Monthly Archives: April 2013

IVG Convertible and distressed debt in general: Beware the “predators” – but don’t panic either…

It is quite interesting to read the comments to my latest IVG post and elsewhere. The overall sentiment seems to be quite negative. I think this is also partly due to some recent bankruptcies in Germany’s fledgling “Mittelstand” corporate bond market, where a couple of companies with really bad balance sheets issued bonds and defaulted quite soon afterwords. Very often, recovery rates were low double digits or even single digits.

Investing and evaluating bankruptcy situations is very complex. You have to figure out two things in order to come up with a value:

1. The probability of the company going bankrupt
2. The recovery in case of bancruptcy

The valuation of the bond is then pretty straight forward. However, before going there, maybe we should take step back and

Why do companies go bankrupt ?

In general, companies do not go bankrupt voluntarily because first and foremost the equity holders and owners will object strongly. Once a company is in bankruptcy, the game is over for equity owners, however as long as the company “lives” there is always a chance (or technically the option) that things turn around. So an equity holder will always try to stay in business.

Also management usually has not a lot to gain from bankruptcy and will try to hang on as long as they can to their posts and receive salaries. This is also one of the reasons why in many jurisdictions, not filing for bankruptcy although you are in a unsolvable position is considered a crime. In German, this for instance would be called “Insolvenzverschleppung”.

Usually, it is creditors who “pull the plug”, either by not rolling debt or by enforcing covenants which usually are part of standard bank loans. “Normal creditors” like banks and normal bond holders also don’t really like bankruptcies, they prefer their bonds being paid or rolled over. For a normal bank for instance, there is no upside to simply enforce a loan covenant if there is still a high chance that the company can survive. Enforcing a covenant for a normal bank usually means that they have to swap their loan into an asset with a much higher capital requirement.

So what banks normally do is that they will press for more equity and/or a higher coupon but normally they prefer the company to stay in business because seizing the assets does not provide a lot of upside, as the bank at max gets its notional back.

However “normal” creditors get nervous if a debtor is loosing money and the underlying assets pool is shrinking fast. If a bankruptcy is more or less unavoidable and the asset pool is shrinking, than the logical way is to press for bankruptcy as fast as possible in order to protect the downside.

Introducing the “predators”

However there is also another group of creditors: So called “vulture funds”. Those guy usually come in if a company is in some kind of trouble, but there is still enough collateral.

Their strategy is quite simple: They try to enter the capital structure at the most senior level at a discount. Those discounts often appear, if for example a bad bank is set up and people want to dispose legacy assets as soon as possible.


Assume, secured loans of a troubled company with a maturity of 5 years are sold to a “distressed debt” fund at 60% of nominal. The interest rate is 5%. By holding it until maturity, the fund will earn 13.7% p.a. if everything goes OK. This is nice, however distressed debt claims to earn as their Private equity investors more like 20-30% ROEs.

So how can they increase their annual returns ? The answer is simple: Try to enforce bankruptcy as quickly as possible and sell the collateral. So for the example from above I made two further scenarios: either bankruptcy after one year or direct bankruptcy.

Period 0 1 2 3 4 5
HTM -70 5 5 5 5 105
IRR 13.7%          
Bankruptcy after 1 year -70 5 0 100    
IRR 15.1%          
Direct bankruptcy -70 0 100      
IRR 19.5%        

So in this simple example, the principle is quite easy to see: For a “distressed secured” buyer, the earlier the bankruptcy, the higher the returns.

How can a predator enforce bankruptcy ?

The usual way to do this is to enforce “broken” loan covenants. Normal bank loans contain certain minimum thresholds, often with regard to debt/equity or debt/asset ratios as well as interest/income. If those thresholds are not met anymore, usually the debtor has a certain “cure period” to fix things. Otherwise, the loans will become “due”. In normal cases, banks will not have an incentive to enforce the covenant. So they will renegotiate the covenants but demand extra collateral and/or a higher coupon.

A “predator” however, wil try to enforce the covenant in order to get his hands on the collateral.

