Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: Tactile Systems Technology, Inc. (TCMD) by: Jack Senft. "Tactile's Good Tactic"

Tactile Systems Technology, Inc. (TCMD, $32.52): “Tactile’s Good Tactic”

By: Jack Senft, AIM student at Marquette University
Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. This article was written by myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


Tactile Systems Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:TCMD) is a medical technology company that focuses on treating chronic diseases in a home environment.  With improving patient outcomes, Tactile is still able to control rising healthcare costs.

• Recent Flexitouch feedback has come above expectations with it’s full-lunch expected to come by the end of the first quarter 2018.

• Tactile shows salesforce expansion of 20% over the 2017 year.

• 2018 guidance has been updated to over 20% revenue growth, which is in line with Street expectations.

• Increasing product presence among the 4,500 lymphedema facilities in the US.

Key points: Flexitouch Plus, Tactile’s head and neck lymphedema platform, is their top revenue producer that showed strong positive feedback, especially for improved pressure controls.  Since this is the treatment for lipedema, patients are very sensitive pressure, meaning this platform has a gentler setting as opposed to competitors.  Due to not being fully launched until May, alow penetration is normal and Tactile has begun to combat this by the increase in sales representatives.

In the 2017 fiscal year, management hired 160 new sales representatives, equating to 28% growth from the previous year.  With an original expectation of growing the staff at around 20%, this increase in reps could improve productivity and product penetration. Increasing by this volume demonstrates that Tactile will be able to maintain relationships with each lymphedema facility.

Flexitouch, being 93% of Tactile’s total revenue continues to demonstrate growth potential, along with strong gross margins.  Management stated that physician awareness should increase in the near term due to a dedicated sales resources team, and through word of mouth.  With this in mind, management has also increased revenue guidance to 22% growth, as opposed to their old estimates of only around 20%.  Even though this is in line with the Street, this seems to be a conservative estimate where a potential upside is still possible.

In the United States alone there are about 4,500 high-diagnosing lymphedema facilities, where Tactile penetrates about 40% of those.  With an estimated 10,000 physicians in these facilities, Tactile has a great opportunity to increase Flexitouch awareness, especially through a larger salesforce.  Not only this, but Tactile is looking to go deeper into these facilities with more than one high-diagnosing physicians, while also trying to add their products in new facilities.

What has the stock done lately?

Over the past month, Tactile has seen almost a $4.00 increase in per share value.  As this might not seem like a lot per share, this is a 13.88% increase, which is outperforming the market.  Being around the low $30 range, Tactile did see about a 10% decrease that was quickly corrected.  An increase in the stock price should be expected with the full launch of Flexitouch, given the positive feedback.

Past Year Performance: TCMD has increased 63.75% in value over the past year, and the stock should still continue to increase in value. Peaking in around September at $36.79, TCMD has a beta of that close to 1. As there appears to be only one major correction during this period, TCMD is on track to break the 52-week high with new catalysts still coming.

My Takeaway

Flexitouch has a full-launch that is quickly approaching and Tactile is in a great position for large returns, while minimizing risk. Seeing the positive feedback and the increase in salesforce, Tactile is gearing up for the launch.  With management’s increase in guidance for revenue, TCMD maintains a buy status, potentially shooting past their 52-week high especially with the upcoming catalysts. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: AxoGen, Inc. (AXGN) by: Kyran Young. "Don't Be Nerve-ous About AxoGen, Inc."

AxoGen, Inc. (AXGN, $32.95): “Don’t Be Nerve-ous About AxoGen, Inc.”

By: Kyran Young, AIM student at Marquette University 
Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. This article was written by myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


AxoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AXGN) produces and markets products to surgically repair peripheral nerve damage (damage to the central nervous system). Their range of products are available in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and several other European countries.

