Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Beauty of Compounding in Companies and Its Implications

In my previous post on The Beauty of Compounding to Investors, I've discussed briefly on the mechanics of the simple compound interest equation and concluded that the best way for an investor to optimize its use is to identify each factor (starting capital, compound rate, time period) in the equation separately and work on the weaknesses (especially those that is easily within our control) so that the integration of all 3 factors can hopefully produce an exceptional result. In this post, I'll talk more about this effect on companies and try to relate it to the individual investor.

Albert Einstein on Stock Compound Interest

Case Studies & Assumptions

Let's use some of case studies for Company X (if you are curious about the company's real identity, like me on Facebook or follow my posts via email by subscribing on the right panel - Let me know by commenting below or emailing me at when this is done). As usual, to make things simple, some assumptions have to be made for the model:
  1. In the actual case, Company X managed to grow its book value by compounding it at >10% annually for the past 12 years. Here, we assume that this growth rate will continue for the next 5 years. Book value now is $0.25 per share.
  2. Assume book value is a reasonable estimate to intrinsic value of the company and the market price of its stock will converge to its intrinsic/book value at the end of 5 years.
  3. No other forces (inflation etc) are at play that will skew the final results.
4 scenarios will be used here (please note again that book value for all scenarios is $0.25 per share):
  • Scenario A: Market Price: $0.20 (20% discount to book), Growth rate: 0%
  • Scenario B: Market Price: $0.30 (20% premium to book), Growth rate: 10%
  • Scenario C: Market Price: $0.25 (at book value), Growth rate: 10%
  • Scenario D: Market Price: $0.20 (20% discount to book), Growth rate: 10%

Summary of Scenario Results

Shares Investment Results - Dividends Excluded
Scenario Capital Appreciation Results (Dividends not factored in)

Comparing Scenarios A & B, we see that despite paying at 20% premium to book value (for B), the stock investor is still able to turn in better results compared to one who bought at 20% discount to book value (for A) - provided the growth rate is high enough. In this case, a quick calculation shows that a 4.5% growth rate in Scenario B is sufficient to get the same 25% results achieved in Scenario A.

Comparing Scenarios C & D, it is clear that although the purchase price of D is only 20% lower than C and both have the same growth rate, D turns it significantly higher results (much more than 20%). All in all, Scenario D gives the best results. For your info: Company X is currently priced below that of Scenario D now, indicating a better upside if we were to base it on this very simplistic model.

This is a very simplistic view of the compounding effect but it does show the powerful snowballing effect of the compound equation. The key limitations are obviously in the assumptions. In the first place, we can't know for sure whether the book value or 'intrinsic' value can grow at 10% for the next year, save to say for 5 straight years. Also, there are definitely many other factors or uncertainties at play that will affect the final result. Lastly, for most companies, the book value does not equate to the intrinsic value. Even if they do, the market price may or may not converge to this implied intrinsic value at the end of 5 years (it could be earlier or later). Despite these limitations, I believe its good enough to show the compounding effect and its implications to the stock investor.

The Ultimate Approach - Dual Margin of Safety

Margin of safety is an important part of our overall investment framework as discussed in the post on Our Stocks Investment Philosophy. The above exhibit suggests 2 key ways to profit from the stock market. First and foremost, the investor can purchase securities at a price that is currently at a discount to a readily ascertainable intrinsic value as in Scenario A. This discount is in itself a margin of safety. Alternatively, the investor can purchase the security at a reasonably fair price as compared to the current intrinsic value but he or she must be confident that the future prospects or growth is so good that it is sufficient margin of safety for a profit to be made, as in Scenario C above. 

The best approach to stock selection is of course to find securities that meets both criteria or approaches discussed in the previous paragraph - by having a discount to current value and potential growth that can further increase this value in the foreseeable future such that the cushion in price-value gap widens further over time. This is similar to Scenario D in the above table which as shown, give the best results out of the 4.

I will discuss further about the obstacles in execution in the application of the Dual Margin of Safety approach and end off with my proposed solution. Let me know if there's alternative methods or approaches that you've been doing that has been consistently successful ya?

Long Company X - Do you know which company is this?

As mentioned, if you are curious about Company X's real identity, like me on Facebook or follow my posts via email by subscribing on the right panel - When this is done, let me know by commenting below or emailing me at :-)

Friday, 16 January 2015

How to Get Rich - The Beauty of Compounding to Investors and Companies

"Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it." - Albert Einstein.
I’m always amazed by the mechanics and impact of the compounding effect. The basic compound interest formula is:-
F = Future value or final value of the investment
P = Principal or the starting capital
r = Annual rate of return
t = The number of years this return is compounded
To let the compounding effect work its wonder, an investor needs to focus on the Starting Capital (denoted by P), Annual rate of return (r) and the number of years (t). Let’s use $100,000 starting capital, 10% annual return and 20 years as baseline inputs for comparisons with other permutations. For simplicity, effects of inflation are neglected throughout.

