Kids With Special Needs and Learning Disabilities – Teaching and Student Educational Resources

A reader suggested we do this post that looks into the resources for special needs kids in the same vein the three other posts did with respect to textbooks and other related books for elementary school kids.

Special Needs may be broadly classified as:
  1. Speech and Language delays.
  2. Autism.
  3. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and
  4. Dyslexia, Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).
Below are the most popular resources aimed at helping with each of the above categories:


TitleISBN-10, ISBN-13List PriceBest Online Price**
Inclusive Programming For Elementary Students with Autism by Sheila Wagner978-1885477545$24.95$11.99
You're Going to Love This Kid!: Teaching Students With Autism in the Inclusive Classroom 978-1557666147$36.95$24
Teaching Students with Special Needs in General Education Classrooms by Rena B. Lewis, Donald Doorlag978-0135014905$178$108
Teaching Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings by Tom E. Smith and Edward A. PollowayVariesVaries
The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller
  • Kindle Edition at $12.99.  
  • 978-0399531651 at $5.99.
VariesVaries
The Child With Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth by Stanley I. Greenspan, Serena Wieder, Robin Simons
  • Kindle Edition at $20.59.  
  • 978-0201407266 at $5.
VariesVaries
Baby Babble - Speech-Enhancing Video for Babies and Toddlers
$19.99$14.99
Childhood Speech, Language & Listening Problems: What Every Parent Should Know by Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi
  • Kindle Edition at $10.49.  
  • 978-0471387534 at $5.
VariesVaries
The Parents Guide To Speech and Language Problems by Debbie Feit
  • Kindle Edition at $10.49
  • 978-0071482455 at $5.
VariesVaries
The Late Talker: What to Do If Your Child Isn't Talking Yet by Marilyn C. Agin, Lisa F. Geng, Malcolm Nicholl
  • Kindle Edition at $9.99
  • 978-0312309244 at $5.
VariesVaries
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk
  • Kindle Edition at $10.49
  • 978-1932565300 at $5.
VariesVaries
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Veronica Zysk
  • Kindle Edition at $13.03
  • 978-1932565195 at $5.
VariesVaries
Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism by Jenny McCarthy
  • Kindle Edition at $12.99
  • 978-0452289802 at $5.
VariesVaries
Driven To Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell M.D. and John J. Ratey M.D.
  • Kindle Edition at $11.99
  • 978-0307743152 at $9.
VariesVaries
Parenting Children With Adhd: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach by Vincent J. Monastra
  • Kindle Edition at $14.05
  • 978-1433815713 at $14.
VariesVaries
The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read...and How They Can Learn by Ronald D. Davis and Eldon M. Braun
  • Kindle Edition at $12.99
  • 978-0399535666 at $8.
VariesVaries
Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Sally Md Shaywitz
  • Kindle Edition at $15.99
  • 978-0679781592 at $7.
VariesVaries
Assessment and Management of Central Auditory Processing Disorders in the Educational Setting: From Science to Practice by Teri James Bellis978-1597564519$100$75
When the Brain Can't Hear : Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Kindle Edition at $13.99
  • 978-0743428644 at $5.
VariesVaries





Last Updated: 04/2017.


Best sites of Edinburgh - Trip Report:

We did a short sightseeing trip of Edinburgh (07/2008) during our trip to England and used Ryan Air. Our flight was from London Stanstead to Glasgow Prestwick airport and relied on the rail to get to Edinburgh. The Prestwick airport houses the train station too. The rail route involved a changeover after alighting at Glasgow Central - Glasgow Queen Street station to Edinburgh. It is a 10-minute walk from Glasgow Central to the Queen Street Station. Free shuttle bus service is available for those so inclined. Edinburgh’s main railway station (Waverly) is in the city center. Allow about 2.5 hours for the whole journey. Tickets can be purchased aboard the train and a through ticket to Edinburgh is available. Passengers holding Prestwick airline tickets were eligible for a 50% discount on ScotRail and round-trip ticket prices for the two of us came to £22. Trains operate every 30 minutes (60 minutes on Sundays) to Glasgow Central Train Station between the hours of 06:00 - 23:08. Trains to Edinburgh from Glasgow Queen Street Station run regularly up to four times per hour.

