Vol I, No. 10        

November 2013  



A monthly review for investors and their advisors about how the quirks of human behavior

drive investing...and what you can do about it



The Misbehaving Investor

In our view, behavior is the single most important factor behind investment returns.

From the lows in investor sentiment at the start of 2009, we have come a long way - and, in some cases a little too far...as we discuss in this month's  issue.

We welcome your feedback and questions.

All the best,

John Feb 5  

John Heldman, CFA


Dave Hutchison, CFA
Managing Director

About Us

Triad Investment Management manages equity and balanced portfolios, analyzing companies with a business-buyer's perspective and investing with a focus on investor behavior.  Founded in 2008, the firm is 100% owned by its employees.  New relationships start at $1 million.  


Triad has $121 million of assets under management as of 9/30/13.  The Concentrated All-Cap Equity composite return, annualized and net of fees since inception, is 11.8% vs. 6.0% for the S&P 500 Index  (4/30/08 to 9/30/13). 

For more information:
(949) 679-3991


Triad Small 1-24

Bubble Trouble 


Scientists use complex equations to describe the surface of a simple soap bubble. Fancy math to describe a rather simple object. Social bubbles are the opposite. Complex systems with simple explanations. No equations necessary.



Source: fifthestate.co 


I recently searched our 3,500 public company database, looking for investor hope and promise. In other words, highly-valued companies. I wasn't disappointed. I searched for companies with current stock market valuations over 10 times their annual sales. By comparison, most businesses sell for less than 3 times sales. Much promise. Even more hope. To exclude small, startup-type companies I restricted my search to companies with annual sales over $25 million and market values above $100 million. Of the remaining 2,800 companies, 114 made the final cut. Many are pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, where real homerun potential exists. For that reason I won't pick on the biotech sector; it's far out of my league to be evaluating some PhD's science project. Some of these may hit the proverbial grand slam.


But, there were plenty of companies in very competitive industries, selling for what I'd suggest are gargantuan valuations. A sign of the times? Yes, robust times. One thing seems certain--we are no longer in a financial crisis, judging by the valuations that investors are putting on some of these businesses. Many of these highly valued companies are in up and coming, high-growth areas. Solar and Alternative energy. Electric vehicles. Cloud-based technology. Big data. 3D printing. Internet-based businesses.


For instance, Splunk. What, never heard of Splunk? Neither had I, until recently. Still not sure exactly what Splunk does. And I'm guessing that goes for some Splunk investors. Never mind, investors today value Splunk around $6.3 billion. Yes billion. According to Value Line, Splunk "provides an innovative software platform that enables organizations to gain real-time operational intelligence by harnessing the value of their data. Its software collects and indexes data at massive scale, regardless of format or source and enables users to quickly and easily search, correlate, analyze, monitor and report on this data, all in real time...the software addresses the risks, challenges, and opportunities organizations face with increasingly large and diverse data sets, commonly referred to as big data."


Huh? I don't know about you, but now my head hurts. I don't know much about big data, but I do know about big valuations. Splunk has a big valuation. Roughly $6.3 billion for less than $200 million of 2012 sales. That's over 30 times sales. Of course, Splunk speculators are betting on years, no make that decades, of growth. Which may or may not happen. Did I mention Splunk is still losing money?


Now ask yourself: self, if someone dropped $6.3 billion in my lap, would I buy Splunk? Probably not. But then again, many professional investors who bought Splunk aren't playing with their own money. No, they're rolling dice backed with someone else's dollars, and are perhaps less concerned with elevated valuations, and more concerned with beating the market and earning big bonuses. And many feel they can sell before the bubble pops.


Our advice? Don't succumb to the "greater fool" theory that another sucker will come along and buy at an even higher price. When the next IPO storms out of the gate, be careful with your wallet. Don't bet the farm. Remember, bubbles usually inflate slowly, but like a soap bubble, when they burst, all that's left is air.


-John Heldman, CFA  





Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
Results are presented net of fees and include the reinvestment of all income.


2013 Triad Investment Management, LLC