In general, syndicated loans (i.e. a big loan which has been split up between a group of banks) will require a majority vote to actually renegotiate loan covenants. And that is where it gets interesting.

“Distressed debt” funds normally apply 2 strategies to accelerate their returns:

1) Enforcing bankruptcy
2) Blackmailing the loan syndicate

The second strategy is basically a game theory thing. If you have enough share of a syndicate to block decisions, sometimes those creditors who cannot afford a bankruptcy process will buy off th “predators”. This is often even better than going through the liquidation process.

Back to IVG: What does it mean here ?

Well, that’s easy: Look out for the predators !!!

As those guys smell the blood quite early, they have of course already arrived, at least according to this interesting piece of news from Reuters:

German property company IVG Immobilien is attracting attention from distressed debt investors as some lenders seek to cut their exposure to avoid potential heavy losses in a restructuring of its 4 billion euro ($5.3 billion) debts.

Between 400 million euros and 500 million in loans have been sold in three trades recently by banks looking to reduce or exit their positions in IVG and more trades are expected to occur in the coming weeks, bankers said on Friday.

And even more interesting:

IVG was not immediately available to comment.

The loans were sold to investors at around mid-80 percent of face value, a level considered to be distressed in Europe’s secondary loan market, bankers added.

IVG had outstanding debt of almost 4 billion euros at the end of 2012, comprising mostly bank loans, 3.16 billion euros of which are due to be refinanced by the end of 2014. IVG is close to breaching covenants on its debts.

So the predators are there, time to panic and sell the convertible ?

Not so fast. In my opinion there are 4 reasons why one should not panic:

1. The covenants are not broken yet, so there is no way to enforce the covenant here and now.
2. The price levels mentioned here does not justify a liquidation in my opinion. If you buy at 85% and you liquidate, then you will get money only within 2-3 years. This would be a single digit return at this levels
3. The amount traded does not provide a majority in any of the loan tranches.
4. There is a lot of money in the market chasing “high yield” paper, therefore improving IVG’s chance for refinancing

So for me it looks at the moment rather like a blackmailing strategy as discussed above, where the syndicate banks shall be forced to buy out the predators. Even if the predators go for liquidation, the question is how quickly they will be able to enforce the covenants.

Sometimes, “predators” run even more sophisticated schemes errrh strategies. One strategy for example would be Blackmailing as described above plus then investing in other parts of the capital structure at even more distressed prices. So the funds mentioned above could threaten the company and hold up the negotiation process only to purchase for instance the convertible at a very low price. At the last moment, they could then agree to a restructuring (or sell to the other banks) and harvesting the upside on the convertible.


With the arrival of the “predators”, renegotiation for IVG will become more difficult. For the time being, it rather looks like a typical distressed debt “blackmailing” strategy, aimed at the other consortium banks. However this could change.

On the other hand, at current levels (66%-67%), a lot of bad news seems to be priced in, giving convertible holders an upside of > 50% in less than a year if the convertible gets paid in full.

Even in a liquidation scenario, I do not believe that we see such low recoveries as in other German cases in the recent past.

So for the time being, I am considering if I add carefully to my position if the (expected) bad news arrives. I am pretty sure the next call with management will be a disaster, so this could be a good entry point.

Book review: “The Dhando Investor” – Monish Pabrai

For me, Monish Pabrai is mostly known as the guy who bid a couple of hundred thousand bucks in order to have lunch with Warren Buffet. But actually he has written a book as well.

The book claims as subtitle: “The Low-Risk Value Method to High Returns”.

The book shows a couple of “real world” examples, where people made a lot of money with somehow limited investments for instance a group of Indian refugees which went into Motels in the 70ties or Richard Branson with Virgin and Lakshmi Mittal.

