What to do with a racing mind? 

Harness it. 

Or, it’ll get you. 

How? 

It won’t stop racing till it finds something of interest. 

Then, it’ll hook on… 

… without caring too much… 

… whether that something’s good or bad.

At that stage, you might not be able to control your mind. 

Control it when it’s controllable. 

Before it’s latched on. 

Before the flow has started. 

Define for yourself the area of flow. 

Actively make your mind connect. 

Regulate your flow. 

Enjoy the harnessed potential of your mind. 

Let’s observe a practical example in motion. 

I’ve actively latched on my mind, among other things, to the stock market. 

The market has many aspects.

I need to take into account most of these, if not all, while picking a stock. 

Sure. 

However, some aspects stand out for me. 

To these aspects I latch on my mind very thoroughly. 

I like it to get a feel for honesty. 

While I’m screening a stock, my racing mind either picks honesty or it doesn’t. 

If it hasn’t smelt and felt honesty after two days of studying the stock, I just let the stock go. 

Some are big on numbers. Some are big on charts. Sure, I look at both. Honesty delivers the final decision for me, though, as in, the crucial blow. 

Instead of resorting to all kinds of nonsense, the racing mind can be taught to become one’s greatest asset. 

Advertisements

It Boils Down to Good Governance 

India’s at the Olympics and all. 

We’ve had near misses. 

Sure. 

Athletes qualified fair and square. 

Not a word against India’s squad. 

They’re really trying very hard. One of our gymnasts has even risked her life by vaulting a successful Produnova. Rio-presence is achievement-based, not nepotism-based. It’s tough. It’s incorruptibly monitored. Footfall is highest ever. Indians have made the international cut in many events, like never before. Finishes are all decent. A few finishes are very, very decent, missing the podium by decimals. Our athletes deserve some podium finishes. 

However, what are 80 Indian officials doing in Rio, accompanying a squad of 119? Only a few of these 80 are allowed arena access. The rest are what? Long live the exchequer? We build up the exchequer by paying our taxes. We’d like to see its contents used judiciously. 

Let’s cast a glance at how our officials are conducting themselves at Rio. Actually, we’ll leave it at the official warning they’ve just received to behave themselves. SHAME SHAME. 

Is this good governance? 

NO. 

Do our officials deserve a podium finish?  

No. 

We’ll have to spend where it counts, on facilities, proper diets and trained physios. We’ll have to save on useless paraphernalia. Red-tape be damned. We’ll have to embrace good governance. We do want podium finishes, don’t we?

One looks up to one’s peers. If they’re corrupt, out of shape and / or out of whack, even the best athlete suffers a psychological downer. Our officials will need to trim down and get their acts together. All of them will need to behave like exemplary ambassadors of the country. They will need to give their wards that psychological boost. Coaches will themselves need to be in shape, to set good examples. Podium finishes will then be around the corner. 

Cut to stock-selection. 

The biggest and first thing to look for is good governance. 

Just cut all the nonsense out of the way, first up, because where you find good governance, you won’t find nonsense. 

It all boils down to good governance. 

What is an Antifragile approach to Equity?

Taleb’s term “antifragile” is here to stay.

If my understanding is correct, an asset class that shows more upside than downside upon the onset of shock in this age of shocks – is termed as antifragile.

So what’s going to happen to us Equity people?

Is Equity a fragile asset class?

Let’s turn above question upon its head.

What about our approach?

Yes, our approach can make Equity antifragile for us.

We don’t need to pack our bags and switch to another asset class.

We just approach Equity in an antifragile fashion. Period.

Well, aren’t we already? Margin of safety and all that.

Sure. We’ll just refine what we’ve already got, add a bit of stuff, and come out with the antifragile strategy.

So, quality.

Management.

Applicability to the times.

Scalability.

Value.

Fundamentals.

Blah blah blah.

You’ve done all your research.

You’ve found a plum stock.

You’re getting margin of safety.

Lovely.

What’s missing?

Entry.

Right.

You don’t enter with a bang.

