Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 295

The S-curve beats the macro every time

Talk to most investment professionals about their investing style, and they will speak about macroeconomics, interest rates and sector valuations as their primary drivers of decision making. But will this really create investment performance and returns? We believe the macro picture is not the secret to success.

Rather, it is the ability to benefit from structural changes that underpin the earnings growth of companies. It is these companies that will deliver the strongest returns over the long term, regardless of the economic backdrop or point in the cycle.

Market evolution and the few companies that do really well

The key is to recognise what the stock market really is. It is a market of companies, and it is continually changing and evolving. For instance, oil and gas used to be the biggest sectors in the S&P 500 index but today it is technology. General Electric Company (GE) was once the biggest company in the world, but it is now at risk of falling out of the S&P 500, while Amazon – which did not exist 25 years ago – has taken its place, with a market cap of over $800 billion.

It is only a handful of companies that truly create and deliver wealth for investors over the long term. A study in the Journal of Financial Economics by Hendrick Bessembinder (Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills, updated 2018) looked at every company that has listed in the US over the past 90 years, and what happened if an investor bought and held every stock.

He found that most companies out of 14,000 in total destroyed value versus Treasury bills, with the vast majority going to zero. A further 8,000 companies made enough to offset what the other 14,000 had lost. And 1,100 companies or only 5% of the total delivered all the return in the US market (above Treasury bills). Of these 1,100, there were actually 50 companies that made up 40% of the entire wealth created in the US stockmarket over that 90-year period.

The trick for investors, therefore, is to identify these 50 companies early on, and buy and hold them.

Sounds simple? Of course, it isn’t.

The S-curve helps identify the wealth creators

This is where the idea of the S-curve comes in. In business terms, the S-curve tracks how a company or industry grows over its lifecycle. There comes a point in the lifecycle when growth inflects, driven by a structural change. It is the tailwind created by the structural change that allows a company to deliver and create wealth.

We argue that the S-curve always beats the macro when it comes to investing.

Companies like Facebook, Amazon and Apple have ridden the wave of demand for technology products and services that did not exist 15 or 20 years ago, but which are now considered indispensable in our daily lives. As investors, we seek to identify the next round of structural changes, and then invest in the companies that will benefit from them, at the start of the S-curve and not at the end.

Apple is a good example here. From 2008 to 2017, while the growth in the overall mobile handset market was relatively flat, smartphone penetration went from less than 10% to roughly 70% over the same period. In 2008, there were 10 mobile phone stocks to choose from but only two really worked out – Apple and Samsung. Once household names like Blackberry, Motorola, Eriksson and Nokia failed to seize the structural growth opportunity in smartphones.

Source: Bloomberg. Click to enlarge.

The smartphone market has now stopped growing and Apple is relying on price hikes and its services revenue for growth. The smartphone industry is now at the end of its S-curve.

Video Streaming and Netflix, on the other hand, is still growing. Yes, Netflix’s earnings multiples are high, and it is not yet making material profits, but what’s important is how much earnings it makes 10 years from now, not what it makes in 2019 or 2020. And on this basis, Netflix is poised for immense growth. It is currently in just 10% of broadband homes around the world, and its monthly pricing is low relative to the value of content it offers, so its potential for earnings growth is huge. Video Streaming is still toward the beginning of its S-curve.

Successful company characteristics

Once we identify industries at the beginning of their S-curve, we then need to find the companies that can fully benefit from the structural change. To do this, we consider five company characteristics that we believe are essential for success:

  • Potential for growth: exhibit faster earnings, EBITDA or revenue growth versus peers and growing Total Addressable Market (TAM).
  • Economic leverage: exhibit pricing power or economic leverage to improve margins.
  • Sustainability: exhibit ability to sustain growth due to scale, position, intellectual property or locational advantages.
  • Control: exhibit strong management ownership and incentives.
  • Customer perception: Exhibit strong customer reviews and rapid adoption.

Companies that display all these characteristics are best placed to capitalise on their structural tailwind. Examples we would highlight today would be Amazon in eCommerce, Danaher in Innovative Health and ServiceNow in Digital Enterprise.

 

Nick Griffin is a Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Munro Partners. This article is for information purposes only and does not consider the circumstances of any investor.

 

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

Lessons when a fund manager of the year is down 25%

Every successful fund manager suffers periods of underperformance, and investors who jump from fund to fund chasing results are likely to do badly. Selecting a manager is a long-term decision but what else?

2022 election survey results: disillusion and disappointment

In almost 1,000 responses, our readers differ in voting intentions versus polling of the general population, but they have little doubt who will win and there is widespread disappointment with our politics.

Welcome to Firstlinks Election Edition 458

At around 10.30pm on Saturday night, Scott Morrison called Anthony Albanese to concede defeat in the 2022 election. As voting continued the next day, it became likely that Labor would reach the magic number of 76 seats to form a majority government.   

  • 19 May 2022

Betting markets as election predictors

Believe it or not, betting agencies are in the business of making money, not predicting outcomes. Is there anything we can learn from the current odds on the election results?

Keep mandatory super pension drawdowns halved

The Transfer Balance Cap limits the tax concessions available in super pension funds, removing the need for large, compulsory drawdowns. Plus there are no requirements to draw money out of an accumulation fund.

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 455 with weekend update

The resolve of many investors to focus on the long term with their share portfolios is increasingly tested as the list of negatives lengthens. There is a lack of visionary policies during an election campaign and stimulatory spending is contradicting the aims of tighter monetary policy.

  • 28 April 2022

Latest Updates

In praise of our unique democracy and its sausage

For all the shortcomings of our political campaigns, our election process is the best. We are blessed with honest administrators and procedures that we all trust to hand over power peacefully, with a big snag. 

Investment strategies

Is the investing landscape really different this time?

Many market analysts argue that the pandemic has changed everything but we must judge whether the circumstances are as drastic as billed. A quick review of four major events helps decide if this time is different.

Economy

Comparing generations and the nine dimensions of our well-being

Using the nine dimensions of well-being used by the OECD, and dividing Australians into Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials, it is surprisingly easy to identify the winners and losers for most dimensions.

Retirement

When will I retire? Economic impact of an ageing population

About 39% of the labour force is aged over 45. Intergenerational reports highlight the challenges of an ageing population and the impacts on consumption patterns, dependencies, public finances and economic growth.

The real story behind the crypto crash

The recent sell-off in the crypto market and its trigger - the collapse of the Terra UST coin - has affected many institutions either holding or trading crypto assets, including crypto fund managers.

Investment strategies

Cash is the nightingale, the bird in the hand

The bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and it's an apt metaphor for investment choices. In 2021, as investors hunted in the bush for decent returns, demand overwhelmed supply. Cash is the bird in the hand.

Strategy

Book review of 'Putin’s People' and his motivation for war

Author Catherine Belton argues Putin’s sole ambition is to hold onto power. Her book seeks to understand why Putin invaded Ukraine after he became isolated and out of touch with reality during the pandemic.

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.

Website Development by Master Publisher.