Monday, November 28, 2011

Cigar butt - Microsec Financial Services @ 26 Rs

I am sure you can do your own analysis. While the whole market is cheap with abundant opportunities, a section of investing community invests only in net-net stocks, hence I wanted to bring this to your light.

- At 26-27 Rs Microsec Financial Services offers safety of capital. Has over 200 intelligent employees with over 20%+ of them Chartered Accountants.
- Zero Debt
- Offers Loans against shares
- and Broking + Investment Banking Services, which have now dried up
- Intrinsic Value of Holdings, 120 per share, market value around 80-85 Rs per share
- Dividend paying
- Promoters increasing stake
- IPO'ed at 118 Rs few months back

Disclosure: Since I like to glide in more adventurous terrains, not invested.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Next

Markets have dropped 28% or so from their highs in just 3 years. Verily a compression of tides into faster intensity. Conventionally such falls recur after 5+ years. I feel the waves would be even faster and more severe on either side.

Where do we look for answers ? Some sage counsel of an octogenarian ? "I have shoes older than people who write these articles" a wise old analyst said of high flying money managers who 'got' what IT was all about in 1990s. While correct, it can lull one into complacency. Just because one has been in a field for 10 years does not make one better as every possible solution. Some young person with very bright consciousness can have breathtaking answers to existing problems - we never thought about. Inverse is just as true, the man who has not read history is like a baby in the world. You have to find your own answers as per your style.

I am reminded of another quote, "Make money on Wall Street and bury it on Main Street", a view that share prices are volatile and a bubble while home/business is tangible. Those of us who have not or did not bury it on main street, we'd better have bought stocks businesslike.

FIIs are in panic mode, I've noticed it time and again in complex projects or equity markets - known pains take precedence over unknown pleasures, its how our mind works. Pain of investment in US growing at 2% rather than unknown emerging economies. These reasons are not only historical but also hysterical. FIIs seeking safety/known pain of dollar denominated investments.

We should feel lucky to be in this once in a lifetime bull market in India (I can imagine if it does not feel that way today :) when investors are feeling being sandpapered to death). I suggest you mark down your portfolio another 30% from today's prices and then continue to buy. This is the buy and hold view. I am sure the investment managers will not be taking salaries home which look like telephone numbers this year nor the liquidity in the system challenge double martini.
How soon and end to this will come, it cannot be said for certain, 2012 looks miserable ahead for Europe and companies that are India focused will distinguish themselves. A similar experience in United States during high inflation and interest rate era resulted in stock market flat from 1966 to 1982, Zero upside after 16 years of faithful buy-and-hold and re-investment of dividend. Try telling it to someone who shudders holding stocks for 2-3 year ! or a newbie who expects 10% returns per month. A man would not expect to be half as good as a trained circus clown or salesman, but come investing he wants to be successful right away in stock market.

Current bear can last more than a year, while this is no attempt to predict but this mindset may avoid a suicide if we are well prepared. India's demographics are so well placed for economic boom and Monkeys err only one, of Delhi has already been slapped on their wrist, sorry, cheek to turn the wheel

I don't feel gold, real estate or any other asset class with match equity returns over next 3-5 years in India. Not sure how dollar depreciation, oil price, Italian bankruptcy, mood in EU affects growth of wheat in India and need for tractor or shoes for their feet in India.

While the monkeys have let us down, we should take it for granted that they will continue to.

Govt. cannot solve our problems, we can take care of this ourselves, this is the new age thinking, we don't have to depend on government to represent us, we can form the bonds ourselves, be it economic with the West or people to people with Pakistan. The problem that we have to overcome with Govt. is that its still the biggest outlaw and mafia, taking our taxes with impunity sans accountability, but hey that is not my battle.

Information overload would do us no good, one makes more money by printing information than following it. In this age of up-to-the-minute information companies are only as good as their last three months performance.

Slow down, relax, stop watching share prices, think in months/years not days, weeks, switch off CNBC, I have for last two years. Day to day trend does not matter except for a trader, balance sheet hardly changes that fast and knowledge becomes chatter. Go out and buy some truffles lying on the floor for your funky self. It can take months or years for not-so-smart money to realize the value. If the Sensex does come down to 12000, we can revisit the investment list and I am bullish on same usual cheap suspects. Meanwhile, do something great and dazzling that no one has done before to show that Gods creativity principle exists in you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In quest for the stars

The enjoyable adventure in pursuit for future multibaggers takes us to distant territories. SAST disclosures on stock exchanges' website, promoter holding, spin offs, mergers, newspapers, magazines, blogs, industry experts, discussion forums or shops and wholesalers. I feel that over the next few years online marketplace can lend itself to a worthy source of information. I recently went thorough a book by a marketing expert for the online world - Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google AMAZON 

 If you have not been sipping much on marketing lately you will be impressed with sheer novelty of ideas. Buffett who remarks, "Half of our advertising revenues go waste, but I don't know which half", may have to take back his words. Author has some information shared on website and affords the opportunity to go quite deep into this domain through links in the book. Emphasis is on social media to promote products.

A few standout stories are:

- Threadless is an online marketplace with 1.6 million+ followers on twitter. Its a crowdsourcing (someone calls this outsourcing on steroids) phenomenon where community designs T shirts, gets paid and promotes them. I call it a great story and brand.!/THREADLESS 

- Obama online and offline campaign was very well crafted and one of the main reasons of his success to US Presidency, worth reading about it. He used twitter, SMS, social media to the hilt and it referred to you as if its one on one conversation.

- Dell's story is quite revealing. DELL had 100 employees tweeting on behalf of the company and after few years they became ROI positive with this online channel alone and customer service is no match to other media.

I feel a lot of consumer brand companies are in the dark not online in India but overseas and should be embarrassed with themselves and their lack of sophistication. I found Whirlpool and Marico Industries to be decent with social media in my couple of days of looking around Search Engine Marketing companies and their clients, other leading companies that call themselves consumer brands or superbrands should hang their head in shame, they are literally sleeping.

- In a couple of other books I read recently by Malcolm Gladwell ( Tipping Point; Outliers) story of Hush Puppies reached tipping point miraculously from 30,000 annual sales in 1993, by the time Wolverine, the owner company wanted to shut down the brand, something happened it to tip. In 1995 it sold 450,000 pairs and the next year four times that. All this despite zero promotion. Something happened that led this shoe to be sold in every mall of America, that is called social epedemic.

- Crime patterns, virus all have a dramatic moment when they can tip through a number of small incremental actions. Neighborhoods where 20% colored people live generally tip and all white folks move out. 

- 1987 was fax machine tipping point where it made sense for everyone to have fax machine

- Paul Rever's ride, famous historical example of American freedom was most famous example of work of mouth epidemic

- Typical airline accident involves seven or more consecutive errors. Why Korean planes crashed most in 1990s is worth studying, nothing to do with quality of planes or servicing.

- Study the year of birth of all software czars Microsoft, Sun, Apple founders and a pattern emerges, which proves that not everything is done through hard work. Environment has to be conducive.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cravatex June 2011 results

I don't forsee Cravatex to be limited to just FILA in future, even though thats a "big enough" opportunity.

Also, company has spent 3.8 Crores on Advertisements in 2011 vs 1.7 Crores in 2010, again doing all it can. 

Operating and Net profit margins grow more than topline. Even though that is not evident. While the standalone sales have grown around 100% the bottomline has grown even more than 100% from operating business. For getting actual bottomline from operating business you have to substract 1 Crore from 2011 and 2010 quarters which accrues by virtue of rental income. 

FILA size in India is very small with just 15 EBO vs 900 for Adidas. That does not justify full front page advertisement.

However, FILA is #2 in Market Share in Korea after Nike.  Adidas has been trailing it at #3 position for the past 5 years, that proves what focus can do. 

Globally they are 1/20th the size of Nike and Adidas. 

Wholly owned subsidiary: Its out of the blue and a positive development. Who can expect a company with 3 crore quarterly revenues and 1 crore quarterly employee overhead to break even in first quarter. Therefore, consolidated net profits are down for now. Its a long term development.

Positives: Fila Korea is reviving business and with Acushnet takeover, will provide company more strength. Their focus is Korea where they have captured #2 spot and their focus is to revive business in US, recently tied up with 13 billion $ Kohls Corp for the US market. India should benefit soon with increased focus and wider range of offerings. Cross selling of FILA products in proline stores. Value of property (??) and rental 4.5 crores per annum to provide cushion. Even Korea has 10 times more FILA stores than India with 7 crore population.

