Last year Bruce Greenwald did a great interview with Leslie Norton at Barron’s in which he discussed his ‘spin’ on value investing and how it can significantly improve your results.
Here is an excerpt from that interview:
Norton: Isn’t value investing about buying cheap stocks?
Greenwald: There’s a Graham and Dodd overlay that goes by the name of value investing, which is this idea that you will do much better with ugly diseased stocks than glamorous stocks. People have always shied away from ugly diseased opportunities. So you can take advantage of their loss aversion. What amplifies this is that people think they know much more than they do. The whole discourse about stocks is not “this is a good stock with a 65% probability” [of success]. It’s “this is a good stock for sure,” or “this is a piece of crap.” That’s just not the way reality is. It exaggerates the value of glamorous stocks and radically and consistently undervalues diseased stocks.
Norton: What’s the Bruce Greenwald spin [on value investing]?
Greenwald: Let’s start with having a better value approach. If everybody else is just doing ratio valuations, I’m not going to do better than them. Many business-school graduates try to do discounted cash flows. They estimate cash flows for five or six years, then do a terminal cash flow on a terminal growth rate and a terminal cost of capital and get a terminal value. They do a lot of variations on the assumptions and think they know what’s going on. But they never look at the balance sheet. There is a fundamental stupidity about discounted-cash-flow valuations. Depending on what you plug into the equation, you can get widely disparate multiples. You are combining very good information, your estimate of near-term cash flow, with very bad information, your estimate of distant cash flow. When you add bad information to good information, bad dominates.
We start with the balance sheet, which doesn’t project anything. If it’s a nonviable industry, I can make assumptions about liquidation value, or if it’s viable, about how the assets can be reproduced in the most efficient possible way.
You can find the entire interview at Barron’s here.
Article by Johnny Hopkins, The Acquirer's Multiple