Letter to Investors – Dec 2021– Extracts

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Trailing twelve months’ earnings of underlying portfolio companies grew by 22%.
  • NAV grew by 15.6% YTD with 61% funds invested. NSE Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 grew by 19.3% and 22.8% respectively.
  • Outlook for global inflation and coronavirus remains a concern.
  • Sentiments across the board – IPOs, Unicorns, Crypto-world, M&A and stock valuations- remain euphoric.
  • Stance: Cautious

Dear Fellow Investors,

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting

Poem “IF”, Rudyard Kipling

Global inflation is rising after decades and remains a threat to equities globally. Last quarter results showed margin pressure for commodity consuming companies and record earnings for commodity producing ones. Commodity consuming companies will try to pass on the input inflation to their consumers. Many may not be able to do that without adverse impact on sales volumes due to stagnant/ falling purchasing power. For the commodity producers, the current jump, driven by rise in commodity prices, may turn out to be temporary as demand normalises and new supply comes up.

Additionally, rising inflation can cause rise in interest rates. That will increase the rate of return that investors demand on equity investments and may lead to fall in equity multiples. To oversimplify (and this is not a prediction): when risk free (or bank FD) interest rates are 5%, equity investors are happy with a 5% dividend yield on stocks. When the risk free rate rises to 10%, stocks should halve to make investors earn 10%.

In addition to inflation, the speed and intensity of the coronavirus continues to remain uncertain. Omicron, the new variant of the coronavirus is said to transmit more quickly than the preceding Delta variant. However the hospitalisation rates in countries where Omicron’s spread is highest, are mild. Nonetheless, the uncertainty of restrictions/ lockdowns and accompanying economic pain looms.

Yes, a sub-set of companies are indifferent to, or even benefit from, inflation and/or virus. We own a few of them ourselves. However sentiments remain buoyant across the board and good news looks priced in. IPO activity, Unicorn production, Crypto-mania – all are at record high. Stock valuations too are at a record high – over a quarter of listed Indian companies by market cap are trading at 60+ trailing Sep 21 earnings, highest ever. Some of it corrected in late December but recovered soon after.

Like a pendulum, markets ebb and flow between despondency and euphoria over cycles. This is something that we eagerly look forward to. For, it creates mispricings and offer the low risk-high return opportunities we actively seek. An important part of this pursuit is to stomach relative underperformance and tackle greed, FOMO and impatience during above average valuation periods like the current one. “Not losing one’s head” and “waiting” are an active part of safeguarding and benefiting from bubbles. Cautious stance stays.

 

A. PERFORMANCE

 

A1. Statutory PMS Performance Disclosure

Portfolio YTD FY22 FY 21  FY 20* Since Inception* Outper-formance Avg YTD Cash  Bal.
CED Long Term Focused Value (PMS) 15.6% 48.5% -9.5% 55.3% 38.7%
NSE Nifty 500 TRI (includes dividends) 22.8% 77.6% -23.6% 66.7% -11.4% NIL
NSE Nifty 50 TRI (includes dividends) 19.3% 72.5% -23.5% 57.4% -1.8% NIL
*From Jul 24, 2019; Note: As required by SEBI, the returns are calculated on time weighted average (NAV) basis. The returns are NET OF ALL EXPENSES AND FEES. The returns pertain to ENTIRE portfolio of our one and only strategy. Individual investor returns may vary from above owing to different investment dates. Annual returns are audited but not verified by SEBI.

 

For year to date December 31, 2021 the NAV of our aggregate portfolio was up 15.6%. During the nine months we were invested in equities, on monthly average basis, to the extent of 61%. The balance 39% was parked in liquid funds. NSE Nifty 500 and Nifty 50 were up 22.8% and 19.3% respectively including dividends.

While regulations require us to present quarterly relative returns, our focus remains on long term (3–5yr) absolute returns. Temporary underperformance in a frothy market is an essential part of doing that. Our past record (2020) is a testimony to the fact that we fall less during market drawdowns and make up for this underperformance.

A2. Underlying business performance

 

Past Twelve Months Past twelve months FY 2022 EPU (expected)
Earnings per unit (EPU)2 Earnings per unit (EPU)
Dec 2021 5.71 6.03
Sep 2021 (Previous Quarter) 5.6 5.8
Dec 2020 (Previous Year) 5.1
Annual Change 12%4 21%
CAGR since inception (Jun 2019) 6.0%
1 Last four quarters ending Sep 2020. Results of Dec quarter are declared by Feb only. 2 EPU = Total normalised earnings accruing to the aggregate portfolio divided by units outstanding. 3 Please note: the forward earnings per unit (EPU) are conservative estimates of our expectation of future earnings of underlying companies. In past we have been wrong – often by wide margin – in our estimates and there is a risk that we are wrong about the forward EPU reported to you above. 4 +22% if we exclude one position where there was temporary loss due to Covid-19.

 

Trailing Earnings: Trailing twelve months Earnings Per Unit (EPU) of underlying companies, excluding one position where there was temporary loss due to Covid-19, grew by 22% (including effects of cash equivalents that earn ~4-5%). 

 

1-Yr Forward Earnings: We upgrade the expected FY 22 earnings to Rs 6 per unit from earlier estimate of Rs 5.8 per unit due to improvement in underlying fundamentals.

 

A3. Underlying portfolio parameters

 

Dec 2021 Trailing P/E Forward P/E Portfolio RoE Portfolio Turnover1
CED LTFV (PMS) 27.2x 25.5x 15.1% 6.4%
NSE 50 24.1x2 14.9%3
NSE 500 25.4x2 13.2%3
1 ‘sale of equity shares’ divided by ‘average portfolio value’ during the year to date period. 2 Source: NSE. 3Source: Ace Equity. 4Trailing Twelve Months. 

 

B. DETAILS ON PERFORMANCE

B1. MISTAKES AND LEARNINGS

Thanks to our past mistakes, there are four broad categories of risks that we continuously guard against:

  1. Business disruption
  2. Management malfeasance
  3. Misunderstanding cycles
  4. Selling early

Quantitatively, the first three types of companies look cheap and the fourth one expensive. In the former three cases the sustainability of the companies/ cash flows are in doubt and most of times these companies end up as value traps. Dish TV and DB Corp were in the first category. Treehouse and Talwalkars were in the second category. Tata Motors was in the third. In the last case (selling early), the durability and growth of the business is underestimated. What looks expensive today, becomes cheap due to earnings growth. Cera Sanitaryware was in this category.

From our two past mistakes- “Cera Sanitaryware” and “2015-16” – we learnt that unless fundamentals are extremely compelling, it is better to be gradual in selling and buying respectively. From our past mistake on “Treehouse Education” we have learnt that bad management deserves a low price, it’s seldom a bargain. In Dish TV we underestimated the competitive disruption but thankfully sold at breakeven. Tata Motors DVR taught us that cyclical investing requires a different mindset to moat investing and one needs to be quick to act when external environment turns adverse. In Talwalkars, we learnt that assessing promoter quality is a difficult job and we should err on the side of caution irrespective of how cheap quantitative valuations look. From DB Corp we learned that industries in structural decline will fail to get high multiples even if the industry is consolidated, competition limited and free cash flows healthy. 

B2. MAJOR PORTFOLIO CHANGES

Broader indices corrected over 10% towards the end of December before recovering. We added to one existing position in a few underweight client portfolios. The stock was, at the time of our addition, down 30% from its 52week high. There were no other changes to our aggregate portfolio in the reporting quarter.

We continue to add more companies to our research coverage. There are only two reasons that you don’t find certain companies in our portfolio, yet: either we don’t understand them, or find them expensive.

B4. FLOWS AND SENTIMENTS

Inflation is rising world over and central banks have started tightening monetary policy stance. The British central bank raised interest rates by 0.25% in December, first in last three years. The US Fed has advanced its tightening trajectory after US inflation remaining above 5% for last few months.  Rising inflation leads to rise in interest rates that in turn act as gravity to equity prices. To over simplify, higher inflation equals lower equity multiples. Surprisingly the market reactions to this change in stance was muted.

Omicron, the new variant of the coronavirus, forced many counties into various degree of restrictions including lockdown. The faster pace of its mutations led markets to fall a bit momentarily worldwide including in India before rising back due to lower hospitalisation versus the Delta variant.

Inflation and Omicron, however, failed to dampen the continued bubble like uptrend in the IPO, startup, crypto and retail world.