You enter at various times, again and again, in small quanta.

What are these times?

You enter in the aftermath of shocks.

There will be many shocks.

This is the age of shocks.

You enter when the stock is at its antifragile-most. For that time period. It is showing maximal upside. Minimal downside. Fundamentals are plum. Shock’s beaten it down. You enter, slightly. Put yourself in a position to enter many, many times, over many years, upon shock after shock. This automatically means that entry quantum is small. This also means you’re doing an SIP where the S stands for your own system (with the I being for investment and the P for plan).

Now let’s fine-fine-tune.

Don’t put more than 0.5% of your networth into any one stock, ever. Adjust this figure for yourself. Then adjust entry quantum for yourself.

Don’t enter into more than 20-30 stocks. Again, adjust to comfort level.

Remain doable.

If you’re full up, and something comes along which you need to enter at all costs, discard a stock you’re liking the least.

Have your focus-diversified portfolio (FDP) going on the side, apart from Equity.

Congratulations, you just made Equity antifragile for yourself.

🙂

A Secret Ingredient for Equity-People

Racking your brain about how to make Equity work?

Don’t.

Two words work here. 

Be passive. 

Learn to sit. 

Let’s say you’ve gotten all your basics right.

Company is great. Management is sound. Multiple is low. Debt is nil. Model looks promising. Yield is note-worthy. Technicals allow entry, blah blah blah…

Then what?

Yeah, be still. Learn to sit. 

What are the prequisites for sitting?

You need to not need the stash you’ve put in, at least for a long while. 

You also need to get your investment out of your primary focus. 

For that, your day needs to be full…of other main-frame activities. 

Make Equity a bonus for yourself, not a main-course. That’s how it’ll work for you. That’s the secret ingredient. 

How to… … is stated above.

Why to? Aha.

For it to work, fine, but why the sleeping partner approach?

Human capital needs time to show results. 

That’s why you’re in Equity, right, for human capital? The rest is ordinary stuff, but human capital is irreplaceable. Human capital works around inflation. One doesn’t need to say anything more. 

You’ve got your work all cut out.

Get going, what are you waiting for? 

Due Diligence Snapshot – IL&FS Investment Managers Ltd. (IIML) – Jan 14 2013

Price – Rs. 23.85 per share ; Market Cap – 499 Cr (small-cap, fell from being a mid-cap); Equity – 41.76 Cr; Face Value – Rs. 2.00; Pledging – Nil; Promoters – IL&FS; Key Persons – Dr. Archana Hingorani (CEO), Mr. Shahzad Dalal (vice-chairman) & Mr. Mark Silgardo (chief managing partner) – all three have vast experience in Finance; Field – Private Equity Fund managers in India (oldest), many joint venture partnerships; Average Volume – around 1 L+ per day on NSE.

Earnings Per Share (on a trailing 12 month basis) – 3.55

Price to Earnings Ratio (thus, also trailing) – 6.7 (no point comparing this to an industry average, since IIML has a unique business model)

Debt : Equity Ratio – 0.35 (five-year average is 0.1); Current Ratio – 1.05

Dividend Yield – 4.7% (!)

Price to Book Value Ratio – 2.1; Price to Cashflow – 5.1; Price to Sales – 2.2

Profit After Tax Margin – 32.85% (!); Return on Networth – 35.24% (!)

Share-holding Pattern of IL&FS Investment Managers – Promoters (50.3%), Public (39.2%), Institutions (4.9%), Non-Institutional Corporate Bodies (5.5%). [The exact shareholding pattern of IL&FS itself is as follows – LIC 25.94%, ORIX Corporation Japan 23.59%, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority 11.35%, HDFC 10.74%, CBI 8.53%, SBI 7.14%, IL&FS Employees Welfare Trust 10.92%, Others 1.79%].

