In this episode of the VALUE: After Hours Podcast, Jake Taylor, Bill Brewster, and Tobias Carlisle chat about:
- Facebook’s Metaverse Is A Giant Leap of Faith
- The Importance Of Taking An Outside View
- Is Russia A Big Opportunity Right Now?
- Investing Lessons From Camels
- Trailing Multiples Will Get You Hosed
- Netflix And Disney Will Dominate
- It’s So Hard To Invest In Chips!
- ESG Is A Bull Market Luxury
- We Should Have Higher Rates
- Munger On Digital Currencies, Video Games, And Envy
- Home Bias Ruins Investment Returns
- Vice vs ESG
- Stock Exchanges Are Traditionally Good Investments
- Munger Loves Totalitarian Regimes
- Hedgeye’s Framework
- Dislocated High-Quality Stocks
- AARK Round-Trippers
You can find out more about the VALUE: After Hours Podcast here – VALUE: After Hours Podcast. You can also listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast platforms here:
Tobias: Okay, preparing to stream live. It is 10:30 AM on the West Coast, 1:30 PM on the East Coast, no idea what that is Australian Eastern Standard Time. It could be 4:30 AM, it could be 6:30 AM, I don’t know, sorry. It’s Value: After Hours. I’m Tobias Carlisle. I’ve got Jake Taylor and Bill Brewster with me, as always. What’s happening, fellas?
Jake: Good to be here.
Tobias: Invasion, yeah. Markets in turmoil? not yet.
Bill: [crosstalk] style.
Jake: Are they? I don’t know. Is that true? Invasions, we got social unrest to the north of us. There’s some stuff going on.
Tobias: Yeah, there’s a little bit of stuff. It’s interesting again. We’ve got Scotland in the house, Nashville. Nice.
Jake: Where are they all from? [laughs]
Bill: What’s up today? I don’t even know. I haven’t looked.
Jake: What’s up, dawg?
Tobias: I don’t know. Toronto, ooh.
Bill: [crosstalk] always supposed to be up.
Tobias: Saskatchewan. All right. Yeah, I got a– [crosstalk]
Jake: What topics we got for today?
Tobias: Bull Russia is my topic and then I got another one. Robeco has a piece set called “Human instincts drive Value premium,” and there’s a good quote in it from Andrew Lo and his book, Adaptive Markets. So, we’ll talk about that.
Jake: Billy, what you got?
Bill: I guess, we’ll revisit this Facebook thing. We’ll see if we have anything left to say on it. I don’t know.
Jake: Squeeze some blood out of that turnip. What else? [laughs]
Bill: I don’t know. Well, we had Daily Journal. We can talk some of that.
Jake: Yeah. Do you have nothing but net materials?
Bill: Oh, well, yeah, I figured revenue growth is what you want.
Jake: All right.
Bill: That’s the key, which I do think is part of the– [crosstalk]
Jake: I skimmed the books this weekend so that I won’t be totally talking out of my rear end.
Bill: Did you skim it?
Bill: Yeah. It’s interesting.
Tobias: What do you got, JT?
Jake: I know how popular the animal segments are on this program and people complaining that I don’t do enough about sperm whales. So, I figured I’d do one for the fans and this one is going to be about camels. So, strap in.
Tobias: One hump or two?
Jake: We’ll get into that.
Facebook’s Metaverse Is A Giant Leap of Faith
Tobias: All right. Should we kick it off with the Facebook discussion since I’ve had people– [crosstalk]
Jake: Are you sure you’re openminded enough to tackle this?
Tobias: Yeah, evidently, I’m too closeminded to hear the Facebook discussion. So, let’s go. My mind is open. It’s relaxed– [crosstalk]
Bill: It’s the third time we’ve started talking about it now, but I think that whether or not short-form video inherently impacts what that platform is supposed to be, I think, is an interesting question. Not all that long ago, Zuckerberg said he wanted to lean into communities. He wants it to be social. The inherent nature of short-form video, I think, if you watch TikTok or something, it’s much, much closer to television media than some social media company. If you talk to advertisers– [crosstalk]
Tobias: Why is that? Because it scrolls past more quickly?
Bill: Yeah, I just think you’re just looking for– whatever it is, you’re looking for.
Tobias: You’re not looking at your friends. You’re looking at whatever is the most popular thing on the app at any given time.
Bill: Yeah, right. There’s nothing inherently social about it, I don’t think. It’s just trying to find the next viral thing on internet.
Tobias: Virality. Yeah.
Bill: Then, according to some advertisers that I’ve talked to, stories do not monetize newsfeed did, because people tend to just click through. You introduce video to it. I don’t know. Does Facebook become closer to YouTube, and then you’re reducing ad load, and then you’re pushing out the duration, and I think everybody’s always worried about the duration, and then you layer on $10 billion Meta spend that– I think there’s a legitimate question. Zuckerberg was objectively excellent at creating social. He was very good at executing defensive acquisitions.
Jake: Bubble transition. That was pretty good.
Bill: Yeah. Is he demonstrably successful creating a new category the Metaverse? I think it requires a lot of faith.
Tobias: Yeah, that’s a big leap.
Bill: Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe.
Jake: $10 million, that’s as good as money, sir.[chuckles]
Bill: Yeah. Look, I think you can say, “Well, you just NPV that and then who cares? Even write it down to zero. It doesn’t matter.” But then you’ve got the founder of a company that has bet the company future or at least from how do you get people motivated on his own dream. I think he deserves to. It is much in the same way that Munger can do whatever the hell he wants in Daily Journal, Mark Zuckerberg can do whatever the hell he wants in Facebook, but I just am much less convinced that it’s– I think the market reaction is not unjustified, is basically my take away. I know. Maybe– [crosstalk]
Tobias: A risk to it is that it ends up being like Myspace or something like that. No one goes there anymore. Then once it loses that, then it doesn’t come back, it seems.
Bill: Yeah. There’s no evidence that I have seen in data that I actually trust that supports the claim that people don’t go anymore.
Tobias: Even to the blue?