Around 2400 IPOs closed globally in CY2021, raising a total of 450bn$, 64% higher than last year. Two-thirds of US IPOs, however, are trading below IPO price. It was a record year for IPOs in India too. In CY 2021, over 60 Indian companies have raised over Rs 1,26,000 cr in IPOs, highest ever. Importantly, total subscriptions were 30x of that amount. Yes, the average IPO listing day pop has been around 32%, but with meagre allotments or high HNI leverage (taking loans to apply in IPOs), they have failed to move the portfolio needle after interest cost. Mutual funds used the optimism to launch record new funds. They raised over Rs. 51,000cr in NFOs (new fund offers) in the CY 2021, highest in a decade.

Crypto exchanges (440+) have become hotter than crypto currencies (7000+) themselves. Top two global crypto exchanges –Coinbase (63bn$), and FTX (25bn$) are today valued at 88bn$, higher than the CME group (81bn$). They are sponsoring everything from sports to F1 cars to prime time shows and acquiring crypto exchanges in many countries including India. Many offer 100x leverage to trade crypto/crypto futures – Rs 1Lac account in an exchange can give exposure to Rs 1 cr. worth of bet. In last six months, 12 crypto unicorns (startups valued over 1bn$) were born globally. Two of them are Indian (CoinDx and Coinswitch Kuber). It is other matter that they are not legally recognised in many countries.

Coming to Unicorns, as per CB Insights, total number of unicorns worldwide has reached 943 with cumulative valuations of over $3 trn (just under India’s market capitalisation). In the 10 years up to 2020, 37 unicorns were made in India. As many as 42 new unicorns came out just in 2021. Startup valuations are a curious thing. A 100cr valuation can jump to 400cr if the company raises 1 cr additional capital by giving away just 0.25% stake (instead of earlier 1%). Many startups have reported 10x rise in their valuations in matter of a few months, thanks to this funny valuation method. Some have successfully IPOed at these high valuations leaving, inter alia, retail shareholders with the hyped can. Many more are in pipeline.

Retail participation continues unabated. IPO participation, mutual fund inflows, new demat opening, share of options volumes and participation in technical analysis courses have hit all-time high.

Again to clarify, we are not saying that markets will fall tomorrow or that we should be fully out of equities. By tracking these factors we are trying to take the temperature of the markets and investor sentiments. Current state suggests us to continue with our cautious stance.

 

C. OTHER THOUGHTS

Capital as Moat

Tech businesses bring together network effects and worldwide market. The speed with which many tech titans have scaled is unprecedented. Yes, some of them definitely deserve their multi-billion/ trillion dollar valuations. But many others are free-riding.

Unlimited access to capital, propelled by unprecedented central bank monetary easing, has emerged as a new source of moat (competitive advantage) for many in recent times. Sell below cost, even for free, build revenues (it’s not difficult to sell for free) and dream of conquering the market. Given inadequacy of profits, such model would have fallen flat in normal times. But add unlimited access to capital and this model suddenly gets wheels. Sell below cost or for free, grow revenues at break neck speed, raise funds on the promise of eventual monopoly, rinse, and repeat. Many companies in the tech space – unlisted unicorns, and listed tech stocks–have suddenly found access to money without showing current profits. They are seeing rise in market capitalisation and using the high market capitalisation to still raise further rounds of capital. Their private equity investors are happy to cash out with stellar returns. Prudent ways of doing business – focus on profits and capital efficiency- have turned old school.

Sadly, take away the benevolent unrestraint flow of capital – which will co-occur with rise in interest rates – and the moat can turn into a collapsing house of cards. It’s much safer to prefer profits over growth fantasies. Of course growth is great, but that should be accompanied by profits, efficient use of capital and importantly, reasonable price.

***

 

As always, gratitude for your trust and patience. Kindly do share your thoughts, if any. Your feedback helps us improve our services to you!

 

Kind regards and wishing you a blissful 2022,

Team Compound Everyday Capital

Sumit Sarda, Surbhi Kabra Sarda, Suraj Fatehchandani, Sachin Shrivastava, Sanjana Sukhtankar and Anand Parashar

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Disclaimer: Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP is SEBI registered Portfolio Manager with registration number INP 000006633. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as a recommendation to buy or sell securities. This transmission is confidential and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security or investment product. Reference to an index does not imply that the firm will achieve returns, volatility, or other results similar to the index.

 

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Letter to Investors – Sep 2021– Extracts

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Adj. TTM earnings of underlying companies grew by 26%. Jun2021 quarterly earnings are 17% above Jun2019 (pre-Covid).
  • NAV grew by 16.3% YTD with 62% funds invested. NSE Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 grew by 20.8% and 23.0% respectively.
  • Multiple parameters that we track are suggesting very high optimism built into current prices.
  • We remain averse to investing in life insurance sector owing to very high valuations.
  • Stance: Cautious

Dear Fellow Investors,

Value investing is simple, but not easy

Value investing, at its core, is a pursuit of buying assets below their worth. And, resisting buying if that’s not the case. This is the simple stuff! Just to clarify, we are referring to value investing in the widest sense including growth/ quality at reasonable price. History shows that, if done properly, value investing works over longer run. Here’s why:

Because, it doesn’t work in the short run.

Due to liquidity, emotions, and incentives prices often rise above rational levels. Choosing not to overpay – the right investment behaviour – can cause interim underperformance and mental agony if the irrationality continues – wrong interim outcome. Not every individual or institutional investor is wired/ incentivised to endure this dichotomy.

While value investing is simple (buying below worth); it’s not easy (tolerating emotional pain). And that’s why it works.

We have been practicing caution since last nine months, and markets have gone up ~25% in one direction. While we have not lost money, we have grown less. In hindsight, nonetheless, we are looking foolish and this is emotionally painful. We, thankfully, take strength to persist from the fact that we are not alone. Many legendary investors have endured this before:

Between 1994 and 1999, the Nasdaq went up 40% per year. Many respectful investors including Ray Dalio, Seth Klarman, Howard Marks, Warrant Buffet, and Peter Lynch cautioned “bubble!, bubble!” in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998. They underperformed the roaring markets and looked ‘out of touch’ till March 2000. And then the tech bubble burst. By October 2002, the Nasdaq had fallen 75% from its peak, giving up most of its gains.

Or, take the case of 2003-2007. S&P 500 went up over 18% p.a. for 4 years. Value oriented investors lagged indices, until sub-prime bubble burst in 2008 and the S&P 500 fell 56%, giving away all the gains of those four years.

Something similar is happening today. Yes, Covid-19 has lifted earnings of some companies permanently, but for the rest, the earnings jump is cyclical/ temporary. Still, Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 are up 43% and 49% respectively from their pre-Covid highs – in a rare straight line. Form fundamentals point of view, it doesnot make sense. Only liquidity, emotions and incentives can explain this peculiarity. When people think they are making money, rarely will they say that it doesn’t make sense.

To clarify, we are not predicting that markets will fall tomorrow. Last nine months have shown you that we are bad at market prediction. But like the judicious ant, we are trying to prepare for the rainy day while the grasshopper revels in the balmy summer. For, finding an umbrella/ food in a rain storm might be impossible or very costly. We are enduring with our cautious stance.

In case you are tempted by offers to invest in the next shiny thing – that’s normal in heady times – please keep in mind that you have the option of sending the money to us to be kept safely as a stand by fund. We will use them to buy liquid instruments in your demat account, won’t charge any fees till a hurdle of 5%, and wait. Wait for better prices and lower risks. Out of sight, out of mind, out of risk!

 

A. PERFORMANCE

 

A1. Statutory PMS Performance Disclosure

Portfolio YTD FY22 FY 21  FY 20* Since Inception* Outper-formance Avg YTD Cash  Bal.
CED Long Term Focused Value (PMS) 16.3% 48.5% -9.5% 56.2% 38.3%
NSE Nifty 500 TRI (includes dividends) 23.0% 77.6% -23.6% 67.0% -10.8% NIL
NSE Nifty 50 TRI (includes dividends) 20.8% 72.5% -23.5% 59.5% -3.3% NIL
*From Jul 24, 2019; Note: As required by SEBI, the returns are calculated on time weighted average (NAV) basis. The returns are NET OF ALL EXPENSES AND FEES. The returns pertain to ENTIRE portfolio of our one and only strategy. Individual investor returns may vary from above owing to different investment dates. Annual returns are audited but not verified by SEBI.

