December 22, 2009

Pacer: Change of Mind

Pacer is in the right space; the intermodal space that is. However it might not be the right investment. There is good likelihood of business failure and permanent loss of capital. I have sold out of it earlier and took a 3% gain from my cost basis.

Why I do not think it is suitable for an investment because of several factors:
  1. The company lost its wholesale business to HUB Group, as Union Pacific (UNP) renegotiated their long term contract, which gave Pacer a competitive advantage for a long time.
  2. Now Pacer does not have any pricing power or unique access to the UNP network so its advantage have disappeared.
  3. Pacer will try to establish it new business going to shippers rather than selling to other logistics businesses, which is unproven field for it. If management had showed better skills and better Return on Capital over the last 5 years, even with unique advantage it failed, I may have given it the benefit of the doubt. But there are no indications of superior skill.
  4. Management have to win business and that will be a tall order its revenue growth over the last 7 years, the go go years of global trade, have been -5%.
  5. Pacer with no trucking assets can get its margin really squeezed by truckers to complete the various legs of the intermodal trip. However most of its competitors either have their own trucking or have a larger under contract owner operator. This will decrease Pacer flexibility and attractiveness for customer needs.
  6. Recent liquidity issues and reduced credit facilities can turn off customers from giving their business. Supply chain managers and shippers priority will always be reliability rather than price.
  7. Pacer would not see any positive cash flow from operations for next year according to my model which will continue to raise solvency issues as it did this year.
  8. CEO abruptly retired. The company felt the need to issue a press release to recently to emphasize that all was preplanned. That was very defensive move that leads to believe that there are something more o this issue.
  9. A lot of insider selling. Not a good sign.
  10. the new credit facilities the company negotiated limits capex at $6.5 million per year going forward. The company used to average $9.5 million per year and most of it is maintenance capex. Without investment in the business it could lead to deterioration in operations.
  11. Also the credit facility is very strict and keeps Pacer on a tight leach.
  12. If I assume mid cycle revenue level of $1680 and loss of $550 due to the new agreement with UP that will leave Pacer with revenue level of $1130. Further if I assume the average EBIT margin over the last 4 years that will give me an EBIT level of $19 million. However the new cost structure of Pacer due to its agreement with UP and loss of business will be higher so lets assume 1% margin, which will leave us with EBIT of $11.3 million. This translate Pacer Earning Power Value is $113 to $160. This does not factor capex, taxes or interest, so very much where the market is trading right now. Not an appealing valuation.

The shorts are having a big field day with this; it is been shorted heavily with a good reason. Management need big effort to turn around, cost cutting can do only so much.

December 17, 2009

Lear: Post bankruptcy Equity

This is a very interesting idea. Lear (LEA) has just emerged from bankruptcy that it entered early in summer of 2009. The bankruptcy was voluntary.

Lear is a supplier of car seating and some electronics to car makers. Lear has a very dominant position in the seating market. However GM and Ford makes the bulk of its sales. In fact GM makes 23% of its sales while ford makes up 19%. Management is focused on diversifying this mix. They are focusing on sales into Asian countries where sales growth did not skip a beat in the last 2 years, unlike European and North American which sales plummeted.

What is good about the company is the following:
  1. Bankruptcy. Although it sounds bad but Lear has shed a lot of debt that was kept on its balance sheet after sales of some units to Wilbur Ross.
  2. Management owns a lot of stock. In fact management owns 2.4% of shares on fully diluted basis upon exit from Ch. 11 and the CEO has a big chunk of it. I think management will do whatever it takes to increase business value.
  3. There will be a lot of forced selling and a lot of technical overhang that could pressure the stock in the next 12 months. the selling pressure will be from:
    1. CLO funds. Lear debt and loans was wildly held by CLOs. CLOs do not hold equity; their charter do not allow it.
    2. Preferred stock conversion. Right now preferred are in the money and the company can force its conversion.
    3. Warrants exercise also in the money.
    4. Warrants and preferreds conversion will cause 35% dilution.
  4. The quick exist from bankruptcy limits lawyers and advisers fees.

What is not good about the ideas:
  1. The auto market has a lot of capacity still. even after all the bankruptcies not a single car maker disappeared, well only one Saturn but Saturn is made by GM so capacity is still there. We need to see some liquidation in the space.
  2. Margins are very thin right now below historical norm. This may change with more sales.
  3. GM and Ford make the bulk of its sales. Enough said.
  4. Economic risks of decline as so far recovery is shaky.
  5. Valuation is not cheap enough. I figure a good entry is between $48 and the high estimate of $55. If I am right about the selling overhang it will get there within a year, although it does not look like it as the stock price is on a tear lately.

December 3, 2009

What is wrong with this picture?

Natural gas producers have rallied and continue to do so although the underlying commodity is suffering. Natural gas producers represented by index for natural gas producers have returned some 45% on YTD basis while the underlying commodity has declined by 62% on YTD basis.

Normally that relationship have a high correlation. Natural gas producers price returns go the way of the commodity. However the relationship seem to have been broken since March of this year.

Is buying in this market indiscriminate? May be, but this is a question that can not be answered with full certainty. You can only attempt to guess as one would never have complete information to ascertain the validity of a claim.

December 1, 2009

Cloud Peak Energy...not so Peak Value

Rio Tinto IPO of Cloud Peak Energy (CLD), sort of a spin off, came with no great fan fare. The IPO has gone down some 10% so far. There are good reasons why the stock is down. Some are due to industry dynamics and other, in my opinion, is due to the corporate structure of the mines.

Industry Dynamic
Coal demand is growing. There is no secret that coal is under pressure from environmentalists and regulators due to global warming issues. CLD mines thermal coal used by utilities for electricity generation. The US generated 50% of its electricity from coal. So there is no escaping coal no matter what politicians say or do. Coal will be still be used during my lifetime and even during my sons lifetime. Coal demand will grow as long as we use electricity.

There is a glut of supply right now evident by increasing stock piles at utilities, but I reckon that will be short lived:

  • Miners are cutting coal production in 2010 due to decrease in demand that will stabilize pricing
  • Mountain top mining in the states is in jeopardy as a source of cheap thermal coal due to environmental issues.
  • Mountaintop mining in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio accounts for 6 percent of U.S. coal production.
  • The end of mountaintop mining in Appalachia would remove about 70 million tons a year from the market, increasing demand for coal from Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.
  • EPA has been holding mining permits with more frequency under new president.Natural gas pricing, is it firms up then utilities that switched to nat gas will switch back to the cheaper fuel, coal.
On balance the downturn in coal is cyclical rather than permanent. So when a distressed seller like Rio Tinto, it needs cash to repair it over leveraged balance sheet, off load its coal business at these levels, it piqued my interest.

