The following question was posed to me by Prem sagar on my previous post. The question made me think and I am posting my thoughts on what I think is a fairly important issue in investing (earlier post on pricing )
But what would u say for an industry like say auto ancillaries or retail-proxies like Bartronics, control print, etc where the opportunity is huge, but they have little or no pricing power?
According to me, pricing is an important variable to evaluate the presence of a competitive advantage or strength. A company with strong pricing power, will be able to sustain high returns for a long time and can increase its intrinsic value over time too. So if one were to buy a company with strong pricing power (with other factors in favour), then it is likely that the investment would work out well with passage of time as the company increases its intrinsic value. So such companies can be long term holdings in a portfolio
That said, it does not mean that companies without pricing power would not be good investments. If one can find a company with low pricing power (commodity business), but with some kind of competitive advantage and selling below its intrinsic value, then such a company can be good investment. I would however not hold such an investment too long, once the stock price is close to the intrinsic value as the likelyhood of an increase in the intrinsic value is less.
I do not have much insight into retail-proxies. However as far as auto-ancillaries are concerned, I have done a bit of analysis ( see here, and here) and have not found too many companies to invest in (mainly due to valuation issues). By the very nature of the industry, these companies have poor pricing power (except for retail), have a few large buyers (OEM) and not many have achieved economies of scale in their operation (this industry is still fairly fragmented). However some auto-ancillaries do posses a few competitive advantages such as a low cost position due to focus on specific segment (fasteners for sundaram clayton?) and good growth opportunities. However as I have written earlier, I would invest in these companies only at a fair discount to intrinsic value and sell once the stock reaches the intrinsic value. I would really not hold the stock for a long term.