He then lays out his “Dhando framework”:

1. Focus on buying existing businesses
2. Buy simple businesses with an ultra-slow rate of change
3. Buy distressed businesses in distressed industries
4. Buy businesses with a durable competitive advantage
5. Bet heavily when th odds are overwhelmingly in your favour
6. Focus on arbitrage
7. Buy businesses at big discounts to their underlying intrinsic value
8. Look for low-risk high uncertainty businesses
9. It’s better to be a copycat than an innovator

The book itself is very well written and quite accessible even for investment beginners. That is the big strength of the book. However I have also some “quibbles” with the book:

– In the “arbitrage” section, i think how confuses arbitrage and competitive advantage. The low costs of GEICO, WB insurance company is clearly the simplest form of competitive advantage (cost) and not any kind of arbitrage

– I personally find the combination of large bets and distressed situations quite dangerous. If you read the book, you could come to the conclusion that it is a good strategy to invest a large portion of your portfolio into a few, highly indebted companies. I would say this is in % of the cases a very good way to lose a lot of money, especially if you do that before a general recession.

-some of his own investments mentioned in the book rather look like lucky timing (buying in 2002) than anything else


Overall, I think it is a well written book, which nicely summarizes several aspects of “Value Investing”. In my opinion, it is clearly not any kind of new method, but that doesn’t matter and you will not be producing superior invetsment returns after reading it. But it is a good book to wet ones appetite for value investing and hopefully read other books (Bruce Greenwald, Seth Klarman).

Although the book is clearly written for “the average investor”, one should however be careful not to misinterpret the different approaches, especially position size and “distressed” investments.

Sourcing ideas: Quick Scan Evermore Global portfolio

In the weekly links, I had linked to the Evermore portfolio. On reader commented that the fund performed badly, so why bother ?

Well, I do not know if they perform better in the future, but their philosophy which the lined out in the report looks quite OK and if they follow that then in the long run they should do OK. It is also rare that you have a “mutual fund wrapper” for a special situation fund. There are many funds where you can see the “usual” value stuff. As sourcing special situation ideas is not as easy (there is no real “screener”), having such funds and looking for ideas is quite helpful.

So as I use the blog also as my personal notepad, I wanted to quickly put down some points about their positions in order not to forget them:

Frontline Convertible
Far out of the money convertible, maturity April 2015. Currently trades at around ~50%. Situation similar to IVG. Could be interesting.

Ei Towers
Italia based operator of broadcasting “infrastructure”. At a first glance not as cheap as SIAS but more shareholder oriented.

Many years ago I had saved Constantin as “uninvestible”, however I do not remember why. Time to look at them again ?

No interest here. I guess many people underestimate how catastrophic the combination of low interest rates and potentially higher inflation is for insurance companies (yes I know, Baupost owns them both, but why does Buffet not write Life Insurance policies ?)

Also a Baupost stock. I still believe Bougyues is the better company.

I personally view Bolore more like a financial “juggler”. There is much cheaper stuff in France in the small cap sector

Spin-off / split off from Tyco. US company, not my cup of tea

Moduslink Global
This seems to be some sort of Asset play. Unprofitable US small cap (market cap ~140 mn USD), however half of market cap in cash.

Smart move, although I looked at them during my Autostrada/SIAS analysis, I didn’t figure out the stake in the Brazilian company. I don’t know when they bought but this was a very good one. The Sicilian guy Salini made a tender for 4 EUR per share and Autostrada seems to accept it at 4 EUR per share.

Exor SpA
The HoldCo of the Agnielli family for FIAT. I saw them in some other portfolios (Longleaf, Southeastern) but never had the time to look at them.

Sevan Drilling Norway
Stock price looks distressed (P/B ~0.3). However I have no knowledge about deep sea drilling. MAybe a good stock to start ?

Sky Deutschland
Nothing for my portfolio.

Ackermans & Van Haaren
Diversified Belgium company. Looks more like a potentially “boring compounder” than special situation but interesting.

Guoco Group
Hongkong based group, bid from a Malaysian company. First Eagle and Third Avenue are shareholders as well

Pulse Seismic
Seismic data licensing company. Never heard before. business model itself quite interesting

Lonrho Plc
(in)famous UK conglomerate, now seems to be reinvent itself as an African-Agricultural company. Anyone remembers Tiny Rowland ?


I think their portfolio is quite interesting, despite the yet lackluster performance. I will keep them on my list for possibly “Stealing” some ideas. Currently, I think Ei Towers, Sevan, Pulse and Ackermans look the most interesting to me.