Reserving accommodation in Edinburgh was a challenge in itself as most places available online (3 stars or above) were well above our price range. We lodged at the Holyrood Festival Studio Apartments at £67 per night. Booking.com had the best rate at the time of our reservation (early June for the end of July stay) – price comparison among sites provides returns as Hotels.com was seen to offer better pricing at times. The location is unbeatable, just off the Royal Mile in close proximity to Holyrood Palace. It is student accommodation and lacks hotel staff. The building is very new and the amenities are ample, complete with a small kitchen. The administrative services are provided at 6 Queen Street (a 15-minute walk from the Royal Mile - 3 PM check-in) and the hotel is located at 32 Calton Road. Given our penchant for walking, this arrangement worked well but for some it could be painful.

The major attractions in Edinburgh are the Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood palace, and the attractions dotted along the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle is iconic to the city and lives up to expectations gracefully– allow at least 3 hours – Admission was £12 for adults and £6 for children. The Scottish Crown, the palace of Mary, Queen of Scots, Batteries, the Great Hall (meeting place of Scottish parliament until 1639), and the St. Margaret’s Chapel are overwhelming. All - tourists and locals alike, appreciates the commanding history of the place. A hike through Holyrood Park and a stroll around the lochs and Arthur’s seat familiarizes one with the local flora. The humble thistle, the Scottish emblem, makes you smile. The lochs although small are representative of the unique Scottish landscape. Lochs come in various shapes, sizes, and elevation and are tranquil at best - their appeal leaves you yearning for more. Dedicated loch tours are available and advance booking is recommended. Scottish cuisine is best described through Haggis, made of sheep’s innards eaten with turnips (“neeps”) and potatoes. The Scots enthusiasm for golf is renowned and many hotels offer inclusive deals.

Related Posts:

1. European Vacation – Gotchas to avoid and frugal options for cost conscious American Visitors.
2. Best sites of London & Cambridge - Trip Report.
3. Best sites of Edinburgh - Trip Report.
4. Best sites of Ireland - Trip Report.

Last Updated: 02/2011.



Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) and 401K Retirement Plan Annual Enrollment and Contribution for 2009 Review

The current economy has contributed much to an especially volatile stock market. Adding fuel to the fire is the advice from market gurus which are poles apart. On the one hand you have the Oracle of Omaha, Waffen Buffet insisting US stocks are cheap and is a steal at current prices while at the other end experts such as Diane Garnick warns US stock market is far from a bottom and advices staying away from it until a clear “up-cycle” is established. Even a novice investor can evaluate that on a relative basis US stocks are fairly expensive compared to European and other Emerging Market counterparts leaving one to wonder whether Buffet’s call is prompted primarily because Berkshire Hathaway’s (Warren Buffet’s company) holdings are heavily tilted towards US equities. The latter call has a couple of different problems:
  • It discounts the possibility of a V-shaped stock market recovery – being on the side-lines will result in missing most of the rally, and
  • In a protracted stock market recovery, opting out results in underperformance as even with a slight increase, investors staying in the market usually beat lower-risk investment options such as treasuries when dividends are included.
Circumstances being such, it is not easy for average Americans to decide on their contribution, if any to their employer sponsored plans, primarily ESPP and 401K. ESPP is straightforward (participating at the maximum level is the best option) as the following characteristics and associated strategies make it almost impossible to lose money in that venture:
  1. The ESPP stock is purchased at a discount to the market price. Some plans even have an option that guarantees same-day-sale profit, even if the stock price slips on the day of the purchase, a
  2. The discount is based on the lower of the market price at the beginning of the offer period and the purchase date. The “lower of” provision allows for more profit if the stock price has risen during the offer period. Thus, it is in effect stock ownership that is exempt from downside risk during the offer period.
  3. The immediate selling strategy allows for high returns with low risk, the Holy Grail in investing.
  4. The long-term capital gains realization strategy allows for high tax-optimized returns with somewhat higher risk.
As for strategy, one option is to adjust the percentages upwards or downwards depending on whether the company is undervalued or overvalued respectively at the beginning of the offer period. A corresponding adjustment in the other direction will have to be made during the next offer period in the same calendar year so as to realize the benefit of participating at the maximum level.

