Category Archives: Competitive Analysis

R-T-M, Gross Profitability, Magic Formula

Our last lesson was in Mean Reversion (Chapter 5 in Deep Value) discussed http://wp.me/p2OaYY-2Ju  View this video on a very MEAN Reversion.

We must understand full cycles and reversion to the mean.  Let’s move on to reading Chapter 2: A Blueprint to a better Quantitative Value Strategy in Quantitative Value.

Investors should be skeptical of history-based models. Constructed by a nerdy-sounding priesthood using esoteric terms such as beta, gamma, sigma and the like, these models tend to look impressive. Too often, though, investors forget to examine the assumptions behind the symbols. Our advice: Beware of geeks bearing formulas. -Warren Buffett, Shareholder Letter, 2000.

A WONDERFUL BUSINESS

Greenblatt defined Buffett’s definition of a good business as a high Return on Capital (ROC) – EBIT/Capital

Capital is defined as fixed asses + working capital (current assets minus current liabilities) minus excess cash.

ROC measures how efficiently management has used the capital employed in the business. The measure excludes excess cash and interest-bearing assets from this calculation to focus only on those assets actually used in the business to generate the return.

A BARGAIN PRICE

High earning yield = EBIT/TEV

TEV + Market Cap. + Total debt – minus excess cash + Preferred Stock + minority interests, and excess cash means cash + current assets – current liabilities.EBIT/TEV enables and apples-to-apples comparison of stock with different capital structures.

Improving on the Magic Formula?

ROC defined as Gross profitability to total assets.

GPA = (Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold)/Total Assets

GPA is the “cleanest” measure of true economic profitability.

See this study Gross Profitability a Better Metric and see pages 46-49 in Quant. Value. (the book was sent to deep-value group on Google)

The authors found GPA outperformed as a quality measure the magic formula.  Note on page 48, Table 2.3: Performance Stats for Common Quality Measures (1964 – 2011) that most simple quality measures do NOT provide any differentiation from the market!

FINDING PRICE, Academically–Book value/Market Price

The authors found that analyzing stocks along price and quality contours using the Magic Formula and its generic academic brother Quality and Price can produce market beating results 

The authors: “Our study demonstrates the utility of a quantitative approach to investing. Relentlessly pursuing a small edge over a long period of time, through booms and busts, good economies and bad, can lead to outstanding investment results.”

Ok, let’s come back to quality and avoiding value/death traps in the later chapters (3 and 4) in Quantitative Value.  We are just covering material in Chapter 2. 

INVESTORS BEHAVING BADLY

Investors and the Magic Formula

Adding Your Two Cents May Cost a Lot Over the Long Term by Joel Greenblatt
01-18-2012  (Full article: Adding Your Two Cents

Gotham Asset Management managing partner and Columbia professor Joel Greenblatt explains why investors who ‘self-managed’ his Magic Formula using pre-approved stocks underperformed the professionally managed systematic accounts.

So, what happened? Well, as it turns out, the self-managed accounts, where clients could choose their own stocks from the pre-approved list and then follow (or not) our guidelines for trading the stocks at fixed intervals didn’t do too badly. A compilation of all self-managed accounts for the two-year period showed a cumulative return of 59.4% after all expenses. Pretty darn good, right? Unfortunately, the S&P 500 during the same period was actually up 62.7%.

“Hmmm….that’s interesting”, you say (or I’ll say it for you, it works either way), “so how did the ‘professionally managed’ accounts do during the same period?” Well, a compilation of all the “professionally managed” accounts earned 84.1% after all expenses over the same two years, beating the “self managed” by almost 25% (and the S&P by well over 20%). For just a two-year period, that’s a huge difference! It’s especially huge since both “self-managed” and “professionally managed” chose investments from the same list of stocks and supposedly followed the same basic game plan.

Let’s put it another way: on average the people who “self-managed” their accounts took a winning system and used their judgment to unintentionally eliminate all the outperformance and then some! How’d that happen?

1. Self-managed investors avoided buying many of the biggest winners.

How? Well, the market prices certain businesses cheaply for reasons that are usually very well-known (The market is a discounting mechanism). Whether you read the newspaper or follow the news in some other way, you’ll usually know what’s “wrong” with most stocks that appear at the top of the magic formula list. That’s part of the reason they’re available cheap in the first place! Most likely, the near future for a company might not look quite as bright as the recent past or there’s a great deal of uncertainty about the company for one reason or another. Buying stocks that appear cheap relative to trailing measures of cash flow or other measures (even if they’re still “good” businesses that earn high returns on capital), usually means you’re buying companies that are out of favor.

