Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Stock Update: Century Ply

Q3 FY17 investor presentation and concall summary -

• Hoshiarpur plant for MDF is to start in Mar 2017
• Sainik sold 11,819 CBM (cubic meter) vs 12,037 cbm last year. This is despite impact of demonetization
• Ply sales have been strong in January 2017 as well
• There are around 3,300 plywood units in the country and out of 3,300 units, 2,500 are totally exempted, the turnover is less than Rs1.5 crore, 700 units are under the partial exemption their turnover is Rs1.5-5 crore and only 100 units are there which are in the full duty paying
• MDF: Co 600 CBM/ day capacity MDF plant is expected to come on stream by April, 2017. It entails an investment of 380 cr with 207 cr spent till Q3FY17. 

 The company would also use the MDF produce to make value added products like doors, pre-laminated boards. While it would also produce high density fibreboard (HDF) for manufacturing wooden flooring
• Market share: The company looked to maintain market share in difficult times post demonetisation. Hence, it gave dealers some discounts which led to a margin contraction. However, going forward, the management has indicated that they would reduce these discounts over the time
• Demonetisation impact: The management believes that demonetisation impact is over as the company witnessed ~5% growth in January, 2017. Though the unorganised sector is still witnessing problems, the company believes that it has a great opportunity to capture market share from unorganised players post demonetisation
• Pre-lam particle board plant: Currently, the company has a capacity of producing 1000 boards/day at its pre-lam unit and it would augment its capacity to 3000 boards/day by commissioning one more unit in next 3-4 months
• Commercial veneer: The realisations of commercial veneer increased sharply during the quarter as company sold premium veneer. It expects to maintain such realizations, going forward
• Pricing changes: The company has not taken any price hikes post demonetisation. It would benefit from softening raw material prices and so would look to maintain prices, going forward before the final rate of GST is known. Further, the unorganised players have already take price hikes of ~5% post demonetisation and could also take further price hikes. This would lead to contraction in price differential between organised and un-organised products which would help the company gain market share from unorganised players
• Winding up furniture business: The company has decided to completely wind up its furniture business which it started in 2012. Over the years, the division has accumulated losses of ~25 crore
• Laminates capacity expansion: The company is planning to rampup its laminates capacity by 50% to 7.2 mn sheets
• GST rate: The management expects a GST rate of either 18% against the current incidence of ~27-29%. Post GST implementation, a level playing field would be established and organised players are set to benefit


Near term triggers
• GST implementation is likely to migrate unorganised to organised sector
• Pre-lam is expected to give good growth
• MDF, new facility, is expected to give good growth - FY18 revenue is expected to be around 400cr; At full utilization it can generate 600 cr

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Learnings from Buffett's 2017 Annual Letter

This year Buffett dealt with a few important points. I found his lengthy discourse on the superiority of index funds intriguing - but not really applicable for the Indian markets as here, maybe unlike in the US, there is significant outperformance by good funds over the index.

On being in the market
The years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines – even panics – that will affect virtually all stocks. No one can tell you when these traumas will occur – not me, not Charlie, not economists, not the media. Meg McConnell of the New York Fed aptly described the reality of panics: “We spend a lot of time looking for systemic risk; in truth, however, it tends to find us.” During such scary periods, you should never forget two things: First, widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases. Second, personal fear is your enemy. It will also be unwarranted. Investors who avoid high and unnecessary costs and simply sit for an extended period with a collection of large, conservatively-financed American businesses will almost  certainly do well.
Having a portfolio of good businesses, without being leveraged and not needing to pull out of the market when there is a downturn, can produce good results over a long period of time.

On share repurchases
It is important to remember that there are two occasions in which repurchases should not take place, even if the company’s shares are underpriced. One is when a business both needs all its available money to protect or expand its own operations and is also uncomfortable adding further debt. Here, the internal need for funds should take priority. This exception assumes, of course, that the business has a decent future awaiting it after the needed expenditures are made. The second exception, less common, materializes when a business acquisition (or some other investment opportunity) offers far greater value than do the undervalued shares of the potential repurchaser.
Here, I think, the Indian tax laws on dividend distribution has skewed the investor giveback so that companies are looking at share repurchases as an alternate mode of returning cash to shareholders. But, in general, the principle outlined by Buffett holds true.


On insurance operations
A sound insurance operation needs to adhere to four disciplines. It must (1) understand all exposures that might cause a policy to incur losses; (2) conservatively assess the likelihood of any exposure actually causing a loss and the probable cost if it does; (3) set a premium that, on average, will deliver a profit after both prospective loss costs and operating expenses are covered; and (4) be willing to walk away if the appropriate premium can’t be obtained. Many insurers pass the first three tests and flunk the fourth. They simply can’t turn their back on business that is being eagerly written by their competitors. That old line, “The other guy is doing it, so we must as well,” spells trouble in any business, but in none more so than insurance.


This is important bit of wisdom to be kept in mind, since we are seeing listed companies in this space now in India. Insurance is a long gestation business which has the potential to create significant wealth for shareholders.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

My takeaways from Howard Marks' presentation

My notes from Howard Marks' presentation on 2-Mar-17:

• Definition of "great" companies is dubious. Very difficult to identify great companies over a very long period
 

• Investing is not a matter of buying good things, but buying things well (buying assets which are out of favour)
 

• Forecasting is not possible as the future is not knowable. Try to know the knowable. Focus on specific sectors, industries, companies
 

The main decision to make at any point in time - whether to play defensive or offensive. You cannot play both at the same time.

• Low purchase price is more important than anything else (including quality of company)
 

• Have to think differently (variant perception) and better - need to have some knowledge different from everyone else
 

• Most investors behave pro-cyclically
 

• You need to have a philosophy and process that you can stick to even in most trying of times
 

• Most corrosive of emotions is to sit up and watch others make money
 

Plan to survive the "worst day" in the market without having to sell. The challenge is we don't know what the "worst day" will look like, but can get an idea from the past.

• Hubris, ego, over-confidence are enemies of an investor
 

• Your approach needs to be consistent with your personality
 

• Turn cycles to your advantage
 

• Look at E/P and compare with interest rates to get a sense of overall market valuations

Overall, it was a great presentation with some very good Q&A. Thanks to Prof Bakshi for inviting me and hosting such a fabulous and memorable event.

Weekly Reading: Some interesting stuff

Robert Schiller on a possible US bear market - The US stock market today looks a lot like it did at the peaks before most of the country’s...