401K enrollment, on the other hand is a different ballgame altogether. The chief concern with 401K is that the onus is on the employee to choose investment selections and contribute. This is a far cry compared to pension plans, where the employer shouldered the responsibility completely. Expecting average Americans to be financially savvy and being able to choose investment options is a tall order. The pension protection act of 2006 is aimed at alleviating some of this responsibility, and provides the following related provisions:
  1. Removes barriers that prevent companies from automatically enrolling their employees in defined contribution plans: The provision recognized the fact that one-third of eligible employees did not participate in these plans. Over time, this provision should allow dropping this number well below 10%. Companies generally implement this provision by making 401K contributions an “opt-out” benefit. In other words, if employees do not want to enroll, they have to “opt-out” of it explicitly, – should they choose to do nothing, they are automatically enrolled.
  2. Ensures that employees and retired personnel have more information about the performance of their accounts: Companies support this provision by providing an investment advice benefit, usually for a nominal fee.
  3. Gives workers greater control over how their accounts are invested: This has relevance with respect to the Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA), which automatically takes effect in the absence of investment direction from the participant – the provisions make sure that workers are kept informed on their selections such as if they had selected them on their own. Further, it also provides for the ability to transfer out of QDIA investments without undue penalty. Making available life-cycle funds or target-retirement funds is one popular way companies have chosen to implement this provision.
These provisions are aimed to make it comparatively easy for a worker to adopt a passive investment strategy. Life-cycle funds or target-retirement funds is an especially attractive alternative in this regard. The only adjustment one could consider for next year in the face of a large market correction is to opt for a more aggressive life-cycle fund choice – a fund that aims for retirement 5-10 years before your perceived retirement date. As for the amount of contributions, it is simple – try to max-out on these contributions, given the tax benefits – if unable to do so, the next best option is to contribute the percentage that allows for complete employer matching if applicable.

As indicated in our 401K updates, we have been choosing investment choices on our own with a 40-40-20 asset allocation between domestic, international, and bond investment choices. While using an asset allocation plan (AAP) such as this is a good option, one cannot afford to be asleep at the switch – need to monitor your choices and make adjustments periodically. We are seriously considering switching to life cycle fund choices next year as that would allow for a much more passive strategy.

Related Posts:
  1. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) – Great Benefit with a few caveats!.
  2. Writing Covered Calls against Employer Stock Plan Shares (ESPP, Restricted Stock, and Stock Options) – A Primer.
  3. Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) and 401K Retirement Plan Annual Enrollment and Contribution Review.
  4. Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) - Immediate Selling Strategy.
  5. Realizing Long-Term Capital Gains With Stock Based Compensation.
  6. Stock Based Compensation Tax Optimization Strategies.
Last Updated: 01/2009. 

