Archive for category Investing Learnings
Given the nature of the season and with no reason, here are the quick lessons from 2018:
a) The Dumb Speculator: I used to think this as a very apocryphal story and always used to chuckle how silly the story is:
“Ben Graham told a story forty years ago that illustrates why investment professionals behave as they do. An oil prospector, moving to his heavenly reward, was met by St. Peter with bad news. “You’re qualified for residence,” said St. Peter, “but, as you can see, the compound reserved for oil men is packed. There’s no way to squeeze you in.” After thinking a moment, the prospector asked if he might say just four words to the present occupants. That seemed harmless to St. Peter, so the prospector cupped his hands and yelled, “Oil discovered in hell.” Immediately, the gate to the compound opened and all of the oil men marched out to head for the nether regions. Impressed, St. Peter invited the prospector to move in and make himself comfortable. The prospector paused. “No,” he said, “I think I’ll go along with the rest of the boys. There might be some truth to that rumor after all.”
Well, I am chuckling no more. Truer than ever, I believed the entire fantasy for one story in 2018 and had to sell 30% from the top instead of selling near the top. I had all justifications and calculations for why the top was ‘THE top’ given it was ridiculously overpriced, but then I thought, why not…maybe there is truth to all those fantasies after all. Ultimately, it boils down to whether you clicked ‘Buy’/’Sell’ than all the million justifications and calculations you do within your head.
b) The Aggressive Investor: I almost always take concentrated positions (8-10% atleast) and there was this one concall from a capital goods company that I thought had cracked it all. Of course, I built a serious position in it (8%) – justified with ‘backed with conviction’, ‘motivated management’, ‘diversified revenue’, ‘normally valued’ etc.
Obviously, not just me but the entire market thought that the company had cracked it all. And then disappointment. The position corrected 50% and now is 40% below my buying price. The market – as simple as it sounds – doesn’t care about your conviction or management stories. It cares about earnings and the earnings disappointed big time.
c) The Sheepish Investor: Given the burns of the aggressive position, I course corrected and then said to myself – maybe, just maybe this isn’t a market to build concentrated positions and went the other way…building ‘2%-3%’ positions in 4-5 stocks. As such, there is no fault in building 2-3% positions. However, when your inherent investing nature is to think and build concentrated positions, these small positions are the first ones to be cut out off the portfolio when you have conviction in other stocks where you can build a position.
So, unless these small positions turn out to be massive multi-baggers (atleast 4-5x), they tend to be a waste of time and energy given there is neither conviction nor position to sustain and eventually reap those returns.
d) Take the Gains and Bear the Losses: After a longish period of 6 years, I took substantial money off the table in a number of stocks. Was in 20-25% cash most of the year. And that enabled me to bear losses from a few stocks (mostly the 2-4% positions).
Given that one makes the biggest mistakes in bull markets (greed, staying on till the last minute or beyond for max gains, thinking you can ride momentum, inability to find ideas and yet find it painful to sit on more than 25% cash etc.), taking those losses is still painful. One can find solace that some of these losses will be offset against gains and thereby tax incidence will be lower – but that’s a false solace that we try to find comfort in. The real truth of making mistakes lurks in the background (and really, no way to get around the fact of making mistakes, other than try to reduce incidence).
e) Saying Thank You: So many family and friends to say Thank You to. Family has no option but to stick to you through thick and thin, but friends have zero obligation to bear all the mindless chatter. Thank You to multiple friends – O, V, C, A, D, V. Each one of those names have taught me more than I can ever learn through a myriad books and mistakes. So, Thank You. I broke even this year (0% returns basically on the portfolio) and largely thanks to all of you and your sagely advice (kudos to O though, who has been a rock).
f) Saying One more Thank You: One landmark reached and crossed in my professional career of Management Consulting as well (became a Principal at my Firm). I absolutely love Consulting and Investing, and thankful to God that he has given me opportunities in both these fields to strive and ability to try to excel (excelling or not is a different matter). The rush that I get in the first week of any client situation (this year was in Singapore) and the rush to find an unique angle (s) to stocks which the market might have missed is something that can’t be explained, and only can be experienced.
Investing as such is complex, but when compared to vagaries of Life itself (in terms of health, happiness, laughter, family, friends, tears, sickness and death), Investing is probably the simplest of the lot. The worst you can do is 7% in a FD. The major lesson of 2018 is to not fret a lot and just live life being aware of mortality.
So, Thank You for this opportunity – it’s been a pleasure to see you off 2018. Welcome 2019. Let the fun and frolic begin.
P.S: Best books read this year – ‘How I lost a Million Dollars’, ‘Anti-fragile’ (again), ‘Factfulness’, ‘The Art of Learning’ (again), ‘A man for all markets’, ‘Letters from a Stoic’, ‘Markets Never Forget, but People Do’ are a few of them.
‘Recent History’ – an oxymoron, as history is typically measured in decades if not more.
However, given that most PMS funds, hedge funds and all kinds of investors proclaiming their vision and CAGR all over the place by choosing a very convenient 2009-2011 start dates/years to calculate their CAGR, I think ‘recent history’ would serve as a good reminder for all of us that mortality (in investing, as in life) is a good idea to revisit now and then.
Take a look at this snapshot and spend some time reading through the image:
An emerging STAR fund. Or you can call it by any other name. Portfolio as of Jan 2008. The name of ICICI is not even relevant here, as most mid-cap and small cap funds (and other funds masquerading as value funds) ended up in a similar fate in the great crash of 2008.
