A Wealth Creation Journal

Author: XC (Page 1 of 6)

Jet2 (previously Dart Group) – a mistake of inaction!

After evaluating the financial resulting ending Sep 2020, it seems clear that I was probably being too conservative for not adding to Jet2 during the period of time where they raised new equity and sold logistics business. At that point, the risk of ruin is extremely remote and I have always believed in the normalised earnings of GBP 150m which means I could easily justify a market cap of GBP 1.5bn.

So I could have made a purchase around GBP 1bn market knowing full well that the risk of ruin is minimal. But I didn’t. And I don’t really have any good justification. So this is a mistake of inaction.

However, we are where we are now at a market cap of GBP 2bn. What to do next?

Jet2’s lack of a long growth runway concerns me quite a bit as it already commands a 40-50% market share within the UK’s package holiday sector. Hence Jet2 is unlikely to be a multi-bagger from here. But it could grow its market share to 60-70% as it comes out of this pandemic. I estimate its package holiday business could grow to 5 million customers within the next 3-5 years up from its current 3.2 million customers (pre-pandemic).

On the pricing side, I continue to be worried about ticket pricing due to a glut of plane capacity. But Jet2’s route network overlap with the major airlines is minimal and expect to shrink coming out this pandemic as Ryanair and easyJet retreat from the regional airports.

Finally, Jet2 gained incredible customer goodwill which could improve the sustainability of its franchise.

So on balance, it is a better business now versus 9 months ago. It is set to recover in 2021 and beyond.

I think I am in a better position to take advantage of any price correction now!

Nintendo entering the Cloud Gaming era

I played Control on Nintendo Switch today and it felt surprisingly good. Control was first released on PS4 and was previously thought impossible to port to the lower-powered Switch. But game streaming technology makes it possible.

The unique thing about a cloud game is that it requires an Internet connection to play and the gamer doesn’t own the game outright. Similar to the way that Spotify subscription users don’t own the music on Spotify.

Currently, Nintendo is working with a third-party company – Ubitus, a Taiwan cloud technology company to provide the cloud gaming solution. This is very different to Playstation and Xbox which both have gone down the path of developing their 1P cloud solution.

This could be a good thing for Nintendo as it allows Switch players to access AAA games which were previously unavailable on Switch. I wonder if the next Switch upgrade will come with 5G and introduce the possibilities of cloud gaming anywhere!

On the other hand, it also revealed the weakness in Nintendo’s cloud gaming strategy. They need to develop a proper company-wide strategy to adapt to the gaming era. I suspect at some point, they need to decide if they want to develop a cloud solution for Switch platform. The risk with a third party solution is that gamers would lose access to Control if Ubitus for whatever reason decide not to stream it any more.

With Xbox fully embracing the clouding game and cross-device future, the competitive pressure is heating up. It is possible that 5G smartphones + streaming could commoditise Switch’s superior gaming experience.

My next research project is to closely follow the technological evolution of cloud gaming.

Live Portfolio Update – 2020 #13

Bought 10% position in 51jobs @ 70USD per share.

This is a classic Chinese ADR privatisation deal with a PE sponsor. DCP Capital is currently offering to take 51jobs private. My guess is that mgmt team will join them in the privatisation deal at some point and hence they only have to buy 50% of the shares outstanding.

I should note that as compared to other Chinese ADR privatisation deal, the valuation sounds fair. So I believe there is very little chance of price improvement from here. Overall, I think the deal is very likely to pass within 3-6 months.

I see this deal as a way to earn a higher return on cash with a good risk-adjusted return.  I would not want to participate in merger arb if I can find high quality companies to own for the long term.

Live Portfolio Update – 2020 #12

Sold 4.2% of Avanza @ SEK185 per share.

It pains me to sell Avanza. But I cannot justify its valuation at this level. The trading intensity of Avanza customer base is so abnormally high (+50% versus an average of last 5 years) that it is only a matter of time before trading activity normalises. Hence current Avanza’s earning is materially overstated and putting a peak multiple (26x) on a materially overstated earning base is not good for prospective returns.

On the other hand, Avanza’s intrinsic value has benefitted from customer growth. I still have a 2% position in Avanza and I look forward to buying Avanza back at a lower valuation.

Generally, I do not try to trade around investments as I usually don’t make money out of it. Especially for a very high-quality franchise like Avanza. But when the valuation is so out of whack, I have to act.

Why I own Nintendo

After a lot of “backbreaking” research work, I am finally a proud shareholder of Nintendo!

Nintendo is a legendary Japanese video game company that has remained a mainstay in the industry for over 35 years, mostly because of its competence as a world-class game content creator. Nintendo owns the top 2 highest-grossing video game franchise of all time – Pokemon and Mario. Unlike most games that only last for less than 1 year, Nintendo’s most popular game franchises have exceptional longevity. For example, Nintendo’s current top 5 grossing games have been around for more than 10 years. I believe that Nintendo’s best days are ahead of it because its genius as a game maker will be amplified as Nintendo builds a direct and deep relationship with its gamer base. This new relationship with its gamer base will transform Nintendo’s cyclical revenue into a recurring one.