Technicals – IIML peaked in Jan ’08 at about Rs. 59.50 (adjusted for split), bottomed in October of the same year at Rs. 13.60, then peaked twice, at Rs. 56.44 (Sep ’09) and Rs. 54.50 (Aug ’10) respectively, in quick succession, with a relatively small drop in between these two interim high pivots. By December ’11, the scrip had fallen to a low pivot of Rs. 23.30 upon the general opinion that the company wasn’t coming out with new product-offerings anytime soon. A counter rally then drove the scrip to Rs. 32, which is also its 52-week high. During the end of December ’12, the scrip made it’s 52-week low of Rs. 23. People seem to have woken up to the fact that a 52-week low has been made, and the scrip has risen about 4 odd percentage points since then, upon heavier volume.

Comments – Company’s product profile and portfolio is impressive. No new capital is required for business expansion. Income is made from fund management fees and profit-sharing above designated profit cut-offs. Lots of redemptions are due in ’15, and the company needs to get new funds in under management by then. If those redemptions are done under profits, it will increase company profits too. Parag Parikh discusses IIML as a “heads I win (possibly a lot), tails I lose (but not much)” kind of investment opportunity. His investment call came during the mayhem of ’09. The scrip is 42%+ above his recommended price currently. What a fantastic call given by Mr. Parikh. Well done, Sir! Professor Sanjay Bakshi feels that IIML has a unique business model, where business can keep on expanding with hardly any input required. He feels, “that at a price, the stock of this company would be akin to acquiring a free lottery ticket”. I opine that the price referred to is the current market price. Before and after Mr. Parikh’s call, the company has continued to deliver spectacular returns. The company’s management is savvy and experienced. They made profitable exit calls in ’07, and fresh investments were made in ’08 and ’09, during big sell-offs. Thus, the management got the timing right. That’s big. I have no doubt that they’ll get new funds in under management after ’15, alone on the basis of their track record. Yeah, there’s still deep value at current market price. Not as deep as during ’08, or ’09, but deep enough.

Buy? – Fundamentals are too good to be ignored. They speak for themselves, and I’m not going to use any more time commenting on the fundamentals. Technicals show that volumes are up over the last 3 weeks. People seem to be lapping the scrip up at this 52-week low, and the buying pressure has made it rise around 4% over the last 3 weeks. If one has decided to buy, one could buy now, preferably under Rs. 24. The scrip seems to be coming out of the lower part of the base built recently. There is support around Rs. 23 levels, so downside could be limited under normal market conditions.

Disclaimer and Disclosure – Opinions given here are mine only, unless otherwise explicitly stated . You are free to build your own view on the stock. I hold a miniscule stake in IIML. Data / material used has been compiled from motilaloswal.com, moneycontrol.com, equitymaster.com, valuepickr.com, safalniveshak.com and from the company websites of IIML & IL&FS. Technicals have been gauged using Advanced GET 9.1 EoD Dashboard Edition. I bear no responsibility for any resulting loss, should you choose to invest in IIML.

Stock-Picking for Dummies – Welcome to the Triangle of Safety

Growth is not uniform – it is hap-hazard.

We need to accept this anomaly. It is a signature of the times we live in.

Growth happens in spurts, at unexpected times, in unexpected sectors.

What our economic studies do is that they pinpoint a large area where growth is happening. That’s all.

Inside that area – you got it – growth is hap-hazard.

To take advantage of growth, one can do many things. One such activity is to pick stocks.

For some, stock-picking is a science. For others. it is an art. Another part of the stock-picking population believes that it is a combination of both. There are people who write PhD theses on the subject, or even reference manuals. One can delve into the subject, and take it to the nth-level. On the other hand, one can (safely) approach the subject casually, using just one indicator (for example the price to earnings ratio [PE]) to pick stocks. Question is, how do we approach this topic in a safe cum lucrative manner in today’s times, especially when we are newbies, or dummies?