Look at the holdings of this fund in detail and ponder. Ponder for a moment, and especially on these lines:
a) The holdings in the portfolio were THE emerging names – with ‘quality’, ‘management integrity’, ‘scale of opportunity’ written all over them – back in 2008. Like we have many names now. With all three adjectives being attached to many of the names.
b) Access to Investing wisdom is not new (already available in 2008). Even the fund managers of ICICI STAR fund had access to a lot of investing books and Buffett’s letters.
c) Scuttlebutt is not new. Fund managers have had access to managements for as long as one can remember.
d) Access to networking is not new. Fund managers have always been widely networked. Only that networking has got more democratic because of technology (and especially whatsapp). Previously, there might have been panics in bursts. These days, there is a panic every day because of costless distribution of any written word.
d) Asset heavy businesses got massacred. Oh, well. We “know” about this now – we never invest in asset heavy businesses, right? Wait till the replacement cost bull market takes over.
d) Asset light businesses also got massacred. Either because the management turned out to be fraud or their industry turned out to be irrelevant.
e) What you don’t see in the snapshot is the price multiples one might have paid for those businesses. Given that ‘infra’ was all the rage back then, the P/E multiples were also high, pretty much with similar explanations that we are attributing to some sectors these days.
There are many more points to ponder just by looking at this image, which is basically a snapshot of the investing theme/rage back then.
i) Why do you think your portfolio of 2015 is not like the STAR fund portfolio of ICICI of 2008?
ii) What makes you ultra-confident (dare I say, cocky)? [I pretty much assume all of us are going to say ‘nope’ to i) above]
iii) What are the steps one might want to take/plug your learnings to not repeat i) and ii) above? [Hint: Whatsapp/Investing forums is definitely not the answer]
George Bernard Shaw made an epic statement when he said – “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”. The history of markets is replete with same mistakes repeated over and over again, each time with a different twist (mostly unimaginable/black swan).
Given the proliferation and access to information, let us atleast attempt to learn from history this time? I started with an oxymoron, and I think I ended with one 🙂
P.S: Post inspired by a conversation with a friend who chooses to be anonymous, but is bloody brilliant.
P.P.S: If you think ICICI STAR fund didn’t really tickle your senses, and you are craving for more, here is a more elaborate chart on an assortment of businesses – more varieties than you can find in a Walmart store – quality, scale of opportunity, management integrity, vision, mission, goal, rags-to-riches, first generation promoter – choose your poison – and the current market value is not even 1/10th of what it was.
If you already have a million dollars or more, this blogpost is not for you.
For all others, I’ll cut the bullshit and get to the chase. I am just mighty pissed off.
When you have less than a million dollars –
Please don’t listen to any or all the Gurus who are propagating 16% CAGR, 18% CAGR, 20% CAGR. You know the usual spiel. Say, you have 5 Lakh rupees. Gurus recommend that you should be happy be 18% CAGR or 20% CAGR and over a long period of time (40 years), you would be so rich, that even the rich would be ashamed.
For all those studies, where you read that if you had invested in quality at any price, and just held on to them for a long period of time (40 years), you would have made enough money to be proud of yourself.
You really want to know what they DON’T tell you.
By the time you are rich, you will be OLD. You will be very old. Your kids and grand kids, of course, would really appreciate all your journey, effort and all the good things that you have done for them. You will just die as a rich man without all the good things before it. That’s just a tragedy.
Since the readers of this blog are reasonably well versed with numbers, let me illustrate it with numbers.
Let me get the first and the easiest thing out of the way without the numbers. People keep doing these fancy calculations in excel about how much their salary is growing to grow, how health expenses will increase, plug in a sexy inflation number and try to arrive at a figure which they think will be enough for retirement.
Let me solve that for you. You need a million dollars (ex-Mumbai). Unless you want to live the luxurious life of Vijay Mallya ,(well, if you were Mallya, you wouldn’t do all these calculations), a million dollars would let you live and eventually die peacefully.
Ok, now for the numbers bit.
Let’s say you start investing at the age of 27 (well, how better it would be if you could start investing at the age of 15, but try convincing your teenage son or a fresh graduate not to spend on the latest smartphone and you’ll know what I mean). You start with Rs. 5 lakh (You can plug in any arbitary number).
Let’s say you manage to do 18% CAGR over a long period, say 40 years. Do you know how much money you would have by the time you are 67? 37 cr 51 lakh.
Whoa. That’s a lot of amount you say. Definitely it is.
But what would you do with so much amount at 67? You would be old, frail and not really ready to say travel widely or eat whatever you want or whatever shaukh (sic) you have.
Ok. So, how much money would you have by the time you are 57? 7 cr 16 lakh. Did you observe the difference?
Ok. So, how much money would you have by the time you are still fit, healthy and want to do what you want – say at the age of 47? 1 cr 37 lakh.
Did you see the difference? Did you really observe the beauty of compounding? You would not dream to live a reasonably luxurious life, traveling where you want, doing what you want to do with 1 cr 37 lakh.
And that’s my problem with folks preaching ‘my target is 18% cagr because the Gurus said it’, ‘I am ok with 16-20% cagr, but I don’t yet have a million dollars’.
Nobody, or rather, from whatever I have read spells out clearly on this intricate relationship between CAGR and Age. You can be rich, but you are already old.
I would rather die with 10 cr, in the process doing what I want than die with 37 cr to make my children and grand children happy.
And that brings me to my real point.