Transaction Specific Issues

My issue is with how the split off is structured. There are many issues that makes me hesitate pursuing this business.
  • Rio Tinto still owns some 49% of the mines. However its ownership is at the limited partnership level rather than the holding company CLD. The public owns 100% of the holding company which in turn owns 51% of the limited partnership. That will make for conflict of interest between the public holders of CLD and Rio.
  • Pretty much CLD is controlled by Rio as its board of directors is made of RIO executives. Moreover, CLD is governed by agreements that needs Rio's consent.
  • Funds from operation will go to Rio and the holding company, CLD, but not to shareholders. I would rather see RIO and the public holders get the same treatment makes for better alignment of interest.
  • Tax reimbursement agreement where CLD pays Rio any tax savings due to higher assets base level making depreciation and amortization higher thereby reducing taxes on income.
  • Debt that got loaded onto CLD'd balance sheet to pay Rio for the assets is a bit high and will saddle the CLD with interest payments for some time to come.Most of the proceeds of the IPO goes to Rio.
So as you can see the deck is stacked in favour of Rio at the expense of CLD holders. However, there are some good qualities for CLD being low cost producer, cheap, and good reserves.

In conclusion, I will wait for a better entry point or when Rio floats the reset of its ownership in these mines.

November 14, 2009

Liquidity made me do it

The rationale for the market rally since March 09 has been liquidity pumped by the Fed. The interesting point is that the market decline from summer 2008 to March 2009 has been also explained by the disappearance of liquidity. The disappearance of liquidity was caused by over levered banks.

I am not going to agree or disagree about the causes of the market rally because I can't. I distinguish between causation and correlation. The latter is easy to detect by statistical methods, however the former is almost impossible to prove. So arguing that point is irrelevant. One suffice to note is liquidity can disappear overnight but can't appear in same speed. It takes time.

Most investors, as evident by the decline and rally of the market, value liquidity. They attach a premium to it making liquid assets somewhat expensive to illiquid ones. I am agnostic to liquidity therefore I am not willing to bid more for it. However price is more important. I was a willing buyer from October till May, although in retrospect, regrettably, not enough. Now I am not. Back then the cyclically adjusted PE was around 10, now it is 19, above the long term average of 17. See chart courtesy of Dr. Robert Schiller.
At these levels I am more risk averse. I have sold several positions over the past few weeks for a summary see here and here. I have also wrote calls in American Express (AXP) at $40 which should take out of that position by it expiration next week. Moreover, Burlington BNI have been taken over by Berkshire which should close by early next year. So my cash position is rising so what to do.

In an fair valued or overvalued market I concentrate exclusively on event driven positions, like takeovers, spinoffs, bankruptcies and reorganization and liquidations. My favorite is spin-offs. Some of the opportunities I am looking at:
  • AOL spinoff from Time Warner
  • Madison Square Garden (MSG) spinoff from Cablevision
  • Cloud Peak Energy coal spinoff from metals giant Rio Tinto
  • Pharmaceutical Product Development, Inc. (PPDI) Spinoff of Compound Partnering Business.
  • SixFlags post bankruptcy equity
  • Lear Corp post bankruptcy equity
In an over valued market where you look can be different than an undervalued one, where businesses sell far below their normal earning power value.

November 10, 2009

Exit from Peyto

I sold out of Peyto Energy @ $12.26 (35% return) due to changes in competitive structure of gas supply. Pipelines are raising significantly their fees to carry natural gas. This will spell increased operating costs for gas producers and will lower asset values.

Demand for natural gas occurs in the north eastern of this continent and supply, typically, comes from western provinces like Alberta. So transportation costs is big chunk. TransCanada pipeline will raise fees by some 50% next year, which will make western Canada gas uncompetitive compared to closer sources. In the past there was not many sources close to the northeastern market but now they are abundant. There is two new sources that can supply that market maybe at lower costs with transportation costs are rising signifiacntly:
  1. New shale gas basins that are coming online are much closer to northeastern states like natural gas from the mega Marcellus shale play that extends to west virginia, is likely to grow to 1.0 Bcf/d.
  2. LNG gas coming from overseas as Europe does not need as much gas as previous years due to economic slow down.
The reduced operating profits at gas producers as Peyto will lead to lower credit as bankers set credit lines based on estimates of their NAV or reserves in the ground. Those estimates are facing a double whammy: lower gas prices and higher operating costs. Many will see their credit lines reduces in March 2010 and will scramble for liquidity.

I will come back to Peyto as it is my favourite in the space once something changes in the fundamentals.

November 7, 2009

BNI buyout by Berkshire

Berkshire acquired BNI earlier in the week for $100 consideration. I will not detail the offer as most media have done it with better detail. However the post is about my view and my future action.

First my view on the transaction. I am really disappointed that BNI is going private, you can read my posts on the company here. I had visions 10 years down the road to see my investment in BNI to have risen by 1000% or more, so to be deprived from such investment, to say the least, is disappointing, albeit my return from holding BNI is 50% plus dividends, so I am always thankful.

The price is low relative to the value of BNI. BNI has tremendous land holdings that are not realized in its balance sheet. Also, BNI is not just a good business with competitive advantage, it is a protection against inflation and oil prices. BNI does well when oil is high or low. When oil is high their rates go up in lock step however if oil prices are declining so is their costs. BNI also is a good hedge against inflation as it rates and assets can compensate investors for rise in prices.

Second, I will opt to take the cash. I do not understand Berkshire and Buffett is not going to last forever. To preempt any comments, I did not say Berkshire is bad business but it is too complicated for me, that is all.

Thrid, I will tender my shares for cash rather than sell due to several factors:
  1. I want to postpone my capital gains till next year,
  2. in the unlikely event the acquisition fails,
  3. I am not leaving $3 on the table, and
  4. There is a dividend payout coming up before closing that I want.
Fourth, BNI represented more than 10% of my portfolio so I will have a lot of cash coming back to me to reinvest and that creates some problems. First, the market is at fair value which makes finding ideas a bit difficult. Moreover, the risk in this market is to the downside currently. Second, most railroads have shot up on the acquisition so replacing BNI with another will be difficult as a lot of people are emulating Buffett and bidding their prices. I do not like crowded trades. But I will follow some railroads to take advantage of any weakness. Two of my favorites are Canadian National (CNR) and Union Pacific (UNP). I am also looking at Canadian Pacific, where it could see some improvements in margins with better management. Third, good ideas like BNI are rare.