Concerns: Business still in nascent stage, franchise model still not established. Working capital requirement is high. Rentals may touch 7 crores next year from 5.5 crores this year on Proline Fitness stores.

Heads I don't lose much, tales I win.

Disclosure: Invested

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Investing Mistake

I wrote briefly here on investing mistakes:

If we could see people's mental body, it would be a hilarious experience. Someone would have giant hands with more athletic personality, someone with less will power will appear pale, another person with can appear to possess a tiny stomach but a enormous head.

Worst part of all is the late diagnosis of such problems until its hopefully not too late. We are all experiencing one form or other disease if not physical then partly mental and one could say definitely some spiritual.

One of the lessons I want to nail down pertains to exiting a stock. Most season players will offer you explanations like:

- When original premise of buying stock has proven wrong
- When you need money for yet another security which is more attractive
- Fundamentals of the company have deteriorated.

What confounds me is HOLD rating on a stock. What is HOLD in the name of bull ! its a BUY or SELL.

Those same people will make the following statement, time and again.

"Those invested at cheaper rates may continue to hold the stock but do not make new entry at this price".

Lynch makes it crystal clear when he writes, "If you are not going to buy more of a certain security, you should be selling it".

Therefore every single day/quarter the stock has to be evaluated for a BUY or SELL against available opportunities, there is no HOLD. I know I have strong opinions and other techniques may work but this works for me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Two Stocks in my dream duality of Maya

Just a quick post. If I were forced to limit my holding to just two stocks and I were compelled to keep up with my peer performance for next 12-24 months, though not value stocks by conventional yardsticks, those two stocks would be:

a) Cravatex @ 400 (Already a four bagger in last 9 months since I entered, refer here)

b) Page Industries @ 2500 (I've made mistakes last year in trading in and out of it)

The results will not be disappointing. I feel very strongly about both companies and they can be 5 baggers from here again in less than 1800 days (5 years). In case of Cravatex upside will be even more strong if and when funds show some mercy on creeping crawlies like us. I see no reason Cravatex should not command 1000 Crore market cap in a few years (96 crores today). Page is discovered but will continue to compound.

I know there are always some gnarly issues vexing an investor, promoter selling, loss making subsidiary, undergarments by Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, DKNY in India - Nike and Reebok wiping out minnows like FILA and oh my ! the list is endless. That is exactly where you come in and I walk out, I will leave it to you to solve those questions!

What I do know is even B grade company like Relaxo will be around 1000 Crores in sales and market cap, I spoke many years back about it overtaking Bata in revenues,  Money is limited, ideas too many, bet hard !

PS: Cravatex has not announced any news for Acushnet's golf brands yet. If they do get these brands, it would be time to back up the truck. When I visited sports stores across the region I found them dominating their categories. I now have the numbers for market shares of those two superlative brands, Titleist golf balls have 69% market share in United States and Footjoy shoes have 57% market share in United States.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How To Trade In Stocks - Jesse Livermore

In this concise book Livermore draws upon his natural ability as a speculator and boy plunger and bares open his genius Livermore Market Key to success.

It is no easier to become the best trader than it is become successful surgeon. Mind has to lend itself to pliability and humility - for market is always right, pride and chutzpah is better left locked up in the basement.

A successful trader has his almanac speaking to him back loudly, while he can't predict what will happen, he listens to the screen unassumingly, always respectful of market madness. People continue to make the same mistakes as they make in the past.

He strongly advises to keep away from all insider information and "inside tips" will break a man. He urges to to be decisive, for success rides on the hour of decision. If one continues to exercise patience until the facts are general knowledge, the opportunity would have past us by, its imperative to make a decision with in sufficient information.

The fine line is thin between an experienced trader and a long term investor, as a successful trader evolves to hold stocks for long term multi year upwards moves aka trends rather than play on daily moves. Recommended reading.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Unless one is buying Quantum Stocks with several times (read 3 - 10 times) higher intrinsic worth which are unlikely to see much downside or value stocks (I know growth and 40 year forward survival expectation is part of value equation too). I would begin to dump or have already started selling all holdings with high-expectations for future because let me tell you with an example.


I agree that future prospects are bright for a company like Jubilant Foodworks growing at a nice clip. However, stock price is slave of earnings and we (or at least I do not feel the need due to abundance of alternatives, rather over abundance of stocks on BSE) need not pay premium just because an organisation is expected to grow @10-15% for next 30 years and a stock ranks as a single decision idea.


Because stock prices should be ultimately discounted value of their future cash flows, I feel certain stocks are over valued as they will *never* (say next 15 years) earn as much as other simple ideas. In reality the stock prices are discounted hopes of future mental expectations. I'll stick my neck out and and would try to make a prediction:

Jubilant Foodworks although not in comparable business as a Bank but this one at CMP 875 will not ever (say until 2025, trust me that is a very long time in Equity Markets) will not be able to match EPS of Jammu and Kashmir Bank until 2025 (CMP 860, Div Yield 3%). i.e by 2025 (too far a timezone, a lot of things can go wrong) I believe growth rate of J&K Bank would be as good or superior to Jubilant Foodworks and its EPS would be far higher, but market does not feel that way.

I heard a respected stock market investor Ramesh Damani speak about Dabur being fairly valued as part of his portfolio. Personally, God forbid, unless I am struck by blindness or paralysis and unable to pursue the search, why should I buy a 15-20% grower @ 40PE just because its expected to survive my grandchildren's generation. Too heavy a price to pay for higher certainty. With benefit of hindsight check the returns of Axis Bank vs HDFC Bank between 2000 and 2011.

A handpicked portfolio of choicest small caps should provide far superior returns as they have over past 100 years.

I am all for growth, greed and returns at a faster rate but refuse to ride the 40PE bandwagon.

An Idea

Market leading companies in brand new industries tend to do very well at least for few years or a decade. Stumbled upon GOGO/ Aircell, an innovative company leading a sector, experiencing exponential growth. Check it out Provides wifi, smartphones on Aircrafts.

Was granted exclusive air-to-ground broadband frequency license in  FCC auction in 2006. Buffett's Netjets is also one of their clients. Not listed on stock market. Hey, if you are a PE player you can always try.

Leave room for positive surprises !

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Matter of Choice ( Astral Poly Technik vs Technofab Engineering)

One is in a convenient position when a choice has to be made amongst two fine alternatives. I am in a similar bind between two such alternatives from infra space. Although in theory the companies are not comparable as one is into services and another into primarily manufacturing.

But they both carry an Infrastructure label, and I know that from experience that it is an area that will continue to be a painful for investors for coming decades simply due to the roller coaster nature of crowd psychology.

Astral Poly Technik vs Technofab Engineering.

Both are nice mid / small (depends on your context) cap companies. It becomes a matter of choice since I don't want to buy both of them. With that line of thought I would end up with 100 stocks.

Technofab Engineering has a relatively more polished workforce, it ranks way higher. However, in Indian context EPC companies are generally cash flow negative.

I'd liken Astral Poly  to a "value migration" leader in Indian context from metal pipes to CPVC and plastic pipes, remember cellphones in 2002 ?

One aspect that did put me off regarding Astral was Lubrizol tie up with Ajay Group ( and Ashirwad Group ( Vaguely recall having read Buffett talk about mountain of riches for a single company that controls a single pipeline in a state/region, antithetical view is misery for all companies if there are four overlapping pipelines in same region.

There are other companies too in CPVC overseas which are as strong and big as Lubrizol which have not yet entered India as yet in any major way except through distributorship. If the scale of opportunity was not that big (tens of thousands of crores) I would have dismissed Astral Poly right away. So a 40% grower at 5 PE or 12 PE ?

More thoughts...

The compound is hard to make, is the secret sauce and proprietary, therefore no other compounder is able to match the price point, as yet not even Reliance is thinking of it although they have other polymer businesses, therefore Chinese cannot be a threat.

In 10-20 Years we will see very little or no GI pipe, the sand is shifting

As per my research Lubrizol has 50%+ market share not just in India but globally in CPVC segment, Chinese imports do not match in price point as per management ( need to be checked  from market sources ). Astral is educating over 30,000 plumbers per year, its their mind they have to get into, not in minds of end users.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Value Investing with the Masters - by Kirk Kazanjian & Interview with America's top Traders - by Jack D. Schwager

Value Investing with the Masters

Comprises twenty interviews with market beating fund managers. I found this book quite humdrum. A few underline worthy statements, though they come up in other books as well.