These types of companies are systematically avoided by both individuals and institutional investors. Most people and especially professional managers want to make money now. A company that may face short-term issues isn’t where most investors look for near term profits. Many self-managed investors just eliminate companies from the list that they just know from reading the newspaper face a near term problem or some uncertainty. But many of these companies turn out to be the biggest future winners.

2. Many self-managed investors changed their game plan after the strategy under-performed for a period of time.

Many self-managed investors got discouraged after the magic formula strategy under-performed the market for a period of time and simply sold stocks without replacing them, held more cash, and/or stopped updating the strategy on a periodic basis. It’s hard to stick with a strategy that’s not working for a little while. The best performing mutual fund for the decade of the 2000’s actually earned over 18% per year over a decade where the popular market averages were essentially flat. However, because of the capital movements of investors who bailed out during periods after the fund had underperformed for a while, the average investor (weighted by dollars invested) actually turned that 18% annual gain into an 11% LOSS per year during the same 10 year period.[2]

3. Many self-managed investors changed their game plan after the market and their self-managed portfolio declined (regardless of whether the self-managed strategy was outperforming or underperforming a declining market).

This is a similar story to #2 above. Investors don’t like to lose money. Beating the market by losing less than the market isn’t that comforting. Many self-managed investors sold stocks without replacing them, held more cash, and/or stopped updating the strategy on a periodic basis after the markets and their portfolio declined for a period of time. It didn’t matter whether the strategy was outperforming or underperforming over this same period. Investors in that best performing mutual fund of the decade that I mentioned above likely withdrew money after the fund declined regardless of whether it was outperforming a declining market during that same period.

4. Many self-managed investors bought more AFTER good periods of performance.

You get the idea. Most investors sell right AFTER bad performance and buy right AFTER good performance. This is a great way to lower long-term investment returns.

Luck-versus-skill-in-mutual-fund-performance by Fama

….We will finish the chapter with a study of checklists in the next post.

Interesting reading: The Crescent Fund (note reversion to the mean)  Oil Crash Pzena and http://aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com/

Go-where-it-is-darkest-when-company.html (Vale-Brazilian Iron Ore Producer).   Prof. Damordaran values Vale and Lukoil on Nov. 20, 2015.  I am looking at Vale because they have some of the lowest cost assets of Iron Ore in the world.  They have good odds of surviving the downturn but where the trough is–who knows. 

Valuing Cyclical Companies:

Valuing Cyclical Commodity Companies

CS on a Cyclical Business or Thinking About Cypress Stock

Letter to Cypress Shareholders about Price vs Value

download_t_j__rodgers__cdc_2002_keynote_presentation

CY_VL

39_studie_value_creation_in_chemical_industry

vale

I think the author at least knew of the risks, but underestimated the extent of the cycle due to massive distortions caused by the world’s central banks.  It did get darker..as iron prices fell another 10% and still falling. 

Month Price Iron Ore Change
Aug 2014 92.63 -
Sep 2014 82.27 -11.18 %
Oct 2014 80.09 -2.65 %
Nov 2014 73.13 -8.69 %
Dec 2014 68.80 -5.92 %
Jan 2015 67.39 -2.05 %
Feb 2015 62.69 -6.97

vale

Damodaran: I have not updated my valuation of Vale (as of Feb. 20th), but I have neither sold nor added to my position. It is unlikely that I will add to my position for a simple reason. I don’t like doubling down on bets, even if I feel strongly, because I feel like I am tempting fate. 

Prof. Damodaran is responding to a poster who is asking about Vale’s plummeting stock price.  If you are a long-term bull you want declining prices to bankrupt weak companies in the industry so as to rationalize supply.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

TIME OUT: Franchise Investing (Pat Dorsey)

Thanks to www.santangelsreview.com

Slides here:pat-dorsey-talks-at-google

A franchise-type company does not often become a distressed, deep value investment. But since we will next be discussing Buffett and his development from cigar-butt investing to buying See’s Candies, I thought a review of franchises by this money manager would interest you.

One mistake investors make is confusing an average company with a franchise. Not to pick on anyone but when Monish Pabrai said Pinnacle Airlines had a moat due to the type of aircraft the airline was flying or Excide Batteries had a brand, he thought he was investing in a franchise. Yes, Excide batteries may be well-known but it doesn’t change a consumer’s behavior.

