Reviewing Our Sell Decisions

We sell positions based on a few main reasons.

  1. We expect low or no dividend growth going forward.
  2. The dividend is cut or has the potential to be cut.
  3. The company is drastically overvalued.
  4. We see a better opportunity to invest in.

I think it’s worthwhile to review positions that we’ve sold because of the reasons above. It’s a little check on our methodology.

The table below is every position we’ve sold that was not bought out by another company. I’ve compared the stock to the S&P 500 from the date it was sold just on price return. I know I should factor in dividends but I’m lazy and this is just the start of the review process. The S&P 500 price is from the close on  March 16, 2016, and the price of each stock was taken during the trading day of March 17, 2016 (I told you I was lazy).

The column on the far right is the price return of each stock versus the S&P 500. Anything in red underperformed the S&P 500.

Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.

The final tally is below. Losers are positions that underperformed the S&P 500 after we sold them. Winners are the positions that outperformed the S&P 500 after we sold them. In retrospect, the labels should be flipped based on our actions.

Click image to enlarge.

Called Away

At the initiation of our dividend growth strategy, we used covered calls to generate extra return. A few of the positions we sold were a result of being called away from us even though we didn’t have a compeling reason to sell them. These positions tended to be the winners.

  • Raytheon (RTN)
  • Eli Lilly (LLY)
  • McGraw Hill Financial (MHFI)
  • Lockheed Martin (LMT)

A couple of positions that were called away from us were positions that we were going to sell. These actually worked out pretty well as they underperformed the S&P 500.

  • AT&T (T)
  • Target (TGT)
  • Automatic Data Processing (ADP)

We used covered calls at the beginning because we had a handful of accounts in our Dividend Growth strategy. It was easier to monitor the open option positions and trade around our positions back then. As the number of accounts in our Dividend Growth strategy grew, using options became more cumbersome, as evidenced above.

Dividend Cutters

We sold a handful of positions because we thought they could cut their dividend. We sold one position that actually did cut its dividend while we held it. The ones that we thought could cut their dividend when we sold them were:

  • Exelon (EXC)
  • ConocoPhillips (COP)
  • Chevron (CVX)

So far we made the right decision in selling these positions based on price returns versus the S&P 500. But they were also good decisions because ConocoPhillips (COP) and Exelon both cut their dividends after we sold them. With Chevron, we think a dividend cut is less likely but we don’t think it will be able to grow its dividend.

We have one lone company that cut its dividend while we held it.

  • Wynn Resorts (WYNN)

Selling Wynn after the dividend cut has so far proved to be the right decision. Wynn has underperformed the S&P 500 since we sold it. The decision to buy and hold onto Wynn Resorts is a whole different story.

Better Opportunities

These are the companies we sold because we saw better investment opportunities.

  • Phillips 66 (PSX)
  • Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)
  • Abbot Labs (ABT)
  • Sysco (SYY)
  • Intel Corp. (INTC)
  • Mondelez (MDLZ)
  • Bank of New York
  • Molson Coors (TAP)
  • Science Applications (SAIC)
  • Leidos (LDOS)
  • Navient (NAVI)
  • SLM Corp. (SLM)
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA)

7 positions went on to outperform the S&P 500 with Phillips 66 (PSX) being the largest outperformer. 6 positions underperformed the S&P 500. The underperformers averaged -31% and the outperformers average 37%. If you back out Phillips 66 then the outperformers average drops to 19%.

In hindsight selling Phillips 66 (PSX) was a mistake but at the time it was a very small position. We received it in the spin-off from ConocoPhillips (COP) and we weren’t planning on adding to the position so we sold it.

The true test of this category is comparing what we bought to what we sold.

Review

What hurt us the most was being called away on positions we weren’t planning on selling. The second error was not buying those positions right back. If we eliminated these unforced errors then our selling record would be in much better shape. We’ve stopped using covered calls so that error has been eliminated.

Selling positions because of a potential dividend cut or an actual dividend cut so far has been the right move. Our strategy is dividend growth. If we don’t think dividend growth is going to happen then we need to sell the position.

Selling because of a better opportunity is a mixed bag based on comparison to the S&P 500. The real test will be to compare what we sold to what we bought. Next time…

The Dividend Stocks of the Ultimate Stock Pickers

Morningstar is out with their lists of the highest-yielding and widely-held dividend paying stocks of their Ultimate Stock Pickers.