You should really not be aiming anything less than 35-40% CAGR if you are not already a millionaire. It just sucks not to aim for it.
Why did I say 35-40% at a minimum? That’s because, you can make 100x your money in 15 years with a 36% CAGR. Your 5 lakh will become 5 cr in 15 years (if you start at 27, by the time you are 42 – you are reasonably rich and an almost millionaire). This is not something that I picked up from the now famous 100-to-1 book. That never spoke of age. In fact, he talks very long time frames.
Is this the bull market in me speaking? Definitely. But why not? Look, unless you are outrageously lucky with a stock or timing the depth of a bear market, your BIG returns are going to come only in a bull market. Again, numbers. If a Rs. 20 has to become Rs. 100, you need a 400% return. That same Rs. 100 to come back to Rs. 20 requires just a 80% drop. So, you absolutely need to make killer returns in the bull market to survive the bear market.
People will try to dissaude you by quoting process will get corrupted, people will indulge in speculative stocks etc. My question is – what’s a corrupt process? Just because there is a wave of high quality, high management integrity bull market this time, everybody is on this bandwagon of the right process etc. It’s almost as if investing was just born in 2009.
And speculation. I don’t think speculation is going to net you 35-40% CAGR for 15 years. I have not met anybody yet doing this.
Is this easy? It’s obviously not meant to be easy. Just because you have some internet forums and whatsapp groups these days doesn’t mean investing is easy. There is a lot of hard work, there is a lot of luck and there is a lot of position sizing science involved before you make that million dollars. As Munger says, ‘It’s not meant to be easy. If you think it is easy, you are stupid’.
And speaking of Munger (which, in these days of the current bull market, seem to encapsulate all other Gurus), here’s what he had to say in Snowball – remember, when he was young –
So, for all those people who keep saying 18-20% CAGR, you are either already a millionaire or you are just bullshitting. Aim higher. Work harder. Enjoy the process of investing. And actually enjoy life at the right age. There is no fun in dying rich. And there is a tragedy in dying really rich without having enjoyed or doing what you really wanted to do.
Go for 35-40% CAGR (atleast). Become a millionaire. Live comfortably.
P.S – Cynical folks may obviously point out that 5 lakh is only a starting capital and people will add as and when they grow in life. You know, if people were so disciplined in investing, we’d have a lot more people active in 10 year and 15 year SIPs.
P.P.S – Other folks might point out CAGR is not important but how much, as a % of your networth, is more important to overall gains. Absolutely agree. Convince your friend in a bear market to put 90% of his networth in equities. % of networth is very important, but even with smaller sums of money (and I do think Rs. 5 lakh is a smaller amount of money these days, with freshers from IIMs earning Rs.20 lakh), CAGR at the right levels covers a lot of ground.
Earlier this week, I had the privilege to be a part of an intense, immersive and absolutely enlightening investor conference in Goa. It was an invite-only and unfortunately, I am not at liberty to disclose either the names of participants in the conference, nor the name/theme. Participants were amazing. It was such an intensely collaborative conference that the time spent on the beach in 2.5 days of the conference was about 2.5 hours 🙂 But Goa, being the place it is, relaxes you completely in those 2.5 hours.
Anyway, enough about the background. I think I do have the liberty to compile a list of learning that I had from this conference. This is more like a list that I wrote down on paper, so there might have been a zillion other things that I missed. Papers get lost but Internet is forever (or something like that) and hence this attempt:
1) Owner’s View: Look at every business from the owner’s standpoint. What motivates the owner? What are 1 or 2 key factors that the owner understands that bring value to the business? How will the owner react in adverse conditions? That’s absolutely critical to value the business. (Book recommendation for this point: “Creating Shareholder Value”)
2) Crossing the Chasm. An excellent mental model to think about businesses, especially emerging businesses. There are two critical strategies for listed markets based on this mental model. a) Initially, follow a basket strategy in an emerging theme (bowling alley phase) and b) More critically (and this was the key learning), the leader usually gets a disproportionate share of the market and hence move capital from basket strategy to the leader once data/analysis points to who would be a leader.
3) Invest in Leaders: Try investing in large, proven and addressable markets (companies trying to create a market usually face a lot of headwinds and probably will not be successful). A further refinement would be to always invest in leaders in pull-based (demand) businesses.
4) What’s the DNA?: Understand the company’s DNA. Look for greatness DNA. The strengths and weaknesses of promoter/owner/leadership gets amplified in the company (and thereby earnings).
5) Write it down: Try and write down core investment thesis before investing in any stock (or selling a stock, for that matter). This would serve as a record to check against reality.
6) Sell a bit: Sell a bit of your most favorite/loved stock and check if the love holds (selling will trigger rationality in a much loved stock in your portfolio). Especially, sell a bit if numbers get disappointing to get rational.
7) Growth, growth, growth: The weightage for growth (usually, sales and then profits) in the Indian stock markets is 50%.
8) What’s your insight?: Decent opportunity size, difficult to dislodge and high predictability are critical factors for any business and in all markets (bull and bear). What requires more effort, insight and is more important to returns is the evaluation of a visible gap between performance and perception (especially, in bullish times like these).
9) Successful patterns: Some of the successful patterns in the Indian stock market have been Growth + Deep undervaluation, Operating leverage + reducing debt, maiden dividend, industries with a reform tailwind, demand businesses + oligopoly and small equity + illiquidity
10) Leverage Darwin: Buy shares (in tracking quantity) of all businesses that you like. Else, it’s usually ‘out of sight, out of mind’. And Darwin theory will force you to forget those stocks even though you seem to be hearing good news (since you don’t even own a share)
11) Read, Read, Read: I found that most good investors in that forum read, at a minimum, 500 annual reports a year (may not be 500 different companies; may be 5-7 annual reports of every company that one likes). And as Munger says, it adds up over a lifetime.
