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Rand Capital reports strong year

Annual shareholder meetings are typically stodgy affairs, attended by investors and executives wearing dark business suits or similarly conservative attire.

So before Reginald B. Newman left his house Thursday, his wife, Carol, asked Rand Capital Corp. chairman why he was wearing a pink shirt, especially since the Buffalo venture capital firm was holding its annual meeting later that morning.

“I told her I was wearing it because Rand is really in the pink,” Newman said.

And in many ways, Newman is right.

The venture capital firm’s portfolio has been growing steadily, and its stock price, which had slumped badly during the second half of 2012, has rebounded to levels not seen in nearly two years.

And with $4 million in cash after Rand reaped a big gain on the sale of one of its investments last year, Buffalo health insurance exchange operator Liazon, the venture capital company has plenty of money on hand for new investments, plus the ability to borrow more through its Small Business Investment Co.

“We’ve got good things going,” said Allen F. Grum, Rand’s president, after the meeting.

The Liazon sale earned the company a $6.25 million profit – and a better than six-fold gain on its $1 million investment. It helped Rand finish the year with a portfolio of investments that was valued at $28.1 million, or $4.38 per share at the end of last year, up 12 percent from the end of 2012.

The gain came at a time when Rand was making $5 million in new investments, through 15 separate deals that involved 12 different companies, including five that were new to the venture capital company’s portfolio.

“Money isn’t the issue,” said Daniel Penberthy, Rand’s executive vice president. “There’s pretty good deal flow for the funding we have in place.”

Rand executives said they generally expect to make three separate investments in each of the companies they take a stake in. After the initial investment, those companies typically require further funding to further develop their product or service.

Rand also has been using its cash to buy back its shares throughout the past year, mainly because the company’s stock trades at a steep discount, compared with the underlying value of its investments. Rand repurchased about 3 percent of its outstanding shares during 2013 at an average price of $2.91 per share, which averages out to a 34 percent discount to its current net asset value.

Rand’s rising stock price this year – the shares are up 14 percent, closing Thursday at $3.49 – has reduced that discount to about 20 percent, but Grum said the company remains interested in using some of its cash to repurchase shares.

“It’s still a deal,” he said. “We’ll continue to buy back.”