• AXGN’s number of active accounts increased from 452 at the end of 2016 to 591 at the end of 2017, representing a 31% increase. “AxoGen defines an ‘active account’ as an account that has ordered one or more of AxoGen’s surgical products six or more times in the last twelve months”[1]

• AXGN has a 5-year compounded annual revenue growth rate of 40.73%. They currently operate in a net loss; however, this is largely due to high sales and marketing expenses. As they continue to educate and train doctors about their product, those expenses will decrease and they will begin to experience greater profitability.

• AxoGen’s primary driver is the superiority of their products compared to other autografts and nerve conduits. Compared to other products, their Avance nerve graft uses the patient’s own cells to regenerate damaged nerves. In addition, Avance does not require additional surgeries to repair injured nerves.

• Management expects revenues to grow by another 40% and gross margin to remain above 80% in 2018.  

Key points: AxoGen’s four main products (Avance Nerve Graft, AxoGuard Nerve Connector, AxoGuard Nerve Protector, and Avive Soft Tissue Membrane) are mainly used by reconstructive plastic surgeons, hand surgeons, and maxillofacial surgeons. From 2016 to 2017, AXGN’s sales and marketing expenses increased by 32.4%. They hope to increase surgeons’ understanding of nerve repair and expand the usage of their products. As a result of this increased spending, their active accounts have increased by 31% from 2016 to 2017. In addition, they have recently expanded their product portfolio to help with breast reconstruction nerve transfers and oral and maxillofacial surgeries, which increases their overall accessible market to $2.2 billion.

AXGN’s products have a significant competitive advantage over their competitors. According to clinical data, AXGN’s products have an 87% to 94% success rate compared to a 57% to 80% success rate in nerve autografts. AxoGen has displayed this success rate in both simple nerve injuries as well as more complex injuries, such as nerve gaps up to 70 millimeters. Given these results, surgeons are inclined to be more receptive of using their products.  

AXGN had a strong performance in 2017. Revenue increased to $60.4 million, representing a 47% increase, and gross margin increased from 84.3% to 84.6%. They continue to penetrate the market and educate doctors regarding their product. In 2017, they presented 15 national educational programs and hope to present 18 in 2018. On February 27, 2018, DecisionWise International named them the Employee Engagement Best Practices Award Winner. Given AXGN’s past performance and that they are just beginning to scratch the surface in this market, their stock is positioned to climb to new 52-week highs in 2018.

What has the stock done lately?

Over the past month, AXGN is up ~30% and is currently trading at $32.95. This is largely attributable to the 4th quarter earnings release. AXGN beat EPS by $0.01 and revenue by $1.06 million. In addition, they most recently released their annual report for 2017, in which management portrayed optimism moving forward.  

Past Year Performance:

AXGN has increased ~240% over the past year. AXGN has consistently grown the past couple years, and they are positioned well to continue to grow and penetrate their market as they proceed to educate surgeons and provide clinical data proving the superiority of their products to other competitors.  

Source: FactSet 

My Takeaway

Karen Zaderej has served as the president and CEO of AxoGen, Inc. since September 2011. Ms. Zaderej has effectively and efficiently grown AXGN since 2011. Looking forward, it will be important to see how their new breast reconstruction neurotization and their oral and maxillofacial procedures perform. With the introduction of these new procedures, their market has increased from about $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion. The high growth and success of their products have contributed to their large stock price increase. Despite this dramatic increase over the past year, a “buy” is still recommended as AXGN is poised to continue to grow as they become a dominant player in the market.

Source: FactSet

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: LendingTree, Inc. (TREE) by: Philip Suess. "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees"

LendingTree, Inc. (TREE, $354.45): “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees”

By: Philip Suess, AIM student at Marquette University

Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. This article was written by myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

 Summary (This is an example, you would add your own content below)

LendingTree, Inc. (NASDAQ: TREE) is an online platform which promotes lending by matching consumers with various lenders and providing consumers with the necessary tools to evaluate different loan offers. Their revenue is split between mortgage products and non-mortgage products such as credit cards, personal loans, small business loans, and student loans.

