Feb 192018

A few years ago I bought 50 shares of Avigilon Corp (TSE:AVO) at a price of $25 per share. Avigilon is a surveillance and security company based in Vancouver. The idea for the trade was to ride the momentum up and then sell it for a profit. Soon after however, instead of continuing to climb, the stock price dropped. 🙁 “Oh no”, I thought. But rather than admitting defeat and selling my shares at a loss I decided to buy even more at $14 per share. 😮 This is a fairly risky move. I would only double down on a stock if I was really confident about its long term profitability. Doing this averaged down my cost per share.

Because I bought 100 more AVO shares when it was cheaper, my average cost dropped from $25 to $18 per share on 150 shares total.

Well this swing trade had gone on for long enough. I recently decided to get out of this trade and take my profit. 🙂

Overall this has been a successful trade. My cost was about $2,600 including fees and interest charges. I used a small amount of margin to leverage my gains. I was able to sell all 150 shares last week at roughly $27 each with a total proceeds of $4,026.

That’s a decent 55% return on investment over the past 3.5 years, or annalized to 13% per year. 😀 Not too shabby, considering the broad market TSX composite index returned 2% per year over the same time.

Earlier this month AVO announced that it has a definitive agreement to be acquired by Motorola Solutions Inc. The takeover would value the company at $27 per share. This represents a generous premium for AVO and the stock price rose 17% immediately following the news. There doesn’t appear to be another company interested in making a better offer. This is probably the best price I’m ever going to get for this trade, which prompted my decision to sell last week. 🙂

AVO doesn’t pay a dividend so now I can use the cash proceeds from selling the stock to either pay down debt, or invest in some dividend stocks to buy and hold. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with the extra money yet.


Random Useless Fact:

In a study by Psychology Today, about 80% of people who have received mental health treatment say it was effective for them.

Nov 292017

According to businessman and author Seymour Schulich, investors should ask themselves 5 questions when screening a potential deal. 🙂 Here’s an excerpt from his book, “Get Smarter.”

  1. How much can I make?
  2. How much can I lose?
  3. How do I get my money back?
  4. Who says this deal is any good?
  5. Who else is in the deal?

I think these are good points to remember and I certainly use them before I make any financial decisions.

Normally we want a large margin of safety between how much we can make (upside) and how much we could lose (downside.) If the odds are not at least 75% in our favour then it is better to look elsewhere. To increase our chance of success we must know how to accurately assess the odds, and have the discipline and patience to act only when the odds are heavily in our favour. If our analysis are accurate then we can be certain this strategy will work due to the law of large numbers theory.

How we get our money back should be considered before making any deal. There are two parts to this: liquidity, and exit strategy. A rental property is not very liquid, but a publicly traded REIT that holds rental properties usually is. As for exit strategy, we need to come up with a systematic plan to sell the investment and commit to it. This prevents us from trading on emotions. One stock I bought this year is Royal Bank (RY.TO.) It has a growing dividend year after year, and trades at a decent valuation with a P/E ratio of 13.6. I plan to exit my position in this stock either when I retire, or if RY cuts its dividend by more than 35%. Those are my only conditions. So if there’s market correction and the stock price falls 50% I will continue to hold it. This way, I don’t sell prematurely and miss out on future gains.

I look at reports and opinions by stock analysts to determine if other people think the investment has potential. One good source for this is stockchase.com. It curates professional opinions about any company on the market. Here’s a blurb for RY.

As for who else is in the deal, I look at how many institutional investors are holding the investment. These are large pension funds and endowment funds that have to scrutinize all possible aspects of a security before buying it. According to Google Finance, Royal Bank has 53% institutional investor ownership. That’s pretty high so I am more confident that RY is a good long term investment.

There are tons of potential assets we can buy. But by asking ourselves these five questions we can screen our options and narrow down our options which makes the process a lot easier. 🙂


Random Useless Fact

The world’s largest broccoli are grown in the United States.