 

For the half year ended September 30, 2021 our NAV was up 16.3%. During the period we were invested in equities, on monthly average basis, to the extent of 62%. The balance 38% was parked in liquid funds/ liquid ETFs in your demat accounts. NSE Nifty 500 and Nifty 50 were up 23.0% and 20.8% respectively including dividends.

Return is visible. Risk is not

Unlike investment return, there are no full proof quantitative measures of investment risk. Risk can only be qualitatively judged. It’s like driving a vehicle. One can choose between safe and rash driving. Driving at 100 kmph can be both rash and safe depending on type of vehicle, road and traffic. Similarly, a 20% return can be both safe and risky depending on the buying price. An expensive buy can get more expensive and generate that 20% return. At the same time a cheaper stock can get reasonably priced and generate 20% return. Former is risky, latter is less so.

Assessment of investment performance is incomplete if the focus is only on returns and not risks. The best way to reduce investment risk is to invest within one’s circle of competence and not to overpay.  Our job in these letters is to help you assess that.

A2. Underlying business performance

 

Period Past twelve months FY 2021 EPU (expected)
Earnings per unit (EPU)2 Earnings per unit (EPU)
Sep 2021 5.61 5.83
Jun 2021 (Previous Quarter) 5.3 5.8
Sep 2020 (Previous Year) 5.2
Annual Change 8%4 21%
CAGR since inception (Jun 2019) 5.0%
1 Last four quarters ending Sep 2020. Results of Dec quarter are declared by Feb only. 2 EPU = Total normalised earnings accruing to the aggregate portfolio divided by units outstanding. 3 Please note: the forward earnings per unit (EPU) are conservative estimates of our expectation of future earnings of underlying companies. In past we have been wrong – often by wide margin – in our estimates and there is a risk that we are wrong about the forward EPU reported to you above. 4 +26% if we exclude one position where there was temporary loss due to Covid-19.

 

Trailing Earnings: Trailing twelve months Earnings Per Unit (EPU) of underlying companies, excluding one position where the losses are temporary, grew by 26% (including effects of cash equivalents that earn 5% net of tax). 

 

1-Yr Forward Earnings: We expect that TTM earnings for FY 22 to come at Rs 5.8 per unit, higher by 21% over FY21.

A3. Underlying portfolio parameters

 

Jun 2021 Trailing P/E Forward P/E Portfolio RoE TTM4 Earnings Growth Portfolio Turnover1
CED LTFV (PMS) 27.9x 26.9x 14.1%5 26.0% 6.6%
NSE 50 27.0x2 15.1%3 48.2%3
NSE 500 28.0x2 13.3%3 86.8%3
1 ‘sale of equity shares’ divided by ‘average portfolio value’ during the year to date period. 2 Source: NSE. 3Source: Capitaline. 4Trailing Twelve Months. 

 

B. DETAILS ON PERFORMANCE

B1. MISTAKES AND LEARNINGS

In hindsight, our cautious stance can be termed as a mistake. However if we go back nine months, today’s outcome would have been a very low probability outcome. Given that we are dealing with your hard earned money, if conditions were to repeat, we will take the same conservative stand again. Our intent is to beat inflation first and then index.

From our two past mistakes- “Cera Sanitaryware” and “2015-16” – we learnt that unless fundamentals are extremely compelling, it is better to be gradual in selling and buying respectively. From our past mistake on “Treehouse Education” we have learnt that bad management deserves a low price, it’s seldom a bargain. In Dish TV we underestimated the competitive disruption but thankfully sold at breakeven. Tata Motors DVR taught us that cyclical investing requires a different mindset to moat investing and one needs to be quick to act when external environment turns adverse. In Talwalkars, we learnt that assessing promoter quality is a difficult job and we should err on the side of caution irrespective of how cheap quantitative valuations look. From DB Corp we learned that industries in structural decline will fail to get high multiples even if the industry is consolidated, competition limited and free cash flows healthy. 

B2. MAJOR PORTFOLIO CHANGES

We halved our position in one company, mainly due to 7x rise in share price in last eighteen months. There were no other changes to our aggregate portfolio.

Meanwhile, we continue to do what we like best – study, research, and keep adding more companies to our coverage list. We are ready with the work. And waiting.

B4. FLOWS AND SENTIMENTS

Amid rising global inflation and gradual economic recovery, the US Federal Reserve – the fountainhead of global liquidity raising all asset classes – indicated that it will reduce its bond buying (a tool to inject liquidity in economy) by November 2021. There is also a growing inclination among Fed officials to raise interest rates (near zero currently) from 2022. All this, however, is dependent on continued economic recovery. In absence of express roadmap for raising interest rates and continued benign Fed stance, markets continued to rally.

As per an Economist article, it’s raining unicorns (companies valued over 1bn$) this year. Their count has grown from a dozen eight years ago to more than 750, worth a combined $2.4trn. In the first six months of 2021 technology startups raised nearly $300bn globally, almost as much as in the whole of 2020. That money helped add 136 new unicorns between April and June alone, a quarterly record. Those that went public in 2021 made a combined loss of $25bn in their latest financial year.

Back in India, IPO and retail interest continue to soar to worrying levels.

FY 22 so far has seen 26 IPOs raising Rs. 58,000cr. While the year is yet to close and total raisings excluding LIC will pass Rs. 120,000 cr., this half yearly number is itself highest in last 9 out of 10 years.  FY 2018 is the only year that saw raisings of 67,500cr through IPO. And that year in hindsight was an interim top.

Record IPO subscriptions and listing pops continued. IPO offering of Paras Defense was subscribed over 300x (highest ever), Tatva Chintan 182x, Devyani International 117x, Clean Science 93x, GR Infra 72x, and Zomato 38x. Paras Defense opened 185% up on listing, highest ever (Govt. of India is its biggest client), GR Infra 100% up, Clean Science 70% up, Zomato 80% up and Tatva Chintan 100% up. All these companies are trading above 80 times trailing earnings. Few are yet to report a profit.

Equity oriented mutual funds have seen net inflows of Rs 60,000 cr since Mar 2021.  Noteworthy is that two new fund offers (NFOs) – ICICI Flexicap and SBI Balanced Advantage collected Rs 10,000cr and 13,000cr respectively – highest ever in equity and hybrid schemes respectively. Please note that an NFO offers nothing that existing schemes donot. Moreover, there is no listing pop in NFOs – they are yet to invest the monies into securities. Such crazy response cannot be possible without distributors pushing/ switching customers for earning higher commissions (trail commissions on NFOs are higher by 30-35bp vs existing funds) at a time when valuations are not cheap.

 

C. OTHER THOUGHTS

AVERSION TO LIFE INSURANCE COMPANIES

Some of you have asked us about our view on life insurance companies and our aversion to investing in them. Here’s our take in brief:

Despite selling mutual fund/ Bank-FD like but less efficient products, life insurance companies are valued at 2x-4x of the most expensive mutual fund / bank.

We take a moment to elaborate on this (caution: this is going to be a long and technical read):

Mutual-Fund/Bank FD-like Products

Life insurance products can be broadly classified into two categories – (a) Protection and (b) Savings.

Protection products are the plain vanilla life insurance products that pay money (sum assured) to dependents of the policyholder on latter’s demise in return for annual payments (premiums). When we use the term life insurance we generally mean these products. Term Insurance and Whole Life Insurance are examples of protection products.

For FY21, protection products formed only 10%-20% of premiums of life insurance companies. The figures are shared in the below table. The largest public company – LIC doesnot share it’s product mix. However we gather from LIC agents that protection’s share is lesser than 10% of its premiums.

Company Share of Protection Products* (FY21)
HDFC Life 13%
ICICI Pru Life 16%
SBI Life 12%
Bajaj Allianz Life 4%
Max Life 14%
*As % of annual premium equivalent, Source: Investor Presentations

 

Thus, protection (or plain vanilla insurance) products form 10%-20% of life insurance industry’s premiums.

