$120,975 and Growing!

Stock Pick: TIBX Purchased at $25.30

On March 3, 2011, in stocks, by stephenhsu
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Back in 2004, I bought stock of a small software company called Tibco (TIBX) at around $7. Within a couple of months, it shot up to $12, at which point I sold for a nice and tidy profit.

And now, almost seven years later, I’ve been re-introduced to Tibco by one of my favorite stock pickers on the Internet, Mr. Market.

In the past year, Tibco has enjoyed a nice run-up, from the lowly single digits to the now mid-20s. And it’s not all just chart momentum. There are actual numbers and events backing up the rapid rise in valuation:

1) The release of tibbr ®, a social networking platform for the workplace. Nothing new for the industry here, but with 23% revenue growth in Q4 2010, tibbr is quickly becoming a popular choice for companies due to a unique subject and classification system.
2) Q4 2010 net income increased 18% year over year from $31.7 million to $37.5 million.
3) 2010 sales increased 23% from 2009.
4) Repurchased 15.1 million shares in 2010.

The list goes on and on with other glowing facts you can find on any finance site (you should do your due diligence anyway), so I’m just going to hold my peace here. Analysts are expecting low figures relative to past performance and the company is growing to a size that might entice the big players out there (IBM, Oracle, etc.). We’ll see how the next several weeks play out, and when they do, it’ll be yet another nice and tidy profit from TIBX.

 

$716 MADE: EBIX Stock Sold at $28.10 (15% Profit)

On March 3, 2011, in stocks, by stephenhsu
0

Today, I sold EBIX at $28.10 for a gain of $716!

I purchased it on Wednesday, February 9, at $24.36, which makes for a 15% gain in a little over two weeks, including the recent dip due to turmoil in the Middle East. In fact, in spite of that bad economic news, EBIX actually rose 3%!

So far, with BIDU sold at a 18% profit about a month ago, that makes two consecutive stock picks with a gain of 15% or better. That’s 2 for 2 baby. I can’t wait til I’m 10 for 10.

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$700 SAVED: Hertz Rental Car Deal

On February 23, 2011, in travel, by stephenhsu
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This past weekend was President’s Day weekend, 2011, so as any red-blooded American might do, my buddies and I took a trip up to Lake Tahoe for some skiing / snowboarding action. Since we were packing six people in a car up to the slopes, we decided to rent an All Wheel Drive (AWD) SUV from Hertz. Little did we know however, the customer service agent behind the desk incompetently gave us a FWD model of the Mazda CX-9 despite us explicitly asking for AWD. Yes, this story does not bode well…

Hertz

Hertz Makes a Late Game Recovery

Halfway up the mountain, our ill-equipped rental car encountered a check point for snow chains. Confident due to our ignorance, we rolled up to the man in charge, who’s first comment was, “Prove to me this is All Wheel Drive.” Immediately, blood rushed to all of our faces as our hearts started beating with palpable anxiety. We did not want to have to drive all the way back down the mountain for chains, but that’s what we had to do. The man in charge had us perform a road test by peeling out on a patch of snow. Only the front two tires spun to our dismay. Hertz had screwed us, and we let the world know as we cussed nonstop on the way down to the closest garage.

Once we got the chains on, we headed back up the mountain, this time behind a massively long line of actually prepared drivers. We got through the check point this time, but ten minutes after that, the front passenger side’s chain BROKE OFF. We had to move to the side of the road, and long story short, we ended up having to use two men’s belts as tensioners. The entire ordeal cost us 3 hours and a whole lot of humility.

So how did we save $700 off this nightmare of an experience? The following morning, after getting in at 12am (we left early afternoon), my fiance spent 2 hours on the phone with Hertz’s national office while I spent another on the phone with the local SFO Hertz rental car office. From the national office, we got $250 off towing because we had to “park” our car in a snowy embankment (Hertz paid AAA in apology of their error). From the local office, we negotiated $400 off the rental car price plus another $50 for gas reimbursement for a total of $700. It was an awful experience, but there was no way I’d let Hertz get away with selling me an AWD and giving me an FWD instead.

Make sure if you ever experience something like that, you take no prisoners. You, as the consumer, deserve better.

