Portfolio update – what a difference 3 weeks make -22% YTD

My portfolio has dropped -22% year to date and it’s been a struggle how to position myself in this type of market. This still compares fairly well to MSCI World which is down -30% YTD, both calculated in USD. Talking about USD, the currency moves we have seen lately has been out of this world. I have a few holdings in NOK and SEK, in the last three weeks USD strengthened 25% vs NOK and 8% vs SEK. This means that my portfolio calculated in NOK is actually UP year to date! Such moves are way to big to ignore and must be incorporated in the analysis of the company you are buying, especially if the companies income is in USD. And then we have the oil, here I feel a bit unlucky buying into my first oil investment since I started the blog just before this epic double whammy of Corona scare and Saudi/Russia oil price war. A bit more on that later. Oil is important, but the big one has of course been the spread of the virus and lock downs around the world. First of all, I think it has been a process for all of us investors to come to grips with this. What does this all mean for my holdings and the economy? I had a head-start given I had closely followed this situation in China before most investors barely looked at it. Even with a head-start it has not been easy. Question like should I re-balance my portfolio when one holding drops unreasonably much compared to another, pops up for me on a daily basis. It’s very easy to over trade in this type of market. I will do a new quick review of all my holdings from a corona perspective. Debt levels for example become more important (I have usually been careful with this). First a few more Corona thoughts..

Further virus thoughts

First I want to say, you are probably pretty tired of reading about virus opinions from unknown readers online. Like 99.9% of these opinions I’m not an expert on virology. That said, I spent an almost unreasonable amount of time following this, listening to experts, trying to form an opinion on what is happening, long before most of you did. Not because I’m more clever or anything, it just happens that I live in a region which was close to the epicenter of this. I mentioned this many times before over the years in my blog, normally I would ignore Macro and focus on stock picking. But some events are so large you should not ignore them, this is such an event. I previously posted about how serious I thought this virus was in China. I just assumed that other developed countries closely monitored the situation and would sound the alarm if cases started to spread elsewhere. I was wrong. It’s now clear that the virus must have spread for a long time in Italy before getting noticed. But I wasn’t entirely wrong, in my post Feb 9th I wrote: “I really don’t understand why we are 1% off all time high the S&P500 when we are staring this situation right in the eye.” That doesn’t mean though that my portfolio was hedged for this scenario. I have tried to stay in defensive stocks for quite some time now, but that was defensive in a general sense, not Covid-19 defensive. In the past three weeks the whole developed world has changed and with that stock markets has totally repriced the world economic outlook. Credit/default risk and significant rise in unemployment is a certainty. The question now is not if, but how bad it will get, before it gets better? Vaccines is everyone’s big hope and that would be wonderful, but unrealistic to have before late this year. If we are locked down until a vaccine comes around then, this will be as bad as the depression in the 1920’s in my opinion. My hope stands to a medicine which significantly reduces the symptoms and the deadliness (right now malaria medicine + zinc seems like the best candidate, with HIV medicines a good second). Such a medicine could potentially reduce symptoms and would enable the younger/healthier part of the population to dare to go back to work and a more normal life. I read that most countries are now giving their patients the malaria medicine (based on the results from China and Korea). Given that governments have to find a way to at least partially normalize this situation, I see such medicines as the base case scenario, where governments can within a month or so go out and proclaim that they have a positive effect. A more bullish scenario would be an even more effective medicine, making the disease harmless, which seems unlikely to me. Then there is the depression scenario, one has to at least have a plan to survive that as well. That scenario goes a bit outside of this blog though. It means buying physical gold (which I have done and potentially I will buy more), stock up on goods at home, and hope you are lucky still have a job with cash flow coming in. I will focus less on the depression scenario, such scenario is a bit to bleak and in my view, still unrealistic, at least at this point.

2nd Corona status check on my holdings

I need to redo my Corona virus status check from Feb 9th, since the one I did a month ago was discounting “only” a significant spread in China, not a world pandemic. So here we go again (press read more):

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Buying TGS & Veoneer, Add Dairy Farm and Selling Irisity

I wrote about a month ago about my take on the Corona virus from a Asia perspective, basically my worst case scenario has come true and then some. The virus is more or less out of control in Europe and large parts of the developed world is staring into two scenarios: Either they do a shut-down like China and suffer the economic consequences of that, or they keep things running as per usual and the spread will just continue. Two horrible options to choose from. And on top of that we have a highly political situation between Saudi, Russia and USA, which knocked oil completely. My timing of buying my first oil holding ever into the portfolio Tethys Oil, could not have been less well timed, but such is investing life. I have managed to time things horribly before and I will do it again.

First my overall portfolio strategy right now, is to stay defensive and I think I have many such holdings (Swedish Match, Philip Morris, Diageo, Greatview Aseptic, etc..), the second thing is more short term tactical. We have seen a multi-year out-performance of Developed Market stocks vs Emerging Markets, just like the growth/value spread I have been wondering, when is it time for EM to shine again? Given the Corona spread in developed markets, I think this will exaggerate a mean reversion of returns (which was bound to happen anyway)  in favor of EM. So I’m happy that my portfolio already has a strong tilt to Emerging Markets and I intend to keep it that way. Thirdly currently I’m mostly worried that this virus will kick-start a (also overdue) cyclical downturn with rising un-employment. So although EM might on relative basis fall less than developed, it might all come down more from here. Finally, a market like this creates opportunities to build positions in things you would not normally consider, so I will use this opportunity to make some portfolio changes.

Selling Irisity

This was a speculative holding with a lot of potential upside, unfortunately the company has not been able to deliver what the promised. I have full respect for that things take longer than planned, but you also need to decide at some point that you waited enough. That time has come and I choose to sell my full holding. Unfortunate and I realize a loss of 50% on this holding, but I knew the risks when I invested.

Buying TGS Nopec and Veoneer and Adding to Dairy Farm

I don’t have very much cash right now in my virtual fund, which is a bit ironic going into this downturn, given that I held larger cash levels for quite a while before. With the Irisity sell I have about 6.2% of my NAV in cash. So these 6.2% needs to be spread into these three holdings:

TGS Nopec – 2.5%

My favorite blog buddy valueandopportunity has for a long term held TGS and he recently added to it in this downturn. It is a oil exploration services company, please check his blog for more info on the company. The stock is down some -60% is a short time. I think this is exaggerated, the company is very well managed, asset light operations and is debt free with some cash in the bank. Previously when oil price hit $30 the company had one single quarter with losses. I’m happy adding TGS as a new long term at these levels. I realize just like my fellow blogger said I might be early here and I’m catching a falling knife, but I don’t really care. If oil doesn’t stay at these levels for years TGS will recover. On the downside oil might stay low for years given an significant economic downturn is in the cards but then most of my other holdings will also be down more from these levels. The risk reward looks very good at these levels in my view.

Veoneer – 1.5%

This is speculative case, again looking like catching a falling knife. This company is the spin-off from Autoliv which produces the next generation safety equipment for cars. More or less everything has been going against the company lately. Car sales declining, then corona, then some delayed contracts and lost contracts to a competitor. Due to all this, its easy to forget that this is a big tech company, with a lot of skillful engineers and a lot of patents. The company recently raised 420 million USD at 17.5 USD per share, its now trading below 9 USD. So the short term capital raising risk is gone, although down the line another one might be needed in a about 2 years time. This company is now deducting cash from market cap trading at Enterprise Value of 500 million USD, for a company with a good pipeline of products, 700 staff, which to a large extent are engineers and having revenue of some 1.9bn USD this is cheap. My belief is that someone like Geely will just come and snatch this up very soon.