Savings products, on other hand are products where the element of protection is minimal and the policyholder gets assured, assured+, or market linked returns at the end of the policy period. These three categories of savings products are briefly described below:

  1. Assured return products are called non-participating savings The returns to policyholders are fixed. Any spread that life insurance earns over that assured return is retained by the life insurance company. These products are just like bank FDs. Bank retains all the spreads over FD interest that they pay to FD holder.
  2. ‘Assured+’ return products are called participating savings Here too, the base returns to policyholders are fixed. In addition, 90% of spreads over guaranteed returns are shared with policyholders in form of bonus. Only 10% is enjoyed by the life insurance company. These products are like low risk mutual fund products, where fee earned by a life insurance company is not a fixed % of AUM but 10% of spreads.
  3. Market linked returns products are called as Unit Linked Insurance Policy or ULIPs. Here the premiums are invested in debt and equity instruments and returns to policyholders are not assured but depend on market behaviour. ULIPs are similar to debt/ equity mutual funds.
Life Insurance Products Similar To Approx. Share in Industry Premiums
Pure protection Insurance 10%-20%
Non-Participating Savings Bank FD 20%-30%
Participating-Savings and ULIPs Debt/ Equity Mutual Funds 50%-60%

 

Thus, 80%-90% of life insurance products are similar to mutual funds or bank FDs.

Less Efficient Products

As per FY 20 disclosures of IRDA (Life Insurance sector’s regulator) , life insurance industry incurred commissions and operating expenses of Rs 0.91 trn on an average AUM (asset under management) of Rs 36 trn. This means an expense to AUM ratio of 2.5% (0.91 divided by 36). These numbers include figures for LIC.

For top five private life insurance companies this ratio is 3.4% for FY 21 (see below).

Rs Cr.
Company

(FY 2021)

Commission Expenses

(A)

Other Operating Expenses

(B)

Total Expenses of Management

 (C = A+B)

Avg AUM

(policyholders)

(D)

Total Exp as % of AUM

(C / D * 100)

HDFC Life 1,710 4,590 6,300 143,330 4.4%
ICICI Pru Life 1,500 2,690 4,190 172,980 2.4%
SBI Life 1,740 2,450 4,190 181,070 2.3%
Max Life 1,230 2,700 3,930 75,890 5.2%
Bajaj Allianz Life 580 1,930 2,510 54,980 4.6%
TOTAL 6,760 14,360 21,120 628,250 3.4%
Source: Annual Reports, Public Disclosures

 

Life insurance companies account customers’ investments as revenue and then ship back a portion of it to liabilities using actuarial assumptions. This makes accounting profits an incomplete measure of a life insurer’s profitability. Despite this limitation of accounting, we can safely assume that to remain profitable, the top 5 private life insurance companies should earn a spread (excess over guaranteed return) of 3.4% on savings products and/or they should charge at least 3.4% on market linked products (ULIPs).

These are higher than 0.05-2.0% that large mutual fund houses charge.

Assured FD-like returns with tax benefits is the main reason that investors choose life insurance savings products over mutual funds. However tax benefits come with a lock-in of 5 years. Surprisingly, over a third of policyholders surrender their policies in less than 5 years losing tax benefits as well as incurring surrender charges. Many end up earning below FD taxable returns.

Over time with investor education, there will be competition to savings products of life insurance companies.

Valued at 2x-4x of the most expensive Mutual Fund company/ Private Sector Bank

We argue that Embedded Value method that is currently being used to value life insurance companies is inadequate given the unique situation of Indian Life Insurance sector. In plain-speak, Embedded Value means the net present value of life insurance policies sold upto the valuation date (without accounting for future business) plus networth. Today, life insurance companies are valued at 2x-6x of their declared Embedded Value (interestingly, Embedded Values are declared by life insurance companies themselves).

We believe, Embedded Value method is more appropriate for protection based products. Given that 80%-90% of business of life insurance companies comes from mutual funds/ bank like savings products, it makes sense to value life insurance companies as mutual funds/ banks.

Valuation of mutual fund companies

There are two broad methods to value mutual fund companies:

  1. As % of Assets under Management (% of AUM)
  2. Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) or Earnings multiple

Due to complicated and assumptions based accounting that does not reflect true profits or operating cash flows, DCF, price to earnings or price to operating cash flows are not reliable valuation methods for life insurance companies. That leaves us with % of AUM method.

Three listed mutual funds companies are valued today between 7%-15% of their assets under management (AUMs):

Mutual Fund AUM (June 2021), Rs Cr. Market Cap, Rs Cr. Mcap as % of AUM
HDFC AMC 429,200 62,000 14.5%
Nippon AMC 248,130 26,400 10.6%
UTI AMC 193,570 13,500 7.0%
Source: AMFI, NSE

 

Valuation of banks

Banks are mostly valued on price to book multiples (P/Bx). Banks with better spreads, loan-book granularity, and asset quality command higher multiples. Large private sector banks are valued between 2x-5x on Price-to-book basis:

Private Sector Banks P/Bx (Sep 30,2021)
Kotak Mahindra Bank 4.7x
HDFC Bank 4.2x
ICICI Bank 3.1x
Axis Bank 2.3x
Source: Annual Reports, NSE

 

Life Insurance multiples

If we use the similar methods for the three independently listed life insurance companies, we find they are being valued at 55%-85% of their June 2021 AUMs or 11x-17x of their book values:

Life Insurer Policyholder AUM (June 2021), Rs Cr. Market Cap, Rs, Cr. Mcap as % of AUM P/Bx
HDFC Life 172,300 146,200 85% 16.9x
ICICI Pru Life 211,930 96,500 46% 11.4x
SBI Life 219,880 121,500 55% 11.5x
Source: Public Disclosures, NSE | Note: Market values of AUM are 2-4% higher than those stated in Annual Reports
 

 

 

A combined reading of above three tables tells us:

  • HDFCAMC, the most expensive mutual fund, trades at 14.5% of it’s AUM. Life insurance companies trade at 55%-85% of their AUMs (3x-6x).
  • Kotak Mahindra Bank, the most expensive bank, trades at 4.7x its book value. Life insurance companies trade at 11.5x-16.9x of their book values (2.4x-3.6x).

Thus, despite 80%-90% of products similar to mutual funds or banks, life insurance companies trade at 3x-6x of the most expensive mutual fund and 2x-4x the most expensive private sector bank.

What will change our view?

Life insurance companies state that pure protections and non-participating savings products enjoy VNB margins (proxy for profitability on new premiums) of 10%-100%. However these products form only a third of total premiums currently.

At the end, these are commodity products. Given most of the larger companies have banking or trusted corporate parentage, trust is not an issue. And like all commodities, they remain susceptible to price competition. We, therefore, donot believe that all the excess value that life insurance companies are commanding over banks and mutual funds can be attributed to pure protection/ Non-participating savings products.

Nonetheless, if pure protection and non-participating savings products gains penetration and competition remains sane, we are open to change our mind.

What will further strengthen our view?

Any entity that is providing bank or mutual fund like products should be regulated like them. Life insurance sector, however, enjoys two preferential external supports:

  1. High distribution commissions – For roughly same AUMs (around INR 35 trn), life insurance companies paid over 4x commissions to their distribution partners last year versus mutual funds. This is due to the fact that SEBI has imposed a lower cap on maximum commissions that a MFs can give versus IRDA’s similar dictate for life insurance companies.

 

In fact, life insurance companies can pay commissions as high as 35% on first year premiums on savings products whereas upfront commissions are banned for mutual fund companies. If you are a distributor and your client is ambivalent (or ignorant), it’s a no brainer to push savings products of insurance companies over similar products from mutual funds. Over half of policyholders surrender their insurance policies in their 6th year –this suggests that most of the insurance products are miss-sold.

 

  1. Income Tax benefits – Currently, maturity value of an insurance policy is tax free in the hands of investors if they remain invested for at least 5 years. Similar benefit is not available to mutual fund units or bank deposits. The benefit was given to promote protection based life insurance products, but has led to proliferation of savings based ones. The last union budget took away this tax benefit for policies with premiums above Rs 2.5 lacs. It still remains for others.

Banks/ mutual funds can claim that they lack a level playing field versus life insurance savings products. If the advantages of higher distribution commissions and tax benefits are taken away or further diluted, it remains to be seen if life insurance savings products can compete with equivalent mutual fund products or Bank FDs.

Summary: Thus despite selling bank/ mutual fund like but less efficient products, life insurance companies trade at 2x-4x of the most expensive bank or mutual fund. We find them overvalued.

Disclosure: We own one of the mutual fund companies and two of the banks mentioned above. And we donot have any direct or indirect short interest in any life insurance company.

