The Trouble With Analyst Reports

The only time I watch CNBC is in the morning when I’m at the gym. For reasons not known to me, my floor in office lacks televisions (every other floor has them) and the last thing I want to do when I’m home is to watch TV, that too a business channel, hence the reservation for the gym. I don’t recollect what programme I was watching but there were some important looking people (they were in suits) talking and on the screen “Target 1200” flashed (TVs in my gym are muted).

Based on some past pattern recognition, I realized that the guy in the suit was peddling the said stock (he was a research analyst) and asking people to buy it. According to him, the stock price would reach 1200 (I have no clue what company this is and how much it trades for now). However, there were two important pieces of information he didn’t give me, because of which I’ll probably never take advice from him or someone else of his ilk.

Firstly, he doesn’t tell me when the stock price will reach 1200. For example, if it is 1150 today, and it is expected to reach 1200 in 12 years, I’d probably be better off putting my money in the bank, and watching it grow risk-free. Even if the current price were lower, I would want a date by which the stock is supposed to reach the target price. Good finance implies tenure matching, so I should invest accordingly. If the stock is expected to give good returns in a year, then I should put only that money into it which I would want to invest for around that much time. And so forth.

Then he doesn’t tell me how long it will stay at 1200. I’m not an active investor. I might check prices of stocks that I own maybe once in a week (I currently don’t own any stock). So it’s of no use to me if the price hits 1200 some time during some intraday trade. i would want the price to remain at 1200 or higher for a longer period so that I can get out.

Thirdly and most importantly, he doesn’t tell me anything about volatility. He doesn’t give me any statistics. He doesn’t tell me if 1200 is the expected value of the stock, or the median, or the maximum, or minimum, at whatever point of time (we’ve discussed this time bit before). He doesn’t tell me what are the chances that I’ll get that 1200 that he professes. He doesn’t tell me what I can expect out of the stock if things don’t go well. And as a quant, I refuse to touch anything that doesn’t come attached with a distribution.

Life in general becomes so much better when you realize and recognize volatility (maybe I’ll save that for another discourse). It helps you set your expectations accordingly; it helps you plan for situations you may not have thought of; most importantly it allows you to recognize the value of options (not talking about financial options here; talking of everyday life situations). And so forth.

So that is yet another reason I don’t generally watch business TV. I have absolutely no use for their stock prediction and tips. And I think you too need to take these tips and predictions with a bit of salt. And not spend a fortune buying expensive reports. Just use your head. Use common sense. Recognize volatility. And risk. And you’ll do well.

50% Stake Sale

It’s finally happening. My mother has decided for good that I’m unable to manage all of myself, and hence I should divest 50% in myself. “The better half”, she says. She has been utterly disgusted due to my utter failure, and lack of effort, in conducting this divestiture by myself, and has now decided to take matters into her own hands.

Her second sister, along with her husband, has been appointed the lead investment banker for this deal. My mother’s eldest sister is going to be the chief scout in order to scout for possible counterparties to the deal. It is preferred, and desirable, that there be a single buyer for this entire 50%, and the current understanding is that if we are not able to tie up any good single investor, we will rather postpone the sale rather than going in for an IPO and selling the stake in bits and pieces to retail investors.

Thinking about it, I wonder if it is technically correct to call this a stake sale, since I don’t plan to take any dowry. Maybe if you take all costs into consideration, and not just the monetary ones, and if you assume payment to be a continuous thing rather than like a lumpsum (theseĀ  investment bankers, they can arrange just about anything), it won’t be inaccurate to call this process a stake sale.

Usually, in these circumstances, most of the work is done by the bankers, but it seems that in this case that I, as the person divesting the stake, will need to put in considerable effort. The effort that I was too lazy to put when I was supposed to be trying to do the deal myself, without any asssistance from any bankers. Actually this is something that a lot of companies that indulge in M&A transactions forget about.

Think about your own incentives and the banker’s incentive. For the banker, this is just a deal. All they are caring for is to find a buyer for your sale, and a seller for anyone who wishes to buy stake. Once the deal is through and the cheques and documents signed, they ask you to sign on a set of fairly heavy cheques, and walk away; job done. It is you, as the company who is selling the stake, who has to deal with the new investor for maybe the rest of your life – transaction costs in these kind of deals are high, and it is preferable it be done exactly once.

One thing I realize is that the effort required here is of a different nature to the one that you need to put when in the market without bankers’ support. In the latter case, you need to engage in an elaborate ritual of tikitaka, slowly moving towards the goal, and then unleashing a shot at the right moment. It is a well-respected and common algorithm, and any attempts to side-step it, and use short-cuts, usually end in disasters.

In the banked world, though, one thing is clear – you are sitting in that conference room together in order to strike a long-term deal, and not for a random networking meeting. All parties in the conference room are aware that the reason they are all sitting there, together, is so that they can work out a long-term deal. And thus, explicitly mentioning the deal, and explicitly working towards it, are not frowned upon – like it sometimes is in the outside market. You don’t need an y tiki-taka here. Tiki-taka is also seen as a waste of time. You better follow a direct approach and just put the ball in the box and then have a striker shoot it.

And remember that in such brokered deals, there is usually no goalkeeper.

PS: I need photos of myself for the offer document. I realize that I dont’ have too many of those. I’m not too narcissistic in my photography exploits, and I dont’ bother to collect pics that others have taken of me, and hence the shortage. Last night, my mother looked through my facebook pictures and pronounced each of them as “useless”. So, if you have good pictures of me, plis to be sending me. If you dont know my email ID, just leave a comment here and I’ll give you my email ID.