Bill: Yeah. Per user data is quite strong. Now, how does that shift? I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure App Annie measures US iOS usage. I think what people do and what they say they do are different things. I think that there’s a lot of reasons to go on to Facebook still, but if you’re no longer looking at the newsfeed and you’re interacting in a different way, instead you’re going to the Marketplace or– you really wanted to build out community. Community was this idea that Zuck and now, people are just going to like– When I go to Instagram, I scroll short-form video. I watch videos like Broncos and shit, and then people playing golf, and no one that I really know, I don’t scroll the feed.
Jake: You mean Broncos, what, the Ford Bronco, or the Denver Broncos, or–?
Bill: No, I like the new Bronco.
Bill: Ford Bronco World.
Bill: Yeah, I don’t know. I think Zuckerberg, he’s managed periods in the past where the stock has gotten sold off. He’s invested in the business in the past and come out on the other side, but now, he’s going against what Apple– Apple objectively, I think, hurt their position. I think you see it in Shopify’s numbers a little bit. Google is doing something similar and you’ve got the Metaverse. I don’t have a strong view. I thought it was cheap before. I own it. My man, Chris Cerrone, says, “Sell when management or the business ceases to be exceptional.” I’m not sure if Facebook is– it’s certainly above average. Is exceptional or above average a reason to sell? I don’t know, it might be. I’m reticent to say it’s cheaper now than it was.
Tobias: There’s other stuff in there like that– Tim Kavanaugh has got a comment here. “FB Marketplace crushes, but they don’t make any money off the transactions. Just eyeballs on the site. Don’t make any money on local transactions.”
Bill: Yeah, WhatsApp is undermonetized. I guess that I see why it’s cheap. I owned it going into the print. But I think that there’s real questions and I do think that some of the difference between where Apple was priced and how this is priced is, I’m not sure that Apple came out and said “We have the iPhone cash cow. What we’re going to do is we’re going to heap tons, and tons, and tons of money in resources on this tangential product that has perceptually nothing to do with our core business, because we don’t want to be beholden to a platform in the future.” I understand why the market thinks it’s a weak position to be in.
Tobias: I think that the disconnect that we had last week, the difference between what you’re saying is, you’re talking about the business and the current problems that have. I’m looking quantitatively at the valuation. Objectively, right now, there is a massive disconnect between what Facebook has done historically and where the stock is trading right now. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s undervalued. It maybe that the stock price accurately reflects the future for Facebook, and that there is going to be this pretty substantial deterioration in the fundamentals. That’s entirely possible. I think that they’ve got a lot of runway, Zuckerberg is pretty smart. It’s still a pretty high-quality business. They’re making lots of money relative to what they have invested in that business and incrementally. I get that Metaverse is a totally different direction.
I think because there’s a difference between where the stock price is and where the fundamentals are right now, it’s worth taking a bet on. I don’t have a position in it. I can’t say whether I will or not in the future, because that’s a decision that has to be made yet, and I haven’t made it. But I think it’s a very interesting position where it is. It’s a very interesting opportunity, rather.
Bill: Yeah. [crosstalk] It could be.
Jake: Which is to say that if you could bet 30 of those that were not all correlated that you’d be pretty happy?
Tobias: Yeah, that’s the sort of approach that I’m taking. I want to have a portfolio of them– I’m less interested in what any individual one of them does. So, they’re smaller positions for me too.
Bill: Yeah. Look, some of my frustration in the conversation is I spend most of my day trying to figure these things out by calling people and talking to people and you said, “Well, this is macro. You can’t figure it out.” So, you basically said what I do is a waste of my time.[laughter]
Tobias: Yeah, that sounds bad. I didn’t mean it that way.
The Importance Of Taking An Outside View
Toby: It is a little bit germane to the next point that I have, though, from– This is the Robeco piece. So, they have this great line here. This is Andrew Lo in Adaptive Markets, Robeco’s quoting him. He says, “Intelligence–” [crosstalk]
Jake: He is a professor from MIT, right? Is that–?
Tobias: I forget where he is a partner. I think he was either Research Affiliates or something like that. I might be wrong about that.
Jake: All right, that’s fine.
Tobias: I need to go and look that up. He was only mentioned in the paper. He’s not the subject of the paper, but the quote is great. “Intelligence is the ability to generate accurate cause and effect descriptions of reality.” I wish that he hadn’t used the word ‘intelligence’ there, but I like the idea that what you’re trying to do is generate these accurate cause and effect descriptions of what reality is. So, we’re going about it in slightly different ways. You’re calling a lot of people and I’m trying to take an outside statistical view of what happens.
The risk I always think is if you get too close to these businesses, you can develop a narrative. It either makes you like the business more than you would otherwise like them or you feel you know it until you’re in it and you feel you know it a little bit better. I just fade my own ability to make decisions on that basis. So, I tend to be outside.
Bill: Yeah, look, I’ve said that I may index. I think that people think I’m throwing in the towel or something when I say that. I’m not. I am respecting– One of the things that doing podcasting in general has done is it has opened my network to have discussions that I otherwise would not have. When I have had those discussions, I’ve found out, “Holy shit, I don’t actually know that much.”
Bill: Part of why I’m considering doing things like indexing is I accept that I have my own limitations and that’s part of my answer. Part of the reason that I’m somewhat okay with that is you’re insured of catching the really big winners. Now, in my view, one of the problems that the index may have is that today’s winners may be overvalued relative to the future.
We Should Have Higher Rates
Bill: But I thought it was interesting hearing Charlie talk about at the Daily Journal that he doesn’t necessarily think that rates are going to go up as a result of monetary policy and he pointed to Japan.
I think that the real manifestation of risk is in political risk and I think it’s massively underpriced. But I’m not convinced that interest rates are how the risk manifests itself. Now, maybe you could say, “Well, political risk, if we go to civil war, the rates should go up.” Yes, agree. I don’t know. It’s hard to think for myself and to watch people that I respect call for rates to go up for 15 to 20 years, and they were wrong, and I was wrong every single time. The more money that’s come out, the more rates have gone down. Part of me wonders if it’s because interest rates are really just pricing the value of money. If you flood the system with money, then shouldn’t rates go down, because you’ve got a whole bunch more capital chasing fewer things?