- 90% of gains in equities are made in 2% of the time duration, stay the course and keep plugging

- Stocks that fall down have to be rubber balls not eggs !

- Depreciation policy of British and Copenhagen airports writes them off at 100 vs 20 years, valuation measurement should vary, and airport after all is an airport !

- Stock picking is like farming, seeds (money) have to be sown, not all seeds grow, suitable climate (sentiments) matters, seasons change but not as regularly as in farming and can last years.

- Graham later in his interview with congress replied in response to valuation of company as, future earnings of the company and to an extent current assets. Fan boys who keep pressing for current assets metric miss out on opportunities. Same way Buffett aficionados presume its sinful to invest in technology, just because technology is not in Buffett's circle of competence.

Market Wizards

Read a couple of chapters, excellent insights into minds of successful traders. Found this way more impressive. Some juice from the ripened fruit:

- With all due respect to Buffett's statement, trading / investing is not about investing in great companies with durable moats but about profiting from inefficiently priced stocks. One could invest in great business yet make ordinary returns.

- From a psychiatrist who helped suicidal patients and later athletes and fund managers - it is very difficult to win an Olympic Gold medal or be the best fund manager, the distinctive trait of winner is that they decide and take a resolve that they would win
- Don't think of making money, first worry about not losing money

- Any investment approach that is heavily reliant on accurate forecasting for several years ahead or involves the purchase of high-expectation stocks is inherently risky.

- more to read..

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Burton Malkiel

Highly recommended reading of first three chapters, Firm Foundations and Castles in the air, Madness of the Crowds, Stock Valuations from Sixties through Nineties. Can save you a lot of money in life.

While a value investor may never subscribe to dart throwing monkey business or indexing approach in latter half of the book, above chapters are, in my opinion, well packed.

While you may have come across mania and fixation of crowds such as Tulip Mania in Holland, Florida real estate craze wherein 1/3rd of population turned to real estate profession, South sea bubble, Conglomerate boom, Nifty Fifty madness, Biotech, Internet, Real Estate, you'd hope that at least similar mania would no rerun. Real estate is a recurring theme. You'd believe that a decade long depression after Tulip idée fixe that caused severe damage to Dutch economy, fact that people would exchange their house, factory, farm in exchange for a single flower and subsequent aftermath would not erase from the memory of world. Not quite so. Our memories are really short lived more so as a crowd. As Gustave Le Bon noted that in crowds it stupidity and not mother wit that is accumulated. China fell for the same trap with Lycoris Plant as recent as 1980s.Value of a small plant went as high as 300 years annual salary, of course there had to be a wake up when half the city grew Lycoris. They seem to be drunk on a cocktail made from Lethe. (

You'll be amazed to know of a fact in next statement. Given that United States economy has always been bigger than Japanese, at least in 20th century. In terms of acreage USA is 26 times the size of Japan. Population wise its been twice the size. In 1990 value of real estate in Tokyo alone exceeded that of whole United States or about 20% of global wealth. Japan could have sold Tokyo in exchange of all United States. 27 year Nikkie graph below illustrates that every market including dalal-street can lay an egg and financial laws of gravity know no boundaries of race or region.

Japanese have been paying for over two decades

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A FILA related news

I mentioned few months back that FILA are trying to revive their Golf business after over endorsement blunders, at the same time trying to enter kids wear, inner wear

Came across a recent news that FILA Korea have bought along with a PE player a leading Golf company, Acushnet for 1.2 Billion US$, which has an equivalent annual revenues. It is arguably the most profitable golf equipment company in the world. They make the leading brand of golf balls, clubs, gloves, accessories. News here


 Achushnet ( owns all these great brands:

It is implied that FILA Korea and its partners will run the business. Cravatex may benefit but it is not confirmed. Fila Korea is keen to market the gear in Asia as per the statement by them, "With our extensive knowledge and reach in Asia, we believe that the Acushnet brands have incredible new opportunity for growth in the emerging markets in Asia."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Investing Quotes

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” - Benjamin Franklin

“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.” - Winston Churchill

“Models work when they are appropriate for the particular circumstance, but some of the best investment judgments over time have come when people recognized that models derived in other periods were broken or not directly relevant.”  - Abbey Joseph Cohen

Great Idea + Great Manager + Great Price = Great Investment Results

Own not the most, but the best.

The definition of a great company is one that will remain great for many, many years.

Focus on return on equity, not on earning per share.

The secret of long-term investment success is benign neglect. Don’t try too hard. Much success can be attributed in inactivity.

An investor’s worst enemy is not the stock market but his own emotions.

The safe way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.  -Frank Hubbard

When buying shares, ask yourself, would you buy the whole company?

Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America.  If I'm not there, I go to work.  -Robert Orben

If inflation continues to soar, you're going to have to work like a dog just to live like one.  -George Gobel

One way to end up with $1 million is to start with $2 million and use technical analysis.  ~Ralph Seger

Inflation hasn't ruined everything.  A dime can still be used as a screwdriver. 

The market does not beat them.  They beat themselves, because though they have brains they cannot sit tight.  -Jesse Livermore

Do not value money for any more nor any less than its worth; it is a good servant but a bad master.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Intec Capital - 2

Intec has hired frantically between Jan - March and recruited 30 employees, fresh B school grads or those in early career. Recent pace has slowed down but still strong for a micro cap company. Click on this link and tell me which vacancy do you like most and why as an investor ?

It renders as below as on 3rd of June 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Investing Mistakes

Some statements I find hilarious from stock market investors, hopefuls, greenhorns and sharks aka Investment Professionals alike - no insult intended :) - its a fact

- "Maybe you can invest 3,000 Rs in this stock, all you can lose is little but gains can be manifold"

Do you mean 1% of your portfolio or 0.1% of your portfolio ? that way you may need to buy 100-500 stocks. I don't about you but I don't have billions, so I find investing less than 5% of portfolio meaningless.

- "I bought this stock for a ten bagger, therefore I will be very disappointed if it only becomes a five bagger in next 4-5 years"

Why did you buy any other growth stock or equity instrument growing at 10% or with expectations of a two bagger in five years ? Isn't opportunity cost too high given a certain 4-5 bagger in hand.

- "Industry has very bright future, therefore this company must do well"

Well I have yet to see a stock in India do well in solar energy or alternative fuel, remember XL Telecom or Asian Electronics ? Crowd is almost always late. With a few exceptions like Praj.

- "This stock is high risk high return".

Apparently even university educated "professionals" / "experts" write this statement in research report. Nobody made money by "high risk high return" stocks on consistent basis.

- Not investing soon enough in life.

Even I made that mistake in life by investing later than I could in equity instruments. Long term compounding is a great power.

- Not knowing the basics

Investing without adequate knowledge. Asking others for tips. Nifty that can be bought for a very minimal commission as a benchmark will beat the aggregate of Mutual Funds, your money in a Mutual Fund is financing the salaries and office buildings of fund managers.

- Chasing past performance of Mutual Funds

Can never say enough on the topic. Knowing a bit about how the world works I neither feel safe to part my money to mutual fund nor inserting a coin in a vending machine (always a risk of power failure / fault in delivery) as opposed to dealing with living person; unless you go round the whole building or neighbourhood looking for a vending machine with stuck snack, so it drops twosome for you ;-). You can call me value hunter.

- Ignoring diversification altogether or over diversification.

There is no cant-miss-stock in this Universe, atleast I have not come across it, therefore no stock deserves 100% portfolio allocation. If you area a billionaire or trader and have too much time at disposal, march ahead with 500 stock portfolio. I figure index and a sleepy investor would outperform your hard work.

- Having un realistic expectations

50%+ compounding per annum ? Get real, wake up. It may be possible in some years. Snap out of it.

- Holding too long or too short

Difficult and case specific. Have to be in the game long enough to know how long to hold. But not long after you found something 2X better.