• The rising interest rate environment poses a risk to demand for mortgage and nonmortgage loans as the cost of borrowing increases.

• Signs of inflation and market correction suggest the economy is late in the business cycle which is worrisome as LendingTree operates in a very cyclical industry.

• LendingTree currently has over a million exercisable stock options outstanding expected to be exercised this year which will likely be dilutive despite expected share repurchases.

• Looking forward, LendingTree’s rapid revenue growth is expected to slow and increases in shares outstanding will likely cause the stock price to begin moving down.

Key points: In his February testimony before Congress, Chair Powell reiterated his expectation of several rate increases from 2018 through 2019. These expected rate increases will push up the historical low borrowing costs decreasing the demand for loans. Lending Tree derives 55% of revenue from non-mortgage products and 45% from mortgages. Both of these segments could experience a slowdown in growth resulting from higher interest rates.

January’s wage inflation number of 2.9% is the first sign of a needed wage in several years. This number is a positive sign for the economy but has some worried that the economy is going to experience too much inflation. Experiencing too much inflation would result in significantly higher prices and may ultimately lead to a slowdown in economic growth. LendingTree would be harmed by this change in the business cycle as their business is very cyclical given the nature of lending.

Stock options are a significant risk to shareholder value as there currently over a million exercisable options outstanding and only 12.25 million shares outstanding. A majority of these options are held by the company’s CEO, Douglas Lebda and will expire in 2018 if not exercised. Management stated it will attempt to address this risk by increasing share repurchases but it acknowledge that they will likely be unable to purchase enough shares to eliminate the dilutive effect. Currently, CEO Lebda is the second largest shareholder owning 12.93% of shares outstanding.

What has the stock done lately?

On February 22, LendingTree reported earnings of $0.84 missing consensus estimates by $0.06. Following the earnings miss, the price dipped from over $380 down to $340. Since the reporting date, the stock has been trading between $340 and $360. This recent decrease in response to the earnings call as well as a decrease from over $400 to $365 during January’s market correction suggest the stock’s historic run may be coming to an end.

Past Year Performance: Over the past 12 months, LendingTree’s share price increased by 202%. Moving forward, management may have trouble meeting their growth projections given the changing macroeconomic environment. Additionally, exercised share options are expected to outnumber share repurchases. Given these two risks, it will be very challenging for management to continue to increase shareholder value in 2018. 

Source: FactSet

My Takeaway

The changing macro climate poses a considerable risk for LendingTree in 2018. Their business may be negatively impacted from both rising rates and the possible end of the business cycle. Exercisable stock options are another worry for shareholders moving forward. Even if the current expansionary period continues through the end of 2018, pressure from rising rates and additional shares is expected to keep the stock from returning to January’s share price of $400. Given these concerns, it is time to uproot and sell the Tree. 

Source: FactSet

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: Calavo Growers (CVGW) by: Tommy Borin. "Avocados Aren't Toast Yet"

Calavo Growers (CVGW, $84.75): “Avocados Aren’t Toast Yet”

By: Tommy Borin, AIM student at Marquette University

Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. This article was written by myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


Calavo Growers, Inc. (NASDAQ: CVGW) engages in the marketing, and distribution of avocados, and other perishable foods. The company distributes its broad range of fresh and processed food products to supermarkets and restaurants, food distributors, convenience stores, and produce wholesalers. The company mainly produces avocados in California, Mexico, and Chile.

• CVGW is poised for continue long term grow due to the robust demand for fresh avocados and avocado related products

• Renaissance Food Groups continues to accelerate topline growth

• Calavo Foods’ margins continue to recover

• The YTD stock price change for Calavo Growers has been  + .41%

Key points: The demand for fresh avocados and avocado related products has significantly increased over the last few years. Industry demand is projected to remain robust and outstrip supplies. CVGW believes it will be able to fill the new demand. Even if California volume shortages continue, CVGW will be able to meet supply demand due to additional volume from Mexico. As volume increases Calavo is expecting to grow gross profits due to scaling efficiencies, which will offset the reduction in the price of fresh avocados

CVGW acquired Renaissance Food Group (RFG) in 2011. RFG has become an increasingly important business segment for CVGW. RFG saw 26% topline growth from 2016 to 2017, and another 20% growth year projected for 2018. RFG is now supplying meal kits to Kroger; however the program is ramping up slower than anticipated. Renaissance is also expected to benefit from increased operating leverage which should improve their gross margin.