Quick updates: WMF AG

WMF, the succesful German manufacturer of Coffee machines and cutlery released 2012 earnings last week and the annual report today.

Additionally, two rather strange things happened:

1. Despite a good result and extremely strong Free cash flow, they cut the dividend from 1.40 EUR to 1 EUR per share citing the need to “strengthen the internal funding capacity” of the company.
2. Yesterday, the CEO who successfully turned around the company, resigned as of may 31st 2013.

Quick Recap: Last year, the former private equity owner Capvis sold out to KKR, the legendary P/E company.

The reduction of the Dividend and especially the reason given is of course a joke. WMF has net cash and could be leveraged quite a bit before you start cutting dividends.

To me this is a kind of “deja vu” with another German company i used to own (before i started the blog), ANZAG AG, a German pharmaceutical distribution company.

KKR indirectly bought the majority of ANZAG vie their Boots/Unichem purchase. Then in 2009, they started to cut the dividend and communicating bad outlooks before they then managed to buy out the remaining minority shareholders for 31 EUR. In my opinion, KKR is not unfair, but they make sure that the upside remains with them and not minority shareholders.

So I do not understand, why now the share price goes up so much. For me, the situation is very different to the Capvis situation. Capvis in my opinion always wanted to exit via a share sale, so the interest of minority shareholders and Capvis were more or less aligned.

KKR on the other hand, will most likely look for another solution (break up, leveraging up, mergers). So the firing of the CEO and cutting the dividend could be the first sign that they are changing the strategy and that the “ANZAG strategy” might be applied here as well. In my opinion, the interest of majority shareholder and minority shareholder are less well aligned as before and the resignation of a very succesful CEO is one “early warning” here.

Additionally, in my (non growth) valuation model, the ordinary shares already look overvalued, the pref share which are owned are fairly valued.

Also, the chart looks kind of “stretched”.

So as a result, I will start selling the WMF pref shares (~3.7% of the portfolio) from today on under the usual rules.

Quick updates: Installux, EMAK, SIAS & ATSM

As I am not doing this fulltime, I sometimes miss if companies publish their results. In principle, for my “Value companies” I don’t think that one time period makes a big change in the overall investment case. However it definitely makes sense to look at existing companies at least once a year.


As reader Caque commented, Installux reported prelimary earnings a few days ago.

With 6.67 mn EUR or around 22 EUR per share, earnings were surprisingly good. Net cash is now at 18.8 mn EUR or 62 EUR per share. So trailing EPS ex cash is around (100/22) ~4.9 times, quite low for a company which earns around 15-20% ROCE.

2013 will clearly be a challenge for them, according to the last sentence of the statement:

L’environnement général incite Installux à la prudence quant à ses perspectives 2013. Le groupe anticipe un repli d’environ -8%. “Cette tendance se confirme malheureusement en terme de volume d’activité sur le 1er trimestre (-13%),

-13% in sales in the 1 quarter is quite substantial. On the other side, this might open up some interesting entry points during the year. Nevertheless it should be clear that France in general is going through a quite difficult year. As ussual, the stock price doesn’t do much and volume remains low:

One remark from my side: France and the Netherlands are Germany’s major trading partners. I cannot understand how people can be so positive about German companies and negative about Netherlands and France in particular.


EMAK came out with a investor relation presentation including preliminary annual figures already a few weeks ago.

Interestingly, the “old” EMAK business is doing quite poorly, profit is down 50% or so. The “new” businesses acquired from the main shareholder were holding up much better. So looking back, the dilution is not that big.

EPS was ~5 cent per share so we have a trailing P/E of around 10. If they really make good on their ambition level (38-40 mn EBITDA), the stock would be quite cheap. Let’s wait and see, no need to do something at the moment. This has 2-3 years more to play out.

The stock price at the moment seems to “lazily” trail the FTSE MIB to a certain extent:


SIAS came out with preliminary 2012 numbers already 4 weeks ago.

What was clearly an issue is the fact, that traffic declined significantly in 2012, much more than expected. So despite a overall tariff increase, revenues stayed flat.

