Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Price/Value ratio

Reading the latest Longleaf Partners Funds report, I was inspired to calculate the Price/Value ratio for my holdings:

Company          P/V
-------          ---
Canon            86¢ 
Select Comfort   36¢ 
Berkshire        82¢ 
Sally Beauty     59¢ 
First Marblehead 23¢ 
I recently sold Oracle for somewhere between 90¢ and $1 to the dollar. Cash is always worth $1 to the dollar and I used the same rate for Alberto-Culver, since I haven't put a value on that company. My composite P/V for the portfolio is roughly 66¢ to the dollar.

Select Comfort and First Marblehead still seem insanely cheap to me even after slashing my value estimate. I expect these will be truly outstanding investments for those who purchase today, but both have been classic value traps for me. (A value trap is an investment that looks cheap, but whose value falls as fast or faster than the price.) First Marblehead in particular has been a head-scratcher, since it operates in a great business that has been abandoned by other companies due to short-term problems. Both companies now include a free option on any future growth.

Of course, the value portion of the ratio is my conservative estimate of the present value of all future earnings. Further, there's no way to know when or if the price will converge on the value, assuming I estimated it correctly.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First Marblehead's good day

So the analyst who has been talking down First Marblehead for months has upgraded the company because the negative news is now baked into the stock price. As a result, the stock price has jumped 30+% today.

Of course, nothing has really changed except that one influential analyst has become a little less negative on some deeply discounted shares.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Luxury Goods

So here are three things I read today:

Of my investments, I'd say three and a half of them less luxury goods to consumers. Canon sells top of the line cameras (as well as high-quality point-and-shoots), Sally Beauty sells salon-quality supplies, and Select Comfort sells premium mattresses. Alberto-Culver has mass market products that are more upscale than average in drug stores and Wal-Mart. The advantage these companies share is pricing power. Basically in hard times, like now, they can decide to drop prices a bit to keep up sales volume, or they can wait around until times get better and raise prices. I have to be honest: I'll probably pay 10% more to get a Canon product over any of the competitors. It might seem irrational, but I think it's justifiable because I know what I'm going to get and I know I'll be happy. I'm sure the same is true of women who buy certain brands of shampoo or soap.