Dairy Farm – 2.2%

I thought long and hard about this holding, I know it very well by now. I considered to throw it out for a while as well when I feared that the company would be loss making for the coming years, due to the situation in Hong Kong (protests not Corona). The report for second half of 2019 was released and the company is not in as bad shape. I was quite positively surprised and they are executing fairly well on their turn-around in other markets. After all, this is a very defensive company, running 7-elevens and supermarkets in the Asian region. Longer term it has many things going for it. The general population growth in Asia and a larger middle-class being the main investment case. Right now with the HK situation and Corona shareholders have just decided that this is almost un-investable, which I fully understand, short term. But now the stock is so cheap, I decide to take a long term perspective again, although it might fall more before it recovers. I only hold a 1.8% after selling this down recently (at 5.71 USD per share),  now I get to buy that back at 4.33 USD per share. Going back to some conclusions I made around my investment skills, this is another example where I have to say I traded this stock very well:

November-17 buy @ 8.2
December-17 buy @ 7.91
January-19 sell @ 9.44
October-19 buy @ 5.83
December-19 sell @ 5.71

Fully invested – but..

So I’m as of today’s close fully invested, for the first time in a long while. But I do have something which I see as an alternative to cash at that is BBI Life Science, which is the buy-out event I invested in some months ago. The stock is flat lining here waiting for the offer to go through, I could sell out to a small profit and use that cash for other investments. BBI Life Science is a bit over 6% of my current portfolio.

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5 years and blog still going strong!

It’s 5 years since I started this blog and what a journey it has been so far! When I set out on a mission, of becoming a better investor through this blog, I realized it would be hard to consistently keep posting. With life having it’s ups and down it has from time to time been a challenge to do so but I’m proud to have been able to keep up the pace. I have at least posted once every month since I started, and on averaged slightly above 2 posts a month. This sometimes cathartic exercise of publicly sharing all my investment decision has really been helpful in honestly reviewing what works and what does not work. Some of you readers have been part of most this journey and some might have scrolled back through my posts. But most of you are likely readers that found my blog in the last 3 years. So let me take the opportunity to introduce how I view my journey and also highlight some older posts that might still be worthwhile for you to read.

Pre-blog days

Everyone have their story of how they started investing and how they became better investors. My early days of investing is very colored by the 2003-2007 bull market. I had fantastic returns, about 200% return in 4 year time period. I really thought I had investing figured out back then, the 2008-2009 period taught me I did not. I like explain my feelings around how skilled of an investor I am with the hype cycle:

For me I was at the clueless stage in the early 2000’s, I got naively confident around 2006-2007 and discouragingly realistic around 2008-2010. I understood around 2011-2012 that the path to “Mastery Achieved” is extremely long. I needed to find a venue to set a long term plan to become a better investor. I considered just writing a personal diary, but realized it would be hard to keep it up. At the same time, I had been doing deep research into Electric Vehicle investments, trying to understand the whole supply-chain. This theme I spent some 6 months to research and that was how it started. I wanted to write down everything I had learned about this emerging sector and share it online. I realized I could use a blog format to share such information and at the same time structure the thoughts in my head around investments. I really wanted to get on the journey towards “mastery” in investing and a blog seemed like a good way to structure it.

First year of the blog

So my first big investment theme was that Electric Vehicles would totally change the car industry, below is the post where I truly kicked off my blog. Back in 2015 people did not talk about EVs like today, most people were still great skeptics that EVs would take over the car industry, I believed after all my research that they would. I think I have been proven right by now (sentiment actually turned already around late 2016). In the same post I formed my early thoughts around what kind of edges you can have in the market. I identified that investing with a longer term horizon was one such way.

Investment Theme: Electric Vehicles

As you know by now, my blog mixes discussions about my current portfolio, sometimes dropping a shorter note on a holding and writing lengthier write-ups of stocks. One of my first lengthier write-ups was of NetEase, which has been a very strong performer in the stock market since:

NetEase – Chinese Gaming

One of my more important posts which shows that I started this blog to go on a journey to become a better investor, was the following post:

Investment styles and lifelong learning

I particularly like this point I made in the post. I will come back to this later:

“but for me personally I want to spend a few more years understanding both stock markets around the world, different sectors, as well as different investing styles. Because if it’s one thing I learnt from meeting all these great managers out there, with great track-records of alpha generation – there is not one style that is superior to others, all different styles of investing can work, if you do it right. And maybe as important, different investing styles will outperform during different times.”

Second year

I started the second year with the best analysis I probably produced on this blog. At least if you evaluate it in terms of stock price returns (I don’t count stocks I just mention, like the DNA discussion I start of the post with – CRISPR there would have been a fantastic buy). The post was followed up with an equally good commenting from many of you readers.

Nagacorp – Casino in Cambodia

I was very early on the sneakers trend in China and invested long before Anta and Li Ning moved up multiple-fold. I did get a good return with XTEP in the end, but it also shows that buying value is not always the best case. A lot of the value sits in a brand and here Li Ning for example was a much stronger candidate. I understood that during my due diligence, but instead went with what looked cheap on fundamentals. As often is the case, cheap is cheap for a reason. I have gotten better at being skeptical against cheap companies, although I still do mistakes.

Chinese shoes – XTEP

Another analysis I spent a lot of time on was YY, which recently changed name to JOYY and which I re-bought into the portfolio. I was way too quick to sell the company as it doubled after I sold (and later came back down again).

YY.com – Full Analysis

Since I started the portfolio I always had a fairly high weight towards companies with exposure in the Chinese market and often listed on the HK exchange. The reason for that has been valuation and the nice growth prospects. At the same time I’m always fully aware of the Macro backdrop, which always scared me. I’m pretty sure at some point we will see a major economical collapse in China (before they really take over the world), maybe it will come now triggered by Corona. Anyway, the first time I got cold feet was in 2017 and I wrote this post.

Rotate away from China & Portfolio changes

Well in the end I have not been able to stay away from China, I still have a lot of China exposure in my portfolio, perhaps I should take a look at that once again?

Tokmanni was a company where I did the analysis correctly, but I did not have the patients to wait for the stock to reprice (which it did in the end):

Buy the dip – Tokmanni

One of the larger write-ups and due diligence processes I ever done on a stock was Teva. That taught me a lot about the industry which was good, but it also taught me that it’s not really worth it. A large Pharma company is just too complex to value and it takes too much of my precious time. Time better spent on smaller companies. I guess my analysis is still somewhat relevant (written in two parts) and the company is still a controversial highly leveraged investment:

The Perfect Storm – Teva – Part 1

Finally in December 2017 I did another large piece on a company I still hold, Dairy Farm. The company really is in a pickle right now with Corona virus, HK protests and in generally mis-managed supermarkets. The valuation also reflects it. This post gives a good overview what the company is about:

Dairy Farm – Asian food giant

Third year and onward

Given that these are more recent I will keep a bit more brief.

I was very proud of how I combined my knowledge of China and an entity listed in Europe when I presented this idea (which turned out be perfectly timed):

Adding Rezidor Hotel Group – HNA related idea

I also want to highlight a stock a still own, which continues to trade on a very low multiple, Dream International:

Dream International – a dream investment?