The top ten highest yielding owned by Morningstar’s Ultimate Stock Pickers.

Table courtesy of Morningstar. Click image to enlarge.
Table courtesy of Morningstar. Click image to enlarge.

And the most widely held dividend paying stocks by Morningstar’s Ultimate Stock Pickers.

Table courtesy of Morningstar. Click image to enlarge.
Table courtesy of Morningstar. Click image to enlarge.

Source:

4 Dividend-Payers From the Ultimate Stock-Pickers (Morningstar)

China Makes a Run for The Border

As we mentioned in the 26th volume of our dividend letter, Yum! Brands (YUM) would eventually start opening Taco Bells up in China. The first one will open up this year.

Yum Brands Inc, the owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut chains, said it will open its first Taco Bell restaurant in China by the end of 2016.

The first outlet of the Mexican food chain would open in Shanghai, Chief Executive Greg Creed said at a consumer and retail conference in New York on Tuesday.

Source:

Yum Brands to open its first Taco Bell outlet in China this year (Reuters)

A Month is a Year on Wall Street

Apple isn’t the only company that Wall Street does this with but it is one the largest and most widely followed so it stands out.

One of the biggest errors we have as investors is a timing mismatch. We want things to happen now but we forget that these are very large companies and it takes time, multiple years, to implement strategies and generate returns on recent capital investments.

It’s the old metaphor a speed boat versus a super tanker. We think the companies can move like a speed boat but they really move like Super Tankers.

Buying and selling companies based on the emotional pendulum of Wall Street is a recipe for disaster. You have to train yourself to think in years not months.

AMM Dividend Letter Vol. 27: How to Measure and Know Your Risk Level and a Look at Procter & Gamble

This is from the AMM Dividend Letter released March 11, 2016. If you want to see the latest “Dividend Stock in Focus” as soon as it’s released then join our mailing list here.

Consider this proposition:

You are offered a gamble on the toss of a coin.

If the coin shows tails, you lose $100
If the coin shows heads, you win $150
Is this gamble attractive? Would you accept it?

The above problem is taken from Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. His book has become a kind of unofficial behavioral finance bible here at AMM. As we’ve often said in jest, “investing isn’t rocket science, it’s harder”. Harder, not because of the need for advanced math (a basic understanding of arithmetic is generally all that is necessary to read a financial statement), but because markets are composed of individuals who make decisions for a variety of reasons, not always rational and often driven more by sentiment and emotion than anything else.

The above proposition highlights this quandary. As Kahneman puts it, “to make this choice you must balance the psychological benefit of getting $150 against the psychological cost of losing $100. Although the expected value of the gamble is obviously positive, because you stand to gain more than you can lose, you probably dislike it – most people do. For most people the fear of losing $100 is more intense than the hope of gaining $150. We concluded from many such observations that people are loss averse.”

The Loss Aversion Conundrum

Since investing is always about foregoing consumption today in the hope of having more in the future, and since the future is inherently unknowable (i.e. you may hope for more, but in fact receive less if events take a turn for the worse), then the question of risk tolerance becomes a critical component of developing an appropriate portfolio strategy. It is also important to note that risk tolerance and risk acceptance are two different beasts.

To illustrate, while stock markets have NEVER had a 20 year period of negative annualized rates of return, many investors with 20 year time horizons have sold during periods of market decline to “manage risk, stop the bleeding, lock in gains or protect the downside”. So while the time horizon allowed the investor to accept the risks associated with investing in stocks, the investor’s tolerance for risk caused them to sell when markets moved against them.

This might seem entirely reasonable if it weren’t for the fact that this type of behavior is generally associated with poor long-term returns. A famous study on mutual fund flows from Dalbar has shown that investors are terrible timers, with fund outflows reaching their highest levels at market lows, and their highest inflows at market tops. One of our favorite drawings from BehaviorGap highlights this wealth destructive behavior.

Image courtesy of Behavior Gap. Click image to enlarge.
Image courtesy of Behavior Gap. Click image to enlarge.

Reconciling Loss Aversion with Investing in the Real World

We know we must accept risk as part of the investment process, but we also know that we will constantly be tested by the market – feeling confident and risk tolerant when the market goes up, and insecure and risk averse when the market declines. Perhaps the most important thing for any investor to do is to accept and understand this very real psychological obstacle to their long-term investment success. Only by being cognizant of the loss aversion conundrum can one overcome it and sustain the discipline necessary to stick to their investment strategy.

