I am married to some stocks, which in these times of hyperactive trading, is quite shocking to a lot of people.
I have held some of these stocks for five to ten years. I have discussed most these companies on my blog in the past. A partial list follows
- Balmer lawrie – Held since early 2005: compounded return of around 26% per annum including dividends. You can read the analysis here, here and here
- Asian paints – Held since 2001: Compounded return around 31% per annum including dividends. You can read the analysis here and here
- Gujarat gas – Held since early 2005: Compounded return of around 38% per annum including dividends. You can read the analysis here and here
- Crisil – Held since late 2008: Compounded return of around 42% per annum including dividends. You can read the analysis here and here
- Lakshmi machine works – Held since late 2008: Compounded return of around 50% per annum including dividends. You can read the analysis here and here.
Buy and hold philosophy?
The most common reaction to such an approach is to call it the buy and hold philosophy. I personally don’t follow any dogma in investing. At the time of investing in any stock, my approach is to buy stock in a company which has a sustainable competitive advantage (ability to maintain above average return on capital over a long period) and at a discount to fair value. I will hold the stock as long as the company continues to do well (maintains its competitive advantage) and is not too overpriced.
As you would notice in my approach above, there are no quantitative measures. Competitive advantage, though a well defined concept, is fuzzy in practice and not clear cut always. In addition, though some analysts like to give a specific number for fair value, it is usually an approximate number. As a result overvaluation also depends on your specific point of view (what you think about the company’s future prospects).
Due to the above subjectivity, I do not have a specific holding period in mind when I take a position in a stock. I generally evaluate the performance of the company annually, update the fair value and will hold till the market price does not exceed this fair value by 20-30%.
The above approach has led to a holding period of 5-10 yrs in case of some stocks.
Do I ever sell?
I will not hold the stock of a company, no matter how I feel about it, if I think the stock is overpriced. For example, I have reduced my position in asian paints in the last 2 years as the stock became overpriced.
I have exited Gujarat gas in the past when I thought it was overpriced and re-entered the stock when I felt it was undervalued again.
So in way, it is truly not a marriage, but more of a long term steady relationship :)
Why do most investors hold for shorter periods?
I have a theory or hypothesis on this. There is some research to support this theory too. Let me call this the ‘macho effect’. Most men, me included, want to look macho or ‘manly’ in almost all the activities they do. This testorone display is useful in a lot of activities (though one can doubt that too), but it is completely disastrous as far as investing is concerned.
What is the macho effect? Simply put, most men think that they are highly skilled in investing and the way to show it off is to aim for the highest possible returns. Any returns less than 40% per annum is for sissies. So in order to get these super high returns, they trade in and out of stocks and in the end are not even able to match market returns. The means becomes more important than the end itself.
If you don’t agree with my hypothesis, try discussing about a stock which can give you 20% per annum for the next 5 years with a high probability. Most of the guys will dismiss such a stock as useless and point to you a hot idea which can double in 3 months.
The same research (Barber and Odean (2000) study), also points out that women are much better investors than men. I think that would be true if they were more involved in the financial decisions of the family.
What are the downsides of long term holdings?
One downside is that such ideas will not make you look smart in front of your friends. These ideas will also not satisfy that ‘macho’ urge in you :). If you really have that itch to scratch, keep around 10% of your portfolio for entertainment.
In addition, it is not always possible to know such ideas in advance. Some stocks develop into long term holdings as the company in question continues to perform well and as a result there is no reason to sell the stock. One can only look for good quality companies and hope that they will continue to perform well into the future.
How should one buy?
In times of market distress, several high quality companies are available at cheap valuation. One can look at creating a position in these stocks at such times. The advantage of buying the stock on the cheap is that one gets a double kicker – one from the reversion of the valuations to more normalized levels and the other from a steady increase in fair value of the stock.
I am quite comfortable with stocks listed in the post. In addition, I will add to them if the market continues to drop and they get cheaper.There are no guarantees that each of these companies will continue to do well, but as a group I would expect them to do well. Of course one has to be careful about the valuations at which you buy any stock.