Effects of Compounding
Compound results table
Effects of Compounding with Various Inputs
As observed from the table and chart, for all cases the value of gains is much more than the initial capital itself. But what can we really learn from these results and what can we do to maximize the compounding effect?
I find it quite worthwhile to classify these inputs based on the level of control we have over them. By identifying them singularly, we can find out which inputs we are lacking and categorically work on them.

Time Factor (t)

As observed above, time is an absolute critical factor for the effects of compounding to snowball the initial capital as much as possible. All of the input invested 7 years late did worse than the baseline input. If we have $100K and can compound 10% for 20 years but we do it 7 years later, our gains is a 57% or $327K lesser! 7 years later is 7 years too late. This is something that we can control only when we are still young. The key is to start investing as early as possible and have the patience to let the compounding effect work. 

To put it into practical perspective, if a 40 year old who earns an average of $100K per year invest with baseline results, he will have an extra $245K by 53 years old. This would mean that his investments gave him an extra 2.45 years of working income. However, if he started 7 years earlier at 33 years old, he will have an extra $570K by 53 years old which also means that he gets an extra 5.7 years of his working income. Why work another 5.7 years when you can actually get the same amount of money with less effort? Retiring a few years earlier is certainly not bad at all!

Starting Capital (P)

The Starting Capital is also important but comparatively less controllable. Different individual profiles will have differing amounts of starting capital to invest. Most of the time, we can’t really control how much we have at the start (especially when we are young). However, all of us have universal control in terms of the proportion of our money we set aside to save and invest. This is a definitely a decision that can be made and acted upon for almost everyone.

Return Factor (r)

Can we really achieve 10% returns per annum for our investments? No one knows. Sometimes its luck and other times it may be because of innate talent. I believe the best way to potentially improve anyone’s returns is through continually seeking and acquiring investment & financial knowledge. This is definitely something within our control. There are many books, articles and videos online and offline that teach us how to make our money work harder for us. Of course, this takes time and effort but I think it’s the only way to handle this factor properly.

The Real Trick – Combining All 3 Inputs

What’s the use if we can earn an impressive return from our investments but we can compound it for only 2 years? There’s also little use when we have 30 years to compound our money when we can only achieve a 2% return. The real trick lies in combining all 3 inputs in the compound interest equation. To do this, we first need to tackle each factor separately by (a) Identifying which factor we are lacking the most, (b) Find out what we can do that is within our control to improve the factor, (c) Work on improving them and (d) Repeat the process again starting from part (a). Let me know if you have other ways to optimize the compounding magic :-)

Note: Just want to highlight that there’s another factor that is not included in this simple compound interest equation. That is the additional cashflows you can add into your investment sum every period. Imagine you can compound 10% in 20 years with a starting capital of $100K and on top of that, you are also able to contribute another $12K into your portfolio annually - Your final value would be $1.36M with a contribution of $340K in total. This is compared to the baseline case mentioned above with $672K final value and $100K contribution.
This post is longer than expected. I’ll talk more about the companies which can continually compound their value through time from an investor's viewpoint.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Avi-Tech Electronics (CT1.SI) – Is Quick Profit Possible?

In my post on My SG Portfolio 2014 and Some Recent Picks, I’ve mentioned that one of my event-driven picks for 2015 is Avi-Tech Electronics. I think price then was about S$0.074 and I’ve accumulated since November at an average price including costs of S$0.699. There are some interesting comments in the post (you should read it here) and I thought that probably it’s good to write a short article about my analysis.

Avi Tech Electronics Stock logo

Avi-Tech Electronics is listed on the SGX and is a provider for Burn-in, engineering and manufacturing services in the semi-conductor & electronics industry. In 2011, It ventured into the Imaging Equipment and Energy Efficient Products by starting 2 subsidiaries to ‘diversify and substantiate long-term growth’ for the company. Guess what happened in the end: since 2011, the company began incurring losses largely due to these same subsidiaries and management has finally decided to discontinue these operations just a couple of months back. Originally, the classification of this type of purchase in my portfolio (see post for more details about this) do not require intensive analysis – so I’ll try to keep things simple here. The following data are based on my 30 Dec 2014 post:

Price = S$0.074
Shares outstanding = 342,422,096
Market Cap = S$25.34M
P/E = NA (losses)
EV/EBIT = NA (losses)
P/NTA = 0.63

Investment Thesis

The results in this classification of stocks depend a lot on corporate events which in some sense serve as a catalyst to close up the price-value gap, hopefully in a fairly short period of time. My investment decision is premised on the following: 
  1. The management has destroyed huge value over the years from the 2 loss-making subsidiaries. Many shareholders could have loss confidence with management's ability and decided to sell / cut losses.
  2. The poorer fundamentals and financial results combined with the inclusion onto the SGX watch-list due to 3 consecutive years of pre-tax losses has led to a stock price decline that is likely over-exaggerated.
  3. This exaggeration led to a fair degree of undervaluation which also means a potential investment opportunity to the shrewd analyst.
  4. Directors have been mopping up shares recently with their own money and to that extent, agreeing with my view that the stock price might be undervalued.
  5. The disposal of subsidiaries which are main contributors of past years' losses may improve future earnings at least in the short term and this may prop up the market price.

