August 24, 2005

Reading a book on Bill miller

I have been reading a book on bill miller from janet lowe

A few things which I learnt

- It is critical to develop a multi-disciplinary model to evaluate companies. This is getting more important as new companies would have more intangible assets than tangible ones and would depend on network effects / customer lock-in etc to create value (like e-bay). even old economy companies will have some component of new economy companies (think about the website of most retailers )
- Importance of understanding business models of these new economy companies and avoiding slotting them into incorrect categories. Bill miller gives an example of which is looked at as a retailer and as a result the market has got it wrong several times. According to miller, business model of amazon is closer to dell than walmart (although amazon is using the same wallmart strategy , but online – keep the gross margins constant and pass the benefits to the consumer to build scale )
- The market typically makes an error in evaluating a new business model and is slow to recognize it (but eventually it does). So an investor like miller who has the foresight , can beat the market on these companies (examples given were for dell and amazon )
- Concepts such as network effects, customer lock-in and increasing returns have been discussed briefly in the book with some example.
- Some example of companies which have both new and old economy models
- The book brings out bill miller’s capability to think independently and stand against the crowd ( there is an incident narrated in the book , where it seems in the baron’s panel , one of member asked if bill was drunk when he bought amazon in 2001 – eventually bill was vindicated on his decision

One the most important points which I learnt from the book was to develop an open mind on the new concepts which are coming up and the way they are being used by value investors like bill miller. The growth v/s value tag seems to be immaterial for any company as long as one can assess the intrinsic value of a company and buy it at a discount. Although I may find it difficult to apply these concepts directly, I think these new concepts would help me analyzing and appreciating the new business models which are developing


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