Before we plunge into the stock-picking formula for dummies that I’m just about to delineate, let me clarify that it’s absolutely normal to be a dummy at some stage and some field in life. There is nothing humiliating about it. Albert Einstein wasn’t at his Nobel-winning best in his early schooldays. It is rumoured that he lost a large chunk of his 1921 Nobel Prize money in the crash of ’29. Abraham Lincoln had huge problems getting elected, and lost several elections before finally becoming president of the US. Did Bill Gates complete college? Did Sachin Tendulkar finish school? Weren’t some of Steve Jobs’ other launches total losses? What about Sir Issac Newton? Didn’t I read somewhere that he lost really big in the markets, and subsequently prohibited anyone from mentioning the markets in his presence? On a personal note, I flunked a Physical Chemistry exam in college, and if you read some of my initial posts at Traderji.com, when I’d just entered the markets, you would realize what a dummy I was at investing. At that stage, I even thought that the National Stock Exchange was in Delhi!

Thing is, people – we don’t have to remain dummies. The human brain is the most sophisticated super-computer known to mankind. All of us are easily able to rise above the dummy stage in topics of our choice.

Enough said. If you’ve identified yourself as a dummy stock-picker, read on. Even if you are not a dummy stock-picker, please still read on. Words can be very powerful. You don’t know which word, phrase or sentence might trigger off what kind of catharsis inside of you. So please, read on.

We are going to take three vital pieces of information about a stock, and are going to imagine that these three pieces of information form a triangle. We are going to call this triangle the triangle of safety. At all given times, we want to remain inside this triangle. When we are inside the triangle, we can consider ourselves (relatively) safe. The moment we find ourselves outside the triangle, we are going to try and get back in. If we can’t, then the picked stock needs to go. Once it exits our portfolio, we look for another stock that functions from within the triangle of safety.

The first vital stat that we are going to work with is – you guessed it – the ubiquitous price to earnings ratio, or the PE ratio. If we’re buying into a stock, the PE ratio needs to be well under the sector average. Period. Let’s say that we’ve bought into a stock, and after a while the price increases, or the earnings decrease. Both these events will cause the PE ratio to rise, perhaps to a level where it is then above sector average. We are now positioned outside of our triangle of safety with regards to the stock. We’re happy with a price rise, because that gives us a profit. What we won’t be happy with is an earnings decrease. Earnings now need to increase to lower the PE ratio to well below sector average, and back into the triangle. If this doesn’t happen for a few quarters, we get rid of the stock, because it is delaying its entry back into our safety zone. We are not comfortable outside of our safety zone for too long, and we thus boot the stock out of our portfolio.

The second vital stat that we are going to work with is the debt to equity ratio (DER). We want to pick stocks that are poised to take maximum advantage of growth, whenever it happens. If a company’s debt is manageable, then interest payouts don’t wipe off a chunk of the profits, and the same profits can get directly translated into earnings per share. We want to pick companies that are able to keep their total debt at a manageable level, so that whenever growth occurs, the company is able to benefit from it fully. We would like the DER to be smaller than 1.0. Personally, I like to pick stocks where it is smaller than 0.5. In the bargain, I do lose out on some outperformers, since they have a higher DER than the level I maximally want to see in a stock. You can decide for yourself whether you want to function closer to 0.5 or to 1.0. Sometimes, we pick a stock, and all goes well for a while, and then suddenly the management decides to borrow big. The DER shoots up to outside of our triangle of safety. What is the management saying? By when are they going to repay their debt? Is it a matter of 4 to 6 quarters? Can you wait outside your safety zone for that long? If you can, then you need to see the DER most definitely decreasing after the stipulated period. If it doesn’t, for example because the company’s gone in for a debt-restructuring, then we can no longer bear to exist outside our triangle of safety any more, and we boot the stock out of our portfolio. If, on the other hand, the management stays true to its word, and manages to reduce the DER to below 1.0 (or 0.5) within the stipulated period, simultaneously pushing us back into our safety zone, well, then, we remain invested in the stock, provided that our two other vital stats are inside the triangle too.