-Too much faith in your stocks

Have you noticed the bias that kicks in in owned stocks ? Look for counter argument at all times, not confirming evidence, what can go awry, worst case scenario.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Financial Affairs :: Intec Capital & Money Matters

That is the name of both companies I am long on. Intec Capital is building a pretty good team to take on growth in SME sector. They can manage to be a far bigger organisation than the current one, management can do heavy lifting. I do not feel Intec is cheap but best is yet to come out of it. I feel they can also emulate the success of bigger two I mentioned in previous post and Magma Fincorp.

Money Matters Financial Services Ltd - MMFSL : Scam can provide great trading bets. This one dived down from 800 levels to 50 Rs, faster than F16 shot down by scud missile in war zone. I am ready to bet that pilot can escape way before jet hits the ground. When I contemplated buying it last month @ 62 my game plan was to buy 100 X quantity.  I bought 1x quantity @ 62 Rs, then 5x @ 53 Rs, plan was to buy 20X @ 30-40 range and 70X @ 20 Rs and below. So I could buy only 5% of my desired quantity as yet.

Its hilarious to see board, auditors, CA, friends and lead manager to QIP boycott MMFSL like plague. The interview provides a perspective on how defeat is an orphan, this is what Nirmal Jain  of Indiainfoline has to say.


Q: So, you would no longer want to be associated with any kind of business transaction with them?
A: No doubt about it.


I must thank Indiainfoline though for arranging 450 Crores in MMFSL's bank accounts. Now they have 750+ Crores cash in bank and can hopefully take a hit of 100-300 Crores fine, if at all imposed that much, by regulators. A few crores bribe may resolve the matter for all we know. I condemn bribe and corruption but as an investor I cannot overlook an opportunity. What market cannot decide is difference between risk and uncertainty. So, I am befriending uncertainty of 700 crores cash and broken bribe model for a 200 Crore market cap with expectations that company will become a leasing and finance entity. I have not met anyone who got their passport within a week or two without paying bribe. And do you think MPs are lenient enough to let the rank and file make lacs and crores without their due cut ? Give me a break.

The ranking by Transparency International speaks volumes about India:

Denmark, Singapore and New Zealand at #1

United States is at #22

And our great nation (Mera Bharat Mahaan) India at #87. Actually I expected India in bottom 10, politicians have left no stone unturned to screw up the nation. Its perchance a bit of luck and lots of private enterprise saving the day.

PS: Please do your diligence in investing in stocks mentioned, I am merely expressing my opinion and not recommending to buy or sell.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Buffett, Speculation and Financial Jungle

Enjoy this video from NDTV incase you missed out


Recently read Edwin Lefevre's work on Reminisces of a Stock Operator. While a long term sensible investor may loathe at betting the farm, equipment and bottom dollar on new impulses daily, a few lessons are immortal for all seasons. He comes back to the game time and again after absolute bankruptcy, that in itself is a great story. Following is a para from the book:

And right here let me say one thing: After spending many years in Wall Street
and after making and losing millions of dollars I want to tell you this: It never 
was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting.
Got that? My sitting tight! It is no trick at all to be right on the market. 
You always find lots of early bulls in bull markets and early bears in 
bear markets. I've known many men who were right at
exactly the right time, and began buying or selling stocks when prices

were at the very level which should show the greatest profit. And their 
experience invariably matched mine that is, they made no real money 
out of it. Men who can both be right and sit tight 
 are uncommon. I found it one of the hardest things to learn. But it is 
only after a stock operator has firmly grasped this that he can make 
big money. It is literally true that millions come easier to a trader 
after he knows how to trade than hundreds did in the days of his 

Financial Jungle

The winning traits of a financial enterprise which works on leverage are hunger and capability of management but conservation in lending. The risk obviously is leveraged balance sheet wherein 5% of NPAs could be dire and 8% could be fatal for the organisation, thus 92% of well calculated honest earnest customers would not bail the business from 8% scoundrels. How a firm lends, collects, incentives to its agents, matches liabilities with assets, securitises, build valuable repository of knowledgebase on an industry strengthens the growth path.  I am finding myself like Lynch who bought 100s of financial stocks in his portfolio being equally smitten hook line and sinker by PSUs, Private Bank/s, NBFCs. PSU banks lack management continuity but have niche in rural setting and low cost deposits, and 50% of unbanked India.

Size does not matter

I do realise the multibaggers are easy to make from low PE or low Market Cap stocks, or in less mature organisations but financial sector being "infinitely scalable" (limited only by the size of Universe!) a 10,000 Crore Market Cap stock has an equal chance of being a 50,000 Crore that a 1000 Cr market cap of being a 5000 Cr entity, other things being equal. I am trying to suggest here that a mature business has an equal opportunity unlike a mature FMCG or restaurant company for instance. How many burgers does a billionaire eat ? or how many shampoos, soaps, shoes does he buy ? McDonalds has no chance of being a five bagger anytime soon.

If management bandwidth being equal and NPAs and loan book maturity, cost of funds and growth prospects are similar no preference should be given to smaller cousin nor is smaller fish at a disadvantage. However, if smaller one trades at half the PE or book value then we do need to give a consideration. I like NBFCs for their niche in ignored and overlooked sector despite high cost of funds vis-a-vis banks from big ones like Shriram Transport, City Union Finance with a promise of 20-25% growth to micro ones that trade between 2-4 times PE ratios. More when I buy them.

I read somewhere that a person was so enticed with Buffettology that he vowed to buy 1 and only 1 stock of Coke if it were listed in India. I think one could not be more wrong than him as growth was his measuring rod, since a porfolio of 10 Indian PSU Banks will beat Coke over the next decade very very comfortably.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stock Market is loony for growth ( Orbit Exports Ltd )

The crowd psyche has excessive predisposition towards growth, more so if it is accompanied by consistency. Our personal leanings on any scenario that we refuse to appreciate have little to do with investing success. That is why the quote "Don't argue with the tape" or "Market is always right". For example I don't like a 20% growing company at 40+ trailing PE no matter what the organisation or who runs it, no matter how seductive the growth prospects. This mindset has helped me more often than not. I never became a victim to private sector Insurance mania, satellite TV (Dish TV), micro finance etc.

However, market gives two hoots about my opinion. Market will pay heady multiple for growth oriented stocks no matter what the downside. That is dangerous for small cap investor, as some small caps may never recover. Being greedy, I follow the Lynch maxim, Big Stocks small moves, Small Stocks big moves. Big moves can be in either direction !

Some Mistakes

As a micro cap investor you have to be vigilant to avoid big move on the downside, or one could lose 70% or more on paper very quickly. 30% volatility in micro caps is similar to 10% volatility in big cap, don't even think of stop losses.

The mistake I make often is to wait too long for a stock to get cheap, something I may not learn, but this has helped me more than otherwise in toto. I want to share a story on two stocks. One of them that I missed was Spice Mobiles in early 2010 around 20-30 Rs. I wrote briefly about it on here when the price was around 50 Rs. At the time Spice Mobiles was a 100 Crore entity in 1 Lac Crore market of handsets. It was not merged and name of company was Spice Mobiles Ltd.Stock went to 150 Rs over next 6 months.

Second mistake was with Orbit Exports, I recognised it at 15 Rs with A class management and a niche with excellent clients in US but did not buy it. Since I keep looking at downside more than upside, with each rise my aversion grows. I think it has steam left but I don't buy if in my world view downside is disturbingly high.

Aim for achievable, Show me the Money

Contrary to what the general perception may be I am not looking for 10 or 20 bagger or 50 bagger, that is pure serendipity. I welcome if they so turn out to be. I am just looking for a simple 5 bagger in 4-5 years, that is not at all bad if you compute the compounding.

A five bagger in five years translates to a 25 bagger in 10 years and 625 bagger in 20 Years with a much higher probablity than investing in blue chips like IDFC Ltd and holding them for my grandchildren. Since nobody can look that far into future of any enterprise it pays to be medium term oriented and straining your mind only with what your regular corrective vision glasses render, over reliance on telescopes can injure investing performance.

As a rule I don't buy hope and hype, dreams of prosperity, bright future prospects or any new and improved industry. I believe in my company showing me the money, here and now.

Disclosure: Not invested in either of two

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Warren's why and wherefore

Several books have been written on this topic, Buffett's acquitisions over the years make for investing study into rationale and motivations. Posting some content aggregated from various sources. I found the statement made in context of National Indemnity  "The key is you can’t fire people if they don’t write business, or they’ll write business" and "Tell me how you'd attack that business? You wouldn't want to anyway, as the market's not big enough. " for Larson Juhl very smart. Acme bricks resounds Lynch as well who quoted on heavy stone / quarry industry as moat due to transportation cost.