The good news: On April 15th, they are expected to pay the special dividend of 90 cent per share , distributing what is left from the sale of the Chilean asset sale and the purchase of the concession.

Operationally, there seems to be additional preassure from the regulatory side, as agreed tarrif increases have been suspended by the regulator.

After the special dividend, a large part of the “special situation” aspect (extra asset) has now played out. Howver, the fundamental part looks not as good as I have though initially. I will need to decide if I hold on to SIAS as a “Normal” value investmetn or sell it at some point in the near future. Fundamentally, the company does a lot worse than I had exepected. Thankfully, the entry price was low enough and investors seem to liek special dividends.

The stock price has outperformed the FTSE MIB in the last 12 month by a margin of more than 30%. Quite significant for a purely domestic business:

Even more interesting:

Autostrada (“ATSM”) now caught up with SIAS ver 2 years as it turned out that the “Italian Job”, the Purchase of Impregilo,turned out to be a great special situation investment, netting Autostrada a nice profit.

Maybe time to switch back into the “Cheapie” ? Let’s wait and see. Definitely worth to check the Autostrada annual report this year.

Quick updates: Sol SpA, AS Creation, Vetropack

Sol SpA

Sol came out with a “preliminary annual” already end of March. The numbers were not really surprising.

Sales were up 4.9%, EBITDA was up +1.4%, however net result was down -6.8%. I find this surprisingly good especially considering the tough environment for the mostly Italien based industrial gas business.

Most interesting is this part of the statement:

In comparison to 2011, the sales increased slightly in Italy (+0.2%) but much more abroad (+10.8%), which represents 46.8% of the total turnover. The home-care business, in which the Group operates through VIVISOL, marked a growth of 10.9% (sales equal to € 264.9 ml), while the technical gases business increased of 1.3% (sales equal to € 344.9 ml).

I think this is also the reason why the share price is doing quite well at the moment, despite the overall EPS decrease.

AS Creation

Also last week, AS Creation came out with its annual report for 2012. Numbers were ok (EPS 2.67 EUR per share against 1.69 EUR last year. Dividend will be increased to 1.20 EUR.

This is all quite positive, however the shares are now not cheap anymore. With a trailing P/E of 16 and the German economy running on full steam, there seems to be quite a lot of positive expectations for the Russian JV priced in.

AS Creation is one of the stocks where I have to check in more detail if there is still a real “margin of safety” at this level. (Edit: Interestingly, in Bloomberg they show a wrong EPS number for 2012. Here the EPS is 3.22 EUR, this makes the stock look cheaper)

The stock price has great momentum and is on its way to challenge the ATH from 2007 at around 50 EUR:


Last but not least, Vetropack came out with their 2012 report some days ago. Although EPS wass up strongly at 197 CHF per share, operating profit was down. The reason for this was a sale of non used real estate. Vetropack invested significantly more in 2012 than 2011, the question will be if this results in more growth.

In 2012, positive developements in some countires were off set mainly through negative developements in Switzerland and high energy costs.

I still like Vetropack as a very boring, extremely defensive (indirect) consumer play, again one has to monitor if the capital is allocated efficiently. At the moment a solid “hold” position.

The stock price is stagnating clearly, also compared for instance vs. Italian competitor Zignano:

Vetropack is trading at a discount (EV/EBITDA) both to Zignano and Vidrala, the 2 European peers which, in my opnion should be theother way round.

Guest post: Book review “The Outsiders, Eight unconventional CEOs and their radically rational Blueprint for Success”

Many thanks to reader N. for this !!!

I would like to recommend the book: “The Outsiders, Eight unconventional CEOs and their radically rational Blueprint for Success”. It is written by William N. Thorndike Jr. and a team of Harvard students.

I first heard about the Book in the write-up of the annual Meeting of the Daily Journal as a book recommendation from Charlie Munger.
When reading the subtitle of the Book I was really eager to read it as soon as possible.

My first impression is that the book, considering its high price, is fairly short. The book has only got 225 pages.

