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In The Face of Fake News--More Gains, More Income (Holdings & Performance Update)

In the face of non-stop fake and misleading news headlines, we stuck to our long-term strategies and delivered another month of healthy gains and income across our investment portfolios, as usual. This report reviews the individual holdings and performance across each of our strategies. We also review the absurdity of a few recent news headlines that are designed specifically to eat away at your hard-earned nest egg. Finally, we highlight a few of our current holdings that are particularly attractive for new investment dollars right now.

3 Attractive Investment Ideas: One +7% MLP, Two Growth Stocks

This week’s Weekly reviews an attractive +7% yield MLP that is on sale. We also review two growth stocks that we own in our Disciplined Growth portfolio. The MLP is very hated (and misunderstood) right now (which is why we like it), and the growth stocks have both rallied hard this year (they’re up 30% and 47%) and we share our views on how to play them going forward.

Paylocity: Hyper-Growth in 5 Charts

Paylocity (PCTY) has negative net income, and a forward price-to-earnings ratio (91.4x) that would make most value investors shriek! However, it has also been experiencing “hyper” revenue growth that is hard to ignore. This article reviews Paylocity’s hyper-growth in five charts, and then provides our views on whether this Arlington-Heights-Illinois-based, zero-dividend-paying company, is worth considering...

Our 28 Favorite Stocks: July Performance Review & Outlook

In this week’s Blue Harbinger Weekly, we provide a brief performance review and outlook for each of the 28 holdings across our Blue Harbinger strategies. We also provide access to a members-only report on our “Top 3 Covered Call Stocks.” Lastly, you’ll notice we’ve updated performance though the end of July, and all three Blue Harbinger strategies continue to significantly outperform.

A Tale of Four Stocks: There Will Be Winners and Losers

This week we review four stocks. First we review one of our stalwart blue chip holdings that is currently trading at a discounted price thereby providing an attractive entry point for long-term investors. Next, we provide a checkup on an attractive small cap growth company we own that provides cloud-based payroll processing services, and has the potential to easily double in price and/or get bought out at an attractive premium. And finally, we provide some additional insights on Yahoo and how the stock price of its eventual acquirer could first fall and then rise significantly.

Continued Outperformance for Blue Harbinger Stocks

All three Blue Harbinger strategies continue to outperform. This week’s Weekly reviews the performance of the individual holdings within each strategy, and we focus on several stocks in particular that we believe provide terrific buying opportunities right now.  And just for grins, here is a fun quote from Charlie Munger.

Where Will Yahoo! Go To Die?

Yahoo is looking to sell its core business, and the board is excluding CEO Marissa Mayer from the process.  In this week’s Weekly, we consider who might actually buy Yahoo and what they’ll pay (spoiler alert: they’re not going to pay much, and they are going to cut costs to the bone).  On a separate note, our new big-dividend Blue Harbinger Income Equity strategy is off to a terrific start this year, outperforming the S&P 500 by 2.2% already.

Will Oil Drag the Market Lower Again?

The market followed oil lower last week as crude inventories exceeded expectations.  Important economic releases this upcoming week include crude inventories on Wednesday (2/10) and retail sales on Friday (2/12).  In this week’s Weekly we review the Blue Harbinger stocks that announced earnings last week (they were better than expected) and the ones that announce this upcoming week.  We also share a top contrarian idea we’ve been working on to profit from “low for longer” oil prices.

Are You Diversified? Appropriately?

Long-term investors should not forget the risk-reward tradeoff.  For example, if you were diversified into investment-grade bonds over the last year then your account balance probably hasn’t suffered as much as if you’d invested entirely in stocks.  However, over the long-term, we expect stocks to significantly outperform less-risky bonds.  This week’s Weekly highlights some extremely attractive stock-specific opportunities that have been created by 2016’s recent market volatility.