One of the post I’m most proud of in terms of originality is my Art of Screening post. I took a fairly scientific approach of trying to find out which markets have the lowest retail stock investing participation and through that approach find the stock that are most overlooked. This concept has stayed with me since and is another important puzzle piece to what today is how I go about finding new investments and building my portfolio. I think I will have to follow-up on this post, there never was a Part 2 written..

The Art of Screening – Part 1

Another major stepping stone in my approach to investing came with this post, where I introduced 3 buckets of investing, Long Term, Opportunistic and Speculative:

GlobalStockPicking 2.0 – Major Portfolio Changes

Just as Electric Vehicle was this big theme I researched I in the same way researched the Dental Industry in a three part series. Unfortunately most of the investment cases were in my view priced for perfection, but I learned a lot, which will be helpful to pick up these stocks in the future if the market provides a buying opportunity. The stock I choose to invest in which I still hold is Modern Dental Group:

The Dental Industry – Part 1- Overview

2019 saw my first guest post from a friend of mine. Maybe given the current situation is worth revisiting some Macro thoughts?

Guest post about the US debt cycle

And finally, in my view another one of my very solid write-ups, Polish listed LiveChat, which so far has had a very strong stock performance:

LiveChat Software – company with a strong track record

Readers input please!

I hope you liked what I have written over the years! What were your favorite posts? What would you like to see more of and what should I spend less time on? Please comment!

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Investing in challenger to dominant Tetra Pak – Greatview Aseptic (468 HK)

The history and development of the Liquid Packing Carton market, or aseptic packaging as it is also called, is a very interesting one. Although the industry is a huge global industry, it has over the years been almost totally dominated by one player.

In 1952 the Swedish businessman Ruben Rausing convinced a local dairy company that his peculiar tetrahedral shaped cardboard beverage carton was the way of the future. The rest as you say, is history. Aseptic packaging as it is called became the most popular way globally to sell milk products but also many other beverages, the packaging being superior in both preserving the drinks taste and ease of transportation. Later on the Tetra Brik was invented and the company Rausing created with these innovative products became Tetra Pak (part of Tetra Laval). The company today has 11.2bn EUR of Net sales. The case of Tetra Pak is interesting because the company has over the years had no to little competition in many markets – a dream situation for any company to be in. But how was it possible to be so successful and why did not more competition come in? Firstly it came down to patents, which gave the company a monopoly position in the early years. Secondly the company has and continues to be extremely well run with a clever sales strategy. Tetra Pak sell the filling machines that creates the packaging, to the beverages producers at a low price. Then making the margins on selling the cardboard box paper used by the machines, which of course will be continuously ordered. The contracts for the machines tied the customer to not buy the cardboard paper from anyone else. In this way the customers were tied to Tetra Pak and had to invest in new lines of machines, to switch to a competitor, obviously at high switching costs. In 2002 it was estimated that Tetra Pak still had 85% market share globally, but around this time things slowly started to change, partly due to regulatory intervention but also due to beverages producers who helped create companies like the one I want to present to you now.

For the interest reader here is some more history of Tetra Pak family: Tetra Pak, a Fortune Founded on a Clever Idea & The death of Eva Rausing and the decline of the Tetra Pak dynasty. For the very interested historian the story above is somewhat simplified. There was a american inventor that was even earlier than Rausing in creating a similar packaging in USA. The company, Cell-O was the beginnings of Elopak. Read the full story here: History of Elopak. 

Now moving on to my latest investment

Greatview Aseptic Packaging (468 HK)

 

+ Operating in a market with Tetra Pak as a dominant player. This creates an incentive from beverage producers to diversify supplier base.

+ Favorable shareholding situation. Company led by the founders who have large shareholdings. The largest shareholder is conglomerate Jardine Group.

+ Very compelling valuation at P/E 11 and EV/EBITDA 6, the company is net cash which de-risks it further. Swiss listed SIG is trading at almost twice the multiples for a very similar business.

+ 8.5% dividend yield with a stable track record of paying dividends.

– Price taker in the sense that they compete towards Tetra Pak on providing same product at lower price point.

– High dependency of few customers, mainly Mengniu Dairy has a very big portion of the companies sales.

– Negative trend of China profit margins and seems to struggle to grow further in China.

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The situation in China & Hong Kong

Although I find it highly interesting with Macro analysis, I deliberately write less about such topics on this blog. I want this blog to be focused on stock picking and the struggles of portfolio management. That said, given how many investment I have with a majority of their revenue exposed to Asia/China/Hong Kong I guess it’s time to write down some thoughts on what is going on in the region. The ground is moving very quickly around the Coronavirus (2019-nCov) and the attention has grown a lot over just the last few weeks. Even so I think people living in China & HK vs rest of world have very different views on the situation. I do not pretend to have the answers of what is going but I want to share my view and what I see and hear from people who I know live on the ground. In the end of the post I will go through why I’m as of Friday sold my full holding in Union Medical Healthcare.

The situation from my perspective

I would like to start of by saying, that I think we are facing an extremely serious virus spread. It’s the sneaky feature of the virus that it can spread before people feel sick, which really makes this so very dangerous. Thanks to very powerful actions taken in China and elsewhere, we might just dodge a major major global health crisis.

When the contagion started a lot of people where quick to comment, and in some cases I also drew conclusions too quickly. If you followed this virus situation closely you might recognize comments such as:

  • It’s only old or with previous health issues that passes away from this.
  • The mortality rate is only around 2%. 
  • A normal seasonal flu in the USA kills 10x as many every year as this flu, you don’t see widespread panic from that.
  • More people die from road accidents in China, since people now stay at home, road accidents should be down, meaning total deaths is down. What’s the big deal?

All these comments have some merit, but let’s look at the one by one.

“It’s only old or with previous health issues that passes away from this.”

It’s easy to understand why such comments came in the first few weeks of the spread. Because naturally weaker individuals would perish more quickly to the virus. A stronger individual would naturally fight the virus longer, even though in the end they might lose the fight. So it is interesting to look at is how many of the identified cases have fully recovered. The count changes hour by hour, but right now there is 37,566 confirmed cases and 2,152 recovered. That is 5.7% has so far recovered, which in itself does not say anything about how many will make it through to the other side. But at least it is clear it takes a person a long time to be rid of the disease. One of the whistleblowers of the virus, Dr Li Wenliang only became 34 years old when he recently passed away due to the virus. According to reports he started coughing on January 10th, but was only a confirmed case on January 30th. It took him almost a full month from starting to cough to actually passing away from the disease. That brings us to the next statement.

“The mortality rate is only around 2%”

I’m not the first one to point this out, but I’m more or less repeating what a lot of people have been saying. You can not take the current 813 dead and divide with the confirmed cases 37,566. Yes this division gives 2.1% but is faulty on so many levels. First of all, like was described in the case of Dr Li Wenliang, who had worked with this from the start. Although he started coughing on Jan 10th, it took another 20 days before he was a confirmed case. The procedure to be tested and confirmed for Corona is not uncomplicated and there is not endless resources to perform this test on request from the public. My best guess is that the test is restricted to really sick people that show most of the symptoms already (fever, short of breath, etc). Again, same with the death figure, this is only confirmed cases that pass away in the hospital. Most likely there will be many that tried to fight through this at home and also passed away at home, never identified as a corona case, but actually was one. So both figures are probably higher. My best guess again is that the actual confirmed case figure is much much higher than the 37,566 figure we see. The death figure is probably also higher, but not by as much. The third and maybe most important factor is that even though every single case of corona infection and death was accounted for you still can’t divide one with the other, due to the timing lag. A person that got sick today, naturally will not pass away on the first day, he will still be a confirmed case though, that might pass away in a few weeks. So how long a lag should we apply? Well again nobody knows, but from the case of Dr Li Wenliang it took him almost a month to pass away, but only a week from that he was a confirmed case. China also classifies how many of the confirmed cases are severe, where one can presume that the death rate will be much higher, that stands at some 14%. Taking all these factors together, you end up with a big range of guesstimates. My own guess is that the mortality rate most likely is above 4% and hopefully not higher than 10%, if I have to say a figure, I would guess 6%. That’s a pretty big span and also a much more scary figure than 2%.