Disruption; Comparative Advantage; Inflation Expectations

Print

Print

Read more about the declining survivability of corporations and the rising executive turnover:

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/07/disruption-big-time.html

Comparative Advantage

Inflationary Expectations  If you only study one aspect of human action to understand our current environment, let it be this:

There is no scientific way to predict at what point in any inflation expectations will reverse from deflationary to inflationary. The answer will differ from one country to another, and from one epoch to another, and will depend on many subtle cultural factors, such as trust in government, speed of communication, and many others. In Germany, this transition took four wartime years and one or two postwar years. In the United States, after World War II, it took about two decades for the message to slowly seep in that inflation was going to be a permanent fact of the American way of life.

When expectations tip decisively over from deflationary, or steady, to inflationary, the economy enters a danger zone. The crucial question is how the government and its monetary authorities are going to react to the new situation. When prices are going up faster than the money supply, the people begin to experience a severe shortage of money, for they now face a shortage of cash balances relative to the much higher price levels. (page 67, The Mystery of Banking by Murray Rothbard). How banks create money in the modern economy   fractional-reserve-banking-and-the-fed_salerno   The Mystery of Banking

Niche Franchise Breached? Value Trap

cab

Taxi Medallions have been one of the best performing assets over the past twenty years: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/11/16/the-best-investment-on-wall-street-a-new-york-city-taxi-medalli/

However, you as an investor, must require a very high discount rate when you depend upon government licenses.  If Uber makes inroads?http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/print-edition/2013/05/17/uber-takes-the-pain-out-of-hailing-a.html?page=2

Then:

taxi ten

taxi

“Value” investors may flock to the seductive yield:  http://seekingalpha.com/article/2246123-medallion-financial-hail-this-high-yield

But csinvesting.org readers know their history when technological change or a catalyst for regulatory change Airline_deregulation upends an incumbent, then the plunging price becomes a value trap versus an opportunity.  Reflexively reaching for this 8% yield by not turn out well.

Of course, the future is uncertain, but after a five year bull run, failure to advance after last quarter’s earnings beat and pricing pressure from UBER, then TAXI’s high valued medallions may become less so.  The government is placing an artificial restriction to keep supply low while boosting prices that hurt consumers’ choices and pocketbook. I wonder how this fight will turn-out?  I will be watching this unfold.

What do YOU think?

Question on ROE vs. ROCE; Comprehensive Look at EBITDA

EBITDA

http://greenbackd.com/2014/04/28/median-stock-at-all-time-high-valuation/ and an interesting look at margins here:

Respecting the Reality of Change

The following chart shows CPATAX divided by GDP from 1947 to present.  The black line represents the average from 1947 to 2002, and the green line represents the average from 2003 to 2013.

cptxa

As you can see in the chart, CPATAX/GDP is wildly elevated at present.  It currently sits 63.3% above its average from 1947 to 2013, and a whopping 75.0% above its average from 1947 to 2002.

As readers of this blog have probably inferred by now, I’m not very patient when it comes to waiting for “mean-reversion” to occur.  In my view, when a variable deviates for long periods of time from a reversion pattern that it has exhibited in the past, the right response is to expect something important to have changed–possibly for the long haul, such that a predictable reversion to prior averages will no longer be readily in the cards.  The task would then be to find out what that something is, and try to understand it. Go here:

http://philosophicaleconomics.wordpress.com/
http://www.millennialinvest.com/   (Interesting blog)

Reader Question:

Can you help me understand one aspect of ROE? In Indian companies, some of the companies have ROE < ROCE.

Isn’t that a violation of the observation that ROE ~ ROCE times Leverage.

I define ROCE as Return on Capital Employed.

ROCE = EBITDA (1-Tax Rate)/Total Capital Employed (=Debt+Equity)

I use ROCE as a measure of the attractiveness of the industry and the company. High ROCE is good, implying a moat, low ROCE is not.

Some of the reasons I could think of are:

  1.  Exceptional losses, which lead to Net Income << EBIT(1-Tax) *Leverage
  2.  Extremely high interest charges. ( higher than return on the        debt portion) which leads Net Income << EBIT(1-Tax)* Leverage
  3.  There is a slump sale of a division, and thus suddenly huge            amount of profit has come in increasing inordinately the            average shareholder equity. So suddenly the effective leverage        has dropped.

Update May 1: 

I made a mistake in describing ROCE.  In my defense, I dont exactly calculate ROCE and merely use the numbers from screens.
ROCE = EBIT(1-Tax Rate)/ Total Assets and not EBITDA as mentioned before.

Does someone want to have a crack at this? I see issues whenever you use EBITDA without understanding maintenance capex. Please read this: Placing EBITDA into Perspective

More on WMT: A reader posted this in the comment section: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/04/28/why-is-wal-mart-failing-in-emerging-markets.aspx.    Does that article even touch upon the ture nature of WMT’s competitive advantage?  No wonder the obvious is overlooked.