Frugal Living – Ten Great Gift Ideas for Frugal Families


Families who live frugally find that their perception of needs is minimal. This makes frugal families naturally inclined to be philanthropic. Furthermore, it is also second nature for them to consume far less and have a heightened awareness of the damage done to the environment by our An Inconvenient Truthcollective mindless consumption. The list of gift ideas for frugal families below focuses on charity/causes related, environment, family, health, and money:
  1. Gift Cards to Charity: If there is no desire for further material things, in addition to having made the frugal living choice, one way to redirect the generosity of others in the direction of your choosing is to publish the fact that an ideal gift to you is gifts/gift cards made to your favorite charity.
  2. Environment: If you have a strong stance on unnecessary consumption as a major problem, by all means be bold to gift the DVD “An Inconvenient Truth” to people whom you think are especially unaware of the damage we are causing.
  3. Health: Family health is generally high in the list for all families and a gym membership is a good choice. The downside though is that it is a subscription style expense and goes against the frugal definition. However, choosing exercise equipment such as treadmill, home gyms, exercise bike, and/or elliptical is a great choice over the long-term. Alternative health remedies is an area that was vastly overlooked as the medical insurance provided by the employer covered basic needs leaving not much incentive to look into the benefits of such. With healthcare costs rising and support from employers diminishing, such options are worth more than a passing glance – Yoga and Tai Chi for general wellness, Acupuncture (pain), Resperate (blood pressure reduction without medicine), Massage Therapy to mention a few have proven benefits and surely there will be someone that you know of that will gain from such a gift.Union Pacific Stock Certificate
  4. Money: Any gift that would increase the value of the item over time would qualify. One idea is to give stock certificatesour previous post details on why it is a great frugal gift. If the recipient has a keen hobby interest (stamps, coins) they would be eligible too. For folks in your family, savings bonds and other fixed income certificates will also work.
  5. Consumables (Candles, Confectionery, Wine, Flowers etc.): In social situations where it is not appropriate to choose any of the ideas above, gifting something that is consumable is always a safe bet.
  6. Prepaid Cell phone and VOIP: Prepaid cell phones are a good option when pitted against subscription style services like public telephone service and 2-3 year cell phone subscription plans. The one caveat to look out for is term-limits to cell phone pay cards – typically, if you buy a higher-amount card, you get a higher term limit up to a year. Another option to consider is replacing your landline with VOIP from manufacturers such as Ooma that lets you have unlimited calling in the US for free with no contracts.
  7. Event Tickets: These are decidedly an environment friendly option especially if you have a clear idea of what the recipient likes and if you can join them it is the icing of the cake.
  8. Media: DVDs, CDs, etc. are good options for one’s family. The frugal approach however will be to have an expiration date – six months is a good ballpark figure as the odds of enjoying it is inversely proportional with time. There are frugal ways to save money at both ends of the ownership time line –
    1. Make a choice to purchase media a year after its initial release – on the average, more than 85% of the value of media products is lost in its first year and so you get a big discount upfront, and
    2. Make it a point to get rid of it by either selling it on Amazon.com or Ebay, or by donating it to a charity or the local library. Doing so, helps the environment and provides an opportunity to realize a little bit of income, and above all helps with limiting the accumulation of useless stuff that is the bane of average American families.
  9. Technology: Should you decide to make one extravagant gift to your own family this year, buying the buzz in the technology area provides a high. For frugal families who tend to wait out new stuff until they have acclimatized, once a year or so, gay abandon is a necessity to avoid the feeling of always lagging new technology. Buying a Computer, GPS, Video Game Consoles, PDA's, Digital Cameras are all options to consider in this regard.

Related Posts:
  1. Frugal Living – Ten Great Gift Ideas for Frugal Families (Christmas Holiday Shopping Tips).
  2. Frugal Living – Skiing Story.
  3. Frugal Choice On Gifts - Giving Stock Certificates.
  4. Frugal vs Cheap – A definition to go by.
  5. Frugal Living - Top ten frugal living tips for families.
  6. Reducing Expenses.

Last Updated: 01/2015. 

Best Values in Netbooks & Notebooks - A Feature/Price Comparison/Review

This is a follow-up update on our review of the best laptops that was done a while back. Criteria for brand selection were the most popular online retailers and those that offered the most variety. One main distinction in the value lines of manufacturers is Notebooks vs Netbooks:

  1. Netbooks – Smaller Screen (8.9” to 10”), Specializes in mobility and web – light-weight (less than 3 lbs), with wireless capability, but runs on a less powerful mobile processor, and has limited upgrade options, etc.
  2. Notebooks – Screen size above 13” with widescreen, weighs upwards of 6 lbs, uses powerful mobile processor, and has several upgrade options.
We categorized our comparison into two spreadsheets based on the above criteria. Further, to contain the complexity, only one model was chosen from the top manufacturers going by web popularity. The top-branded machines dominate the line while "on the rise" manufacturers have grabbed a niche in the Netbooks line.

Best Value Netbooks:


Feature/ProductASUS Eee PC 1005PE-PU27Acer A0532H-2588Toshiba Mini NB305-N410BLHP Mini 210-1030NR
ThumbnailASUS Eee PCAcer A0532H-2588Toshiba MiniHP Mini
Best Price$365.99$275$346$279.99
StoreAmazon.comAmazon.comAmazon.comAmazon.com
ProcessorIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHzIntel Atom 1.66 GHz Processor 512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHz
Memory1 GB DDR2 SODIMM memory, 2 GB Max.1 GB DDR2 Memory1GB DDR2, 2 GB Max.1GB DDR2 SDRAM, 2 GB Max.
Hard Disk (HD)250 GB (5400RPM), 0.5TB web storage.