Unlike traditional media of TV, books and music, video game is an interactive entertainment media. This is a highly immersive environment where the gamer can interact with the game environment and change the course of events in the game world. Video games, because of this interactivity, are in essence problems for gamers to solve. It is believed that human instinctively derives happiness from solving problems and the harder the problem, the more intense the feeling of happiness when the problem is solved. Using this perspective, a video game is a cheap and effective medium to create all kind of problems for humans to solve. Nintendo’s genius lies in its ability to create problems (game contents) that are fun for the gamers to solve and to find the subtle balance between been too difficult and too easy. In short, Nintendo knows how to make games fun to play; or in Nintendo parlance, it “creates unique forms of play”.

Nintendo’s adopts the classic razor and razor blade business model. Gamers first purchase the Nintendo console, or more specifically Nintendo Switch which is the latest generation of Nintendo consoles, and separately buy the games to play on the console. Nintendo’s business model is to sell consoles at cost and make majority of the profit on the high gross margin game sales.

Traditionally, Nintendo is seen as a cyclical business because it is more reliant on the success of its console (hardware) rather than its true strength – games (software). Since new games released on the latest generation of console cannot be played on the previous generation of consoles (no backward compatibility), gamers might not upgrade to the latest generation of console which lead to limited incentives for game developers to develop new games for a console with small install base. This dynamic led to either huge successes or devastating failures. For Nintendo, Wii was a huge success but followed by Wii U which was a total commercial failure. But I believe this is changing as Nintendo’s relationship with its gamer is evolving to a more direct and continuous one which eventually lead to an almost recurring revenue stream.

Console games are evolving from distinct game worlds where gamers buy the game upfront with no further cost to persistent game worlds that gamers make ongoing payments. Many examples of very success persistent game worlds, such as World of Warcraft and League of Legends, have demonstrated incredible longevity and significantly higher revenue potential relative to distinct game worlds. As more gamers play more games with persistent game worlds, they are likely to play the console longer and more likely to upgrade to the new generation of console to enjoy better graphics.

Going forward, games’ backward compatibility is going to be a standard feature for the next-generation consoles. Without backward compatibility, each new generation of console resets the install base to zero, and the introduction of backward compatibility means that new console adds to the current generation console’s install base rather than a reset.

Nintendo builds a direct relationship with its gamer base through Nintendo Account which holds the entire library of games ever purchased by the gamers. This is a very powerful relationship as gamers could bring their games seamlessly onto the latest generation of console. Nintendo can also create new subscription products such as Online Membership which further improves revenue visibility.

Previously game developers found it very costly to develop for multiple gaming platforms (Nintendo, Sony, Xbox) as the underlying hardware architectures are different. Game engines such as Unreal and Unity provide a standard software development environment such that it is much easier for game developers to launch their games on multiple platforms. This dynamic amplifies Nintendo’s strength as a superior game developer relative to its competitors, who are primarily platform businesses with limited game development DNA, as gamers who previously buy Nintendo consoles just for the exclusive Nintendo games can now also get the games that are otherwise available on Sony and Xbox.

All of the four factors above – console games evolving from discreet to persistent game worlds, game’s backward compatibility, direct to gamer relationships and interoperability of gaming platforms – means that Nintendo’s strength as a world-class game maker is going to be the key driver for success going forward and the console’s cyclical risk is more muted.

Every time a big technology paradigm shift appears, there is always a risk that incumbents could somehow be disrupted. Cloud gaming is the latest technology paradigm shift. While it is still not clear to me how cloud gaming is going to change the industry, I am confident that Nintendo can thrive as long as they are able to apply their game development DNA to the cloud gaming environment. However, Nintendo might not be able to adapt to the cloud gaming world just as they still struggle to adapt to the mobile gaming environment.

Nintendo has failed to adapt to the mobile game environment because they do not have the operational capability to operate persistent game worlds that are live and requires a continuous content upgrade. Nintendo’s game production is more akin to making a movie rather than a talk show that requires new episodes every day.

I view Nintendo’s lack of game operation competence as the single biggest concern now. If I see evidence that Nintendo has developed a strong game operation competence, then I will increase our investment in Nintendo meaningfully.

I believe that Nintendo can easily have 100m of gamers who would consistently spend USD 100 per year on Nintendo games almost on a recurring basis within 1-2 years. This translates into a USD 10bn revenue base. Assume they breakeven on hardware, Nintendo could generate USD 4bn of net profit. This implies 15x P/E which is very reasonable valuation for such a high-quality company.

By the way, I have never had so fun researching a company!

Live Portfolio Update – 2020 #11

Sold out of Eslite Spectrum @ an average price of TWD 75 per share. Generally speaking a very disappointing investment because of my mistake in judgement.

In Jun 2020, Eslite announced the closure of Shenzhen mall due to an inability to reach a rental agreement with CR Land. COVID-19 probably accelerated the already sub-par performance of SZ Eslite.

The further deterioration of the HK business also compounded Eslite’s problems both due to social unrest and COVID-19.

TW business continues to have limited LfL growth.

I believe the key underlying issue is due to the core Eslite business model of bookstore + shopping is just not that strong. My mistake has been to overestimate the strength of this business model.

My original hypothesis depends on Eslite bookstore ability to continuously generate traffic which can be monetised through other merchants. However, traffic generated by the bookstore is neither high in volume nor valuable enough.

I hope Eslite would continue to do well as it plays an important role in spreading art and culture in Taiwan.

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