The other alternative is to invest in Intermodal companies. Those companies use multi modes of transportation on behalf of shippers to get goods to their destination. Intermodals obviously need access to the rail networks through agreements with railroads. Some Intermodal companies own a fleet of trucks to handle what is called last mile transport or the final link from rail to the buyer, or can contract this out to independent truckers.

Pacer International (PACR) is
...asset-light North American logistics provider. The Company provides transportation and logistics services to numerous Fortune 500 and multi-national companies. The Company provides its transportation services from two operating segments, its intermodal segment, which provides intermodal transportation services principally to transportation intermediaries, beneficial cargo owners and international shipping companies who utilize intermodal transportation, and its logistics segment, which provides truck brokerage, truck transport, supply chain management services, freight forwarding, ocean shipping and warehousing and distribution services to a range of end user customers.
Pacer had a bad run lately as its contract extension with Union Pacific, where the majority of its freight revenue come from, was uncertain and weighted on the stock heavily. I liked that situation. I bought at $3.16 last week to take advantage of investors flight due to uncertainty. Although the stock has shot up some 50% since their earnings and contract renewal two days ago, I think the potential to move to $8-10 per share is reasonable.

I admit I did not finish buying to establish my desired position and rather to have bought before the move but the risk/ reward thesis is still valid. The stock should drift higher as investor buy again into it after the uncertainty has been removed.

I will share more thoughts on Pacer some other time.

October 9, 2009

IFRS implementation in Brookfield Properties

Brookfield Properties (BPO) will adopt IFRS, new accounting standards that most US and Canadian companies will transition into, ahead of schedule according to their press release. You will see most real estate operators opt to adopt IFRS early, particularly those with properties acquired more than 5 years ago. That is because it will decrease their leverage and increase book value.

IFRS allows companies to adopt fair value measures of their assets. It is advantageous for owners with older properties to account under IFRS this way their leverage ratio will be much better. Also I think in this cycle where commercial real estate have been clobbered you will see many years in the future of up revaluation of properties and steady increase in book values.

The accounting changes will move BPO book value from $9 to about $14 making Price/ book value less than 1.

Also they will be compare more favorably now that leverage is reduced. Most analyst do not like BPO because it has higher leverage ratios compared to other office owners.

October 4, 2009

Practice Investing

Investing is just like any other discipline you need practice to develop the skills to be good at it. For awhile I have been thinking about a framework of skills and how do I practice to improve my game. I have broken it down to three elements that need to be developed and worked at constantly:
  1. Knowledge
  2. Skills
  3. Behaviour

If you have read Poor Charlie's Almanac, which I recommend highly, you will see that he harps on what he calls "mental models". This is the equivalent to knowledge in my framework. However, I want to further detail these models into two elements:
  1. Systems Knowledge: similar to Munger's description, it is your knowledge of the necessary sciences to enable you to decipher your way through events, readings and decisions:
    • Accounting
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Language
  2. Domain Knowledge: Munger did not explicitly break out this element as a distinct "mental model" but he emphasized reading a lot. Domain knowledge is the structure of information and data or "insights" about a specific industry. You can't be knowledgeable sufficiently about several domains so you have to keep your efforts focused on few ones, the less the better investor you will be.
How do you practice your knowledge building capacity? By writing down notes about what you read. What you need to write is not a summary of the information but an answer to the questions: so what? What will be the impact of the news item on you, your business and the companies involved?

To develop the knowledge required, you will need to read and read a lot, this has to be evident by now. Here are the skills that you need to work at as well to be more effective and efficient:
  1. Speed reading: you need to read quickly because knowledge has one limitation and that is time. The skill is hard but you need to work at it to continuously improve the yield on your time by acquiring more knowledge for each unit of time spent.
  2. Memory: what is the point of reading if you can't remember the information you need to analyze a particular situation or identify a unique opportunity. This is a skill that can be improved by practice as well.
  3. Creativity: Munger in his book said to "invert, always invert" well to do so you need imagination. Creativity is needed in order to develop future scenarios and imagine possible risk for business.

I have identified three behaviours or personality characteristics that need to be nurtured as well:
  1. Passion: your passion should be about the process not the outcome. If you are passionate about the process you will think and have perspective on how to improve it rather than use it in a mechanical fashion.
  2. Adaptation: one of the most valuable traits of humans is their ability to adapt to their circumstances and learn from their mistakes. But this require that you take responsibility and internalize errors and mistakes rather than blaming it on chance or others.
  3. Determination: because you will fail but you need a combination of strong will, ambition, and discipline to keep going as what I outlined here is a lot of hard work.

Train hard!!!!

September 23, 2009

Positions Revisited

I want to revisit some of my stock decisions and see what was the outcome and analyze if there is anything I should have done better. I will try to be intellectually honest with my assessments and recognize my errors. Also i want to look back and see if there are any mental traps that affected my decisions and recognize when i fall for these psychological biases.

Below is all the positions that I have talked about on this blog for over a year or so. All are businesses that I looked to own but did not or I bought and sold.

General Growth (GGPWQ): I have dismissed the value in this name when it was trading at $.35. now the stock is over $4.5 an impressive 600%+ return. Was I wrong? Off course I was. Would I do the same decision again? Probably yes. There is nothing inherently wrong in how I analysed the situation. I came to the conclusion that there is a probability of permanent loss of capital; this probability excluded the equity of GGP right away.

I honestly can live with the consequences of such decisions. I prefer to err on the side of preserving capital than take a speculative position like General Growth.

Coach (COH): I liked the business and its management but I decided I will only buy at $18 or below to give me enough margin of safety. Coach is trading at $33; some 80% return if I have gone ahead and bough at my buy decision.

My inaction cost me here. This one hurts more than General Growth because there was no reason not to buy. I scummed to the fear and paralysis during the market tumble earlier this year. My bias for the status-quo and regret avoidance have cost me.

Hawk Drilling (HAWK): I did not like this spin-off for various reasons. However, the stock has gone from $22 to $35 in the span of several weeks. The business has a lot of ugly factors in it, which is what you want to buy in a spin-off. But again this one I can live with. The price has gone up not to the specifics of the company but because of movement in natural gas as evident of a similar move by its competitor Hero Drilling as seen in the chart; Natural Gas has also moved from $2.7 mcf to $3.7 during the same period. I concluded that this was a leveraged play on Natural Gas and I did not want to call its direction.