“A normal seasonal flu in the USA kills 10x as many every year as this flu, you don’t see widespread panic from that.”

Yes it might kill more, but there are a lot of factors explaining why there is not a widespread panic from such a disease. First of all, there are vaccines against seasonal flu for the ones that do feel worried. Second, as soon as we step out of bed we are facing risks to our life. As long those risks are very small we seem to be able to brush them off as nothing to worry about. The seasonal flu according to CDC data has a mortality rate of 0.05%. Since a lot of people get the flu, the number of dead will be high during a season. Another podcast I listened to described this in another way. Everyday there are many many roads accidents around the world where people die. Very seldom these accidents even make news headlines. But every-time a plane crashes from the sky and all people on the plane die, it makes news headlines all around the world. This virus has the impact of a plane crash on peoples feelings. The problem is that the virus cases are like planes that keep crashing every day and the news media keeps pumping stories.

“More people die from road accidents in China, since people now stay at home, road accidents should be down, meaning total deaths is down. What’s the big deal?”

The big deals is how people perceive this danger and the actions they take due to this fear. In the end it actually doesn’t matter, from an economical perspective, if the mortality rate is 1% or 10%. It’s the actions the population takes in fear of the disease that matters. Social media plays a big role in this. Panic and fear especially with the help of mobile phones and social media spreads like wildfire. The actions people taken is what I would like to focus on now, because in the end that is what matters.

Situation in China and Hong Kong?

When I started to write on this post a few days ago I felt my fellow investors in the US and Europe had not understood what is going on in China. But just over the past few days I think investors are getting input from company management and decent news reporting on what is actually going on. I felt all worked up, how could equity markets continue up when 1.4 billion people had decided to sit at home, not work and basically tend to basic needs!?

We humans are pretty easy to scare and what influences most of all, is the behavior of the people around us. People can be calm and rational about the likelihood of catching the virus, but change mindset very quickly when put with a new group of people that act more panicked about the virus spread. It’s very quick back to basics in situations like this, Maslow’s pyramid comes to mind. Nobody is any longer thinking about which Hermes bag or new car to buy, when you are fighting at the local supermarket for the last rolls of toilet paper. Maybe it sounds like a joke, but this has been the actual situation in Singapore and Hong Kong over the last few days. People are so scared that they have started to hoard goods like toilet paper, rice, cooking oil. Let’s not even talk about facial masks and hand sanitizing soaps etc. This is a highly sought after good that even if you are rich, you might not be able to source. People in Hong Kong are scarred by the SARS days and takes this extremely seriously, almost everyone is avoiding gatherings by now. People more or less mostly stay at home and most companies apply work from home. On top of that both Hong Kong and Singapore has now effectively shut their borders for Chinese coming into the country. This is obviously very bad for local business, especially for Hong Kong who has suffered tremendously already on back of the protest movement that lasted since last summer. I believe Hong Kong will see a massive wave of lay-offs very soon and with a city with very poor social security, this is going to be extremely tough on a already frustrated population. But, what happens in Hong Kong and Singapore, is still fairly irrelevant for the world economy, what matters is what is that big population in China up to.

China is a big place, so it’s always hard to generalize what is happening. As far as I have been able to gather, the mainland Chinese are either isolated and quarantined in the worst hit areas, or they are voluntarily quarantined in the sense that they barely go out-doors. Partly because they are scared of being infected, but also because they are told by their government to take this seriously and help minimize the spread of the disease. For example you are not allowed to travel on public transportation without a mask in the major cities. So due to Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays, the whole country has been shut since Friday, Jan 24th. A longer CNY break is still fairly common in a normal year, especially for factories. The situation from a work activity perspective is not that extreme compared to a normal year. It would be the services sector (which has grown big in the past years) which has operated at a minimum activity level this past week. The really crucial period will be the next two weeks. China can’t afford to have people just sitting at home another two weeks, it would just have too big economic consequences. At the same time sending everyone back to work, risks severely worsen the virus spread. There is some serious anger in the Chinese society after Dr Li Wenliang passed away, so there are even political stability angle for the Party to consider. A highly sensitive situation indeed. The largest aspect though is the psychological part, reports come in of restaurants being empty or just closed. Home food delivery which is huge now is reporting some 50% drops in deliveries, because people are afraid of contamination just from meeting the food delivery guy. A population which is that scared, will not turn around in a few weeks and buy plane tickets, or go out shopping for a new car. It’s really back to basics in China.

Implications

So my take is that the Chinese population is taking this super seriously, on a government and individual level. Since everyone is taking this so seriously I think we will see long lasting effects on the Chinese economy, with spill over effects on other economies. I see it as wishful thinking that the virus spread would disappear anytime soon, a vaccine takes too long to develop. So we are looking at the virus being around for at least a few months and during that time the Chinese will be very careful spenders. Very few will buy a car, with all the knock on effects to suppliers and sub-suppliers that implies. Very few will invest in real estate, so property prices might turn soft, which is fueling most of the private individuals wealth. Extremely few will travel. I think much of this might stay true even for a few months after the virus seems to really dropped off in new cases. So when 1.4 billion people, more than Europe and USA’s population combined suddenly tightens the belt and stop consuming, could that trigger something else? Perhaps the world has for the past few years, during a epic never before seen bull run for both equities and bonds, built up excesses and made stupid investment decisions during a low interest rate environment? With a Private Equity bubble lurking, and easy leveraged loan money available everywhere? What happens to all this when we get an external shock that significantly slows down the economic wheels? I really don’t understand why we are 1% off all time high the S&P500 when we are staring this situation right in the eye.

The Chinese consumer is today just too big of a part of the economical wheels that are spinning. As Ray Dalio so nicely explains in videos. One persons spending – is another persons income. And when the Chinese are not spending, this is going to hurt the income of a lot of people. In a worst case scenario this could trigger the end of the bull market we have seen.

I want to end on a positive note, about something which I have not seen written about anywhere. I’m convinced China will see a small mini-boom in childbirths in about 9 months time. Remember where you read it first!

My holdings majorly affected by the virus situation:

In order of trickiness to handle

JOYY (a.k.a YY)

The companies cash cow is live streaming in China. With the whole population sitting at home with very little to do, I think this might be one of very few significant winners on this short term. I don’t really get it why the company is not trading up stronger. I have to consider if I should add to this holding.

Vinda

This is the toilet paper producer which everyone is rushing to clean out the shelf’s off. The stock price has probably somewhat stupidly moved upwards due to this. I mean people are just moving consumption in time, the paper they stock piled will mean less consumption in the future. Perhaps this can have some inventory positive effects for Vinda, and the company for sure will have another monster quarter in Q1. But long-term it doesn’t change the case much, it’s also not that overvalued right now that I would take the opportunity to sell. I rather think that long term there is still upside at these levels.