Calavo Food’s margins are continuing to recover. This is due to benefits from price increases and falling avocado prices. Volumes are expected to increase from the anticipated launch of a private label guacamole cup with Wal-Mart. Another factor that will increase volumes is Starbuck’s decision to switch from conventional guacamole from organic, which should provide greater customer value.
What has the stock done lately?

CVGW is up .41% YTD, slightly underperforming the benchmark Russel 2000, which is up 1.04% YTD.  The company reported 4Q 2017 earnings of $.59 per share, beating consensus estimates of $.50 per share.
Past Year Performance: CVGW has increased 65.53% in value of the past year, but the stock still appears to be a strong hold. This increase is due to strong top line growth and the company’s ability to perform throughout the drought and wildfires that plagued California growers in 2017. Demand for avocado, precut fruit, and guacamole is projected to continue to increase, giving CVGW excellent growth opportunities going forward.

My Takeaway

CVGW has seen exceptional growth in the last year. The company’s ability to grow even during such a poor growing season in California shows the strength of management. Market trends continue to favor the company, which will spur them to even greater success. I believe that CVGW is still a strong hold for the AIM Fund.
Source: FactSet

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: RSP Permian, Inc. (RSPP) by: Christopher Barry. "RSP's Market Cap Isn't Permian"

RSP Permian, Inc. (RSPP, $39.26): “RSP’s Market Cap Isn’t Permian”

By: Christopher Barry, AIM student at Marquette University

Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. I wrote this article, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


·       RSP Permian, Inc. (NYSE:RSPP) is a diversified oil and gas company; their industry exposure entails operating in the Permian Basin of west Texas as an E & P, acquiring, and producing unconventional oil and associated liquids-rich natural gas.

·       RSP Permian announced in their 2017 10-K that the board of directors has approved an initial budget of between $815 to $895 million for drilling, completion, and infrastructure of adding an additional rig and frac crew. This work is assumed to be completed by the middle of 2018.

·       The company completed the acquisition of Silver Hill Energy Partners in March of 2017 for a price of $1.25 billion in cash and 31 million shares of common stock. Silver Hill is fellow E&P company that owns adjoining plots of undeveloped land located in the Permian Basin.

·       Net Income has increased 1029% from the end of the year 2016 to the end of the year 2017

·       The YTD stock price open at $40.68 and has been steadily increasing since
Key points: RSP Permian has been consistently growing sales since their IPO in 2014. However, their net income has not yielded the same dependability as their sales. Management believes the success of the company is dependent on the ability to manage growth and remain competitive. An omnipresent risk is that of competition, for RSP that competition means further diversified oil and natural gas companies that would allow for lower prices. Another risk is the unpredictability of federal and state environmental regulations that could alter demand and have a material impact on revenue.

RSP’s management is comprised of individual experience and industry knowledge, which collectively make the team have a broad industry-wide expertise. This team has formed a cohesion that has allowed for such successful investing as their recent acquisition and capital plan to further grow their well presence in the Permian Basin. They express in the 10-K their plan to continue to make sizeable capital investments in E&P, development, and acquisition in the oil & gas industry sector. These capital expenditures will allow RSP to grow sales and be even more competitive.

Although the plan to further extend their exposure in the oil & natural gas industry will yield more growth and higher sales, they also will become more exposed to the various risks of the oil & natural gas industry. The experienced management team is aware of these risks and uses commodity derivatives to hedge this risk. Although this has been an historical tactic that management has enacted, they re-state that they are not under any obligation to hedge and thus the amount the hedge is at management’s discretion. 
What has the stock done lately?