160 GB (5400RPM)250 GB (5400RPM)160 GB (5400RPM)
Other Feature Summary10.1” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition -Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n @ 2.4GHz; Webcam; 6-cell High Density Li-Ion Battery pack up to 14-hours battery life. 3 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x VGA port, 1 x LAN RJ-45, 2 x Audio input/output ports, 1 x RJ-45 port, Headphone, Mic-In, and chiclet keyboard. MMC/SD/SDHC flash card slot. Weight – 2.8 lbs. Size - 10.3"x7"x1.4".10.1” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition -Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g; Webcam; 6-cell 8 hours rated battery pack. Weight – 2.76 lbs. Size - 7.3"x10.2"x1".10.1” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition – Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g; 6 cell 11-hour battery pack; Webcam; Weight – 2.6 lbs. Size - 10.47"x7.57"x1.43".10” display; Windows 7 Starter Edition – Preloaded; Wi-Fi 802.11b/g; 6 cell 9.75-hour battery pack; Webcam; Weight – 2.99 lbs. Size - 10.55"x6.9"x0.9"/1.11".




Best Value Notebooks:



Feature/ProductHP Pavilion DV4-2161NRASUS UL30A-X5KDell Vostro 1014 Productivity Pack with 3GB memory upgrade
Toshiba L505-GS5037
ThumbnailHP PavilionASUS NotebookDell Vostro 1014Toshiba L505
Best Price$619.99$599.99$608$629.99
ProcessorIntel® Core i3-330M Processor T3200 (2.13 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)Intel® Core™2 Duo processor SU7300 (1.3 GHz)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T6570 (2.1GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)Intel Core i3-330M Processor (2.13 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)
Memory4GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm); max-8GB4GB DDR3 RAM, 2 DIMM, max-4GB3GB Single Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz, 2 DIMM4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM Memory
Hard Disk (HD)500 GB (7200RPM)500 GB (5400RPM)320 GB (5400RPM)500GB (5400RPM)


Other Feature Summary14.1” WXGA Widescreen Display; Intel HD Graphics (up to 1696MB); 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery rated up to 3.5 hours. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit preloaded.13.3" HD LED display; Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD; 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery up to 12 hours battery life. Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Edition operating system (64-bit) preinstalled.14.0” widescreen HD Display w/Anti-glare; Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD; 6-cell Lithium Ion; Windows 7 Home Premium Edition (32-bit)15.6” CCFL Widescreen Display; 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery; Windows 7 Home Premium Edition (64-bit)


The common features applicable to all of the models described are:

  • Windows 7 (Netbooks - Starter Edition, Laptops - Home Premium) with pre-installed software (mostly very basic, starter and/or evaluation copies)
  • WI-FI Wireless Card.
  • Graphics Media Accelerator Chipset.
  • Lithium Ion 3, 4, 6 or 9-cell battery.
  • Wireless 802.11b/g card.
  • 10Base-T/100Base-TX Fast Ethernet LAN with RJ-45 connector
  • Two or more USB 2.0 ports.
  • One or more Audio/Video Jacks.
  • Media Card Reader.
  • 1-year warranty.
The table below summarizes the core differences in the CPUs:



MachineProcessorL1 CacheL2 CacheClock SpeedSystem BusOthers
HP Pavilion DV4-2161NR & Toshiba L505-GS5037Intel® Core i3 330M Processor3MB Intel Smart CacheNA2.13 GHz800/1066 MHzHyper-Threading, Virtualization, Speedstep, Thermal Monitor, Fast/Flex Memory Access, Execute Disable Bit.
Asus UL30A-X5KIntel® Core™2 Duo processor SU73003MB Intel Smart Cache


NA


1.3 GHz800 MHzVirtualization, Speedstep, Thermal Monitor, Execute Disable Bit.
Dell Vostro 1014Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T657064 KB2 MB2.1 GHz800 MHzVirtualization, Speedstep, Execute Disable Bit.
NetbooksIntel Atom 1.66 GHz N450 Processor32KB instruction & 24KB data cache.512 KB L2 Cache1.66 GHz533 MHzHyper-Threading, Speedstep, Thermal Monitor, Execute Disable Bit.