Tobias: I think people have been calling for higher rates. They have been calling for higher rates in the sense that I think we should– When I say higher rates, I think we should have higher rates. I think it’s a bad thing for society, for business to have rates this low. When I call for higher rates, I think that they should be higher. Not that I necessarily think that they will be higher. What the Fed does, the Fed has no connection to reality as far as I can see. The Fed just makes decisions based on– I’ve no idea what they’re looking at when they make the decisions. The amount of money that’s being printed at the moment with a white, hot housing market and the stock market, where it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
Jake: They shouldn’t be buying mortgage backed securities still when houses are that [laughs] 30%, 40% above last year?
Tobias: It does seem a little bit crazy.
Jake: Well, it looked that way.
Tobias: But then if you look globally, there’s a lot of negative rights. Where do I think interest rates could go? Who knows? They could be anywhere from negative to positive. So, I’ve got no idea, but directionally zero idea.
Bill: Yeah, I agree. Charlie seemed to allude to the same. I do think he was probably, well, I don’t think probably, I think his comments on Japan being able to manage a situation where there’s some tough times is probably better, because they’re a homogenous group of people and we are not. I think that’s fairly accurate. Certainly, that would be my standing hypothesis.
Munger Loves Totalitarian Regimes
Tobias: What did you think of the call? I watched it all the way through.
Bill: He’s fucking awesome, man. 98, to be able to get up and do what he does, that’s incredible.
Tobias: He’s one of the very few people who’s actually got the fuck you money who says, “Fuck you,” and just tells everybody right down the barrel what he thinks. [laughs]
Tobias: Yeah, he’s the man. I like what he said about Gundlach, and Gundlach said he didn’t want to be in China, and Charlie was like, “Fine. I don’t want to be in Russia. I don’t agree, but I get it.” I don’t know. I think a lot of his comments on China– Look, I think when you look at what’s going on with the Uyghurs, I wish that he would speak out on that, and I wish that a reporter would press him and give him the ability to speak out on that, and I suspect what he would say is, “That’s a really big tragedy and the benefits of their system outweigh even that cost,” which is probably really offensive for me to even hypothesize that he would say.
Jake: There’s a cold calculus to all this, sometimes.
Bill: Yeah, he’s so fucking rational. You know what I mean?
Bill: I think he would just be like, “I understand that that’s very offensive. I understand it’s terrible. These are the benefits. Therefore, I’m–” That makes me very uncomfortable, but I think he would defend his position. That’s one of the things that I’ve always admired about him since I’ve started to listen to him, is the guy doesn’t actually care what other people think and he’s not doing it in a rude way. He’s doing it in a first principle, this is how I see the world way. I don’t know. You see how a guy like Buffett would get a lot of value out of somebody like him.
Tobias: He does like the totalitarian regimes.
Bill: Yeah, he does.
Tobias: Great for business.
Bill: I think billionaires probably do on average.
Jake: Yeah. You study enough human folly, and you probably think that there are ways to fix that in a patriarchal manner, and it’s probably hard not to feel he knows what some of the right answers are, right?
Bill: Yeah. I think he probably would fancy himself a pretty good G.
Jake: Yeah, or Lee Kuan Yew, maybe?
Bill: Yeah. I’m glad I live where I live.
Jake: [laughs] Florida, specifically or?
Bill: oh, I’ll take the US [crosstalk] some of our problems.
Tobias: What about you, JT? What would you say?
Munger On Digital Currencies, Video Games, And Envy
Jake: In general, I enjoyed it. It made me super excited for Berkshire this year. A couple of funny zingers in there about– Though, we’ve already had digital currency for a long time, it’s called a bank account. [laughs] The other one that made me laugh was, you probably don’t want all of your– I don’t know if he said that age, young man or 20-year-olds spending 40 hours a week being a machine gunner on TV basically playing videogames. [laughs]
Jake: What else was good in there? His comments about envy, I think, were spot on, how much of that drives human behavior for the worse. So, don’t live an ostentatious life, and keep your consumption patterns in check, and you’ll probably lead a happier life.
Bill: That said, I’m almost certain he drives a Bentley and he’s always had nice stuff. So, there’s a–
Jake: It was relative to his net worth.
Bill: [crosstalk] Yeah, well, I honestly don’t care. I think a lot of this live cheap, and meager, and stuff. I’m not sure that I buy all that. I think you’ve got one life to live. You might as well enjoy some of it. But I do agree with not comparing yourself. Once you start, in my opinion, setting your happiness to relative outcomes, that’s a dangerous, dangerous path.
Jake: That’s called being a human. Like, it’s wired into you to compare relatively, not absolutely.
Tobias: He got a few questions which were– People would ask a question then he just dismissed it, and then it gets reframed and asked again like that. People wanted to know what does Daily Journal co-hold? What’s it got overseas? What’s it got on margin?” He just said, “We disclose everything we have to. We’re not going to tell you anything else.”
Tobias: What do you think about–? [crosstalk]
Bill: I also like when he was like– They ask him about succession planning, which is clearly a valid question, he’s like, “Well, we got to get on it in 1997, 1998, or whatever.”
Jake: That’s worked everyone there. [laughs] Shoutout to Becky. I think she does such a good job in handling those guys.
Tobias: Good follow-ups, yeah.
Jake: I thought they were good questions, good follow ups. That’s not easy to do with those guys.
Tobias: Yeah. She didn’t let him off the hook. She gave him a few chances to answer the question. She did eventually– There’s nothing you can do really other than just being rude. But she did follow up a few times, which I thought was pretty good too.
Bill: I wish Berkshire would go– I wish they would do last year’s question format this year. I don’t love people getting up and asking them questions.
Tobias: You have to submit it beforehand or do they do it one from the floor–?
Bill: I don’t you think so.
Tobias: One from the journalist and one from an analyst, right? That’s how they did it last summer.
Bill: Yeah. I don’t think the floor questions would be preapproved or anything.
Tobias: Oh, yeah.
Bill: Otherwise, it wouldn’t be like, “Mr. Buffett, here’s my kid going to ask you about life?”
Tobias and Jake: Yeah.
Jake: Analysts questions aren’t my favorite either, honestly. “Here’s this long, long thing about that shows how much I know about the railroad industry and then here’s some little obscure question that no one in the crowd really cares about.”
Tobias: To be fair, Buffett knew the answer.
Jake: Of course, he knows the answer.
