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Francis Chou Comments on Resolute Forest Products

March 11, 2014 | About:

The common stock of Resolute Forest Products (RFP) contributed significantly to the returns of the Fund. We do not normally buy common stock for the Fund but every now and then, due to restructuring, we receive shares for a debt security we hold. Such was the case with RFP. We received shares of RFP for our holdings in McMinn County, Tennessee revenue bonds. To cut a long story short, we purchased 15.48 million bonds for a total consideration of $155,800. We paid roughly one cent on a dollar for each bond, preparing to hold them for several years. We knew McMinn’s obligor was AbitibiBowater and we have been following AbitibiBowater story for a while (AbitibiBowater changed its name to Resolute Forest Products in 2011). McMinn bonds belong to a class of creditors that were in dispute with AbitibiBowater 7.95% class bonds, a dispute many thought would not likely be settled for several years. We figured that even if McMinn lost the lawsuit, and 100% of the disputed claim was awarded to the 7.95% class, we would not lose money on the McMinn bonds considering the price we paid. Lo and behold, a few months later, the lawsuit was settled and we received 52,564 common shares of RFP for our holdings of McMinn bonds. At the year-end price of $16.02, these shares of RFP were worth approximately $842,075.

Such a windfall comes maybe once every 20 years and we would not recommend this case as a regular way to invest in bonds. You needed a seller who was desperate to sell his holdings within a short time frame but could not find a buyer. And in a fortuitous way, we had invested in RFP for several years and were well acquainted with the story and the lawsuit. Further, the outcome was also dependent on a quick favorable legal judgment. The lawsuit could have dragged on for years which would have diminished the annualized returns by a considerable margin.

From Franis Chou's 2013 letter to shareholders.


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