Django Davidson's Presentation at London Value Investor Conference ~ market folly

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Django Davidson's Presentation at London Value Investor Conference

We're posting up notes from the 2017 London Value Investor Conference.  Next up is Django Davidson of Hosking Partners.

Django Davidson's Presentation at London Value Investor Conference

Django Davidson is a portfolio manager and founding partner of Hosking Partners where he works with Ex-Marathon Asset Management investor, Jeremy Hosking. Before that Davidson worked at Algebris.

Hosking Partners refer to themselves behavioural investors. He noted that once people form an opinion they do not like to give it up. We get a rush of dopamine when people agree with us. Having people agree with you is the crack-cocaine of the middle-aged dinner party circuit.  Sticking to your guns is a widely perceived social good. Humans attach a huge premium to ideas they already have.

Davidson warned that the belief in Buffett style quality compounders/ franchise stocks in the investment world has taken on something close to religious dogma. The huge outperformance of quality compounders particularly since the financial crisis has led Davidson to take an outsiders view. Shareholder returns for many quality compounders have been very good over the last 5 years while their revenues have gone down - Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Colgate Palmolive.  The margins of quality compounders have been on a continuous three-decade rise but if the underlying moat premise works the revenues should be rising and they are not.

The danger is that the customer is not coming back as often as they used to. Jeff Bezos says that power is shifting from the company to the consumer. Technology is empowering the customer challenging companies to change. According to Bezos the best way for companies to respond is to put all their energies into creating a great product and put less effort into shouting about it through marketing. The old model is shareholder centric whilst the new model is customer centred.

The old shareholder focused companies used to be the only ones that could afford TV advertising. Now two-thirds of the screen times of under 25 year olds is spent on hand-held devices. When they do watch TV, they self-select their own channels. Linear TV is being propped up by an aging demographic. Today new businesses can reach their customers through social media and YouTube at a fraction of the cost. Often, they have better products to sell.

Why are customers leaving the old brands? Are the brands staying relevant in a multi-channel world? How will these brands react to people ordering their shopping through Amazon Alexa? What will the industry have to spend to retain customers? Are companies gouging their customers by providing low quality, high priced goods? Franchise investing appears to be a warm and cosy place, but is it?

Investment ideas: Long AIG Tarp Warrants (expiry 2021); Long: Michelmersh Brick (LON: MBH)

Be sure to check out the rest of the presentations from the London Value Investor Conference.

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