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.
The portfolio delivered a net return of 7.9% for first half of 2020 while FTSE Global All Cap index’s return is -6.7% during the same period. Our portfolio’s cumulative return since 2016 is 86.6% while the above-mentioned index’s cumulative return is 45.3%. Cash is 48% of the portfolio.
In the past six months, COVID-19 introduced unprecedented level of uncertainties and challenges for businesses. Most of the businesses in our portfolio performed exceptionally well given the tough circumstances. Below are some operational highlights:
Games Workshop reported revenue growth and profit growth of 4.6% and 8.3% for the 12 months ending 31 May 2020 despite having no revenue for 6 weeks. Fans are escaping to Warhammer to seek temporary respite from the stressful lockdown environment. On 25th July 2020, Games Workshop successfully launched the latest edition of Warhammer 40K with improved game play, new story lines and miniatures; and fans responded enthusiastically. The Warhammer IP continues to grow from strength to strength with a record pipeline of video games and an upcoming mass-market TV show. Warhammer is truly a global franchise which is still in the early innings of its growth trajectory. I am thrilled to be part of this journey. Games Workshop is our largest investment and constitutes ~15% of our portfolio.
As a travel company, Dart Group is disproportionately impacted as customers cancelled their holidays due to CVOID. They took this opportunity to build enormous customer goodwill by refunding its customers quickly. The management team also quickly sold assets and raised new capital to ensure they can survive under any conditions.
Avanza has benefitted from the global tailwind of increased participation from retail investors with the growth of new customers accelerating. 139,100 new customers joined Avanza during the 6 months ending June 2020 – an incredible 100% growth versus same period in 2019. Consistent many other retail brokerage platforms globally, the average trading volume per customer increased by 50%. With a largely fixed cost base, Avanza’s net profit grew 211%. Avanza’s short-term operational performance is driven by a myriad of market factors such as market volatility and prevailing interest rate level. However, in the longer term, the most important driver for Avanza’s intrinsic value is the growth of its customer base. Avanza’s current market value is probably ahead of its intrinsic value. I have resisted the temptation to sell Avanza shares as there is still an exceptionally long growth runway for Avanza. Avanza’s customer base is 10% of Sweden population but its share of savings capital is only 5%. Our long-term return should be slightly above Avanza’s long-term customer growth rate of 15% due to operational leverage.
Eslite Spectrum is a physical retailer from Taiwan. While its Taiwan operation is relatively well insulated from the impact of COVID-19, its mainland China operation took a big hit. Due to the pandemic, it closed the Shenzhen store. I believe the pandemic is simply a catalyst to reveal the inherent weakness of Eslite’s retail model of using Eslite bookstore as a traffic generator and monetised through carefully selected third-party vendors. My mistake is to over-estimate the brand reputation of the Eslite bookstore as a traffic generator and its merchandising capability. Hence, I will be exiting this investment.
When I consider my performance in this period, I give myself a B minus – reasonable but not stellar performance. It was not stellar because I was too conservative in deploying capital due to my hesitation to take advantage of investments opportunities that were offering attractive absolute long-term return. Overall, it is a reasonable performance as I have the conviction to hold onto existing investment and added two news investments – Nintendo and Ryman Healthcare.
I am increasingly convinced that partnering with great businesses is the most reliable strategy to grow wealth over a long period of time. Accordingly, the highest priority is to increase the weighting of great businesses within our portfolio. While I will always be open to the generally undervalued and special situation investments, the relative opportunity cost of owning them will increase as I find more great businesses to own.
I am glad to report that Compounders currently make up 36% of our portfolio up from 3% in 2017. As a reminder, I define Compounders as great businesses with durable business moats and an exceptionally long growth runway. I intend to hold our Compounders for as long as possible unless 1) there is a mistake in my judgement, 2) the valuation is so ridiculous that prospective long-term return is below risk-free rate, 3) there is better investment opportunities. In the last six months, we became business partners to two great businesses – Nintendo and Ryman Healthcare – which I will explain in detail later. I believe that our Compounders as a group can sustain ~10% return for a long period of time.
The high cash level is due to the successful closure of Yixin investment in June 2020. While no one can grow rich sitting on cash, I am willing to be patient and wait for great opportunities to present itself. After all, one must not lose money to make money.
 Assuming a fee structure of 1) no management fee, and 2) a 20% performance fee above 5% threshold i.e. 8.6% – (8.6%-5%)*(20%) = 7.9%
Increased conviction in their Australia growth prospects where they literally don’t have any serious competition because a lot of the Australian retirement village operators are really property developers who are hesitant to take on age care operational risk in the scandal-prone Australia age care sector.