We spend time at the beginning of a client relationship attempting to ascertain appropriate risk levels, generally taking into account things like time horizon, investment objectives and general tolerance for market volatility. In concert with these qualitative assessments, we have more recently begun using a quantitative scoring system to help further our understanding of a clients’ unique risk profile.

The benefits of this approach are:

  1. Incorporates real portfolio values in various win/loss propositions to develop an independent risk score.
  2. The risk score can be tied to actual portfolio investments to verify that your strategy is in line with your unique risk tolerance.
  3. The risk score can be used to help map a probability of achieving retirement/investment goals.

If you haven’t yet gone through this process and are interested in knowing your risk score please contact us and request your complimentary risk analysis.

By definition, the future will remain risky and is certain to be filled with unexpected surprises both good and bad. Just as certain, however, is that most savers need to generate a rate of return higher than the risk-free rate offered at the bank; which means they must take risk. For this reason, knowing your true risk tolerance is critical in helping you navigate both good and bad markets to ultimately achieve your investment goals.

Dividend Stock in Focus

Procter & Gamble (PG): $81.78*
*price as of the close March 11, 2016

William Procter was an English immigrant candle maker. James Gamble was an Irish immigrant soap maker. A little luck, both good and bad, found them both living in Cincinnati in the early 1800s.

William Procter’s first wife became ill while they traveled down the Ohio River and a few months after they arrived in Cincinnati she died.

When he was 16 James Gamble and his family were headed east to Illinois. James became ill and the family had to stop in Cincinnati and eventually decided on settling there.

William Procter eventually remarried to Olivia Norris, the daughter of a local prominent candle maker. He worked at a bank and made candles on the side to help make ends meet. James Gamble, who by this time had his own soap and candle shop, married Olivia’s sister, Elizabeth Norris.

Their new father-in-law, Alexander Norris, noticed that his two new son-in-laws were competing for the same resources and customers. Mr. Norris suggested the two work together. On October 31, 1837 the Procter & Gamble company was born with total assets of $7,192.24. Procter & Gamble now has over $129 billion in total assets, a market capitalization of $224 billion, and does over $72 billion in revenue a year.

Dividend History:

Procter & Gamble fits into our dividend stalwart category. It has consistently paid and raised a dividend every year for many years. It is a member of the S&P Dividend Aristocrat index. To qualify a company has to have paid and raised its dividend for at least 25 years. Procter and Gamble has done so for 58 years.

Over the last 9 years, Procter & Gamble has grown their dividend at a compound annual rate of 8.14%. We’re usually looking for double digit growth but we’ll sacrifice a couple of extra percentage points of growth for consistent growth. If Procter and Gamble maintains 8.14% growth its dividend, your income, will double in 8 years.

From S&P Capital IQ. Click image to enlarge.
From S&P Capital IQ. Click image to enlarge.

Procter & Gamble’s payout ratio is currently high around 85%. Procter and Gamble recently took a one-time charge to earnings as it further undergoes its restructuring. We expect this payout ratio to drift back down towards 60% as PG finishes its plans.

Catalysts for Dividend Growth and Price Appreciation:

Divestment

Procter & Gamble got too big. It had way too many brands and it distracted the company from focusing on its fastest growing brands and its very profitable core brands. P&G has been divesting itself of 100 brands.

Revenue will be lower as Procter and Gamble continues divesting itself of non-core brands. The divestment will reduce operating costs and improve profitability as the company focuses its resources on its better brands and growing them around the world.

The ultimate goal is 10 categories focusing on 65 brands.

Increasing Returns

The divestment plan is in part to improve Procter & Gamble’s returns on equity, assets, and capital. Over the last 10 years, Procter & Gamble’s brand bloat has reduced the returns it generates.

Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.

Improving the brand mix and bringing profit margins back up to old levels will increase returns and the capital it can return to shareholders.

Splitting Procter & Gamble Up

Long-term clients and readers of the AMM Dividend Letter are well aware of our love of spin-offs. We think Procter & Gamble should be split up. Spin-off benefit both the company spun-off and the parent. Both companies reduce their operating size and become more focused on their key markets. Spin-offs have been shown to increase sales and profits at both the old parent company and the new spin-off by creating the best operating environment for each.

