Xtep sell full holding

As I was hinting in my previous post, I was looking for a decent exit level in Xtep holdings, today was the day. The company is still cheap and I think it is operating in a segment (running shoes geared towards Chinese) with clear tailwinds. Why I’m selling is for more subtle reasons. I think I will personally really struggle to fully understand this company, its customer base and the products they are selling. I have no idea if the customers like their products or how much they like and trust the brand. I  tried to discuss the brand with people living in Shanghai, but nobody used the brand or barely had heard about it. They were all buying Adidas, Nike or perhaps Anta shoes. All the Xtep stores were also located far away from central areas. This is when I understood that this brand is just selling to a much poorer category of Chinese then I come in contact with. Since I have no contact with this customer base I deem it very hard for me to build any feel for the company beyond the numbers. I could possibly still keep this kind of company long term in my portfolio, for the general tailwinds of this segment and a belief in superior management. I think the deciding factor has been that I have not seen any signs of this superior management, rather this is one of the reasons why the stock is still selling so cheap.

I bought 14300 shares Feb 1st 2017 at 3.28 HKD, after a bumpy ride I thought the stock had lagged its competitors significantly and added Aug 22nd another 7150 shares at 3.16 HKD just before the semi-annual was released. The report was a disappointing and the stock traded down to a low of 2.6 HKD in the coming months. But this time I did not do the same mistake as with Zhengtong Auto (were I stop-lossed at the bottom). This time I held on and the turn-around thankfully came. Including dividends I made a return of about 36% on this holding as I sold the full holding today. As a reference my overall portfolio returned about 25% since the initial investment in February. With my increased cash position I will for the coming months rather consider what of my current holdings I will add to, rather than trying to find new investment cases. My portfolio is diversified enough already and it feels good for the first time to not have any stress of adding new and/or better holdings to the portfolio.

The last few weeks my portfolio performance has been very strong, in part thanks to Xtep, but also other HK listed holdings like Nagacorp and Fu Shou Yuan has performed very well. Last Friday the portfolio was just half a percent shy of all time highs, which feels as a pretty solid result considering the stock market correction we just saw.

The Huhtamäki analysis is now overdue due to high workload and a few other things that popped up, my apologies but it will take another few weeks before it is done.

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Reflections on top 5 holdings

Graph_20180223

Holdings_20180223

In the graph of portfolio performance dividends are included, but in “Return (in USD)” of current holdings dividends are not included.

Holding comments

As you can see above, my portfolio has become more diversified than ever before (18 holdings). I would say the reason for that is the high valuations we currently see in stock markets. I used to at least find cheap stocks in the Chinese markets, but not so much anymore. In frustration over finding anything that feels like a home-run investment, I have gone defensive, both in the style of my holdings and also diversifying into a broader portfolio. With this kind of portfolio I do not expect to outperform as much as I have done in the past. Below I will give comments and thoughts on the larger holdings in the portfolio. Before I start I would like to mention Catena Media. I bought into the company when the stock price was falling rapidly from it’s highs. Soon after I bought the CEO was fired and the majority owner took over as CEO. It was a tough decision to hold on to the stock, as people speculated that the quarterly report would show some major issues (perhaps why CEO was fired). But no such thing happened, rather afterwards confidence grew in the company again. When I sold the full position in Catena it was actually the largest holding in my portfolio and a strong contributor to me managing keep pace with the benchmark. Now let’s focus on the five largest holdings in my portfolio:

LG Chem

Previous posts (LC Chem posts)

I have not commented that much about LG Chem, although it has moved up to be my largest holding. The investment traces back to my investment theme 2 years ago when I started the blog. The six months before the blog was launched I had spent a lot of time to research the whole value chain of Electric Vehicles (EVs). I ended up concluding that it will be very hard to forecast a winner among the many  car makers. As a side note I did and do still have a belief that Chinese automakers will step up and take a large part of the global vehicle sales pie. I looked at three segments of the value chain, mining companies, battery producers and semiconductor companies. Semiconductor companies I dismissed, since at the time I saw it as more linked to smart/self-driving vehicles. It then came down to mining or battery companies. When I looked into the supply situation of Lithium, from what I could gather there was actually plenty of supply, the bottleneck was rather Cobalt, but here there were no decent investment options. Batteries also had the tailwind of Energy storage systems, that could potential ramp up demand substantially on the back of more Solar energy usage. So batteries became what I focused on.  LG chem was and continues to be a world leader in battery production, with the most advanced batteries in terms of performance vs price.

EVleaders

The problem with LG Chem, was like most of the investment cases around the EV value chain, it was not a pure play. Most of LG Chem’s revenue comes from chemicals sales which is totally unrelated to EVs.  I tried to analyze the chemicals business best I could, but it is a complex field. I understood that I did not buy into something at peak valuations, but rather chemicals where trading at somewhat depressed levels, my analysis did not really go deeper than that. I reasoned that expanding battery production, to meet the enormous future demand, would require a sizable company with muscles to expand.  So without knowing that much about the chemicals business, I saw it as a good backbone to build the battery production capacity on. And that is more or less what LG Chem has been doing. Capex and R&D expense is planned to increase substantially in the coming years, on the back of strong cash-flows in the last quarters.

Looking at the future, worries lies in if there will be any substantial margins left for the battery producers. As Chinese new giants like CATL steps up to the plate, it would not be the first time a  thriving profitable industry, becomes like the solar industry where huge volumes are produced, but no money is made. What keeps me somewhat comforted is that there are safety and quality aspects to these batteries produced, which means that a battery product is not just only about cheapest possible price per kWh of battery power. There are also more long-term quality and safety aspects to a battery product.

Even after the strong share performance, the company is trading at an undemanding trailing P/E of 15 and a estimated forward P/E of 13, which is in the middle of the range of it’s long-term P/E band. I would argue there is still room on the upside, even short-term. Since we are closing in on the S-curve area of EV adoption, where LG Chem is bound to see strong Revenue growth. A few years ago, it was estimated we would see substantial EV sales come through around 2020. But it’s more likely that most cars will be Plug-In hybrids around 2020 and pure EVs really taking of on a massive scale, is still probably a few more years into the future. But say 2025, I’m certain 75%+ of all new cars sold will be either a hybrid or a full EV car. If LG Chem manage to keep in the forefront of battery production, it is a company I’m very willing to hold for the coming 10 years.

Dairy Farm

I recently wrote a long analysis on this company, you find it here: Dairy Farm Asian Food Giant

Dairy Farm being a conglomerate within a even larger conglomerate. One could argue that instead of buying into Dairy Farm I should take a position in the whole Jardine Group. But I do like being exposed to food in the Asian region. Food is of course important to everyone around the globe, but Asians are in my view even bigger foodies than westerns. As the region grows richer, which its more or less bound to do, if Dairy Farm plays its cards right, it should be able to long term leverage that trend. Of course it is a highly competitive market, but with the Jardine Group behind it, Dairy Farm has all the advantages you could have for this region. I see this as a very long term holding, which I would only re-evaluate if I saw that something major had changed in the direction of the company.