RSP was able to meet or exceed projected earnings in all of the past four quarters. These steady numbers have analysts encouraging clients to buy, which has helped keep the price above the S&P 500 average. Earnings were released on February 27, 2018, which resulted in a $2 dollar price increase.

Past Year Performance: Even after RSP’s strong earnings performance for the entirety of 2017 their stock price remained volatile. This is a result of the price volatility of oil, their ability to meet earnings despite large price swings in oil is an indicator of management’s ability to successfully handle short term oil price volatility. 

My Takeaway

RSP’s history of strong earnings should encourage current and potential holders that this is a company with plenty of growth left before it matures. While the oil & natural gas industry is filled with uncertainty, specifically with the volatile price of oil, management has demonstrated their ability to limit the negative effects of the price swings.  RSP’s veteran management has positioned the company for a strong future.

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: Wintrust Financial Corporation (WTFC) by: Nathaniel D' Amato. "Acquire & Conquer"

         Wintrust Financial Corporation (WTFC, $86.42): “Acquire & Conquer

By: Nathaniel D’Amato, AIM student at Marquette University
Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. This article was written by myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


Wintrust Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:WTFC) is engaged in wealth management, community banking, and specialty financing. Wintrust Financial has branch locations primarily concentrated in northern Illinois but also expand into southern Wisconsin and parts of northwest Indiana.

• Strong 2017 4Q performance with a record setting net income of $68.8 million

• Wintrust Financial Corp. acquired Veterans First Mortgage January 2018

• Net-charge-offs decreased to 7 basis points

• Total deposits have increased to 23.1 billion

• Quarterly cash dividend increased to $0.19 per share

Key points:

Wintrust Financial Corp. is on track for strong year following its 2017 performance. Net income reached $248 million on December 31, 2017 growing by 25% year-over-year thanks to increasing interest margins and strong loan growth. Fourth quarter NIM results of 3.49% beat street analyst estimates by 5 basis points exceeding expectations even in a rate rising environment that is optimistic on margins.

WTFC continues the momentum into 2018 by closing a deal in January to acquire Veterans First Mortgage. The purchase will allow WTFC to expand their loan market into complex VA lending. Veterans First originated more than $800 million in loans in 2017. The acquisition also includes approximately 9,000 loans from Veterans First – totaling an estimated balance of $1.4 billion of unpaid loans.

WTFC is well-positioned for loan growth with total deposits reaching 23.1 billion – growing 24% since Dec. ’15. The increasing loan volume has not affected quality, as net-charge-offs are on the decline at .07% in Q4 2017. WTFC continues to remain conservative with their allowance for loan losses, even with improving loan quality. Allowance for loan losses remained 153% over total non-performing loans.

The bank’s board of directors agreed to raise the quarterly dividend from $0.14 to $0.19 per share effective as of 02-07-18. WTFC is evidently optimistic about future cash flows with wage expenses also expected to increase after the bank announced that they will be raising their minimum hourly wage for all employees to $15. 

What has the stock done lately?

Wintrust Financial recently has shown some volatility in price; jumping up and down ~5% since the start of 2018. The volatility experienced in January was likely caused by investors responding to the recent acquisition of Veterans First Mortgage followed by the 4Q earnings report.

Past Year Performance: 2017 was a very strong year for WTFC. Expansion of their loan market and NIM resulted in a record setting growth of interest income at 16.5% compare to the 5-year historical average growth rate of 8.7%. This drove the stock price up 14% over the past year.

My Takeaway
Wintrust Financial long-term strategy of expanding through safe acquisitions has been very effective. Since 2012, WTFC has succeeded in acquiring over 20 separate entities and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down this method of expansion. This strategy for external growth will continue to work as long as WTFC is careful to maintain their strong credit quality.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CFA Institute Research Challenge — The Olympics of Equity Analysis!

