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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Year that was!!!!!

For most people I know, 2008 would be the year when reality (not the sector) bit and chewed off most of their savings.

As I look back on my investment activities, I had started to take a closer look at valuations as early as Mar 2007, when I started the sells on most of my investments. I re-invested in July 07 and was almost completely back in cash by Jan 2008.
Here's a short-recount of my investing history. I started investing this portfolio in April 2001, with my peak capital outlay being in May 2003. After that month, I have not invested any funds from outside the portfolio - all new purchases were funded by either sales or dividends. If you had invested in Nifty, during that time and till Dec 08, you would have made an annual return of 12%. My portfolio, not including dividends, made 24% for me. Over this period, I have over-performed by 130%.

After Jan 2008, I have made some very selective underpriced investments for short-term and made some quick money. In the periods from Oct-Dec, I have bought some very under-priced securities - one of which is a typical Graham play, trading at less than its net-net. You could buy this particular security at a value at a discount to its Net Current Asset less Long term liabilities per share. This means that you are getting the Fixed Assets free of cost.

These type of short-term opportunities are worth looking for only if you have the patience and the capital for it. Other than these purchases and some special situations from late 2007 that are still developing, I am entirely out of the market in India as of December.

So much for status updates.

I think of this situation as an opportunity, following the maxim to be greedy, when others are fearful.

Assuming someone invested Dec 31 of every year since 1991, here's how the return would look like. If you invest for a period longer than three years, unless you are investing right at the height of the market, you will make decent returns.

It is like Overs 16-35 in a One-day cricket match. These middle overs are for patient batsmen. Runs flow in ones and twos and occasional fours and sixes. The main goal is to to avoid errors of commission and lose wicket during these times. Likewise, my main goal for these middle overs (not talking of my age - but market conditions in general) is to patiently invest with the aim of not losing capital. I would look for Ones and Twos in the form of dividend yields with an occasional Four or a Six when Mr.Market throws me that sweet loose ball. Oh and be sure, they will come.

As someone who is looking to buy securities in the next few years, I want the market to remain under-priced for as long as it can. I am not looking towards market prices for affirmation that I have made right investments. It would be like asking your barber whether you need a haircut.

My approach doesn't change overall. I will be looking for under-priced securities in businesses that I can understand and that are not vulnerable to change, run by good management team. I would be perfectly satisfied if I managed to earn about 4-5% above the return of G-Secs such as the National Savings Certificate (8% plus 4-5%).

Besides, long-term prospects for India are only starting to get better. A look at some of the mass market products is enough to give you an indication. Movies, for instance. Slumdog Millionaire winning Golden Globe for AR Rahman is a portend for things to come in the next 20 years or so. Short-term political and geo-political uncertainity is throwing up a lot of investing opportunities.
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