Switch of Bank of America to American Express: After BofA bought Merill Lynch I decided to get out and switch to AMEX. My analysis were right that BofA would have tough time with Merill and I am better with a company that have a great brand name and much more easily understood and analysed than a bank. AMEX return 65% from the switch to BofA -14%.

In this instance I did not have any status-quo bias I acted and I did not have a loss aversion bias. I hope I can have the same capacity to perform the same decision in similar situations.

Preferreds (Brookfield and Bombardier) and Senior Loans Positions: I have bought several positions with the credit theme to be a better proposition than equity. All worked very well with most of them 70% gains plus their yield.

However, equity performed very well since its March lows. All my buying from late 2008 to early 2009 has been tilted toward credit instruments rather than equities. There were several companies that I liked that could have provided me with handsome returns over the last six months. Again, some paralysis on my part to pull the trigger on stocks with attractive prices, similar to Coach above.

Teck Resources (TCK): This position has worked as I expected. The assets were too valuable. When it was trading at $4, I did not think there was any chance of loss of capital. Now that the stock is trading at $30 it still has some room to high 30s.

However I made a silly mental error. I sold too early and left a lot of profit on the table by halving my position. The business did not hit my value estimate and I reacted to the price run and I fell to regret avoidance mode. I should have asked what is the value?

FirstService (FSV): I sold at 8% loss when I realized I made several errors in valuation and business model assessment. My mistake here is that those assessment should have been made before hand not afterwards. I rushed to take advantage of price decline before the opportunity escapes me. Little I know the price declined further. Here it was a process violation; the position should have never been established and because of the error I am 8% poorer.

NorthStar Realty (NRF): I am down some 50% on this one. I can be wrong on this one but I followed my process and my thesis still good. I am willing to hang onto it until I see another opportunity with better return profile.

Sears Holding (SHLD): I am down 30% on this position. Again so far I am wrong and the intrinsic value has declined with the name as its real estate assets have went down in value. Moreover, I realize now that valuation discount alone is not enough it has to be coupled with good business model and economics.

Cardinal Health, Peyto Energy, and Burlington Northern: All of these positions are recent and any analysis is not worth its trouble.

I just wonder how this post would have been different if the market have not rallied. I come to remember the quote " rising tide lifts all boats". So I am thankful that I did well but I always think that there is an element of luck in my decisions.

September 12, 2009

Value idea: Peyto Energy Trust

Natural gas is at extreme lows as it should; there is tremendous supply in the system. Storage is almost full. There will be no where to put extra production. The reason is the vast discoveries of shale gas. North America is abundant with natural gas contrary to what was believed of North America peak gas. Even with a harsh winter I do not think the supply picture will improve.

However I believe that goods or assets can't sustain prices below its average production cost over the long term. Sure there will be some divergence in some periods but it should return to equilibrium eventually. The question is when. I am not going to speculate on that as it is going to be a crap chute at best.

However a good position if I can find a way to participate in the price recovery of natural gas, while I get some downside protection and a margin of safety. I think Peyto Energy Trust (Pey.un) gives me this proposition. Peyto is :
Canada-based energy trust. The Trust’s principal business activity is the exploration for, development and production of petroleum and natural gas in Western Canada. As of December 31, 2008, the total proved plus probable reserves were 998.3 billion cubic feet equivalent (166.4 million barrels of oil equivalent) with a reserve life of 23 years. Production is weighted approximately 85% natural gas and 15% natural gas liquids and oil.
I like Peyto for the following:
  • hedge book for half of their production of the next 12 months at an average price of $7.5 per mcf
  • low debt to capitalization and good coverage of debt service and dividends
  • low cost producer of natural gas. currently their operating costs per BOE is $2.56 as of their latest quarter
  • long life reserves
  • the cost structure for the most part is variable and gets reduced with lower revenues.
  • cheap valuation where its Entp. Value to NPV is .57, a measure to value the company to its discounted cash flow from reserves in the ground.
  • The current dividend yield is Distribution is 15.5%. The coverage of the distribution is good but if gas prices continue its decline it will be halved.
  • I get good odds betting on natural gas plays. The upside is potentially large while the downside is limited. We are already at a decade low of natural gas price. Most Natural gas producer did not participate fully in the recent rally and lag the indices by a wide margin.
  • And a very good management, extremely good management.
  • My catalyst will be the revision to mean in natural gas prices as most likely it can't keep going down. We are in a period of supply and demand imbalance and there should be an equilibrium found in the next 12 months.

What can go wrong:
  • Payout ratio is trending higher, which is understandable given the weak revenue figure. Peyto has already cut its distribution and it could a further cut is probable.
  • Natural gas is the "widow maker" and can be very volatile. There is no reason it can't go to low $2s per mcf.
  • Their operating lines can be shut or reduced if credit environment deteriorates further. Producers rely on operating lines to fund operations and exploration.
  • Royalties are influx in the government of Alberta and can be very fickle to factor in analysing operations. Couple years ago royalties has been hiked on gas producers but once the bust has set in it was reconsidered.
  • The conversion to corporate entity issue. Trusts will be subject to regular corporate taxes in 2011 so this is issue is hanging on Peyto and all trusts alike.

A note: This is a Canadian trust equivalent to master limited partnership in the US so it will have personal tax consequences that will have to be taken into consideration when purchasing

September 7, 2009

Changes to portfolio

Reducing EEM stake by more than half. I have been holder of Emerging Market index for a while in an effort to diversify internationally. The call was to hold the index for the long term but as my style of investing changes, more focus on event driven investing, I find my emotions rule how I view this position. I get swayed by economic analysis from various sources. I do not have any insight or edge.

Also, I have bought in the EEM when all were selling in Sep of last year. Valuation then made sense. Now emerging market funds are loaded with capital as money flow into them like crazy. Valuation has increased from 10 x earning to 20 time earnings now. People have high expectation of emerging market due to growth potential. I think it is a likely scenario that economic dominance will shift to some emerging economies like China and India but the odds that the market gives me for returns are not favorable. So I am taking my profits here and I will set tight.

I am also selling out of FirstService(FSV). I am existing this position with a small loss of 7%. I have made this call based on valuation alone. the value of the sum of the parts were higher than the market cap of the company. However as I started to look at the business details, a step I should have done before buying, I started to change my mind and cheap valuation does not cut it alone. I sold because:
  • high compensation to CEO and management compared to peers and level of earnings growth.
  • rollup strategy that is empirically destroys value
  • ROIC is on par with the cost of capital
  • bulk of the growth is attributed to acquisitions. what will happen if they can't acquire anymore?