Dream International

Again this toy producer is a winner when China is in trouble, with most of its factories in Vietnam they will be able to run at full steam, whereas the competitors mostly have their factories in China. The company does also have a few production lines left in China, so the company is not totally unaffected. The stock price is stuck in value trap land though, eagerly awaiting my semi-annual report and let’s see what that says!

NagaCorp

Some 50% of customers and even more of the profit for the Nagaworld casino comes from Mainland Chinese, which is still less than Macau, where that figure is over 90%. Even non Chinese customers will probably be much more hesitant to travel to Cambodia during these times. I expect Nagacorp to take a significant short term hit from this just like any business dependent on Chinese and in this case even travel. But the stock has also taken a significant beating lately. One has to weigh the short term loss of income against the strong prospects the casino has over the long term. I have taken the bet that gamblers will be back at the Casino in full swing by summer and that the stock price already discounted a bad period up until then. I might very well be wrong and the market continues to hammer Nagacorp down, my strategy will still be then to weather through it.

Tianneng Power

This was a speculative holding, which performed fantastically until the virus fears shot down the stock. Obviously this is terrible for a producer of batteries in China. They might have trouble with their factories and there will for sure be less sales/replacements of electric scooter batteries when people are not even driving their scooters. Not really sure how to do here, I think I need a bit more time if I should close this speculative position. The case is much less clear than it was a month ago, that is for sure.

Union Medical Healthcare

I thought a lot about this holding lately. A lot of their business is built on Mainland Chinese coming to Hong Kong for different type of treatments, for health, minimal invasive procedures, etc. Lately they expanded more towards actual doctor clinics. Since the protest got violent in October, there are barely no mainlanders coming to HK and by now, with the border shut, there will be zero, for quite some time probably. On top of that due the shortage of facial mask, private clinics are even struggling to stay open. Locals population is neither for sure focusing on these type of activities now. So just like Nagacorp, UMH will most likely see a deep dive of it’s revenue and profits. I still like the founder, but this is just too much headwind for too long of a time. I have to be a bit tactical here and even if I like the company, I most likely will be able to get in cheaper in the future. I’m actually baffled that the stock is holding up so well. I have to be humble that I have misunderstood the situation and maybe the business is less dependent on mainlanders than I have understood. But I decide to sell my full holding as of Friday’s close.

Dairy Farm

This is another one of these which has got everything going against them, since the protest started. First it was the mainlanders that stopped coming during protests, which hurts the Mannings business. Then it was the protesters who got angry with the Maxim’s family, so nobody is eating at their restaurants. Then the 7-Elevens of course in general gets hit by less tourists and people moving about in the city. Now the virus. Well the only thing that finally must be flying is the supermarket business in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine a better market than these past months. People in general stay at home much more since the protests and obviously buys their goods from the supermarkets instead of going out eating. Problem is that I think the losses will be so severe in the other areas, so a great quarter or half year for the supermarket business won’t hold up the rest. In the long run this matters less, what matters is, will Hong Kong go back to normal long term and will the (not so) new CEO turn around the rest of South East Asia? This is not a high conviction position for me anymore and I need a bit more time to decide if it should perhaps leave the portfolio entirely. l have already reduced it to a very small position and the stock price is already hammered.

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Changing my mind can be embarassing (Sell: Valneva, Reduce Swedish Match, Add Nagacorp)

Selling Valneva as of today’s close

Other bloggers and people public about their investment decisions have spoken about that it’s harder to exiting something that you recently bought. This due to some type of shame factor of changing ones mind so quickly on sometime, one recently thought was a good enough investment idea to add to the portfolio. I have to confess to having similar feelings when writing about this decision to sell Valneva. But I try to ignore those thoughts and do what feels right, given the information I have at hand now. Finalizing my full write-up on Valneva in the post below cleared out things in a way, which I hadn’t been able to see before when I had just sat and read a lot about the company and some competitors. Also this time I got some valuable feedback from you readers (and even some more help from one particular reader on twitter). All in all this made my understand that I don’t have such high faith in the development pipeline for Valneva. I think the company is valued reasonably cheap given the cash they generate from their two vaccines in the market, but I think there is high risk of the research pipeline being value destructive and not constructive. This narrows the margin of safety significantly. Right now the company has announced the listing on NASDAQ, which I mentioned in my previous post, the stock is up another +7% today after rallying sharply this whole year.

So the reason to sell is my belief about the research pipeline. Not that I have been lucky and gotten a quick revaluation of the company (I think partly on back of the Corona virus scare). If I had a strong belief they would succeed with the launch of a Lyme disease vaccine, I would be happy to hold this company through the 5 year process they have in front of them. Instead I will sell my full holding as of today’s close. I bought into my position on the last day of 2019 @ 2.57 EUR per share, it is now trading at 3.375, a gain of 31%, a fantastic result in such a short time!

I almost want to apologizes for putting this out as my latest investment idea and then turning around and selling a few weeks later. But on the other hand, it has been a great stock pick performance wise.

Swedish Match – trimming to 8%

I haven’t updated my holdings page in a few weeks, but this holding after a continued rally is now 10.1% of my portfolio. The market seem to really have bought into the story that I believed in for a long time now, that ZYN will become a big product in USA. There are still some worries on the horizon with flavored cigars being banned in the USA. This is still a substantial part of Swedish Match revenue and profit. I have still strong conviction in this company long term, but I’m happy to trim my holding somewhat at these levels, I sell down my holding to a 8% position as of today’s close.

Nagacorp – increasing to 10%

My current holding size is 7.7% and given the recent sell-off I think this my current high conviction bet. I visited the Casino recently and I was very impressed with the operations the built up. I was equally impressed with how the country is transforming, much thanks to Chinese investments in the country. That Chinese can get VISA on arrival when they visit Cambodia is key to the continued growth on back of Chinese tourism. So the main reason for adding to this holding is the fantastic long term prospects. One of very few worries, where we probably will get an answer this year, is the gambling tax, which still has not been decided. If the tax comes in much higher than anticipated, we will see more downside in the stock. But I rather believe there will be a relief rally (i.e. tax will come in very favorably).

Obviously Nagacorp will be hurt by a significant slump of tourist due to the current Corona virus outbreak. But I believe that is short-lived and by summer tourism will normalize. I also believe Nagacorp will be less hurt by this than Macau, given that 50% of customers comes from rest of South East Asia, who will travel more than Chinese do currently. Another factor is that Macau is going to close all its casinos for 2 weeks now, it will probably not mean a flood of tourism to Nagaworld, but at least if some people still want to travel and gamble, there are not that many options during these two weeks. All in all, Nagaworld will in my view be less hurt than Macau, but has traded down much more than Macau stocks. Looking a bit further than the next quarter, this is a great opportunity to add to the holding (as of today’s close).

 

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Valneva – Microcap vaccine producer

Valneva

+ Two strong cash generating assets, with the prime asset being Ixiaro, the only FDA approved vaccine for Japenese encephalitis

+ The only company attempting a Lyme disease vaccine, with a potential huge untapped market.

+ Strong family owner, which is the largest shareholder with 15%.

+ Interest from US investors who have taken a stake in the company above current market price.

– Not the best track record of successfully launching vaccines, several failures lately.

– In the hands of the big players to partner in development of vaccines, it is too costly to do by themselves.

– Small development pipeline means a lot hangs in the balance on very few trials and there is some doubts around the Lyme vaccine.