Jun 222017

The Largest Name in Retail Continues to Grow

Amazon.com (AMZN) recently announced it’s taking over the trendy supermarket chain, Whole Foods. At the beginning of this year I wrote an article which included a prediction that this would happen. Maybe Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos got the idea from reading my blog. 🙂

Whole Foods sells healthy, organic products. Most items in the stores can be expensive, but  if you want to grab a quick and healthy lunch, you can buy half a pizza for $7 CAD, which isn’t bad. I remember my first time visiting Whole Foods. I didn’t really know what it was so I had no idea what’s in store. 😉 But after going in I quickly understood why the retailer attracts so many yuppies and hipsters like myself. Shopping there is an experience. 😀

This acquisition is a very good deal for both companies. Whole Foods Market Inc has been suffering from declining same-store sales year after year. Whole Foods stock (WFM) peaked in 2013 and has been falling every year since. 🙁 So it needs a larger company to help turn things around. Amazon has already been experimenting with grocery stores since last year with its Amazon Go project. The idea is consumers can walk into a store, buy the food they want, and leave without lining up or checking out. The in-store scanners do everything automatically so people can just walk out of the store and get charged the correct amount. It’s a really neat concept, but the service is only in the U.S. for now. By merging with a grocery chain, Amazon can expand its grocery business, and can also transform unused Whole Foods real estate into Amazon warehouses. 🙂

Whole Foods stock is up about 25% in the last 5 trading days and now sits at $43. Amazon stock is now at $1,002 per share. I like shopping with both retailers, and I look forward to see how they collaborate.

Disclaimer: I own 10 shares of AMZN, and no shares of WFM.

Random Useless Fact:


May 082017

How to Invest in U.S. Infrastructure 

Donald Trump’s policies focus on building infrastructure and prioritizing America first. With the U.S. economy growing stronger than Canada’s, I believe this is a good time to look south of the border for opportunities. Thanks to the Trump rally, the S&P 500 market index in the U.S. is up about 7% year to date. It appears the market could reach even higher by the end of the year. 🙂

One way to invest in a country’s growing infrastructure is to buy ownership in stable, and profitable cement and construction companies! But the concrete business isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. 😄 There is a lot of competition in this space so it’s important to invest smartly. I have done research into several companies such as Martin Marietta Materials (MLM), Vulcan Materials (VMC), and others. But the company I liked most was Summit Materials Inc (NYSE:SUM)

Summit Materials is in the business of cement and small rocks called aggregates used to make roads and buildings. In addition to supplying aggregates to its customers, the company also uses its materials internally to produce ready-mix concrete and asphalt paving mix production. I like the widespread geography that Summit is operating in. It conducts business in over 20 states, including Texas, which borders Mexico. I’m looking forward to that wall being built. 🙂

I guess you can say this company rocks. 😄 Valuation wise SUM is slightly expensive, but is actually fairly valued when compared to its competitors in the market. Over the last year the company earned $0.88 per share. According to analysts, the company is expected to grow its earnings at 10.5% a year over the long run. We can use the Graham Formula which I’ve explained here, to determine the fair market value of this stock.

Doing so will give us a Graham value of $25.96 per share. (V = 0.88 x (8.5 + 2 * 10.5)

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Apr 242017

Today we’ll explore a common question I get asked all the time: What is my thought process behind leverage?

The short answer is simple. I want to make high returns without being exposed to high risk. Normally the two go hand-in-hand. But leverage allows me to separate them.

For example, a speculative marijuana stock may grow 20% to 50% a year. But it could just as easily lose half its value. The potential reward is tempting. But the high risk is not worth it.

Instead, I’m looking for a lower return, lower risk investment such as an established pipeline company known for its predictable earnings, dividend growth, large economic moat, and low stock volatility. Using historical data and fundamental analysis I may determine that there is a very high probability this stock will appreciate 4% to 10% a year. I can then apply a leverage multiplier of 5 times on this investment which means my actual expected rate of return is 20% to 50%.

In other words, I do not subject myself to the high risk that is typically associated with juicy returns. But I still get those juicy returns! Awww yeah. 😀

That’s pretty much it. The long answer requires some further explanation. Let’s start with the 3 criteria I look for before I borrow to invest.