12) Psychological Denial: One of the bigger mistakes that bright investors usually make is psychological denial. It’s not that they fail to recognize that the business is deteriorating. It is that they don’t act upon it. There would be plenty of time to recognize deterioration of a business and act upon it (sell). But psychological denial comes into play and these bright investors are left holding the bag.
13) Are you screwed yet?: If you are not screwed by the markets in 2 years (consecutively), then watch out. Screwing is just round the corner (not just a bull to bear, but due to transition from confidence to overconfidence, mistakes are bound to happen)
14) Don’t take the lollipop: Many a bright investor with wonderful track records for 5, 7, 10 years get lulled by the market and their analysis. Market, at some point in time, gives a wonderful, sweet (but dangerously poisonous) lollipop which these investors partook and then got rogered. Sometimes, they don’t recover financially and worse, are broken in confidence too. The key always is to be watchful.
15) My observation/contribution in the conference: Be absolutely obsessive about working capital (and detailed components). Working capital is a leading indicator of competitive advantage. If working capital (days) is increasing for all businesses in your portfolio, either you have a shitty portfolio or the economy is going in a tailspin.
P.S: As I mentioned earlier, these are the ones that I wrote down (the essence as such. Detailed discussions on these points obviously were a killer). Such was the intensity of the conference and discussions that there were a zillion other things which I couldn’t/didn’t note down. My biggest takeaway from this conference was the humility and down-to-earth behavior of these brilliant investors who have seen the ups and downs of the market for more than 10-15 years and also have made a lot of money still looking to learn, still looking to share and in general, being absolutely stellar. Lot to learn. And as Frost lingers on, ‘miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep’.
After what seems to be a fabulous year for the stock markets in the hope of ‘acche din’, we seem to be headed for a confusing year in 2015. More on that later.
Massive year for the stock markets. I am yet to come across any person in my circle of investors who have not made atleast a 100%+ gain on their portfolio. The extreme I have heard is a 600%+ gain. Multiple nuances to these claims obviously. Suffice it to say that all the hard work on investing in 2011, 2012 and 2013 paid off in 2014 in my personal portfolio too with 300%+ gain (and obviously, the CAGR will automatically get bumped up). Let’s see how it goes from here.
More than the monetary gains, which are no doubt important, I have made some highly knowledgeable, highly networked and yet very humble friends in the bargain and I immensely thank God for this blessing. Markets and studying about Markets have taught me way more than I could ever imagine – useful stuff not just for Markets but in personal and corporate life. The role of luck is hugely understated in every success is one of my most important learning. Stellar stuff in finance, behavior, management, logic, probability, luck, black swans – I mean, the range of thought processes that I was exposed to, thanks to friends, well-wishers and various social networks, has made life that much more richer (and more unsure of?). They say that Ignorance has the highest courage and the more you know about something, the more you realize you know less about that something. I guess that’s true across all aspects of life, including markets. And also perhaps the reason why older folks are more circumspect than the young folks about any decision they make/take.
Since multiple blogs have been talking about successes, I want to go a bit contrarian. What I want to do in this post is not to talk about successes, which obviously involve luck too, but talk about failures. Failures in thought processes than any price action per se (as it was very difficult to lose money in the 2014 bull market even with a faulty thought process).
As the Prof says, there are two types of mistakes – mistakes of omission and mistakes of commission. I committed both types of mistakes in this year. My selfish effort in documenting these mistakes on the blog is to publicly put pressure on myself to minimize these mistakes to re-occur again (and a bear market is very unforgiving).
Mistake of Omission: This is a easier form of mistake, as opportunity cost doesn’t get reflected in numbers or CAGRs. But opportunity cost is a cost and it needs to be accounted for. So, in this year, I missed two stocks – Symphony and Eicher Motors.
Of course, it’s easier to say that in Bull markets all stocks go up, so what if you missed a couple of them? The point is, there was a flaw in the thought process which led me to not invest in any of the two.
Symphony – It’s a little strange as to how much time I spent studying this stock, business, management, listening to their concalls, doing localized scuttlebutt etc. The price was around Rs.325. My logic of not buying this stock hinged on two reasons –
a) Historically, the management of Symphony was known to give very aggressive targets that they were not able to fulfill. Classic case of overpromising and under-delivering.
b) The Sales growth year on year (unless you took the low of 2009 and calculated CAGR) was not encouraging at all. In all stocks I invest, I try to check the historical sales growth and see if the management had the capability to ramp up sales and if there was a temporary industry/global issue. Symphony sales growth was left wanting. \
And then, the Prof also wrote a great blogpost on Symphony and its business. Q2FY14 results came in very well. I bought a token position of 1% at around Rs.370 post Q2 results. However, I was not convinced that Symphony was a stock I wanted to invest (I am usually a concentrated investor, with no more than 7-9 bets). Inspite of all these good indicators, I sold out the stock at Rs.450 and moved on to something else.
You may call it price anchoring. You may call it wrong judgment of business. Or maybe – and this might be my learning – I underestimated the market’s power of re-rating a stock with an asset-light model, good dividends and a demonstrated quarter-on-quarter sales growth for two consecutive quarters. I really should have bought a chunk post Q2FY14 results. But I didn’t.
