE, one of Canada's best-known, and oldest companies. Not exactly your typical candidate for a speculative flyer.

I've been sitting on the sidelines, watching the BCE drama unfold as the buyers who pledged to take the company private and the bankers who promised to loan to them bickered with bondholders and stockholders eager to make sure they get their pound of flesh.

For a while, it was looking like the whole thing was about to blow up as bankers who greenlit the sale when times were good, had second thoughts at the price they had promised to pay once times went bad and world stock markets were tumbling. The original deal was that BCE would be taken private at $42.75 a share. But due to the uncertainty and the sabre-rattling of bondholders who were leery at the amount of debt that was being taken on, the stock lagged as low as $33 not that long ago.

A few weeks ago, Canada's top court essentially approved the deal, at the original price of $42.75, and all sides appear to be appeased. Which is why I've been curious about why the stock continues to stagnate below that $42.75 level. It closed at $39.64 on Friday, roughly 8% below what Teachers & Co. have promised to buy it for.

"That's more than $3 below the agreed-upon - and now confirmed - takeover price of $42.75. That's easy money for investors who are willing to wait until December to cash out," The Globe's David Berman wrote in his marketblog on Friday.

That description sounds like me, so I picked up 100 shares of BCE this morning. Thanks to a broad-based market rout, BCE slipped even further today, and I paid $39.40 per share. That's 8.5% below what the stock's going to sell for in the fall, so I'm having a hard time seeing the downside. Sure, there's still a microscopically small chance this could all far apart, but when things have been elevated to the level where the Supreme Court of Canada is stepping in, I think that's a pretty solid foundation to build an assumption on.

I won't get any dividends as they've been suspended to help finance the deal, but in this market, 8.5% for owning a stock for 4-5 months is a gain I can live with.


Krupo said...

Good for you - fingers crossed nothing else blows up. I'm sure the 8% risk premium you've accepted is a pretty good bet, though I'm not so confident if taken it myself.

Actually I think if there were no barriers to me doing it, I might have jumped at it, but you need a few % more to overcome my inherent "laziness" barrier too. :p

I'm going to share this post with a Finance Doctor I know to see what he thinks... :)

Krupo said...

Looks like this actually worked out, eh?