Year-End Rebalancing and Great Opportunities

Time to sell your winners and buy the losers? Some contrarians might think so.  With 2016 right around the corner, it can be helpful to see what has and has not been working, and why.  For example, Caterpillar has been a persistent loser (as we wrote about here), and Nike and McDonald’s have been big winners this year.  This week we review the Dow Jones stocks we do own (and why), and our view on when it’s prudent to rebalance.

Terrific Stock-Specific Opportunities, Despite Broader Market Red Lights

With all of last week's macro-volatility, and the Fed set to begin raising rates this upcoming week, it's a great time to point out two important things:  (1) Diversified long-term investors don’t need to make a single change to their investment strategy, and (2) Many terrific stock-specific investment opportunities remain for those willing to do their homework.  For example, this week’s Weekly highlights several specific stocks related to cloud-based human capital management that are set to climb from an accelerating secular trend.

Know Your Goals, Hold Your Ground.

Our favorite cloud-based small cap holding is up 31% in the last month, and it beat the market again this week despite the broad sell off we are experiencing.  If you are a diversified long-term investor, there is no reason to change your strategy just because volatility has picked up. Buying and holding quality stocks is a proven winning strategy.

Paylocity Update – Increasing Price Target

Paylocity (PCTY)
Rating: BUY
Current Price: $43.48
Price Target: $55


Paylocity (PCTY) announced expectation-beating earnings last week, and raised its fiscal 2016 revenue guidance significantly (from $199-203 million to $210-214 million).  As a result of the company’s faster than expected revenue and earnings growth, we are increasing our price target from $45 per share to $55 per share.  The $55 per share price reflects our same conservative 27.2% annual growth rate which is well below the company’s current growth rate of around 40%.

Paylocity continues to be a company that offers a highly compelling solution without the legacy baggage of its larger industry-leading competitor ADP.  Unlike ADP, Paylocity’s solutions are primarily cloud-based meeting a growing customer demand.  Additionally, Paylocity is a less costly solution as it does not require all the bells and whistles of ADP which many newer smaller companies don’t want anyway.

According to Steve Beauchamp (President and Chief Executive Officer of Paylocity):

"Fiscal 2016 is off to a very strong start, with first quarter total revenue growth of 45%. We continue to see strong demand for our unified payroll and HCM platform and are encouraged by the response to our ACA Enhanced product offering." (source: WSJ).

Overall, Paylocity continues to offer amazing growth opportunities, and if the company continues to grow ahead of expectations we will likely be increasing our price target again in the not-so-distant future.  This company has a lot of room to run, and it has the potential to eventually turn into an exceptional "cash cow" when it grows to a point where it can stop spending on growth and instead just rake in the profits.  Keep in mind this is a high-customer-retention business because customers are extremely hesitant to change service providers once they’ve gotten their payroll processing set up.  (You can read our original full Paylocity thesis and research report here).

Three Bears and "Just Right" Diversification

Our prudently diversified Blue Harbinger 15 strategy outperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 2.0% last week regardless of significantly changing macroeconomic conditions.  And to those of you concentrated in certain sectors, such as high dividend utilities, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Paylocity (PCTY) - Thesis

Paylocity (PCTY)
Rating: BUY
Current Price: $29.75
Price Target: $45

Paylocity is a cloud-based provider of payroll and human resource capital management software solutions for mid-sized organizations.  They are generally a less expensive solution than ADP which is the payroll processing industry standard suited for large organizations.  Paylocity is a smaller market capitalization company (~$1.6 billion), headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois, that has grown its revenues at an astounding rate in recent years, but has also spent heavily to achieve this growth.  We believe Paylocity’s high spending is acceptable for a small organization that is growing to meet market demand.  We believe the company will eventually reach a point where the heavy spending on growth will become unnecessary, and the company’s high gross profit margin will make it essentially a “cash cow.” 

As a relatively new public company (the initial public offering was March 24, 2014), we value Paylocity using Price-to-Revenue comparables.  More traditional valuation metrics such as discounted cash flow analysis and price-to-earnings ratios are less useful for Paylocity because the company is currently spending very heavily on growth.  Early stage companies often spend more than they collect to fund future growth opportunities that are expected to result in significant future profitability.