Of course, I never expected the stock to go from a 20 PE to a 60 PE to the current price of Rs.2000. But, at a bare minimum, I missed a 3-4 bagger from Rs.370 levels in a easy to understand asset-light business with high dividend payouts coming up the curve on sales growth.
Similar mistake of omission occurred on Eicher Motors. Saw it at Rs.1000. Never expected the RE division to contribute so heavily. Was always thinking that CV division is the one that will turn around Eicher. Totally under-estimated Siddharth Lal’s vision, inspite of seeing a rapid increase in Royal Enfield’s on the roads. The learning – Reading all those Peter Lynch’s books over and over again came to nought. Absolute zero understanding and implementation of Lynch’s statements and thereby losing out on a massive gain (my view has always been, if you can’t implement even such simple things, why read at all?). Of course, never expected this to go to 85 PE. Even at 40PE, I missed a 4-8 bagger from Rs.1000-2000 levels. At current levels, the margin of safety seems quite less, although every analyst and his friends think this is a Rs. 1 lakh stock price business as the CV business is also turning around. If it does go to Rs.1L, I’ll probably write another mistake of a mistake, a meta-mistake blogpost 🙂
Mistake of Commission: A more grave mistake, and probably a bear market would have destroyed my CAGR. I got out unscathed, with some decent returns, but the thought process was pretty sub-standard.
So, I bought this auto-component stock owned by a private equity player as I thought it was highly undervalued at Rs.110 bucks and kept buying till Rs. 120. Nothing wrong with that. But greed overtook me. What I did, since I didn’t have any surplus cash, I sold out most of a artificial leather company, a cpvc company and a three-wheeler company for buying this stock. The thought process was – I will sell these three -> invest in the auto-component story as I saw private equity triggers coming through -> once it becomes fairly valued, I will sell that –> get back into these stories yet again.
The reason why I called such a thought process pedestrian is because I was betting on a series of probabilities rather than a decision or two. I was selling three very good compounding stories, which had given me stellar returns to buy a stock which was only undervalued but not really as great as those three stories with a hope of getting back into those three stories. I was basically trying to time the market, as I thought those three stories were fairly/over valued and this one was undervalued. I got out once I realized the gravity of this mistake (and thanks to the bull market, sold out at Rs.160 in about 2-3 months I think).
The learning, really was, and I keep repeating this to myself over and over – is to never sell a longer term story for a shorter term story. Sell a longer term story for another longer term story. Once in a while, like in 2014, you escape unscathed (with decent returns for a bad process). But in a bear market, such mistakes are going to cost me a lot.
Anyway, those were my mistakes. I may have committed more, but I have probably not yet realized them 🙂
Back to the initial statement about confusing state of affairs in 2015. The markets seem fairly to over valued depending on who you ask. Nobody in the market is saying that markets are undervalued at this point in time. There are a lot of discussions (maybe more than necessary), across all channels of communication, about raising cash to prepare for a crash.
This blogpost should hopefully clarify matters – http://calculatedwagers.blogspot.com/2015/01/when-to-sell-and-when-not-to.html
But my personal view on cash is this – Given that Nifty is not over-valued by traditional means (TTM PE < 24-25 PE) and given most stocks in my portfolio are fairly to slightly over-valued, there is no hurry to get into cash. Cash gets built over time. Of course, there might be minor crashes (10-15%), but that’s the nature of equity markets and you probably shouldn’t be in the markets if you are not ready for such corrections. My view is either be in 0% cash (and expect these minor corrections, and if the businesses you have bought are good, there is only going to be a temporary loss) or be in 30-40-50% cash (which is really like preparing for a crash). Having a 10% cash for example, is only satisfiying the psychological urge to assume you are in control than help you in any sort of corrections. Past corrections in this bull market have led me to believe that quality is not going to correct much – so a 10% cash may not really help in minor corrections. In major corrections, everything’s going to fall and a 10% is no respite.
Disclosure: I am not a financial analyst nor a research analyst. All posts on this blog are only for my documentation and educational purposes. Please contact your financial adviser before taking any decisions.
So, it’s that day of the year where everybody looks at the year gone by – some with happiness, some with wistfulness and some others with a tinge of sadness. Nevertheless, everyone except for the greatest of cynics look forward to the new year with hope, enthusiasm and happiness.
So, here’s wishing all of you a fantastic happy new year 2014!
From an investing standpoint, I wanted to jot down some notes for posterity –
a) Performance: At the beginning of this year, I started deploying most of my capital towards equities. Right now, except for emergency funds (and gold and real estate of the old), most of it is in equities. Maybe it’s a sign that the market top is here and it’s all downhill from here 🙂 My portfolio’s return over the past 5 years is now 30.4% CAGR, helped massively by some decent investments I have made over the last year. 25% of my portfolio has been invested in HDFC Bank and that has returned 0% over the past 1 year. If I remove the best performing stock in my portfolio (which gives a slight indication of whether the portfolio is robust enough, and that you weren’t just ‘lucky’), the returns fall to about 22% CAGR. 8% CAGR difference is massive if you consider a long enough timeline – but for now, the portfolio seems robust enough, although there is a long way to go in terms of a perfect portfolio.
