Practical Investing


How Stocks Are Like Children

Kathy Kristof

Like parents with their kids, I watch my investments change, fail and succeed — with limited control over the outcome.



Investing in a bunch of individual stocks sometimes makes me feel like a harried parent watching over a brood of growing children. Even the good kids are always up to something—mergers, spinoffs, management shake-ups. It’s enough to keep a Practical Investor forever on her toes. So I thought it might be time for a little update on the “kids.”

See Also: Our Practical Investor's Portfolio

Wedding Bells

The big news is that KKR & Co. (symbol KKR, $24) just proposed to KKR Financial (KFN, $12), which I hold in my Practical Investor portfolio. KKR, the New York City private-equity firm, and KFN have always been close, with KKR managing KKR Financial’s assets from the beginning. Now the two of them say they’ll both be better off under one roof. Each share of KFN will be exchanged for 0.51 shares of KKR & Co.

Of course, the impending nuptials reminded me of when I first added KKR Financial to the portfolio in October 2011. I bought 1,186 shares at $8.43, for a total of $9,998. But because of the reinvested dividends (KFN has been quite the prodigious dividend payer), I now have 1,446 shares and I’m sitting on a 76% profit. I’ll be watching for more good things from this union. (All prices are as of December 31.)

New Additions

In late January, Starwood Property Trust (STWD, $28) spun off its residential loans into a new publicly traded real estate investment trust called Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust (SWAY). I received one Waypoint share for each five shares of Starwood Property, so I now own 106 shares of Waypoint in addition to my 532 shares of Starwood Property, which is also a REIT.

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Dover Corp. (DOV, $97), another of my holdings, came out with similar news last year. Saying it had become too unwieldy, Dover, a serial acquirer, put a printing business up for sale and decided to spin off Knowles Corp., its much-touted communications technology arm. Of course, split-ups can be painful—this one will cost Dover $60 million to $70 million in legal fees and separation costs. But, honestly, I don’t think the two were a good match, and they’ll both be more focused and productive apart. When the spinoff is complete early in 2014, holders of Dover stock will get one share of Knowles for every two shares of Dover. That will leave me with 84 Knowles shares on top of 168 shares of Dover.

Proud Moments

Airline stocks are rarely in style (see Why I'm Investing in Airline Stocks. But thanks to the continuing economic recovery, industry consolidation and well-behaved fuel prices, the sector is all the rage, and my portfolio has benefited immensely. Spirit Airlines (SAVE, $45) has soared 225% since I bought it in October 2011. And Copa Holdings (CPA, $160) is up 16% since I added the Panamanian airline to my portfolio in October.

Seagate Technology (STX, $56) is a similar story. Two years ago, everybody was saying that the personal computer was dead, so why would anyone want a stick-in-the-mud data-storage company? But then Seagate got into the “cloud,” and what an attitude change on Wall Street! The stock is up 143% since I bought it in June 2012.

Problem Child

Meanwhile, one of the port­folio’s newer holdings, Acacia Research (ACTG, $15), is in trouble again. Frankly, I’m not sure that I’ve got a handle on the full story. Apparently, Acacia, which licenses and enforces patents primarily on behalf of other companies, has been hanging with a bad crowd—so-called patent trolls—and the authorities are planning a crackdown. Acacia’s share price has been cut in half since I bought it a year ago. Naturally, I’m worried. But I’m going to wait, watch and see what can be done to redeem the company.



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