Pembridgecap

A Wealth Creation Journal

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Live Portfolio – 2020 Review

What a year! Despite being stuck at home for most of 2020, it has been a very eventful year.

The portfolio delivered a net return of 15.6%[1] in 2020 while FTSE Global All Cap index’s return is 16.8% during the same period. Our portfolio’s cumulative return since 2016 is 100% while the above-mentioned index’s cumulative return is 81.9%. Cash is 32% of the portfolio.

I prefer to show the investment return net of imaginary fees because any aspiring investment manager should be able to generate excess return net of fees.

[1] Assuming a fee structure of 1) no management fee, and 2) a 20% performance fee above 5% threshold i.e. 18.3% – (18.3%-5%)*(20%) = 15.6%

Live Portfolio’s 2020 Investment Return

Live Portfolio Investment Positions as of 31 Dec 2020

The 5-year milestone

During Warren Buffett’s early years operating his investment partnerships, he encouraged his partners to evaluate his investment performance on a 5-year basis and “preferably with tests of relative results in both strong and weak markets”. And so at this 5-year mark, it is time to take stock and reflect.

I am very pleased to generate an annualised return 15.6% over the last five years which has a respectable 2.2% advantage relative to our performance yardstick, FTSE Global All Cap Index, with an annualised return of 12.7%.

Our high cash level, fluctuating around 20-40%, has been a significant drag on investment performance for the last 5 years. Due to a combination of high market valuation and the relatively limited scope of my circle of competence, I have not being able to find enough attractively priced new ideas. While there is nothing I can do about the high market valuation, I am steadily expanding my circle of competence which should ultimately translate into more investment ideas and lower cash level.

This investment return is generated against the backdrop of a generally rising stock market over the last five years. The portfolio did experience a violent but short bear market in March 2020 where we fared better against the general market’s 30% decline with 15+% decline. By and large, I do not believe that I have experienced a full market cycle of bull and bear market to pass Warren Buffett’s test of “relative results in both strong and weak markets”.

Our investment journey has, so far, been very pleasant as we have not suffered a loss in any year so far. But I would like to make a prediction – this investment operation is almost guaranteed to suffer a loss in at least one of out the next 10 years but I just don’t know when the losses would occur. As Charlies Munger said:

“If you’re not willing to react with equanimity to a market price decline of 50% two or three times a century, you’re not fit to be a common shareholder and you deserve the mediocre result you’re going to get.”

While I would rather avoid any losses, especially the 50% decline ones, it is better to be mentally prepared for it. Unfortunately, I am confident that my prediction would come true. Better to accept it as a fact of life.

While we are on the topic of making predictions, I believe you are entitled to know my expectations for future investment return even if it is largely based on my simple estimates. You should note that my expectations are in fact more like aspirational goals and risk of disappointment is quite high.

Over the last 100 years, the annual return for US equities averages around ~7.5% while the Chinese equity market generated ~9% average annualised return for the last 20 years. So in the long run, we should expect equity returns to be in the range of 6-9%. For our chosen benchmark of FTSE Global All Cap, it generated 7.5% annualised return since its inception in 2002 which falls exactly in the range of 6-9%. Since the goal of this investment operation is to generate above average return, it is reasonable to expect 6-9% return as the lower end of our future return expectation.

While beating 6-9% might not seem like a very ambitious goal, vast majority (90+%) of fund managers are not able to beat the market consistently after accounting for management fees. This is true globally including US and China. Said in another way, only truly exceptional investors can generate better than average return in the long run. If you do not find an exceptional investor, you are better off with index investing.

But there are a few exceptional investors who has been able to outperform the market very consistently for a very long period of time. So it would be illuminating to evaluate their investment track record and use their track record to form the upper limit of our future investment returns.

Below are my best estimates of some of the world’s greatest investors returns based on publicly available information and I tried to use after-fees net return as much as possible.

World-class investors’ track record

These world-class investors generate long-term annualised return in the range of 15-30% and averaging around 20%. These are truly impressive performance as every one percentage point of outperformance when compounded over long period of time can lead to massive difference in cumulative return. For example, the difference in cumulative return between 10% and 9% annualised return over 10 years is 22.6%. Only world-class investors can sustain the advantage of 10-20 points above the long run equity returns of 6-9% for a long period of time.

In general, I believe it is fair to conclude that any investor who can compound at a rate of 20% net of fee for more than 10 years should be considered a highly competent one. Said in another way, any investor’s achievement of 80% return in any single year is clearly not representative of that investor’s long term performance. While 20% return may not sound like a lot, the power of compounding guarantees a very wonderful result over the long term. Just look at Warren Buffett, 99% of his wealth came only after his 50th birthday!