b) HDFC Bank: As I said above, it constitutes 25% of the entire portfolio and has returned 0% over the past 1 year. I have an idea of what to do with most of the stocks in my portfolio except this one. This is probably the bluest of the blue chips and has been with me for the longest time (esops) and has compounded extremely well. I do understand (and have read) that the stocks don’t know you own them and you need to be un-emotional about stocks etc., but this one is slightly special. Many a time, I have come mighty close to selling a portion (or all of it) to invest in other opportunities, but have held myself back so far. Other good friends of mine have suggested to take the option of LAS (loan against securities) against this. Somehow, I am slightly averse to leverage. Anyway, this stock has been my biggest dilemma of 2013. Behavioral science is that much more tougher to implement when one stock is a runaway success.
c) Friends: To begin with, they were just acquaintances who used to interact regularly on investing forums like valuepickr and whatsapp groups. Slowly, over many conversations, and on everything under the sun, this year has been amazing in terms of getting to-gether with like-minded friends and learning a lot from them. It is my belief that incremental CAGR will come, not just by reading and working on your own but also consulting with like-minded friends who can teach you a lot about investing much faster and point out behavioral flaws in the nicest manner. This easily has been my biggest benefit of 2013 and hope to continue in 2014 and beyond.
d) Mistakes of Omission: Well, I would not call them mistakes because I had consciously avoided them after reading up on their businesses. These businesses have gone on to becomes doublers in about 6 months or less. One of the changes that I have noticed over the past year is that I no longer feel the need to ‘catch-up’ or ‘missing out’ on a stock. Stocks like PI Industries, Acrysil, MPS etc. have doubled in the last 6 months. I had read about them but didn’t invest in them. The reasons are many – I either didn’t understand the business completely or didn’t like the management or didn’t understand the competitive landscape well and hence didn’t invest in them. I maintain a 7-10 stock portfolio most of the time and I can’t afford not understanding a business/not understanding the triggers for growth/not able to track more details on the company. I am not really too worried about mistakes of omission (and I honestly think nobody should unless their capital is massive).
e) Mistakes of Commission: This one gets my goat. Thankfully, there have not been too many of them this year. However, I did lose 0.5% of my portfolio capital on one single stock – CP labs this year. In fact, I sold the stock at a 20% loss and the stock has promptly moved up 50% from the time I sold – talk about wonderful timing 🙂 This stock had all the wonderful influences of psychology while buying it and also while selling it. A story for another day perhaps. Other than that, lost tiny bits of money on APW President delisting and Cravatex (I kick myself for this investment – as it was on a whim, a bias for action than anything else). The takeaway for me from this year is to not invest on a whim and not get taken by the influences of psychology. Both are of course extremely tough to do, but that’s the challenge, ain’t it?
f) Unsatisfactory Profits: This is a strange case where I made some good profits, but am still unhappy to have take then decision to buy (and then sell). The stock case in point is Avanti Feeds. I saw massive value when the stock declared its Q1 results this year and bought quite a bit in my portfolio (at around Rs.170). The price kept increasing from then on, but I was on tenterhooks all the time – especially because there were so many variables to track. Inspite of all the assurances from various forums, I was really not comfortable holding the stock and tracking the stock on a daily basis (can’t do because of my day job). So, I sold – in the range of Rs.240-Rs.265. Decent profits but not satisfactory. I really want to get into a system of investing in stocks with not too many variables in 2014 and beyond, especially the ones that don’t keep me on tenterhooks every day.
g) Special Situations: As you would have noticed over the past year, I have not written about special situations on this blog (or actually, written on hardly anything at all). I have stopped analyzing them for multitude of reasons – a) I have realized that they are very intellectually stimulating but not very monetarily stimulating, considering effort vs return b) They don’t end up giving me the comfort of compounding and am exposed to reinvestment risks c) Too much competition chasing too few special situations, resulting in hardly any arbitrage. I may invest in special situations in the future, but they are going to be very few in number.
Hope to blog more in 2014. And wish you a very happy and prosperous new year.
Today was a very humbling experience. I did a mammoth exercise of plugging in all numbers since the time I have been investing (6 years). This included stocks, debt (this is a combo of debt mutual funds+cash – not loans), equity mutual funds, one ULIP (yes, I had one ULIP). I didn’t consider PF. Over the past 6 years, my CAGR is 18.2% as of today’s closing prices. And here I was, thinking that I was doing 30-35%.
A few facts upfront, before I dive into details:
i) My broad portfolio as of today is 39% in Stocks, 23% in Debt and 39% in Real Estate. The real estate consists of my home back in my hometown. Technically, it is an asset (I have already paid off the entire loan) but my parents live there and I don’t think I’d be selling the house ever (unless, a massive black swan strikes).
ii) I have not included Gold in the portfolio calculations. Gold is an asset, inflation hedge etc., but we Indians never sell Gold unless and until it’s an emergency. So, again, technically, it is an asset but not really. If I include Gold in the total assets ratio, it’d be 34:20:34:12 (S:D:R:G).
iii) In general, I have tried investing as carefully as possible (one of the prime reasons being, if I fail, I don’t have a inter-generational wealth to back me and pick me up again). This also included taking max. term insurance to protect my family from black swan.
iv) Although I am invested in stocks since 2007, active investing was only since the last couple of years. Before that, it was a combination of pure luck for gains, and pure speculation for losses. The last couple of years have been pretty good in terms of % gains, but not very high in absolute numbers.