  • Hyper-Threading: Thread-level parallelism takes advantage of multi-threaded software.
  • Virtualization: Hardware assist for virtualization software.
  • Speedstep: voltage & frequency adjustments based on load for power conservation without affecting performance.
  • Execute Disable Bit: Hardware assist for virus deterrence.
  • Flex Memory: Support different memory sizes to facilitate upgrades.

Summary:


The Netbooks are priced on the average about $200 lower than the best value priced Notebooks. The processor used is not as powerful and upgrade possibilities are limited. The lower pricing, smaller size, and weight makes Netbooks a very good choice for students, frugal families, people who already have an external LCD monitor/keyboard/mouse setup, and frequent travelers who are willing to forgo a little performance.

Overall, our pick for the best value among netbooks is the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-PU27 at $365. Intel’s Atom chip performs well with Windows 7, which comes preinstalled. The approximate $365 pricing, while higher compared to some of the competitive models, is an outstanding value for the full-fledged features (chiclet keyboard, LED backlit display, 0.5TB external storage) & extended battery life it offers. Compared to the performance of notebooks, the processing power and RAM limitations are the major differences, but on Windows 7, with an upgrade to a 2 GB RAM, the setup would amply suffice for most users.

The major manufacturers have very competitive offerings huddled together in the $550-$650 price range. The Toshiba L505-GS5037 & HP Pavilion DV4-2161NR offerings have the latest Intel Core i3-330M chip. The Dell Vostro 1014 uses the older Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 chip and cut a few other corners (Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit instead of 64-bit, smaller hard-drive, etc.) but still failed to keep the price substantially lower compared to the competition. Hence, we cannot recommend it unless you can get it in the $550 price range. The ASUS used a slightly less powerful chip and succeeded in keeping the price below $600. Further, the extended battery life makes it a good choice. Among the major manufacturers, our choice is the Toshiba L505-GS5037 - as we blogged previously, we are not big fans of HP laptops.

Related Posts:
  1. Best Values in Netbooks & Notebooks - A Comparative Review (this post).
  2. Best Value Portable Computers for Students (Laptops, Netbooks, and MacBooks) - A Comparative Review.
  3. Tablet PCs - A Comparative Review.

Last Updated: 03/11.


CanRoys (ENT, AAV, BTE, HTE, PVX, PGH, ERF, PWE) – A Comparative Analysis

Canadian income trusts span a vast selection of commodity and real estate based industries and parallel US based income trusts such as Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). A sub-category of these trusts focused on the oil and gas properties is called Canadian Royalty Trusts or CanRoys in short. The common thread is the trust structure, which allows for channeling income from the trust to the unit holders without being taxed at the business level. This favorable tax treatment mandates the Trusts to pay out most of their earnings as distributions to unit holders, resulting in relatively large dividend yields.

The business plan of most CanRoys can be summarized as acquiring mature upstream (production of crude oil and natural gas) oil and gas properties (usually from oil majors who have neglected investing on these less profitable properties) and then eking out additional value by using production enhancement and optimization efforts. Few of the CanRoys have also invested in midstream (storing, transportation, and marketing of crude oil and natural gas) and downstream (refining crude oil, distribution of products derived from crude oil, and distribution of natural gas) assets.

We started investing in CanRoys in early 2005, the main draw then was the substantial dividend yields along with energy exposure. Over the years, we realized a good return in yield along with modest capital appreciation. This year, our longer-term holdings in both Advantage Energy Fund (AAV) and Harvest Trust Energy (HTE) have halved though these trusts still provide sizable monthly distributions. Our conclusion from the analysis we had done earlier on these trusts (AAV – Stock Analysis and HTE – Stock Analysis)– was that high-energy prices were a requirement for these trusts to stay profitable and for growth.

CanRoys have a monthly dividend policy and for US investors, these distributions are:
  • Qualified Dividend Income, and
  • Subject to a non-resident withholding tax of 15%.
One exception is that in some cases, the trust classifies the distributions as return of capital.