While I have every ambition to become the best investor that I can be, it is hubris to compare myself against the greatest of investors of all time. So I would consider myself doing a great job if I can achieve 15% annualised return net of all fees for the next 10 years. This is going to be no mean feat considering the current valuation is at alarmingly high levels.

Investment Memo – CD Projekt

I bought some CD Projekt shares in my previous portfolio update here. I am very excited to finally become a partner in this wonderful business after following it for 3 years.

I will first discuss CD Projekt’s business at a high level and then go into the recent debacle with Cyberpunk 2077.

As I wrote in my previous blog post – Thoughts on video games:

As an investor, I prefer game companies with incredibly strong game franchises and a proven game development track record. There are very few game companies that fulfil both criteria. Netease, Tencent and Nintendo are some examples. The goal is to buy such game companies at a discount to its existing game franchise value and future game value is margin of safety.

CD Projekt has one strong game franchise – Witcher and in the process of building out a second franchise – Cyberpunk. Despite the launch drama, I think CD Projekt has a reasonable track record as a game developer. So CD Projekt does not fulfil those two criteria – owning strong game franchises and proven game development capabilities – very convincingly.

But I think there is sufficient evidence that CD Projekt can continue to develop its capabilities and strategically build out future game franchise. So there is not really a lot of margin of safety here and hence this is a 2% position.

I always prefer game companies that own and operate persistent game worlds which provide game-as-a-service revenue model rather than game-as-a-product revenue model. Unfortunately, CD Projekt adopts the game-as-a-product revenue model which means its cashflow is very tied to game releases and very dependent on the success of each game release. This has historically lead to a hit-driven business model which many investors hate because it is impossible to predict the sustainability of the company’s earnings.

This has been my biggest reservation about CD Projekt. But a few things changed my mind – 1) the launch Witcher mobile game; 2) the launch of Witcher Gwent card game, 3) the planned launch of Cyberpunk multiplayer online game and the 4) the release of Witcher series on Netflix

In some sense, CD Projekt has a very similar business model to Disney. Disney use movies to anchor its IP franchise which can then be further monetised through theme parks, merchandises and video games. For CD Projekt, it anchors its game franchise with flagship AAA games such as Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 and then develops spin-off games based on these core game franchises. It also produces TV series to further expand the influence of its game franchise.

CD Projekt’s real upside comes from 2 sources – 1) it builds out new game franchises and 2) transition one or more of its game franchise into persistent game worlds which can build strong customer loyalty and generate stable cash flow. With Witcher mobile game and the planned release of Cyberpunk multiplayer game, we are already seeing some signs that it is happening.

On valuation – it is very hard to value CD Projekt. As part of the company’s incentive program, it announced a goal of generating an average net profit of PLN 1.5-2bn for the period between 2020 – 2025. Assuming that they hit this goal, then I paid 15x multiple based on earning base of PLN 1.5-2bn net profit. Not too ridiculous but also not very cheap.


CD Projekt share price plunged after the disastrous launch of one of the most anticipated game in 2020 – Cyberpunk 2077. Here is a good Bloomberg article that documented the events that lead up to the game’s launch. In short, Cyberpunk 2077 built up an incredible hype but ultimately disappointed gamers as the game was full of bugs and glitches. It was so bad that Sony had to take the game off the shelves because it was almost unplayable on consoles.

Marcin, the co-founder of CD Projekt, posted a video to apologise for disappointing gamers and explain what happened.

He cited the technical challenges of making the game work with the next-gen and current-gen console & COVID-19 restrictions leading collaboration challenges as reasons for the failed launch.

From the outside, it is absolutely clear that the management team had huge pressure to get the game released before Christmas 2020 and that pressure led to the bad decision of launching before the game is ready. I am sympathetic to the challenge of COVID-19 situation which would have really complicated the entire development process.

The legendary game developer, Shigeru Miyamoto, once quipped that “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad”. This comment was made when games are primarily sold on physical copies and played with consoles that had no Internet connection. So there was no way to update the game after launch.

Fortunately, CD Projekt (CP) lives in the Internet era where it is possible to continuously update and improve the game once launched. In fact, Witcher 3’s launch was very problematic too. See this Eurogamer article written in 2015 to recount the disaster! And it feels eerily similar to Cyberpunk 2077 – last-minute crunch, graphic downgrade issues and the 2000 game bugs. Post-launch, CD Projekt continued to support Witcher 3, patched the bugs, launched DLC and won universal praise for the game. I believed something similar is going to happen here and that Cyberpunk has the potential to become another great franchise.

Ever since CP transitioned from a regional game distributor to a game developer in the mid-2000s, CP has been pushing its technical and game-making competence with every game. With Witcher 3, CP had to make a game engine that worked in an open-world while developing the game at the same time. CP has insane ambitions to grow as a world-class game developer.

