Q3-2017 Performance Report

Portfolio Performance

My very unaudited portfolio performance in the third quarter of 2017, the three months ended September 30, 2017 is approximately +4.3%. The year-to-date performance for the 9 months ended September 30, 2017 is +24.2%.

My 11 year, 9 month compounded annual growth rate performance is +18.2% per year.

Portfolio Percentages

At September 30, 2017 (change from Q2-2017):

20% common equities (+0%)
26% preferred share equities (-2%)
30% corporate debt (-1%)
0% net equity options (-4%)
25% cash and cash equivalents (+7%)

Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

USD exposure: 48% (-4%)

Portfolio is valued in CAD (CAD/USD 0.8019);
Other values derived per account statements.

Portfolio commentary

This was mostly an inactive quarter other than cashing in the remnants of KCG and making a minor debt acquisition purchase (this is net of the KCG debt redemption which also occurred during the quarter). The largest movement was not of my own action, but rather the appreciation in the Canadian dollar – going up from 77 cents to 80 cents on the dollar was a 2% drag on portfolio performance this quarter.

The portfolio was in line with the performance of the S&P 500 and TSX. I am somewhat disturbed by this “rising tide lifting all boats” market environment.

Also a minor unforced error on my part is putting idle Canadian cash into the short-term VSB.TO instrument in a very ill-timed trade over the past few months. This has been a minor, minor drag on performance (less than 10 basis points on the overall portfolio), but it should be a painful reminder to me that even the most safest of short duration yields can still contain price risk.

A minor error of omission is that I was planning on deploying a significant amount of cash on a particular US insurance firm as a result of mild panic trading from Hurricane Irma, but sadly it did not depreciate to my desired price level. This would have been an “invest and forget” type investment as I believe its management is top-notch and their capital management applications have equally been as such. I did actually own shares of this company more than five years ago.

I am happy, however, to sit on cash until I can figure out where to deploy it. My research pipeline is still relatively dry. Indeed, I have been investigating more on the short sale side of things than long.

Outlook

I’ve been examining the rise of the Canadian dollar and it is difficult for me to figure out. I’m generally of the impression that things will stall out at present levels (maybe up to 85 cents or so just strictly on technical momentum) simply because I do not see where foreign demand for Canadian dollars can come into play when we are simply not in a position to competitively facilitate exports of primary industry commodities. Almost every relevant government in this country is hostile to natural resource production and this leaves urban real estate as the other primary export. My policy to keep a range between 30-70% CAD/USD balance is still the most prudent course of action given my completely lack of investment edge on the currency situation or the lack of compelling alternatives in either currency.

I note with mild amusement that marijuana seems to be a hot sector again, with Canopy Growth (TSX: WEED) jumping over $10/share again during the quarter. Although I will not short them, I most certainly will not go long on them either. I find it incredibly fascinating how a commodity industry that will be controlled like liquor distribution could command a market value as if they were like the Microsoft of the marijuana industry (Microsoft earning monopoly-like margins on sales in their hay-day). It will not work this way for marijuana. Take a look at a miserable liquor store retailer like Liquor Stores (TSX: LIQ) for what the end-game of these companies are – even though WEED is involved in the production part of the value chain, most of the value is going to get extracted out from the regulatory protection aspects of marijuana distribution (in other words – taxes for money-hungry governments, paid for by both the consumer and companies alike). WEED’s insiders will make a fortune and should be commended for this, but third party investors will (pun definitely intended) go up in smoke.

I’ve also been eyeing what this year’s tax selloffs are going to be as this usually provides for a ripe picking ground for stocks that are force-sold in already weak conditions. There are two sector candidates for this type of action: retail and fossil fuel production.

Retail is getting annihilated by Amazon. I am contemplating whether there will be any traditional retail winners after retail’s transformation into a winner-take-all situation. I am barely seeing enough evidence that Walmart is getting its act together and should survive in some form, but I also question whether the space is big enough for Target to compete in as well. Smaller retailers are most certainly doomed unless if they specialize in a niche that cannot be commoditized by clicking or otherwise require an “in-person” presence to conduct. Has Sleep Country (TSX: ZZZ) peaked last July?