Tobias: Chicago traffic snarl was a good one. He had a five-minute answer and I was like, “That’s pretty impressive.”
Jake: Yeah, he’s the best.
Tobias: JT, you want to do your veggies?
Investing Lessons From Camels
Jake: Yeah, let’s do it. This is a good segue. Talking about Buffett and Munger, they always advise us to look for anomalies. In the late 90s, he’s talking at one of the meetings that he says like, “How come business schools don’t ask these questions?” Number one, how did an illiterate Russian immigrant with $500 in her pocket create the largest furniture store in the entire country?
No one’s doing the research on that? A Bloomington, Illinois guy with no large agency force, no real capital to speak of, start this mutual company, which means that he has no capitalist incentive, no stock options, no way to get rich if it really works out, and he’s continually fighting this uphill battle against entrenched competition that have super strong distribution networks?
Yet, how did that he become and build the most dominant insurance company that in the late 90s at that point had 25% market share, which was 2x, the next closest competitor in what a company you guys might have heard of called State Farm? Where did this come from? Why is nobody studying these kinds of crazy anomaly?”
If we go looking for anomalies in the natural world, my mind first starts with like, “What are some harsh environments where life barely thrives?” One of the most obvious is the desert. There’s very few animals that can adapt to such wild temperature swings. The origin of the word ‘desert’ comes from actually– ‘place abandoned’ is the term like etymology of it. Yet, it’s 1/3rd of the Earth’s surface is covered a desert.
To give you a sense of how big the temperature swings are, the average temperature in a desert, the high is 38 degrees Celsius, which is 100 Fahrenheit, and the low at night is -4 Celsius, which is 25 degrees Fahrenheit. But there’s much more extremes that happen obviously, ranging from 49 degrees Celsius, which is 120 Fahrenheit to -40 Celsius, which is -40 Fahrenheit. So, crazy temperature swings, very little rainfall to support life, very inhospitable.
And yet, we have this animal that is perfectly adapted for this environment called the camel. The ships of the desert, they’re supposedly called. They’re actually pretty remarkable creatures. They are much stronger than you might expect. They can carry 900 pounds for 25 miles a day, and yet, they can also run 40 miles an hour.
Of course, they’re adapted for the desert life, where they have three sets of eyelids and two rows of eyelashes to keep the sand out, and special fur that grows in their ears like an old guy to keep sand out of their ears. One of the things that helps them stand out is that they have these fat stores and hair that help keep them cool during the day and warm at night, and survive on very little water.
Apparently, a camel could drink saltwater that’s more salty than ocean water, and has no problem with that. There’s something to me that’s very stoic about the cable that just suffers these harsh conditions without really complaining too much, it seems like.
There are two types of camels that have been domesticated. There’s a third wild one. But the two are the dromedary, which has one hump, and that’s about 90% of the camel population. Then, there’s the Bactrian, which has two humps. A useful way to remember those two is that, if you take the letter D for dromedary and turn it on its side that looks like one hump. If you take Bactrian, and turn it on its side that looks like two humps, the letter B. That’ll help you remember which one is which. What do you guys think is inside the camel’s hump?
Tobias: Is it fat?
Jake: It is fat. It’s not water that you might imagine storing water there. It’s fat. This is their energy reserves to store calories for very, very long stretches. Actually, one hypothesis of why the fat is located on the body in such a weird way is that most animals have it distributed in a center of gravity way so it’s easier to carry but it provides insulation as well for your organs to maintain your body heat. But if you’re in such a hot environment, they move the fat away from the organ so that it doesn’t insulate it as much and it helps them stay cool.
One of the things that they’ll really do to conserve water, especially when it gets really hot is, they just won’t work as hard. [laughs] They’re just not going to do anything. They just sit around, what you might expect. But a camel can lose 19 kilograms, which is about 42 pounds, going for a couple weeks without food or water.
This is what’s wild, is when they actually find water after one of those long stretches, they can drink 130 liters of water, which is 34 gallons in 13 minutes. Just absolutely soaking in water, chugging water in a way that you and I can’t even hardly imagine. I mean it’s two and a half gallons a minute of water chugging.
Let’s see what else. They have this shaggy fur coat, which acts as a heat barrier. What that does is it actually allows the setpoint where they start sweating to be higher, because it’ll insulate them a little bit from absorbing as much heat and which will then reduce water loss. Even though it weighs about five times as much as a human, they only use about a quarter of liter of water per hour, which I’m sure we would sweat much more than that in a similar– The secret is for the camel’s that they can actually store a ton more heat internally before they start sweating.
What’s interesting is then people have taken this design that nature’s come up with in camels and then created this passive cooling system using these hydrogels. It based on evaporation similar to the camel. They’ll take a layer that retains water really well, and slowly releases it, and it doesn’t require any power source to make this happen.
MIT actually looked at camels and tried to figure out how do we make this thing release in an evaporative cooling way, but slower. What they end up doing is adding an aerogel layer on top that mimics the camel’s fur that provides some insulation, but it’s still porous enough for water to escape and slow. So, it slowly allows evaporative cooling to happen with these gels.
Then people, they’re going to take these, and they use them for keeping medicines cold for a week, and it doesn’t require any outside energy source. Then, they’re actually looking at trying to scale up the material science in such a way that they could put it into buildings so that buildings could have this cooling and then dramatically reduce the energy consumption.
The next interesting thing is looking at a camel’s nose, and they have this really interesting way of actually regulating the temperature through their nose. You don’t want to check this for yourself, by the way, because camels supposedly spit undigested food at people, it’s called expectorating as a defense mechanism. Stay away from the camel. Probably, don’t get up in their face.
The inside of a camel’s nose has all these different passageways as compared to ours, which is a pretty straight shot. What that does is that it allows much more surface area. They have this interesting membrane inside of there that allows moisture to both humidify the air when it’s coming in, which provides some evaporative cooling to the lungs, but also, then on the exhalation, it absorbs the water back in, and then basically it’s a dehumidifier when they’re exhaling, and then it keeps them from losing about 70% as much of the water as you and I might lose or any other mammal in that breathing cycle.