XTEP International

I invested in two steps into XTEP, you find my thinking at the time here: XTEP Posts

The more I learn about Hong Kong listed companies and market participants, I realize mis-pricing are more common, or at least market participants have another time horizon and sentiment shifts in their investments. When the sentiment finally changes, it’s a bit like the famous ketchup bottle, positive momentum builds quick and reprices the stock to a new level in a very short time. For a stock picker that is of course a good thing, if you can get in before the sentiment changes. But you also need to be very sure about what you are investing in, since your patience and thesis will be tested. XTEP has had a a similar story of under-performance and then a catch-up. The clear winner though has been the largest company Anta, which since I invested has continued to outperform its peers.

XTEP_Relativeperf

When I invested about a year ago, XTEP was the ugly duckling, trading at a much lower P/E than its peers. One of the reasons as I have understood more clearly is that XTEP competitors are aiming more for the branded high priced segment, competing with Nike etc. XTEP has had it’s niche more towards the cheap/affordable running shoes. Much of the growth trend (so far) in health and sport awareness among Chinese has been in the more affluent population which obviously will go either for western brands or top Chinese brands. I tried with this investment think second level, that since healthy living and exercising already is a strong trend in China among rich people, that maybe it would also affect the middle class population to consume more sports shoes. The jury is probably still out if XTEP will succeed in this.

Looking to the future, I think the sports apparel segment is a good segment to be invested in. The tailwind from Chinese consumers on these type of products should continue. If XTEP is a good enough company in terms of execution and brand building, that I’m less sure of. Basically because I’m not in touch with its customer base, or consume their products myself. So the case for me to generate alpha in terms of stock picking, is lower here, where I only go by what I can see in the data. For these reasons I will probably never be fully comfortable with this as a very long term investment and my strategy lately has been to ride this positive momentum that finally arrived and look for a good exit level in this holding.

Gilead Science

My initial thoughts when I invested: Gilead investment

I was reflecting on that I spent a lot of my research time on looking at Health Care/Pharma companies of different kinds, everything from more niche small cap companies producing probiotics or vaccines, too large companies like Teva. It’s a bit ironic then that currently I only hold one single Pharma company, and that is a company I spent less time researching myself and more followed the results of others that I respect for their knowledge. WertArt’s excellent analysis helped my jump the boat and invest. Since I invested Gilead has made some larger acquisitions, again I’m not competent enough to understand if this was positive or not. I can only see that the Gilead management has had a fairly good track-record in its larger purchases.

The question to ask myself really is, since I seem to have no to a weak edge in being able to understand and analyse big Pharma companies, should I even invest in them? I’m not a benchmark agnostic investor and the Health care segment has 12% weight in MSCI World. With such a large weight in the benchmark I would rather say that I want to hold at least one Health Care company. For now I’m happy holding Gilead as a good pick in the segment, but I will do my best to find smaller companies in this sector, which are easier to grasp.

Huhtamäki

Initial reasoning for buying into Huhtamäki: Rotate away from China – New holdings

In a very fragmented market Huhtamäki has managed to take a strong position in the food packing market by doing a large number of smaller acquisitions. Food packing I believe has a long-term strong tailwind. In terms of risk I see a trend where large companies decided to be more eco-friendly. Seeing the documentary “A Plastic Ocean” makes you very sad of. We treat our environment in a horrible way in terms of plastic packaging. Maybe in parts of the world, there will be trend towards more paper/wood based packaging products. Huhtamäki today does both, so even this I don’t think is a major risk long-term, although short term it could create some losses if the plastic production facilities would become underutilized.

In the case of Huhtamäki a full analysis of the company is long overdue, it’s something I kept pushing forward as I feel I understand the company fairly well. The truth probably is somewhere in between since I have not sat down and looked at detailed figures of the company, reading many of the previous annual reports etc, as I usually do when I fully analyze a company. Instead of doing a half-hearted attempt here now, I will instead try to deliver a full analysis of the company in the next few weeks.

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2017 Performance, Criteo sell, Inditex buy

2017 Performance +28.8%

With MSCI World being my main benchmark at 23.1% for the year, I’m pretty satisfied with +28.8%, although I did it with a higher volatility than the benchmark. Calculated on weekly returns MSCI World created it’s 23.1% return which an almost mindbogglingly low realized volatility of 5%, that’s a sharp ratio any hedge fund would be proud of. My portfolio came in at 10% standard deviation. When I started the blog I had a heavy tilt towards Chinese stocks, so I also made an evaluation against Hang Seng. As you know Hang Seng has outperformed greatly (+36%), and that contributed to my performance for sure. I’m still overweight (about 15% of the portfolio) China from a MSCI World perspective, but it’s not such a heavy tilt, so I will drop those comparisons henceforth.

I had a probably too active year in terms of holdings turnover, although most holding periods have been about a year or longer. My aim is trying to extend that average holding period closer towards 2-3 years. Only one stock that i bought in 2017, I again sold within the same year, that was Norwegian sports retailer XXL.

I decided during the year to shift away from China, we can say that I was too early. All of my Chinese holdings like Ping An Insurance, BYD, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical and YY had all just started their run upwards, I sold off in all three cases in the earlier to middle part of their revaluations. I reinvested in mostly European stocks that have instead traded sideways. In other cases like Rottneros (Swedish pulp company) and Ericsson, I managed to get out in time, selling at peak and stock trading down significantly afterwards.

Although I would have had greater returns in 2017 by not changing my start of the year portfolio, I’m still fairly satisfied with what I’m holding today. I think I hold a defensive portfolio with companies with a reasonable chance of maintaining most of the earnings even in a cyclical downturn. Of course the multiple will still come down in many of my holdings, so I don’t have any fantasies of being immune to markets falling.  As you probably realized I’m not all too bullish on the stock markets for the coming 2-3 years, let’s see if the market volatility we seen in the last few days is the start of a larger trend. I do really think we should be worried when US 10Y Govies are closing in on 3% yield. As the catch phrase says in front on my Hong Kong skyline picture, there still probably is a bull markets somewhere, in some little sector or niche of the market, hopefully we can find that too.

The start of 2018

Graph_20180209

I did not really have a great start to year, the reason is spelled Dignity. The puns that can be thrown about being buried by the investment are actually pretty funny (I was for the first time mentioned on twitter thanks to this). I already dedicated a post to that and I have taken my stance, adding into this position, let’s see over the coming year how it plays out. More interestingly it was good to see how my portfolio behaved in the severe downturn we have experienced. I’m happy to see that the portfolio is holding up at least in line with MSCI World, thanks to my cash positions I have realized about a percentage point less losses than the index over the last 2 weeks.

Looking forward I will continue to rotate my portfolio into positions I’m comfortable holding over longer periods of time, with the goal of reaching average holding periods into the 2-3 year range.

Clean out – Criteo out

Some of my comments have made me aware that all might not be well in Criteo land, I decided to put this in the “too-hard” bucket as well, just as Catena Media. Although its probably a lousy timing to sell right now, stock is ripe for a bounce, I’m taking my stop/loss in this one, selling the full holding.

Inditex – Add 3% weight

So, we all know, bricks and mortar clothing retails i hard, really hard right now. Just ask H&M, the darling stock of Swedish investors is really struggling at the moment and they are not alone. So Inditex, or more widely known, Zara, which is still trading at high multiples, why am I buying this now? I simply love their business model. I think they have a very unique market model and position, if its anyone that is going to survive cheap trendy fashion retail, it’s Zara. And as other companies probably will need to close down stores, my belief is that Zara will come out of this even stronger.

