I have been proudly the shareowner of iCapital.biz Bhd (ICAP, 5108) since 2008, and this is the 3rd time I attended its AGM (just held in KL Convention Centre on 1 October 2011). This is also the 2nd time I attended its Investor Day, which is an annual investment event held in conjunction with ICAP AGM since 2010.
There is nothing much to talk about the AGM, as this year, there is no presentation of ICAP investment portfolio by Mr. Tan Teng Boo, which he used to present in previous AGM. Therefore, the AGM ended pretty fast, and the Investor Day session started earlier than last year.
The Investor Day session is a remarkable one. Again, Mr Tan and his friends (including the young Jonathan Quek, the middle-aged Rajen Devadason and the senior-aged David Gerald) are trying very hard in educating the participants on value investing.
Well, value investing might look simple on the surface, but not so easy to truly comprehend, and need high discipline to practise. A lot of people out there claim that they are Warren Buffett followers, and that they trade stocks using value investment strategy, and one thing I learnt from this Investment Day is that, the moment you say you "trade stock", you are very likely to be already deviated away from the path of value investment.
Mr Tan emphasized (repeatedly) that we should focus on the value of the business behind the stock counter when doing investment, rather than paying attention to its stock price movement. If we practise "buy low, sell high", we are trading the stock as a kind of commodity, and that is not the value investment way. If we invest as businessmen and practise "buy cheap, sell expensive", then the stock transaction is based on value.
In value investment, if we want to determine the time to buy and/or sell, we should not focus on timing the stock market sentiment (that could affect the price movement) or timing the stock price level (without referencing to its intrinsic value) or market index level. Instead, we should analyse the fundamentals of the business prospects that could be driven by the global and local economic growth, the business environment (such as inflation and interest rates), the corporate earning power, etc.
ICAP portfolio now is holding on more than 50% cash. That is because Mr Tan opined that the worldwide economic outlook in the near term doesn't look favourable, not because the KLCI had gone high or the stock market had tumbled. And because he has been consistently doing comprehensive and detailed fundamental analysis, Mr Tan has been warning us insightfully about his bearish view on world economics since April 2011, 3 months ahead of the 1st round stock market crash in July 2011.
And I agree with Mr Tan that, we can always buy ICAP when its price is at discount to its NAV, even at the current moment that is full of risk and uncertainty. Why? Because I believe that Mr Tan is a good and professional fund manager that I can entrust to take good care of my investment money. After all, we let fund manager manage our fund, because we believe the fund manager can make better decision than us, and can perform better than us in long run. Otherwise, we might as well be our own fund manager if we believe we can beat their performance.
You might think that the NAV of ICAP might still drop further, and hence affecting its share price to also drop further, if the share market continue to collapse. So, why not keeping the money with you now and buy later at lower price? In this case, you become your own fund manager, and nothing wrong with it. In short term, this might be a wise move. However, when will you anticipate the economy to recover? Are you doing the same amount of homework as Mr Tan? Do you have the same discipline, wisdom and perseverance in value investing as him?
There is possibility of NAV of ICAP will not drop even during the most scary situation, if Mr Tan can foresee that scary situation and hold 100% cash for ICAP, or if the stocks in ICAP portfolio able to withstand such critical business environment challenges. In fact, some of the portfolios in the iCapital newsletter already shown 100% cash position.
So, as shareowner of ICAP, we put our trust on our fund manager in managing the fund for us and make wise investment decision for us to grow our money. If we no longer has such a trust with him, or if we believe we are better than him, then its the time to sell out all our ICAP shares.
One of the ICAP Investor Day 2011 activities is the final judging of The Budding Value Investor Award. 5 student finalists were put on stage presenting their analysis of "why invest in ICAP" and asked to answer the question will they invest in ICAP.
I find that the contestants didn't answer that question well. They said they will invest because ICAP NAV is giving about 17% annual return since inception. Well, all of us have to always bear in mind that a fund's past performance is no guarantee of its future success. Sounds familiar? Because this statement is made as a compulsory reminder of all funds to their investors. In fact, investing in any fund based on its past performance is a risky attempt.
To me, I bought ICAP and still accumulating it from time to time, because:
- I believe that the investment philosophy of ICAP, which is value investing, is a workable way for long-term capital appreciation of low risk high return. (Every fund has its own investment philosophy. There is no point investing in a fund that you don't believe in its investment strategy, isn't it?)
- I trust Mr Tan is much more hardworking than me in analysing the investment targets, has done much more insight investment researches than me, is more disciplined and wiser than me in picking and dumping stocks. (If not, why don't I invest myself instead of relying on him? And in fact, I do make my own stock picks and investment. There were short term periods that I performed much better than him, and there were also short term periods that I performed worse than him. In the September 2011 market drops, ICAP is among the counters in my portfolio that dropped the least, which means I could have lost more if I didn't bought ICAP but bought another stock that has dropped deeper than ICAP recently.)
- I trust the professionalism, independence, intelligence and integrity of ICAP fund managers and its board of directors. (This is very important. When I evaluate a stock, I always look at its board of directors, management team and major shareholders, and find out the tracked record of those people to check if I can trust them.)
- The price of ICAP is at great discount to its NAV. (Value investing in ICAP is very straightforward. We don't need to do a lot of calculations to find out the so called intrinsic value of the stock, just look at its NAV and make sure we are not buying at high premium.) Because ICAP exercises "intelligently eclectic" value investing strategy for its portfolio, buying ICAP below its NAV provides the margin of safety of lower risk, higher return as we get "double discount" to the stocks in ICAP portfolio. This is in line with Buffett's advice on "Rule #1: never lose money; Rule #2: never forget rule #1".
- I bet that Mr Tan will be still around, managing the fund for the shareowners of ICAP, for at least 15 years. (And this seems to be a better bet than Warren Buffett, who is 81 now.) This is important, because we are talking about long-term investment. The fund manager must also service long-term, or at least get a right-hand-man and/or successor similar to him to continue service long-term. It is like you are taking a long journey flight from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles. You can't afford anything bad happen to your pilot (and co-pilot) halfway on top of the Pacific Ocean, can you?
I'm looking forward to attend the next AGM and Investor Day next year. Although the educational content is the same every year, which is about value investing, I find it a very good refresher course to us, and I learnt something new from Mr Tan every year.