Key Risks / Uncertainty

Management indicated that they will “continue with its plans to seek new areas of growth whether through mergers and acquisitions, or any structured transaction or business, which will add value to shareholders.” Has management really learnt their lesson from previous experiences? Are they capable enough to continue ‘adding value’ through acquisitions? Personally, I feel its foolish for them to do that considering their core business ain’t doing as well as before too (more details below).

Also, we can’t deny the fact that they are in a difficult semi-conductor industry which presents a challenge to the management (that is perhaps why they insist on growing through acquisitions etc) and a risk that the investor need to be wary of.

Safeguards and Checks – In case things do not turn out well

Like I say, the need for intensive analysis is not really required for the event-type part of my portfolio and I hope to realize some profits in a reasonably short period of time. However, as a safeguard, I better ensure there’s some sort of margin of safety if things don’t work out and I might have to hold on to it for a longer than expected timeframe. Since this will be a minor position in my portfolio, a brief analysis should be sufficient.

Financial Position

The balance sheet is generally cash rich with net cash equivalents of about S$23.5M which compares favorably to the market cap at S$25.3M. Book value is about S$40M. If the company is liquidated now, I believe we can get back more than what we pay now. Of course, if management continues eroding value by doing foolish expansions, the intrinsic value on a liquidating basis may drop below our price paid in light of such later developments in the business. 


Avi Tech Electronics Stock Financial Results
Avi-Tech Electronics Financial Summary
I’ve cleaned up the effects of the loss-making subsidiaries in the above table and it is clear that these subsidiaries have indeed eroded earnings between 2011 and 2013, before management decide to discontinue operations in 2014. The core operations haven’t been doing well too considering that they also have registered some losses between 2012 to 2014. Core business revenue has declined drastically from S$70M to S$23M over 7 years.  However, keep in mind that the bulk of the negative earnings is attributed to the subsidiaries (contribution by subsidiaries is -S$12.8M compared to +S$1.7M for core business from 2011 to 2013). 


Not surprisingly, thanks to these loss-making subsidiaries, share price has declined more than 60% since 2011. The discontinuation of the subsidiaries has stemmed losses greatly and results in 1Q2015 shows a positive profit. Could there be turnaround which can lift share price higher? No one can say this for sure.

Avi-Tech Electronics 5 Year Stock Chart
Avi-Tech Electronics 5 Year Stock Chart
Let's use 2010 and 2015 results for comparison since in both years, the loss-making subsidiaries are non-existent. A back-of-the envelope calculation shows PER of 2010 is about 15.6X while forward PER of 2015 appears to be about 9.1X (I annualized 1Q15 earnings per share of S$0.002 here as an approximation). Assuming all else remains the same, this could be another indication that share price decline has been exaggerated and the market probably has not factored in the positive effects from the disposal. If valuation in 2010 is any guide, the market price should be priced around S$0.12! Of course, I’m not saying these assumptions are reasonable but at least it gives me some level of comfort here knowing that I'm not buying at a ridiculously high price.

Because the earnings has been quite unstable, probably the balance sheet can give better insights about its intrinsic value. Taking a haircut of 50% to PPE (NB: this part of the balance sheet is throwing in some S$500K-S$700K rental income annually), 25% to inventory and 10% to receivables, we get a liquidation value of S$0.094 per share as compared to the price of S$0.074. (Potential Bonus 1: I did not include the proceeds that the company may receive from the disposal of subsidiary in this valuation).


A high price can turn stocks of good quality businesses into a speculative purchase and likewise, a low price can turn a speculative stock into an attractive investment. My opinion is that Avi-Tech belongs to the latter. Considering the pros and cons, I think the low price coupled with the existence of potential catalysts make the purchase of Avi-tech too attractive to be denied by the security analyst. However, the risks mentioned above also means that the sizing of the position in the portfolio should be kept relatively small - just in case management screw things up again. (Potential Bonus 2: we already ensured there's some margin of safety to absorb unfavourable future developments but what if by some freak nature, the future acquisitions are so successful that future earnings improve dramatically? This is definitely not accounted for yet).

Some Final Thoughts

Due to it’s classification in my portfolio & unless there’s any clear-cut change in circumstances, my guess is that I will take most of my profits (if any) within the next 12 months. I mentioned that my average price purchased including costs since November ‘14 is S$0.0699. Price now at S$0.078 would mean that my current returns is about 12% in slightly less than 2 months. Obviously this is not the best business in the best industry and I have the urge to take my profits initially when it was at S$0.08. After some deliberation, I figured that my estimate of S$0.094 is really a minimum valuation which is so conservative to the extent that it is a reasonably dependable guide. Moreover, one of the directors bought back shares a couple of days back at about S$0.078. Maybe somewhere around S$0.09 I can consider trimming my stakes. I would be more than happy to get some opinions about this.

PS: I’m surprised that I took about an hour of analysis before my decision to purchase Avi-Tech but it took me more than 3-4 hours to write it in this blog!

Long Avi-Tech Electronics  (CT1.SI)