 

I already briefly introduced the company in a previous post, if you have not read that post, I urge you to start with the shorter pitch written there: See Valneva headline in this post

Below follows a bit deeper dive into the company (press Read More):

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BBI Life Sciences (1035 HK) – Buyout Opportunity

The last month I spent quite a lot of time researching a couple of small/micro cap Pharma/Biotech companies listed in Hong Kong (I still have one more interesting candidate to perhaps reveal later). The most interesting candidate which I had planned to introduce here on this blog was BBI Life Sciences. As it happened the stock had a nice run upwards just before I was going to post about buying into a new holding and after that the stock was halted, pending a M&A announcement. The announcement was released yesterday, revealing a Leveraged Buy Out by the majority owner family, offering 3.5 HKD per share for all outstanding shares. The largest investors outside of the family group has also agreed to the offer of 3.5 HKD per share. In my view this was really a shame, since the company is active in a very attractive niche, with fantastic growth in revenue and profits, but still trading at a very reasonable multiple. I won’t go into all the company details anymore, because that is not the main story of this investment case. Just a very brief company overview:

BBI Life Science

The company offers science research products, more specifically:

  1. DNA synthesis products covering oligonucleotides and genes synthesis.
  2. Experimental materials (biochemical reagents and research kits) and consumable parts (labware) that are used by researchers in experiments.
  3. Genetic engineering services covering DNA sequencing, next-generation sequencing method, and molecular biology services.

About 70% of Sales is in China and 30% in USA/Europa/rest of Asia.

You have this saying that the one that got really rich during the gold-rush was not the gold miners, but the guys selling the shovels and all the other equipment needed to pan for gold. Maybe the analogy is exaggerating this somewhat, but here is a company providing the basic materials for another gold rush wish is taking off, the biotechnology rush, enabled by powerful computers, genome sequencing equipment and new technologies like CRISPR etc that I wrote about a long time ago: Let’s Talk DNA.

The company fundamentals are very attractive, strong growth and even after the run-up after the offer for all shares, the company is trading at a 2020 P/E of around 15. Not a stretched valuation at all, given annual growth rate of some 25%.

If this was a full analysis I would go more into details of competition worries, governance etc, to mention a few lines. The business is actually similar to Modern Dental’s China business. BBI has a large center outside of Shanghai where they produce much of this DNA synthesis material. This is a fairly labor intensive process as I have learned, meaning cost advantages with cheap(er) labor. My guess is that BBI Life Sciences is able to have so high margins right now, due to limited competition currently in China and lower labor costs than Western companies that produce these materials out of Europe/USA. So a qualified guess would be that margins would come down over the years, but with the growth currently seen, this would still be an attractive investment. And if anything, given how China is focusing on these areas of Biotechnology research, I would expect this area to even keep growing through a downturn in the general economy, making the business even more resilient.

A western competitor in this niche seemed to have been an attractive target to acquire: Brooks Automation Moves Further into Life Sciences with $450 Million Deal for Genewiz Group

The investment case now

Unfortunately the investment case has moved from this very exciting provider of the base materials for many of new types of Biotechnology research, to just being a play on harvesting the small free return the market is giving us, since the stock is trading at 3.32 at close, versus 3.5 HKD in the offer price. This is some 5.4% upside, not very attractive, but better than the 0% I have on my cash. The thing here is that I actually get a bit caught in my methodology of always buying my shares at close prices. I have actually put on this position intra-day today, at 3.26, which gives a 7.3% return. But I won’t cry over this and I will accept the closing price as my entry point. So one of the main reasons why the market is giving some doubt to if we will really get the 3.5 HKD offered is that it’s required that more than 75% of the shareholders need to vote yes for this bid, or that less than 10% vote against this. In both cases all shareholders will by automatically forced to sell their shares at 3.5 HKD. Given that they have not secured these levels of votes, means there is fair likelihood that the offer won’t go through. So this is the reason why I gave a short update on the actual company, because I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing if the offer does not go through. I think the company long term is worth much more than the 3.5 HKD per share. The majority owner which is the founder and his two daughters who today run the business I think also know that, hence the bid. This has been a typical HK value trap stock, which for some reason never revalued upwards, although fundamentals just kept getting better and better. It really beats me why it did not revalue, but here we are. Either a get a 5.4% return over the coming 3-4 months, or the deal doesn’t go through and this will be a new long term holding for me. I have total 7.1% cash position and I allocate a 6% position to BBI Life Science as an Opportunistic holding.

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Aligning with my strategy – portfolio changes

To align my portfolio further with my investment philosophy it’s time for another larger portfolio change with as many as four new holdings – Tethys Oil, Valneva, Tianneng Power and Union Medical Healthcare. I haven’t written as much over the past months, but I have spent a lot of time trawling for new investment ideas and yes I have quite many of them coming! But first what goes out:

Inditex

As of the last day of 2019 I sold my full holding in Inditex, which holds the famous clothing retailer Zara as it’s main asset. This is another of my very large cap companies where I took the view that the market was overly scared of the retail-apocalypse and that Zara would come out strong in this. In my view today, I have a very weak edge to make such a call – although it this time turned out to be fairly true, both fundamentally and stock price wise. Therefore I today sell this holding, as I by know surely have no edge in forecasting where this stock is going to move on from here. I did my best to hold the stock in the weak positive momentum it’s been in for a while and I was rewarded nicely lately with a strong rally towards year end. My only doubt here is that I probably should ride the positive momentum a bit longer, but I’m eager to get to prioritizes right in the portfolio. Good riddance Inditex, you are truly a quality company, but you do not fit my strategy any longer.

Swedbank

This was a opportunistic holding which did not really turned out as planned. I had a quick gain for a while, but did not cover. More “dirt” was uncovered about Swedbank as the months passed by. I think banking stocks in Sweden in general are going to perform better now that the negative interest rate is gone. So the stock traded up not on me really being right, but just general revaluation of banking stocks. I have to say this was an opportunity which I should not have swung the bat on. Again maybe I’m a bit early to sell now, but I’m not a big believer in Swedbank has a winner in the Swedish banking sector long term. So the opportunity has pasted and this was a speculation that did not give me the quick gains I hoped, so now it’s time to close the trade. I sold my full position as of close 30th Dec.

AK Medical

As I mentioned in my performance review this quickly became my best performing stock during 2019. I have to thank twitter handle @alexeliasson for this investment idea. He was the one that first mentioned this stock and this has actually opened my eyes to look more broadly into the healthcare space on the HK exchange. Unfortunately I had only taken a “starting” position in the stock and was expecting to get to know this holding better over the years. I have been back and forth on if I should keep this holding, even though the valuation now is very stretched. First I just reduced my position with the plan to keep the rest “no matter what valuation wise”. But I come to the conclusion, that doesn’t work for me. I need to feel that the valuation is not pricing in some type of blue sky scenario that might never happen. I would not buy the stock today if I did not have it already, that is sometimes a little bit brutal way to look at it, but at the end of the day that’s how you should evaluate things in my view. So I decided to sell the full holding I had left in AK Medical. I’m very happy to buy this back if the valuation would come down somewhat again, I think the most probable scenario is that they have a long runway of growth in-front of them, but things can always go wrong in terms of competition, Chinese policy changes etc.