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

A current AIM Program Small Cap Equity Holding: CalAmp Corp. (CAMP) by: Matt Tully. "Can You Hear Me Now?"

CalAmp Corp. (CAMP, $24.41): “Can You Hear Me Now?”

By: Matt Tully, AIM student at Marquette University

Disclosure: The AIM Equity Fund currently holds this position. This article was written by myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it and I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


CalAmp Corp. (CAMP) is a company that offers solutions for mobile resource management, machine-to-machine communications, and other applications that require connectivity everywhere. These solutions are provided for energy, government, transportation, and automotive markets. CAMP operates in two business segments: Wireless DataCom and Satellite.

• Strong momentum in the MRM business is continuing, in large part due to an expanded relationship with Caterpillar.

• The acquisition of LoJack has not lived up to expectations. However, LoJack Italy has experienced strong growth in telematics demand.

• The new ASC 606 revenue recognition standard will have effects on CAMP. These effects still remain unknown as CalAmp does not need to comply with the new standard until March 2018.

• The auto industry is going through a dramatic change. This change poses both an opportunity and a threat for CalAmp.

Key points: CAMP reported strong numbers in their third fiscal quarter ending in November 2017. Sales were $2.2 million above the consensus due to strong performance in the mobile resource management (MRM) business. CAMP’s relationship with Caterpillar (CAT) contributed $13.5 million, which was a 24% increase from 2Q2017. This large sequential increase was in part because of an expansion of the relationship with CAT as well as a ramp-up in their business. Because the CAT business is expected to normalize in 4Q2017, the growth from this relationship will be lower.

In the initial write-up, the acquisition of LoJack was the top driver for CAMP. However, it appears that over a year later, LoJack has not contributed as it was forecasted. LoJack Italy, on the other hand, has driven CalAmps SaaS revenue by contributing half of the new 24,000 subscribers during 3Q17. The increase in subscribers is due to a strong telematics demand in Italy.

Because of CalAmp’s reporting timeframe, they are not required to adopt the ASC 606 until March 1, 2018. CAMP will be compliant by this deadline however it is too early to tell how this transition will affect CAMP. In my opinion, this change will have a major impact on reported sales and go-to-market strategies. CalAmp will also have an additional $1.5 million in general and administrative costs. In regards to the new tax policy, CAMP is positioned to benefit from the legislation due to a favorable impact on deferred tax assets.

CAMP provides proven aftermarket solutions for the 250 million US automobiles currently licensed. With the auto industry going through a very dramatic change, there is opportunity as well as threat for CAMP. CalAmp has great vehicle telematics products that could play a role in this industry change. For example, CAMP is in great position in terms of the electronic logging mandate, which is a regulation that will equip all trucks with hour-of-service monitors. The threat that comes into play are the original equipment manufacturers. Companies like Tesla, Amazon, and Apple have fully automated cars that already include solutions that are provided by CAMP in their cars.

What has the stock done lately?

CalAmp has been rather volatile lately, ranging from $24.76 to $23.05 over the span of five days at the beginning of February. A driver when this company was originally pitched was that it was trading near its 52-week low, hence it was undervalued. Now, the company is trading at $24.41 and its 52-week high is $25.45. I would be interested to see if CAMP can stay close to its 52-week high the next couple weeks.

Past Year Performance: CAMP has increased by 62% over the past year. I think this stock is appropriately valued as CAMP has seen share appreciation from continued investments to reaccelerate growth. I also think that CAMP is nearing its peak due to the fact that the auto industry is under such substantial change. In my opinion, the change is a bigger threat than it is opportunity for CAMP.

My Takeaway

My takeaway from this research is that CAMP provides incredible solutions for plenty of different verticals. However, one of their largest industries, the auto industry, is under immense change that will greatly affect CalAmp’s growth opportunities. The mobile resource management segment will continue to grow, but I am skeptical if it can make up for potential losses in the auto industry. Overall, I am recommending that we sell CAMP from the AIM portfolio, and enjoy the 80% return on our investment.