Elon Musk never ceases to amaze me. He is obviously brilliant and one of the great visionaries of our time. I respect his relentlessness and envy all that he has accomplished in such a short amount of time. That being said, his love of the spotlight might spell trouble for investors. He is volatile and such volatility can be scary. Who knows what he might tweet next? “I’ve decided to retire from Tesla and teach a heard of sheep to communicate through a series of blinks.” “My intern looked at me funny yesterday, I have removed the entire executive staff.” I don’t know what to expect next, but I do love the ride. It is incredibly exciting to watch, but as an investor I find it best to just steer clear of Tesla. They very well could become the world’s greatest company, it just isn’t worth the risk in my book. GARP investing is about compounding safely. We are playing a game of probabilities and there is a far larger than 0% chance this could all blow up and go to 0.
The Parimutuel System
Investing is a lot like betting on a horse race. I’ll leave it up to the always cheerful Charlie Munger to explain, he is far wiser than I could ever hope of becoming. Here is an excerpt from his article
A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates to Investment Management & Business.
The model I like—to sort of simplify the notion of what goes on in a market from common stocks—is the pari-mutual system at the racetrack. If you stop to think about it, a pari-mutual system is a market. Everybody goes there and bets and the odds change based on what has been bet. That is what happens in a stock market.
Any damn fool can see that a horse carrying a light weight with a wonderful win rate and a good post position etc., etc. is way more likely to win than a horse with a terrible record and extra weight and so on and so on. But if you look at the damn odds, the bad horse pays 100 to 1, whereas the good horse pays 3 to 2. Then it is not clear which is statistically the best bet using the mathematics of Fermet and Pascal.
The prices have changed in such a way that it is very heard to beat the system.
And then the track is taking 17% of the top. So not only do you have to outwit all the other betters, but you have got to outwit them by such a big margin that on average you can afford to take 17% of your gross bets off the top and give it to the house
before the rest of your money can be put to work.
To simplify, we are looking to find a misplaced bet. It isn’t hard to tell what horse is the biggest and strongest. What is hard is figuring out which horse is trading at the best chance of winning given their odds. Let’s examine Tesla’s horse racing situation:
Tesla itself is a fine horse. They create great products that consumers love. Elon Musk is a true visionary and therefore a very able jockey. That all sounds great, but this isn’t an easy horse race. They are up against some of the finest horses around. American companies GM and Ford are strong entrenched competitors, having been in business for over a century. They also must face off against technological juggernauts from Japan and the elite engineering of the Germans. Not to mention the dozens of other brands that have found their own footholds.
If that weren’t tough enough, Tesla is being priced for perfection. They are no longer a small start up worth a couple of billion dollars. They have a market cap of nearly 50 billion, larger than GM or Ford. They are priced to be the leader in car manufacturing without yet proving they can do so. Maybe they can, but that doesn’t mean I have to place a bet.
I prefer to bet on a race that doesn’t leave so much up to chance. What us GARP investors are looking for is a race with a dominant horse that is getting faster, led by a great jockey who has weak competition. This is the horse racing equivalent of a moat. The next step is to examine the betting odds. Everyone can identify when there is a leader with no competition and therefore the odds become unfavorable. Think about basketball for a second. If we bet on the Golden State Warriors to win another championship, our odds aren’t going to be great. Everyone knows they are elite and therefore the payout is minimal. Therefore we want misjudged odds where we can find value. If we can find those variables we should place our bet and bet big.
I find everything about Tesla to be fascinating. Musk is truly one of a kind and I can’t wait to see what happens next. That being said, I think it is wise to avoid investing in TSLA. I choose instead to look for stocks that are simpler and less risky.
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