***

Your trust and patience is the secret ingredient that allows our value philosophy to work. We judge our performance against only one true benchmark – giving you the best risk adjusted returns that markets allow during your investment journey. We are steadfast by that today more than ever!

Kind regards,

Team Compound Everyday Capital

Sumit Sarda, Surbhi Kabra Sarda, Suraj Fatehchandani, Sachin Shrivastava, Sanjana Sukhtankar and Anand Parashar

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Disclaimer: Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP is SEBI registered Portfolio Manager with registration number INP 000006633. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as a recommendation to buy or sell securities. This transmission is confidential and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security or investment product. Reference to an index does not imply that the firm will achieve returns, volatility, or other results similar to the index.

 

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Letter to Investors – Mar 2021– Extracts

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • TTM earnings of underlying companies grew by 5.7%. That of Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 grew by -6.2% & 3.3% respectively.
  • NAV grew by 48.5% YTD with 71% funds invested. NSE Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 grew by 72.5% and 77.6% respectively.
  • Covid-19 led worldwide lockdowns created 1930s like depression threat. Assets worldwide fell 30-50% in shortest time.
  • Unprecedented global stimulus and vaccine development flipped sentiments and sent markets up 80-100% from lows.
  • Stance: Cautious

Dear Fellow Investors

Test match Vs T20 match

 

10 Overs, 40 runs, 0 wickets. How’s this for a first innings cricket match score? You will rightly ask – What’s the format of this game? It’s a bad score for a twenty-twenty (T20) match, average score for a one day (ODI) match and a decent score for a test match. And if it’s indeed a test match with bouncy pitch, overcast conditions and the best bowling unit in the world – you will say it’s a fantastic score.

In cricket and in investing, it’s impossible and, even, unfair to judge a score without knowing what format of the game it is. What’s good for T20 may be bad for test matches. What’s good for momentum trading may be bad for long term investing.

We are playing a test match and not a T20. The key to success – both in test match batting and long term investing – is to leave or defend the balls that are risky. And, hit only when the ball is in the sweet zone.

This investing sweet zone for us is buying sustainable businesses, run by able and honest management, at reasonable prices. And so long the ball is not in this zone – either the business and/or management and/or price are bad – and the last one is a case today – we wait, and wait and wait. For that juicy half volley or full toss right in our zone. They normally come.

T20s are more popular than test matches. Similarly, short term investment horizon and momentum based trading are more common than long term horizon and value oriented investing. Popular attention is focussed on what’s going to happen next day, week or month in markets. This should not let us forget that we are playing a different game

As we complete twelve Covid-19 affected months, the market sentiments have flipped from fear to greed. Prices in most of the pockets, today, are discounting optimistic future earnings with low discount rates from today till infinity. While risk should always be primary investing focus, it’s all the more necessary when prices are discounting optimism. Reiterating in test cricket parlance, the batting conditions have again become difficult and it’s time to protect our wickets. Cautious stance stays.

 

A. PERFORMANCE

 

A1. Statutory PMS Performance Disclosure

Portfolio FY 2021  FY 2020* Since Inception* Outper-formance Avg YTD Cash  Bal.
CED Long Term Focused Value (PMS) 48.5% -9.5% 34.3% 29.0%
NSE Nifty 500 TRI (includes dividends) 77.6% -23.6% 35.7% -1.4% NIL
NSE Nifty 50 TRI (includes dividends) 72.5% -23.5% 32.0% 2.3% NIL
*From Jul 24, 2019; Note: As required by SEBI, the returns are calculated on time weighted average (NAV) basis. The returns are NET OF ALL EXPENSES AND FEES. The returns pertain to ENTIRE portfolio of our one and only strategy. Individual investor returns may vary from above owing to different investment dates. Annual returns are audited but not verified by SEBI.

 

For the year ended March 31, 2021, NAV of our aggregate portfolio was up 48.5% after all expenses and fees. NSE Nifty 500 and Nifty 50 were up 77.6% and 72.5% respectively. During the year we were invested in equities, on monthly average basis, to the extent of 71%. Your returns may differ from this depending on the date of your investments.

One needs to guard against the desire to be a top performer at all times. Markets are not always rational and often go through bubbles. The most popular sectors during bubbles trade at exorbitant valuations and see a rise in their weights in benchmark indices. A top quartile performance during those times can be obtained only by going overweight on popular sectors. And what’s popular is seldom cheap – tech in 1999, infra and real estate in 2007 and quality/ growth in 2020. Other things remaining constant, an underperformance versus the benchmark is a leading indicator of risk reduction during buoyant times.

A2. Underlying business performance

 

Period Past twelve months FY 2021 EPU (expected)
Earnings per unit (EPU)2 Earnings per unit (EPU)
Mar 2021 4.81 5.83
Dec 2020 (Previous Quarter) 5.1
Mar 2020 (Previous Year) 5.7
Annual Change -15.8%4 20%
CAGR since inception (Jun 2019) 0.1%
1 Last four quarters ending Sep 2020. Results of Dec quarter are declared by Feb only. 2 EPU = Total normalised earnings accruing to the aggregate portfolio divided by units outstanding. 3 Please note: the forward earnings per unit (EPU) are conservative estimates of our expectation of future earnings of underlying companies. In past we have been wrong – often by wide margin – in our estimates and there is a risk that we are wrong about the forward EPU reported to you above. 4 +5.7% if we exclude one position where there was temporary loss due to Covid-19.

 

Trailing Earnings: In line with our earnings per unit (EPU) guided range of Rs 4.0-5.0, Mar 2021 trailing twelve months EPU came in at Rs 4.8, lower by 15.8% over last year (effects of 29% cash equivalents is included). If we exclude one position which posted temporary loss due to Covid-19, our EPU grew by 5.7%. In comparison, the adjusted earnings of Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 companies grew by -6.2% and 3.3% respectively in the same period (source: Capitaline).

 

1-Yr Forward Earnings: If the vaccination against Covid-19 gathers pace, the lower base of current year will help us put a healthy earnings growth for FY 22. Given the present conditions and assuming no material surprises, we expect our next year’s EPU to close around Rs 5.8, a growth of ~20%.

A3. Underlying portfolio parameters

 

Mar 2021 Trailing P/E Forward P/E Portfolio RoE TTM4 Earnings Growth Portfolio Turnover1
CED LTFV (PMS) 28.0x 23.2x 13.5% -15.8% 3.6%
NSE 50 33.2x2 11.9%3 -6.2%3
NSE 500 35.9x2 17.2%3 +3.3%3
1 ‘sale of equity shares’ divided by ‘average portfolio value’ during the year to date period. 2 Source: NSE. 3Source: Capitaline. 4Trailing Twelve Months

 

B. DETAILS ON PERFORMANCE

B1. MISTAKES AND LEARNINGS

The biggest treasure that we have built over last 9 years is not the compounded returns, but direct experiences of many mistakes. Mistakes are stupid, but they are also beautiful. Learnings from a mistake that comes with monetary loss sticks. And it is 10x (arbitrary number) impactful than learning from others’ mistake. When we say that we should avoid bad businesses and/ or bad managements and/or bad prices, we know what it means. So we keep reminding ourselves:

From our two past mistakes- “Cera Sanitaryware” and “2015-16” – we learnt that unless fundamentals are extremely compelling, it is better to be gradual in selling and buying respectively. From our past mistake on “Treehouse Education” we have learnt that bad management deserves a low price, it’s seldom a bargain. In Dish TV we underestimated the competitive disruption but thankfully sold at breakeven. Tata Motors DVR taught us that cyclical investing requires a different mindset to moat investing and one needs to be quick to act when external environment turns adverse. In Talwalkars, we learnt that assessing promoter quality is a difficult job and we should err on the side of caution irrespective of how cheap quantitative valuations look. From DB Corp we learned that industries in structural decline will fail to get high multiples even if the industry is consolidated, competition limited and free cash flows healthy.  

B4. FLOWS AND SENTIMENTS

The US government approved an additional 1.9trn$ Covid-19 stimulus. This along with previous rounds, takes the total US Covid stimulus to 6trn$ (28% of pre covid US GDP). The 10Yr US government security (G-Sec) yields have risen from 0.5% to 1.7% in last 8 months and inflation fears are making the rounds. The US Federal Reserve, however, repeated their tolerance for higher inflation till the goal of full employment is achieved. Thus, fiscal and monetary stimulus in the US continue to support global sentiments towards risky assets including equities. It is difficult to guess when this will pause/ reverse.