In recent times Buffett mentions that growth does not matter to him in certain businesses, he can afford to say so by categorising those businesses as lasting steady stream of century lasting annuities. He did not mention so during 50s and 60s. Infact, I remember having read, "I became rich by finding companies with strong growth in earnings". Now that he is in business of acquiring family businesses he is Ok with losing  1 billion $  to acquire business that can earn 100 Million $ in current year (i.e. 10% ROI) and probably 150 million $ a decade from now. That fortunately is not a problem we have to live with as small investors. His wisdom follows:

Buffett's reasons to invest in Harley-Davidson ?

He answers that any company where one can get customers to tattoo business's name on their body has quite a strong brand. He had to think what is the probability that they will not pay him back and would he want to own the company if they did not, basically that the equity isn’t worth zero. I always think about what I would do if a nuclear bomb went off or if Bernanke ran off with Paris Hilton to South America.

BYD [Buffett’s recent Chinese investment] seems like a speculative or venture capital investment, instead of a “value” investment. Could Buffett explain?

BYD is not some early-stage venture capital company. The founder is around 43 years old. They’re a main manufacturer of rechargeable lithium batteries, from a standing start. Then they became big in cell phone components, with a huge position. They recently entered the auto industry, and from zero, rapidly made the best-selling [Chinese-manufactured] car model in China, against Chinese joint ventures with leading manufacturers. This is not unproven. It’s not speculative. They hired 17,000 engineering graduates at the top of their classes. It’s a remarkable aggregation of talent. Batteries are totally needed in the future of the world.

Could you talk us through your thinking of the acquisition of Larson-Juhl?

On December 17, 2001, Berkshire Hathaway announced that it was acquiring Albecca (known as Larson-Juhl), the nation's leading provider of custom picture frames.
Craig Ponzio, the owner of Larson-Juhl called me, told me about his business, its sustainable competitive advantages, its financial characteristics, and the price he wanted. Shortly thereafter, he came to visit me at 9am and by 10:30 we had a deal. I haven't seen him since.

The company has $300 million in revenues, earns $50 million in pre-tax profits, ties up no capital, is growing slowly, and distributes every dime of profit. There are about 18,000 picture framing shops in the United States, mostly very small businesses with a few hundred thousand dollars per year in sales. They can't afford to have much inventory, so they show a catalogue to a customer who chooses the frame. Then, if they call Larson-Juhl before 3pm, 85% of the time the frame will be there the next day. Larson-Juhl and its customers are focused on service, not price.

Larson-Juhl calls on its 18,000 customers an average of five times/year. It has an incredible distribution system. Tell me how you'd attack that business? You wouldn't want to anyway, as the market's not big enough. Larson-Juhl has a HUGE moat. I always ask myself how much it would cost to compete effectively with a business. With businesses like these, nothing's going to go wrong. If you bought 20 of them, 19 of them would work out well.

Craig wanted to sell to me because he didn't want to waste a year doing a deal that might fall through at the end. With us, it's 100% certain that the deal gets done, and he can enjoy life.

Why did he invest in Anheuser-Busch?

In the case of Anheuser- Busch, I bought 100 shares 25 years ago so that I would get the annual reports (you get the annual reports a little quicker if you own the stock in your own name). So, I’ve been reading the company’s annual reports for 25 years. Recently, beer sales have been flat. Wine and spirits are growing, at the expense of beer, and Miller has been rejuvenated to some degree. So, Anheuser-Busch has been experiencing very flat earnings; they’ve had to spend more to maintain share and even do a bit of promotional pricing. They are going through a period that is certainly less fun for them than was the case a few years ago.

It’s been a fascinating industry over the past 50 years. Omaha used to be a brewing town and Storz beer had 50% of the local market, but then the national brands took over.

Anheuser-Busch will have a strong position for a long time. The beer business is not going to grow significantly in the U.S., but worldwide beer is popular in a great many places, and Anheuser-Busch has a very strong position. I would not expect the earnings to do much for some time, but that’s fine with us.

In beer, you don’t see the rise of generic brands, as we’ve seen in so many other categories. But beer consumption per capita is going nowhere.

Americans drink about 64 ounces of liquid per day. 27% of that is soda (11 ounces are Coke products), beer is about 10% and, despite the rise of Starbucks, a fine company, coffee has gone down and down over time.

[CM: There used to be hundreds of brewers. I think the trend toward giant companies [dominating the beer industry] is permanent.]

What was the thinking behind the McLane purchase?

McLane is a wholesaler to convenience stores, quick-serve restaurants, Wal-Mart, movie theaters and so forth.

Wal-Mart, for very good reasons, wants to specialize on what they do extremely well. We were approached by Goldman Sachs to buy the business a week ago. It makes sense for both sides. It was a sideline business for Wal-Mart. Their ownership of McLane resulted in certain people who would be logical customers not to do business with McLane because they didn't want to do business with a competitor. We'll be seeing them soon to explain that they can sleep well at night buying from us.

A representative of Wal-Mart, the CFO, came up to Omaha. In one hour, we had a deal and shook hands, and when you shake hands with Wal-Mart, the deal is done.

It serves presently 36,000 of the 125,000 convenience stores in the United States, and has 58% share among the largest chains. To each store, it sells about $300,000 of products/year. McLane also serves 18,000 quick-serve restaurants, mainly those operated by YUM Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC).

It's a tough business. You have Hershey and Mars on one side and 7-11 Eleven on the other side, so you have to work hard to earn 1% pretax. [Tilson - If McLane earns 1% pre-tax on $22 billion in sales, that's $220 million, so Buffett may have bought this business for 6.6x pre-tax earnings. I think this is a good price, especially if the business can grow substantially under Berkshire, but not a steal -- the guys at Wal-Mart aren't fools. But I think they let it go for a below-market price to Buffett because their biggest concern is that the business continue to be a reliable supplier to their stores. Such a low-margin business has little room for error, and it could get into trouble (as other similar companies have) under the ownership of a financial buyer that used too much leverage or tried to tinker with its operations.]

    * Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2003 Tilson Notes
    * Time: 2003

How did the Clayton Homes purchase come about?

Clayton Homes is the class of the manufactured home industry. The deal came about in an unusual way. Every year, a class (about 40 students) from the University of Tennessee comes to Omaha. They visit some sights and then we a have classroom session for a couple of hours. Afterward, they typically give me a football or basketball. Last year, Bill Gates happened to be in town. This year, we had a good session and when they got through, they gave me a book, the autobiography of Jim Clayton, the founder of Clayton Homes. He'd written a nice inscription. I said to the students that I was an admirer of Jim's. I read the book and called Kevin Clayton, Jim's son, and said how much I'd enjoyed his dad's book. I said if they ever decided to do anything [regarding selling the company], we'd be interested and I told him what price I'd be willing to pay. A few phone calls later, we had a deal. That's the way things tend to happen at Berkshire.

The manufactured home industry got in a lot of trouble. They'd gone crazy with credit and when you go crazy with credit, you get into a lot of trouble. Look at Conseco and Oakwood, which went into bankruptcy. The industry lost the ability to securitize receivables and was in the tank. There were 160,000 new manufactured homes this year, but there were 90,000 repossessions, so this hurts demand. For the strong, like Clayton, especially with a backer like Berkshire, it should be a good time in the industry. And it's a big industry -- about 20% of new homes are manufactured. We can put you in one for $30/square foot. Compare the prices -- that's a deal.

Competitors admit that Clayton is the class of the field, but even for Clayton, financing was hard. The lenders had gotten burned. Clayton did a securitization earlier this year, but [to get the deal done, they] had to keep more of the risk on their books

[Later in the meeting, in response to a question, Buffett commented further on Clayton Homes:] In the manufactured housing industry, everyone is losing money, but Clayton is making money. Most of Clayton's houses are sold through 297 outlets that they own. Managers are in a 50/50 profit split with Clayton. This is unlike what was going on in the industry a few years ago, whereby dealers would have a floor plan and the [manufactured housing] company would finance 130% of the purchase price, so the dealer would bring in any warm body. The system was designed for disaster. At Clayton, if a dealer takes in an inadequate down payments, it's his problem and he has to take care of repossessing it. This creates the right incentives.

