All's Well, but Keep the Maalox Handy

 | Mar 07, 2012 | 1:00 PM EST  | Comments
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Stock quotes in this article:

prxi

,

cosi

,

usu

,

ebay

,

pnra

Late in 2011, I reluctantly published my annual column dedicated to prognostications for the coming year. I say "reluctantly" because, frankly, I'm not all that adept at predicting the future. Yes, over the years, some of my calls in this column have been good ones, but sometimes that's been just plain dumb luck. I don't mind taking my lumps here, either. At some point, as I typically do, I'll revisit all the predictions: the good, the bad and the ridiculous. Today, however, I'm focusing on three "long-shot calls" I made that are panning out fairly well so far.

First, I predicted that Premier Exhibitions (PRXI) would be involved in a transaction for its Titanic assets. I've owned this name for quite a while, primarily because of the potential value of the 5,500 artifacts the company has retrieved from the wreck site.

This has been no slam dunk. But, in late December, the company announced that it was auctioning off these assets. (Yes, this really was announced after I turned in my predictions column -- but before that column was published. Just ask my editors!) Since then, the stock has been on fire, up 70% since Dec. 27.

There is an end in sight here too; the company will announce the auction results on April 15. At this point, the stock is almost completely dependent on the auction results. If it turns out there was a lack of bidders, or if bids came in below the $189 million estimate of the appraised value, watch out. Still, I remain long this stock. There's never been a collection quite like this one, though there are strings attached to being the buyer. Namely, the assets must remain together as a collection. You won't see any of these pieces on eBay (EBAY) -- ever.

Elsewhere, down-and-out restaurant name Cosi (COSI) has also performed quite well. I had surmised that , for this Panera (PNRA) wannabe, its operations would be the subject of continued activist activity to push through changes.

Well, in this case, the activist in question, Brad Blum, has instead joined forces with the company. The Burger King veteran, whose fund owns 6.8% of Cosi, ultimately gave up on his quest to become CEO. However, he did sign a consulting agreement with Cosi in early February, and changed his status from "activist" to passive shareholder. As a shareholder, I see this as a win. Blum knows what needs to be done at Cosi to turn it into a moneymaker, although it won't be easy. Cosi shares have risen more than 50% since late December.

Finally, Usec (USU), a supplier of low-enriched uranium, remains troubled. In my column, I surmised that nuclear names would stage a comeback in 2012. In the case of this name, shares jumped nearly 60% between year-end and late January, but they have since given back much of that. When the Obama administration set $150 million of the 2013 federal budget would go to support Usec's American Centrifuge Project, some saw this as a light at the end of the tunnel. But, let's face it, that budget is going nowhere.

In the meantime, Usec continues to trade like an option. It would be hard to imagine this company going under, but stranger things have happened -- and this is equity that we are talking about. While the company's market capitalization has fallen to just over $150 million, total enterprise value is still at about $650 million (with $700 million in debt, and $118 million in cash). Some good news here -- some hope -- would send these shares much higher. But, overall, this one is not for the faint of heart.

In fact, none of these are.

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