 

Back home, the markets were pleased with absence of any new tax in the Indian Union Budget 2021. Announcements on stimulating growth by increasing public capital expenditure by over 25% also improved market sentiments. FPIs equity inflows continued and surged over 37bn in FY21 as against net inflows of USD 1.3 billion in FY20 (source: NSDL).

In sequel to the last letter about observations of crazy behaviour in markets, we continued to observe more such behaviours, as noted below. To clarify, it is still difficult to conclude a bubble, however we need to remain watchful.

 

Globally, IPO markets continue to remain buoyant. Airbnb that went public at 68$, closed at 187$ recently despite Covid restrictions on travel. Kuaishou, a Tik-Tock rival, raised 5.4bn$ in the biggest IPO since Uber, and listed on HK with 160% listing pop. Bumble a loss making dating app, had 68% listing pop valuing it at 7.7bn$. Coupang, touted as baby Amazon of South Korea, raised $4.6bn in its IPO with an 81% listing pop.

 

Combination of social media and zero/low cost trading is promoting curious behaviour. Gamestop, a traditional US video game company, was a short squeeze target of Wallstreetbets, a chat forum on Reddit (social media site). Powered by social media and no-cost-Robinhood-trading, many forum members kept on buying the Gamestop stock, pumping the price up 15x in 20 days. This forced hedge fund Melvin Capital to close its short position (the hedge fund had borrowed and sold the shares in the bet that its price will fall) and raise 3bn$ to save itself.

 

As per a Financial Times report, global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have seen their strongest developments in four decades in the March quarter of 2021. There were around $1.3 trillion in deals agreed, more than any first quarter since 1980 and higher than the dotcom boom of the 1999-2000.

The bubble in Electric Vehicle (EV) space continues to grow bigger. As per an Economist report, the collective market capitalisation of EV and EV related stocks such as Tesla, CATL, BYD, NIO, LG Chemicals, and Samsung SDI has jumped from $163bn in Jan 2020 to $1,275bn in Feb 2021. Their P/E ratio has risen from 30x to 123x.

Price of crypto currency Bitcoin hit 60,000$, a rise of over 9x in one year. Tesla is allowing customers to buy its car using Bitcoins. A few hedge funds have recognised it as an investible asset. We have no insight into crypto currencies, but it amuses us how a currency can be so volatile.

Back in India, like in the initial stages of every past bubble, retail activity is rising in direct equities. As per AMFI, equity mutual funds have seen net outflows for 8 consecutive months since July-Feb to the tune of INR 58,000cr. At the same time, 1cr new demat accounts were open in last year, a growth of 25%. Retail holdings in NSE listed companies have reached an 11 year high of 7% last year. Investors are booking profits in mutual funds and investing/ trading in direct equities on their own. Commissions of listed brokers’, who cater mainly to retail clients, have risen 80-100% in recent quarters. Upstox a retail discount broker has become multi-year official partner of the Indian Premier League (the only capital market entity on IPL’s sponsor roster) and is planning a US listing. A unidirectional rising market and listing pops in many IPOs continues to fuel retail investors’ interest.

Since July last year, 29 IPOs have hit the India market. Of the Rs 30,000cr they have raised, around two-third was ‘offer for sale, or OFS’ – money going to the selling shareholders and not to the company. These insiders wait for market optimism to time their sale to maximise their selling price. This is reflected in their 31x median P/E. Yet the retail and institutional portions were oversubscribed by average 25x and 60x respectively. There are additional 21 IPOs worth Rs. 19,000 cr that have received SEBI approval. This doesnot include the proposed mega IPO of LIC.

 

C. OTHER THOUGHTS

Low interest rates = Low future equity returns

Low interest rates have been often cited as a justification for higher current equity valuations. When fixed income instruments are yielding 0%-2% in the developed world, investors flock to riskier assets in search of higher returns and equities benefit from this lack of investible opportunities.

However, a corollary to this is lower future equity returns. If investors believe that lower interest rates offer arbitrage benefit to equities and bid up equity prices, this act should reduce the arbitrage and make future returns of all asset classes converge. In other words, if interest rates of 1% around the world pushes money towards equities, future returns from equities will not be different from 1%. Many investors are not taking this into account.

Secondly, there is an implicit assumption that interest rate will remain so low forever. If that’s not the case and rates do rise, they will hit a long tenured asset harder. A 10 year bond falls more in % terms than a 1 year bond for a same rise in interest rates. And equities are perpetual assets. If interest rates do rise, equities are going to fall substantially more.

While everyone’s happy that lower interest rates and abundant capital supports rising equity prices, here’s an outcome that many investing carelessly today may not like: low equity returns if interest rates remain low; and negative equity returns if interest rate increase even marginally. When prices are bid up aggressively – heads you lose, tails you lose too!

The one safeguard against this is to buy equities assuming that interest rates are already high and leave some margin of safety.

Buy High. Sell Low. Repeat. Go Broke

Nothing is as financially ruinous as consistently buying high and selling low. Yet we see it happening all the time. Ignorance, emotions, and miss-selling interact with each other to powerfully induce this folly.

Without a sense of a company’s worth, it is impossible to judge whether its share price is high or low. Assessing that worth requires understanding of underlying business and many investors donot have time, interest or ability to do it. Price trend is generally used as a substitute for this ignorance about intrinsic value. Companies seeing price rising are considered as good and vice versa. When more people believe in this momentum, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ignorance encourages buying assets that are rising.

Nothing intoxicates human mind as rising prices. Rising prices trigger emotions of envy, FOMO (fear of missing out) and greed. Those sitting on side-lines get interested. And those making money feel invincible and take more risks even on leverage.

Times of rising markets is business-season for many “experts” – distributors, advisers, brokers, merchant bankers etc. Sadly, financial incentives of almost all “experts” are linked to selling financial products – stocks, mutual funds, IPOs, insurance policies – and not good outcomes for investors. This leads to miss-selling. Mutual funds, life insurers and capital raising companies paid over INR 37,000cr (rough conservative estimate) worth of commissions last year to these “experts”. This was paid without any linkage to the buyers’ returns from the financial products sold.

When willingness to buy during rising prices is met by advice that pays the advisor for selling expensive products, it creates a powerful force to buy high.

The same story reverses when prices fall. In absence of sense of intrinsic value most investors fail to assess whether paper losses are temporary or permanent. Momentum and emotions trigger a rush for the door. And those “experts” who peddled the products during rising prices either disappear or are not heard.

Here’s a crude antidote to this: When past returns of an asset class are high, ignore all temptations and “expert advice” of even higher returns. Conversely, when past returns of an asset class are low or even negative, ignore anything that stops you from investing. Lastly, when taking help from “experts”, see that they are remunerated for results, not selling products. When you get a call from a life insurance agent, just hang up!

***

We have been through a very difficult year. It posed serious challenge to many businesses including ours. Importantly, the volatility that it brought along unnerved many investors. Our businesses have withstood the litmus test well. Importantly and please don’t undermine this – your behaviour has been praiseworthy.

 

Thanks for sticking by. And thanks for your continued trust. You can be absolutely sure that we keep your investment interests at the fore of everything we do at this firm. That is the only way we will continue to be worthy of your trust.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts, feedback and criticisms.

 

Kind regards,

Team Compound Everyday Capital

Sumit Sarda, Surbhi Kabra Sarda, Suraj Fatehchandani, Sachin Shrivastava, Sanjana Sukhtankar and Anand Parashar

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Disclaimer: Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP is SEBI registered Portfolio Manager with registration number INP 000006633. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as a recommendation to buy or sell securities. This transmission is confidential and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security or investment product. Reference to an index does not imply that the firm will achieve returns, volatility, or other results similar to the index.

 

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Letter to Investors – Dec 2020 – Extracts

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • TTM earnings of portfolio companies fell by 12.1%. That of Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 fell by 10.7% & 15.0% respectively.
  • NAV grew by 44.3% YTD with 74% funds invested. NSE Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 grew by 63.8% and 65.8% respectively.
  • Abundant liquidity and vaccine developments have lifted prices of all assets including equities.
  • We are starting to see deals getting done at valuations that donot make sense.
  • Stance: Cautious

Dear Fellow Investors

Needless Prudence?

 

Financial markets continued their unbridled rise in this quarter as well. In India, NSE Nifty 50 stands 12.5% over its pre-Covid high. In less than 10 months, Nifty has seen 40% unidirectional fall from top – fastest ever, and then 86% almost unidirectional rise from the bottom.