Alright, that story done, let me dive into a few details.
a) Let me put the 18% CAGR in perspective. 18% handily beats all ‘Large&Midcap’ and ‘Midcap&Smallcap’ funds. However, my target has always been atleast 25% (else, not worth the effort). My aim is to hit 25% p.a on average till I hit atleast a 8-figure number on the Stock+Debt portfolio. So, 18% did come as a big bummer. Here I was, thinking I could easily beat the markets, value the business, discuss and argue cogently with hallowed investors and then there was this number that stared me in the face (I double checked the numbers, just to ensure I have not under-performed, willingly).
b) The last 2 years of active investing has been pretty good, but so has the record of the midcap/smallcap market in the past 2 years. If I eliminate the first 4 years of my passive investing, the last 2 years CAGR came to about 40% p.a. This again, is due to a combination of extreme luck (forums like valuepickr/theequitydesk in no small measure), effort (constant lurking on wonderful blogs like I mentioned before) and a bit of reading (which helped me avoid the dumbest mistakes). However, since there were a host of factors like paying off my home loan, wedding expenses (oh my!) etc., the lack of sufficient capital led to not much of absolute capital appreciation. I hope I can sustain this luck and learning for a long time so that my capital grows too.
c) Drilling down to the details. HDFC Bank is a clear winner, not much in % terms (it’s like 5x in 6 years) but I put in a quite a lot of capital. In fact, I would boil this down to luck too. I accrued ESOPs since I worked for HDFC Bank, and I bought all ESOPs that got accrued when I left the Bank (split-adjusted price of Rs.125/-). In fact, I had taken a personal loan to buy all the options. Thankfully, Mr. Puri is carrying the Bank along well. A combination of extreme luck (working for the bank and hence ESOPs) and monstrous stupidity (taking a personal loan to buy stocks) – but it is now an anchor stock and has served me well. Too bad, I didn’t buy this one yet again in the 2009 bear market.
d) Out of the 38% in stocks, 10% of it is in a venture. When I mean, venture, I mean an unlisted company. There is this very good friend of mine who had an aeronautical spare parts company. He was committed to his company and grew it by leaps and bounds. He then got an opportunity to tie-up with a major company and asked me if I’d invest. I knew this guy to be honest&committed, he was putting in a lot of his personal stake, and the major company also put in 50% of the total capital. I saw a large scope of opportunity and committed management and invested 10% of the stock capital in it last year. Thankfully, it is going well. Of course, if and when the company goes for an IPO, I am committed to write a glowing IPO note to pump the stock :). Let’s see how far this goes. Yet again, outlier event, extreme luck of having him as a friend, and he asking me if I’d be interested in investing.
e) In the last 2 years of active investing, forums, blogs and books galore. Inspite of major undervaluations in very good stocks shared by one and sundry, I had the heart to commit major capital to only two stocks – Mayur Uniquoters and Atul Auto. Of course, I have exposures to Astral Poly, Kaveri Seed, Muthoot Capital, PEL etc., but even if they go 3x, at the current capital allocation level, they are not going to make much of a difference to overall wealth. Inspite of multiple people urging me that ‘Pharma’ was simple, it was simply my laziness and lack of interest that I didn’t dig through the story of Ajanta Pharma/Unichem etc. Ajanta Pharma, in hindsight of course, was a major miss. This 40% p.a return in 2 years, I would admit, involved a lot of effort, apart from luck. Effort in reading up valuepickr/theequitydesk every day and see if I can invest in a stock or not.
f) In essence, if you remove my top 4 stocks – HDFC Bank, Venture investment, Mayur Uniquoters and Atul Auto, my portfolio % returns is okish, but the absolute capital is very meager. It is surprising how Buffett’s rule (top 25% stocks make most returns) is discrimination-less even for an amateur investor like me.
g) Of course, contrary to Buffett’s rule, I have made far more than 20 purchases (20 punch-holes). And in most of them, the returns are less and some are even negative. I should have just stuck to buying more of the success stocks rather than diversifying into many and multiple.
h) As I was doing the analysis all of today afternoon (I had to pull out 6 years worth of reports etc.), the experience was very taxing and liberating at the same time. I understood some of the mistakes I made, some of the portfolio allocation decisions I took, portfolio sizing problems that I encountered and will encounter in the future etc. So to say, it was a meditative experience. Till, I hit the ‘Enter’ button on the XIRR formula. After that, everything came crashing to the ground, which is currently leading me to deep questioning and introspection. I don’t know what will come out of it though.
Not sure if this post helped you in any way. Not sure if 3 facts and 8 ramblings made the post long and/or boring. The key takeaway though is I needed extreme luck and constant lurking on different forums to make any of my gains 🙂
I look forward to interactions with any senior investors reading this – a) Were you in this situation before? b) How do you go about correcting flaws in thinking/approach? and any other tips/tricks to help me survive and grow in the market.
P.S: If you are a novice/amateur investor, and haven’t done the exercise of pooling in all the stock&debt portfolio at one place (I recommend Google finance, simply for the reason that excel sheets tend to get lost in nested-nested-nested folders with the same names), please do so. I can assure you, even if the XIRR value is not too exciting, the very fact of putting down those numbers is tremendously educative.
DISCLOSURE: The stocks that I mentioned or referred ARE NOT be taken as recommendations for a Buy or a Sell. Please do your own due diligence before investing.
These guys were also known as Brescon Corporate Advisors till a few months ago (just in case you’d like to check on brokerage reports of the past – if there are any).
I will evaluate this special situation combining the principles/questions outlined by the Prof in this post (which, needless to say, is a must read for anyone who wants to do risk arb and the complexity is getting complexier and complexier 🙂 ) along with the analysis I had done for Tata Sponge Iron/Tinplate company in my previous post.
