Conferences

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Updates:

While moving server hosts, I seemed to have deleted my entire website by accident. So much for sticking in my circle of competence. Hopefully I will be able to recover some of my older posts over the coming week.


I just came back from the Value Investing Conference in Italy. This was the 2nd conference I’ve attended (the first was the London Value Investor Conference in 2014). Both were useful in getting ideas from other investors across the globe.

I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Whitney Tilson. I remember watching his lecture at Darden University back in 2010 – the first formal introduction to value investing I had. He gave a presentation on the fundamentals of investing, and also his investment thesis on Berkshire Hathaway (which he presented again at the conference this year).

It has done very nicely since then, although I never did pull the trigger to buy it as I never fully understood the insurance component of the business.

Unsurprisingly, investors mostly think that the US is fully valued, and Europe has few interesting bargains at this point (most of the high quality companies are not that cheap… yet).

Surprisingly, China was not on the radar of many investors, nor was South East Asia despite the cheap valuations. Perhaps this was because the conference was held in Italy, with a strong European centric bias.

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There was an interesting presentation on TaeYoung Engineering and Korean Preferreds in general. I will try to post up some stuff – very interesting space for those with small sums of capital to work with.

Should You Come Next Year?

Would I recommend investors to come to it? Well it really depends on when you are located, and how cost effective it is for you to attend. Now that Tilson has ceased his bi-annually Value Investing Congress, there aren’t that many conferences for investors to attend that I would recommend. There are plenty of low hanging fruits in terms of presentations and online conferences (Manual of Ideas, Value Conferences) that you can attend from the comfort of your own home.

However, nothing beats the chance to network with other professionals and investors to tell our “war stories”, and to learn from each other. I picked up a lot of interesting things both related to, and unrelated to investing over the two days.

One thing which really strikes me is how off the radar many of the Asia countries are – specifically Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan. Not a lot of people were talking about it (again, this could be the nature of the meetup!). However, I stand by my thesis that there are plenty of good opportunities for investors to exploit simply because of the informational edge you have by being on the ground.

It’s hard for investors sitting thousands of miles across the world to invest in small to mid-caps, where I find the most interesting opportunities. Some of my investments have been in the sub $50 million range, which larger funds cannot invest in simply because of their mandate, and because of liquidity issues. I looked up the top 20 shareholding list of many of these companies, and there just isn’t a lot of institutional ownership.

What Looks Cheap Now:

This is the topic of another post in the future, but what strikes me as “cheap now” are:

Hong Kong retail stocks
Singapore small to mid-caps (industrials, manufacturing, anything property related)
Japan small caps (perpetually undervalued?)
Oil & Gas related stocks (all around the world)

Malaysia looks pretty interesting with the ringgits’ subsequent decline, and the general negative sentiment pervading the country. I can’t profess to have done a lot of work in this area yet, but investors should check it out if you are already operating in the market there.