Paylocity has been growing revenues at a pace of approximately 40% per year since 2011, and the company expects continued high growth going forward.  During the earning conference call on August 13, 2015, Paylocity forecast 2016 earnings to be $199 to $203 million, representing ~32% growth over fiscal year 2015.  Assuming the company can grow revenues at 27.2% for the next five years (this is the average estimate by the six analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance) gives Paylocity a “price to five-year-forward-revenue” ratio of 3.2 times ($1,620 million market capitalization divided by $508 million revenues).  This compares favorably to the same ratio of peers ADP and Paychex of 2.3 and 4.3, respectively.  We assumedADP to have a revenue growth rate of 8.15% and Paychex to have a revenue growth rate of 7.15% using the average revenue growth estimates of the analysts (20 and 19, respectively) surveyed by Yahoo Finance.

We believe Paylocity should trade in a price to fiscal year 5 revenue range of 4 to 5 times, given its size and future growth opportunities.  This gives us a target price range of $40 to $50 per share, well above its current price of $29.75. 

What makes the Paylocity valuation even more compelling is the fact that the company has clear opportunities to grow its revenues significantly beyond the $508 million estimate for 2020.  In fact, Paylocity estimates their market opportunity to be closer to $9 billion.  The following passage from the firm’s most recent annual report gives some flavor for how they view the market opportunity:

According to market analyses published by International Data Corporation, or IDC, titled Worldwide and U.S. Human Capital Management Applications 2015 – 2019 Forecast (June 2015) and U.S. Payroll Outsourcing Services 2013 – 2017 Forecast and Analysis (October 2013), the U.S. Market for HCM applications and payroll outsourcing services is estimated to be $24 billion in 2015. The market opportunity is driven by the importance of payroll and HCM solutions to the successful management of organizations.
To estimate our addressable market, we focus our analysis on the number of U.S. medium-sized organizations and the number of their employees.ccAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were over 565,000 firms with 20 to 999 employees in the U.S. in 2010, employing over 40 million persons.
We estimate that if clients were to buy our entire suite of existing solutions at list prices, they would spend approximately $230 per employee annually. Based on this analysis, we believe our current target addressable market is approximately $9.0 billion. Our existing clients do not typically buy our entire suite of solutions, and as we continue to expand our product offerings, we believe that we have an opportunity to increase the amount clients spend on payroll and HCM solutions per employee and to expand our addressable market.

And if Paylocity is able to continue to grow beyond the next five years, then the stock’s valuation is even more compelling.  Unlike the large and more mature ADP, Paylocity has much more significant growth opportunities ahead.

Competitive Advantages:
Cloud-based solutions: Paylocity’s solutions are cloud-based and offered on a subscription basis, making them easier and more affordable to implement, operate and update.  They enable clients to focus less on their IT infrastructure and more on their core businesses.

Underserved market: Paylocity serves small and mid-sized companies (defined by Paylocity as 20 to 1,000 employees) that often don’t need all the expensive bells and whistles, and are also often ignored by bigger competitors that prefer to focus on bigger clients.  Paylocity serves the unique challenges faced by this group, noting that employees in these medium-sized organizations often perform multiple job functions, and many medium-sized organizations have limited financial, technical and other resources needed to effectively manage their critical business requirements and to build and maintain the systems required to do so.

Lower cost solutions:  Mid-sized companies often don’t need all the expensive bells and whistles, and are also often ignored by bigger competitors that prefer to focus on bigger clients.  Paylocity offers solutions targeted towards these organizations.