I’m probably a bit too early into this stock, hence the 3% weight. The opportunities to buy this company really cheap has not really existed in the past either. It traded at P/E 15-20 around 2010-2012 and today it’s still at P/E 26 after a decent sell-off. As they say, buy quality and hopefully only cry once. But if the multiple keeps contracting I’m more than happy to keep adding into this position until it is one of my major holdings.

 

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Portfolio Changes – larger reshuffle – Part 1

Thoughts on investment philosophy

I have recently had quite a lot of time to contemplate my investment style and philosophy. I think I reached some conclusions. After all that is what this blog is about for me, learning from and seeing my mistakes more clearly and then adjusting accordingly.

Before I started this blog I have during periods followed the market and specific stocks very closely. I have used technicals and fundamentals to swing-trading holdings (3-12 month horizon) with fairly decent results. Meaning that I see the stock as fairly/undervalued with a chart that looks good for a move up. I then later sell when the stock is more close to fully valued. To some degree I have implemented such a strategy also for my blog (for example Avanza, Ericsson, YY, Shanghai Fosun etc). But this is very different from believing in a company truly long-term, even if the stock gets ahead of itself valuation wise. Given that I do have a full time job and this is a hobby, the time I can spend on updating myself on holdings vary widely. From another perspective baby-sitting such swing trade positions takes away valuable time from researching new interesting companies and sectors/niches.

All in all the conclusion for my future investment strategy is stop looking at these companies that trade cheaply currently and then start to swing them in/out of the portfolio as they get cheap/expensive. If all stocks in the world would be drifting sideways forever with some volatility this might be a successful strategy, but that’s not a very likely scenario. Instead I will focus on what makes more sense, finding great companies. Preferably currently cheap, but anyhow companies that in 5 years time in my view has a high probability of trading significantly higher. I should also at all times be comfortable turning to stop following my holdings and be happy to own them for the coming 5 years. Currently I do not hold such a portfolio and I intend to spend the coming months to do just that. This means that I am tilting my portfolio more towards Quality, which in general is expensive now. But I intend to find my own type of Quality, not necessarily Nestle and the likes (nothing wrong with Nestle though)

In terms of Portfolio management I will still allow myself to trim holdings that grow very large or add in holdings that have under-performed but I still believe in. And of course I will still make mistakes and mis-judge companies, meaning they will not sit in the portfolio for 5+ years, but till be sold when my view has changed. But preferably the investments should be such so I won’t be easily swayed in my judgement of the future prospects of the company. For example an oil company with great management and execution might be dead in the water if oil production cost is around US$60/barrel and oil drop to US$40, so before I have a very clear and sure long-term view on the oil price, it would be a silly investment to add to this portfolio. I take this as an example because currently outside the blog holdings I do have a swing-trade position in a what I think is a very decent oil company (Tethys Oil).

Reshuffle of Portfolio – Part 1

Not only have i contemplated my strategy, but another reason why I have written so little lately is that I have been very busy re-searching a larger number of companies. Most of these investment ideas will materialize in new holdings over the coming months. It probably won’t be perfect, since I change so much at the same time. Minor adjustment might come later. But all in all it’s holdings more in line with a more long-term investment strategy. The holdings are in general also more defensive than what I currently hold. This I also very much what I seek in such a late stage bull-market. I’m not sure if I should call it new Themes, but I chose to allocate significant capital to two industries below, 1. Funeral Services and 2. Alcohol and Beverage related companies. In due course I will try to expand on my thoughts behind these investments.

Dignity – Add at 5% weight

Funeral service business in the UK. I had my eyes on for some years now and lately a very good buying opportunity arose. I heard about it for the first time from a long only manager and have since understood what a wonderful business segment funeral service is. Firstly from a margin perspective. but also how fragmented the business is and the possibilities for a cash flow generating company to buy these small companies at attractive multiples.

Fu Shou Yuan – Add at 4% weight

Basically the same story as Dignity above, funeral services, this time in China. This stock I’m perhaps not buying at the right moment short term, as it has traded up and is actually very expensive at the moment, but from a long term perspective I’m very comfortable holding this.

Diageo – Add at 4% weight

Has a portfolio of high quality liquor brands. Also has a minority holding in Moet Hennessy which I find interesting. Overall the thesis here is that they will continue to leverage their strong brands and their tremendous track-record of shareholder returns. For example the portfolio of whiskey brands probably is 50% of all top quality brands available.

Olvi – Add at 4% weight

I have searched for quite some time for a way invest in line with my positive view on the three small Baltic countries, I think this might be one good way. I also have fairly bullish view on Finland, finally coming out of some economically challenging years. This is a family owned (through voting strong shares) beer and beverage company with exposure to the above mentioned countries. They have also shown a tremendous track-record of execution. Overall, smaller listed beer and beverages companies start to be as common as unicorns. I will expand on this later, but not many are listed anymore. As uncommon they are, its seems to be a fantastic business to be in. Since almost all companies shows great returns (until they are bought out) with very strong cash flows. Previously I held Royal Unibrew for mostly the same reasons (I should have kept it), but overall I find Olvi more attractive, with a stronger track-record.

Tokmanni – Sell Full Holding

This was also a play on Finlands recovery and that the company felt cheap with a good dividend. But they continue to under-deliver and the last straw was the mess with the new CEO not being allowed to start due to a non-compete clause. Felt very unprofessional. Also nothing I’m very confident to hold in 5+ years, with what currently goes on in Retail. I’m happy coming out of this one with a small profit.

Microsoft – Sell Full Holding

A great company of course, but current Tech-hype is just too much for me. If/when Tech companies re-price downwards I will definitely be looking at adding 1-2 Tech holdings again. I’m happy for the returns I got and unfortunately I cut my position in half way too early, the part I kept returned almost 80%.

Catena Media – Sell Full Holding

This became the latest of my “swing trades”, with over 40% return in less than 4 months one of the better ones as well. I was a bit torn about this holding, since I do see some good long-term prospects. The online gaming business will grow, and these sites really need channels which supply them with customers. But it’s a way to unstable business case for me to comfortably hold for many years. It is definitely in the “baby-sitting” category, where I felt a need to keep myself updated on a frequent basis. So with a bit of a heavy heart I sell this holding. This could for sure keep performing very well for a long time, but I categorize it in the “too difficult” pile.

 

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Portfolio Review Q3

The third quarter of the year has passed and the bull market is still roaring pretty strong. My guess a few years ago would have been that we should have seen a larger setback by now. On this particular point I feel pretty humbled by being wrong for so long. Performance wise I do not feel as humble. I have done quite a number of things wrong during this year, mainly selling stocks too early. But in general I did more things right than wrong and that’s what counts. Let’s go through the performance and some high- and lowlights.

Performance

Graph_20171006

Year to date the Global Stock Picking portfolio is up +24.5%, that compares favorably to MSCI World (Total Return) which is up +17.4%, but lagging Hang Seng (Total Return) which is up an incredible +29.3%. Looking at risk adjusted returns, I’m not faring that well though. Although I have run a large cash position (which lowers volatility) the volatility YTD is at 10.5%, compared to MSCI World at 5.5% and Hang Seng at 11%. So risk adjusted I come out with the worst Sharpe ratio of 2.33 vs 2.66 for Hang Seng and 3.17 for MSCI World. I guess that also says something about the state of things in the markets when a Global Index portfolio is returning a Sharpe >3.

