Lessons/Tutorials/Resources

PUT Options – Leverage Tool for Value Investors

PUT Options

PUT options are an excellent tool to leverage the realized return for a value investment based portfolio of securities. In general, options are very risky financial derivatives and are not recommended for unsophisticated investors. In laymen terms, options are classed as mildly speculative instruments in the world of investing. The key to proper use is to eliminate the risk aspect by only utilizing PUTs in a very restrictive set of circumstances. When properly applying restrictions, PUT options can add between four and ten percent of a value investment fund’s annual realized earnings. This marginal improvement is how a value investment fund outperforms even the best performing index based funds.

Intrinsic Value – Balance Sheet Fundamentals

Intrinsic Value - Balance Sheet Fundamentals

Novice and unsophisticated investors place greater reliance on net profits over the balance sheet to determine intrinsic value. However, most so-called experts forget what intrinsic value means; intrinsic value refers to the universally accepted core value of a company. In many cases, this can be easily derived from the balance sheet. If not derived from the balance sheet, the balance sheet can act as additional assurance that certain intrinsic value formulas are superior and best suited given the balance sheet information.

Understanding how a balance sheet is laid out, works and reports this information greatly assists value investors with determining intrinsic value. Gaining knowledge about balance sheet fundamentals takes a value investor to the next level of comprehension of value investing.

This is the second part in a series about intrinsic value. It is the first in a four-part series about the balance sheet and different intrinsic value formulas that are tied to the balance sheet. The next lesson in this balance sheet series delves deep into analysis of asset matrixes and proper interpretation of that information. It also includes how to tie the asset matrix to the liability layout. Understanding this relationship allows the value investor to apply certain intrinsic value formulas which are explained and illustrated.

Intrinsic Value – Definition and Introduction

Intrinsic Value

Intrinsic value has several different definitions when used in the business context. The word intrinsic refers to ‘innate’ or ‘inherent’. Whereas value refers to the exchange mindset between two or more parties. Thus, intrinsic value refers to the core understanding between parties of the worth of something. When looking at the market price for a security, having knowledge of the intrinsic value prevents over paying for an investment. The key is determining this price range for the security. The primary rule for intrinsic value is straight forward; it is a RANGE and not an exact dollar value.

With value investing, the goal is to narrow this range to a set of values that are REASONABLE and OBJECTIVELY verified. Therefore, rule number two, intrinsic value must be reasonable and objectively determined. Finally, all users of intrinsic value must understand and appreciate that intrinsic value is not static. It changes every day and for highly stable companies, it should improve every day in a predictable manner with a high level of confidence.

Value Investing – Industry Principles and Standards (Lesson 25)

Business Principles Pyramid

Shifting from economic wide factors that impact market price to industry wide standards is essential with understanding and creating decision models for investment with a pool of similar companies. Industry standards are a part of the spectrum of business principles. This spectrum starts with tenets, universal rules that can not be broken by anyone in business. With value investing, the focus is on the primary business tenet of buying low and selling high. It is an undeniable requirement to increase one’s wealth. The spectrum moves towards core business principles that sometimes are not universally applicable. The final set are industry standards. Each industry has its own unique set of principles it must follow to be successful. Some are a function of law, others are driven by consumer expectations or the culture of the industry. For value investors, understanding this dynamic set of standards for each industry drives the holistic thinking of effective investing.

Value Investing – Concepts of Economics and Business Models (Lesson 19)

Concepts of Economics and Business

There is no single statement or overriding concept that equates to defining economics. There are about a half dozen or so concepts that the average person would state as a definition of economics. The most commonly accepted definition of economics is the balance of supply and demand. In effect, it refers to determining the relationship between needs/wants against limited resources. With value investing, understanding the concepts of economics allows for a more comprehensive elevation of thought related to financial analysis. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of forces at work at any given moment impacting the market price and of course a value investor’s intrinsic, buy and sell value points.

