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What is Value Investing?
What is value investing?
Different sources define value investing differently. Some say value investing is the investment philosophy that favors buying stocks that are currently selling at low price-to-book ratios and have high dividend yields. Others say value investing is about buying stocks with low P/E ratios. You’ll even hear sometimes that value investing has more to do with the balance sheet than the account. of result.
In his 1992 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffet wrote:
We believe that the very expression “investing in value” is redundant. What is “investing” if not the act of seeking value that is at least sufficient to justify the sum paid? Knowingly paying more than its calculated value for a stock – in the hope that it may soon be sold at an even higher price – should be qualified as speculation (which is neither illegal nor immoral nor – in our opinion – financially fattening).
Appropriate or not, the term “value investing” is widely used. Typically, this involves buying stocks with attributes such as a low price-to-book ratio, low price-to-earnings ratio, or high dividend yield. Unfortunately, these characteristics, even if they appear in combination, are far from decisive in determining whether an investor is indeed buying something for what it is worth and therefore really operating on the principle of valuing their investments. Likewise, opposing characteristics – a high price-to-book ratio, a high price-to-earnings ratio, and a low dividend yield – are by no means incompatible with buying “value”.
Buffett’s definition of “investing” is the best definition of value investing there is. Value investing involves buying a stock at a price lower than its calculated value.
Value Investing Principles
1) Each share is a stake in the underlying company. A stock is not just a piece of paper that can be sold for a higher price at a later date. Stocks represent more than just the right to receive future cash distributions from the company. Economically, each share is an undivided interest in all of the company’s assets (both tangible and intangible) – and should be valued as such.
2) A stock has intrinsic value. The intrinsic value of a stock derives from the economic value of the underlying business.
3) The stock market is inefficient. Value investors do not subscribe to the efficient market hypothesis. They believe stocks frequently trade above or below their intrinsic values. Sometimes the difference between the market price of a stock and the intrinsic value of that stock is large enough to allow profitable investments. Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, explained the inefficiency of the stock market using a metaphor. His Mr. Market metaphor is still referenced by value investors today:
Imagine that in a private company you own a small share that costs you $1,000. One of your associates, named Mr. Market, is indeed very obliging. Every day it tells you what it thinks your interest is worth and further offers to either redeem you or sell you additional interest based on that. Sometimes his idea of value appears plausible and justified by business developments and prospects as you know them. Often, however, Mr. Market lets his enthusiasm or his fears fly with him, and the value he offers seems a little far-fetched to you.
4) Investing is smarter when it’s most pragmatic. This is a quote from “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham. Warren Buffett thinks this is the most important investment lesson he’s ever learned. Investors should treat investing with the seriousness and care they give to their chosen profession. An investor should treat the stocks he buys and sells as a trader would treat the commodity he trades. He must not make commitments when his knowledge of the “merchandise” is insufficient. Furthermore, he must not engage in any investment transaction unless “a reliable calculation shows that it has a fair chance of generating a reasonable profit”.
5) A real investment requires a margin of safety. A margin of safety can be provided by a company’s working capital position, past earnings performance, land assets, economic goodwill, or (most often) a combination of some or all of the above. . The margin of safety manifests itself in the difference between the quoted price and the intrinsic value of the business. It absorbs all the damage caused by the investor’s inevitable miscalculations. For this reason, the margin of safety should be as wide as we humans are stupid (i.e. it should be a real sinkhole). Buying dollar bills for ninety-five cents only works if you know what you’re doing; Buying dollar bills for forty-five cents is likely to prove profitable even for mere mortals like us.
What value investing is not
Value investing involves buying a stock at a price lower than its calculated value. Amazingly, this fact alone separates value investing from most other investing philosophies.
True (long-term) growth investors such as Phil Fisher focus solely on company value. They don’t care about the price paid, because they only want to buy shares in truly extraordinary companies. They believe that the phenomenal growth that these companies will experience for many years will allow them to benefit from the wonders of capitalization. If the value of the company accumulates fast enough and the stock is held long enough, even a seemingly high price will ultimately be justified.
Some so-called value investors consider relative prices. They make decisions based on how the market values other public companies in the same industry and how the market values every dollar of profit that is present in all companies. In other words, they may choose to buy a stock simply because it looks cheap relative to its peers, or because it is trading at a lower P/E ratio than the general market, even though the P/E ratio may not seem particularly low. in absolute or historical terms.
Should such an approach be called value investing? I do not think so. That may be a perfectly valid investment philosophy, but it’s a different investment philosophy.
Investing in value requires the calculation of an intrinsic value independent of the market price. Techniques that rely solely (or primarily) on an empirical basis are not part of value investing. The principles enunciated by Graham and developed by others (like Warren Buffett) form the foundation of a logical edifice.
While there may be empirical support for value investing techniques, Graham founded a highly logical school of thought. Correct reasoning is emphasized on testable assumptions; and causal relations are emphasized over correlative relations. Value investing can be quantitative; but, it is arithmetically quantitative.
There is a clear (and pervasive) distinction between quantitative fields of study that employ calculus and quantitative fields of study that remain purely arithmetic.. Value investing treats security analysis as a purely arithmetic field of study. Both Graham and Buffett were known to have stronger natural mathematical abilities than most security analysts, yet both men said the use of higher mathematics in security analysis was a mistake. True value investing requires no more than basic math skills.
Contrarian investing is sometimes considered a sect of value investing. In practice, those who call themselves value investors and those who call themselves contrarian investors tend to buy very similar stocks.
Take the case of David Dreman, author of “The Contrarian Investor”. David Dreman is known as a contrarian investor. In his case, it’s an appropriate label, given his keen interest in behavioral finance. However, in most cases, the line between the value investor and the contrarian investor is blurred at best. Dreman’s contrarian investing strategies are derived from three measures: price to earnings, price to cash flow, and price to book. These same measures are closely associated with value investing and in particular with so-called Graham and Dodd investing (a form of value investing named after Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, the co-authors of “Security Analysis” ).
Ultimately, value investing can only be defined as paying less for a stock than its calculated value, where the method used to calculate the stock’s value is truly independent of the stock market.. When intrinsic value is calculated from an analysis of discounted future cash flows or asset values, the resulting estimate of intrinsic value is independent of the stock market. But a strategy based on buying stocks that trade at low price-to-earnings, price-to-book, and price-to-cash-flow ratios relative to other stocks is not value investing. Of course, these same strategies have proven to be quite effective in the past and will likely continue to work well in the future.
The magic formula devised by Joel Greenblatt is an example of such an effective technique that will often result in portfolios that resemble those constructed by true value investors. However, Joel Greenblatt’s magic formula does not attempt to calculate the value of the shares purchased. So while the magic formula may work, it is not a true value investing. Joel Greenblatt is himself a value investor, as he calculates the intrinsic value of the stocks he buys. Greenblatt wrote The Little Book That Beats The Market for an audience of investors who had neither the ability nor the inclination to evaluate companies.
You cannot be a value investor unless you are willing to calculate enterprise values. To be a value investor, you don’t need to accurately value the business, but you do need to value the business.
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