Another sell decision TSX index: too much concentration in Natural resources and financials. Actually between the two sectors it makes up to 75% of the index. And those two areas where I do not have a lot of insight. Another small loss of 4%.

August 31, 2009

Spin-off Idea: Cardinal Health

By end of business today Cardinal health, CAH, will spin-off its medical care division, Carefusion, CFN, and it will focus on drug distribution. The spin off is very interesting midst all the talk of health-care reform because whenever there is uncertainty it pays to go long.

The market is very hot for the CFN spin off. Although CFN accounts for only a small portion of CAH's revenue, maybe less than 7%, it makes third of its profit. The business is very high margin and its potential for growth is solid. The independent company will be able to focus on new products and free to allocate capital to R&D. But it is fully valued when the when issued shares trade at $19. I figure its value is around $20-$23.

What is interesting is the parent company. The market is betting against it. Short volume has increased significantly over the last month or so. Wagers against health-care shares rose more than 7 percent, the most of 10 groups, to 890.3 million as President Barack Obama proposed an industry overhaul. Shorts thesis is earnings will come be under pressure due to health-care reforms. May be it is true. But CAH margins will stay intact and it will be part of the solution.

Once the spin off is complete, CAH is no more than a logistics provider to drug makers. It provides supply chain services to them and have no R&D commitments. Drugs like goods funnel in and through its distribution network reaches customers. So if health-care reforms lead to reduced costs of drugs, CAH's input costs and revenue will come down in tandem. Its margins will not be affected. Sure the absolute level of revenue and earnings will decline but the company value will be still intact.

I am liking going long CAH rather than CFN, it gives better odds.

August 19, 2009

Value Idea: Pride's Spin off

Forced Sellers:
I think this will be dumped by investors because they will want Pride high margin business in the deep water drilling and not the shallow-water low margin and limited growth business. But the $64,000 question is are they forced sellers due to non economic reasons or are they justified in their actions?

Industry Fundamentals:
lower utilization rates and pressure on daily rates. Oil finds moving to deeper waters, which seahawk fleet is not capable of operating under. Their biggest customer are requiring more depth capable rigs, which prices them out of more business.

The disparity between the US Gulf of Mexico Shelf and deepwater rig markets continues to widen. Earlier this year, the jackup market reached its lowest level in 33 years, according to ODS-Petrodata figures, and slid downward from that point. Drilling contractors continued their exodus from the Gulf whenever possible, moving jackups to more lucrative areas. Despite a slowdown in some jackup markets, eight rigs will have mobilized from the Gulf by the end of July. As far as the deepwater Gulf, most people consider it a growth market. As many as 17 new-build deepwater rigs are scheduled to enter the region by the end of 2010. More deepwater rigs could mobilize there for a few wells, then mobilize back to other markets during this period. As a result the utilization rates have been coming down steadily over the last few quarters.
Rig TypeCurrentMonth Ago6 Months Ago1 Year Ago
Drill Barge90.0% (9/10)90.0% (9/10)90.0% (9/10)90.0% (9/10)
Drillship90.5% (38/42)92.7% (38/41)79.5% (31/39)78.4% (29/37)
Jackup74.9% (275/367)74.9% (274/366)82.5% (296/359)91.0% (312/343)
Semisub80.2% (134/167)82.5% (137/166)82.7% (134/162)83.9% (130/155)
Submersible50.0% (1/2)50.0% (1/2)100.0% (2/2)100.0% (2/2)
Tender80.8% (21/26)76.9% (20/26)92.3% (24/26)88.5% (23/26)

Natural gas prices are weak and depressed. There is plenty of supply and surplus inventory to keep the pressure on prices for awhile. I do not want to try to forecast or predict the direction of natural gas because what if my baseline forecast did not materialize. Natural Gas prices are called the "widow maker" for a reason, they are very hard to call.

Overcapacity in the sector. There are several deliveries to take place for shallow water rigs. During the past several years, the supply of available jackup and semisubmersible rigs has been unable to meet the increasing demand of oil and gas companies on a global basis. As a result of this global supply and demand imbalance, various industry participants ordered the construction of over 180 new jackup and semisubmersible rigs, over 60 of which were delivered during the last three years. Approximately 60 additional jackup and semisubmersible rigs are scheduled for delivery in 2009.

The new rig deliveries scheduled for 2009 include over 30 jackup rigs, the majority of which are not contracted for work upon delivery from the shipyard. These new drilling rigs will increase supply and likely reduce utilization and day rates as rigs are absorbed into the active fleet, especially in light of the recent decline in oil and natural gas prices and jackup rig demand. However, the current supply of jackup rigs is limited and it is time consuming to move offshore rigs between markets. Accordingly, as demand changes in a particular market, the supply of rigs may not adjust quickly. Utilization and day rates in specific markets could fluctuate significantly while utilization and day rates in other markets may be relatively unaffected. Additionally, several rig construction cancellations have been recently announced and the tightening credit market has created substantial uncertainty as to whether construction of other rigs will be completed.

Ok, you would say that weak industry fundamentals are cyclical and should adjust. Then seahawk would give you great risk/ reward proposition, assuming its price will fall to below liquidation value of its assets, which more likely it will. In this case company fundamentals has to be flawless to get me interested.

Company Fundamentals:

  • Potential of fines regarding bribery charges and accounting irregularities, however there is limit to the fines paid to $1 million, any excess pride will take care of it.
  • Mexico Oil company account for 60% of SeaHawk gross revenue. One customer dominate their business. This was not a problem when the company was a division of Pride but on a stand alone basis is very risky.
  • accounting is a bit aggressive:
    • changes to depreciation expenses by extending the useful lives of rigs, which means a boost to their earnings as depreciation expense get smaller. This annoys me to no end when companies change their depreciation policies or assumptions. It makes comparisons difficult and obviously management motives to boost earnings by hook or trick.
    • already there is investigation for accounting irregularities by pride into Seahawk division.
  • no debt and clean balance sheet, which a very good in this environment.
  • SeaHawk Jackup rigs are shallow in the 200-250 feet range which does not work in the current industry dynamics. Their biggest customer are requesting deeper and deeper rigs, which prices Seahawk out.
  • very capital intensive business. in order to expand more capex need to spent to buy new rigs. most free cash flow will go to acquisition of new PPE.
  • most of its rigs are idle they have 40% utilization rate.
  • most rigs are old so it may require some capex going further
  • no unique competitive advantage that is very apparent that will distinguish their operations from others.