Ryman is hence very uniquely positioned to grow in a huge market for a long period of time. And Ryman charges 20% deferred management fee while competitors charge north of 30%.
How often do you find the lowest cost operator who is also the highest quality operator in a sector with VERY VERY long growth runways.
Ryman Healthcare reported its annual results ending Mar 2020. Overall they have done a fantastic job taking care of the residents and NZ as a country also did a great job containing COVID. The likelihood of a liquidity crisis at Ryman has reduced significantly as the sales process has resumed and the care business generated strong cash flow even at the peak of COVID-19 crisis. Nonetheless, the near term financial performance is likely to be negatively impacted as the sales momentum takes time to resume. However, Ryman’s long term prospects are intact and, if anything, Ryman is likely to emerge as a stronger company.
Added another 4% to Ryman Healthcare @ NZD 13 per share
My conviction in Nintendo grows as I learn more about the company. Recently, there was a Bloomberg article that claimed Nintendo has reduced ambitions in mobile games due to its success with Switch. And a few days later, Nintendo announced a new cross-platform (mobile + Switch) Pokemon game called Pokemon Unite which is a joint development with Tencent. Despite the deluge of criticism by Pokemon hardcore fans, I am very excited about this game. I think Pokemon IP has incredible adaptability and this is just the beginning.
More importantly, this signals another attempt by Nintendo to transition from Game as a Product (GAAP) to Game as a Service (GAAS) over time. (For more details on GAAP vs GAAS see this post ) While it is hard to predict exactly how this transition will happen, I am confident that it will happen. My best guess is that Nintendo will use mobile games as a way to funnel gamers to their own game system and they will adapt more service capability to their game system over time. Pokemon Unite is one such example.
Added another 2.5% to Nintendo @ JPY 50700 per share
The deal is finalised today and closed out all Bitauto / Yixin positions. A cool 20% return in 6-months. I consider special situation opportunities such as this one to be perfectly reasonable investment opportunities given the generally high market valuation. Will probably participate if similarly good opportunities arise again.
However, one must recognise the real money is made with a great company that can compound over time. The special situation opportunities seem to me to have real reinvestment constrains because one cannot always find wonderful special situation investments with attractive absolute returns despite good risk-adjusted return. And not scalable after a certain capital size(not an issue for me now but hopefully it will be).
Frankly, it just feels less satisfying than owning great businesses that just keeps improving and making a real impact on the world.
What a roller coaster journey I have had with Aimia for the past 2 years. I initially bought Aimia share around CAD 1.3 in Sep 2017. There was a lot of debate around what Aeroplan would look like once it breaks away from Air Canada. My purchase was driven mainly by the insight that the redemption liabilities originated from issuing loyalty points do not carry nearly as much economic value as its nominal value would suggest. As the issuer of your own currency, there are multiple ways to deflate the liabilities denominated in your own currency to effectively zero. Anyhow that debate got resolved when Air Canada bought back Aeroplan for a sweet CAD 450m which more than double Aimia’s market capitalisation at the time.
I sold the majority of Aimia position but kept a sizable 5% position because I believe the activists’ chance of monetising the remaining holdings (such as PLM and Cardlytics) are quite high and the discount to NAV is substantial (30-50%).
Fast forward to the current situation, the activists have taken over the board at Aimia and completed monetization of smaller stakes such as Cardlytics. However, the real value is PLM which is Aero Mexico’s loyalty program. Aimia owns 49% of PLM.
The biggest variable in Aimia’s NAV calculation is the valuation of PLM stake. This valuation is a balance of three factors:
The balance of negotiation power
How much can Aeromexico realistically afford to pay given its highly leveraged b/s
The intrinsic value of PLM
I ranked them in order of decreasing importance. The relative negotiation power of Aimia vs Aero Mexico is the most important driver of the actual value realisation and not the intrinsic value of PLM. It is not clear that Aimia is in a position to push for high valuation because Aeromexico can always opt for the status quo indefinitely. Yes, Aeromexico would have to share the dividend value with Aimia but it would also be very hesitant to add to its already high debt load. Of course, Aeromexico can issue equity to Aimia but this is further compounded by the current coronavirus situation.
My original expectation was that there could be a reasonable chance that Aimia can sell PLM stake at 10x EV/EBITDA multiple. I must admit that this is looking increasingly remote. I still believe that Aimia easily have 20-50% upside from its current share price. However, there is a real opportunity cost to holding Aimia shares as other companies are becoming more attractively priced.
So I have decided to sell Aimia position down to zero at the prevailing market price (CAD 2.2)