The third vital stat that we are going to work with is the dividend yield (DY). We want to pick companies that pay out a dividend yield that is more than 2% per annum. Willingness to share substantial profits with the shareholder – that is a trait we want to see in the management we’re buying into. Let’s say we’ve picked a stock, and that in the first year the management pays out 3% per annum as dividend. In the second year, we are surprised to see no dividends coming our way, and the financial year ends with the stock yielding a paltry 0.5% as dividend. Well, then, we give the stock another year to get its DY back to 2% plus. If it does, putting us back into our triangle of safety, we stay invested, provided the other two vital stats are also positioned inside our safety zone. If the DY is not getting back to above 2%, we need to seriously have a look as to why the management is sharing less profits with the shareholders. If we don’t see excessive value being created for the shareholder in lieu of the missing dividend payout, we need to exit the stock, because we are getting uncomfortable outside our safety zone.

When we go about picking a stock for the long term as newbies, we want to buy into managements that are benevolent and shareholder-friendly, and perhaps a little risk-averse / conservative too. Managements that like to play on their own money practise this conservatism we are looking for. Let’s say that the company we are invested in hits a heavy growth phase. If there’s no debt to service, then it’ll grow much more than if there is debt to service. Do you see what’s happening here? Our vital stat number 2 is automatically making us buy into risk-averse managements heading companies that are poised to take maximum advantage of growth, whenever it occurs. We are also automatically buying into managements with largesse. Our third vital stat is ensuring that. This stat insinuates, that if the management creates extra value, a proportional extra value will be shared with the shareholder. That is exactly the kind of management we want – benevolent and shareholder-friendly. Our first vital stat ensures that we pick up the company at a time when others are ignoring the value at hand. Discovery has not happened yet, and when it does, the share price shall zoom. We are getting in well before discovery happens, because we buy when the PE is well below sector average.

Another point you need to take away from all this is the automation of our stop-loss. When we are outside our safety zone, our eyes are peeled. We are looking for signs that will confirm to us that we are poised to re-enter our triangle of safety. If these signs are not coming for a time-frame that is not bearable, we sell the stock. If we’ve sold at a loss, then this is an automatic stop-loss mechanism. Also, please note, that no matter how much profit we are making in a stock – if the stock still manages to stay within our triangle of safety, we don’t sell it. Thus, our system allows us to even capture multibaggers – safely. One more thing – we don’t need to bother with targets here either. If our heavily in-the-money stock doesn’t come back into our safety zone within our stipulated and bearable time-frame, we book full profits in that stock.

PHEW!

There we have it – the triangle of safety – a connection of the dots between our troika PE…DER…DY.

As you move beyond the dummy stage, you can discard this simplistic formula, and use something that suits your level of evolution in the field.

Till then, your triangle of safety will keep you safe. You might even make good money.

PE details are available in financial newspapers. DER and DY can be found on all leading equity websites, for all stocks that are listed.

Here’s wishing you peaceful and lucrative investing in 2013 and always!

Be safe! Money will follow! 🙂

So, … … , When’s Judgement Day?

The “fiscal cliff” thingie has come and gone…

Gone?

People, nothing’s gone.

If something is ailing, it needs to heal, right?

What is required for healing?

Remedial medicine, and time.

Let’s say we take the medicine out of the equation.

Now, what’s left is time.

Would the ailing entity heal, given lots of time, but no medicine?

If disease is not so widespread, and can be expunged over time, then yes, there would be healing, provided all disease-instigating factors are abstained from.

Hey, what exactly are we talking about?

It is no secret that most first-world economies are ailing.

Specifically, the US economy was supposed to be injected with healing measures, which were to take effect from the 1st of Jan., ’13. Financial healing would have meant austerity and a more subdued lifestyle. None of that seems to be happening now. The healing process has been deferred to another time in the future, or so it seems.

You see, people, no one wants austerity. The consumption story must go on…

So now, since the medicine’s been taken out of the equation, is there going to be any healing?

No. Disease-instigating lifestyles are still being followed. Savings are low. Debt with the objective of consumption is still high. How can there be any healing?

Under the circumstances, there can’t.

So, what’re we building up to?