Growth Strategy: According to the firm’s annual report (p.4), Paylocity’s growth strategy includes the following:

  • Growing the Client Base: We believe that our current client base represents only a small portion of the medium-sized organizations that could benefit from our solutions. While we served approximately 10,350 clients across the U.S. as of June 30, 2015, there were over 565,000 firms with 20 to 999 employees in the United States, employing more than 40 million persons, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. In order to acquire new clients, we plan to continue to grow our sales organization aggressively across all U.S. geographies.
  • Expanding Product Offerings: We believe that our leadership position is in significant part the result of our investment and innovation in our product offerings designed for medium-sized organizations. Therefore, we plan to increase investment in software development to continue to advance our platform and expand our product offerings.  For example, in June 2015 we announced the release of ACA Enhanced, which will provide compliance and reporting for the Affordable Care Act.
  • Increasing Average Revenue per Client:  Our average revenue per client has consistently increased in each of the last three years as we have broadened our product offerings. We plan to further grow average revenue per client by selling a broader selection of products to new and existing clients.
  • Extending Technological Leadership: We believe that our organically developed cloud-based multi-tenant software platform, combined with our unified database architecture, enhances the experience and usability of our products, providing what we believe to be a competitive advantage over alternative solutions. Our modern, intuitive user interface utilizes features found on many popular consumer Internet sites, enabling users to use our solutions with limited training. We plan to continue our technology innovation, as we have done with our mobile applications, social features and analytics capabilities.
  • Further Developing Referral Networks: We have developed a strong network of referral participants, such as 401(k) advisors, benefits administrators, insurance brokers, third-party administrators and HR consultants that recommend our solutions and provide referrals. We believe that our platform’s automated data integration with over 200 related third-party partner systems is valuable to our referral participants, as they are able to access payroll and HR data through a single system which decreases complexity and cost and complements their own product offerings. We plan to increase integration with third-party providers and expand our referral network to grow our client base and lower our client acquisition costs

Achieving Profitability: Paylocity faces a variety of risks, and perhaps the greatest and most obvious is noted in their annual report: “we have incurred losses in the past, and we may not be able to achieve or sustain profitability for the foreseeable future.”  This is a company that is spending heavily on future growth.  If the growth is not achieved then the company and it its stock price will suffer.

Competition is another significant risk.  As the company notes in its annual report: “The markets in which we participate are highly competitive, and if we do not compete effectively, our operating results could be adversely affected.”  Paylocity goes on to explain that the “market for payroll and HCM solutions is fragmented, highly competitive and rapidly changing. Our competitors vary for each of our solutions, and include enterprise focused software providers, such as Ultimate Software Group, Inc., Workday, Inc., SAP AG, Oracle Corporation and Ceridian Corporation, payroll service providers, such as Automatic Data Processing, Inc., Paychex, Inc., Paycom Software, Inc. and other regional providers, and HCM point solutions, such as Cornerstone OnDemand, Inc.”

Insider control is another risk.  According to Paylocity “Insiders have substantial control over us, which may limit Our stockholders’ ability to influence corporate matters and delay or prevent a third party from acquiring control over us.”  Said differently, stockholders cannot do much if the directors, officers and affiliates want to make bad decisions.  The annual report explains “as of August 7, 2015, our directors, executive officers and holders of more than 5% of our common stock, together with their respective affiliates, beneficially owned, in the aggregate, approximately 64.4% of our outstanding common stock. This significant concentration of ownership may adversely affect the trading price for our common stock because investors often perceive disadvantages in owning stock in companies with controlling stockholders. In addition, these stockholders will be able to exercise influence over all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors and approval of corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets. This concentration of ownership could limit the ability of our other stockholders to influence corporate matters and may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change in control, including a merger, consolidation, or other business combination involving us, or discouraging a potential acquirer from making a tender offer or otherwise attempting to obtain control, even if that change in control would benefit our other stockholders.”

Economic growth (or lack thereof) is another risk.  If the overall economy fails to grow, or grows at a slow rate, this may impact the ability of Paylocity to grow its business as expected.

Paylocity is one of the higher risk (and potentially higher rewarding) companies in the Blue Harbinger 15.  Based on the market opportunity, this company could turn extremely profitable within the next five years.  And any signs of improvement in the near term should cause the stock price to increase towards our price target of $40 to $50 per share.  Realistically, this company could greatly exceed our growth targets and continue to grow dramatically for many years to come.

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