Oct 31st, 2008 Posted in Intelligent Investing
It looks like I am going to miss my target of writing 12 posts in a year. Wahahaha. I can’t even manage to write 1 post per month. BTW, if you google sohai, my sohai post is ranking as #1 now (sometimes #2). Thanks Google for its recognition to this meaningful word. Hopefully one day dictionary.com and wikipedia.com will also include the definition to their database.
Back to what I want to write today. What does the so-called ‘financial crisis’ means to you as an ordinary investor? What does the 50%+ fall of the whole world stock market (30% fall in October 2008 alone) means to you? Is my popular 20% compounded growth plan still relevant? Is my review on ICAP a rubbish? What about all the value investing posts that I have been writing?
Instead of answering them directly, let’s ponder some interesting facts that newspaper won’t be publishing and you won’t see them as headlines in NTV7 news.
What investing gurus are saying?
Gurus from all over the world are using almost the same word to describe the current crisis. It is not ’sad’, not ‘disappointing’, not ‘bad’, not ’scary’ but ‘exciting’! They are using the word exciting to describe the current stock market.
Ken Heebner a guru who compound more tan 20% per year for many years is actually buying bank stocks!
What did Seth Klarman, another great value investor said a few days ago (just before the market tank another 10% in a day)?
“Normally, as a buyer you have to compete with a lot of very, very smart competitors,” said Mr. Klarman. “But many of the smartest people are on the sidelines now because of redemptions, margin calls or panicked-out-of-their-mind selling. So you don’t have to be as smart as you did before. You just have to be in the game.” article link
What he said contains a lot of intelligence that you need to understand. Let me explain the whole concept in AhYap’s style.
Perspective #1 – What happened when you are forced to only sell and are not allowed to buy
I have condemned mutual funds many times but I have to do it again because now you will learn the most. Unlike ICAP, mutual fund is open ended. That means the fund size can increase and decrease depending on how many people willing to pour money into it or take money out of it. So a mutual fund as large as RM 100 million can shrink their size to RM10 million if the holder want to take the money out from it.
In normal days, mutual fund usually invest only 70-90% of their money and keep the remaining in cash. The prospectus will specify the percentage that need to be invested. Say a mutual fund that specify that they need 90% of money invested in the stock market all the time, they have to follow that and make sure 90% of money in the stock market, no matter if the stock market is overvalue or undervalue.
The problem is that when time of panic selling comes, 10% cash is not enough for redemption (the fund doesn’t have enough money to pay to his holders who sell the mutual fund). So where do they get the money to pay them? They have to sell stocks to get money in order to pay them. So when more and more and more people what to get out of mutual funds, the fund managers have no choice but to keep on selling their stocks no matter what is the price! The fund managers may think a stock is cheap at RM3 but are forced to sell it at RM1 because someone want to get out from the fund.
The ice ball roll bigger when more and more people want to get out of the mutual fund. The continue selling from the mutual fund creates a big SUPPLY but the DEMAND is very low. Everyone what to sell but no one what to buy! They ask for lower and lower price. Price tank. Market tank.
The fund manager might be very intelligent in investing. But he can’t do a shit even if he is as good as Warren Buffett. Because he has no choice! He can only be at the sideline watching. First he is forced to sell at cheaper price. Second he cannot buy anything that he think is cheap because he has no money to buy! Money flow out quickly from the fund and no new money flow into it.
When you are in mutual fund, you are partnering with many Ah Beng and Ahmad that you don’t know (maybe just live next door to you) and what they do affect your investment.
How have margin calls affected the stock market? Many people borrow money to buy stocks and use the stock they bought as collateral. Same thing as you borrow money to buy your house and use your house as collateral. Problem is when the value of the collateral drops to a certain value, they are required to either increase the collateral (pump in more money) or sell stocks to reduce the borrowings to the acceptable margin level, which is what we called ‘margin call’ [i.e. your broker call you and tell you that you don't have enough margin].
Unfortunately most people don’t have money to pump in! If they have the extra money, why would they need to borrow? So they have no choice but to sell no matter what is the price! The key phase that is same as the mutual funds, ’sell no matter what is the price!’.
This creates another surge is selling orders that crash the stock market. And mind you, it is not you and me the small little guy that have only RM23 in Maybank account that is margin called but the BIG guys that control billions of dollars! These guys run hedge fund (unregulated but leveraged mutual funds) that borrow a lot of money to invest! These guys are forced to sell because their collateral (stocks they bought) are no longer enough to cover their borrowings.
In short, the force selling of mutual funds and margin calls has create a big SUPPLY of stocks, contributing to a big fall to the stock market. Because they have to sell disregard of price, but the selling doesn’t have much relation with the underlying value of the stock.
