Book Summary: Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham

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  • ISBN-10: 9780062312686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062312686

Warning: This book is an advanced read even for finance professionals. You must have basic knowledge on capital markets to be able to understand and appreciate the book. Like high echelons of Carnatic music, this book is a God send for those obsessed with return on and of their investment, but most others may be unable to appreciate the finesse of the mentioned points.

Graham on Risk Management
Graham on Risk Management

This book is one of Investment Classics vouched by none other than the most well-known investor of our times Mr. Warren Buffett. Most revelations in the field of investment lose relevance overtime and even prove dismal in succeeding cycles, as can be seen in some of the commentary by the supplementary author Jason Zweig (more on that later) but Graham’s principles have themselves have survived several market cycles. Infact these principles thrive on the market cyclicality. So let’s go about to explore the voluminous book.

Speculation Vs. Investment

A shareholder is a part owner of the company and has to study the business fundamentals thoroughly before deciding to put his money into it. The investor must be convinced that he is receiving more value of the company for the price he is paying. Purchasing shares with the hope that it would increase in price is speculation. A non-professional who is speculating on share prices is purely gambling.  It is an exciting past time worth being pursued with only a small portion considered as fun money which you are okay to loose.

Investor’s Biggest Enemy- Inflation

A good investment must deliver an inflation beating return with an acceptable level of risk. Graham considers bonds (debt securities) as one of the most important vehicle to achieve the same. Since secure return of principal is of prime importance, Graham prefers Govt.bonds over corporate bonds as there is nil risk of default by the Government and a few additional points from corporate bonds do not justify the additional risk. However, Graham recommends buying bonds of corporates when available at a steep discount in the secondary market due to temporary adverse conditions faced by the company or market.

Two Types of Investor – Defensive and Enterprising

Myth in investing world is that you have to take higher risks to obtain higher returns. According to Graham higher returns go to the investor who actively pursues it, i.e an enterprising investor while the passive or defensive investors get average returns.

Portfolio Allocation

Between stocks and bonds, Graham recommends a minimum of 25% and a maximum of 75% allocation on each of them. Only investors who are prepared for a huge draw down(notional loss on quoted price) should allocate 75% on stocks at any point in time. Conservative investors may be better off with maximum allocation on bonds.

Rules for Common stock Component

  1. There should be adequate but not excessive diversification. i.e a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 30 stocks.
  2. Each of the selected company should be large, prominent and conservatively financed.
  3. Each company should have a long record of continuous dividend payments of atleast 10 years.
  4. Set a limit to max price one would pay for the stock. Suggested: Trailing 12 months PE of 20 or average of 25.

Graham in general advices against picking stocks individually as he considers an individual cannot do a better job at stock picking than the professionals who seem to do a pretty average job themselves. His preferred way of investment in equity is through index funds.

For an enterprising investor who is willing to put in more efforts into stock picking he advises following guidelines:

  1. Financial Condition: (a) Current assets at least 1.5 times current liabilities and (b) debt not more than 110% of net current assets (for industrial companies)
  2. Earnings Stability: No deficit in the last five years.
  3. Dividend Record: some current dividend
  4. Earnings growth: Last year’s earnings more than of prev years
  5. Price: Less than 120% of net tangible assets.

Dollar(Rupee) Cost Averaging:

Such carefully selected stocks must be purchased through a monthly purchase plan of a fixed amount every month as long as the basis premise of selection holds good.

Graham on Dollar Cost Averaging
Graham on Dollar Cost Averaging

Portfolio Tracking and Updation:

The portfolio must be reviewed atleast once a year. But frequent urge to check the stock prices must be avoided.

Dividend Policy:

Graham is extremely critical of companies that retain more earnings than required for growth. For the company managers to believe that they are more qualified in growing the retained earnings than the shareholders is incorrect, unproven and misaligned incentives.

My Critic on the book: The commentary of the book by Jason Zweig adds number of recent examples. However, the commentary is dated only till 2003. So the book completely skips the 2008 crash and the lessons from it. Jason Zweig has also recommends investing in junk funds as he says risk has been significantly reduced due to diversification. Diversification does not do away with systemic risks which while adequately addressed by Graham need to continue to be adhered too.

This book is a great read if you want to understand more on Asset Allocation in capital markets.  For more in depth knowledge on picking stocks please read ‘Security Analysis‘ by Graham and Dodd.


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Book summary: Work clean by Dan Charnas

Book title: Work clean – The life changing power of mise-en-place
Author: Dan Charnas
ISBN-10: 1623365929
ISBN-13: 978-1623365929
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Introduction

Mise-en-place is a French term that means that there is a place for everything and everything must be in its place. The use of French is because the term originated in culinary circles in France where chefs emphasise the importance of a clean and organised kitchen counter to do things efficiently and ensure high food quality. As a result, just like everything culinary, saute and hors d’ouvre, words from the romantic language stuck around in English too.