Barron’s recently outlined a 3-way split-up of Procter and Gamble and highlights the math that shows Procter & Gamble is worth more separate than together.

Table from Barron's. Click image to enlarge.
Table from Barron’s. Click image to enlarge.

While we would like to see Procter & Gamble embark on a spin-off strategy we think this strategy is a couple years away, at least. Management has to finish their current divestment plan, corporate restructuring, and increased efficiency plans before they really consider splitting the company up.

Pre-Mortem (Potential Risks to our Thesis):

Razor Subscription Services

Procter & Gambles highest margin business is its grooming division which houses its razor business. It was supposedly King Gillette that came up with the strategy now known as the razor/razor blade model. Sell the razor cheaply and then sell the disposable razor blade at a higher price and with high-profit margins. The story is a myth but Gillette’s business model transformed into it over the years. Grooming is Procter & Gamble’s highest margin division with consistent operating profit margins in excess of 30%.

High margins attract competition. In the last couple of years, two companies have taken on Procter & Gamble’s razor business, Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s. The cost to manufacture comparable razor blades has declined along with the cost to sell directly to consumers on a subscription basis. It allows companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s to sell their razors at much lower prices and accept lower margins of profitability to grab market share in a $6+ billion men’s grooming market.

Private Label vs Name Brand

It’s not just with razors that Procter & Gamble charges a higher price when compared to competitors. For example, Tide is the highest priced liquid detergent on the market. As the chart below from UBS via Quartz highlights.

Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.

Brand loyalty and pricing power were two of the main investment themes for Procter & Gamble over the years. Consumers used to be willing to pay up for name brands because of the quality the brand name implied. Brand loyalty has reversed over the years and consumers are no longer shunning private label/generic brands.

Nearly 70% of store brand shoppers report trusting certain store brands more than others, and 64% are likely to try other store products once they’ve tried one. Brand trust is particularly strong for millennials, who are more likely to buy store brand foods in general (97% compared with 94% of all shoppers).

This trend dampens Procter & Gamble’s ability to continue raise prices faster than the rate of inflation on its name brand products.

Emerging Markets

Why does America’s leading diaper company, Procter And Gamble place a made in Japan sticker on the diapers it sells in China? Procter & Gamble misread the Chinese market. P&G believed that Chinese consumers would want value and marketed their diapers as such. Chinese parents wanted high-end diapers and the Japanese diaper maker Kao offered them. Procter & Gamble is addressing this issue with higher-end diapers that are made in Japan.

Selling a consumer good globally involves getting the branding and the value proposition correct for each market. P&G’s china misstep was a big one. China is the growth market for consumer goods right now. If P&G stumbles or fails to gain a large presence in other emerging markets then its future growth will be hindered.

Conclusion:

Our estimate of fair value for Procter & Gamble is $85 per share. We used current operating margins, a 4% growth rate, and a 10% discount rate. If Procter & Gamble succeeds in its divestment and restructuring plans then margins will improve and our estimate of fair value will increase. Increased revenue growth will increase our estimate of P&G’s intrinsic value too.

As of right now, Procter & Gamble is fairly valued. This does not mean we expect below average returns or negative returns. It simply means at today’s price we’re not expecting above average returns. A lower stock price gives us a chance to buy more Procter & Gamble at a price that offers us the potential for above average returns. This is why we like stock market corrections. It is not a time to panic but a time to look for opportunity.

As we outlined above, if Procter & Gamble can achieve its restructuring operating targets while fending off threats to its core brands then P&G’s intrinsic value is likely more than our current estimate.
All previous letters are archived here.

The opinions expressed in “The AMM Dividend Letter” are those of Gabriel Wisdom, Michael Moore and Glenn Busch and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of American Money Management, LLC (AMM), an SEC registered investment advisor who serves as a portfolio manager to private accounts as well as to mutual funds. Clients of AMM, Mr. Wisdom, Mr. Moore, Mr. Busch, employees of AMM, and mutual funds AMM manages may buy or sell investments mentioned without prior notice. This newsletter should not be considered investment advice and is for educational purposes only. The opinions expressed do not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities. Investing involves risks, and you should consult your own investment advisor, attorney, or accountant before investing in anything. Current stock quotes are obtained at http://finance.yahoo.com. Prices are as of the close of the market on the date for which the price is referenced.