The list of CanRoys listed as American Depository Receipts (ADRs) sorted by market capitalization with a brief description of each follow:
  1. Enterra Energy Trust (ENT) – It is the smallest and riskiest of the CanRoy ADRs with just under 27mmboe P&P reserves with 40:60 oil:gas split.
  2. Advantage Energy Income Fund (AAV) – A small-cap trust with P&P reserves over 150 mmboe with 40:60 oil:gas split.
  3. Baytex Energy Trust (BTE) – A mid-cap trust with low debt, P&P reserves over 150 mmboe with 76:24 oil:gas split and 5B barrels of Original Oil In Place (OIP).
  4. Harvest Trust Energy (HTE) – A mid-cap trust with substantial debt, P&P reserves of well over 200 mmboe with a 70:30 oil:gas split, 3B barrels of Original Oil In Place (OIP), and a large bet on an older refinery in the form of the acquisition of North Atlantic Refinery in October 2006.
  5. Provident Energy Trust (PVX) – A mid-cap trust with P&P reserves of over 100 mmboe with a 50:50 oil:gas split and a sizable midstream business.
  6. Pengrowth Energy Trust (PGH) – A mid-cap trust with P&P reserves of over 300 mmboe with a 50:50 oil:gas split.
  7. Enerplus Resources Fund (ERF) – A mid-cap trust with almost 450 mmboe in P&P reserves with a 40:60 oil:gas split.
  8. Penn West Energy Trust (PWE) – A mid-cap trust with 750 mmboe in P&P reserves with a 60:40 oil:gas split and 4.5M net undeveloped acres .
We have traded PWE and PGH previously and have long positions on AAV and HTE currently.

Below is a detailed look at different metrics of these CanRoys:

Financials:



CompanyENTAAVBTEHTEPVXPGHERFPWE
Market Capitalization$66.48M$805.16M$1.49B$1.51B$1.56B$2.63B$4.05B$6.48B
Enterprise Value$267.80M$1.46B$1.80B$3.29B$2.32B$3.78B$4.89B$9.84B
Shares Outstanding61.55M140.6M94.94M152.73M255.53M254.94M164.81M381.87M
Revenue$128.44M$480.91M$617.28$4.13B$2.71B$1.30B$1.38B$2.76B
Diluted EPS(1.38)(0.32)1.41(1.50)(0.39)0.832.510.06
Book Value2.967.5837.0912.364.768.7320.1716.60


Baytex Energy Trust (BTE) and Enerplus Resources Fund (ERF) look especially strong by these measures, given the relatively low debt. That is proving very valuable in this tight-credit environment.

Operations (Projected):



Company*ENTAAVBTETHEPVXPGHERFPWE
Cash Flow From Operations$48.13M$272.9M$333.28M$520.04M$484.35M$803.19M$891.19M$1.40B
Levered Cash Flow$23.75M$162.58M$368.34M$740.45M($830.26M)$404.32M$320.36M$541.95M
Dividend PayoutNIL – suspended as of 9/2007.$161M$232.6M$461.24M$309.19M$560.87M$632.87M$1.27B
Payout RatioNA59%70%89%64%70%71%91%
Dividend YieldNIL19.8015.6030.5019.8021.3015.6019.60
Capex $40M$250M$180M$240M$233M$387M$580M$900M
Production10,000 boe/day34,000 boe/day39,500 boe/day56,820 boe/day28,000 boe/day82,000 boe/day98,000 boe/day195,000 boe/day
Operating Netback per boeC$33.59NANAC$32.78NAC$43.11NANA
Oil/Gas Split37:6337:6376:2471:2949:5150:5039:6157:43


Pengrowth Energy Trust (PGH) shines here with a good dividend yield and payout ratio and sizable balanced production.

Reserves:


CompanyENTAAVBTEHTEPVXPGHERFPWE
P&P Reserves26.9 mmboe152.2 mmboe168 mmboe221 mmboe101 mmboe320 mmboe440 mmboe750 mmboe
Oil and NGLs10.9 mmboe61.1 mmboe143.27 mmboe154.7 mmboe50 mmboe160 mmboeNA427.5M
Natural Gas16 mmboe91.1 mmboe24.73 mmboe66.3 mmboe51 mmboe160 mmboeNA322.5M
Oil/Gas Split40:6040:6085:1570:3050:5050:50



57:43
Reserve Life Index (RLI)7 years.12.1 years.12.3 years.10 years9.7 years10.4 years12.4 years 10.3
Others255,513 acres undeveloped land5 years of RLI is conventional.5B barrels Original Oil In Place (OOIP).550,000 net acres undeveloped. 4B barrels Original Oil In Place (OOIP)Sizeable mid-stream business.Sizeable Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) options.None.4.5M net undeveloped acres.