Egyptian architects took that idea, and have copied it, and tried to integrate it into buildings in this little system where they let cool air in in the nighttime, and they absorb it, and actually put calcium chloride inside of it to absorb the water, and retain moisture inside of this box. It’s almost like the mucous membrane of the camel’s nose. Then when it warms up during the day, that liquid gets released in an evaporative cooling system and it helps minimize the energy requirements in some buildings.
I’m trying to do some of these takeaways for a business perspective or investing perspective as we always try to do and honestly, there’s probably a lot more good ideas than what I came up with. I’m sure you guys will come up with stuff. But that got me thinking like, okay, when market conditions are such where it’s making you sweat, be like the camel and do less.
Conserve your energy, don’t work as hard, go take a walk. It’s probably not a fruitful time to be making too many decisions and changes. Take it easy. Conserve your capital like that. But when you do find an oasis in the desert, drink deeply. 2.6 gallons per minute, I think, would probably qualify in Munger’s version of pouncing vigorously on an opportunity.
Camels can store a lot of heat before they actually start sweating. Like I said, I think there’s something very stoic about this to me. Having that calm, internal center of gravity in your mind allows you to store a lot of the heat that comes in before you would start sweating and then making bad decisions. That from a personal finance perspective, having that large fatty deposit on your back, that’s stored away from your normal operations could be a good survival strategy for you. Kind of one of those bank accounts that you put money in, and forget the password, and don’t consider it, only if you needed it in a very emergency situation to help you get through a drought.
Anyway, there’s my tortured analogies of what we can learn from camels, but hopefully that scratched everyone’s itch on the animal front. [laughs]
Tobias: This episode brought to you by camelfacts.com, full of camel facts, and I’ve got everybody a subscription.
Jake: I was hoping Bill was going to take it to the R. J. Reynolds, who owns camel Cigarettes.
Bill: That was the next comment.
Jake: Take it away.
Bill: No, no, you’ve got it.
Bill: You’ve got it. You are just sponsored by tobacco.
Tobias: Here’s my question. It’s fat in the hump, and they suck up all of the water. When the two or– however long it is, two weeks down the road or– how long can they go without a drink?
Jake: Yeah, two weeks, something like that.
Tobias: Where’s the water coming from? Are they pulling it out of their belly? Do they just leave it in their belly the whole time or they soak it up into their–? Does it go into the fat? How does that all work?
Jake: No, I think for us, I think you store your water in your cytoplasm of your cells for the most part.
Tobias: But it is still in your blood.
Jake: I don’t think–
Tobias: Isn’t that blood?
Tobias: It is stored in the cells.
Jake: Literally, all your cells that make you up, the most common substrate of that is water. So, I think we tap water out of ourselves when we need it.
Is Russia A Big Opportunity Right Now?
Tobias: Let me segue like this. Is Russia a big opportunity right now? The Russian stock market?
Bill: It could be.
Jake: [laughs] Definitive answer.
Tobias: I saw a note from [unintelligible [00:34:14], which I thought was fun. Basically, I think Russia’s taken two provinces. He says that, “Europe doesn’t want to go to war over the two provinces. The US doesn’t want to go to war over two provinces. Also, there’s a lot of gas that comes out of there. So, there’s fertilizer and a whole lot of other things that go into food production and so on.
So, if there’s a war on that front, then inflation is going to go bananas in the States and there’s an election coming up. So, it’s highly unlikely that that goes ahead.” I don’t know whether you need to know any of that stuff or not, look at– The Russian stock market is cheap. It’s always been cheap. The question is, do you want to play something speculative like that? This is not an investment. This will never wind up in anything that I do, but I’m just interested in, because this has Value: After Hours. We can talk about this stuff.
Jake: Well, so, I will say that I have owned Russian securities before and I dealt– [crosstalk]
Tobias: Through an ETF or directly?
Jake: Both. You always had that overhang of mafia-style government and who knows what’s going to happen.
Tobias: Is that a positive or a negative?
Jake: [laughs] Well, I think other governments are showing their hands a little bit lately too as being a little more authoritarian than everyone might have thought lest we in glasshouses throw too many stones. Yeah, it’s always been, is this a mispriced bet or not? Of course, it’s cheap and it might cheap for a good reason, and it also might be too cheap for the reason, and for you to figure out on your own and your risk tolerance. So, this is what opportunity can look like potentially. Scary headlines create mispriced securities.
Bill: What does the Russian stock market trade at relative to US financials and international energy–?
Tobias: It’s been a huge discount. It’s been a huge discount for a long time.
Bill: Yeah. That’s how I would think about it is.
Bill: Because the whole business over there is commodities and financials. It’s not going to trade at a big multiple.
Jake: Yeah. Will you be doing like Gazprom to Exxon calculations?
Bill: Yeah. I think you got to comp it to something like that to figure out whether or not it’s actually worth the [crosstalk] discount.
Tobias: I remember when Meb launched his G-Val and one of the things that G-Val does, I think the first screen, it’s a CAPE of global markets, and then he looks for something within each global market. The cheapest global market at the time that he wanted was Russia. I think that [crosstalk] there was a bank.
Bill: I talked to him about this. I said it to him, but I do think the question that you got to ask yourself is index composition. Russia doesn’t have Silicon Valley. So, it’s just not going to trade– It should trade at a discount.
Tobias: Yeah. But that’s the point that I was making, that it’s always been at a discount. It may always trade at a discount.
Bill: Yeah, I guess if we’re saying that the US stock market is– I’m not even sure that it’s a discount depending on what your definition of a discount is. I think it should trade cheaper and it’s probably justifiably cheaper. Whether or not it’s too cheap, I have no idea.
Jake: There are some interesting stats though on CAPE and historical what it looks like. I wrote it up at one point probably a couple years ago in one of my letters. If you look at CAPE on– I think below 5 CAPE, there is no incident in the dataset where you had negative 10-year returns. Literally, you’d never lost money if you– [crosstalk]
Tobias: Is that US only or is that global?
Jake: No, this was global, I think. I’m pretty sure. I’d have to go back and make sure.
Tobias: Because I do remember that after G-Val came out that Russia had a very good run for a period there. It might have been same. How long ago you were you buying, I mean, you’d have to discuss current stuff, but how long ago he buying Gazprom and what were you buying? Not necessarily Gazprom, the names–
Jake: I owned most of my Russian exposure was probably like 2017 to 2020-ish.
