Well that was a doozy! We just finished the quarter in what has easily been the scariest investing environment I have ever faced. In fact, it has probably been the most frightening time for any investor, young or old. Unfortunately, the situation we all face isn’t close to being over. I don’t know how long this will last, nor do I know how devastating the consequences will be. The best we can do is hold strong and remain ever vigilant waiting ready for opportunities.
As for my own investing performance… it has been rather putrid. I have scolded myself many times in the last few weeks for not keeping more cash on the sidelines. This was a rookie mistake and I own up to it. I just personally hate sitting on cash, I enjoy owning partial shares of some of the world’s greatest businesses. Cash can’t compound, it sits idly losing value due to inflation. It does however provide a lifeline should an opportunity come knocking. If there is no cash available, you either have to watch it go by or tap into a margin balance, which I personally refuse to do.
While the future looks grim, now is not the time to panic. These kinds of events are what separate novices from those who outperform. This crisis will shuffle money from the know nothing investor, to those who have done their homework. It will expose those who made use of excess amounts of leverage and those who bet on companies that lack durable competitive advantages. As Warren Buffett put it “You don’t know who’s swimming naked until the tide pulls in.” Everyone looks great during a bull market, it is only when the bear roars that the score is settled. This can be applied not only to investors, but to companies as well. Some are prepared for these kinds of situations and can prosper, others will be forced into bankruptcy.
For that reason, I try and invest into companies that perform well in all economic conditions, feast or famine. A strong balance sheet is imperative. It is hard to go broke if you don’t owe any money. Cash is king and I prefer companies acting like a dragon sitting on a hoard of gold, protecting that cash at all costs. You can bet a company such as Berkshire Hathaway won’t be filing chapter 11 and instead will be using this occurrence as an entry point into outstanding businesses.
As of 4/1/2020, my 10K portfolio stood at $9,700.23. When I started on 8/19/18, the SPY had a price of $285.06 and my account started with $10,000. As of 4/1/2020 the SPY had a price of $257.75. The SPY has also given out $8.44 in dividends since I started tracking, so I have accounted for that as well.
10K Return(1) SPY Return(2) Difference(1-2)
2018(8/19-12/31) (13.95) (13.71) (.24)
2019 37.33 32.6 4.73
2020(1/1-3/31) (17.91) (19.92) 2.01
Since Inception(8/19/18) (2.99) (6.62) 3.63
As you can see, I have actually beaten the S&P since the inception of this account, albeit I have done so while still losing money. I therefore find no sense of accomplishment in this feat. If the S&P was to fall 50% over a 10 year period while my own account only fell by 35%, I’m not going to be happy. The ultimate point is to make money, not just outperform an index.
Here is an updated look at my portfolio as of 3/31/20
We can see I have $9,652.61 invested and have an additional $47.62 in cash. I made some changes to my portfolio this quarter, time will tell if any of these were good ideas.
CNSWF- I invested into Constellation Software, which has immediately become my largest holding. The company acquires small companies that provide vertical market software to niche customers such as dentists, fitness centers and hospitals. They serve customers in virtually every market you can think of. They own hundreds of businesses and have extremely high customer retention. Constellation is a company I have followed for years and given a large fall, I became a happy buyer. Of course right after purchasing, the stock continued to plummet. I could have gotten a much better price, so be it. They are run by Mark Leonard, a brilliant capital allocator with an amazing beard. I have great confidence holding this company indefinitely.
HEI.A- I also bought shares of Heico corporation. They have a dual class structure, so I bought into the A shares, seeing that they traded at a discount to the standard shares. They offer only 1/10th the voting power, but given how small a position I hold, I find this to be immaterial. Heico is a niche supplier of airplane parts. They are a fantastic company that has fallen greatly due to the decimation of the travel market. While I was initially thrilled by the drop in price, I may have acted in haste, not fully appreciating how long the impact of the virus will last. I will continue to monitor the situation, but am considering getting out. I don’t like quick in and outs, but sometimes you can get lured in on false hope. The travel market might be impacted for years to come, I’m hoping that is not the case but who knows at this point. If people aren’t flying, planes won’t need new or replacement parts. Even a great business with a pristine balance sheet can get into trouble if sales fall off a cliff for years.
BKNG- For the very reason I am considering selling out of Heico, I have already sold out of my position in Booking Holdings. They are a fabulous company, but the impact of the virus on their business is immense. They make their money selling hotel rooms, car rentals and airline tickets. It is a brilliant business model, they take on none of the heavy lifting and merely act as an agent. As long as this pandemic lasts however, their entire business has essentially been cut to 0. They have a strong balance sheet and smart management, so I have no doubt they will weather the storm. I just can’t predict how this will impact their bottom line and for how long. I wouldn’t be surprised if I one day get back into the company. I’m not comfortable holding them right now, but that won’t always be the case.
LUV- I haven’t made a decision on Southwest yet. Just like the last two companies I discussed, Southwest’s business has been crushed by this pandemic. I am loath to get out of an industry leader that is trading at a deep discount to prices seen just a few months ago, but my hands might be tied. The company just announced they are cutting 50% of flights through the end of June. Don’t be surprised if they are forced to cut flights deep into the summer or longer. Will Southwest need to be a part of the government bailout? Maybe, I honestly don’t know and I’m also not sure what kind of stipulations will come as part of such an agreement. No dividends or stock buybacks? That would really impact the investment potential. I’m weighing all these variables, but might pull the trigger soon and sell. I also notice I have allocated too heavily into the travel industry. I did not foresee this kind of crisis impacting so many of the companies I invested in, but I have to play the hand that is dealt. I need to make sure I diversify better so one industry can’t bring me down.
As always, thank you all for reading! This is a strange and difficult time. I invest to make money, not to watch it wash away. Let’s hope the rest of 2020 sees a return to normal and we can all start leaving our houses again. You can follow me on Twitter @TheGarpInvestor.