Dear Mr. Berko:
In early 2012, you recommended Flagstar Bank at 80 cents a share, and I bought 3,000 shares for $2,400 as a speculation. Flagstar had a 1-for-10 reverse split, and I now have 300 shares that trade at $19, worth $5,700. I have a $51,000 certificate of deposit coming due next week. But because interest rates are so low, I decided not to renew and will speculate with this money. Could you recommend some good stocks that trade below $10 a share (or attractive penny stocks) and could double or triple in the next year or so? I’d like to get lucky.
S.A., Bloomsburg, Pa.
In the very early 1960s, I remember my father telling me, “Most issues selling under $10 a share are good stocks – good to stay away from.” You got lucky. In that same column, I also recommended a Puerto Rican bank called Doral Financial, in which you’d have a $1,000 loss if you had chosen it instead of Flagstar. I don’t have a penny stock source and frankly don’t want one. Penny stocks are like poison ivy. Those two recommendations came from an acquaintance of mine at the Federal Reserve who is now contentedly retired in Costa Rica. But here are 11 offbeat issues (less than $10) from three offbeat analysts I know. And like a blind hog that finds an acorn every once in a while, you could get lucky again.
Cerus Corp. (CERS-$6.80) is an inordinately speculative biomedical products company that focuses on developing and commercializing an impressive proprietary technology that deactivates bloodborne pathogens.
Synovus Financial Corp. (SNV-$3.69) is a financial services holding company with 280 locations in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. Good earnings improvement and a possible dividend increase this year.
AK Steel Holding Corp. (AKS-$6.79), which traded in the $70s in 2008, is a $5.5 billion-revenue producer of high-strength, low-carbon steel products that expects to return nicely to profits this year and next year.
SandRidge Energy Inc. (SD-$6.25) is a $3 billion-revenue independent natural gas and oil company. Several hedge funds own huge positions, including the very politically connected Carlyle Group, which has 51 million shares.
Rite Aid Corp.(RAD-$5.77) is a $25 billion-revenue chain of 4,600 drugstores in 31 states. After years of losses, it may finally have a profitable year. Vanguard, BlackRock and J.P. Morgan together own more than 120 million shares.
Willbros Group Inc. (WG-$9.07), founded in 1908, is a $2.1 billion-revenue engineering company with 12,000 employees. It provides engineering, construction and procurement services to the oil and gas, refinery, petrochemical, and electrical power industries in the U.S. and Canada.
Senomyx Inc. (SNMX-$7.03), with only $30 million in revenues, develops and commercializes flavor ingredients for the food and beverage industry using proprietary taste receptor-based technologies.
The Wendy’s Co. (WEN-$9.09) is a 6,502-unit franchised and company-owned restaurant system that is making a fine earnings recovery and now earns a good portion of its revenues from leasing real estate to franchisees. The dividend may be increased 10 percent this year.
Casella Waste Systems Inc. (CWST-$5.35) is a $500 million-revenue regional integrated solid waste services company that collects, transfers and recycles through its landfills and recycling operations in the eastern U.S. Profits should double this year, and profit margins could double.
Fuel Tech Inc. (FTEK-$7.57), which traded in the high $30s a few years ago, develops applications and technologies for air pollution control and process optimization. FTEK has no debt, and earnings are expected to improve 65 percent this year -- and perhaps even more next year if the Chinese market gains strength.
Quicksilver Resources Inc. (KWK-$3.06) acquires, explores and develops onshore oil and natural gas and focuses on unconventional reservoirs in challenging geological conditions. It was a $90 stock in 2008 and should be profitable this year.
Don’t cherry-pick these issues. I’ve known each of the analysts who gave me these recommendations for more than 20 years. And they suggest that you divide your “speculative” money proportionately among these 11 stocks. I think you’re a fool to press your luck, but I wish you success.