This open offer was brought to my notice by my friend Ashish Kila today morning. Also, at today’s closing CMP, there is no trade that can be done in this open offer on a profitable basis. This post is only for analysis (which reminds me, I need to come up with a mindmap kind of thing for open offers after the Prof’s complete post on the risk arb problem).
Anyway, Nusarwar Merchants Pvt. Ltd. (NMPL) has come up with an open offer to buy 26% of Brescon at a price of Rs. 123/-. Today’s current CMP is Rs. 113/-. The genesis of this offer was a 33.75% buyout from certain sellers (looks like a part of the promoter group, also called ‘persons acting in concert’ in the latest AR) in Brescon on 29/Sep/2012 and hence this open offer is a triggered offer. Here’s the link to the open offer.
Let’s go through the Prof’s questions to analyze this then (and given that all regulatory approvals are through and the chances of any regulatory surprises are close to nil, the relevant template would be template #2).
a) What’s the expected return of this operation?
Ans. The current CMP is Rs. 113/-. The offer price is Rs. 123/-. Payment would be done by Dec 25th, 2012 according to the schedule (2 months from current date). Since 33.75% has been acquired, theoretically, 66.25% can tender. Theoretical acceptance ratio would be 26/66.25 = 39.24% (approx to 39%). Let’s say I buy 100 shares and I expect the price after the open offer closes to be Rs. 100/-.
Investment = Rs. 113 * 100 = Rs,11,300/-
39 shares would be accepted at Rs.123/-. 39*123 = Rs. 4797 (Rs. 390/- would be the gain, on which 30% marginal tax would be applied since STT wouldn’t be applicable while tendering, but I’ll ignore this for now)
Remaining 61 shares would be sold at Rs.100/-. 61*100 = Rs. 6100/-.(a loss of Rs.793/- can be used to offset short term capital gains, if any)
Total return = 6100+4797 = Rs. 10897/-
That is, Investment > Total return, resulting in a loss, assuming a theoretical acceptance ratio.
b) Should you look at fundamentals of the target company? Why or why not?
We should certainly look at the fundamentals of the company since there is a chance that we can acquire shares of a good company at a very low cost. However, in case of Brescon, after looking at the fundamentals over the last 2-3 years and this slump sale arrangement (where they sold Brescon Corporate advisory business to their own subsidiary company on a slump sale basis citing some convoluted logic, read Item No. 3 on Page 6 of that arrangement for starters), I am not too comfortable in acquiring shares of this company for the long term.
c) What is the likely acceptance ratio i.e. how many of your shares are likely to get accepted under the offer (theoretical vs. practical) and what key factors will govern that ratio?
The theoretical acceptance ratio is 39% as stated in a). The practical acceptance ratio might be different. Given that only one part of the promoter group has sold out, the remaining promoter group has approx. 24% of the shareholding. Since this looks like a voluntary sellout by one part of the promoter group, the rest of the promoter group may not participate in the open offer. However, the chances of the promoter participating is non-zero. The retail shareholding is close to 20%. On a historical basis, not all retail investors have tendered for various reasons. Let’s assume 5% brain dead investors then. Let’s look at the two different scenarios then (am assuming the rest will tender) –
|1||Promoter group doesn’t tender; 5% brain dead investors||71%||Highly likely||70%|
|2||Promoter group tenders; 5% brain dead investors||43%||Probably not||30%|
A few calculations summarized in the table below –
|No of shares||100|
|Price post open offer||100|
|Acceptance ratio 71%||333|
|Acceptance ratio 43%||-311|
|Expected value per share based on probabilities above||1.40|
|Gain% on expected value on an annualized basis||7.50%|
Therefore, we’ll have a gain of 7.5% on an annualized basis without considering the effect of taxes, service tax, cess etc. This is poorer than the return if we invest the same money in a liquid plus mutual fund for 2 months. Hence, this opportunity is a pass.
d) How can you use the “inversion” (invert, always invert) trick to estimate market’s assessment of the acceptance ratio?
Ans. Let’s assume that the market cost of capital is 12%. That is, 2% for 2 months of money.
CMP is Rs. 113/-. At the end of 2 months, at the market cost of capital, the money should have been Rs.115.26. We can find the market’s expected acceptance ratio by
Rs. 115.26 = Offer price * Accepted shares + Remaining shares * Resultant share price after open offer.
Plugging in the values,
Rs. 115.26 = 123*x+(1-x)*100 and solving for x, we get an acceptance ratio of 66.34%. That is, the market is pricing to almost close to the best case scenario (refer table above) where the rest of the promoter group doesn’t tender and there are 5% brain dead investors. This is clearly very optimistic and hence the chances of a substantial upside is close to nil.
e) Should you borrow money to do this operation? Should you have done it in Template 1? Why or why not?
Ans. With the expected value of 7.5% p.a, and being a retail investor, I cannot borrow at less than 12%, if not more. This clearly is a losing operation for me. Hence, I wouldn’t borrow for executing this operation.
a) There is certainly a price at which this operation can deliver a lot of value. Between now and 11 December 2012, if the market price of Brescon falls below say Rs. 100/-, this operation will have a quite a bit of value. It is not profitable just right now.
b) I have not considered the scalper syndrome scenario where you buy at Rs. 113/- and say if the market shoots up and if the price goes to Rs.118/- by end of next week, you can make some returns in quick time. However, then I would be speculating than evaluating.
Disclosure: No position in this open offer. This post is only for analysis and not for investment purposes.