If you read Jim Clayton's book [First A Dream], he tells about the first home he sold [when working for someone else] and all of the funny business and gaming of the financing. These activities are coming home to roost in a huge way among the manufacturers and those who financed them. There's such a stain that Clayton is only one that can securitize, and without us, not to the extent they wanted. They are a class player and have the right systems in place with the right incentives. We will not securitize -- we will keep it for the portfolio.

You're right [he was speaking to the questioner] that if you see companies with lots of gains on sales, be suspicious.

    * Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2003 Tilson Notes
    * Time: 2003

Reasoning behind the National Indemnity investment?

We are very big in insurance and having the wrong incentives in place could be very harmful.

[Buffett had prepared slides and had them put up on the screens in the convention center. Slide 1 showed Berkshire Hathaway’s balance sheet shortly before it bought National Indemnity.]

For 15 minutes each year, Jack Greenwald [the owner of National Indemnity] would get frustrated with something and want to sell his company. I told Charlie that the next time he was in heat, bring him to me. So, we bought it in ’67 for $7 million.

[Slide 2 showed premium volume for National Indemnity from 1980 through 2003. It was $80 million in 1980, rose to $366 million in 1986, then declined nearly every year down to $54 million in 1999, and then spiked up to $595 million in 2003. Buffett highlighted the decline from 1986 to 1999 and asked:]

How many public companies in America would see premiums go down every year for such an extended period?

[Slide 3 showed the number of employees at National Indemnity from 1980-2003. The number rose from 1980-86 and then declined from 1986-99, but much more slowly than premiums declined. Buffett noted:]

We never fired anyone – the decline in headcount was solely due to retirements. The key is you can’t fire people if they don’t write business, or they’ll write business. You must be able to tell them that if they write no business, their job is not in jeopardy.

[Slide 4 showed National Indemnity’s expense ratio from 1980-2003, which was as low as 25.9% in a peak year, and as high as 41% in the worst year, 1999. Buffett noted that:]

Some companies would feel that this is unacceptable. [We don’t.] We can take an expense ratio that’s out of line, but can’t take writing bad business.

[Slide 5 showed the combined ratio at National Indemnity from 1980-2003. The combined ratio exceed 100 during a few bad years for the industry in the early 1980s, which is what led to the hard market that peaked in 1986, but National Indemnity’s combined ratio has been below 100 – e.g., the business has been profitable – in every year for the past 20. Buffett pointed out:]

In 1986, our combined ratio was only 69.3 because we did the most volume ever that year, up to that point [the company has done more volume in the past few years]. We coined money when we wrote a lot of business, and made a little when we didn’t. We’re the only company like this. We’ll have a high expense ratio when business is slow.

National Indemnity was a no-name company when we bought it, and has no copyrights, patents, etc. to distinguish it, but they have a record like no-one else because they had discipline.

You can’t run an auto or steel company this way, but it’s the best way to run an insurance company.

[CM: Nobody else does it, but to me it’s obviously the only way to go. A lot about Berkshire is like this. Being controlling owners is key – it would be hard for a committee to make these kinds of decisions.]

    * Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2004 Tilson Notes
    * Time: 2004

Reasoning behind the HomeServices investment?

HomeServices will grow. It owns 15-16 local real estate firms, which retain all of their local identities – akin to the whole Berkshire model. Managers operate them as if they owned them themselves. We have no national identity, unlike Cendant, which operates under a few big names.

There’s no question that we’ll buy a few – or a lot – of [real estate brokerage] companies over the next 10 years. It’s a great company with great management. Last year, we participated in $50 billion of transactions – but this was only a small percentage of the national total. We’re big in California, Minnesota and Nebraska.

It’s a good business, but very cyclical. It’s very good now. We’ll go through a bad period, but we’ll keep buying. I don’t know how big it will become, but it’s conceivable that as we grow, we’ll add things like buying furniture. When people buy a new house, they need a lot of things.

[In response to another question about whether the internet will threaten the commission structure of real estate brokers like HomeServices, Buffett replied:]

I think commissions in HomeServices are sustainable. Barry Diller is interested in the space via Lending Tree, and the internet is a threat to any business, including real estate brokerage. But when I think about the process of owning a home, the for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) was with us 50 years ago and it is now [but it hasn’t affected commissions]. My guess is that 30 years from now, a very significant percentage of home sales will be done through the brokerage system like today’s, though there are people trying to change it.

[CM: [speaking to Buffett]: You tried to change it dramatically in Omaha, and you fell on your ass. [Chuckling.] You tried to take home listing business from the Omaha World Herald with your little paper and failed.]

    * Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2004 Tilson Notes
    * Time: 2004

We don’t think the way homes are bought and sold will change very much. Some will disagree, but we don’t think the internet will change this. [Buying and selling a home] is the biggest financial decision most people will make] and people will continue to want to have a 1-on-1 relationship with a real estate broker. [It also will be] a local business, so we’ve retained the local identities.

It’s almost certain that we’ll be a lot bigger [in this business] in 5-10 years. It depends on how many acquisitions we make, but we’re a good buyer and owner.

[CM: As to whether we’d prefer to buy brokerages or real estate, obviously we like brokerages better.]

Why did Buffett buy Acme Bricks and Justin Industries ?

In July 2000, Berkshire Hathaway bought 100 percent of Texasbased Justin Industries for $600 million. The company has two divisions: Justin Brands, which comprises four brands of Western boots, and Acme Building Brands, with companies that make bricks and other building products.

Cowboy boots and bricks. It is one of Berkshires most interesting, and most colorful, acquisitions. And it says a great deal about Warren Buffett.

In many ways, Justin epitomizes all the business strengths that Buffett looks for. Clearly, it is simple and understandable; theres nothing particularly complex about boots or bricks. It represents a remarkably consistent operating history, as a look at the separate companies will show; all have been at the same business for many decades, and most are at least a century old. Finally, and most especially, Buffett recognized favorable longterm prospects, because of one aspect that he highly admires: in what are essentially commodity industries, the products have achieved franchise status.

In July 2000, Berkshire Hathaway bought 100 percent of Texasbased Justin Industries for $600 million. The company has two divisions: Justin Brands, which comprises four brands of Western boots, and Acme Building Brands, with companies that make bricks and other building products.

Justin Brands

The company that is now Justin began in 1879 when H. J. ( Joe) Justin, who was then 20 years old, started making boots for cowboys and ranchers from his small shop in Spanish Fort, Texas, near the Chisholm Trail. When Joe died in 1918, his sons John and Earl took over and in 1925 moved the company to Fort Worth. In 1948, Joes grandson John Jr. bought out his relatives (except Aunt Enid ), and guided the business for the next fifty years.

John Justin Jr. was a legendary figure in Fort Worth. He built an empire of Western boots by acquiring three rival companies, worked out the deal to buy Acme Bricks in 1968, and served a term as Fort Worth mayor. He retired in 1999, but stayed on as chairman emeritus, and that s why, at the age of 83, it was he who welcomed Warren Buffett to town in April 2000.

Justin Boots, known for rugged, long-lasting boots for working cowboys, remains the flagship brand. But Justin Brands includes other names.

Nocona, founded in 1925 by Enid Justin. One of Joe Justins seven children, Enid started working in her fathers company when she was twelve. After her nephews moved the family business from the small town of Nocona, Texas, to Fort Worth in 1925, Enid set up a rival company in the original locale. Against all odds, she built a success. Fierce competitors for years, the two companies were joined under the Justin name in 1981. Enid, who was then 85, reluctantly agreed to the merger because of her declining health.

Chippewa, founded in 1901 as a maker of boots for loggers, today makes sturdy hiking boots and quality outdoor work boots. It was acquired by Justin in 1985.

Tony Lama, which dates back to 1911, when Tony Lama, who had been a cobbler in the U.S. Army, opened a shoerepair and boot-making shop in El Paso. The boots quickly became a favorite of local ranchers and cowboys who valued the good fit and long-lasting quality. In recent years, for many the Tony Lama name has become synonymous with high-end boots handcrafted from exotic leathers such as boa, alligator, turtle, and ostrich, many with prices near $500. In 1990, Tony Lama Jr., chairman and CEO, agreed to merge with archrival Justin.

Two groups of people buy Western-style boots: those who wear them day in and day out, because they cant imagine wearing anything else; and those who wear them as fashion. The first group is the heart of Justins customer base, but the second group, while smaller, does have an impact on sales volume as fashion trends twist and turn.