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$98,000 SAVED: The Best Time to Buy a Home

On February 13, 2011, in real estate, by stephenhsu
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Perhaps the best time to buy a home, or any real estate for that matter, is in the beginning of the Winter season. Think about it. The heaviest volume of new listings and people starting their home hunting hits in the Spring and Summer. This trend starts to taper off in the Fall, but the traffic is still heavy enough to provide ample competition if you’re going after a hot property. When Winter starts, however, people and especially families shift their focus to the holiday season, leaving the “leftovers” from the Summer and Fall to sit on the market with significantly decreased competition. After all, people don’t want to be worrying about moving to a new home amidst the holidays, travels, let alone the cold weather.

$98,000 Saved Buying in the Winter!

$98,000 Saved Buying in the Winter!

I tested this theory in Winter of 2010 and saved 15% off the average price of comparable units in the area. In my condo complex, there are 14 two-story 3-bedroom townhome-style units, each at 1,600 sq ft. All but two are still in the hands of the original owners (built in 1992). One is now mine, and the other was last purchased in 2006 for $750,000. Outside of our complex, the closest in terms of comparable properties are 3-bedroom condos, at a lower 1,100 sq ft each, that have sold in the past six months at $650,000, which two different appraisers have used to appraise my home. On January 14, 2011, I purchased mine for $552,000, a 15% discount off a conservatively pegged “fair market value”.

If you know the San Francisco market well enough, you know that San Francisco hasn’t been hit that hard outside of the foreclosures and short sales (which are still high-priced relative to the SF market). In fact, the median price for a 3-bedroom home was approximately $800k in 2006 and now it’s at $700k. Since my condo is smack dab in the middle of the City (i.e., one of the higher priced neighborhoods), one could argue the value of my place is hovering above the $700k mark, meaning my real savings are over 20%! But I’m a relatively conservative guy, so let’s stick with the 15%.

So back to the original tip, and to speak a bit about shopping for a home in Spring/Summer: If you’re looking for value, target late Fall and Winter for some properties you can snatch up at discounted prices. Often, these are properties that weren’t sold in Summer/Fall for whatever reason (these days, often the buyer couldn’t secure financing even after going into contract). In the Spring/Summer, you’re going to see a lot of inventory that will provide you plenty of choices, but they’re also going to come with heavy competition, requiring you to deal with the stressful bidding process. Summer is probably a good time to start feeling out the market to see what’s out there, and once you enter the Fall, you can see what types of properties have lingered and not sold.

In my own example above, it turned out the seller put her listing on the market in the Fall with the hope of selling before the holidays and moving across the country (i.e., she was a “motivated seller”). Unfortunately, she out-priced the condo early on and as she approached early December, she had to drop the price significantly in order to leave by her target date. That allowed me to swoop in and only have to deal with one competitor, who I knocked out by putting a strategic $2k increase over the asking price. More on this in a future post.

One last point about hunting in late Fall and Winter: Your real estate agent will be able to provide you with more attention with less home hunters on the market. A good agent will take care of you, especially when you enter the contract phase. Until next time, good luck in your home hunting and hope you save a ton of cash!

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Stock Pick: EBIX Purchased at $24.36

On February 9, 2011, in stocks, by stephenhsu
16

“Ebix does not like to give any guidance related to revenues or earnings. We prefer to have our past speak for us. We are quite bullish about our future. Our strong faith in our fundamentals is based on our high percentage of recurring revenues, low customer attrition rate, infrastructure exchanges, and the global nature of our business. There is no competitor who can provide enterprise solutions in insurance like Ebix across the world. All of this should help us grow continuously. We have already conveyed in the past our desire to be at a revenue run rate of $50 million or more in the fourth quarter of 2011. We would like to get there with 40% or more in operating margins. That is the extent to which I could talk about the future.”

-Ebix Chairman, President & CEO Robin Raina at earnings release

Today, I purchased EBIX at $24.36. With a modest P/E ratio of 17.35, a confident leader at the helm, a nicely trending chart, and a unique position as the only software services provider to the international insurance industry, Ebix is poised to blow up…in a good way.

EBIX Purchased at $24.36

EBIX Purchased at $24.36

Of course, the best way to decide whether or not to purchase a stock is to do your own due diligence. Do a search across the web to see what analysts are saying about EBIX, and study up on the last earnings release to see how the numbers are performing. I can tell you that they had 43% revenue growth in Q3 of 2010 as compared to the same quarter in 2009, that it has near-100% retention rates among its long-term clients, and it has an impressing recurring revenue stream of 70%. These are the makings of a big, successful company, but fortunately for us, we’re still in the early stages.

Join me, and let’s see how high this rocket soars!

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