Hannibal Lecter Analyzes Wal-Mart (Part 2)

Social Networking

The prior post asked you to guess the name and price that you would pay for this case study: http://wp.me/p2OaYY-2np (Part 1)

It is WALMART  Annual:1974-annual-report-for-walmart-stores-inc. If you had paid the HIGHEST possible market price in 1974 or the first quarter of 1975 (after reading this annual report),  you would have about 1, 300 times your money over 40 years not including annual dividends which today stand at about 31 times what you paid in the market (WMT 2014) through and despite wars, high inflation, double-digit interest rates, civil unrest, political changes and a mundane, extremely competitive industry, AND WMT’s stock price “UNDER-performing” the general stock market one-third of the time. See Wal-Mart 50 Year Chart_SRC.

Eat your heart out Buffett, Munger, Peter Lynch, and all other investing pantheons. The point is you would have made a lifetime fortune sitting on your hands for more than a third of a century. WMT is the pinnacle of an investment–a relentless compounding machine.  Buffett said the goal of an investor is to put together a portfolio of compounding machines.

Well, Wal-Mart was the king of compounders; a company that could generate high returns on capital AND reinvest those high returns into similar high returns.  As many of you know, it is easy to spot a company with high ROIC or ROE but how do you know if the company can grow and reinvest those high returns at the same high rates? If not, then that company should return the excess capital which it can’t reinvest to you through dividends or appropriate (below intrinsic value) stock buy-backs.

You could have paid any price in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979 and generated over-15% annual returns.  How would you know that WMT would keep growing with such high returns? What could you have KNOWN? What can we use for tomorrow’s investments?

AT Hindsight Capital (my firm) we always pick the Wal-Marts.

Joking aside, what is the point of this case study and what are the lessons we can use?  Let’s be realistic, we may never find another “Wal-Mart” but at least we can study “perfection” or the best to grasp what principles to look for in a company and an investment. You could do worse than spend weeks or months studying the history of Wal-Mart. Start here Walmart.com/annual-reports and go to here: WalMart_AR. And read: Sam-Walton-Made-America.

What’s the point of viewing one of THE best?

Hockey Player http://youtu.be/gpDdaC1_UGg

NY Giants Lawrence Taylor on the loose: http://youtu.be/puV3z9_gb9g?t=2m56s

Playing the Piano: http://youtu.be/R-JjzU1ZwXE

You gotta at least see and hear excellence to know it.

Let’s get back to Wal-Mart. What is the essence–the key–to its ability to grow profitably for so long? What can you spot in the 1974 annual report that would have alerted you to its competitive advantage? In other words, follow Hannibal Lecter’s tutelage when analzing any investment: What is its nature? http://youtu.be/f33ieCWRWlI.

Here are two hints:

Sam Walton‘s passions included flying his own plane over the American countryside, hunting with his dogs, and sharing his good fortune with his family. But Walton will always be best remembered for his lifelong passion for providing low prices and good service to customers at Wal-Mart, his chain of discount stores that revolutionized the retail industry.

Walton did not invent the discount store when he opened his first store in 1962. But he did do something new. Wal-Mart introduced the concept of selling a large number of items at cheap prices to residents of rural towns—customers other discount retailers ignored. From that base, Walton expanded Wal-Mart across the United States and eventually reached into foreign markets, using the latest technology to keep costs low.

“I think I overcame every single one of my shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work.… If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can.” Read more: Walton

The second hint is that you will not see the financial results of WMT’s competitive advantage in its GROSS margins but in its NET margins. WHY?

The answer to my questions can be found in Competition Demystified (Chapter 5) but don’t cheat yourself. Think it through. In fact, if YOU wanted to get a job at hedge fund, investment firm or even work for a major service firm, you could do a comprehensive study of Wal-Mart’s rise and semi-fall of its competitive advantage and then find a new company or industry (Auto-parts?) where the same factors are at work.  Show what you can do while providing a study of value.  You will stand out from all the Harvard and Columbia MBAs.

I will post in Part 3: Analysis on WMT next week. Meanwhile focus on what is important.

How Markets Work (Trading Places) http://youtu.be/1tmI867fAYU?t=59s

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

A Reason to be Bullish; Industry Maps

There is hope for America. We have the lowest energy costs in the world (electricity).  See both sides of boom and gloom.

Industry Maps

Gold Industry Map A reader submitted this–giving him a $2,000 prize (Actually, on Amazon New, the book is offered at $3,500).

Measuring_the_Moat_July2013  See page 12 for an example of an Industry Map of the Airline Industry.

Value Investing Program at Columbia University   If you still want to learn how to do an industry map, go here and pay $80,000 per year for the value investing program.