Having worked with leading chefs in the United States, the author Dan Charnas talks about how to plan, organise and clean up so that you get the best out of your activities. Throughout the book he illustrates stories and scenes from the America’s top restaurants that exhibit thorough planning, organisation, cleanliness, minimalism and maximum utilisation. Charnas extends the knowledge gained from cooking into his personal and professional lives. In this book, he teaches us how to do so. Continue reading Book summary: Work clean by Dan Charnas


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Book Summary: One upon Wall Street by Peter Lynch

One_upon_wallstreet_PeterLynch

  • ISBN-10: 0743200403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743200400

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Peter Lynch, one of the greatest investors of our time has given ample time tested techniques in this book.

 

How retail investors can win in the stock market

-> Take advantage of what you already know. i.e invest in familiar sectors.
-> Invest in a house before you invest in a stock market
-> Ignore short term fluctations
-> Predicting economy or stock market direction is futile
-> 6/10 wins is a stellar record

Types of Stocks

  1. Slow Growers – 4 – 6% growth. Stable Business like Power and other Utilities. Buy when you can’t find anything else.
  2. Stalwarts – Medium Growth. 10- 12% growth. Established companies like HUL, CocaCola, P&G etc that grow year on year and make standard profit. Take profits at 30 – 50% and repeat with other stalwarts.
  3. Fast Growers – Medium to small size companies that grow at 20 – 25%. Assess growth phase and sustainability.
  4. Cyclical – Expands and contracts over time. Eg: Auto, Airlines, Tyres, steel, Chemicals.
  5. Turnarounds – Stay with bad news for a possible good turnaround. But stay away from tragedies where outcome is unmeasurable. Lynch considers companies moving into unrelated fields as ‘diworsification
  6. Asset Plays – Properties i.e land and other assets held by a company is more valuable than the quoted price.

Categorise the stocks you purchase into the above buckets and arrive at target price based on the category it falls.

Peter Lynch Quotes
Peter Lynch Quotes

What is a Perfect Stock?

  1. Dull or simple business with a boring name
  2. It does something dull Eg: Packaged Foods like biscuits, soap etc
  3. It does something disagreeable Eg: Harpic
  4. It’s a spinoff from a well known holding company Eg: Bajaj Finance
  5. Institutions don’t own and analysts don’t follow.
  6. Rumours abound like toxicity, mafia Eg: Casino
  7. There’s something depressing about the business Eg: Funeral homes
  8. It’s a no growth industry. Steady business, reliable customer base.
  9. It’s got a niche
  10. People have to keep buying it. Eg: Razor blades, cigarrets
  11. It’s a user of technology which results in massive cost savings.
  12. The insiders are buying
  13. Company is buying back shares

Which stocks to Avoid ?

-> Hottest stock in the hottest sector
-> The next something
-> Avoid ‘Diworsification’ i.e  companies that expand into unrelated business
-> Avoid acquisitions that lack synergy
-> Avoid whisper stocks i.e great stories with no substance and no earnings
-> Too dependent on a handful of clients
-> Beware of stock with an exciting name

When to Buy ?

Buy when Price line is below Earnings line and Sell when Price line goes way above the earnings line.

P/ E guideline – check historic P/E levels to know average.

Utility/slow growers – 7 – 9
Stalwart – 10 – 14
Fast growth 14-20

Check if companies have a plan on how to increase future earnings – reduce costs, raise prices, expand into new markets, sell more to same market, close down loss making operations etc.

What to look for before you buy

(1) Does this new trending product have an impact on co’s prospect. If yes consider, else no.
(2) PE Ratio & Growth  = long term growth rate + dividend yield / P/E Ratio – ratio < 1 poor, 1.5 – 2 – Ok , 3 and above – Excellent. This is not same as PEG ratio.
(3) Cash Position – Cash, Cash equivalents and marketable securities over long term debt. Revised P/E = Market Price (less) Cash Per Share/ Earnings
(4) Debt Factor esp for companies in trouble. Can they survive the crisis?
(5) Dividends – Regualr dividends payouts acts as floor for drop in price.
(6) Book Value (BV) – Before buying for Book Value examine the assets that form part of BV and ensure it is worthy. BV could also be Asset plays due to nderstaed value of real estate,land, securities, tax write offs etc
(7) Cash flow – Free cash flow to be checked for heavy capex industries

Signs to look out for – Piling up of (obsolete) inventory , pension plans and future obligations including contingencies. Eg: litigations.

A 20 PE at 20% growth rate will make more than 10 PE stock at 10% growth rate

Recheck your story every few months to see if they are still relevant.