Fossil fuel companies deserve a bit of examination. Although they have spent the year in perpetual decline (the rise in the Canadian dollar has not helped them any, nor is the fact that getting oil to market has been severely hampered by government regulation), they are deserving of another examination. Crude demand, despite the media thinking that electric vehicles will make fossil fuel demand in terminal decline, is increasing and capital expenditure budgets will lag in the existing price environment. Eventually there will be a point where that supply-demand balance will tip – when this will be is anybody’s guess. There’s been somewhat of a revival in share prices in September, which obviously is some sector rotation going on with large funds.

In terms of expected future performance, if the quarter proceeds to fruition, I am expecting a 2% or so quarterly performance in the fourth quarter. Ideally, however, some sort of market crisis will hit and prices will go lower again. I’m not holding my breath – there’s just too much cash still sloshing around, looking to scrape a yield above the risk-free rate. As a result, the opportunity to make outsized gains is not in the current market environment.

Portfolio - Q3-2017 - Historical Performance

Performance and TSX Composite is measured in CAD$; S&P 500 is measured in US$. Total returns indices are with dividends reinvested at time of receipt.
YearDivestor PortfolioS&P 500 (Price Return)S&P 500
(Total Return)
TSX Comp. (Price Return)TSX Comp.
(Total Return)
11.75 Years (CAGR):+18.2%+6.2%+8.4%+2.8%+5.7%
2006+3.0%+13.6%+15.6%+14.5%+17.3%
2007+11.7%+3.5%+5.5%+7.2%+9.8%
2008-9.2%-38.5%-36.6%-35.0%-33.0%
2009+104.2%+23.5%+25.9%+30.7%+35.1%
2010+28.0%+12.8%+14.8%+14.5%+17.6%
2011-13.4%+0.0%+2.1%-11.1%-8.7%
2012+2.0%+13.4%+15.9%+4.0%+7.2%
2013+52.9%+29.6%+32.2%+9.6%+13.0%
2014-7.7%+11.4%+13.5%+7.4%+10.6%
2015+9.8%-0.7%+1.3%-11.1%-8.3%
2016+53.6%+9.5%+12.0%+17.5%+20.4%
Q1-2017+18.6%+5.5%+6.1%+1.7%+2.2%
Q2-2017+0.6%+2.6%+3.1%-2.4%-1.6%
Q3-2017+4.3%+4.0%+4.5%+3.0%+3.5%

Sleep Country Canada goes public – brief analysis of IPO

Sleep Country Canada (with the cutest ticker symbol on the TSX, ZZZ) goes public after they were taken private half a decade ago. The hedge fund that took them over is still up on a market capitalization basis, but they still have to liquidate approximately 47% of their holdings in the post-IPO organization. The hedge fund also lent the operating entity money which they received a slick 12% for (this is being converted into equity again and replaced with a more conventional credit facility post-IPO).

ZZZ raised a ton of money in the equity offering but it went to facilitate the internal takeover of the operating subsidiary and a partial buy-out of the hedge fund. There is also some equity remaining to pay off some debt of the operating entity so the business in general doesn’t look like a leveraged train wreck.

The underlying business within the holding company is of average financial profitability considering its retail business – very roughly speaking over 2012 to 2014 it has cleared a 9% profit margin before interest and taxes.

When doing the analysis, however, my question was not whether this company should be going public or whether it should be purchased, but rather: how the heck did they manage to get people to pay $17/share for this? On almost every valuation metric I can think of, I would not be interested in looking at this company until it reaches about $10/share (this is roughly 20% under a fair value estimate of $12.50/share). There are a lot of strikes against ZZZ at $17/share:

1. Its retail niche is not a growth market (despite what is claimed in the prospectus), especially considering its top-dog status in the Canadian market – thus not warranting any sort of real “growth valuation”.
2. The profitability of the market is not extreme (although one can make an argument that it will be more difficult to erode from the Amazons and big-box retailers compared to the retailing of trinkets) and one is very hard-pressed to find why existing margins will rise beyond economies of scale;
3. Investors should continue to pay a discount, not a premium, due to the fact that they are (nearly) minority investors in relation to the 46% owner (Birch Hill) sitting in the room looking for an exit;
4. Tangible book value after offering is going to be negative ~$142 million – this is purely a cash-flow entity one is investing in. If they were a growth company, why would they give out a planned 11 cents/share/quarter dividend?
5. I don’t ever invest in companies that have their ticker symbols not represent an abbreviation of their company name. Seriously.

At $17/share ($640 million market cap), I don’t have a clue why people would want to invest in this. Who should be congratulated are the insiders and the financial institutions that actually managed to find purchasers of this stock – well done!