The 3 fundamental rules of practicing leverage

  1. A 10+ year investment time horizon.
  2. An adequate diversification strategy.
  3. An asymmetric risk-return opportunity.

The first and second rules are straightforward. Billionaire Jeff Bezos recommends we think in 7 year terms to remain competitive. I suggest taking that up to 10 years just to be safe. 🙂 In terms of diversification it can mean more than just having stocks and bonds.


Seek Out Asymmetric Returns

Now comes the fun part. Rule number 3. As we all know there is no investment without risk. The third rule is about knowing which investment has a favorable risk to reward ratio. This simply means comparing the odds. For example, let’s say we are asked to roll a normal 6 sided die. If it lands on 1, 2, 3, or 4, we win $10. 🙂 But if it lands on 5 or 6, we lose $10.

So should we play? The answer is a resounding yes every time! 😀 We have a 66.7% chance (4/6) of success. So from a rational perspective this has an asymmetric probability in favor of us winning.


Analyzing Probable Returns with a Bell Curve

We can use a normal distribution to help identify favorable investment opportunities. In statistics, a normal (bell curve) distribution outlines all the possibilities with the most likely outcome being in the middle. The standard deviation can be used to measure the variation in a set of data. Let’s see how we can put this bell curve to use when we overlay it on top of a chart that shows how many times the stock market returned a specific amount over any 10 year period between 1916 to 2016. (source)

So over the last century, any 10 year period of investing in the S&P500 index would have returned somewhere between 6% to 11%, 40% of the time, or within 1 standard deviation of a normal distribution curve. Additionally, returns were between 3% to 14%, 72% of the time, within 2 standard deviations from the mean.

This strongly suggests that we have a 95% chance (95/100 possibilities) of making at least 3% annual return from the stock market in any given 10 year period. Pretty neat eh? 😀 Time in the market reduces risk in the market, and creates a huge asymmetric advantage to investors!

But enough theory. Let’s see this at work in a real life example.


Banking on Leverage

A couple of years ago I used leverage to buy RBC Royal Bank stocks. Let’s go through my thought process behind this decision.

Large cap, blue-chip dividend stocks are ideal to use leverage on. They don’t come much bluer and larger cap than RBC. It’s the largest company in the country. Plus, there’s a lion in the logo. That’s how you know it’s a top quality company. 😉

I borrowed $4,000 to buy 55 shares of TSE:RY and contributed $0 of my own money. I wrote a full analysis on RBC and explained why I thought it was a good stock to buy at the time. The reason I used leverage was because I didn’t have any cash and the investment fits my 3 rules of leverage.

  • First rule: I planned to keep RY stock for the next 10 years.
  • Second rule: I made sure RY would only be a small part of my total portfolio.
  • Third rule: RY’s P/E ratio, peg ratio, and other fundamental measurements looked appealing in 2015. The stock was expected to grow 8% to 10% a year for the foreseeable future. Historical data showed strong earnings growth and stock appreciation. RY’s dividend would be enough to cover the interest cost of the debt. Thus, this would have a favorable asymmetric risk-to-reward ratio.

My return on this investment so far, net of margin interest cost, is about 37% or $1,500. Not too shabby. 😀 But this shouldn’t be a big surprise. After all, stocks are fundamentally priced based on their earnings. And RBC has an impressive history of consistent earnings growth. Back in 2015, RY was expected to earn $7.35 per share by 2017. Fast forward to today, it appears RY may actually be on track to hit $7.40 EPS this year. We shall see.

This leveraging strategy is also recession resistant. For example, let’s say I did the exact same thing in 2007 at the peak of RY’s market capitalization, (the worst possible time to use leverage) right before the greatest recession of our generation. Yikes! Well despite the unfortunate timing, 10 years later I would still end up with a 70% positive return, net of interest expenses! This is why I am not concerned about future recessions. 😉 I know I can just hang on to RY until the stock market recovers like it always does after a major correction.

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