I probably sound like a broken record soon, but this to me is a very late stage bull market and one should plan accordingly. I did make an attempt to discuss the topic recently (Where to hide – a factor approach).

Compare with Hang Seng?

That I have added Hang Seng as a comparison might be somewhat misleading, since my intention is to run a Global portfolio. The reason why I added Hang Seng was due to my heavy China tilt when I started the blog. I would argue that is not a constant tilt that I will have over time. It was an allocation call I made at the time. It is a call I’m obviously happy about, since it has given me free Beta out-performance against MSCI World, which is my true benchmark.

Lately I worry about the Chinese economy and the valuations has got more stretched also for Chinese stocks. As you know from previous posts I actively rotated away from China. Currently my portfolio has 16.5% of its cash invested in companies with most of its earnings from China (Coslight, XTEP and NetEase). I will keep the Hang Seng comparison for sometime, but I might remove it at some point.

Highlights

Buying Gilead became a very well timed investment. The market really liked the new product line their are buying themselves into through their acquisition of Kite Pharma. I honestly don’t have the knowledge to know if this will actually be so fruitful as the market seems to think. My impression is that (the market thinks) Gilead has a strong acquisition track record.

Nagacorp which we discussed extensively in the comments and I choose to double up on has come back to something closer to fair value. The company continues to execute well on attracting more VIP players and the Naga2 complex is about to open in full scale. Next Chinese New Year will be very very interesting, I’m optimistic about further share appreciation. As long as the majority holder does not decide to do something stupid (again).

LG Chem which is my long long term holding for the EV-theme (being a leader in battery technology) has performed very well lately (although not as well as the pure-play Samsung SDI). Unfortunately the battery part of LG Chem is still fairly small. I expect it to grow substantially over the coming 5 years.

Lowlights

I made a bet that XTEP, the Chinese shoe company was lagging it’s competitors who have all had great runs in the stock market and would do some catch-up after it’s semi-annual was released. It turned out being the opposite and I doubled up before the stock collapsed. I feel a bit beaten up, picking the only Chinese shoe company that is down performance wise. Still haven’t given up though, although less about my position than before.

In my move to rotate away from China (Time to rotate away from China) I have sold a number of holdings lately. Two which I sold after very strong returns were YY and BYD. It has been a bit hard to see the shares continue to surge another 30-40% after I sold, but such is life. As I wrote at the time for YY, I got scared of the Chinese Gov clampdown on streaming services, but these things often go away and so it did. And the upside I saw very shortly after came true.

Catena Media which I just bought into also had a negative event right after I bought. The CEO was fired with immediate effect. This gives me some worry that something might surface in the Q3 report. I have considering to reduce my initially fairly ballsy position. The only positive keeping me from doing it is the interim CEO which I have very high hopes about.

I bought two bricks and mortar stocks, XXL and Tokmanni, I reversed my decision with a smaller loss for XXL and kept Tokmanni. So far I should have done the opposite, since XXL has rebounded nicely whereas Tokmanni is treading water.

Current Portfolio

Holdings_20171006

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Another Portfolio change

Defensive is my new offensive

So I continue my quest of reducing China exposure and finding good defensive plays. My portfolio changes are the following as of market closings today (Tuesday):

  • Buy 6% of my NAV into Gilead Sciences
  • Add 50% to my current holding in Xtep International
  • Sell 40% of my current holding in BYD
  • Sell my full holding in CRRC

All in all this slightly reduces my very large cash position. Some quick comments on the changes:

Gilead Sciences

As I have mentioned in several posts, I have been circling the Pharma sector for quite some time now. Since it is, at best, a murky area to try to estimate the value of a big companies research pipeline, I have struggled to come to an investment decision. It’s easier with companies where current cash-flow motives more of the value. I tend to end up a bit too much on Seeking alpha, trying to find people who do understand the intricate details of this industry and especially the pipeline. Someone that I do trust though on the topic is Martin Shkreli, who freely shares on his thoughts in his Youtube streams. He is a fan of Gilead lately (when the valuation has come down). That gave me some comfort to keep looking at the stock. After seeing this (WertArt Capital on Gilead) very in-depth review of Gilead, I realized I might be a bit late to the party. But nevertheless, I want exposure to the sector which I feel have come down valuation wise and is defensive. Giliead is the best I have been able to come up with after a long search. I feel confident enough to take a position at what I believe is still a decent entry point, with some confirmation that the down-trend is broken.

XTEP International

The case is simple, if this company is not a fraud, it is undervalued. All other Chinese shoe companies have continued to perform fairly well and outperformed XTEP. This might be the ugly duckling, but I don’t believe it is THAT ugly. We will also get a very quick answer on my bet, since the earning report is released tomorrow, I’m hoping for a +10% pop upwards in the stock-price.

BYD

The countries outside of China keep disappointing me in how much they dare to commit to electric buses, it’s already proven to work fine in China. This is where BYD is very strong and have a top product. On top of that I still don’t see BYD releasing a car anything near to Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt, so my thesis from over a year ago, that I’m unsure of BYD’s success in the car market, stays the same. I haven’t given up on BYD, but I could see this one visit the high 30’s again and choose to reduce my position.

CRRC

This was my Belt and Road play, perhaps somewhat sloppily implemented. I decided to not invest in the theme before I understand it much better than I do right now. It has a holding I don’t have a strong view on and selling it reduces my China exposure, so out it goes.

My next post..

..will be about Teva. I have been very occupied lately and I still need some time to dive into the details. So stay tuned for Part 2 and let’s see if it becomes a new investment or not.

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Portfolio changes

I made a mistake..

when I bought XXL 1.5 month ago. The Norwegian sporting goods retailer is expensive without continued growth that I knew. But how solid is the ground in their home markets? After both visiting one of their stores and not having the same positive feeling as before (maybe too much Peter Lynch here) and reading an article from one of their competitors about the very tough environment I started to turn more skeptical.A podcast that I followed woke me up to the fact that I have probably overpaid. I realized today I have probably underestimated the risks in the company. Luckily I’m in USD terms able to come out at a very slight loss. So I reversed my decision today and selling the full position as of today’s close.

Something that I did right..

was buying Skandiabanken when I started this blog. Not my fastest, but a very steady and my largest gain (+120%). During this time the stock has gone from trading at a slight discount to the large banks, to today trading at a good premium. Just as it should be in my opinion, with it’s superior growth rate. But this bank is almost entirely reliant on the Norwegian housing market, which has been in a slide for some time now. Nothing major, and probably it is fine but for the first time I see some clouds on the horizon. Judging from how hot the Swedish property market is and I know the Norwegian one is in a similar state, there is some worry. Any kind of further outside shock which creates higher unemployment could trigger something very nasty. Now it’s up to the company to keep executing and stealing market share from the big boys. I think they can do it, but any failure will set the stock price back now. So I will reduce this holding just before their earnings release, take some handsome profit and keep a smaller position as a long term case. I sell 60% of my holding as of today’s close.

A new defensive..

..in my portfolio. Already as a kid studying finance, I found out that I could increase my Sharp ratio by adding Swedish Match to my portfolio. It didn’t have the highest returns, but it had this wonderful characteristic of being negatively correlated to the rest of the market. That did wonders in terms of risk adjusted returns. Swedish Match does not anymore have a negtive Beta, but it is very defensive and very well run company. There is some huge political risk if for example the European Union would manage to ban snus in Sweden, but I see it as highly unlikely. I start with a small position of 4% and I intend to look at more tobacco companies going forward. I would also be very interested to hear your thoughts on the E-cigarette/Vaping industry, if you believe in that, what would be the best way to gain an exposure?