When big-name designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein show Western styles in their catalogs, boot sales climb. But fashion is notoriously fickle, and the company struggled in the late 1990s. After a peak in 1994, the sales of Western boots began to decline. In 1999, Justins stock price dipped below $13.

John Justin Jr. retired in April 1999, and John Roach, former head of the Tandy Corp., came in to lead a restructuring. In just over a year, the new management engineered an impressive turnaroundadding new footwear products, consolidating the existing lines to eliminate duplicate designs, and instituting efficiencies in manufacturing and distribution. In April 2000, the streamlined company announced first quarter results: footwear sales rose 17 percent to $41.1 million, and both net earnings and gross margins increased significantly.

Two months later, Berkshire Hathaway announced it had reached an agreement to buy the company, prompting Bear Stearns analyst Gary Schneider to comment, This is good news for employees. Management made all the changes last year. Theyve already taken the tough measures necessary to lower costs.

Today the boot division of Justin has 4,000 vendors and about 35 percent of the Western footwear market; in stores that specialize in Western apparel, some 70 percent of the boots on the shelves are Justin brands. Most prices start at around $100. In the higher price brackets (several hundred dollars and up), Justin has about 65 percent of market share.

Acme Building Brands

The other division of Justin Industries is also a pioneer Texas company that is more than a century old. Founded in 1891 in Milsap, Texas, Acme became a Justin company in 1968, when John Justin Jr. bought it. Today, Acme is the largest and most profitable brick manufacturer in the country.

Because long-distance shipping costs are prohibitive, bricks tend to be a regional product. Acme dominates its region (Texas and five surrounding states) with more than 50 percent of market share. In its six-state area, Acme has 31 production facilities, including 22 brick plants, its own sales offices, and its own fleet of trucks. Builders, contractors, and homeowners can order bricks direct from the company, and they will be delivered on Acme trucks. Acme sells more than one billion bricks a year, each one stamped with the Acme logo, and each one guaranteed for 100 years.

Demand for bricks is tied to housing starts and, therefore, subject to changes in interest rates and in the overall economy. Even a run of bad weather can affect sales. Nonetheless, Acme fared better during the techno-crazed 1990s than the boot companies, and today is still the chief Justin money-maker. In addition to its bricks, Acme Building Brands includes Featherlite Building Products Corporation (concrete masonry) and the American Tile Supply Company, maker of ceramic and marble tiles.

Why was Benjamin Moore acquired ?

127 year old reliable business with premium brand aka Mercedes of paint companies. It is not biggest, a 10th largest specialty paint producer.
 A video follows with an executive of Benjamin Moore

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Barbarians at the Gate & Microcap investing

This book is not a textbook on investing, written more as a thriller and entertainment novel. Flamboyant, profligate and profane Ross Johnson rips off couple of biggest companies. Based on a true story this novel inspired a movie Madness of leveraged buyouts in 80s makes it evident why capitalism is broken. After a course of this book, any family that nurtures a culture in business would forever banish the thought of selling their business to greedy bidders.

Black Book of Microcap Investing

The following nifty book appears to offer practical counsel through my 2 minute scan of the book. If you are thrifty you can download it from here I have no idea who put the book there nor will I answer whether I downloaded it from there, in other words, publisher can't sue me :) Amazon Link. Enjoy the process.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book : Psychology of Intelligent Analysis & Article : Triple U Investing

Enjoying this fine work on behavioral domain. Whilst the book was intended for CIA and intelligence agents with backdrop of military and political illustrations, it would make a more apt textbook for just about any analyst, business or otherwise.

One could have it from Amazon or download from CIA library for free,

It would make one a better analyst, expose the limitations of our mind, memory, aid to provide the tools to overcome those shortcomings. Taleb's work exposed our dope-ness for narrative and this affirms our chump-ness for analogies. In all work to do with analysis, decisions ought to be arrived at with incomplete information. One interesting aspect is, the very circumstances under which analysts work, i.e. are presented with bits of information leading to clearer view towards the end, is the most vulnerable and error prone from our cognitive ability vantage point.

Several limitations, including maximum number of simultaneous thoughts, competing hypothesis, tendency for satisficing and selective perception and failure to consider 'diagnosticity of evidence' and all of psychology schemata applies to our field of investing. Simultaneous evaluation of competing hypothesis causes greater cognitive strain.

In my readings several religious books too aver to our mental state unable to grasp contradictory viewpoints. We either see a twisted object lying on the ground as either a rope or snake, not both, at least not at the same moment. Our standards may have changed and we like to over simplify but in another world measuring scales can be radically different or even in ours at a different time in past, person who could interpret a sentence in maximum possible permutations was deemed most erudite, not the one who could stick a singular simplified view.

Interesting essay, I can relate to it : Unknown, Unknowable and Unique Investing by Zechhauser.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

World Changing Ideas

An idea can change the world, its true. Sneak a glance into amazing work that Intellectual Ventures ( undertaking. Nothing short of an amazing company. This is the springboard for positive black swans.

 One of talks from Nathan, founding member of IV follows


 Most of the technologies take off soon after they become ridiculously cheap. Adrian Slywotzky calls it Value Migration. You have to look around for cheap solutions that work, polio vaccines, cellphone etc. Prevention is better than cure, nay far cheaper than cure. Eg. cancer, tornado. Tornado especially is a storm without an "off"  switch. Came across a really powerful and cheap idea to prevent tornado/twister from creation in first place.

While no one can tell which of these technologies will end up establishing biggest industries around them. I would venture for a long bet, by 2040, few things are pretty certain, days of petroleum industry are limited, currently  Exxon Mobil at #2 spot, #1 in 2009, and Chevron at #3 spot in Fortune 500 list would not be in top 50. Biggest industries would be the one we have not even anticipated. Rate of change is accelerating.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Companies one can buy in 2011

I like several ultra micro caps right now but I cannot disclose them for several reasons, including I am not invested, they require active monitoring, their inclusion has to be balanced from a portfolio perspective etc.

The ones I feel can return 20%+ cagr over next two - three year period if bought as a portfolio are:

Gandhimathi Appliances
LIC Housing Finance
TTK Healthcare and Prestige, both
Gujarat Reclaim and Rubber Products
Globus Spirits
AK Capital
SB of Travancore
J & K Bank
Panama Petrochem
Astral Poly Technik
Page Industries
Wim Plast

I do NOT think Simran Farms should be averaged for those who asked. Seeking change just for activity can cause more damage than benefit, best stocks may be the ones you have and know a good deal about. I also feel that no stock should have more than 20% weight in portfolio, of course I do not comply to it myself on occasions :) AK Capital and Panama Petrochem can surprise on upside, LIC HF is strongest of all.

All the best

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Twosome books and stocks

Steven and Stephen's books are so entertaining that one has read SuperFreakonomics sequel if one reveled in the first one, Freakonomics. It trashes a plenty of myths. I obviously loved the treasure-hunt approach of the authors.

The books are all about how incentives motivate people to behave in ways not easily imagined or manifest.

The matter is too detailed to elaborate in a blog entry. But to get you thinking, it is unimaginable that merely leakage of trivial information on radio destroyed Ku Klux Klan.

One of figments of my mind this book has successfully corrected is the mode of transport 100 years back was far worse in terms of pollution than even present day diesel engine autobahn. Even in terms of death, horse or wagon claimed 1 New Yorker out of every 17,000 residents. Meanwhile in 2007, automobile accidents claimed 1 out of 30,000 residents in NYC. Worst of all was the dung. With 200,000 horses, 5 million pounds of dung annually was not easy to hide. During rain the mountain of dung would stench till heavens, disgusting and cause diseases.

How TV changed life in rural India and empowered women is also covered in the sequel.

Incentives are cornerstone of our life. What motivated Chicago school teachers to rub incorrect answers and algorithm used to catch them is very fascinating. It led to firing of scores of teachers. Japanese however did not investigate the trickery of collusion. One would learn about Sumo, game and its rules.

Drop in crime baffled Americans in late 90s and "experts" would come up with every imaginable idea ranging from better policing, tougher gun control laws, drug crackdown to prospering economy. To say the least all experts look dunderheads for their articles, the benefit of hindsight. The real reason was law in 70s that allowed women to exercise abortion, thus unwanted children were no longer born.

Its cracking amusing, scientists were looking for bird poop, not the sound of universe. Nicholas Taleb would admire this serendipity. The book answers why 90%+ drug peddlers work below minimum wage, why would one risk life than working in McDonalds ? An interesting chapter on baby names and numerous other accounts and gags are provided an insight into.

Two Stocks

Two stocks that I like for long term as much as these books.

While Hawkins Cooker is coming in buying range, their expansion has yet to be proven, one should keep tabs on it. Wait for next 1-2-3 quarters.

TTK Healthcare should also benefit from wealth generated by TTK Prestige and management focus on this business. Can be accumulated now. These are just my opinions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Freakonomics and Cravatex Announcement

Just about to complete a superb book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Amazon Link

A must read for anyone who liked Influence by Robert Cialdini. Clearly the book has over 50 man years of research behind it. I'll post very interesting snippets from the book on widespread cheating by teachers in Chicago public schools, complete bewilderment of reasons behind drop in crime in the US in 1990s, Sumo wrestling considered sacrosanct by Japanese have implicit cheating as a cartel even though no money is changed, sage percipience of Narcotics business from a university graduate who lived amongst gangsters as a research work for four years. Steven is a non ordinary economist a detective and spy who has a lot of spunk and spark about him trying to figure stuff out.



Since I am following this stock I noticed an announcement BSE on the 10th of March which prompted me to look into motivation behind it.

More details on the announcement is at

It is too early to comment on the prospects. There have been some changes in top management of FILA UK and Directors of Cravatex Ltd, Proline India Ltd i.e. Rajiv Batra and Rajesh Batra have stepped down as directors from Jan 2011 as can be seen from link below. Guessing this must have been part of negotiations to be mafia of whole of Indian subcontinent including neighbouring countries under their territory.

Both brothers own a few other companies registered in UK dealing in sports.

Incase you did not know FILA faced financial hurdles due to over endorsement few years back and now the business is being resurrect globally since 2008. SBI group of Korea owns it along with management who went for rights issue and loans to capitalise the company.

Most of the innovation and extension in apparels like Golf apparels, Mountain wear, Innerwear / Undergarments and Kids range besides the sports range is coming in Korea, US and should follow in other countries with a time lag.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Example of Quantum Stock™ - Dharani Finance

 Quantum Stock is just a theoretical idea. It does not imply one is better off investing in such a security at any point.

Azmath asked if Hawkins Cooker, Symphony do qualify as Quantum Stocks ™

More precisely he asked :

Let me take the liberty to take your trademarked word Quantum Stocks™ :) The idea is pretty interesting, the mechanics of which may be allegorical to Quantum Mechanics, via Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The reason: we can not exactly predict the value of the stock. The moment we predict (in reality 'invest'), the price of the stock moves because of low volume. Thats pretty interesting, and thats why I really appreciate your coined word.

Regarding external influence, I doubt. We can see the price per share history of such stocks during the past recession period. It has fallen considerably. Isn't it?

 Thanks, I know Azmath, you are a quantum investor too :).

The ones I did mention in previous post do not indeed qualify as Quantum Stock™, apologies for that. A Quantum Stock™ is one where correlation with index such as Sensex or Nifty is little or none.

While I broadly agree with you that all stocks mentioned in earlier post have indeed fallen, those are also the ones with very high and certain future returns. Even though they have been the best stocks from sure investment perspective, in fact that is where one should have bet one's bottom dollar, for the sake of "theory" they are not quantum stocks.

For ex: Shoppers Stop was an excellent buy when it fell to 30 Rs (adjusted for split), now 320 Rs, it made very little sense to invest in Quantum Stocks™ because the certainty of bounce back is so high in front line stocks. I though took very slight advantage of Shoppers Stop, sold too soon. Therefore, we are not hung up on and limited in our investing horizons to just Quantum Stocks™ :) when other deals with higher certainty are present.

Example of Quantum Stock™ is Dharani Finance  (DF)  :)

There are a few other examples too but since I have not invested, left unnamed. In Dharani Finance the possibility of money going to ZERO is negligible, it provides car fleet to 5 star hotel owned by a group company. It has portfolio of 4 Crore Rs in equities and 1.5 Crores cash, more than its market cap of 3 Crores, paid dividend and was unaffected by 2008-09 crash. I don't think management is interested in scaling operations just yet.

Dharani Finance  may have some short term potential since group company is expected to come up with a second 5 Star Hotel and car fleet requirement will double.


Disclosure: Not invested in DF.

Five year Chart below:

Crash of 2008-09 can barely be felt on blue line ( DF )

Friday, March 11, 2011

When Money Dies by Adam Fergusson

As the title suggest, it is a nightmare of a currency collapse. Dark days of Germany, Hungary and Austria are detailed with a historians meticulousness.

The style is not very free flowing thus impeding enjoyment.

Scope of the book is to provide an account but not survival guide to hyperinflation. Although implicit in the pages is the illegal activities conducted by businessmen when faced to the wall is evident by going long on foreign currencies and shares which represent tangible assets.

Just before the first world war Mark, Pound, Franc and Lira were about the same but over the next decade reparations and printing press rapidly impoverished Mark to 1 trillionth versus other currencies. The insurance sum received by widows or claims was less in purchasing power than the premium paid out of hard earned income in former years. Buffett who recommends this book is so correct in asserting that cash under carpet or bank is the worst asset one can own.

His Elephant Gun is Loaded Again; following other Investors & Quantum Stocks

Buffett's latest letter makes for very interesting reading for any and every serious investor, click here.

Related videos

Following Other Investors:

I have known many an investor who lost all their financial wealth by following others. Those horror stories are prime reasons for extreme aversion to stocks and cause of less than 2% of Indian household savings channeled to equity class as of today.

One has to find one's own style. In a diversified portfolio 60-70% hit rate is very good that that is what all investors get. In trading 30% strike rate is good enough and one finds 90 or so good traders out of a million traders. Thus, investing is far simpler to trading. The odds in investing are superior to casino, gambling, playing cards, hound or horse racing since it isn't a zero sum game.

Masses get enamored by Automobiles or one or another industry served on their plate. Fashion, thus exceeds the frontiers of clothing and extends to business, politics, investing or even sciences. It makes no sense to follow others blindly. If one does want to follow a successful investor like RJ then one would do well by replicating his entire investing portfolio, and not betting 40% of one's portfolio on the likes of Adinath Exim, doing the rounds these days due to the "next big thing" aka Coal Bed Methane source of energy in background of rising oil prices. All news anchor speak about the next hot trend, but did anyone mention that Symphony Ltd was available at 2 to 3 Rs in 2003 and is a 500 bagger ? Even if one spotted it in 2009 at 20 Rs, it would have been a 70 bagger by now. Bluest of blue chips pale with these kind of returns. Or a 100 bagger with Mayur Uniquoters in the decade gone by.

One sure way to get poor is blindly buy something that I write about or that anyone else buys especially in a disproportionate weight.

I have noticed an interesting trend driven by Institutional constraints in Quantum Stocks ™ - A term I long wanted to coin. 

Quantum Stocks : Similar to sub atomic / quantum phenomenon, where external forces at molecular or higher grade do not affect the dynamic of quantum universe. A stock lying around, perceived as piece of filth in trash bin is unaffected by all external forces of economy, foreign investment, inflation.

The market cap of the stock is so small and insignificant, that once one ventures in this domain with success, in a few years, one would end up buying virtually quarter to half of the entire company. The security is already so cheap that no external force acts upon it. It is simple but not easy to be a sole Quantum Investor. Because a) it takes a significant effort and b) requires pretty strong conviction despite flat returns for an extended time.

I had strong contempt for diversified portfolios and now I am somewhat humbled after I have seen some investors who hold 1000 stocks with at least 200 active positions - who have compounded @ 30% per annum for over a decade, thus the style is entirely yours to choose but following anyone else blindly is a path to nowhere.

The trend I was coming to, I have noticed that for ignored gems, it takes them a decade or longer to reach three figures i.e 100 Rs but the spurt to 4 digits is  quite sudden. eg: Symphony, TTK, Hawkins, VIP, Cravatex (still has not), Venky's India. Institutions are constrained in self imposed fetters by an arbitrary round figure in decimal system chosen by humans and nudge of dividend declaration. The performance also has to do with India's retail revolution, company's inflexion point backed by strong earnings.