Tobias: Yeah, I think it was maybe even a little bit earlier than that when it came out. Maybe 2016 or 2015, something like that.
Jake: Yeah. It was cheap. Price to book on what I was buying typically was well below 50 cents on the dollar. I sold that when I got closer to $1 and happily moved along.
Home Bias Ruins Investment Returns
Tobias: There is this idea that you do better as an investor having international exposure. They call it a home country bias. Everybody’s got way too much in their home country. It’s easy to see the reason why, right? Every time you look overseas, every other country looks less good than it might be by virtue of the fact that we’re in the States right now, but I’ve done this from Australia as well. The States are pretty scary from Australia.
Tobias: I get that the States and Australia is not Russia or China. We’re talking about different things but still, the idea that you’re just never going to get comfortable with foreign countries. So, maybe the best way to do it is through a global index or through a country-specific index.
Bill: Yeah, that can make some sense.
Tobias: I think that Cliff Asness has done some research on it. I think that the point that he made was that– the two points that he made. One was that you’re very unlikely to be picking the stock market that performs the best. You’d be very lucky to have your home country be the stock market that performs the best over the next decade. There are 170 something.
Jake: Yeah, 1 in 200 odds or something. [laughs]
Tobias: Yeah. Not good odds of picking that. The other one is that there are many stock markets that collapse and just never recover, or they collapse and they stay flat for decades. Japan has been like that. Who would have predicted in the 80s or early 90s, that would have been the case for Japan? Virtually nobody. If you had that global exposure, at least, you had [crosstalk] exposure to US. Do you think he did? Did he?
Jake: I think so, if I remember.
Bill: I was listening to a podcast from the guy from Baillie Gifford. He doesn’t even look at countries. He looks at regions within countries. I think that makes more sense.
Jake: Hmm. What would you do for that?
Bill: Well, I mean the northeast is a finance hub. So, it’s probably traded a lower multiple than that like California, because it’s more like tech and high ROI companies and stuff like that. I think throughout history, if you think about Venice and glassblowing and stuff, there are certain concentrations of groups of people that understand things better than those outside of it do. They share the knowledge and the knowledge compounds. So, I think it probably makes the most sense to drill down into.
Jake: You think the internet breaks that a little bit?
Bill: No, not really.
Jake: The networks used to be so isolated and sparse compared– The interconnections were slow.
Bill: Maybe a little, but I still think like– I don’t know. I bet immersing yourself in a community goes lot further than being voyeuristic on the internet.
Stock Exchanges Are Traditionally Good Investments
Tobias: We’ve got a couple good questions here. Bill Waters has an interesting point. “What about the Moscow Stock Exchange, monopoly on FX, equities, bonds. 80% EBITDA margin?” Someone points that, “You’ve got to a minority interest owner to Putin in many of the Russian stocks.” But stock exchanges have been good businesses historically. Good places to invest.
Jake: Well, I hate to break it to you, but when you own a US equity, you have a silent partner who decides on their take of the earnings as well and it’s not much different in a lot of ways.
Tobias: Good point. “Is the NASDAQ collapse more to do with cheap money ending or the Ukraine crisis?” That’s from Aditya Badami.
Bill: It has nothing to do with the Ukraine crisis at all.
Tobias: It seemed to happen before that, right?
Jake: Yeah. It says nothing– Ukraine means nothing to the NASDAQ.
Jake: Netflix cratered 25% because of Ukraine. [laughs]
Bill: Yeah. I think the guy to follow right now and– Yeah, I do think it’s– So, fuck it. I’ll say it.
Bill: Is Andrew Freedman, I think the guy like from hedge fund– or from Hedgeye.
Bill: He’s done a great job at highlighting how the acceleration of revenues and gross profit through COVID created a scenario where stocks got ahead of themselves, and he’s been calling for the deceleration to create a selloff. It’s part of Hedgeye’s framework. I don’t know that much about Hedgeye, how they do things, but I do talk to Andrew a little bit, and I think that– I don’t know. If I was an institution or I had actual capital, I would sub to his stuff because I think that he’s got an interesting– [crosstalk]
Tobias: I follow him on Twitter.
Bill: Yeah, well, I’d probably pay for the access. He called Roku perfectly. He’s been a Roku– When I talked to him and Roku was up north of $300, he said to me, he’s like, “Dude, it doesn’t make sense to me right here. I think the risk reward is all skewed to the wrong side.” He got to the sideline, he’s watched it fall. I think he’s looking for the right things to turn constructive on it again.
I think that guy understands positioning in tech right now. Going back to Nothing but Net, I think that was a really good book. I think that growth curve initiatives, revenue– I’m not being flippant when I say a lot of that book is about when does revenue accelerate, tech valuation is in the eye of the beholder and stuff like that. I think it’s worth a read if nothing else to stretch the brain. But I think Andrews got a pretty good sense of how people are looking at things. At least, he has recently. And I like him as a person.
Jake: About the that dislocated high quality? You like that framework?
Bill: Yeah, I do like that. It’s rhymes with what Phil Town does a little bit.
Tobias: What’s the idea?
Dislocated High-Quality Stocks
Bill: I would argue Netflix is arguably a dislocated high-quality stock, Facebook’s probably a dislocated high-quality sock. You’re looking for hiccups in companies that have had the ability to generate substantial revenue over– I think he’s looking for revenue gains over 20%.
Tobias: Per annuum, per year?
Bill: Even Facebook, they guided 3% to 11% revenue. If you do a three-year stack on it, which I know is getting cute, but it’s still 20% compounded. So, I don’t know if that’s the end of the world.
Jake: Yeah, that kind of revenue growth will hide a lot of sins.
Bill: Yeah. It’ll allow you to start a Metaverse.
Jake: Do whatever you want. [laughs]
Tobias: There are some companies out there– Yeah, I’ll just leave that one. I was going to say Tesla, but I’ll just leave Tesla alone.
Toby: “What do you guys think of all these consumer durables companies trading at the lowest P/E since the Global Financial Crisis?”
Bill: What’s a consumer durable?
Jake: Yeah, what’s that?
Bill: Why don’t we define our terms?