How to avoid the ‘dotcom’ crash scenarios yet participate in the upside of new technology

Pick and Shovels Strategy : Investing in Denims rather than the gold rush. More money is to be made by the suppliers or direct beneficiaries of a much hyped industry Eg: Microsoft Vs Dell

Through Holding Company: When a holding company has a subsidiary in the much hyped sector which might later be spun off. Holding co. business is a downside protection.

Through ‘Brick and Mortars’ that benefit from the efficiency by use of this new technology.

Personal preferences can be a reason to add companies to list of stocks to research . But never invest without doing the homework i.e knowing

(1) Company’s earning Prospects
(2) Financial Condition
(3) Competitive Position
(4) Plans for Expansion
(5) At what stage of Expansion phase is the company currently in

  Invest for the the long term so that you will not be forced to liquidate for need of cash in a bear market. Only Invest what you can afford to lose without the loss having any effect in your foreseeable future.

The Final Checklist:

  1. P/E ratio – High or Low – Compare with similar co’s in same industry.
  2.  % of institutional ownership – Lower the better
  3. Are insiders (Promoters/Directors) buying ? Company buyback?
  4. Are earnings growing consistently
  5. Strong or Weak Balance sheets i.e Debt/Equity Ratio
  6. Cash Position
  7. For Slow growers – Dividend consistency and Dividend/Earnings ratio
  8. For Stalwarts – Check P/E, for possible ‘diworsificcations’, growth rate, momentum and for long holding periods chk performance over prev. recessions and downturns.
  9. Cyclicals – Watch out for new entrants. Anticipate shrinking P/E. auto up and down cycles last for 4-5 years each.  Deeper down cause higher ups.
  10. Fast Growers – Is PE almost equal to growth rate in earnings. Is Expansion speeding up or slowing down? Does it have room to grow ? Proven ability to expand ?
  11. Turnaround – Will business survive ? Liquidation Value of company. How will turnaround happen? Is Business coming back or costs being cut ?
  12. Asset Plays – Is there any hidden value in the assets? Is company taking on new debts ? Beware of Provisions and contingencies.

Points to note:

(1) Understand the nature of the company and specific reason for holding the stock.
(2) Categorise your stocks for right expectations
(3) Big companies small moves in prices, small companies make big moves.
(4) If consideration is based on specific product, consider impact on company
(5) Consider small proven and profitable companies
(6) Avoid hot stocks in hot industries
(7) Be suspicious of 50% growth rates
(8) Moderately fast growers in non growth industries is an ideal investment
(9) Insiders buying the stock
(10) Don’t buy only on stated Book Value. Consider Real Value.

Realistic Expectations – six of 10 ideas and 12- 15% return.

Portfolio Allocation

A small portfolio of 3 – 10 stocks would be a managable size. The composition of the portfolio should be

Growth – 30 – 40%  – Slow -Low Risk low gain /Fast – High risk high gain
Stalwarts – 10 – 20% – low risk moderate gains
Cyclicals – 10 – 20% – low risk high gains or high risk low gains based on entry level
Turnarounds – Rest – high Risk High Gain

Consider risk portfolio and age factor while allocation.

When to Sell

If company has gone up well to factor in all good news, it may be sold. But if original story is intact stay invested.

Slow Growth – On 30 – 50% appreciation or when fundamentals have deteriorated.
Stalwarts – Price strays too far from earnings, and/or industry P/E. Slowing growth or vulnerability of a major division.
Cyclical – 100% of capacity is used, Inventory build up, product slowdown, union demands, high capital requirement for expansion.
Fast Growers – too much media attention, no where to expand business, high P/E of 30 + when growth is below 20, high institutional holding, exit of key executives to join rival.
Turnaround – After the turnaround, High dependency on one customer, growing debt , rising inventory , High P/E.
Asset Plays– Once hidden value is unlocked and is fairly priced. Increased institutional ownership, lower sales, increase in debt , dilution of share value.

Do not buy a mediocre company because it is cheap.

Happy Investing. Stay Profitable 🙂


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Book summary: Ready, fire, aim by Michael Masterson

000-book-coverBook title: Ready, fire, aim
Author: Michael Masterson (aka Mark Ford)
ISBN-10: 0470182024
ISBN-13: 978-0470182024
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What this book is about

Ready, fire, aim is not a typo. It is a deliberate word play on the common phrase Ready, aim, fire. Written by Michael Masterson, this book describes the process of building a company right from the startup phase to an enterprise that earns millions of dollars. The title suggests that we should always start before we are fully ready to launch something and that we should never obsess to the point of perfection. By launching before the product is perfect, we are letting the market decide how to improve it rather than falling into the trap of hubris, where we falsely believe that we fully know the market.

In the book, Michael breaks down the lifetime of a company into five stages. The sections of the book focus on what to do and where you should focus during those five stages. Continue reading Book summary: Ready, fire, aim by Michael Masterson


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