Nick Train's Presentation at London Value Investor Conference ~ market folly

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Nick Train's Presentation at London Value Investor Conference

We're posting up notes from the 2017 London Value Investor Conference.  Next up is Nick Train of Lindsell Train.

Nick Train's Presentation at London Value Investor Conference

Even though Train regards himself as a value investor he has changed his investment style considerably in the last 20 years. He quoted Michael Lewis:

“Graham and Dodd investors are people who place a very high price on having the last laugh… “     

“….in exchange for that privilege they have missed out on a lot of laughs in between.”  

Train missed the TMT boom in the 1990s, not owning any technology stocks.  He missed both the boom and the bust but the experience left him feeling dissatisfied. As a traditional value investor, he felt that he had been ill equipped to analyse and deal with an historic, world changing and enormously value creating technology shift. He felt his traditional value investor’s mindset had blinkered him and revealed some limitations. The value discipline had led him to spend too much time looking at cycles and not enough time looking out for trajectories. He had been waiting for years for reversions to the mean that did not happen and not enough time looking for self-reinforcing trends. He felt he had missed the whole point of what creates long-term equity value.

Today he believes the single most important thing that they can do is to extrapolate long term trends. Cycles are irrelevant. Today he likes to invert Howard Marks’s well-known quote:

“Ignoring cycles and extrapolating trends is one of the most dangerous things an investor can do.” 

He gave global whisky shipments as an example of a re-enforcing trend that has continued to grow over the last 100 years. There is no sign of cyclicality or reversion to the mean and he says he expects the trend to continue for the next 30 years. Similarly, he noted that £1 invested in the UK Engineering Industry in 1900 would have grown to £2283 today while £1 invested in the UK alcohol Industry would have grown to £243,152. Again, he expects this trend to continue and it is a reason why Lindsell Train have a large investment in Diageo.

It’s far better to lock into the value creating trajectories and leave the tricky cyclical-type trades alone. The stock market is better viewed as a trajectory rather than a series of potentially ruinous ups-and-downs.

Value investing with its focus on cyclicality can make us too prone to cynicism and pessimism. Optimism is hard but if you hold on to those investment trajectories you will benefit from looking on the bright side.

Everyone has their favourite Buffett quote. Train said that the one that resonates most for him is that the best holding time is forever. “My starting point is that I’ve made a permanent/ semi-permanent commitment to a franchise and I am prepared to ride through the fluctuations.” If the trajectory that we are trying to capture turns out to be misplaced or the company cannot deliver on what we are hoping for that’s a reason to sell. The other reason he would sell is if the balance sheet is deteriorating to such an extent it is threatening the survival of the company.

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

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