Monday, May 10, 2010

Bookkeeping: Restarting IntercontinentalExchange (ICE)

I am looking to diversify fund holdings away from a 'tech centric' exposure I've had the past few months. There are some interesting banks in the financial space - especially PNC Financial (PNC) and some smaller regionals but for now I am going to go with IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) which is essentially a clearinghouse for transactions. I don't think I've had it in the portfolio since 2007, but as I look through various charts it is exhibiting excellent relative strength and barely batted an eye in the selloff last week.

On a fundamental basis any move to bring derivatives out in the open rather than hiding in dark shadows in coming legislation should help ICE and CME Group (CME). Valuation between the two is not much different (former at 22x forward, latter at 21x) and ICE just reported earnings so there is no earnings risk for another 2.9 months .... ICE has the slightly stronger chart. As an added bonus, every time I think of the symbol it brings back memories of a the great white rap hope of the late 80s. ;)

I'll begin with a 1.5% exposure around $121 and frankly this stock is almost at a yearly high, at which point I should add more... might even happen today. I find the valuation "fair" so I would assume not that much upside in a normal environment - but if you invest on valuation anymore you are left in the dust.

A quick look at last week's earnings:
  • IntercontinentalExchange Inc., a futures and over-the-counter exchange operator, said Wednesday that its net income rose 40 percent in the first quarter on stronger trading activity.
  • For the three months ended March 31, the company said net income rose to $101.2 million, or $1.36 per share, from $72.2 million, or 98 cents per share, in the year-ago period. On average, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected income of $1.31 per share.
  • Quarterly revenue increased 22 percent to $281.6 million, exceeding the average analyst estimate of $278.7 million.
  • ICE's surprise was largely due to record volume, primarily in its core energy trading as well as cotton and sugar futures and options. It also got a boost from lower-than-anticipated operating expenses. After-tax margin climbed to near 36%, the best mark since Q3 of 2008.
  • ICE's credit default swap business, introduced late last year, climbed 18% to $43 million. The company reported it has now handled $700 million in customer CDS transactions.
  • ICE also announced last week it would pay $604 million for the Climate Exchange, which operates carbon dioxide emissions exchanges in Europe and Chicago.

Long ICE in fund; no personal position

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