Dairy Farm

I have been reducing and increasing in Dairy Farm since my initial investment. I recently bought quite a lot more, punting on that we have seen the worst in Hong Kong in terms of protests. I changed me view on this and I’m afraid that the annual results that will come out of Dairy Farm is going to be terrible. On top of that the big holding in Yonghui Superstores has declined quite a lot in value lately, whereas Dairy Farm stock has been trading water sideways at very depressed levels. So I take the opportunity to reduce my holding with as much as I recently bought. I’m very close to closing out this position, but although the company is fairly big it’s still an overlooked stock in my eyes. The most important question though of course is if the company is a good enough investment. I will need a bit more information during 2019 to decide on that, but it’s not a high conviction position for me anymore.

In the below stocks I have taken a position on their last trading of 2019

Tethys Oil – 4% Long term position

I love being contrarian and right now sector wise, there is nothing more contrarian than the Energy sector. But I’m no macro investor, I need to be able to express this through a stock which seems unreasonably cheap and at the same time is a well managed company. I think Tethys Oil qualifies here on many levels. I have followed this company for a very long time and seen it’s execution. Very few oil companies has delivered such returns as Tethys Oil. Since 2004 the stock has compounded 21% annualized (incl dividends). If we instead look from the worst possible time, just before oil prices crashed from over US$100/barrel in 2014, the company has still compounded 7.5% per year.

The company has a 30% share in an oilfield in Oman with very low production cost, meaning that the company is cash flow positive even at very low oil prices. The downside of this is that you don’t get the same leverage in the share price if oil actually goes up. But my whole point of this investment is not speculate in if oil is going up or down, but buying a company that hopefully can perform well no matter what. Then as a kicker I love to get some energy exposure into my portfolio.

The company has a very high pay-out ratio, which is done both through dividends and special shares that are redeemed by the company (more tax efficient). In 2019 the company returned a total of 8 SEK and the stock is today trading at 84 SEK. Even so they still have money left over for exploration in Oman where they own quite vast areas of land. So there is a significant kicker to the upside if they strike oil.

Downside risk factors that should be mentioned is Oman itself. The country is run by a dictator (Sultan) and it seems that not all in the country are so happy with this. The country in general got rich on oil, but supplies are dwindling and it’s harder to please the people when cash is not pouring in anymore. Another risk factor is that the field which today is steadily pumping oil to Tethys would dwindle quicker than forecasts, but that is a small risk compared to the general country risk. This stock will probably always be trading at fairly low multiples due to the country risk, but I think there is a good chance for some general multiple expansion for energy stocks in 2020 and Tethys would benefit from that. Even with that not happening it’s a cash cow which just keeps pouring in money to investors. Insiders have recently also made some smaller purchases which is nice to see.

Valneva – 4% Long term position

Back in 2017 when I did my first rounds of trying to find some good exposures towards the Pharma sector I came across this company. I was very close to taking a position, but then the stock ran away from me when it quickly gained some 35%. I kept it on my radar since and now recently it traded down below where I initially were interested. And this time with in my view better fundamentals than back in 2017. Valneva is something as unusual as a vaccine producer. This is a bit of a sidestep from the investment case, but something that is good to understand looking at this type of companies:

Vaccine producers are a very strange animal in medicine since you are only selling one shot and then hopefully the patient never gets infected/sick. Whereas a normal drug is the most “successful” when you have patented something that the patient need for a long time, in the “best of worlds” to even survive. It’s pretty cruel when you think about it, but Pharma companies does not really have an incentive to cure us, but keep us needing their drugs as long as possible. So vaccine instead belongs to a total different category which is preventive care, just like exercising or eating healthier. One would think that there exists a ton of vaccine companies then since surely preventing care is more clever? Well this is were free economics kind of fail us, due to the above argument of it being more profitable that we are sick. This also means that governments understands this dilemma, especially governments which pay for public healthcare. So they actually are pretty helpful in promoting in various ways to develop vaccines. For example via grants or speed up trial processes. The trial process which has it’s Phase I/II/III like drugs is also quite different. Given that you can’t give 500 people a vaccine and then infect them with whatever the vaccine was for you end up with a bit of a dilemma, how do you test the vaccines effectiveness? Well basically you have to develop vaccines for something that is so common to be infected by that within a large enough group you know a certain number of people will be infected. This means you either need a huge test group, or a vaccine for something which is extremely common (at least within a certain region). This is why vaccines for example for the ZIKA mosquito can be developed so quickly, the outbreak is so significant, that testing if a vaccine works is a very quick process. But if you are a small company doing such large scale tests is still very burdensome. And unfortunately given the income potential of only 1 shot of vaccine is so low, very few companies finds it worthwhile developing vaccines even for things that many people suffer from around the world.

Over to the investment case. Valneva has one star vaccine on the market for a very serious infection called Japanese encephalitis, I have myself taken this vaccine when I moved to Asia. The vaccine is called Ixiaro and the largest customer for the vaccine is the US military, where this vaccine is a mandatory shot for every soldier sent abroad. The US military spends as much on this vaccine as the rest of the world combined. The second product is Dukoral, which is a Swedish developed drinking vaccine for prevention of diarrhea. Basically the product is used for tourists which are afraid that some type of Delhi Belly will destroy their vacation plans. Canada is here the largest market for this product.

A few things make the investment case interesting here:

  1. The cash flow from Ixiaro and Dukoral is now enough to fund research for new vaccines without burning cash (which has been the case in the past). The company is actually turning a profit in 2020 if nothing goes majorly wrong with the current trend.
  2. The company has a very promising vaccine in the pipeline for Lyme disease. This is a very serious unmet medical need with a huge number of cases in Europe and North America every year. Due to climate change the number of cases has increased even more over the past decade. This would be a vaccine which probably would be recommended to almost the whole population of some countries, if released. Back to governments supporting this kind of development for example FDA has fast tracked the development of this vaccine.
  3. Chikungunya is a disease that has existed in poorer countries for a long time. But not so long ago a huge outbreak happened in the Caribbean, also affecting USA. Since richer nations see as in their interest that such outbreaks should not be widespread they allocate funds to finds vaccines. In this case for Valneva some 20 million EUR was awarded (current MCAP 236m EUR): CEPI award Valneva. This vaccine has competitors developing their versions, but here comes Valneva’s deep expertise in producing vaccines in, where they are the only product which will give coverage with only a single dose/shot. Obviously this is a big plus for a government which wants to protect their population, a lot of people miss to take follow-up dosages. So also here Valneva has a strong candidate for a good future income stream.
  4. Valneva recently raised 50m EUR from mainly US Pharma funds at 3.75 EUR per share:  Valneva Raises €50 Million in Oversubscribed Placement Led by US Healthcare Investors. Today the stock trades 2.57 EUR, without anything fundamentally being worse in the company.
  5. And why this is a good investment long term? Founder led and the family has a large shunk of shares (15%) which I always see as a positive. Track record of building something good long term, building a vaccine portfolio takes much longer time, but has a very long payoff profile too. I’m also convinced that the world has to wake up over the coming years to actually promote more preventing healthcare. It’s just in the interest of every government that is going to struggle to keep paying the populations healthcare bills through taxes.