Here comes the intelligent investor.
People who are not forced to sell or who have the courage to buy now has the advantage than those who choose to sell or stupid enough to buy mutual funds all the years. Unlike common mutual fund which is open-ended, ICAP is a closed-end fund. It doesn’t need to sell even a single stock even ICAP shareholders are dumping the share in the market. ICAP can keep anything that the fund manager thinks is cheap and at the same time can utilized the RM50 million cash it has to buy more shares that is selling at big discount. That means the next door Ah Beng who owns 1 million shares of ICAP and dump it crazily in the market yesterday until the market price drop to RM1.20 can’t do a shit to its real value (NAV – RM1.42).
For individual investor who has money right now, you also have the chance to grab stocks that are in big discount. Stock market are currently in 4-5 years low. That means in order to buy something at current price, the last chance is 4-5 years ago.
Perspective #2 – The Gap Between Price and Value
Price is what you pay and value is what you get. You can pay whatever price for anything but what you get is just the value. You can pay RM500 for a Mc Fillet O Fish but what you get is still a Mc Fillet O Fish (RM5.90).
“In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine.”
– Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor
Warren Buffet explains what his teacher said a few weeks ago in CNBC.
“Well, the stock market in the short — my old boss Ben Graham said that in the short-run the stock market is a voting machine, in the long-run it’s a weighing machine. As a voting machine, it responds to people’s emotions. There’s no literacy test for voting. You vote according to how much money you have, not according to how smart you (are.) So the stock market does some very silly things in the short-run. Over the long-run, it behaves quite rationally. And, you know, five years from now, ten years from now, we’ll look back on this period and we’ll see that you could have made some extraordinary buys. That doesn’t mean it won’t get more extraordinary a week or a month from now. I have no idea what the stock market is going to do next month or six months from now. I do know that the American economy, over a period of time, will do very well, and people who own a piece of it will do well. But they shouldn’t own it on leverage. That’s what people have learned in this period, that you’ve got to be able to play out your hand and it’s a big mistake to let somebody else be in a position where they can sell you out.”
Why the gap between price and value will eventually closed? Why it is a “weighting machine” in the long run? Because the longer time goes by, the more OBVIOUS the fact that Mr. Market is mispricing a stock and eventually more and more people will noticed it, buy it and push up the price.
Mohnish Pabrai bought IPSCO for 3 times free cashflow (read my post on PE Ratio), a stock that Pabrai knows the market is mispricing. Since it is a voting machine in the short term, the price may remain low and even drop further for the short term. But what will happened after 3 years? The company would have generated cash that is more then it market capitalization! (market cap: the price the whole company is worth i.e no of shares x share price) That means you are exchanging RM1 for RM1 cash in that company PLUS the factories, inventories, future profits, management, employees, palm trees, Diamond water filter, toilet papers, CEO’s secretary, etc. ALL FOR FREE! At this time, even sohai can notice the value-price gap! It is so obvious.
Pabrai bought it at $45 and sold it for $155. And Pabrai said currently many of his stocks is trading at 1 times free cash flow. How long do you think he needs to wait before things get obvious for others?
Perspective #3 – How many McChicken will be sold in China and India?
Tan Teng Boo organized a seminar last year about his theory on ‘i Capital Long Boom’. After paying a few hundred bucks, you received a ’seminar’ book that look more like a nuclear bomb manual written in Russian. You listen to Uncle Tan speaks for numerous hours about facts and figures and looking at charts and data on the screen that you can never underestand. And yet, ironically, everyone get very excited!
Dump away all the statistics – the nickle comsumption per capita, the price of USD vs Nigeria Naira, the washing machine sold per household, stainless steel nuts and bolts consumption, etc etc etc … Why not just ask yourself a few questions.
How many Nike shoes do you think the China and India man will buy in the next 10, 15, 20 years?
(Hint: China has 1.3 billion people. India has 1.1 billion. India population will surpass China in 20+ years. US population is only 0.3 billion!)
How many chicken (real chicken ok) have to be fried by KFC in the next 10, 15, 20 years?
How many condoms are required by China and India man to make sure they don’t have too many ‘liabilities’?
How many toilet paper do they need? Toothpaste? Hand phones, computer chips, rubber bands, Diamond/Nesh water filter, Crocodile underwear, etc etc etc.
It is mind boggling. The China, India and all other Asian countries will play a big role in the world economies in the future. Tan Teng Boo describe it as something that happened once in a millennium.
Perspective #4 – When Price Drops, It Gets Less Risky, Not More Risky!
Given that you have done a thorough analysis on a stock and you bought it a discount, the stock will not get riskier when the price fall! For example, Mohnish did a research on IPSCO, a cyclical steel company. His analysis read like this -