This week the Small Cap team take a look at why investors frequently undervalue a simple but proven business and instead hit for the fences with supposed disruptors.
Why investors often undervalue simple businesses
We have noticed that investors often gravitate towards exciting but unproven business models which promise disruption. In contrast, investors often tend to overlook more simple business models which are generating good cash flows here and now. We view this behavioural bias as a key driver behind the opportunity set we are focused upon capturing, the under-valued high quality smaller companies which consistently generate cash flows and tend to out-perform long term.
Investors love excitement!
In our experience there is a clear behavioural bias in the smaller companies’ market towards the more exciting stories. Investors often tend to gravitate towards businesses which promise to revolutionise a market in reaction to a major challenge which people can identify with. When these businesses are presenting to investors they tend to highlight the challenge they are aiming to address and then show numerous charts showing what it would mean for their business if their new approach could gain only a small portion of the entire existing market. Such presentations can dazzle investors with compelling big picture charts and very large numbers. This is how hype is created in the investment world.
Big win mentality: the driving force
So why are investors so attracted to the hype? Why does it attract highly intelligent people despite the seemingly obvious risks?
The fact of the matter is a very small portion of revolutionary business models will succeed over the long term, and thus create enormous wealth for their early shareholders along the way. As can be seen here, for example, if you had invested in Amazon at its IPO you would currently be sitting on a c.49,000% increase in value since 1997.
There are other similar examples of life changing gains in revolutionary new business models, and each story will have been told thousands of times over until it has reached near mythical status. And this is what is driving investor interest in “blue sky” business models; a belief that “this could be the one which creates life changing wealth for me”; often referred to as a big win mentality.
Putting a value on “blue sky” business models often irrelevant
At this point it is worth asking: how does one value a “blue sky” business model which is aiming to capture an emerging opportunity?
As a starting point, investors don’t have many financial metrics to focus upon since most of these companies don’t generate earnings or even revenues. As a result, investors will often look at the overall market size and work back to a fair stock value based upon successful market share capture by the business looking forward.
This backwards methodology of valuing a business pre-supposes that the business model is going to be successful over the long term, despite a complete lack of evidence.
Why “blue sky” investing doesn’t generally work...
It is obvious where we are going with this.
While a small portion of investors will benefit from Amazon like returns by investing in a revolutionary start-up, we believe there are a number of reasons which explain why investing in “blue sky” business models is generally a poor long term investment strategy:
Want to change lanes? Simple business models: a few simple ingredients
So what are the key aspects of a simple business model? Here is our list:
Stock example – an under-valued simple business model: PNC
Pioneer Credit Limited (ASX:PNC) is a great example from our portfolio of a simple, profitable business which is growing its earnings through sensible strategies from an excellent management team.
What does the company do?
PNC is a financial service business specialising in the purchase of debt ledgers.
Do we understand the business?
Yes, we do– the company aims to generate the highest possible pay back from each debt portfolio it purchases: i.e. the company may purchase a portfolio for only 20c in the dollar with the intention of generating as high as possible a payback in the coming years.
Does the company generate earnings and a positive cash flow?
Yes, the company recently reaffirmed its FY17 guidance of at least $10.5m statutory NPAT, while it also guided to an additional 12% increase in earnings for FY18 based on pre-announced FY18 EPS consensus of 24 cents (approx. 27 cents or $16m NPAT).
KEY PNC FINANCIAL METRICS: FY12 to FY17
Does the company have a long term trading history, preferably as a listed entity?
Yes, the company has been listed for 3 years and had been highly successful for a decade prior to listing.
We first invested in PNC in mid-2015, and have increased our investment in the company over time as we have become more comfortable with management, the business model and the company’s long term potential. Over that time PNC has also grown from being the minnow of the ASX listed debt collectors (after Credit Corp and Collection House) to being the second largest acquirers of ledgers in FY17.
Market awareness has increased over this time, as has broker coverage. Four brokers now cover PNC with price targets of between $2.00 and $3.05. FY18 earnings estimates are generally in line with PNC’s guidance (ranging from 27 cents to 28 cents) which puts PNC on a PE multiple of approximately 7x to 8x earnings at current prices.
Are management honest and competent?
In our experience, yes. We have met them a number of times and have always been very impressed.
Call us simple but we will stick with investing in simple, profitable businesses which are growing their earnings by virtue of sound management strategies. We believe this strategy will continue to deliver superior long term returns.
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TAMIM Asset Management provides general information to help you understand our investment approach. Any financial information we provide is not advice, has not considered your personal circumstances and may not be suitable for you.