SeaHawk's president and CEO was CEO of Hercules offshore, similar business to seahawk. He left the company in June 2008 and the company took a big impairment expenses due to large acquisition done on his watch, $2.3 Billion in cash and stock. As a result of the acquisition, Hero balance sheet is over leveraged and impairment charges mounted when the turn in the economy came.

Investment returns over his tenure were not overly outstanding.

ROE11.35%19.13% 38.98% 11.35% (73.37%)

He spent $660.1 million in capex, not including the merger deal, cumulative over the 2004-2008, and generated $618.9 millions in cash from operations during the same period. During the same period cumulative earning were partly at $291.2 million, and if you include 2008 results it would be a significant loss.

Management Compensation Plan

This is a bright spot, somewhat, as the good chunk of compensation is in form of equity. I say somewhat because not all long term incentive compensation is equity. The better alternative is to have 100% of their long term compensation in restricted stock. From their filing:
The beginning value of the initial equity award is $4,800,000 for Mr. Stilley, $1,000,000 for Mr. Manz, $690,000 for Mr. Cestero and $575,000 for Mr. German. ....50% of the equity compensation will be in the form of restricted stock.
Competitive Position
The company is second lowest cost operators in the GOM region. Hero operates better cost structure than Seahawk. According to my analysis the operating the costs per available day is

BusinessNotesOE per avail Day
Seahawkonly GOM locations$49,634
Hercules Off shorevery similar business to Hawk but diversified geographically~$28,000
Ensco International Incorporatedshallow water but more specialized assets/ fleet. their GOM fleet water depth is 250-400 ft $50,175
Rowan Companiesshallow water but more specialized assets/ fleet water depth 250-500
DOdeep water rigs- not very applicable

Nobeldeep water rigs- not very applicable~$63,000
RIGdeep water rigs- not very applicable (55 standard jackups with depth from 250-400)

There are so many strikes against the spin off and not too many positives even if valuation are ridiculously cheap, which I did not need to perform. This is a leveraged play on the prices of natural gas, which is very hard to call: will it stay depressed or take off? Weak sector fundamentals and potential liability and fines all are external to the company and can be manageable by good management team. However, I have my doubts about the new CEO hi track record in Hero is not encouraging. If there is any contrarian play on this name, I do not see it. I will pass on this spin off.

August 11, 2009

Spin-off Idea: Pride International

Not a lot of spin offs came to the market lately. But I think that is about to change as companies will reorganize themselves and cut businesses that no one want to buy. There is two opportunities right now: Pride International Spin off of Seahawk Drilling and CableVision spin off of the Madison Square Garden business. I will introduce the Pride spin off and talk some other time about Cablevision.

Pride International (PDE) is spinning off its Gulf of Mexico operations to shareholders. Pride International is an offshore drilling company that leases rigs and vessels to producers. The company recently made strategic effort to focus on deep water and other high-specification drilling solutions. As a result the decision to spin-off its shallow water business. Jack-up revenues has been declining in over the last few quarters. Management thinks this GOM drilling is slow growth business and that's why they want to divest out of it.

The shallow water business or the leasing of jack-up rigs is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) only with no other international operations. The shallow waters of the GOM is a mature region that oil production has peaked some time ago. companies are moving deeper and deeper for new finds. Pride management is justified in dumping this low growth business to focus on the deep water. However, the questions is can an independent Seahawk make earnings grow on their own without the constraints of Pride management of investing in deep water segment?

The offshore and land drillers have been trading at very low valuation. The sector PE is around 10. some notable high margin and specialized businesses like DO, RIG and NE are selling at PE between 5-9. These businesses have very specialized field and very much have solid backlogs, unlike Seahawk, for years to come so the valuation seems puzzling?

The service companies are leveraged play on the price of oil and gas, particularly natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico. Currently Natural gas is at very low pricing levels that make some field uneconomical to operate. Most will making a call on the price of gas to invest in these GOM drillers. I want to avoid making such a call. I am not in the forecasting business but in the investing business.

This is an interesting proposition. The spin off will be completely debt free with management that is properly incentivized with restricted equity and options but the company operate in poor sector until Natural gas increase in value. The price of the commodity does not concern me a lot at the moment and will play a secondary factor in the decision making. I will look for more important things on the company level:
  • management compensation plan
  • management track record and prior accomplishments
  • accounting practices and policies
  • valuation once it is traded
  • competitive position in the industry
  • what are my risks
  • Will there be forced sellers?

Not every spin off is an automatic investment; the economics of the company must make sense as well. I will work on my analysis to see if this is worth establishing a position in.

July 30, 2009

Exiting Bank Loans (PHD)

The run up in high yield and credit was incredible. Actually most credit instruments have performed better than equity. If you look at the performance of high yield index and leveraged loans they have outperformed S&P as can be seen in the chart below:
Actually most credit indices have gotten to the same pricing level of September last year. For example, LCDX, a leveraged loan index I have used to price Senior Bank Loan is priced now around 94 cents on the dollar, a similar price to where it was trading before Sep 2008, while its level in December were 70 cents on the dollar. That is some appreciation.

I am afraid that there are still a lot of risks in the economy and corporate leverage to warrant a price level to pre September 2008 levels. Also recoveries are below norm due to the high leverage, which lessen the attractiveness. That's why I will take my money out of PHD, senior bank loans closed end fund, right now. I may be early to sell but I do not like how far and quick the run up in the price. Also a 50% capital appreciation plus dividends is not something to sneeze at.

July 23, 2009

Sold Teck

I sold half of my position in Teck Resources today. The reasons why I bought Teck was a bet on the assets that the company owns. The bet was Teck's management team will be able to monetize value of its assets to repay debt and manage the upcoming debt maturities, that resulted form the Fording Coal aqusition.

The bet worked beyond what I expected with the sale of equity to Chinese Government. I thought the controlling family won't dilute their ownership but being pragmatic they did the deal. So that the debt issue was resolved the reason of the initial investment is gone so should my position in Teck.

I have not been active recently as I do not want to chase anything at the moment. I could not find any thing interesting to research but that may be mostly due to time limitations. It will be interesting once September rolls in. I think things might change then.

June 14, 2009

How we measure inflation

Traditional inflation measures have been looked at from the perspective how much a basket of goods cost today compared to last year. However this approach fails to measure the output or the use of this basket of goods. The question I am asking is: do we garnish the same utility of that basket of goods or do we yield higher output with the better technology?