The study of economics is done at two levels. The macro level refers to the study of economics as a whole. It focuses on how different characteristics impact the overall ability to efficiently produce and delivery goods to consumers. Think of the impact the federal government has related to laws that in turn affect production and consumption of goods and services. For value investors, there are many different macro level decisions that affect financial analysis. These include decisions made by the Federal Reserve, specifically related to interest rates. Others include unemployment, tax rates, and governmental expenditures especially for capital improvements.

The second level is called micro economics. This brings in all those macro level changes and their respective impact on individual businesses and industries. As an example, a simple increase in the interest rate by the Federal Reserve affects the interest rate related to long-term leases. In the immediate short time period, there is very little change as leases have cycle time frames before they the lease’s interest rate changes. But, in due time, it will affect the interest rate which in turn impacts certain industries. A single railway leases thousands if not tens of thousands of railcars. An interest rate increase will in turn up how much cash outflows for leasing purposes. Ultimately, the railroad will raise their revenue per mile of tonnage which increases sales to offset the outlay of money for a lease.

Value Investing – Churning (Lesson 18)

Churning

Churning refers to agitating. It is commonly used with the dairy industry to refer to the process of turning liquid cream into butter. The churning process breaks down the fat membranes allowing the fats to join together. In effect, churning means to work the liquid into a solid. With investing, churning has two different connotations. The first is the more common negative connection to brokers getting their clients to buy and sell frequently in order to increase overall commissions for the brokerage. The positive connotation is rarely used and it refers to working one’s portfolio of investments to maximize overall return. That is what this lesson is about. How does a value investor work their portfolio to maximize overall portfolio return?

The ideal method to maximize return is buying low and selling high at the right time with investments that have quick recovery time frames. Ideally, all the cash proceeds from a sale should be immediately reinvested into new opportunities. Often, this is not the case. When the respective markets such as the DOW, S&P 500 or the S&P Composite 1500 experience highs, it is difficult to find good quality investments at low prices. This is further hampered when a value investment fund has limited options. In order to provide ample opportunities for reinvestment of cash, value investment funds require at least five pools of industries and a minimum of 40 stocks. The ideal fund will have around eight pools of potential investments with no less than 60 potential securities.

Value Investing – Monitoring Performance (Lesson 17)

Monitoring Performance

Monitoring performance is the single best tool to ensure success with value investing. Comparing results against expectations provides the basis for good decisions. In business, this is known as the feedback loop. In effect, a variable input is changed, results are recorded, compiled and reported in a understandable format. Any unexpected results are analyzed and input changes are implemented. The pattern is repeated. The end goal is to generate continuous improvement. With business, improvement is stated in the form of profit; with investment funds, it is stated in the form of  percentage of return on the overall invested capital. Thus, managing an investment fund is just like operating a business; the goal is to improve overall performance.

Throughout this series of lessons in Phase One of the program, it has been stated and reiterated several times. The goal of value investing is to generate returns that far exceed the returns of several indices. A value investor should expect at least a return on their investment in the mid-twenties as a percentage per year. The real goal is to generate 30% plus with returns. If the investor does their research properly and adheres to the four principles of value investing, achieving 30% plus per year on average is doable. But without monitoring performance of the fund, an investor cannot make the necessary timely adjustments to achieve the annual goal.

Intrinsic Value – Application of Discounted Cash Flows

Discounted Cash Flows

Every student of investing is taught the core principle of discounted cash flows. This business principle is also used with intrinsic value. Application of discounted cash flows assists value investors in determining intrinsic value. Academia, major investment brokerages and the majority of investment websites place unquestionable belief in this single formula to equate value for a security. The problem here is that all of them forget or ignore the underlying requirements to use and rely on the outcome of the formula’s solution. In effect, with intrinsic value and the application of discounted cash flows, there is a very narrow set of highly defined parameters whereby this tool is applicable. Used outside of this framework, the result’s reliability quickly drops to nearly zero, like either side of the bell curve.

This article starts out by identifying the highly restrictive requirements to apply discounted cash flows. There are at most 20% of all marketable securities where this formula succeeds in determining intrinsic value. Secondly, the formula is explained to the student and why it is so important to apply it properly. There are several terms and values the user must include in the formula; this section explains them in layman’s words.