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The USD effect & Portfolio comments

The USD effect

I want to start with a graph of EURUSD, because it has such profound effects on the market when it starts moving.

EURUSD_20170807

With the risk of being called something of a Chartist, to me this is a significant move. We are breaking out of a 2 year side-way trend. This could be the beginning of the normalization of major currencies, where we see EURUSD moving back to it’s previous range 1.20-1.50 which lasted for about 10 years. What is a normal range though? It all depends on what time perspective you take. If we look at 30 years of data, we are today already very close to the average exchange rate. The 360 month moving average is at 1.21 and the 500 month moving average is where we are now, at 1.18. If EURUSD moved to for example 1.4 over the coming year, that would definitely have profound effect in the stock markets and on all ours portfolio returns.

EURUSD_20170807_30y

Exporters vs domestic

The kind of currency move we see now, leaves its mark on a Global portfolio and it’s returns. The effect is largest for domestic companies. For example if we take my largest holding Skandiabanken, which is a Nordic online retail bank, generating majority of it’s revenue from Norwegian Krona (NOK). Since all it’s costs and revenue is in NOK, its a purely domestic company. So when USDNOK moves, the portfolio experiences the full currency move, whereas the fundamentals for the company stays the same. Since investing in Skandiabanken I have realized an extra 6% return from the NOK strengthening, pure luck!

In comparison my holding in LG Chem, is traded in Korean Won (KRW). But the company exports all over the world meaning a lot of it’s revenue is priced in USD. So if KRW strengthen against USD, the company will earn less in KRW terms and the stock should fall. At the same time the KRW stock price is worth more in USD terms, so the effect negate each other.

This means that companies that mostly sell domestically adds an extra component of FX-risk into the portfolio. To make it even more complicated, the domestic company might have it’s cost in USD and chose to either hedge it or leave the currency risk open. If you as an investor compare yourself to a benchmark, your definition of taking risk in this sense, is if you have another mixture of exporters vs domestic companies, per market, compared to the benchmark. This will make you over and underweight a number of currencies. It all sounds very complex, but since weightings of for example MSCI World is so heavily tilted to the larger markets and large companies, in effect, you mainly have under/over exposures to a few major currencies (USD, EUR and JPY). The tricky part is that you won’t really notice this effect, before one of the major currencies really start moving, like now.

Conclusion?

So what’s the point of this analysis? My point is that major benchmarks is made up of large companies with revenues worldwide, so the majority of your portfolio from a Global benchmark will be USD exposure. But if you as a stockpicker, find smaller domestic companies, which have their revenues and costs in a local currency (either naturally domestic or hedged to a domestic currency). You will have an implicit bet on that currency versus the USD.

The reason why I bring it up, is because two of my holdings that have performed the best, is such holding, Skandiabanken and Ramirent. It’s nothing I lie sleepless at night about, just something to keep in the back of your head before you fill your portfolio with such holdings.

Portfolio Update

A quick look at the portfolio performance and composition shows continued strong performance, both for my holdings and the benchmarks. Especially Hang Seng is on a tear lately, somewhat frustrating when I already have come quite far in rotating away in my Chinese holdings (and the ones I have left have not really moved). For example my two previous large positions in Ping An Insurance and YY has in the month after I sold surged 15% and 33% respectively. Whereas the stocks I bought in Europe have trades more or less sideways (Tokmanni being the exception), I have also been somewhat saved by the weakening USD in these holdings. Cash level is still high, as always I’m spending a lot of timing searching the markets for something investable. And as always lately struggling to find anything worth buying. In my Portfolio page I have made my Watchlist a bit longer (in reality it is much longer than this) but maybe those stocks can give you some investment ideas.

Graph_20170805

Holdings_20170805

Going forward

I will take one final slash sometime this year, to further reduce my China exposure (it will not go to zero as long as I find very interesting investment cases there). And according to my previous post about “where to hide”, I will try to move my portfolio one more step defensive (less cyclical) than it currently is.

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Where to hide – a factor approach

Not about calling the downturn

This post will be about, how to best position your portfolio for a bear market. I just want to begin by saying, I’m not calling the market peak. As we know markets can stray irrational longer than you can stay solvent, at least if you are betting against it. I believe markets to be somewhat irrational right now, with little to no regard to risks, which is shown forexample in the record low market volatility. But with this portfolio I’m not in the game of betting against it (going short). I want to earn the long-term equity risk premium (a.k.a. Beta). Looking at stocks on absolute basis in a more normalize world (meaning healthy equity risk premiums, normal interest rate and inflation levels), I really struggle to find stocks that feels cheap, have a margin of safety etc. More and more I tend to see sell side analysis (and fellow bloggers) value companies on a peer basis, “this is cheap relative to this”. And when something actually is valued with a DCF, when you replicate their analysis, you find that they have used ridiculously low equity risk premia or WACC for the discounting. If you shift that discount rate up by only 1-2% and all of a sudden the stock goes from a buy to a screaming sell. I don’t like it, but as I said, I’m not going to try and time when we get a major pullback.

What do to?

So I believe we are in for a bear market with a -30% fall in stock markets from current levels in the coming years. But I (obviously) don’t know when it will come. This belief means that we will see a multiple contraction, or lower earnings/margins, or both. Let’s play with the thought that markets keep being valued  (same multiples) as today and companies earn the same. For every year that the markets do not fall there is an equity risk premium (albeit lower) and dividends to be harvested. Which means staying outside the market waiting for the crash has a expected cost. The expected cost is more or less the current discount rate the market has on earnings (a.k.a. the equity risk premium). It’s good to have this in mind when playing with the thought of protecting oneself from a market downturn.

So what do to and where to hide?

Cash

Well the easiest answer is keeping some cash, and that is what I haven done. Since I started my portfolio, I have kept a high level of cash and only been fully invested for a short period. Holding this cash has been a way of for me to stay ready for the downturn. I want to hold some cash for that time when you can pick up companies on the cheap. This has been a stupid strategy so far. The GlobalStockPicking portfolio is up 40% since inception and I held and average cash buffer of 9.8% for that period, that is a performance drag of 4% (cash earns 0% in my model portfolio). Even if we see that pullback in markets I’m talking about (-30%), I will need to time it pretty darn well to come out positive, compared to always being fully invested. Meaning I would need to deploy all cash almost at the bottom to gain back what I missed out of.

Cash Levels in GSP Portfolio

cashlevels_july17

As can also be seen in the graph above, during 2016 I did not consistently hold high cash levels, It was more an affect of my wanting to sell an holding and not having something new lined up. Whereas this year, 2017, I have with some variation, held cash at around 14%. It aligns fairly well with my feeling for the market, 2016 I was still fairly bullish (although still very worried). Now I’m turning fairly bearish and especially US markets feels insanely valued, especially considering that interest rates have moved up. I have probably been skeptical way too early, but I’m not about to change now. But the conclusion must be that this is been a quite poor strategy, which has been masked by me managing to pick stocks that have outperformed. Outside the world of this blog on a personal level I have kept even more cash on the sidelines, which has been terrible (so far).

