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Dr. Paul Price
Dr. Paul Price
Articles (513)  | Author's Website |

Interactive Brokers Group – Buying at a Cyclical Low Point

March 05, 2010 | About:

Interactive Brokers Group, Inc. (NDAQ:IBKR - $17.15) is a web-based, global electronic market maker and broker specializing in routing orders and executing and processing trades in securities, futures and foreign exchange instruments on more than 80 electronic exchanges worldwide. As a market maker, IB provides bid and offer quotations on approximately 577,000 securities and futures products listed on electronic exchanges. As a direct market access broker, IBKR serves customers of both traditional brokers and prime brokers. They provide customers with state-of-the-art order management, trade execution and portfolio management at consistently rock-bottom commission rates.

IBKR came public via the same ‘Dutch Auction’ process that Google used when it held its IPO. The April 2007 starting price was set by its bidders at $30.01 /share during the final stages of the last bull market. IBKR shares high peak prices of $34.25 and $35.93 in 2007 and 2008 before breaking down with the overall market in late 2008 – early 2009.

The shares bottomed at $12.68 almost exactly one year ago, rebounded to $20.99 last October, and then dipped again into the $16 range in late January 2010 after posting poor Q4 earnings. At this afternoon’s quote of $17.15 IBKR shares offer great potential for investors with a one to two year time horizon.

IBKR earned $1.16 per share in the nine-month stub period from its IPO through year-end 2007 and $1.82 in their first four quarters. They earned $2.24 /share for the full year 2008 despite the nasty market environment. EPS fell off to just $0.87 in 2009 due to compressed overall volume and almost no ability to earn money on free cash balances due to the near-zero interest rate environment.

Expectations for 2010 range from S&P’s $0.89 to Reuter’s view of $1.11 and Value Line’s $1.32 guesstimate. All three services see much improved earnings for 2011 with current estimates of $1.38 - $1.47 /share.

With the market averages in solid rebound mode and the assurance that, eventually, U.S. interest rates will rise again I am more bullish than they are for both this year and next. IBKR trades FOREX, Futures and Options in addition to their basic equities and fixed income businesses and these are all high growth areas.

How do I come to a target valuation here?


Annualized EPS

P/E Range

Book Value

P/BV Range

52-Wk. range



13.7X – 22.3x


2.1x – 3.4x

$21.00 - $34.25



5.7x – 16.0x


1.0x – 3.8x

$12.72 - $35.93



14.2x – 24.1x


0.9x – 1.5x

$12.68 - $20.99

Before the market collapse of late 2008 – March 2009 IBKR had never traded below 2.1x book value. When times were good IBKR hit levels of > 3x book value in both 2007 and 2008. Even in the unusually depressed climate of 2009 it hit 1.5x book value at its peak even though earnings were still well below prior years’ levels.

Book value should reach at least $14.90 by year-end 2010. Even 1.5x that figure would see IBKR shares back at $22.35 or about 30% above today’s quote. The high end goal would be much higher if earnings surpass the very pessimistic projections now on the street.

Using a 15 multiple as a low-end ‘normalized’ P/E and looking out a year or so brings me to a similar minimum target based on forward earnings for 2011 of at least $1.50 share.

I have no special access to information regarding Interactive Brokers Group but I have heard rumors that CEO and President Thomas Peterffy might be considering taking the company private again while the share price is depressed. It would make sense if he has access to enough capital considering that he got over $30 /share during the 2007 IPO.

If you’d like to play with IBKR but don’t see a near-term catalyst then you might consider selling some January 2011 puts at very attractive prices. Here are some good ones and today’s prices…

January 21, 2011 Expiration

Premium /Share

Net Cost if Put

Margin of Safety*

$15.00 Puts


$14.15 /sh.


$17.50 Puts


$15.50 /sh.


$20.00 Puts


$16.30 /sh.


*The ‘margin of safety’ in the chart refers to how far the break-even point ‘if put’ is below the current price of $17.15 /share.

Your maximum profit would be the net dollar amount of the option premiums you sold.

You give up some safety as you write more aggressively but the trade-off is for higher potential profits as the premium income is much higher with the $17.50 and $20 strike price puts.

Disclosure: IBKR is one of my largest long positions and I am also short IBKR options.

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Dr. Paul Price


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