Today, of ~1600 actively traded companies on the NSE, 1155 companies are trading over their pre-Covid highs, 802 companies are trading at 20% over their pre-Covid highs and  467 companies are trading 50% above their pre-Covid highs.

Frankly, we are surprised by this ferocious one way rally.  Like insurance premiums that seem unnecessary costs when insured events (accidents) do not happen, our cautious stance has been found unnecessary, so far.

India was already slowing down even before Covid-19 hit. The coronavirus has surely affected incomes of many people which should further add to the slowdown. And yet broader Indian indices are up 12%-14% from their pre-Covid highs.

Liquidity, and not fundamentals, justify large part of this rally. As per one estimate, 20% of entire US money supply has been created in 2020. Completion of US elections, and beginning of Covid-19 vaccination drives has further improved the sentiments. Global inflation and interest rates remain near zero and central banks worldwide continue to print money. Rising tide of abundant money, thus, continues to lift all boats including equities.

Many pundits have been wrong about reversal of global liquidity and inflation in last decade and we have no special insight to add on this difficult matter. Liquidity may or may not reverse and inflation may or may not arise in next decade. We don’t know. Nonetheless amidst this dilemma, we continue to stick to enduring investment basics – trying to own durable businesses which look reasonably priced even for higher interest rates (interest rates have inverse relationship with equity value.). They will benefit if interest rates remain low and liquidity conditions benign. But should inflation resurface and easy liquidity reverse, these will not turn out to be expensive buys. While this limits our universe, it protects us from overpaying. Cautious stance stays.

 

A. PERFORMANCE

 

A1. Statutory PMS Performance Disclosure

Portfolio FY 2021 YTD Dec’20 FY 2020* Since Inception* Outper-formance Avg YTD Cash Eq. Bal.
CED Long Term Focused Value (PMS) 44.3% -9.5% 30.5% 26.2%
NSE Nifty 500 TRI (includes dividends) 65.8% -23.6% 26.7% 3.8% NIL
NSE Nifty 50 TRI (includes dividends) 63.8% -23.5% 25.3% 5.2% NIL
*From Jul 24, 2019; Note: As required by SEBI, the returns are calculated on time weighted average (NAV) basis. The returns are NET OF ALL EXPENSES AND FEES. The returns pertain to ENTIRE portfolio of our one and only strategy. Individual investor returns may vary from above owing to different investment dates. Annual returns are audited but not verified by SEBI.

For the nine months ended December 2020 our NAV was up 44.3%. NSE Nifty 500 and Nifty 50 were up 65.8% and 63.8% respectively. During last nine months, we were invested in equities, on monthly average basis, to the extent of 73.8%.

Our higher than usual weight of cash equivalents, especially in portfolios of clients onboarded on or after September 2020, is the result of lack of margin of safety in the prices of securities that we track. Our incentive structure remunerates us for results – not size, not activity. And this makes us extremely focussed on protection of capital.

In a breakneck rising market like current one, this can hurt temporary returns. However it allows us to control risk in an uncertain world. While regulations require us to benchmark and report our relative performance quarterly, our attention remains on absolute returns.

 

A2. Underlying business performance

 

Period Past twelve months FY 2021 EPU (expected)
Earnings per unit (EPU)2 Earnings per unit (EPU)
Dec 2020 5.11 4.0-5.03
Sep 2020 (Previous Quarter) 5.2 4.0-5.0
Dec 2019 (Previous Year) 5.8
Annual Change -12.1%
CAGR since inception (Jun 2019) 0.1%
1 Last four quarters ending Sep 2020. Results of Dec quarter are declared by Feb only. 2 EPU = Total normalised earnings accruing to the aggregate portfolio divided by units outstanding. 3 Please note: the forward earnings per unit (EPU) are conservative estimates of our expectation of future earnings of underlying companies. In past we have been wrong – often by wide margin – in our estimates and there is a risk that we are wrong about the forward EPU reported to you above.


Trailing Earnings:
Trailing twelve months’ Earnings per Unit (EPU) came in at Rs 5.1, lower 12.1% over last year and flat versus last quarter (including effects of cash equivalents that earn ~5%).  In comparison, the adjusted earnings of Nifty 50 and Nifty 500 companies fell by 10.7% and 15.0% respectively in the same period (source: Capitaline).

1-Yr Forward Earnings: We continue to expect FY21 earnings per unit of our aggregate portfolio to close between Rs4.0-Rs5.0 per unit.

 

A3. Underlying portfolio parameters

 

Dec 2020 Trailing P/E Forward P/E Portfolio RoE TTM4 Earnings Growth Portfolio Turnover1
CED LTFV (PMS) 25.6x 26.1x-32.6x 18.1% -12.1% 5.9%
NSE 50 38.5x2 11.2%3 -10.7%3
NSE 500 43.4x2 14.7%3 -15.0%3
1 ‘sale of equity shares’ divided by ‘average portfolio value’ during the year to date period. 2 Source: NSE. 3Source: Capitaline. 4Trailing Twelve Months

 

B. DETAILS ON PERFORMANCE

 

B1. MISTAKES AND LEARNINGS

A cautious approach in a rising market can look like a mistake if judged over a short time frame. Conversely – and history is a testament- rising markets can be the breeding grounds for future mistakes. When our and investors’ hard earned money is involved, it’s okay to err on the side of caution in the above dilemma. Underperforming in a rising market temporarily and looking stupid is the small price of long term safety. Jury is still out whether our current cautious stance turns out prudent or foolish.

From our two past mistakes- “Cera Sanitaryware” and “2015-16” – we learnt that unless fundamentals are extremely compelling, it is better to be gradual in selling and buying respectively. From our past mistake on “Treehouse Education” we have learnt that bad management deserves a low price, it’s seldom a bargain. In Dish TV we underestimated the competitive disruption but thankfully sold at breakeven. Tata Motors DVR taught us that cyclical investing requires a different mindset to moat investing and one needs to be quick to act when external environment turns adverse. In Talwalkars, we learnt that assessing promoter quality is a difficult job and we should err on the side of caution irrespective of how cheap quantitative valuations look. From DB Corp we learned that industries in structural decline will fail to get high multiples even if the industry is consolidated, competition limited and free cash flows healthy. 

 

B4. FLOWS AND SENTIMENTS

US election results and vaccine announcements have augmented flows and sentiments towards risky assets including equities. Some signs of crazy behaviour have started surfacing. Deals are getting done at valuations that don’t make sense. While we are not concluding that everything is going nuts, such incidences point to building up of optimism that ultimately fuels bubbles.

Global primary markets have heated up significantly. As per Refinitive, over 770bn$ worth of equity funds were raised by non-financial firms in 2020 worldover, the highest ever. Renaissance Global IPO index was up 81% in CY2020 vs MSCI’s all-country equity index that was up 14%.

Listing pops– the first day rise of newly listed companies – have become a daily news. DoorDash which had private market value of 2.5bn$ few years ago, jumped 85% on listing day to 60bn$ market capitalisation after raising its IPO price twice. AirBnb closed the listing day 110% up to market cap over 100bn$ (despite travel restrictions in Covid). In Asia, JD Health rose 50% on its listing date in Hong Kong. Recently listed Nongfu Spring, China’s mineral water company, made its founder the richest man in Asia. Chinese toymaker Pop Mart International registered 112% listing gain. In otherwise sombre and conservative Japan, Balmuda – a premium toaster maker – rose 88% on listing day.

Electric car maker Tesla is up 10x since Nov 2019 and is now a part of S&P 500. It now has a greater market cap than the sum of all the other U.S. European, and Korean automakers put together who sold approximately 100 times as many cars as Tesla did in 2019. 

Private companies are not lagging behind in optimism either. In June 2015, there were a little over a hundred private companies worldwide with a valuation greater than US$1 billion. Today, over 500 companies are a part of this club of unicorns.

Back in India too, we can see initial signs of exuberance. Fear of US dollar depreciation owing to unprecedented dollar printing and an increase in weight of India in MSCI index from 8.1% to 8.7% led to record foreign inflows in Indian equities. In the December quarter, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) have bought stocks over 18bn$ (over Rs.1.3 lac cr.), highest ever in a quarter.

Indian primary markets are heating up as well. Burger King and Mrs. Bector Foods IPOs were subscribed over 150x and jumped 100% each on listing day. The 15 IPOs of CY 2020 were oversubscribed, on an average, to the extent of 75x with average listing pop of over 35%, highest in last decade. Only 13% of the proceeds went to the companies, rest was offer for sale by existing investors including smart private equity investors. Thirty two (32) new fund offers (NFOs) were launched by mutual funds between August and December, one of the highest ever. In December alone, mutual funds are estimated to have raised INR 8000cr through NFOs.

Retail participation in Indian markets is rising. 8 million new demat accounts were opened in 8 months (April-Nov) this year, twice the number of accounts that were opened up in full FY20. Retail holding in listed companies has touched an 11-year high at 7%, as more and more people have opened up to investing directly in markets while working from home.

Many questionable companies of past decade are finding favour again. Many jumped over 100% in November. A renewable energy company is up 6x in 2020. It has entered MSCI India Index. Vanguard bought 13.1mn shares in September. It’s market capitalisation has crossed 165 trn Rs (pushing it in among top 21 companies in India by market cap) and is now trading at 77x book.

These discrete data points donot conclude a bubble, but as Buffett says “be fearful when others are greedy”.

 

C. OTHER THOUGHTS

 

Envy, FOMO and Greed

It’s agonisingly difficult to stay on sidelines as stock prices rally. Every day’s rise, calculable from daily prices, reminds of returns forgone. And, if friends, family and neighbours are gloating about it on social media, the chance of staying cautious amidst rising prices is close to nil.

Envy and fear of missing out (FOMO) are evolutionary emotions that supported survival of human beings. It propelled our hunter forefathers into action and ensured that they were not staying behind in the survival queue.  So is greed. There were survival benefits in over eating or storing excess food or accumulating things beyond immediate need. We inherited these emotions as their legacy.

Envy and FOMO pushes those staying on sidelines to participate in a rising market, often at the top. And greed pushes those who are making money to continue chasing rising prices often on leverage (trade on borrowed money/ margin). This fuels feel good emotions and a feedback loop. Sadly, financial history shows that what cannot go on forever, will stop someday. While good for survival; envy, FOMO and greed are hazardous during investing.

You will be attracted to narratives about how things are different these times and time to make money is now. The origins of these narratives are often from those who get their payday selling part or full of assets/ companies. When someone comes to you with a deal, check how is he/she getting remunerated.

Most of the times, most of the prices donot go in one direction. What’s wise at one price, is foolish at another. Plan of buying assets in hope of passing it on to a greater fool can backfire and one can end up holding the can.

The only antidote against succumbing to envy, FOMO and greed in investing is a sense of intrinsic value and discipline to wait if prices donot leave a sufficient margin of safety against bad luck or error. Both of these – sense of intrinsic value and discipline – come from an understanding of underlying assets/ businesses. Avoid poor businesses &/or poor managements &/or poor prices. And one can avoid many mistakes.

***

In a world gush with liquidity and incentives driving short term behaviour, it’s a blessing to have company of partners who truly think long term. Thanks to you, we can act rationally and choose to opt out of ‘craziness race’ once in a while.

2020 has been a forgettable year. Wish you a normal 2021!  

Kind regards,

Team Compound Everyday Capital

Sumit Sarda, Surbhi Kabra Sarda, Suraj Fatehchandani, Sachin Shrivastava, Sanjana Sukhtankar and Sumit Gokhiya

 

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Disclaimer: Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP is SEBI registered Portfolio Manager with registration number INP 000006633. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as a recommendation to buy or sell securities. This transmission is confidential and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of Compound Everyday Capital Management LLP and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security or investment product. Reference to an index does not imply that the firm will achieve returns, volatility, or other results similar to the index.

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Behaviour As An Edge

“What’s not going to change in next 10 years?”

-Jeff Bezos

Internet, securities regulations and entry of talented individuals have blunted the erstwhile investment edge offered by better information and better analyses. Rational behaviour – buying below intrinsic value and selling above it irrespective of short term noise – still remains a sustainable source of investment edge. That’s because institutional compulsions and human emotions & biases force participants to eschew this rationality and create mispricing. These two factors will not materially change in next 10 years.

Institutional Compulsion: Investment behaviour of fund managers at investment institutions is driven by minimising career risk. Their jobs, promotions and bonuses depend on increasing the assets under management (AUM) which in turn depends on matching or beating their benchmarks net of fees on quarterly basis. Often unconventional and/ or concentrated stock picks cannot offer this guarantee. Therefore most of them construct ‘index aware’ portfolios – euphemism for mimicking benchmark indices. Many companies that are out of index donot find buyers and remain mispriced. Rising interest in Index Funds/ETFs (passive funds that mimic benchmarks fully without any human discretion) will further aggravate this anomaly. Further, redemptions or regulations force fund managers to sell stocks irrespective of value. Recent SEBI reclassification drove lot of money out of mid and small caps to large caps irrespective of fundamental merit.

Human emotions & biases: While good for hunting, gathering and surviving, evolution has ill prepared us to do well in investing. Fear and greed were mental shortcuts that helped our hunter forefathers survive. They ran when there were rustlings in the bushes (fear). And, they overate/ stored whenever food was in excess (greed). These genes are passed on to us as their legacy. Price fall triggers the same fear. Risk aversion rises and future projections get grim. No price is too low. Conversely price rise engenders same greed. Risk taking rises and future projections get rosy. No price is too high. Behavioural Finance has demonstrated that we are not perfectly rational. We are susceptible to heuristics and cognitive biases.

Behaviour Edge: Knowing above, following offers a sustainable investment edge:

  1. Operating only in businesses that one honestly understands and having a sense of their intrinsic values.
  2. Remaining humbly aware of multiple possibilities including our own folly and therefore buying with a margin of safety.
  3. Understanding that (a) intrinsic values are less volatile than price, and (b) emotions revert to mean.
  4. Raising money and/ or investing only when prices make sense (is harder than seems) and willingness to hold cash when opportunities are thin. Our ‘zero fee and profit share only’ structure supports this behaviour.
  5. Looking for opportunities in spaces where price discovery is still inefficient.

Rational Money: A fund’s behaviour is derived from its investors’ behaviour. We may, thanks to above reasons, find bargain securities and buy. Prices however may continue to fall even after that despite fundamentals remaining intact. Interim NAV performance may look poor. If investors panic and withdraw on those times, the paper loss will be converted to actual loss and all our behavioural astuteness (1-5 above) will amount to nothing. A fund manager can be only as rational as the money she manages.

Note: This piece was part of one of our half yearly letters sent to our investors.

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Human Diffuculties in Value Investing

Charlie Munger, the partner of Warren Buffet and Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, noted “all sensible investing is value investing”. There are volumes of research on the fact that despite richest investors like Buffett and Munger attributing their success and riches to value investing, majority donot follow value philosophy.

Theoretically, value investing involves buying below and selling above intrinsic value. This sounds simple and sensible. However as Yogi Berra quipped “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is”. Value investing, like many disciplines, is easy in theory but difficult in practice.

It is difficult in practice because it is contrary to normal human nature and accepted social norms at each of its four broad steps:

  1. Assessing Intrinsic Value : Assessment of intrinsic value involves future. The uncertain terrain of future needs large doses of skepticism, objectivity and humility over optimism, group-think and overconfidence.
  2. Buying below intrinsic value: Bargains are found amidst fear and disinterest. Owing to biological adaptation over ages, brain is conditioned to prefer flight over rational thought when induced to fright. Similarly homo sapiens have preferred staying in the comfort of popularity over the risky pursuit of contrary solitude.
  3. Waiting: Most money in investing is made by waiting, not frequent trading. In a world where activity is looked as synonymous to progress, the notion of buying and doing nothing for days stimulates guilt glands and consequently needless actions.
  4. Selling above intrinsic value: Price rise intoxicates human mind. It forces it to keep on dancing long after the music has stopped. Greed, hubris and envy are all at play here. It requires an objective, non-greedy mind to stop dancing before the music is going to stop.

Overconfidence, fear, safety in crowd, needless activity, greed and envy are powerful tendencies that have served some utility in human evolution since hunter gatherer days. They are hard to resist and they operate automatically.

Value Investing calls for curbing these tendencies. This is hard to do. This makes value investing anathema to us homo sapiens. Fortunately, being aware and alert to the nature, cause and stimulant of these tendencies has proved to be a working antidote for successful value investors including Charlie Munger.

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