Categorizing holdings

I would argue that I can categorize all my holdings into one of these 4 factors (although sometimes they might fit into more than one category):

  • Growth
  • Dividend
  • Quality
  • Value

A quant would use a stricter definition in terms of different ratios to define what stock falls into which factor. I will from the knowledge I have about my companies, in a more “soft” approach classify my holdings.  These four categories have different general characteristics in terms being high/low Beta and also resilient in different macro economic environments. For example high/low inflation coupled with high/low interest rate levels. By looking at holdings in this way, we can get a better feel for how they will be repriced in a bear market and/or higher interest rate environment. The below picture is one guide to how different factors perform in different environments.

factor_performance

As you see there is other ways to categorize a portfolio than my 4 factors, for example if the company is a small or large cap (Size). This can be very important in a bear market, because what might seem fairly liquid in a bull market, can be very hard to trade in a bear market. And when liquidity dries up in a stock, that stock should all other things equal trade down, due to a increased illiquidity discount. But I will start by grouping the portfolio into the four categories above.

1. Growth – Highest risk

When the bear market already is a fact, growth stocks have in many cases already collapsed. The reasons for it is fairly simple. Growth stocks valuation is built on the expectation of continuous growth of revenue and earnings. And when markets fall significantly, that is usually the end to (high) growth for most companies. A more scientific way of putting it would be that a growth company has it’s cash-flows further in the future (the duration is higher than for a highly cash generative, non growing company). When markets fall the equity risk premium goes up, meaning that discounting those cash flows far away in the future will suffer more. The same duration argument is true when rates are rising, where the risk free rate is a component in the equity risk premium.

Whichever way you look at it, growth companies have high Betas and will drag down your portfolio more than the benchmark when markets fall. Of course if you manage to find the company that still grows while markets in general fall, you will be better off, stock picking still applies and that is your alpha. But in general with higher equity risk premia even your alpha generating picks will not yield you as much as in a bear market. The idea then surely would be to rotate out of these kind of stocks if one believes in a coming bear market. So somewhat surprising I have a large portion of my portfolio is in this category.

My holdings I consider Growth:

Skandiabanken

My largest holding, thanks to the tremendous gains (and favorable currency development). Mainly a Norwegian online bank, challenging the “old” banking model. The stock has traded up in the general strong trend of bank stocks, but has also with it’s superior growth been able to outperform. This has been something as unusual as a growth company which has not traded at so stretched multiples. One big worry right now is the Norwegian property markets which has shown its first signs of weakness. The real test will probably be this autumn when larger volumes will be moving to see if this a new trend. Long-term I believe in their case of challenging the big banks, but there will be serious trouble if the property market really dives.

Ramirent

I actually bought this knowing that we are late cycle with construction booming in the Nordic region, historically Ramirent then always does very well. The market usually reprices the stock fairly rapidly when the late cycle earnings start to kick in. This is something I’m looking at off-loading as soon as I find something new interesting to invest in.

BYD

The main company in China to benefit from larger EV usage. They are currently profitable, but most of it’s value is in the expectation on future earnings.

XXL

Sportswear and wild-life retailer with good track-record of profitable growth. Can they keep it up? I believe so, but if I’m wrong this company will for sure trade down.

2. High Dividend Stocks – defensive?

With zero interest rates high dividend and companies with large buybacks have both been popular strategies. Companies which such characteristics have in general seen great multiple expansion. And rightly so, such a stock can be seen as a perpetual bond. And with long term bond-yields decreasing, that should transfer into the equity world that all else equal, these stocks should trade higher. I have tried to hold some high dividend stocks in my portfolio, especially when I started my portfolio I held the SAS Preference share which had a yearly dividend yield around 10%. There is also an important difference between high dividend, high risk companies, and very stable non-cyclical companies paying decent dividends. Many dividend stocks should be defensive (low beta) in a market downturn. But high yield and leveraged companies where the market is crowded in search for high yields, could be a real minefield. My SAS Pref shares was of the later type and that was one big reason why I sold out when I thought the market started to reach the end of the bull market. I have tried to find dividend stocks that are less cyclical and can keep their pay-out levels even when the cycle has turned.

What I’m trying to say is that dividend stocks can be off all types, some defensive, some rather high leveraged companies in a market with falling revenues (oil/shipping/coal etc). If interest rates would go massively higher, the world will probably in general be vary shaken up. But of course a stable company with limited growth opportunities, yielding perhaps 4-5% will look much less attractive if the risk free interest on your bank account also is 4-5%. These kind of stocks could go from darlings to very uninteresting in such a scenario.

My holdings I consider high dividend:

ISS

My recent investment in ISS, I saw as a fairly high dividend case. Not because of current dividend yield, but due to my expectation on them raising the dividend. I also saw this holding as a way to make my portfolio more defensive. They have paid of their debt and are highly cash generative, which I hope means that they will raise the dividend yield up towards 4.5%. The cleaning and service business probably will be somewhat affected if markets fall, but I would not call it cyclical, their contracts will be fairly stable. But of course stable businesses with high dividend yields is a bit like looking for the holy grail, you will struggle to find it. I do not think ISS is the holy grail, but a decent option to make my portfolio more defensive through fairly high dividend payments.

Nagacorp

Another case where the dividend currently has plummeted, due to the complicated convertible bond structure. But with revenue increases from the newly build Naga2 casino expansion, I expect this to again be a stock paying healthy dividends in the 5-6% range. Another positive has been the latest development around this convertible bond, where the majority owner has agreed to somewhat more reasonable terms from conversion and therefor the stock has bounced significantly from it’s lows. It’s still a cheap stock, due to its dented reputation and the way the majority shareholder has treated the minority in the past.

Tokmanni

With the recent lowered guidance for growth and turbulence of the leaving CEO I got the opportunity to buy this company on the cheap, it has come up a bit now from it’s bottom, but still trading cheap. Even if the market environment seems to continue to be tough, I expect them to keep delivering a 5-6% dividend yield.

3. Quality is surely the most defensive?

Real quality companies maybe is the way to go then, for a defensive portfolio. Better than holding cash and safer than high dividend companies? Well.. ..in theory yes, but the problem is that defensive quality businesses are naturally more very expensive stocks. The question becomes how much are you willing to pay for this quality? Low interest rates and people scarred by the 08 crash have in my opinion created some crowding into these stocks, which means that they are many times trading at very stretched multiples.

Let’s look at a few examples of prime quality companies. I picked out some of my favorites (from a company perspective) out of Goldmans Sustain 50 list: Goldman Sustain 50

Some metrics Quality companies

quality_comp_metrics

And to put the figures into perspective, let’s compare it to my current portfolio

Same metrics for GlobalStockPicking Portfolio

GSP_comp_metrics

Looking at the table above, I think there is plenty of room for multiple contraction for high quality companies. As well all know the FANG club and some other have been darling stocks for many many investors lately. This also happened in the 70’s when the large American companies were trading at very stretched multiples (Nifty Fifty). Let’s take a well known example, Coca Cola, what says that P/E 24 is a reasonable level for this company? Well with low interest rates maybe that is where it should trade.  Let’s take a look from a long term perspective.

