Mohnish Pabrai Interview

Tom Murcko of InvestorGuide has recently interviewed Mohnish Pabrai. Pabrai has very good track record.
How successful have his techniques been? I'll let the numbers speak for themselves: A $100,000 investment in Pabrai Funds at inception (on July 1, 1999) was worth $722,200 on March 31, 2007. That works out to an annualized return of 29.1%, and is after all fees and expenses. Assets under management are over $500 million, up from $1 million at inception.

One of the most critical point he makes is interesting:
InvestorGuide: Some investment strategies stop working as soon as they become sufficiently popular. Do you think this would happen if everyone who reads The Dhandho Investor starts following your strategy? As I've monitored successful value investors I have noticed the same stocks appearing in their various portfolios surprisingly often. (As just one example, you beat Buffett to the convertible bonds of Level 3 Communications back in 2002, which I don't think was merely a coincidence.) If thousands of people start following your approach (using the same types of screens to identify promising candidates and then using the same types of filters to whittle down the list), might they end up with just slightly different subsets of the same couple dozen stocks? If so, that could quickly drive up the prices of those companies (especially on small caps, which seem to be your sweet spot) and eliminate the opportunities almost as soon as they arise. Looked at another way, your portfolio typically has about ten companies, which presumably you consider the ten best investments; if you weren't able to invest in those companies, are there another 10 (or 20, or 50) that you like almost as much?

Pabrai: As long as humans vacillate between fear and greed, there will be mispriced assets. Some will be priced too low and some will be priced too high. Mr. Buffett has been talking up the virtues of value investing for 50+ years and it has made very few folks adopt that approach. So if the #2 guy on the Forbes 400 has openly shared his secret sauce of how he got there for all these decades and his approach is still the exception in the industry, I don't believe I'll have any effect whatsoever.

Take the example of Petrochina. The stock went up some 8% after Buffett's stake was disclosed. One could have easily bought boat loads of Petrochina stock at that 8% premium to Buffett's last known buys. Well, since then Petrochina is up some eight-fold - excluding some very significant dividends. The entire planet could have done that trade. Yet very very few did. I read a study a few years back where some university professor had documented returns one would have made owning what Buffett did - buying and selling right after his trades were public knowledge. One would have trounced the S&P 500 just doing that. I don't know of any investors who religiously follow that compelling approach.

So, I'm not too concerned about value investing suddenly becoming hard to practice because there is one more book on a subject where scores of excellent books have already been written.

There are so many approaches to trading profitably. Most are in public domain. Ability to execute a concept is the key. Which few people have, that is why there are few successful speculators.


Anonymous said...

just want to say thank you again for your effort you put in this blog, it would take me so much time finding this interview which i consider a crown jewel,a needle in a haystack in a financial world which provide us 99 % just junk. This blog has become to me a daily 'must read' and a learning experience and the best blog out there.Thanks again

Pradeep Bonde said...


StockRake said...

All the testing and strategy development is a puff of hope until you have the gonads to execute and take the trades.

Pradeep Bonde said...

You are right.
Guts is key.
I don't understand why people spend so much time analyzing, back testing , and researching. There are things proven to work. But many are just too confused or lack confidence.

Tom said...

I second what Hector said, your blog has given me lots of trading ideas to pursue. As a new trader there is so much to learn, thanks for steering me in the right direction. I really appreciate the time and effort you take to respond to all our questions!