The third section below goes into the corporate financial matrix to explain how to determine cash flows. Furthermore, cash flows are just not the past year or years; it is really about future cash flows. How do you equate something in the future?

The final section puts it together when determining intrinsic value. Unlike what others state, intrinsic value is not a definitive value; it is a range. The job of the value investor is to narrow that range to a set of values that are reasonable and effective with generating gains with the value investor’s mindset of ‘buy low, sell high’.

The overall goal of value investing is to buy a security at less than intrinsic value, commonly referred to as creating a margin of safety; then waiting for the market price to recover to a reasonable high and then selling that security. The depiction here illustrates this concept well.

The most popular and improper method to determine intrinsic value is the discounted cash flows method. It was advocated in the book Security Analysis written by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, the fathers of value investing. However, most so called experts didn’t read the entire book. Graham and Dodd only used this method under certain conditions. The same conditions as explained in the first section below. They strongly encouraged calculating intrinsic value from the assets valuation perspective (balance sheet basis) and not as a function of earnings plus cash adjustments (cash flow).

Value Investing – Setting Buy and Sell Points (Lesson 16)

Setting Buy and Sell Points

Setting buy and sell points for any investment security determines the investment’s final return. If the buy is made too early while the security is falling in price, the value investor loses out on not only additional margin upon the sale of that security, but also reduces their margin of safety associated with the intrinsic value point. It is similar on the other side of intrinsic value. If sold too soon, the value investor leaves money on the table. Thus, setting the buy and sell points are important decisions for every investment.

There are tools available to determine these two values. In the simplest of statements, the easiest rule to follow is the Pareto Principle, the old 80/20 rule. This rule basically states that roughly 80% of all outcomes are within 20% of of the value. With security pricing, this principle is simply that 80% of the value change will occur within 20% of the starting point. Thus, if a security’s intrinsic value is $80, then the probability is that 80% of the maximum change in value will happen within 20% points of the price shift. Therefore, the buy is approximately $64 and the sell point is $96. Almost certainly, this rule isn’t pure with security investing. The conception is that if the end results are beyond this 20 percent under and over the intrinsic value point, the value investor must have additional financial support and a lot of history with the security to validate expanding the buy and sell points beyond 20% fluctuation.

This lesson first introduces a basic model to illustrate and reinforce setting the respective buy and sell points. This model emphasizes an important aspect of price change. The angle of change affects the return on the investment. The steeper the price change, the shorter the time period for the change. The shorter the holding period for any investment, the greater the return on the investment. This is illustrated with a chart in this section of the lesson.

Value Investing – Investment Fund (Lesson 15)

Value Investing Investment Fund

An investment fund is a collection of capital from one or more individuals and is used to purchase financial instruments of various companies or other funds. The most common types are brokerage funds that allow incremental purchases from members. These funds are often dedicated to a certain group or type of investment. These groups or types of investments have a set of similar attributes. Some funds are dedicated to stocks from only small-cap companies. Other funds focus on a sector or industry within the economy. For example, there are utility funds, real estate funds and retail based funds.

The primary goal of a fund is to restrict the purchases of financial instruments to a certain investment group or type believing that this group or type is dynamic enough to earn a good return for its members that contribute the capital to buy rights to companies.

There are two forms of investment funds. The first form is an open fund. This means that it continuously allows new investors into the fund and its capital basis can expand over time. Most brokerage funds are open as they are used with many retirement plans. The opposite of this is a closed fund. Here, a preset sum is invested and the fund grows off this limited capital investment. Ownership of the fund may change as a member has the right to sell their respective position in this fund. 

When a value investor creates their fund, they utilize pools of similar investments in their fund to enhance the fund’s overall performance. It is encouraged to have at least three pools of investments in a fund and no more than six pools. A well designed fund uses the attributes of the respective pools to reduce risk, improve overall performance and minimize the holding of cash. The following three sections cover these three pooling benefits and how they achieve the overall goal of value investing.

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