Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Threat to Value Strategy?

One of the bedrocks of Value Investing is margin of safety, which is sometimes manifested by owning a company with a large cash balance relative to its market capitalization. Most investors lump cash and short term investments into one figure, owing to the alleged safety of these investments. What if that cash wasn't really cash?

The latest hint of this problem comes from Palm Inc. (PALM) which stated during its conference call that $75 million of its cash balance has been reclassified to non current due to a "limited market" for these auction rate securities. The full quote from management, courtesy of Seeking Alpha:

"We also reclassified approximately 75 million of our investments to non-current. These are AAA and AA rated auction rate securities that currently have a limited market and are not needed to meet all liquidity needs for at least the next twelve months. As a result, they have been reclassified to non-current."

This looks to be classified on the PALM balance sheet as "other assets" which is now at $92.2 million. I am not sure what the other $17 million is.

There were no questions about this during the call.

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