Jake: Maytag dishwashers or what’s that? [laughs]
Tobias: I have noticed that too.
Bill: Yeah, what’s the name so that I can actually look?
Tobias: You have to pull up the category.
Trailing Multiples Will Get You Hosed
Bill: Because my gut says, if you’re looking at trailing multiples, we’re coming off of a time when everybody stopped spending on services, started spending on goods, got stimulus money, and they are way over earnings. So, if you’re looking at a trailing multiple, you’re about to get waxed. That’s what my gut says. But I don’t know what the actual companies are. I could be wrong.
Tobias: Can you pull it up? Are you pulling it up?
Bill: I’m trying, but consumer durable, we consider staples. Is that durable?
Tobias: Consumer staples. Yeah.
Jake: Batteries, razorblades. Is that what you mean? Aluminum foil? [laughs]
Tobias: Is it disintermediation through social or something like that? I don’t know if that counts for that stuff, doesn’t it?
Bill: [crosstalk] I just think a lot of it, man, people just bought a ton of shit over the last two years. They went from spending in restaurants to buying everything that their house ever needed that annoyed them when they couldn’t like– When they used to be able to escape that thing that annoyed them, they got locked inside and had to stare at it. So, they bought a lot of shit.
This is part of why people pitch me on Restoration Hardware, and I hop, y’all are right. But no fucking, thank you. Oh, it’s down 10% today. I don’t know. Maybe there’s a couple people out there that haven’t bought couches yet but I think a lot of them already bought it. I do think a lot of these names getting hammered on the back end and missing comps, I think that’s where a lot of value is. That’s where I would be inclined to fish.
Jake: There’s some serious round trips from pre-COVID to amazing to back to post-COVID and you didn’t go anywhere if you held it that whole time.
Tobias: You can’t [crosstalk] capital.
Bill: I think Roku is pretty interesting.
Tobias: I had a list of them.
Jake: What was that?
Tobias: The account, Bucko Capital, or Bucco, whatever it is, had a list of them showing all of those round trips like, they’re all Ark, all those Ark companies that have round tripped through that. Each one of them has exactly the same chart.
Bill: Here’s another one. Somebody asked a long time ago in the middle of COVID. What did I think about Farfetch? I still don’t have a great answer. But that stock has gotten completely wrecked. Still the same founder, still the same trends. That’s the type of stuff I think is interesting to look at. And by the way, the revenues have doubled while the stock has come down– Oh, Jesus. That thing top ticked– Wow. It’s down 75%.
Jake: I don’t know. Bill, that sounds a little farfetched to me.
Tobias: What’s the price to sales?
Bill: It’s only two and a half times.
Tobias: Oh, that getting [crosstalk]
Bill: Oh, a little bit over that. $275. You’ve got a growthy name– [crosstalk]
Tobias: I thought that the decimal point was going to be in a different place. That’s fine at that level.
Bill: Yeah. It’s “not profitable,” but it shouldn’t be profitable, I don’t think, at this stage of its company.
Tobias: Too early. What’s interesting? What’s out that it’s interesting at the moment?
Bill: I don’t know, man. I do think Roku is interesting, but I could be wrong and I don’t own it. So, that’s how interesting I think it is.
Tobias: What is Roku’s competitive edge?
Netflix And Disney Will Dominate
Bill: Well, I think if you limit your view to US media distribution, I have yet to figure out what Warner Discovery, Viacom, CBS, and NBC, you look like in a world where Netflix and Disney pretty much dominate streaming. I do think that they’re going to dominate it, because I think that the other three are going to straddle this, “Well, we need some of our content on linear, and we need some of our content on SVOD, and we’d still want to play around with advertising supported,” and they’re like– Discovery Warner, I get why people like it, but you got Zaslav buying a huge company, he’s going to create synergies by firing a ton of people. I don’t think people are going to be super amped to go to work. You’ve got to merge two apps.
Meanwhile, Reid and team are just hiring all the talent and paying them more. Maybe it works, because it’s cheap as a stock, but I don’t like the competitive position and I think Roku could be an arms dealer in all that. I think a lot of this could end up benefiting the Roku channel. Then, they add more of the ad supported– like they own more ad inventory, some spend moves to connected TV.
One thing I don’t like is they say that this much time is spent streaming and only this many ad dollars as well. If Netflix is 50% of streaming time, your TAM is not as marketed or whatever. But I think the OS is real. I think it’s here to stay in the US. I think their international ambitions are hard to get a strong view on.
Tobias: Here’s an interesting one. “What about Zoom? 4% free cash flow yield guiding a 15% to 20% growth. It doesn’t need to compound that long to be an 8% free cash flow yield.”
Bill: Yeah, I said a while ago– [crosstalk]
Tobias: And you get to be a hero. You get to be long and short, short and then long.
Bill: I said I’d flip the Qurate-Zoom thing. I actually said it before Qurate came out and missed. I think I said that the night before. But yeah, I would flip that bet here.
Tobias: When does your bet run to?
Bill: 12-31 this year. It might have gotten a little acute on the time.
Tobias: You did ask for the extra time?
Jake: Yeah. You wanted that extra Christmas.
Bill: I know. I didn’t foresee all these supply chain [crosstalk]
Tobias: Was it Austin Lieberman on the other side? You’ve got to close that out.
Tobias: Close that out and flip it.
Bill: Yeah, Zoom’s not crazy.
Jake: Buy yours out and put it in Berkshire like Buffett did–? [laughs]
Bill: Yeah, I should.
Jake: You self-insure the amount and put the rest in Berkshire?
Bill: Somebody tagged me in the– Somebody did an update of the Chamath SPACs.
Jake: Is that a bloodbath?
Bill: I’m hoping that next year– because he had cited Buffett’s returns in that first letter that he did, I like to see him do it again next year. I think it’s only a [crosstalk] comp yourself to Buffett every year if you’re going to do it the first year.
Jake: Yeah, that’s true. Don’t worry. Someone on Twitter will.
Bill: Yes, this is true. Well, the funny thing is they showed the returns and he had a tweet that said like, “I’m going to fuck shit up,” and then they put the returns right under, and they said like, “Mission accomplished.”
Jake: Oof, ouch. That’s a little rough.