We’re all clear about the fact that consumption makes the world go round. What is the hub of the world’s consumption story? The US. That part of the world which does save, and where there is real growth, well, that part rushes to be a part of the consumption story. It produces cheaply, to sell where there’s consumption, and it sells there expensively. Yeah, like this, healthy economies get dragged into an equation with ailing economies. Soon, the entanglement is so deep, that there’s no turning back for the healthy economy. It catches part of the ailment from the diseased economy. Slowly, non-performing assets of banks in such healthy economies start to grow. The disease is spreading.

Hold on, stay with me, we’re not there yet. Yeah, what are we building up to?

Healthy economies take time to get fully diseased. Here, savings are big, domestic manufacturing is on the rise, and there a healthy demographic dividend too. Buffers galore, the immune system of a healthy economy tries to fight the contagion for the longest time. As entanglement increases, though, buffers deplete, and health staggers. Non-performing assets of banks grow to disturbing levels.

That’s what we are looking out for, when we are invested in a healthy economy which has just started to ail. Needless to say, we pulled out our funds from all ailing economies long back. Our funds are definitely not going back to economies which refuse to take medicine, i.e. which don’t want to be healed. Now, the million dollar question is …

… what’s to be done with our funds in a healthy economy which has just started to become diseased due to unavoidable contagion?

Nothing for now. Watch your investments grow. Eventually, since no one is doing enough to stop the damage and the spread, big-time ailment signs will invariably appear in the currently “healthy” economy, signs that appeared a while back in currently ailing economies. Savings will be disappearing, manufacturing will start to go down, and bad-debt will increase. Define your own threshold level, and go into cash once this is crossed. You might not need to take such a step for many years in a row. Then again, you might need to take such a step sooner than you think, because the ailing mother-consumer economy is capable of pulling everyone down with it, if and when it collapses. And it just stopped taking its medicine…

Let’s get back to your funds. In the scenario that you’ve gone into cash because you weren’t confident about the economy you were invested in, well, what then?

Option 1 is to look for an emerging economy that gains your confidence, and to invest your funds there.

Not everyone is comfortable investing abroad. What if you want to remain in your own economy, which you have now classified as diseased. There’s good news for you. Even in a diseased economy, there are pockets of health. You need to become a part of such pockets, just after a bust. So, remain in cash after a high and till after a bust. Then, when there’s blood on the streets, put your money into companies with zero-debt, a healthy dividend-payout record and a sound, diligent and honest management. Yeah, at a time like that, Equity is an instrument of choice that, over time, will pull your funds out of the gloom and doom.

You’ve put your funds with honest and diligent human capital. The human capital element alone will fight the circumstances, and will rise above them. Then, you’ve entered at throwaway prices, when there was blood on the streets. Congrats, you’ve just set yourself up for huge profit-multiples in the future. And, the companies you’ve put your money with, well, every now and then, they shower a dividend upon you. This is your option 2. Just to share with you, this is my option of choice. I like being near my funds. This way, I can observe them more closely, and manage them properly. I suffer from a case of out of sight, out of mind, as far as funds are concerned. Besides, when funds are overseas, time-differences turn one’s life upside down. This is just a personal choice. You need to take your own decision.

At times like this, bonds are not an option, because many companies can cease to exist in the mayhem, taking your investment principal out with them.

Bullion will give a return as long as there is uncertainty and chaos. Let there be prolonged stability, and you’ll see bullion tanking. Yeah, bullion could be option 3 at such a time. You’ll need to pull out when you see signs of prolonged stability approaching, though.

One can use a bust to pick up cheap real-estate in prime localities. Option 4.

You see, you’ve got options as long as you’re sitting on cash. Thus, first, learn to sit on cash.

Before that, learn to come into cash when you see widespread signs of disease.

Best part is, widespread disease will be accompanied by a big boom before the bust, so you’ll have time to go into cash, and will be ready to pick up quality bargains.

You don’t really care when judgement day is, because your investment strategy has already prepared you for it. You know what to do, and are not afraid. If and when it does come, you are going to take full advantage of it.

Bring it on.