Coca Cola P/E the last 30 years

cocacola_PE30y

What this graph tells me is that, the market can get even more ahead of itself and value Coca Cola on P/E 30, giving it another 30% upside (+ future dividends currently at 3%). That is something of the blue sky scenario for a holder of Coca Cola shares. A blue sky scenario with 30% upside does not sound great to me. I rather see this one trading down to P/E 17 in a weaker stock market, but that of course still might be defensive and a smaller drop compared to the benchmark, still making this a defensive play. But again a defensive play with very little upside does not make sense to me (if the yield is too low). Then I rather keep cash, or rather, there must be better options out there. But of course fairly valued quality companies would be a very interesting candidate to invest in and perhaps I should allocate larger portfolio weights to the ones I found.

My holdings I consider Quality:

Microsoft

Given that this company is even on Goldman’s list I don’t think further explanation is needed why I classify this as Quality. What I will say though is that obviously I have been way to quick to scale down this holding, since this type of company just keeps defying gravity. But at this valuation levels I’m not far from throwing out his holding, a company can be wonderful, but not at any kind of valuation levels.

NetEase

Amazing company, delivering high quality gaming experiences to the Chinese, and the best part, the valuation is not too stretched. The reason for that in my opinion is that you are running other risks, in terms of concentration risk against the Chinese market and that the company needs to continue to deliver new hit games indefinitely to justify its valuation.

Huhtamäki

Delivering food packaging products world-wide with a strong track-record of execution and partnering with world leading companies to deliver coffee cups and much else when coffee companies expand worldwide. As long as management keep delivering as in the past I don’t see anything stopping this company to keep growing at a moderate pace for many years to come. A boring but high quality business.

Sony

A company standing on many legs, everything from movie production, TVs, to PlayStation. I think they have a strong product portfolio and I really like the video-games. VR has not become as big as I thought, but still has a lot of potential. Current P/E levels is pretty crazy at 79 (a mistake in my table above).

4. How about Value then?

We do not want to pay too much (high multiples) for our investments, we then end up in some type of value stocks definition. But in this market finding true value cases is not easy. In my opinion you either end up buying micro/small cap stocks in markets where the companies have been forgotten. You then run a large risk of a value trap, and illiquid holdings. Meaning yes you are right, the company is trading at a (unfairly) low multiple, but it could keep doing so, for years and years. It’s going to be a very frustrating investment. You are right on the numbers, but the market keep you in the wrong on the valuation.

If you instead move over to larger companies, you instead end up with cases where there is some serious market disruption or company specific crisis. Some of these cases turn around and you have a great investment on your hands, but it’s a serious wager against consensus. And although it’s good being contrarian one should be humble enough to accept that the market very often is right. Right now you could probably make a Value case for stocks like Kohl’s and Macy’s in the US. In the Nordic market perhaps Ericsson that I discussed and owned before as well as Pandora, the danish jewelry maker. All of them with their own set of problems.

I love to find good Value cases, but it is getting increasingly difficult, and mostly I end up finding them in the Chinese market.

My holdings I consider Value:

Coslight

After scanning the market for the best way to play the Electric Vehicle market, I chose this stock together with BYD and LG Chem, this has been the largest disappointment so far. It seems that a small company as Coslight with already high debt levels has a hard time scaling up in the way needed. I still haven’t given up on the company though. Recently they announced a partial buy-out of one of their main battery factories to be able to scale up and lessen the debt burden. It shows that there are investors out there that believes this company is sitting on a lot of value. They made a sizable profit last year and are trading at around trailing P/E 9.

LG Chem

This is reasonable priced Chemicals company, why I put it in the Value bucket, is the hidden value from the battery production business. This I believe will be unlocked and re-rate the stock over the coming 5 years.

CRRC

A Belt and Road play with fairly low multiples. This a holding I have got more unsure of as markets totally ignore the Belt and Road progress so far. Not sure if it was a good idea to invest in a company mostly owned by the Chinese government.

XTEP International

The company in my portfolio with the lowest valuation, but also of the type described above. Small cap and ignored by the market, classical value trap. And a very similar case like Zhengtong Auto which I owned before and sold after holding it for a long time to a loss. Unfortunately for me, the company is today trading 200% higher than my selling price. The value in that one was finally unlocked, but I didn’t have the patience to hold on to it. Will this be another case with a similar story, or just a company that never will deliver?

Conclusions

Stock picking is about alpha, and it should be possible to generate alpha both in bull and bear markets. But a lot of free out-performance can be gained in a bear market thanks to having the right type of factor tilts in your portfolio. My portfolio is fairly diversified in the different factors, but I could definitely have more Quality in my portfolio. I find it easier to find reasonably valued growth company cases right now, it naturally becomes easier to see companies as cheap when you put a high growth figure in your forecast. But as I said, that might be an unreasonably positive expectation if the cycle turns. I would like to have more Quality and Value in my portfolio, but I struggle to find good investment ideas. If you have some favorite stock picks which are defensive in nature, please share in the comments.

Another problem of being a stock picker is that you tend to hold much more small caps. Naturally it’s in the less researched stocks that you can find mis-pricing, this will also hurt the portfolio in a bear market. Buying small caps is not something I’m willing to stop with, because I believe it will be too hard (impossible?) to generate alpha otherwise. This is just an unfortunate problem you have to live with as a stock picker.

Holding cash has not been a successful strategy so far, it would have been much better to be fully invested. I put myself somewhat in a corner keeping this cash buffer, since I really believe we are in a very late stage bull market. So for the time being I will continue this strategy, although it is not in general a good idea trying to time the market top.

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headline_pic_1yperf

1 Year Anniversary!

Some thoughts on the past year

As we all (older people) know, its scary how fast the years pass by. So here we are, and a year has already passed since I took the leap to launch the blog and my official portfolio. I launched my portfolio in the recovery from the strong sell-off in early 2016. The next six months would be very easy to a be long only investor, with world markets drumming upwards and quickly shaking off the Brexit event. After that it has been more of a mixed bag for world markets, naturally with a lot of focus on Donald Trump.

From the get-go writing this blog I knew it would be a challenge to keep up the pace. I didn’t want this to be something that flared up for six months and then died down. My main goal the whole time has been to keep this page running for one simple reason, to build a credible track-record of my investments. I want to keep building this track-record over a long enough period, to be able to evaluate if I would be suitable to invest money professionally, for myself and perhaps for others. I expect this to be a very long process, perhaps around 10 years.

From time to time it is hard to motivate myself to sit and research companies or just in general read, to come up with ideas or understand something new. It is a fun process, but only when you do not feel stressed by other things. This has been a struggle from time to time, especially during end of last year. It is after all a hobby and I have many other good things in my life, a full time job for example.

The type of content I produce has also shifted somewhat. In the beginning it was more of what I already know and could teach you readers, later it has been focused on what I do not know, which I write to develop myself. I think this makes more sense for me, although I know of many popular blogs that write a ton of material to educate their readers. I could do that, but since my purpose is to build my portfolio track-record as successfully as possible, that will be the focus.

Finally, a clarification. You might wonder why I never post a company analysis where I conclude the company is not worth buying? The reason is that I live and operate in a region where people actually are banned from the industry or sued for making “false” claims which brings down the stock price of companies. I do my research based of public information, the best I can and have time for. But I do not want to have any risk of ending up in this situation. Of course I do analyse a lot of companies that do not end up in my portfolio. Unfortunately you will not see me posting on those (in any great detail at least) in the future either. The other reason for this is that it saves me time, that I do not have to write a long post about a company that I already discarded as an investment. The obvious downside is that I haven’t recorded my thoughts clearly and the stock could be worth revisiting at a later stage.

