Maintain discipline and stick to fundamentals when selecting stocks

Glenn Freeman | 14/11/2016

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Freeman: I'm Glenn Freeman from Morningstar Australia on the sidelines of Individual Investor Conference 2016. I'm here with Anton Tagliaferro, Investment Director for Investors Mutual.

Anton, thanks for joining us today.

Anton Tagliaferro: Pleasure.

Freeman: Anton, how informative are investment cycles of the past to the investment market we're seeing of today with massive volatility, with low and even negative interest rates?

Tagliaferro: Look, I think, market cycles are an indication of the market is a volatile unpredictable asset class. But I think the one thing I've learnt over many, many years is you stick to good-quality stocks and what we define as quality companies with good competitive advantage, recurring earnings and not mining stocks, recurring earnings, run by capable management that can grow and if you can buy them at a reasonable price on a solid yield, you'll do reasonably well. So, there's never a time – as the whole stock market, markets go up and down, but I think we focus very much on those sort of companies and at times of weakness in the stock we're very happy to buy good quality companies at the right price.

Freeman: And you've also spoken about the tech boom and the tech wreck that coincided with that or followed that. How likely is something of that magnitude again? Is that something that's one-off or can we see these sorts of things take place again?

Tagliaferro: No, no. I mean, the market is full of excesses. People always chase some new fad, whether it's tech stocks or pharmaceutical penny dreadful stocks or gold stocks or lithium stocks and I guess, lithium today is very much chased by many investors. So, you will get those sort of fads happening all the time. People always seem to make the same mistakes. But as I said, you have to stay disciplined, buy the right sort of companies with a good recurring income stream that pay dividends and you don't have to worry too much about the market if you're in good quality stocks.

Freeman: And just lastly, you were talking about how retail investors can pick good companies. What sorts of things they can look for just on a general basis and there are some things there? Can you just expand on that a little for me?

Tagliaferro: Yeah. So, look, I think, we've always focused on particular types of companies for the long term, companies with strong competitive advantage. So, a number one or two or three in their industry. It helps. It gives that company scale and things like research and development, information technology expenses, procuring – I mean, they buy stuff in, they can often get a discount because they are big. So, size helps often. And again, when you're talking about a big company, it can be a small company, but number one in its industry, like Pact Group, which for example, is the largest flexible packaging company in Australia. So, competitive advantage is very important.

Number two, is recurring predictable earnings. So, it's nice to see the underlying business of the company, what it's achieved in the last two to three years and then hopefully you can more or less predict where those earnings are going to go in the next two to three years. Management is very important. Capable management. We like good solid companies with good people there, people who under-promise and hopefully over-deliver, honest people, people with a genuine logical plan on how to grow shareholder value.

Thirdly, companies that can grow and obviously, you want to buy them at a reasonable price. And often the time to buy at a reasonable price is when people are selling all their shares whether they are lithium, gold, technology, all the good companies out – throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yeah, so, it's about buying companies with competitive advantage, recurring earnings, capable management that can grow at a reasonable price. That's what we stick to.

This report appeared on www.morningstar.com.au 2017 Morningstar Australasia Pty Limited

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