Enerplus Resources Fund (ERF) shines here with an outstanding reserve life index (RLI) of 12.4 years and sizable reserves.

Hedging:


CompanyENTAAVBTEHTEPVXPGHERFPWE
Natural GasNone2009 – 37% at C$8.38NoneNA20%2009 - Approximately 62,782 mmbtu per day hedged at Cdn $7.99 per mmbtuNA2009 – 19%. Collars: $11.27 and $7.88
Oil2009 - 1000 bbls economically hedged2009 – 7% at C$94.322009 – 25% majority at WTI * 0.67NA – 75% hedged in 2007.20%2009 - Approximately 10,000 bbls per day hedged at Cdn $84.62 per bblNA2009 – 30%. Collars: $110.21 and $85


Many of these companies do not publish detailed hedging figures making it difficult to gauge how these firms fare by this measure. In general, using collars to cover both upside and downside seems a good strategy and Penn West Energy Trust (PWE) is doing the right things in this regard. The challenge for these firms is to establish hedging in a cost-efficient manner.

Valuation:


CompanyENTAAVBTEHTEPVXPGHERFPWE
As a multiple of P&P reserves9.9610.4210.717.65*8.12**11.8111.1113.12
Relative to current yieldNA4.626.413.285.054.456.415.10
As a multiple of levered cash flow11.288.654.894.44NA9.3615.2818.16
As a multiple of Book Value (BV) based on 10% calculation0.360.762.220.801.281.191.210.96
As a multiple of per flowing barrel oil equivalent26780429414557029750*29285**460974989850462

  • *Assumes HTE downstream asset valuation to be $1.6B, the purchase price at the time of the acquisition.
  • **Assumes a PVX midstream asset valuation at one-times revenue.
  • Stock Prices taken as of 11/07/2008

Harvest Trust Energy (HTE) and Provident Energy Trust (PVX) seem especially attractive by these measures. These firms however are more difficult to value as they have sizable other businesses – The North Atlantic refinery in the case of HTE and midstream business in the case of PVX.

Summary:

There are several risk factors worth understanding before investing in these companies:
  1. Energy Prices: The firms specialize on mature upstream assets rendering those programs capital intensive and are profitable only when energy prices are high. In a worldwide slowdown, energy prices go down and these companies quickly become unprofitable as we are seeing now - The sum of the Finding, Development, and Acquisition Costs (FD&A) and the operating costs BOE varies between $35 (PGH) and $50 (ERF) for these companies is telling in this regard.
  2. Currency Risks: CanRoys sell their product in the world market in US dollars but their costs are in Canadian dollars. Consequently CanRoys commands a premium when US dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar. The risk can be contained easily at a cost using currency hedging.
  3. Tax Law Changes: These trusts are negatively affected by a Canadian tax law change that comes into effect in the 2011 timeframe for existing trusts. When the tax-exempt status on distributions expires, the trusts will pay taxes like other regular corporations. The probable scenario is for the trusts to then act like regular corporations where the lion share of its cash flow for capital expenditures will be used to fund future growth in place of distributions. The shareholder base will also undergo a similar shift from income-oriented investors to growth-oriented investors before that timeframe. However, many of these CanRoys have significant tax pools that will help them delay the effects of tax law changes for an extended period of time. A related uncertainty is whether these companies will qualify for the proposed Canadian Corporate Tax Reduction Act. For US investors, another risk factor is possible tax increases with respect to foreign tax credits and/or dividends.
  4. Provincial Royalties: Alberta recently unveiled plans for increased royalties in the 2010 timeframe and this will directly affect profitability for many of these firms that have sizable operations in that area. A saving grace for these companies is that royalties are tied to the rate per well and many of the wells are lower rate and so the impact is contained.
There are sizable risks and the corporate structure will change dramatically for these companies as they move to be entities with low dividends. The trusts are valued low based on a number of valuation metrics. As such, investment in these companies is a good bet for long-term oil and gas demand and higher energy prices. It is a good fit in portfolios that need low-cap energy exposure for diversification purposes.

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