Mistakes to learn from

We especially learn from our mistakes, I think we all know that. So let’s have a look at what has gone wrong for me during this year.

Current Portfolio

Holdings_20170324

Looking at the current portfolio there is not much that has gone terrible wrong. The shoe company Xtep International came in with a weak report, mostly related to the Kids shoe business. Here one can say that since I’m not a user of their products and I never visited one of their stores (I tried but they were too far away from Shanghai city center), I obviously don’t know the brand well. I have only looked at company figures and online how popular their products seem to be. Buying consumer brand companies without knowing the products might add unnecessary risky, which is obvious for other. I try to hold on to the companies that does well, so to say “let the winners run and cut losers short”, this leads me to the next topic.

Previous holdings

To find my larger mistakes we should instead venture to what I already held but decided to sell.

Old_holdings_20170324

Before we start talking about specific stocks one can notice that I had fairly significant portfolio turnover. Out of my starting 13 stocks, 8 have been sold (although 1, SAFT, was bought by Total). This is in my opinion too high and something I need to correct, there is no point in such a stable market to be switching the portfolio so quickly. A portfolio turnover around 50% per year, would perhaps be OK, but preferably I would want to come down towards 30-40% in a normal market. One can also notice NetEase as a big positive outlier, which was one of my larger holdings with a tremendous run.

I sell to cut my losses

In general I have a tendency of selling companies to cut my losses. Looking at the 4 stocks I sold at a loss, it seems to have been a bad decision on all occasions. All of them has positive performance afterwards. Here we find my two biggest mistakes, Highpower International and Zhengtong Auto. Highpower I was very well aware that the stock might bounce after I sell. It’s after all a stock with thin liqudity and very volatile stock price. So it’s not so painful, although still bitter to see the stock rally after I sell.

Much worse is the case of Zhengtong Auto. This stock I sold for no other reason than that I concluded it is something I have not understood in the company (since it keeps falling). The stock looked very cheap, but the market kept trading the stock lower and lower. In my real money portfolio this is a stock I held for a number of years before setting up the GlobalStockPicking portfolio. So I have suffered for a long time already with this stock-price decline. I have tremendous respect for the market and sometimes I will be terrible wrong, that’s just the way it is with investing. But I have to confess it became physiological this time. There was not really any very strong signs that my investment thesis was all wrong. Yes the market was pressured for a period with lower than average margins, but even considering that the stock was fairly cheap. I came to a point of fatigue and sorts of gave up on the stock. The picture below illustrates my timing:

Zhengtong Auto Trade

Selling winning stocks

In terms of taking profits and selling winners, the result is more mixed, in several cases I have managed to sell a stock at a peak. I have to confess I am somewhat of a chart-follower. I watched charts for so many years I tend to (believe) have some feeling of when a stock is weak or is going to correct soon. It’s not all about charts either, it’s also me believing in mean reversion in more or less everything related to financial markets. Two of the cases where it has been wrong to sell winners, are lower risk companies, SAS Preference and Yuexiu Transport, which both have very high dividend yields and kind of slowly compound upwards.

But my general strategy is to let my winners run. So it what cases do I then sell a company that had a nice run and in what cases do I just ride out for the long run? That is a good question that I’m struggling with myself. I probably need to more clearly define what stocks I no matter what own for the very long term, then I’m at least not allowed to sell the full holding, just because the performance is very good in a short time.

 

Portfolio Evaluation

Graph_20170324

1y_stats

Looking at normal portfolio stats my returns looks impressive. My risk figures are somewhere in-between MSCI World and the Hang Seng index. But my return figures are much better, indicating a fairly significant amount of alpha has been created. Return wise, the correlation indicates that I seem to be closer to Hang Seng than MSCI World, which is maybe a bit strange considering that I call my blog Global Stock Picking. A part of this portfolio tilt I motivate by that I find valuations on stocks with China exposure to be among the lowest I have been able to find. Another reason is that I’m closer to the region and therefor have a tendency of reading more general news that give my ideas for stocks to follow-up on.

Return distribution

With my portfolio being concentrated to around 15 holdings, looking just at standard deviation, might not tell the whole picture of the risks in the portfolio.

weekly_return_distr

As we can see from the weekly return histograms above we can see that MSCI World and Hang Seng has a weekly return profile similar to a normal distribution. We also understand why MSCI World has 9% vol and Hang Seng has 15%. The weekly return distribution for my portfolio looks.. ..different. It’s rather inverted from a normal distribution. During this year I have managed to skew the distribution towards the positive side. In another market environment and making some wrong calls one could imagine that a portfolio with this return characteristic could turn somewhat ugly. But partly this is the price you pay with a concentrated portfolio.

Current Sector exposure

sector_breakdown

active_sector_weights

 

Here I must say I’m quite satisfied, being a single person running a portfolio, it is not easy to have expertise to invest in all sectors. With only around 15 holdings in the portfolio one could not really expect a better spread among sectors. Professional fund managers often minimize sector bets to less than 10-15% active weights, but they usually have much broader portfolios with at least 40-50 holdings for Global Portfolio. I will try to continue to keep my portfolio as sector diversified as  now.

Revenue exposure breakdown

revenue_expos

 

As we already have seen in the correlation with Hang Seng, here is the Achilles heel of the portfolio.Way too much of my companies revenue is dependent on China. 25% is pure China exposure and another 26% are companies with large China exposure, but are also selling worldwide (this is mainly my battery companies). Property prices in China are crazy and all Chinese that can afford it are speculating widely with borrowed money. As soon as the market starts to wobble the government steps in, so it might be allowed to continue for many more years, but as some point a reckoning day must come. And that day, even though I found companies with great prospects, short term I will surely suffer greatly return-wise. Here I must find a reasonable balance and right now one might argue that my global stock portfolio is not really balanced.

Conclusions

You don’t get my kind of returns in a year without taking risks (deviating from bench) and being somewhat lucky. How much it was clever risk taking and how much luck, that will always be impossible to judge. The risks I have taken are related to a few sectors and exposure on China. Within these two exposure groups I have managed to pick stocks that outperformed. The main contributors in these two groups are NetEase (Chinese gaming), Coslight Technology (battery producer) and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Pharma holding company). On top of that I managed to pick up some Nordic bank exposure (Skandiabanken) just when banks stocks started to rally. I picked one of the strongest performers of all, as well in the country where the currency (NOK) since then has strengthened against USD. I would attribute a higher percentage of skill in identifying NetEase and Coslight and more luck in the case of Shanghai Fosun and Skandiabanken, since my analysis on the two latter was much more shallow.

Looking forward

  • I will work actively on reducing my China dependency in the portfolio.
  • I will try to reduce my portfolio turnover, preferably max 6 new stocks in the portfolio over a 12 month period.
  • I should really think twice before I sell a stock just because the performance has been bad. My hit-rate on these trades is awful.
  • I should probably keep selling or maybe even better, reducing the size in stocks that had a very strong run, my hit-rate on these trades is very high. But having said that the most important is the long term and I should mark down what stocks I’m not allowed to sell on short term speculation, risking losing out owning the stock for the long term.

 

Thank you for reading and I’m very happy with your contributions in the comments section!


 

 

 

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