I think with Cyberpunk, CP was trying to push the limits of what they can accomplish again. For example, they had to upgrade the game engine for FPS and driving. The Cyberpunk world was bigger and more complex. Except for this time, they had the complication of COVID, higher expectations, bigger gamer base and co-existence of two generations of consoles.

CD Projekt clearly screwed up this time. But from an investment perspective, I focus on three things – 1) what does this incident show about the company’s game development capabilities, 2) what does it reflect about the company culture and 3) the long-term potential of Cyberpunk 2077 franchise.

For me, it seems like CD Projekt’s ambitions might be ahead of its game development capabilities this time. But it is also clear that CD Projekt is improving as a game developer and based on the company’s historical track record of learning from mistakes, this could be another learning opportunity for CD Projekt albeit an expensive one. I am more concerned about how this incident could crash their ambition and kill the operational momentum that they have been on.

Few game companies have developed such a strong brand within the gamer community. CD Projekt always believed in treating gamer well which is exemplified by their ethos of providing good value for money – free DLCs and DRM-free games. I personally don’t believe there is anything sinister going on here except for the fact that there is immense pressure to release before Christmas 2020. During game development, there are constant trade-offs to be made and we could argue whether CD Projekt has made all the right trade-offs. But I don’t think there are any bad intentions here. I guess we will see how CD Projekt make up to the gamers in the months ahead.

After reading through many reviews and playing it myself, I think it is a good game and has the potential to become another long-running franchise for CD Projekt in the same way as the Witcher franchise.

Ultimately, I think there is a pretty good chance that CD Projekt can bounce back from this fiasco and become a better game company in the process.

Live Portfolio Update – 2021 – #3 (Tencent)

Buy Tencent as a 8% position @ HKD 645 per share.

Tencent is a company that I have actually spent the most time researching for the past 3 years because of work. While I cannot invest it in personally due to compliance reasons, I want to include it in the portfolio here.

Expect a full blog on Tencent soon!

Games Workshop – 1H 2021 Results Update

What a joy it is to be a business owner of Games Workshop!

Despite the closure of retail stores, GW reported excellent 1H 2021 results with revenue up 26% and gross margin expanding to 75% on the back of the higher volume. Net income reached an all-time high of GBP 73.9m and net margin improved from 39.5% to 49%.

The margin expansion has driven by operating leverage.

GW CEO, Kevin, reported that “operating profit – pre-royalties receivable – both value (up £35 million to £83 million) and profit to sales ratio (up 12% to 45%) have improved in the period. Our high margins are delivering incremental profit compared to last year at 91% (2019: 55%).

91% incremental margin!

In the long run, the margin should shrink a little as they reinvest into their business given the many avenues of reinvestment opportunities to drive future growth. It is not reasonable to expect GW’s margin to expand at its current rate, and I would rather them aggressively reinvest back into its core businesses.

China got a special mention from Kevin:

“An extended range of core products have now been certified for China Compulsory Certification (CCC) and have been available in the country. With Space Marines proving to be more popular than ever, we have enjoyed success in stocking and selling selected complementary licensed products within our own sales channels, key amongst which have been some action figures. These are also stocked in mass-market locations, helping us with brand awareness. We are expanding our translation team to ensure our customers in China and other overseas countries can enjoy the official Warhammer experience.”

I have been in close contact with the Chinese Warhammer community and translation quality is atrociously bad! I have no doubt that when they finally fix their China operations, it will provide the next leg of revenue growth. China is a huge market and I know Warhammer IP appeals to Chinese fans as much as it does in the UK and US.

A slight disappointment is to see the royalty income decline from GBP 10.7m to GBP 8.7m. But royalty income is going to be chunky. With the Warhammer IP going from strength to strength (TV series, animation and comic), it would ultimately be reflected in the royalty income at some point. Not to mention a strong pipeline of Warhammer game in 2021 and going forward.

In the long run, GW’s intrinsic value is driven by 1) the number of fans and 2) revenue per fan.

GW is a vertically integrated entertainment franchise that has historically monetised through miniatures. In the last few years, it expanded its fan base through better marketing on social media and better product campaign. Going forward, it is also exploring new ways to grow fan base through TV series, animation and comic. Not only is the fan base growing, it is also increasingly able to sell its fans more products such as mobile games.

So we are seeing both the fan base and revenue per fan growing for GW. In the next few years, this will prove to be a very potent combination!

Investment action: Adding 1% @ current market price

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.

Live Portfolio – 1H 2020 Review

The portfolio delivered a net return of 7.9%[1] 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.

[1] 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%

Live Portfolio Update – 2020 #10

Added 3% to Ryman Healthcare @ NZD 13.

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.

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