Tobias: Yeah, Fiserv got bought by a couple of value investors. Yeah, Fiserv was interesting for a little while. I don’t know where it is now, but I had a little look at it.
Bill: Yeah. That, SSNC, Mytech, lots of smart guys like all that stuff. But I don’t know anything about them in there. I think they’re objectively– [crosstalk]
Tobias: That’s what’s holding me back. It doesn’t bother me not knowing anything.
Tobias: Semiconductor equipment.
Bill: I know nothing about semi–
Tobias: Always cheap.
Jake: I know it’s magic.
Tobias: It’s always cheap. They’re always filling up the screens.
Bill: Yeah, I don’t know. I know that I should have owned Lam Research when I read about– It was a pitch in Barron’s. I think I was sitting in the library in Wilmette. I think it was 2018, and that pitch was right, and I never got there like a moron.
Tobias: There’s a question about Aimia’s PLM bankruptcy settlement. I haven’t followed that at all. Sorry, but I thought that Aimia was an interesting company and I think it’s interesting management as well.
Bill: What do they do?
Tobias: It was the Canadian-held frequent-flyer business [crosstalk] uplifting to NYC [crosstalk] happened.
Bill: Yeah. It was in that [unintelligible 00:55:50] or whatever.
It’s So Hard To Invest In Chips!
Tobias: Haven’t seen [unintelligible 00:55:52] today. Maybe he is on– “Semis are hard. A kid I tutor who knows way more talked me out of Intel.” Yeah.
Bill: The problem was semi-cap is I feel it’d be like, “Yeah, I’m ready to buy it,” and then they just expand all this capacity, and then I’d get hurt with my first cycle of overcapacity. I’d be like, “Here I am owning a cyclical again on the wrong side of it, because I didn’t understand what I bought.
Jake: Right back into– might as well be potage.
Bill: That’s right, exactly what I bitched about last week. I’m doing the exact same thing just with a different thing.
Tobias: Yes, Smith and Wesson is bananas cheap and so is Ruger. They’re both–
Vice vs ESG
Tobias: I’ve noticed on a few other screens that I run, there’s a big vice discount going on at the moment. Anything that falls into those things is–
Jake: It’s just ESG, insurance?
Tobias: The ESG, I think, I guess so. Yeah, and maybe people have bought a whole lot of guns recently and they are overearning and they [crosstalk] healthy.
Jake: What’s your over/under on five years from now, ESG, bigger or smaller?
Jake: You think that’s a trend that’s not going away?
Tobias: It’s political. It’s not economic.
Jake: I don’t know. Bill, what do you think before I bias you with my ramblings?
Bill: I don’t know.
Tobias: I think [crosstalk] very well.
Bill: I think Wall Street will market it less. I think it’s here to stay, though and I think it’s here to stay for a good reason. I think companies that are doing the right– ESG the right way, I think that’s a secular trend. I think the marketing bullshit that Wall Street pumps out to get high multiples will fade all other things that they touch.
ESG Is A Bull Market Luxury
Jake: I’m going to go the other way and say that it’s a bull market luxury and that when you’re a pension fund and you’re really worried about how the hell you’re going to meet your liabilities because there haven’t been adequate returns for a few years, you just stop– the ESG was like, “Oh, yeah, I remember when we did that for a while. But we got to get some returns here. Otherwise, all of our numbers are messed up.” If it means I got to go buy some gun stocks, or tobacco stocks, or whatever then, all right, I guess, that’s what we’re doing.
Bill: Yeah, what’s the definition of ESG? I guess Swedish Match, they make nicotine pouches. I don’t know, is nicotine really not ESG? I don’t know that we’re against drugs as a society. I think we’re against cancer.
Tobias: I’m against the bad stuff. I’m for the good stuff, just to clarify my position.
Bill: Yeah, I don’t know. I know Trulieve is going to be– I got a card and I bought a lot of weed.
Bill: But they give a 50% discount off your first and I’m a value investor. So, there you go. Yes. I know, this is crazy. But is pot ESG? Because I can tell you since I have access to pot, my drinking has gone down an immense amount. For me, drinking is the one thing that I am more scared of than anything in the world. Now, you could say, “Well, you’re just self-medicating with something else.”
Fine. We can debate that another time. So, I think it’s iterations of how you’re moving the world forward. I know that pot is not. I understand that it is a stupid conversation, but I’m just saying definitionally, investing in sustainable practices, making companies less wasteful, and looking out for stakeholders, I think is something that should and will continue to grow as a focus, and I think it will generate profit.
Tobias: Vice isn’t necessarily the opposite of ESG. All that stuff would be in vise but it’s not necessarily in ESG.
Bill: That’s what I’m saying.
Tobias: I guess the social, I guess the S social, but I don’t know if that necessarily includes– The definition is nobody’s got a fixed definition. It changes for every single thing.
Bill: Yeah, and that’s what I think is– The environment I think pretty– I think you can get there on environmental. But then, it gets into like, “Okay, well, are we going to go all to renewable tomorrow?” No, because Africa needs fossil fuels to get their standard of living up. So, I don’t know. I just think we’re going to have a lot of discussion.
Tobias: Someone asked the question here. Is nuclear good ESG or bad ESG? That’s a good question. I think that– [crosstalk]
Bill: It is clearly good, but we’re surrounded by idiots that make policy.
Tobias: Is it good ESG or bad ESG is the question. So, it could be bad ESG now, but in a very short period of time, I think it could be good ESG. It depends.
Tobias: If carbon concerns you, then nuclear is really the only answer.
Bill: Yeah, it’s the best answer, and people can’t get their heads out of their ass.
Tobias: I don’t know. There’s not a lot of being built in the States at the moment.
Bill: None. Well, it’s scary, right? You’re like, “Oh, my God. What happens if we have another meltdown?”
Jake: I’m guessing that Germany might have wished that they wouldn’t have shut all of theirs down now when they’re depending on Putin’s gas to keep the lights on. Oopsies.
Tobias: Yeah. All right, folks. That’s time.
Bill: On that happy note.
Jake: Stay safe.
For all the latest news and podcasts, join our free newsletter here.
Don’t forget to check out our FREE Large Cap 1000 – Stock Screener, here at The Acquirer’s Multiple: