Updating The Watchlist

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I have found myself with an abundance of time on my hands. I have spent the last couple of months quarantined to the house and much of my normal business work has been put on hold. I am not married and don’t have any kids, so let’s just say I have nothing but time. Watching Netflix and playing video games can only get me so far, so I figured I should at least be somewhat productive.

I have dedicated at least an hour or two every day to investment research. Some days I  have done far more than that, while others have gone completely wasted. What I can I say? I am human. Whether it is running screens, glancing through company financial statements, or reading 10Ks and quarterly transcripts, I have found the last couple of months to be the perfect time to learn.

Now is also an opportune time to update my company watchlist. I’m not sure what the next few months or even years will hold, but I am trying to get myself ready. Recently many of us tuned in to watch the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. Berkshire is now sitting on a record level of cash, over $130 billion. Buffett remarked that he wants to be prepared for any financial situation. Things could return to normal in a matter of weeks, but the Covid-19 numbers could spike and businesses could be forced to close for months further. If that should happen, economic calamity will ensue and I would assume that markets will drop into free fall. I want to have a list of companies ready to go for such a buying opportunity. I want to emphasize that this is not a prediction, but rather I am doing my best boy scout impersonation by being prepared.

The first companies on a watch list should always be ones you already own. These are companies you have studied and had the conviction to buy. Many variables have likely changed since the initial purchase, but that’s where research should begin. Check one by one and see how the businesses have performed. Have revenues and profits risen or fallen in recent quarters? Has their balance sheet held up, or have they taken on additional debt? Think into the future and consider where the obstacles might lie and whether they are still in a position to grow. Finally, when you have a good grasp on the business, look at the price. If the business scenario looks bright and the stock price is below your purchase price, that business is likely a good candidate for buying more. Conversely, if business conditions appear dour and the stock price has risen, you have a good indicator that it may be time to sell.

Aside from companies I have already invested in, I have compiled a short list of companies I am watching closely:

Comcast (CMCSA)- Look we all know them and if you are anything like me, you probably hate them. They may have terrible customer service, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a phenomenal business. The cord cutting revolution was probably overblown, but it has been interesting to follow. As less people order cable, Comcast has simply raised prices on internet services. They are essentially an unregulated monopoly on a vital product. They are a cash machine, churning out a whopping 13 or 14 billion dollars of free cash in 2019 depending on how exactly how you measure it.

After a rather steep decline in the stock’s price, my interest has been piqued. Let’s be conservative and use the lower number 13.  Comcast now trades at 12.5x 2019 FCF, a very reasonable number. Much like Disney, we know the business will be adversely affected by the virus, they have been forced to close all Universal theme parks, a big money maker for the company, that comes along with high fixed costs. My real hesitancy however is the amount of debt the company holds on their balance sheet. Over 100 billion in debt and 180 billion in total liabilities. I need to dig in more before I would feel comfortable making an investment.

Copart (CPRT)- I just finished reading Junk to Gold: From Salvage to the World’s Largest Online Auto Auction, the story of Willis Johnson, founder of Copart. I encourage you all to pick up a copy, I thought it was a great short read. The book depicted his rise from humble beginnings to Copart’s domination of the auto salvage business. What started as just a tiny scrap yard has turned into the world’s largest auto auction business. It is a classic rags to riches story. Johnson is a tremendous entrepreneur and has a penchant for finding opportunities to make money in any situation.

Today, the company sits in a great position. Their financials look better every single year. In my opinion they are probably a bit expensive at current prices, but Copart will remain on my radar. They have a solid balance sheet and produce a fair amount of free cash. They reinvest that cash back into the business, which has allowed them to grow immensely.

Intel (INTC)- Intel is probably the company I am most interested at the current moment. It is a company you have probably all heard of, but may not actually know what they do. I understood what they did at a cursory level, but never did a deep dive until this quarantine began. I thought the semiconductor industry would be too difficult to understand, so I just skipped over it entirely. After taking a brief look through their financials however, I couldn’t push it off any longer.

Intel is the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of semiconductor chips used in virtually all computing equipment. Though they are known for their microprocessors, they design chips for a range of products from mobile phones to the self driving car. I admittedly will never understand the technical minutia of the industry, but I think I can at least understand the competitive dynamics and why Intel has been so successful.

Intel is the gorilla in the fight. With a market cap of around 260 billion and sales of over 70 billion in 2019, Intel is the major player in the US. To put that in context, their main American competitors, AMD and NVIDIA had sales of 6.7 billion and 10.9 billion respectively. In 2019 alone, Intel spent 13.3 billion on R&D and another 16.2 billion on CapEx. That means they spent just under 30 billion bettering their competitive advantage, all while spitting out over 15 billion in free cash flow. AMD and NVDA have found footholds in successful niches, but catching up to Intel in the overall market is incredibly tough. Intel just has so many more resources at their disposal. The company actually faces much tougher competition from companies outside the US. Samsung and TSMC are great companies in their own rights, but do somewhat different things. I’m not going to go too deep into this today, but know I am watching Intel very closely for now.

Medifast (MED)- As someone who was born and raised in Baltimore, I have a sweet spot for any local company. Medifast is one of the few public companies still located within city borders, so I like to check in on them. With a renewed focus, Medifast has grown quickly these last few years. Revenue has grown over 2.5x over the last 5 years.  Their financials look very strong, the company holds zero dollars of debt on their balance sheet. Any company able to grow quickly without having to take on a single dollar of debt is impressive in my book.

I am a little cautious about investing in this company however. I wouldn’t go as far as calling Medifast a pyramid scheme, but at first glance I would say they have pyramid like tendencies. Most of Medifast’s growth has come from the Optavia brand. Optavia is a multi level marketing company selling weight loss products. Their model works through having members sign up as coaches, who then make money selling products to other members. Perhaps this is all just a clever marketing scheme, but it sounds a bit fishy to me. Unless I can understand what differentiates Optavia from a pyramid scheme, I’ll be staying away.

As always, thank you all for taking the time to read! I hope you take some time and update your watchlist. If you find any companies I might be interested in, please send them my way. You can follow me on Twitter @TheGarpInvestor.

 

COVID-19

Fear, agony, depression, anger, and desperation are just a few of the feelings creeping through my mind over the last couple of weeks. As I’m sure you are aware, the market has gone into free fall and the world is in a true state of panic. Coronavirus has spread and brought the world down to its knee. I know things look grim, but as always when investing, it is best to remove emotion from the process. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, whatever you need to do to get yourself into the right mindset.

One mantra I have been repeating over and over is an ancient Persian proverb, This Too Shall Pass. Things look terrible, but the world will one day return to something that resembles normal. In America, we have gotten through the great depression, the financial recession, two world wars, a civil war, four presidential assassinations and once came on the brink of mutually assured nuclear destruction. I have confidence that in time we will overcome and get through this pandemic. We will look back on this as one of those events that we will never forget. This too shall pass.

I don’t say that to minimize the current state of affairs. This is an extremely serious situation that has ramifications felt in all walks of life. Our economy has essentially been put on hold and our most vulnerable citizens are left scared and hopeless. Unfortunately innocent people who did nothing wrong will die. Our hospitals will be strained far beyond capacity. People will lose their jobs and companies previously thought to be impenetrable will fold and go out of business. All we can do is persevere and make the best out of a terrible situation.

Peak to trough, markets have fallen roughly 35%. If your accounts have taken a massive hit, do not feel alone, everyone is suffering. I myself am suffering right along with you. It pains me to my core watching my money wash away. Across the nation, the sense of freedom and security has disappeared in the blink of an eye. Many have lost a significant portion of their retirement savings. I am lucky enough to be somewhat young and hopefully have a long runway ahead of me, but I sympathize with those who don’t. For those who plan to be net buyers of stocks in the coming decades, the only positive way to spin this is knowing that you can now buy stocks today at a 35% discount to what they were just a few weeks ago. I know that doesn’t make it any better, but it is now more important than ever to keep investing.

At some point in the future, there will be a resolution. I don’t know if that will be a month, a year or even many years from now, but eventually we will know where things stand and how the COVID-19 virus played out. In the end, this situation can really only go one of two ways. Either things will ultimately recover and return to normal or our entire world order will collapse and our financial system will turn to ruin. In the first situation, patience and delayed gratification are crucial. In the second, financial assets will cease to matter. Human society will have broken down, so what’s the difference? Who cares what stocks you own or cash you have if the entire system has collapsed? I happen to think the second scenario is incredibly unlikely, but just my 2 cents.

So the question is, how can we make the best out of this awful situation as an investor? Below I have listed 5 actionable steps we can all take.

5 Actionable Steps

  1. Stop Panicking- Easier said than done, but panic provides no benefit. Calm, rational well thought out decision making will always win. Now is the time to start formulating a game plan. Most of us have been quarantined and are stuck at home. You have an abundance of time, make use of it. Take this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Determine what your goals are and how you can reach them.
  2. Give Gratitude- I find myself to be a bit useless at times like these. Other than giving away money, I have no ability to save anyone. I do not have the necessary skills for these kinds of disaster situations. For that reason I find it especially important to be thankful. There are men and women out there on the front lines risking their lives in order to give care to those who fall ill. Thank the doctors, nurses, hospital staff and administrators, emergency responders and anyone else who is out there providing vital relief. They are not the only ones putting themselves at risk however. Thank the cashiers at the grocery store, thank the delivery driver who drops off a package so you don’t have to leave the house, thank the bar and restaurant workers providing you with food to go. There are countless other brave souls out there potentially exposing themselves to the virus, making sure our society continues to function. Thank them!
  3. DO NOT SELL!- The absolute worst thing you can do is to sell out in the middle of a panic. It truly sucks watching your stocks go down every day. I hate it as much as you do, but you never know when the tide will turn. I am not in the game of timing the market. The market will likely recover long before we see the end of the virus. It will turn when sentiment burns bright. I’ll leave it up to Peter Lynch to describe it better than I can. “A stock market decline is as routine as a January blizzard in Colorado. If you’re prepared, it can’t hurt you. A decline is a great opportunity to pick up the bargains left behind by investors who are fleeing the storm in a panic.”
  4. Look To The Greats- We may not immediately know what some of the best investors out there are currently doing, but we can at least attempt to put ourselves into their shoes. Even better, what would they do if they were in our own shoes? If Warren Buffett wasn’t handicapped by Berkshire’s massive size and the public scrutiny that comes along with all of his decisions, how would he proceed?. I can’t tell you exactly, but I would imagine he would be turning over every rock trying to find the diamond in the rough. He would be looking for great companies with a strong moat, that have fallen to a price far beneath their intrinsic value.
  5. Put Your Research Into Overdrive- As an investor, this is probably the most important step. Everything else you do is all for naught if you don’t put in the work. Populate your watch list, start reading 10Ks and sift through as many balance sheets as you can. As for myself, I plan on taking a look at every company within the S&P 500. I’ve gotten to the point where it only takes me about 30 seconds to know if I might have interest in a company. If I do, more work needs to be done, but otherwise I Just pass on to the next one. After that I’ll start using screeners to help me find smaller companies not located within the S&P. This might feel like a daunting task, but truth be told, you don’t get the reward without the process. When the time comes, you will be ready to pounce.

I know this time is challenging and things are likely to get worse, but remember This Too Shall Pass

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back sometime next week to give you my Q1 portfolio update. Sneak Peak: It’s bad! You can follow me on Twitter @TheGarpInvestor.

Goodbye Summer (Q3 Update)

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Summer came and went in the blink of an eye. Labor day weekend is now well behind us and so are any hopes I once had of not gaining a good 15 lbs over the Summer. A couple of trips and way too many burgers and beers are probably the primary culprits. I hope you all got to enjoy the summer heat as much as I did.

September however brings a new level of excitement. Kids are back in school and if they are forced to learn, we should be as well. We are all mere students of the game and therefore we need to work on our investing practice. A day doesn’t go by where you cannot learn something, so seize hold of the opportunity. A little bit of knowledge every day, will turn into a mountain of information over a lifetime. With that out of the way, let’s check in and see how I did this quarter.

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Q3 Performance

As of 9/1/2019, my 10K portfolio stood at $11,088.12. When I started on 8/19/18, the SPY had a price of $285.06. As of 9/1/19 the SPY closed at $292.37(it’s actually had quite a run up since.)

Return(1)          SPY Return(2)         Difference(1-2)

Portfolio value $11,088.12:      10.88                       2.56                         8.32

With dividends reinvested into the SPY their returns would look a bit more like this.

Return(1)          SPY Return(2)         Difference(1-2)

Portfolio value $11,088.12:      10.88                       4.42                        6.46

I have to say that I am more than satisfied with my results thus far. I have cut a few of my losers and held tight onto my winners. I like to let my winners ride and let compounding do the work. Some might be overvalued and others are hopefully undervalued. In the long run, stocks will follow suit with growth in intrinsic value. I feel good about the companies I’m invested in and their prospects for the future. That being said, I hold onto almost $1,700 in cash. I am finding it hard to find deals I am comfortable with in the current environment. That doesn’t mean the search is over, just means I have to turn over more stones. One will appear and I will be ready to put my remaining capital to work.

Taxes

One topic I don’t see talked about nearly enough is the effect of taxes on investment returns. So often I hear analysts talk about a stock hitting their price target, meaning it is now a sell. Too often, these recommendations fail to mention taxes. Should you have a good gain, the second you initiate that sale, your gain is now realized. You will now be responsible for the taxes. Let’s just look at a simple example. Say you bought company A at $100. You made a great pick and after 6 months, the stock has now doubled to $200. Obviously you have made a fantastic investment, the question is what do next? If you sell out entirely, you will have a gain of $100 and it will be considered a short term capital gain, as you have not held it for longer than a year. It will be taxed at your normal income tax bracket. As of now, these taxes will fall somewhere between 10% and 37%. Let’s just assume a middle tax bracket of 24%.

On the $100 gain you will have to pay $24, leaving you with $176 to work with. Additionally, depending on where you live, you will owe state and local tax. Here in Baltimore County, Maryland you owe 5.75% to the state and 2.83% to the county. This lops off another $8.58, bringing that initial $200 down to $167.42.

The variables are of course ever changing. Should the characteristics of company A fail to live up to expectations or should your investment thesis no longer hold true, it very well might be a good time to sell out and switch companies. The important lesson is to take the effects of taxes into consideration and make an apples to apples comparison. In this example it is not $200 in Company A vs $200 in Company B, but instead $200 in Company A vs $167.42 in Company B. With that in mind, selling out of Company A might not be as enticing.

As always, thank you for reading. Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Twitter @Thegarpinvestor. Feel free to share the post, thanks!

 

One Year Down

I have now officially been running this blog for a full year now. I’ve had my ups and my downs, but I think I’ve grown considerably as an investor. I truly think I am better than when I started and I am now even more committed to GARP investing. Putting my thoughts out in public has forced me to focus on my core beliefs and has held me accountable. I expect my growth in year 2 to be even greater than in year 1. Just like wealth, knowledge is always compounding.

Year One performance

I started this journey exactly one year ago. I put $10,000.00 of my own money into my 10K Portfolio. I put that money into companies I believed in and let them do the work for me. Thankfully, I didn’t fall flat on my face and I’ve been able to make some money. My portfolio now stands at $10,843.11. As I often state, making a positive return isn’t all that difficult. You can buy government bonds and make a virtually risk free return, it just won’t be very good. I choose to compare my portfolio to the S&P 500. If you can’t outperform the general American index in the long run, you don’t have much business in picking individual stocks. When I started on 8/19/18, the SPY stood at $285.06. As of 8/19/19 the SPY closed at $292.33.

Return(1)          SPY Return(2)         Difference(1-2)

Portfolio value $10,843.11:             8.43                      2.55                         5.88

Simply looking at the SPY ticker isn’t quite fair to the index. My portfolio value accounts for all dividends I have collected over the last year. The SPY does not automatically reinvest dividends. They currently give out a yield of 1.86%. Without knowing the exact days of distribution and all that jazz, I think it is easiest if I just add in 1.86% to the SPY return in order to give a more accurate picture. Therefore a more realistic result would be as follows:

Return(1)          SPY Return(2)         Difference(1-2)

Portfolio value $10,843.11:             8.43                      4.41                         4.02

Overall, I am pretty satisfied with my results in year one. I outperformed the SPY by a hair over 4%. Take this with a grain of salt, one year is not nearly enough time to get an accurate picture. It will likely take at least 3 years to really tell whether this out performance is for real. That being said, I certainly prefer to have this head start.

Mistakes Made

I have learned a number of lessons since starting this blog. Some were completely new to me, while other things I knew but needed to be reinforced. My first punch to the gut came shortly after beginning. I rushed into some companies, rather than waiting for an appropriate entry price. Soon after I bought into my first companies, the market took a precipitous fall. Had I just bought in a couple of months later, my returns would likely be higher by a good 10%. The biggest lesson I learned was not to fight against a large macroeconomic situation. I grossly underestimated both how much effect the trade war could impact my companies and how long such a situation could last. I thought we were looking at a blip on the radar and my companies would return to form in just a couple of months. I was wrong. This trade war has lasted far longer than I had anticipated and has greatly lowered the earning power of some of my companies. I don’t think the end is in sight and for that reason I have chosen to make some changes to my portfolio. I still believe in these companies, in the long run I would bet that all will end up fine. However, I must stick to my principles as a GARP investor and therefore I choose to invest in the path of growth, not turnaround situations.

Portfolio Changes

Within the last month, I have cut out my positions in HII, IPGP, and LEA. As I stated, all are fine companies. They simply haven’t been able to whether this trade war without suffering. Each has seen their earning power eroded greatly and the stocks have followed suit. Unfortunately, I lost money on all three of these investments. Thankfully, some of my winners have more than made up for it. In fact, my investment into FND alone has made up all losses in these three companies. With the money from selling, I bought one additional share of FB for $180.17. I now sit on a cash balance of $1,688.44. I have a number of companies on my watch list that I am following and I will be waiting for a good time to enter into two or three new positions. I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.

As always, thank you for reading. I have appreciated your support over the last year and look forward to seeing where this journey takes me. Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Twitter @Thegarpinvestor. Feel free to share the post, thanks!

 

 

Building a Watch List

Before you can buy a stock, creating a watch list is vitally important. A proper watch list focuses your attention and lets you weed through most of the junk. I am attempting to put together a list of companies that could be interesting should they hit a reasonable price. That’s not to say you should automatically buy them, but they deserve a closer look. For that matter, they may already be at a perfectly reasonable price, but there is no rush to buy in. I am looking to buy stocks for the long run. If you intend to hold a stock for 10+ years, waiting weeks or even months before you pull the trigger isn’t all that important. It is far more important to make sure you pick the right companies rather than picking the right price.

5 Stocks to Look at:

Here are 5 stocks I’m currently looking at. Each of these companies displays classic GARP tendencies. They grow revenue and earnings each and every year, employ limited amounts of debt and can be found at reasonable P/E ratios. My own personal list is over 40 companies long, but I don’t have the time for a write up on each of them.

ODFL

Old Dominion Freight Line is a less than truckload freight company. An essential part of the economy, trucks are always in need. While rail is still the cheapest way to ship coast to coast, you need a way of getting items to and from the warehouse. ODFL is best in class for smaller orders, where a full truckload isn’t quite necessary. A classic capital compounder. Since they went public in 1991, this stock has gone up over 70x. Last quarter YoY revenue growth of 23% and EPS YoY growth of  65.8%. Can’t ask for much more than that.

LEA

Lear Corp. manufactures a product you all have probably sat on and never even thought about. They are a vertically integrated world leader in automated seats for automobiles. They really only do one thing, but they do it incredibly well. They generate a tremendous amount of free cash flow, which enables them to buy back shares of the company in droves. At the start of 2014 they had 81 million shares outstanding. That number now stands at 66 million. Every shareholder should be happy to now own significantly more of the company.

IPGP

The leader in laser technology, IPG Photonics creates laser powered technology that is sold to manufacturers around the globe. These lasers enable manufacturers to produce items at a lower cost, which encourages more spending on CapEx. These lasers are used in all kinds of fields ranging from car manufacturing all the way to medical devices. The total addressable market is massive. They have hit a bit of a hiccup lately due to the Trump administration trade war, given that their main customers are foreign manufacturers. For that reason I think it is best to wait and see how this trade war plays out.

APH

Amphenol develops small components and connectors used in complex electronic machinery. They are a company no one would ever think of, but sells more every single year. They sell to virtually every industry imaginable. Like others on this list, they generate ample free cash flow. They use this free cash every year to make acquisitions, buy back stock and pay a growing dividend. A classic compounder, since going public in 1992 they have been a 200 bagger.

FB

Given that we’ve gone over a bunch of really well known names, let’s look at one nobody has heard of. Just kidding of course. Facebook is one of the biggest, strongest companies on earth. They have fallen a bit lately due to fears of slowing growth rates and falling margins. I feel these fears are short sighted. Looking years into the future, we simply don’t know how strong a network Facebook could be. They already have daily average users of nearly 1.5 billion, a number that is still growing rapidly. Given how many people are on the platform, monetization is only just beginning. They make their money primarily through advertising, but could start making money through any number of different avenues. How about the fact that they also own Instagram? 10-20 years from now I think we could legitimately be looking at Facebook as a multi trillion dollar company.

Thanks for reading. Comment any companies you have on your own watch list. As always follow along and subscribe!