Even though the recent fall is likely to be termed as a correction in a bull market instead of the beginning of a bear market - I’m sure all of us have learnt some valuable lessons especially folks with less than 5-6 years experience in the market.
But the primary and the most important lesson that I’ve learnt is around having sufficient Margin of Safety (MoS) when taking an investment call on any company. Pretty much based on Warren Buffett’s golden rules-
- Never lose money (always seek capital protection first)
- Never forget rule#1
Now this is something I obviously should have thought harder about before taking certain investment decisions but paying tuition fee will probably always remain the best teacher (thankful of experiencing so many ups and downs in the market within 2-3 years of my investing career itself). Also if certain black swan events were to take place - no MoS would be good enough so I’d exclude those factors from my analysis. (Ex: Buffett has mentioned such an uninsurable risk in his latest Berkshire letter about a nuclear war and how the chances of that risk increase with each year we have without a major war.)
So different people have different tools/methods to assess their MoS (3-5 yr earnings CAGR, Revenue CAGR, FCF based intrinsic value, future industry outlook - demand/supply, div. yield, P/E, PEG, D/E, etc. and can be any combination of these factors, etc.)
Now I have a few preliminary factors to filter my major investment decisions (~10% of portfolio) such as Industry outlook, Business Category - All weather/cyclical, Revenue/PAT CAGR, history of dividend payouts, RoE trend, Management integrity - basic checks (Shareholding patterns, etc), Valuation (earlier willing to pay upto 25 P/E Fwd earnings for secular growth) and a couple of other qualitative and quantitative filters.
Not that I understated valuation earlier, but the recent fall has firmly reinforced the belief that valuation is about as important a filter as any other in the investment checklist and should almost weigh 30-50% in the final investment decision.
Thus with all other investment criteria being ticked, I believe (for now at least) buying companies with the following MoS checks should provide optimal capital protection (should almost never lead to more than 50% fall in market value otherwise the investment thesis is most likely wrong in the first place) with decent capital appreciation opportunities -
- PEG < 1
- P/E (TTM) band of 15-19 on the high side (from no.1 - this automatically means Revenue and PAT CAGR have to be more than 20 for at least 3-5 years, would initiate small purchases around P/E 18-19 and buy aggressively at levels of P/E 15)
- Dividend Yield > 1%
- Debt/Equity (<.5 - Excluding financial companies)
So whether you’re a Gillette/Eicher/Blue Dart/Jubilant or any other company with a great management and a 100% visibility (just hypothetical) on future earnings growth - I’m not going to touch you or even waste a second of my time at your crazy 50-100 P/Es. I’m simply not going to pay up for such projected growth. Btw I’ve never held these companies or Page or any such company btw. I’m happy to miss any number of such companies no matter the opportunity costs. All you need is to identify 3-5 companies at the right valuations to make a lifetime! This could also mean sitting on cash for extended periods of time (1,2,3,4,5 years) - but that’s what all the great investors talk about - waiting for a big fat pitch / only swing your bat 1-2 times in a year!!! So this has meant me moving into 25% cash after the run-up this week - happy to watch the Nifty take out 9,10,11 thousand and let everyone get rich but I’m not going to swing till these MoS conditions are met!
And believe me great companies can also be found at decent valuations - HDFC (not the bank) was trading at 3.1 times book value, 17 P/E, 1.5% div yield till about last week.
Seeking a high MoS is also most likely an attempt to mask my inability to comprehensively analyse financial statements with detailed scrutiny of all minor details and connect the dots to detect lollapalooza effects in companies like so many brilliant people on this forum.
Excited to begin this second phase of my investing journey!!!