Are Great Businesses Great Stocks?

Should you invest in Apple? Should you invest in Amazon? Most people would agree that these are both terrific companies. The return on capital that these companies generate is astounding. But are these excellent businesses good stocks to buy? The answer depends on the expectations that are set by the market vs. the true future fundamentals of the company.

The value of a company is simply the sum of the cash it will generate discounted at it’s cost of capital. These future expectations are what influence the share price over the long term. If the market expects a company to generate less cash flow than you have projected, then the company may be a good buy. The inherent difficulty in this is predicting the future cash flows of the company. This is where fundamental analysis and a margin of safety come into play.

One measure an investor can use in order to figure out the expectations of the company is called the present value of growth opportunities (PVGO). This measure is based off of earnings, which is subject to accounting manipulation and may not accurately represent the true economic profit earned by a specific company. However, it should be kept in an investor’s toolbox, nonetheless. The PVGO breaks down the value of a business into two components:

1. The value if the business if it were to not grow at all

2. The value that the market is ascribing to future growth (PVGO)

 The formula is as follows:

PVGO = Share Price – (Earnings/Discount Rate)

Rearranged:

Share Price = (Earnings/Discount Rate) + PVGO

The higher the PVGO relative to the share price, the more value the market is ascribing to future developments. Ben Graham constantly warned investors not to look at companies through “rose colored glasses” – to be wary of the bright future expectations that the market expects. Rather, he told his students to look at companies with dark blue glasses – to remain conservative when projecting the fundamentals of a company and to protect yourself against your own future projections by buying at a large margin of safety.

There is a fundamental reason as to why Graham warned against looking at companies through rose colored glasses. Economic profits are mean reverting. When a company starts to earn a large profit, it draws in competition. These competitors compete to take market share away from that first mover. The one exception to this rule are companies that have a moat – which is an article for another time. In general, those that tend to earn high economic profits will not be able to continue to do so in the future. If the market expected them to do so in the future, then the shareholders of that company are in for a rude awakening.

One of my favorite Mungerisms is “invert, always invert”. If companies that are earning a high economic profit are destined to have some of their market share taken from them, what is to be said of the companies that are in the doldrums? The companies that the market ascribes 0 PVGO to? The lack of economic profit dissuades companies from investing any further into their operation. These companies tend to close shop. With less competition, there will be room for a company to step in and take whatever market share is left. Economic profit will start to grow and the cycle will repeat itself. Economic profit is mean reverting.

Is a great business a great stock? It depends. When investing, always try and get a feel for what the market is expecting and compare that against your own fundamental projections. This article is not to say that Apple and Amazon are bad buys. Measuring the market’s future expectations against your own should be examined when doing any type of valuation. This method does not discriminate against the statistically cheap (Morningstar value) or statistically expensive (Morningstar growth). If your margin of safety is adequate enough to protect yourself against your own future projections, then buy. If not, keep your bat on your shoulder and wait for the big pitch.

  • Porcupine

Portfolio Update: Purchase (SVIN)

Given the meticulous and thorough analysis done my co-host of LTInvestments, I have decided to build a small position in this micro-cap company trading for less than liquidation value with an upside catalyst- Scheid Vineyards, Inc. (“SVIN”). Since I began building out my equity portfolio roughly 5 years ago I have tended to shy away from illiquid micro-cap investments. Not because I didn’t view them as good investments, but mainly because I wanted to build a dividend income stream to help me increase the rate at which I could put capital to work. This remains my underlying strategy that makes sense given my personal financial situation. However, investing is a constantly evolving process and I don’t intend to ever limit my portfolio to one style or look for investments in a constrained universe.

You can find the original anlaysis here:
https://www.gurufocus.com/news/813327

The truth is, if I have conviction in the investment thesis and can justify the risk a new security brings to my portfolio, I will happily invest. It just so happens that I am typically drawn to established companies with demonstrated competitive advantages that produce meaningful free cash flow and dividend growth. When shares of quality companies are trading hands for cheap, I intend to scoop them up. I continue to comb through financial statements regularly on the look-out for these types of investments but haven’t found any as of late. I monitor my current portfolio constituents regularly but do not intend to increase any of those positions at this point. Either I am waiting for a lower entry point or the position makes up a significant percentage of my portfolio.

The co-author (Porcupine) and I have a lot of similarities in how we think about investments. However, what I believe is even more beneficial to both our growth and success, lies in our differences. As much as we are a team, we play devil’s advocate with each other, often bringing different perspectives that result in different “stories” for the same potential investment. As is typical, I have been trying to poke a hole in his investment analysis for Scheid Vineyards since he first posted the analysis back in February. The more I do this, the more I find myself drawn to the thesis. The due diligence was thorough and conservative in nature. In the end I’ve found the investment worthy of a small position in my portfolio while the story for this tiny company continues to unfold. I will add to the position if certain expected milestones are hit. You can see my updated portfolio in the author’s section.

-Uncle Pennybags

My Thoughts on the Yield Curve Inversion (3m/10yr)

So it finally happened. The “most reliable recession indicator is finally flashing red.”

Last week the 10-year yield fell off a cliff and dropped below the 3-month yield for the first time since 2007. Gasp! That was just before The Great Financial Crisis. Data from the National Bureau of Economic Research tells us that the yield curve has inverted before each of the last seven recessions. (This time the inversion was brief- only part of a day) Many analysts firmly hold the belief that the yield curve is the best forecasting tool for recessions. Yes, that is true, I suppose. So now what? Is it time to sell out of the markets? Should I put my feet up and sit back on the sidelines waiting for stocks to fall? What if they don’t? If they do, when should I re-enter the market? The answers to these questions presume that I know when, exactly, a recession is coming and how bad it is going to be. Truth is, I have no idea.

Even I could tell you, without any economic data at all, that we’re going to have another recession. In fact, I guarantee we will. There might be (probably will) multiple in my lifetime. How does it make sense that the price of borrowed money (because that is what interest rates are) in 3-months is more expensive than 10-years? The answer is complex and I’m not about to turn this post into an essay in an attempt to explain it. But I’m sure many of your friends and colleagues know exactly what is causing the inversion and what to do about it. However, unless your friends and colleagues are noted economists, I am skeptical. Even if they are, well, given economist track records, I am still skeptical. Did you know economists have predicted 7 out of the last 5 recessions?

So what am I going to do about it?

Nothing.

I’m not going to rush to judgement and assume a huge recession is right around the corner and that equities are going to come crashing down in a fiery ball of fury to reign hell on my portfolio and turn my cash to ash. This would be an emotional response to new information. Emotions are an investors biggest foe. I will not sell out of any positions unless I believe the decision is warranted based on fundamentals. Nor am I going to rush into cash or buy more gold. Why? Because I am a conservative, value investor that is structuring an equity portfolio so that its manager (me) can ignore what is happening in the broad market. In other words, I intend to keep my portfolio ready for a recession (more specifically-a stock market crash) at all times. There’s mainly two ways I do this.

1.) High liquidity.

I will admit, in a slightly hypocritic way, as someone who says they do not try to “time the market”, I do tactically adjust my cash position based on the over/undervaluation of stock prices. Usually this happens naturally, such as right now, where I am finding it difficult to find investments that warrant my hard earned money. The dividends keep rolling in, I do my best to remain consistent in putting aside money each month, and I have not found opportunities to re-invest. But the point here is that I always keep a cash buffer. Currently at ~17% of the satellite portfolio, my cash position is on the high end since inception. I hold a cash position that I can deploy when I find opportunities that fit what I deem to be strong investments. Currently, I can’t find any! I think most value investors are having the same issue and, as a result, my cash position continues to grow.

2.) Bottom-up Fundamental Analysis.

Said another way, I am not making bets based on macroeconomic or geopolitical factors. The inversion of the yield curve is not part of my decision making process. Neither are trade tariffs, political uncertainty, GDP forecasts, nor the undertones in Jerome Powell’s speeches. Sure, I follow these items. I read the WSJ on a daily basis. I have my thoughts on the economy, different asset classes, and even the yield curve inversion. But this is done for no other reason than to help build context of the investment environment I am operating within. I try to be aware of all sorts of risks, but if I made trades based on how the newspaper made me feel about the economy, I would constantly be making trades. Execution costs would have zeroed-out any investment returns. I look at each investment opportunity on a stand alone basis. I look for a sustainable competitive advantage that can withstand a recession and an incentivized management team, amongst many other boxes that need to be checked. Then I calculate the value of a company and compare it to the price, only buying when there is a significant discount. This “margin of safety” is intended to protect my portfolio against broad market drawdowns. Strong companies will continue to do business regardless of a recession and the stock market will fluctuate regardless of what the economy is doing. What matters to me are finding companies that provide a good or service that will be in demand even if the economy comes to a screeching halt. But even more important, is buying these companies when they’re cheap. I already mentioned that I’m finding it difficult to put my money to work. I would welcome a sale on the stock market.

So there you have it. My profound thoughts on the yield curve inversion. I’m not doing a damn thing besides continuing to scour the investment universe for the next addition. High liquidity, good companies, and a margin of safety should insulate the portfolio from irreparable mistakes. As a gambler would say, “make sure you can live to play another day.” I intend to. So bring on a stock market crash. I wont be swimming naked.

Uncle Pennybags

P.S. Where’s the term premium?

Recent Sell: Omega Healthcare Investors (OHI)

Omega Healthcare Investors, Inc (“OHI”) is a Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) that invests in income-producing healthcare facilities, including long-term care facilities located in the United States and United Kingdom. Its portfolio focuses on long-term healthcare facilities with contractual rent escalations under long-term leases, along with fixed-rate mortgage loans.

I built my position throughout 2015 and held on to the position mainly for the following reasons:

  • The firm is facing long-term tail winds due to an aging baby boomer population that should see demand growth for skilled nursing facilities
  • Operator reliance on Medicare & Medicaid reimbursements provide rent support and a barrier to entry to new competition
  • The dividend yielded over 6%, was growing on a quarterly basis, and was covered by FFO

My thesis was that a combination of the bullet points above should create strong compounding potential and long-term share growth. The company’s main growth strategy focuses on M&A and OHI has grown its asset base from $850 million to $8.6 billion since 2004. During that same time frame the firm was able to increase its Funds From Operations (“FFO”) from $36.8 million to $575 million. This translated to an FFO/Share annual growth rate of 14%. Management had been raising the dividend on a quarterly basis, the dividend yield was greater than 6% and the payout was fully covered by FFO. Dividend growth has been 9.3%, 8.4% and 7.9% over the past 10 years, 5 years, and 3 years, respectively. I believed that the financials were directly indicative of a competent management team taking advantage of industry tailwinds and making value-add investment decisions. However, over the past year cracks have started to appear in Omega’s financials. Though management has continued to raise the dividend throughout 2018, as of Q3 and Q4 FFO no longer covers the dividend. There are negative pressures on FFO due to a couple major tenants that have been struggling to make their rent payments.

In 2013 OHI closed a $529 million purchase/leaseback transaction in connection with the Ark Holding Company, acquiring 55 skilled nursing facilities operating under the name “Orianna.” OHI has not been recognizing any direct financing lease income from Orianna since July 2017 as they continue to not satisfy their rent payments. In Q4 OHI further wrote down their investment in Orianna by $27 million. Though I do believe that OHI can restructure their agreement with Orianna and navigate through this situation without significant detriment to their financials, management is no longer including Orianna’s rental income given their bankruptcy status (See note 3 in figure below).  I was afraid that this was not a one-off event, but rather a sign of a broader market that is struggling and that Orianna was the first sign of trouble.

Sure enough, on the latest earnings call, the management team mentioned troubles forming on another top 10 tenant, Daybreak. Daybreak represents 3.8% of OHI’s portfolio and 57 total properties. During the last quarter OHI received approximately $4MM in underpayments from Daybreak and is expecting reduced payments moving forward. Management has made comments that leads me to believe that more operator troubles are on the horizon. In the latest earnings call they mentioned potentially issuing equity to de-leverage, and, though possibly a prudent move, this would be dilutive to shareholders. Furthermore, management “currently anticipates maintaining our current quarterly dividend level for the next several quarters with the goal of increasing the dividend in the relatively near future.” Given that many investors hold this stock for the dividend, I am afraid that a dividend freeze, and in a worst-case scenario – a dividend cut, would have investors selling the stock thus putting negative pressure on the stock price. Also, I tried to analyze the financials for the top-10 operators to get a better idea of their relative health, but given that most of these companies are private, I found it difficult to compile any meaningful information. I decided I would rather not hold my shares and hope for the best.

OHI was 2.8% of my satellite equity portfolio and generating 6.6% of the portfolio income. In light of the recent updates, I decided to do another deep dive into the financials to get a better understanding of the risks I was exposed to. I realized, rather humbly, that the business model and industry sit outside my circle of competence. I did not feel that my due diligence and understanding of the company was thorough enough and, as a result, I determined that I did not feel comfortable holding the position through tougher times. I do believe that the long-term thesis may still be in play, however I decided to exit the position so that I can reallocate the capital to opportunities that I understand with better clarity and can get comfortable with the risk exposure. Since initiating my position in 2015 my total return from OHI was 24% or about 8.4% annualized.

-Hedgehog

New Buy: JM Smucker [SJM]

      JM Smucker (“SJM”) is a smaller-sized, large-cap stock that is historically well-run, delivers consistent returns on capital and produces significant cash flow. The business is focused on a diversified portfolio of simple brand names that are found in most kitchens throughout the United States. SJM is at an inflection point in which its top line growth has decelerated, margins have compressed, and management is optimizing their product portfolio through prudent balance sheet management and strategic initiatives. Management incentives are aligned with shareholders and their CEO has been purchasing the stock recently. I believe investors have been overly pessimistic given the firm’s recent headwinds and have oversold the stock, leading to an attractive price to initiate a long-term position in a quality company. You can find my analysis here:

Buy_ SJM_November 2018

Comments? Questions? What do you think about the purchase?
-Hedgehog

2019 Financial Goals

  • Investment objective: to own the cheapest and most misunderstood stocks with high insider ownership, low institutional ownership, and a catalyst in place so as to avoid value traps.
  • Move away from a “core satellite” approach by getting rid of the “core”
    • From this, a concentrated portfolio should be established
  • Max out IRA contribution for the year ($6,000.00)
  • Pay off existing credit card and auto related debt
  • Spend less, save more
  • Porcupine