As technology progresses, consumption of anything is yielding higher utility of use as things are becoming more efficient, last longer, use less energy,...etc. Aside from using more of things, the cost per unit of consumption should have gone down over the years with increase in efficiency, innovation and productivity of things. Lets look at energy as an example. Please note that the point I making here is only valid over multi-year periods, decades maybe as technology does not progress overnight.

We have always seen the graph of energy cost over the years going up and up,

The oil put into our cars now allows us to travel much longer distance than say 20 years ago. When you went from point A to B in the 1970s, you consumed more energy than travelling the same distance now. The energy consumption per mile traveled has gone down. See the second graph which illustrate that each mile traveled is costing us less and less in term of energy consumption as measured by BTU per mile traveled. Drivers most certainly realized improved output by increasing the number of miles per unit of energy used. So the question is the cost per mile traveled have gone down?

A barrel of oil produces 5,800,000 btus, a measure of energy. Then if I divide the historical cost of a barrel of oil by that factor I would get an approximate cost of the passenger mile. The result show that there is still inflation in figures but at much lesser extent, see graph 3. Oil prices from 1960 has gone up 21 folds while cost per passenger mile has gone up some 14 folds.

The same concept can be applied to the basket of goods that we measure inflation with. Electricity can be analysed in the same manner.

The cost of production and technology would have declined resulting in higher output per unit consumed. Off course on the aggregate we are using more of everything compared to 20 years ago. We are driving more, using more lights, using more electricity...etc So our total use of energy and electricity has gone up. But the cost per per unit of energy used has not gone up as high as we think.

This is me thinking out loud, I may have missed some critical issues in my analysis as I am no expert on the economics of inflation. Well, may be I am, I can't be more wrong than anyone else.

June 12, 2009

Internet: Destroyer of Profit Margin

I have discussed how Internet disrupted or continuing to destroy software business models. So lets look at one of those Internet application companies and how they are "thriving" in the age of the Internet. is the poster child of the new Internet company that offers Software-as-as-Service applications, or Customer Relationship Management as a service. The application is really good, we use it at our company and we are happy with it. But does this model can translate to sustainable competitive advantage or at least a viable business?

I reason, NO.

After using Salesforce for few years and being happy with the value we got, competitive alternatives are being offered less costly. Competition, although may not be mature yet, but getting there quickly, are offering similar solutions. Competition have huge advantage over Salesforce, being able to use cheaper and more advance technologies. In this industry it does not pay to have a first mover advantage. Salesforce will not chug its infrastructure but a new entrant to the industry will pick the most efficient platform to launch its service. Competition is everywhere for someone like Salesforce with less costly operating structures, prices for these offerings will continue to go down overtime and eventually they will become free.

Google applications market place is one platform for companies and start-ups to develop on a free platform and data centre. Sure it is yet to mature to offer business ready solution but it will get there. Others will offer similar solutions. Actually salesforce offers something similar but its drawback is it has to be developed on their platform, limiting flexibility.

In order for Salesforce to keep its growth it spends heavily on sales and marketing. Actually, 50% of Revenue is spent on marketing and sales annually to continue with its growth. But how long can you continue with such spending before investor want to see some returns?

If we look at their margins they are very depressed. Actually, there are no margins after some 10 years of operations. Sales and Marketing expenditure
will continue to eat at their profitability to ensure they compete and sustain market share. They have generated cumulative earnings of $42 Million from cumulative revenue of $3 Billion, since they went public. And I do not think that will change in the future.

Salesforce sports a very high multiple, in fact 102 x earnings. Investors are bidding these shares up for the prospect of growth in earnings. I am afraid the growth will come but Salesforce and many outfits like it will not benefit. The market for Software as a service(Saas) will grow like crazy but, profitability will be scarce. Why? Free is the name of the game on the Internet.

This is a good candidate for a short:
  • one product company with the promise of growth.
  • extreme valuations.
  • no earnings after some 10 years operations.
  • tough market dynamic and getting tougher.
  • the accounting is open for games as they book of revenue from deferred customer contracts, which can be messy, I have not analyzed it carefully but it is something I would look at very carefully.
  • Something does not add up about there subscriber base:
    • based on their financials revenue per user should be around $18,733, based on published users of 60,000.
    • however the highest revenue per user is $250 per month or $3000 per year. The two figures are vastly different.
    • The discrepancy between the two figures tell me that they may have few large customer that skew the average higher, while the majority of their users are small (1 user) customers.
Would I short? No. People can continue to believe in future growth longer than I can remain solvent.

June 11, 2009

Short vs. Long: Kettle meet Pot

Those who short are no different than longs. In fact shorting is much harder than being long on so many levels. Shorting require more skill, research and discipline than being long. Actually I can argue that dedicated shorts are better investors than longs.

Sometime shorting is lumped incorrectly with trading and speculation. To short stock based on valuation or speculation is to make a bet on market conditions. But proper short is to short fraud, hype and bad management. These things require a lot of fundamental analysis to uncover.

Shorting is no different than going long. You do the research, more of it actually. Uncover unsustainable business models and bad management. Recognize hype from what is logical and sustainable. Once you complete your process, usually longs pull the trigger at this point. However shorts, do that process over and over again until there is no i left undoted. Then you wait and wait until you the perfect time and here is the art of short selling is when to pull the trigger.

A successful short has to master two things, timing and selection, while the long side can live with selection only. A long investment that depreciate in value hurts performance but does not pressure you to sell, as time can make you whole again. However a short does not have that luxury. A short position that moves against you, require more margin and more capital to hold. How long can you continue holding is a function of how much capital can you come up with.

I recommend reading a book about short selling called "The Art of short selling". It is not much about short selling rather than fundamental analysis. You will be surprised how detailed shorts can be be.

June 4, 2009

Commercial Real Estate: Some Observations

I have taken a beating on my commercial real estate holdings (CRE). So it is time to reevaluate my position on the sector.  

My original buys of these names were in late 2008 on the premise that unlike previous down cycles in CRE, office real estate is not overbuilt and will not experience any thing close to late 1980 collapse in prices. I guessed that the market had overreacted to CRE and the market though a repeat to the  collapse in residential housing will occur in CRE.  I expected cyclical down pressure on their operation to be mundane. You can see my earlier views here:  post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4.

