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Lastminute.com (ISIN NL0010733960) -cheap flights and a cheap stock ?

Quick Intro:

The idea to look at lastminute.com came from my gocompare post, this is what I wrote back then:

Peter Wood hired the former CEO of lastminute.com, Mathew Crummack.

He seems to be a smart guy, however I haven’t seen anything from him about the future strategy yet. The new CFO of GoCompare ist the old deputy CFO from Esure. So the top managers from Esure seem to have preferred to stay.

I haven’t looked that deeply into LastMinute.com but it seems to do better since he left…(note to myself: check Lastminute.com).

As I have quite a lot of travel related companies on my ToDo list, I decided to start a kind of “mini travel” series, similar to my “Watch series”. As I like to travel myself a lot, I think this should be lots of fun to look into those companies.

The company

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Lastminute.com is a company based in Switzerland which initially went public in 2014 under the (strange) name “Bravofly Rumbo”. They started out as a website to offer cheap flights in Italy and Spain.-

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Book review: “The Undoing Project” – Michael Lewis

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Michael Lewis is clearly “THE” author for financial books at the moment. His books are usually great to read, very well researched and a few of them have already turned into movies like “The Big Short”.

“The Undoing Project” is the story of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, two Israeli professors who developed the so-called “Prospect Theory” which deals with the behavioural “biases” that the human mind shows when deciding under uncertainty. And for which Kahneman got the Nobel Prize in 2002 (Tversky unfortunately died some years before that).

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Up until Prospect Theory, the human mind was assumed to be perfectly rational for most theories dealing with human behaviour and decision-making. As stock investors we all know that human behaviour in the stock market is anything but rational, however only following the groundbreaking work of those two guys, we now have a more structured way to understand how the mind really works.

The book covers the story of this “unlikely” pair of academics who started this revolution plus some side stories about people who were greatly influenced by them, for instance in Basketball and Medicine.

The book describes in very great detail how the relationship between Tversky and Kahneman developed, how it was interrupted by the different Israeli wars, how they moved from Israel to the US and how it ended. To be honest, I found this a little too much detail. It is an interesting story , no doubt, but I guess a few pages less would have made the book better.

Towards the end I really had to force myself to finish the book when Lewis describes in great detail how they tried more or less successfully to counter their critics. I think this was my first Michael Lewis book where I seriously thought about not finishing it.

All in all I would say it is an OK book for people who like those kind of biographic books, however for people interested in the theory and topic itself, Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow” in my opinion is the much better choice.

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Gocompare.com (GoCo) – Another Spin-off that became a “Trump victim” ?

The Company / Spin-off

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Gocompare.com (GoCo) has been spun-off from parent Esure in the beginning of November, a week before the US elections and only a few days before Italgas SpA. As a “parting gift”, Esure took out a special dividend of about 75 mn GBP financed by some net cash and a 70 mn GBP loan before spinning the company off-

In my understanding, the major reason for the spin-off was that Esure, the listed UK online direct insurer was short in solvency capital and that this transaction improved the solvency substantially.

Every Esure investor got one GoCo share for an Esure share. Interestingly, Toscafund, the second largest shareholder only holds 14% in Goco compared to 16,7 for Esure, so they seem to have sold some shares.

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Some thoughts on averaging down & averaging up

John Hempton has a very interesting post on when to average down into a stock.

As a summary, one should not average down into a stock if

  • a company has a lot of financial leverage
  • a company has significant operating leverage
  • the company is in danger of becoming obsolete

I think this is already a pretty good advice, as a counter example he gives Coca Cola where one can average down “without much risk”. As this is a very interesting topic, I wanted to contribute my 5 cents to this:

Behavioural biases at work

In my experience, averaging down is often motivated by a couple of behavioural biases.

The major bias which “helps” investors and especially professional ones to average down in the wrong cases is in my experience the “over confidence” bias.

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Oaktree Capital Group (OAK) – Strong as an Oak ?

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Oaktree Capital is an US-based listed asset manager specializing in alternative assets and more specifically in “distressed” securities. Co-founder Howard Marks became quite famous and is one of the most intelligent people in the investment industry. I had reviewed his book 5 years ago and read everything he writes with great interest.

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Oaktree is clearly one of the “Highest quality” names in Alternative Asset Management with a very good long-term track record. A reader mentioned Oaktree in the “ideal company post” and as I had them on my list anyway I decided to make this my first analysis for 2017.

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Italgas SpA (ISIN IT0005211237) – Spin-off special situation meets contrarian opportunity

Management Summary

As this turned into a pretty long post again, quickly the highlights. I do think that Italgas SpA, the recent Spin-off from SNAM SpA represents a potentially interesting special situation investment because:

  • overall sentiment towards Italy is really bad (“Renzi referendum”)
  • the Spin-off was not timed well just a day before the US election
  • the current uncertainties within Italian regulation changes further deters potential investors
  • all this is reflected in asset multiples at the very low-end for comparable regulated assets

For those reasons I initiated a 2,7% position for my portfolio for my “Special Situation” bucket.

DISCLAIMER: This is not investment advice. Please do your own research !!!!

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