The main content of the book is:

The 8 CEOs are so successful, because they follow 4 simple rules:

1. Run a decentralized organization which releases entrepreneurial energy and keeps both costs and “rancor” down.

2. Cash flow, not reported earnings, is what determines long term value.

3. Share buybacks increase in per share value and in the long run that is the only thing that matters – not the overall growth of the company.

4. With acquisitions, patience is a virtue… as is occasional boldness.

The author of the book points out that the outsider CEOs shared an interesting set of personal characteristics: They were generally frugal and humble, analytical, and understated. They were devoted to their families, often leaving the office early to attend school events. They did not give chamber of commerce speeches, and did not attend Davos and last but not least they did not exude charisma.

The outsiders are not like Jack Welch an example of a charismatic, action-oriented leader. They are more like Ben Franklin; they avoid bankers and other advisers and prefer their own counsel and that of a select group around them.

In the word of the author: “The outsiders are iconoclasts. The word iconoclast is derived from Greek and means ‘smasher of icons’.”

The outsiders are:

1. Tom Murphy and Capital Cities Broadcasting
2. Henry Singleton and Teledyne
3. Bill Anders and General Dynamics
4. John Malone and TCI
5. Katharine Graham and The Washington Post Company
6. Bill Stiritz and Ralston Purina
7. Dick Smith and General Cinema
8. Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway


It is a quite interesting read with many interesting stories about the company’s and the CEOs.
The book is really easy to read and there are summaries at the end of every chapter. At the end of the book, the author presents the outsiders mind frame in a simple approach and a checklist.

But I did not think that it is as easy as it seems comprehending the book. I think you always need the right time and the right location to be successful.

So if you want to enjoy a well written book about a really interesting topic which can help you figure out the right management of the company in which you like to invest you might consider buying it.

Weekly links

Must read: Jim Chanos interview on fraud

The Brooklyn Investor on Loew’s corporation

A fund managament company which I discovered by chance which has an interesting “off the beaten path” portfolio: Evermore Capital

Highly recommended: “A good day to live” blog. Mainly about downshifting but with occassional great comments about investing, how to take crisis more easily etc.

Alternative Assets are overhyped says Abnormal returns. I like especially this quote which sums up alternative assets nicely:

Think of it like this, he [Bernstein] says: “The first person to the buffet table gets the lobster. The people who come a little later get the hamburger. And the ones who come at the end get whatever happens to be stuck to the tablecloth.”

Value Investor or Value Pretender ?

There was a very nice post over at beyondproxy about the varieties of value investors.

The top 10 characteristics to spot the so called “Value Pretenders” from beyondproxy were the following:

Reason #10: You invest based on chart patterns,
Reason #9: You assume multiple expansion in your investment theses
Reason #8: You try to figure out how a company will do vis-à-vis quarterly EPS estimates
Reason #7: You base your decisions on analyst recommendations
Reason #6: You use P/E to Growth (PEG) as a key valuation metric
Reason #5: You use EBITDA as a measure of cash flow
Reason #4: You would worry about your portfolio if the market closed for a year.
Reason #3: You make investment decisions based on the activity or tips of others
Reason #2: Your investment process centers on the market opportunity.
Reason #1: Your investment theses do not reference the stock price

David Merkel at the Aleph blog has (as always) a very good reply to all the 10 points which I strongly support.

As I think this topic is quite interesting and funny, I tried to come up with some of my own characteristics which, in my opinion, could help to detect “Value Pretenders”:

My Top 10 list for detecting value pretenders would be the following:

10. Portfolio turnaround of 50% or more p.a.
“True value investments” are almost never short term bets. Sometimes if you are lucky, value gets realised more quickly but on average those ideas need at least 3-5 years for full potential.

9. Buy and sell decisions because of macro events or macro expectations
As a value investor, you have to be a fundamental investor and analyse on a company level. Macro expectations play a certain role but should never ever be the basis of a buy and sell decision as no one is able to really and consistently to predict them. In contrary, negative macro events are .sometimes very fertile hunting grounds for fundamental investors

8. Investment process does not include reading several annual reports per company in detail
As a fundamental investor, there is no replacement for reading the “original” source of information.