What is the status of CRE, here are few observations:
  • Credit underpins the valuation in all capital markets, including commercial real estate. To that extent lack of credit have downward pressure on CRE prices. The fact that CRE did not overbuild dampen that downward pressure.
  • As deleveraging occurs, credit for CRE will not be available. Private equity and investors are not rushing to pour money into CRE.CRE upleveraged and needs to deleverage, while debt value are constant it follows that asset values came down so equity is wiped out.
  • As property owners have no equity in their holdings they have no incentive trade or sell their assets. They will hang on in hope of something to happen. For example, GGP did not want to trade with Simon Property even in bankruptcy because they do not gain on these sales, so they will hang onto their properties in bankruptcy in hopes of something happening.
  • No transaction will occur for few years so valuation will not be visible. Valuation will decline but will be mundane at least in what is reported in indices. 
  • Transaction will occur in two instances:
    • loans come due and the majority will occur in 5- 8 years. Lenders will extend loans rather take loses.
    • transactions will occur when there is growth prospects of leasing, rental agreements..etc. so far the prospects of performance is not visible so highly likely no transactions to occur.
  • The 20% drop in values are for small properties and not indicative of values in CRE space. publicly traded CRE companies have gone some 55-60% may be that is more accurate for CRE values.
  • REITS that have announced equity sales have gone up and when completed have gone up even more. These REITS Ent. value has expanded as it reduced its debt/ equity ratio. Raising more equity will increase value rather it will dilute ownership as earning are decompressing.
  • office will hit hard as unemployment will be high for few years so demand will go down although no overbuilding happened. 
Am I to abandon the space? I think not. But I will reduce some exposure as I take advantage of this rally. There are interesting development in some areas that can lead to opportunities especially on debt and distressed debt front. Still my preference is to buy long term assets in supply constrained markets, Like Brookfield Properties and Boston Properties. 

May 28, 2009

PE Valuation Cycles

I tend to view markets in PE cycles rather than most widely used price cycles of bear and bull markets. This means I follow PE expansion and compression cycles. Why? As investor and I look at valuation to allocate capital rather than price. Moreover, capital appreciation or return is made up from two sources: PE expansion and earning growth. So it follows that PE trends should determine bear and bull markets rather than price action. 

For the purpose of this post there are two cycles an PE expansion cycle and PE compression cycle. There has been 8 secular cycles, including this one, measured from PE trough to peak, throughout the period from late 1800. There were 4 PE expansion cycles and 4 compression cycles, including this one from 2000 to date. 

I used Prof. Robert Shiller data for my analysis and the most interesting findings are in the following table:

Here are few observations:
  • There are secular cycles lasting many years from PE trough to PE peak and vice versa.
  • 10 yr Yield peak and trough coincide with PE cycles; rising yields does impact valuation. So the prospect of rising yields in today's market will negatively impact equity valuation.
  • Average PE compression cycles is some 13 years; we are 9 years in this cycle.
  • Average annualized returns associated with PE compression cycles is almost double the upside move in the PE expansion cycle, -17% vs 10%.

Here are some valuation implications, if I use typical cycles averages to the current PE compression cycle:
  • According to the data, the long term average of PE of 16.34x, it seems that at the current market levels the S&P is fairly valued at 15x.
  • Given the size of the credit event occurred in 2008 and the disruption to world economy also the succession of various bubbles: Internet, housing and credit, a retrenchment in PE by 80% is realistic. So far PE compression is 65% from its 2000 peak. In the secular PE compression seems that a move of 80% down is typical. Therefore another 15% compression is highly likely. 
  • The current compression cycle should end around 8-9 times 10 years real earnings, as most compression cycles ended in single digits. If we use the current S&P 10 yr earnings of $57.67 per share then that puts the price target of the S&P at 519, some 40% decline from the current level.
  • There is an expected Bear market in treasuries due to high supply of paper as governments to try to finance deficits, thereby increasing yield, another sign of secular PE compression, as any PE. 
Although history does not repeat itself but it rhymes. History can rewrite the averages here, but events that transpired are not unique to history and has occurred in the past, so we will work them out. And equities will experience another bull market, but I doubt it is going to be now.

May 25, 2009

Credit and PE Cycles

Credit availability, not leverage, underpins equity valuation. Actually it underpins a lot of economic output but for the purpose of this post I will stick to equity valuation.

Having lower yields on treasury bills affect stock valuation positively, as you discount future dividends, cash flow or earnings streams by lower discount rate, thereby increasing valuation. The opposite have negative affects on valuations; higher rates mean lower value. The concern is for equity valuation going forward is the rapid increase in treasuries yield. 

The massive debt being accumulated in the US and elsewhere is what will cause yields to rise quickly. Here is an excerpt from John Mauldin letter, which can explain why  yields will have to go up very quickly:
The world is going to have to fund multiple trillions in debt over the next several years. Pick a number. I think $5 trillion sounds about right. $3 trillion is in the cards for the US alone, if current projections are right.

Just exactly where is that money going to come from? The US trade deficit is now down to under $350 billion a year.  US savings are going to go up, but where is the incentive to buy ten-year debt at 3.5%? Four-year debt under 2% doesn't do much for your savings growth. Even with monetization and the Chinese buying our debt with the dollars we send them, that still leaves the bond market about $1.5 trillion short, give or take $100 billion.

And that is just for US government debt. $5 trillion for new global debt in the next two years? In a deleveraged world? How much will the other countries need? What about money needed for businesses and mortgages and credit cards and so on?

If you add $10 trillion to the current $11.3 trillion (including Social Security trust funds, etc.), that totals $21 trillion in 2019. Let's be generous and suggest that interest rates will only be an average of 5%. That would be an interest-rate expense of over $1 trillion. That is 25% of projected revenues and 20% of expected expenses. And that assumes you have nominal growth of over 4% for the next ten years. If growth is less, tax revenues will be less. It also assumes massive tax increases from carbon credits.

I am not concerned about where the money will come from, it will come, as supply creates its own demand at the right price. What price may that be, you ask? I bet you it is going to be at much higher yields. I suspect somewhere around 6%. Yields have already began to move upwards in a hurry. Look at the the 10 yr Treasury from Yahoo:

So here some observations: 
  • The yield rise is not a good sign for a sustainable PE expansion in equity. Given that cyclically adjusted PE, Data from Prof. Robert Shiller, have not dipped under single digit, as historically no sustainable bull market have began from double digit PE. Please look at the second graph.
  • Bull markets or PE expansions have been associated with low yields and the prospect of bear market in treasuries do not give me confidence in any PE expansion for the next few years. Observe the 70s era in the second graph.
  •  PE compression takes awhile. PE have been compressing since the burst of the Internet bubble in early 2000. That is 9 years only and that is not long enough period. If history holds we can be looking for another 5-10 years of range bound market prices.