What is worse than losing 100% on a stock ? It’s missing a 10 bagger !

What’s worse than missing a 10 bagger ? It missing a 10 bagger which you identified and decided to take no action inspite of knowing about the company. Now you must be thinking – that’s quite dumb ! In a way it is, but as always the story is more nuanced than just being dumb.

So what’s the name of this mystery company ?

Let me give some more hints 🙂 ..I wrote about it in July 2010 when it was selling for around 80 Crs market cap. It now sells at around 1400 crores. That’s a 20 bagger excluding dividends during a period where the market has gone nowhere.

I won’t tease you any more ….the company name is Mayur uniquoters! See the post here .

Now I can assign this to bad luck and move on. However I have never operated this way – I want to dissect each failure – failure of losing money or failure missing out on a 10+ bagger.

How did I miss it?

I wrote about this company in July 2010 when it was a micro cap and started a small position in the company. I was comfortable with the financial performance of the company, but was concerned with a corporate governance issue – issue of warrants to the promoter at below market price, when the company did not really need the extra capital.

As the stock price rose, I lost interest in the company and sold my small position as I was not comfortable with the corporate governance issue. In hindsight, I do not fault myself for this decision – it was the right thing to do based on the facts known to me at that point

The downside of labeling

So where did I really go wrong? As I look back, I can attribute the failure to a label I attached to the company. I was not comfortable with the management and attached the label of ‘poor corporate governance’ to the company.

After I sold my position in 2010, I continued to track the company and could clearly see the good performance. Inspite of the facts, I refused to change the label and remain locked to an existing view although the management did not show any new governance issues.

First conclusion or confirmation bias

The other name for this locking is called the first conclusion bias (read here). Once I had reached a conclusion I refused to change it, inspite of evidence to the contrary. It is only after the evidence became too obvious to ignore that I have revisited my conclusion and realized the flaw in my thinking

The illusion of high valuation

If mayor uniquoters was an isolated example, it would have been comforting to ‘label’ it as an aberration and move on. However there are a few more examples (atleast ones which are obvious to me).

Let me give another example and the back story behind missing the multi-bagger

Hawkins cooker: This stock was pointed out to me in 2010 when the company was selling at a PE of around 15. The company was and is easy to understand, has great economics and a wonderful management. So if such a company was presented to me on a platter , why did I ignore it ? The single word for that is valuations – The Company was selling at a PE of 15+ which in my mind was expensive.

I started off my investing life with high quality companies such as asian paints and Pidilite selling at reasonable valuations (15-18 times earnings) and slowly graduated to graham style low PE stocks (the reverse of most people). Over time, I got locked into a mental model where I started equating a low PE with an attractively priced stock and a high PE with an expensive stock.

The above thought process holds true in isolation, but it is important to consider the PE ratio in context of business quality. A business with weak economics is a bad stock even if it has a low PE and an exceptional business with a moderately high PE can still be a great stock. I have been aware of this fact, but still had to relearn this important concept all over again

How to change your mind ?

It would be safe to assume that if you are presented ‘data’ which contradicts your assumptions, you will change your prior conclusions ? Atleast not in my case !

Let me point to two extreme example –

Ajanta pharma has been a multi-bagger since it was pointed out to me by a very smart investor – Hitesh. I still have the email in which he shared the idea with me in 2011. At that time, I was not comfortable with pharma companies and thought that I could not judge Ajanta’s future prospects accurately.

That’s a reasonable argument and can be a plausible reason, but for the fact that this idea was posted on the website – valuepickr by Hitesh and donald. This website is run by Donald Francis and it has a lot of good investors who write regularly on it. The good thing about this forum is that Donald, Hitesh and ayush have encouraged a long term investing mindset with a focus on the process of investing. I am not praising the website due to any vested interest (I don’t have any), but think that one should read through the analysis on some of the picks made by the team

I personally follow this site and occasionally post on it too. Ajanta pharma and Mayur uniquoters are two such ideas which were posted on this site and analyzed in a lot detail. I have been following these companies over the last few years and inspite of over whelming evidence did not take the plunge

So much for changing my mind based on evidence  !

How to change ?

The first step in fixing a blind spot is recognizing one. Now that I have recognized multiple biases in my case, I have started focusing on the following points in my investment process

–          Do not equate a high PE with expensive. Analyze the business in detail and determine if the company can still double in 3 years at current or slightly lower valuations

–          Focus on quality before valuations

–          Constantly question my own conclusions. I have started doing this after each quarterly result – does the company match the original thesis (positive or negative)? Do I have access to some new non-quantitative information which should prompt me to revise my original thesis ?

I have already made changes in my stock picks in the recent past and the initial results are good. In summary I think there is a lot of value in analyzing the success of other people  – not to be envious of them, but to reverse engineer it and improve your own process.


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