As the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the stock picks that shaped the past 12 months. Here, we take a closer look at some notable selections, both successful and disappointing.

Triton International: A Stellar Success

Triton International, the world’s largest lessor of shipping containers, proved to be a longstanding pick that delivered significant gains. In April, the company agreed to be acquired by Brookfield Infrastructure in a transaction valued at $13.3 billion. This deal valued Triton at an impressive $85 per share, far surpassing my initial recommendations to buy shares at $31 in 2018 and $63.50 in 2022.

Cadre Holdings: Weathering Turbulence

Cadre Holdings, a recommendation made in 2022, faced a setback when its CEO and largest shareholder announced a secondary offering in June. As a result, the stock plummeted. However, I saw this as an opportunity to buy the dip and advised investors accordingly. Since then, Cadre Holdings has made a remarkable recovery, with shares now showing a 57% increase.

Jack Henry & Associates: A Miscalculation

In April, amidst turmoil in the U.S. regional banking industry, I identified potential in Jack Henry & Associates. This company specializes in providing software for everyday banking operations. Despite the stock’s attractive valuation and the company’s resilient business model, the shares have remained relatively out of favor. While Jack Henry & Associates emerged unscathed from the episode, the stock has only returned 12% since my recommendation, compared to the S&P 500’s 18%.

Toast: A Bittersweet Experience

Toast, a provider of software and payments processing for restaurants, was by far my worst performer of 2023. Despite consistently adding new customers, gaining market share, and improving profit margins, the stock has struggled. Since my pick in February, Toast’s shares have fallen 17% while the small-cap Russell 2000 index has risen by 7%. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Toast reported positive free cash flow for the first time in its history during the second and third quarters. The company ended the third quarter with $1 billion of net cash on its balance sheet, representing nearly 10% of its market value. This strong financial position eliminates the need for Toast to raise new capital in a higher-rate environment.

Conclusion

Overall, 2023 has been a year of mixed outcomes for our stock picks. While some recommendations yielded impressive returns, others faced challenges and fell short of expectations. As we move into a new year, it’s important to approach investment decisions with careful analysis and adaptability in order to navigate the ever-changing market landscape.

The Potential of Toast

The stock performance of Toast, a restaurant-focused company, faced challenges in 2023 due to concerns about consumer spending and a high starting valuation. However, despite these obstacles, it is important to recognize the long-term potential of the company. As Toast grows, its payments and software businesses will benefit from natural economies of scale, leading to increased profitability over time. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on this stock.

Walt Disney’s Promising Future

Walt Disney is another stock that should be held onto for the coming year. A bullish report in July highlighted the company’s potential, and since then, its shares have performed well, keeping pace with the S&P 500. In the upcoming year, Disney is expected to experience improvements in streaming profitability and a return to overall earnings growth. Additionally, there have been rumors of potential significant changes to Disney’s portfolio, such as a spin-off or sale of ESPN. When considering the various aspects of Disney’s business, the stock appears undervalued.

Mixed Results for Other Stocks

Several other stocks were chosen as “fixer-upper” opportunities in 2023, each yielding different results. Vestis and Boston Beer both outperformed their benchmarks, with Vestis up 26% and Boston Beer up 11%. On the other hand, Mercury Systems underperformed, experiencing a loss of 3.6% compared to the Russell 2000.

Frontier Communications: A Remarkable Turnaround

Frontier Communications stands out as the top performer among these picks. Since the recommendation in July, the stock has surged 79%, significantly outpacing the returns of the Russell 2000. This telecom company, once bankrupt, is currently undergoing a large-scale upgrade of its network, transitioning from old copper wires to high-speed fiberoptic cables. Despite initial skepticism from investors and negative reports regarding health risks associated with its copper wires, Frontier Communications managed to recover from a major selloff. Activist investor Jana Partners added further momentum to the stock in October by announcing their stake in Frontier and urging management to explore a potential sale. The stock has since continued to rally.

It would certainly be ideal if all investments turned out as successful as Frontier Communications.

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