One of our favorite investors at The Acquirer’s Multiple – Stock Screener is Bill Miller.
Miller served as the Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Legg Mason Capital Management and is remembered for beating the S&P 500 Index for 15 straight years when he ran the Legg Mason Value Trust.
One of the best resources for investors is the Legg Mason Shareholder Letters. One of the best letters ever written by Miller was his Q4 2006 letter in which he discussed the end of his 15 year ‘winning streak’ and how too many investors miss the most important aspect of investing by focusing on value or growth. Miller writes, “The question is not growth or value, but where is the best value?” It’s a must-read for all investors.
Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
Calendar year 2006 was the first year since I took over sole management of the Legg Mason Value Trust in the late fall of 1990 that the Fund trailed the return of the S&P 500. Those 15 consecutive years of outperformance led to a lot of publicity, commentary, and questions about “the streak,” with comparisons being made to Cal Ripken’s consecutive games played streak, or Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, or Greg Maddux’s 17 consecutive years with 15 or more wins, among others. Now that it is over, I thought shareholders might be interested in a few reflections on it, and on what significance, if any, it has.
Bill Nygren is a fund manager at Oakmark Funds. He is also Chief Investment Officer for U.S. Equities at Harris Associates. He’s particularly well-known for being a value investor who doesn’t fear the technology sector.
This post summarises key takeaways from his talk at Google in December 2017. While he reinforces many core value investing principles, he also challenges us to think differently.
The difference between gambling and investing
A value investor recognizes there are different ways she can put capital at risk and the difference between gambling (negative expected value) and investing in stocks (positive expected value)
Buying stocks like you would buy groceries
Bill observed the way his mother shopped for groceries by buying more of something that was on sale and deferring her purchase of something that wasn’t yet on sale
Smart money is not always smart
He spent two years as a research analyst at Northwestern Mutual Life where he pitched ideas of companies that he found were trading below their asset values. However, the portfolio managers chose not to buy such stocks until after they were recommended by 2-3 Wall Street analysts, by which time the price had moved to above asset values.
“There is one other rule you ought to keep in mind and that is to concentrate, and not only in the Zen sense. Sweet are the uses of diversity, but only if you want to end up in the middle of an average” Adam Smith, the Money Game 1968
“Statistical analysis shows that security-specific risk is adequately diversified after 14 names in different industries, and the incremental benefit of each additional holding is negligible. We own 18-22 companies to allow us to be amply diversified but have the flexibility to overweight a name or own more than one business within an industry.” Mason Hawkins
“Empirical testing has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the “riskiness” of a portfolio of 12-15 diverse companies is little greater than one loaded with a hundred or more” Frank Martin
“If you can identify six wonderful businesses, that is all the diversification you need. And you will make a lot of money. And I can guarantee that going into a seventh one instead of putting more money into your first one is gotta be a terrible mistake. Very few people have gotten rich on their seventh best idea. But a lot of people have gotten rich with their best idea. So I would say for anyone working with normal capital who really knows the businesses they have gone into, six is plenty, and I probably have half of what I like best. I don‘t diversify personally. ” Warren Buffett