Tianneng Power – 4% Opportunistic position

So this is probably not a great company which when I have sold we can go back and look at the fantastic return it had over the coming 10 years and I wish I just held on to it. This is a swing the bat, because now is a good opportunity to do so case. Since I followed the Electric Vehicle sector for so long I know a lot of players in this supply chain. This company looked for a while like it was going to a player in the battery space for EVs. Instead they took another route. When all other battery factories scrambled to develop the latest generations of Lithium ion batteries this company instead perfected in making the more simple old technology. Basically the lead batteries you have in your petrol car to turn the ignition on. I understood early that EVs would one day be big, which is happening right as we speak, even buses. But what i did not consider as much were to two wheeled objects we have, like motorbikes, scooters and even bicycles. It’s become a huge trend worldwide to have electric versions of these. In fact in China electric scooters has totally taken over the market. And the thing is, that these batteries need to be cheap, really cheap, otherwise the economics don’t make sense. So majority of these batteries are of the older cheaper type. Which has made Tianneng selling volumes go through the roof and hugely profitable in a market where most Lithium ion battery producers are fighting a very tough pricing war battle in the EV space. So for a few years now the cash has been raining in, but the market has not really revalued Tianneng because there will come a reckoning day when Lithium batteries will be cheap enough and take over the market. But how cheap should the company be?

The company is currently trading at P/E of 4.5 this is historically below average, but due to cash build up EV/EBITDA is a better measure.

The company is then incredible cheap. So it could be stuck in value trap land for a few years and then lithium battery prices gets so low that fundamentals start to deteriorate. To counteract the value trap you often need a corporate event of some time. That just happened the other day when they filed to spin-off parts of the company on the Mainland exchange. This might unlock some of that value and this is the trigger to take a bet on the company here right now. They plan to spin-off the battery division on the mainland exchange, where it will most likely be valued much higher than the depressing valuation on the Hong Kong exchange currently. The maneuver is a bit complicated though since the shareholders in Hong Kong can not own the mainland listed shares directly. So the listing of the shares in mainland China will have to go to a new set of investors. But effectively a new set of investors are going to pile into this company at a much higher valuation. I’m not sure where that leaves the HK listed stock in terms of share price, theoretically it could stay the same of course, but most likely some convergence will happen. I see fundamentally little downside to punt on this and potentially quite a lot of upside, although somewhat unclear how much. This will be an interesting one to follow.

Union Medical Healthcare – 3% Long term position

This is another stock that I came across in my search for healthcare related investments in Hong Kong. The same twitter handle that found AK Medical I believe is invested here as well. This is a Hong Kong healthcare provider that started off in the more light services around medical beauty services and has from there expanded into dental and doctor clinics. A big part of the growth story has been mainland Chinese that come to Hong Kong for medical services. Obviously with the situation in Hong Kong that should have slowed down significantly lately and it also explains why the share is trading weaker the past six months. But what drew me into this case is the founder. He has a bit of story how he came to found the company, he is still fairly young and the way he consolidated and built this company really impressed me. I don’t think this is the perfect timing to enter this company, there might definitely be setbacks in the next annual report due to the HK situation. That’s why I start with a small position, but I do think the founder is on to something here and the fundamentals speak of it, with revenue growth of some 30% YoY and EBITDA in the same range. At the same time the stock is trading at P/E 14 trailing and P/E 12 expected for 2020. I hope I will be able to buy more even cheaper going forward, as long as the underlying business keeps going in the right direction.

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2019 Performance review and some conclusions

2019 was a disappointing year from the perspective of not nearly meeting the returns of my benchmark MSCI World. On the other hand the portfolio is at all time highs and has in total delivered a fantastic return since I started the blog. The Global Stock Picking portfolio is up 14.3% in 2019, that compares to MSCI World Total Return (i.e. including dividends) up 28.4% on the year. The GSP return is also including dividends but no trading fees deducted. In the counterbalance to fees, I do not calculate any return on cash, which has averaged 7.8% of my portfolio during 2019. The volatility of my portfolio was 9.7% vs 9.8% for the benchmark.

I concluded my last years performance review with that I thought we had now entered a bear market. I probably held that belief sometime up until the summer. This created a certain defensiveness in what I invested in. For example I increased my positions in tobacco companies and other more value related positions. In hindsight I also spent a little bit too much time on my Speculative investment bucket, with a number of investments, like JD, UR-Energy, Irisity and Swedbank. I made some attempts at looking at new sets of companies, like 3D-printing. Where the holding AK-Medical became the best “play” on this theme. This became a very lucky timing, since the stock doubled in a short time-frame after I bought it. One of few holdings really saving my performance during 2019. This was also the year of the trade war escalations and Hong Kong protests, which put a dampening mood on the Hong Kong exchange, where I have a number of holdings. But the company most directly affected by this that I hold was Dairy Farm listed in Singapore. It’s most profitable market Hong Kong was hit hard and Maxims which runs restaurants in HK is now hated by a large part of the population.

Conclusions

Some conclusions has emerged for me during 2019, not at least from my post the other day where I went through all stocks I sold. By the way, that post is now updated with all the missing graphs and comments. Apologies for this, it was a long write-up and something went wrong when I was cutting and pasting pictures/text. Let’s move on to my 2019 conclusions:

1. Only buy companies where I have an edge in my investment

If you are a frequent reader of my posts you will have seen that I talked more and more about edge in the past year. I only want to only invest into companies where I can at least hypothetically see that I could have an edge in my investment. The easiest example of a clear edge is that the stock is overlooked. Often stocks are overlooked because they are small illiquid companies, but it could also be for other reasons. This gives me an opportunity to buy a good or great business to a low valuation if the few market participants looking at the particular company has not managed to price the security “correctly”. There are many other edges, which I have explored and mentioned in other posts. This means I will more or less never invest in a company like Microsoft, or Apple, although they are fantastic businesses. Does that make sense when they have been among the stocks that performed best in the world in 2019? Well, to me it does, because if I’m buying stocks without any type of investing edge, I might as well just buy an Index ETF! Actually the end goal of this blog has been to explore if I’m good enough at this to long-term beat the benchmark. Against all the clever people out there in the world, managing to pick a basket of large cap stocks that significantly out-performs the benchmark, is very very hard. I think there are some people clever enough to do just that. I’m not that clever, I need something easier, where I have a head start to do well. I took quite a lot of action in the portfolio during the autumn this year due to this: Portfolio changes.

2. Focus on finding good and great businesses at as reasonable prices as possible

It was clear from all the companies I sold, that not nearly enough of them are actually solid businesses fundamentally. The graphs I presented of all sold stocks, where stock price graphs, and that can deviate from fundamentals obviously. But not for so many companies over such long periods of time. I hope I have improved already since those investments I sold back in 2017/2018, because too many of them where pretty poor companies to hold long term. Which means I should not have bought them in the first place (always easier said with hindsight). I like to buy growth at a reasonable price but I need to get a touch of more quality into these businesses as well. I hope if I redo this exercise of “here are all the stocks I sold in 2019-2020” sometime in 2023, then a big portion of the companies I sold would still have done reasonably well. The portfolio should be of such high quality that the stuff I sell, I sell because I found something even better to put in the portfolio, not that the previous investment was fairly mediocre to begin with. Of course that has never been my intention to invest in something mediocre, but I need to come up with more solid investment cases and less opportunistic/turn-around etc.

3. I’m good at swing trading

I think a third conclusion from tracking all my buys/sells, I’m actually pretty good at swing trading stocks. I have since I was a kid been sitting watching stock graphs. Somehow I have a pretty good feel for when companies are at infliction points and I manage to pick them up quite often just before they rally. On the other hand I managed to find a few pretty terrible infliction points on the downside as well, like buying Dignity 2 days before a -50% day, that still hurts, a bit. So I will keep my Speculative investment bucket, because it suits me as an investor, I just need to be better at only swinging the bat at the best cases I see and then focus most of my time on point 2 above.

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