7. Investments in companies with questionable / aggressive accounting
As a value investor, you first thought should be: Can I lose money with this. Whenever a company looks cheap but accounting is questionable, there is no real margin of safety. Conservative accounting and integrity of the persons involved is key.

6. Investor does not discuss risks and weaknesses in detail
Again, the main point in value investing is not loosing. There is never a sure thing, every investment can go belly up. But as a value investor you should be able to identify and price in at least all the obvious risks. And communicate them.

5. Investor does not have a (to a certain extent) structured investment process or a very complicated one
A structured investment process is no guarantee for success, most asset managers pretend to have one. However, if the process is to complicated, with lots of committees and stuff, it is not a positive sign as responsibilities get diluted. No real proces at all is also a waring sign, although for the rare genius (WB) this might work. For pure mortals no process means the big risk of being vulnerable to all kind of behavioural biases.

4. Performance record consistently shows higher draw downs in negative periods than the market
Clearly, even the best value portfolio can underperform in a bad market. However if one sees this more than once, the portfolio is most likely not a “value portfolio” but a high beta portfolio of low quality stocks.

3. Investor offers you redemption on a daily basis
One of the big issues with investors is the tendency to second guess the investment manager. A value investor should “protect” his investors from their animal instincts and align their expectations with his investment style. Joel Greenblatt had a great article on this as he showed how individuals underperformed the Magic Formula by a wide margin because of jumping in and out of the strategy. For me, offering a daily redeemable investment vehicle (mutual fund) and claiming to be a value investor does not go well together.

2. Investor can tell you a great “story” for every stock he owns
On the one hand, any value investor should be able to lay out his investment thesis in a few simple sentences. Anything which is too complicated to explain is most likely not a good investment. On the other hand, “story stocks”, especially those touting some new invention or change in business strategy etc. are mostly never good investments. Good investments often don’t have “catchy” stories but rather are simply good and reliable businesses.

1. Investor uses only last year’s earnings / book value / cashflow plus projections as basis for an investment
This is one of the worst mistakes one can make. One year numbers are to a certain extent more or less meaningless. This is also one of the main reasons why I am very sceptical of “statistical value” strategies where people try to “data mine” investments. Clearly one can use this as a starting point for further analysis, but every company is the sum of its past and looking only at one year is like judging a book purely by its cover.

Finally a few words in general: there is clearly more than one way to success in investing and also more than one way to do “value” investing”. But at the core of value investing are in my opinion:

A) detailed fundamental analysis
B) protection of the downside
C) long time horizon
D) patience

Quick updates: G. Perrier, Maisons France Confort, April

Some quick updates on French stocks:

G. Perrier

Already some days ago, G. Perrier announced preliminary 2012 numbers.


– Sales up 7% (+4% without acquisitions)
– Profit up 13.2% to 7.94 mn or 4.02 EUR per share

In my opinion, this is an absolut outstanding result if one considers that G. Perrier is more or less a purely domestic French company and clearly shows the quality of the company and their business model. I am not sure when the annual report is out, but as discussed perviously, I will increase the position further, target is now a full position.

Maisons France Confort

Also already a few days ago, Maisons France Confort issued annual numbers including the annual report. As some readers might remeber, i had two posts about them (part 1 & part 2), but didn’t include them in the portfolio yet.

Looking at the stock price action, it seems to be that market participants had expected better numbers or a better outlooK:

Final numbers were 2.70 EUR EPS for 2012. With around 7 EUR net cash per share, this translates into a trailing P/E of ~5.9. Of course, 2013 will not be easy for them, i guess the late spring in Europe will not improve things and the business model of MFC has much more exposure to the weak French economy. Nevertheless it looks like a potentially interesting cyclical entry point into a real good business. I will have to follow up on that one.

April SA

Quite similar to MFC, April came out with its 2012 numbers and the stock got hammered quite significantly.

The company earned 1.31 EUR per share, additionally there were some positive effects in the other comprehensive income. April clearly has the same problem as any financial services company which is very low interest rates. Nevertheless it is not clear to me, why the share price has now decoupeled from peer company AXA.

I will clearly have to look at the annual report, but so far I don’t see any reasons to sell.

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