I will wait and see if any other readers wish to submit a gold industry map, then next week we move onto valuing a company.

A great interview of a resource investor, Rick Rule. http://www.sprottglobal.com/media/46263/rick_rule_q_a_march_18_2014.mp3

 

Have a Great Weekend!

Part 2: Analyzing a Gold Mining Company–Initial Steps

Mark Twain: “A mine is a hole in the ground with a liar standing next to it.” 
2-BGMI-Gold both-W2 (1)

Initial Steps

We first have to understand the product/market of our gold company. Gold companies produce gold and silver which is money. What is money?  Precious metals have exchange value which makes up a large part of their value.  You first have to understand the gold market. Note: why did gold go down LESS than other commodities such as oil in the 2008/2009 credit crisis?

You need to draw up an industry map. How? Find out who the participants are.

Start with history: http://www.fgmr.com/gold-mining-stocks-have-outperformed-the-djia.html

BGMI http://www.sharelynx.com/chartstemp/free/fchart-BGMI.php

QUIZ: What is the best environment to invest in Gold mining equities. Why?

We will circle back to an industry map after you have read about the industry.

What determines the price of gold: http://www.acting-man.com/?p=10251 Also, do a search for gold and/or mining stocks and then read his posts.

The Case For Gold by R Paul

Gold Dollar by Rothbard

Roubini Why Gold Won’t work

Study: www.monetary-metals.com

Gold as collateral: http://www.alhambrapartners.com/2014/02/26/gold-and-reverse-repos/   Also, do a search for gold.

Read free research on gold as money: http://www.myrmikan.com/port/

View all five videos on money: http://hiddensecretsofmoney.com/

Two excellent books: Gold, the Once and Future Money by Nathan Lewis. Also, Gold: The Monetary Polaris by Nathan Lewis.

Gold and inflation: http://www.garynorth.com/public/department32.cfm

The case for gold:  http://www1.realclearmarkets.com/2011/11/18/my_thoughts_on_lewis_lehrman039s_gold_standard_120618.html

Understand royalty companies: http://seekingalpha.com/article/1341411-gold-and-silver-royalty-companies-part-1-the-pros-and-cons-of-royalty-companies   (read all five parts)

Then read presentations of Royal Gold, Silver Wheaton, Franco-Nevada, Sandstrom from their websites for a good overview of the gold mining market(s).

These sites can get you started. Don’t believe the hype!

www.goldsilverdata.com Also, go to http://youtu.be/VjjLhPqO8bY to view video on valuing gold and silver stocks.

Go to www.youtube.com and search for Jim Grant AND gold,   John Doody and mining stocks.  Ditto for Brent Cook, Rick Rule. Search for their comments.

That will get you started and then next week, I will post an industry map. Ask questions.   In two weeks we will crack a company.

Update March 17, 2014: Discussion of Junior Resource Sector

Gold1800to2000

 

Part 1: Analyzing a Gold Mining Company–Where to Start?

Idaho_Gold_Minegold mine 2

Gold mine 3gold mine

 

 

 

Assignment: Analyze and value a gold mining company

Mario Gabelli once suggested to a group of Columbia MBA students to become an expert in an industry. The process will take at least six months of intensive reading and research to get to a level of what you need to know and what you can ignore. Then in a year or so move on to another industry. After five or six years you will have competency in five to six different industries.   Since investing is all about context, we first need to learn about the gold (precious-metals) mining industry.

Whether you will analyze a gold mining company, a shipping firm, a title insurance business or a media company, you will need to develop an understanding of the industry within which your firm operates.

Since we do not have six months to study, we will move at an accelerated pace.

OK, so what do you need to start with and how would you begin?  Pretend that you wanted to build a mining company from scratch, how would you do it? If you were airdropped into Northern Pakistan, what would you first need after hitting the ground?

Friday, I will post my suggestions and information sources. Meanwhile, you can think and search for yourself. Eventually, we will move on to the particular company.   Don’t hesitate to post questions if you are unclear or my instructions are incomprehensible.

Good luck!

Pop Quiz on Competitive Advantages–What Would You Advise?

CHANGE18-tv-paper

QUIZ: Discuss in a few words the mistakes made in these recent acquisitions in the newspaper business. If you wanted to develop an advantage in newspapers how would you do it.  (Hint: What is the most profitable news magazine in the world–or close to it?)

How would you advise Bezos to enhance his purchase of the Washington Post?

Good luck.

Case Studies on Newsweek and Boston Globe

For those struggling, I suggest reading, The Curse of the Mogul: What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies by Jon Knee and Bruce Greenwald

I will weigh in at the end of the week.