Nov 22, 2007|
Lessons from Warren Buffett - XIX
Last week, through the master's 1991 letter
to shareholders, we threw some light on his concept of 'look-through' earnings and how one should build a long-term portfolio based on it. This week, let us see what further investment insight the master has up his sleeves in the remainder of the letter from the same year.
In the 1991 letter, while discussing his investments in the media sector, the master delivers yet another gem of an advice that can go a long way towards helping conduct a very good qualitative analyses of companies. Based on his enormous experience in analysing companies, Warren Buffett classifies firms broadly into two main types, a business and a franchise and believes that many operations fall in some middle ground and can best be described as weak franchises or strong businesses. This is what he has to say on the characteristics of each of them:
"An economic franchise arises from a product or service that: (1) is needed or desired, (2) is thought by its customers to have no close substitute, and (3) is not subject to price regulation. The existence of all three conditions will be demonstrated by a company's ability to regularly price its product or service aggressively and thereby to earn high rates of return on capital. Moreover, franchises can tolerate mismanagement. Inept managers may diminish a franchise's profitability, but they cannot inflict mortal damage.
In contrast, "a business" earns exceptional profits only if it is the low-cost operator or if supply of its product or service is tight. Tightness in supply usually does not last long. With superior management, a company may maintain its status as a low-cost operator for a much longer time, but even then unceasingly faces the possibility of competitive attack. And a business, unlike a franchise, can be killed by poor management."
We believe equity investors can do themselves a world of good by taking the above advice to heart and using them in their analysis. If one were to visualise the financials of a company possessing characteristics of a 'franchise', the company that emerges is the one with a consistent long-term growth in revenues (the master says that a 'franchise' should have a product or a service that is needed or desired with no close substitutes) and high and stable margins, arising from the pricing power that the master mentioned, thus leading to a similar rise in earnings as the topline.
On the other hand, a 'business' would be an operation with erratic growth in earnings owing to frequent demand-supply imbalances or a company with a continuous decline after a period of strong growth owing to the competition playing catching up.
Thus, if an investor approaches the analysis of a firm armed with these tools or with the characteristics firmly ingrained into their brains, then we believe he should be able to weed out a lot of bad companies by simply glancing through their financials of the past few years and save considerable time in the process. Further, as the master has said that since a bad management cannot permanently dent the profitability of a franchise, turbulent times in such firms could be used as an opportunity for entering at attractive levels. It should, however, be borne in mind that the master is also of the opinion that most companies lie between the two definitions and hence, one needs to exercise utmost caution before committing a substantial sum towards a so-called 'franchise'.
More Views on News
Jun 10, 2017
Forty Indian investing gurus, as worthy of imitation as the legendary Peter Lynch, can help you get rich in the stock market.
Aug 22, 2017
Today, we are attacked by one preposterous thing after another, each of them even more absurd than the last.
Aug 21, 2017
Most Indians who cannot find jobs, look at becoming self-employed.
Aug 21, 2017
PersonalFN explains the chief factor pushing gold prices up of late.
Aug 21, 2017
One of the hallmarks of successful investing is to look out for companies that have a unique and enduring moat.
More Views on News
Aug 10, 2017
Don't miss these proxy bets on growing companies or in a few years you will be looking back with regret.
Aug 10, 2017
Bill connects the dots...between money and growth, real money and real resources, gold and cryptocurrencies...and between gold, cryptocurrencies, and time.
Aug 12, 2017
The India VIX is up 36% in the last week. Fear has gone up but is still low by historical standards.
Aug 10, 2017
Bitcoin hits an all-time high, is there more upside left?
Aug 16, 2017
Ensure your financial Independence, and pledge to start the journey towards financial freedom today!
Copyright © Equitymaster Agora Research Private Limited. All rights reserved.
Any act of copying, reproducing or distributing this newsletter whether wholly or in part, for any purpose without the permission of Equitymaster is strictly prohibited and shall be deemed to be copyright infringement. LEGAL DISCLAIMER:
Equitymaster Agora Research Private Limited (hereinafter referred as 'Equitymaster') is an independent equity research Company. Equitymaster is not an Investment Adviser. Information herein should be regarded as a resource only and should be used at one's own risk. This is not an offer to sell or solicitation to buy any securities and Equitymaster will not be liable for any losses incurred or investment(s) made or decisions taken/or not taken based on the information provided herein. Information contained herein does not constitute investment advice or a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual subscribers. Before acting on any recommendation, subscribers should consider whether it is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek an independent professional advice. This is not directed for access or use by anyone in a country, especially, USA or Canada, where such use or access is unlawful or which may subject Equitymaster or its affiliates to any registration or licensing requirement. All content and information is provided on an 'As Is' basis by Equitymaster. Information herein is believed to be reliable but Equitymaster does not warrant its completeness or accuracy and expressly disclaims all warranties and conditions of any kind, whether express or implied. Equitymaster may hold shares in the company/ies discussed herein. As a condition to accessing Equitymaster content and website, you agree to our Terms and Conditions of Use, available here
. The performance data quoted represents past performance and does not guarantee future results.SEBI (Research Analysts) Regulations 2014, Registration No. INH000000537.
Equitymaster Agora Research Private Limited. 103, Regent Chambers, Above Status Restaurant, Nariman Point, Mumbai - 400 021. India.
Telephone: +91-22-61434055. Fax: +91-22-22028550. Email: email@example.com. Website: www.equitymaster.com. CIN:U74999MH2007PTC175407