We've reached the point in the cycle where the brains trust of fintwit confidently declare Buffett - the most successful and experienced investor that ever lived - has missed out on tech simply because he doesn't understand concepts like unit economies & operating leverage...
Why has Buffett "missed" AMZN? I looked at AMZN closely half a dozen years ago at cUS$400, 8x ago; MCap some US$200bn. I thought it would probably go up a lot and a told colleagues it would likely be world's first US$1tr market cap company. But I couldn't make the numbers work.
To generate a 10% return on DCF basis, it would need to distribute US$20bn perpetually from that point. Every year that goes by where they don't, that number rises 10%, or 2x every 7yrs. Coy is yet to distribute any cash; that no. has now grown to US$40bn, & US$50bn including SBC
In 7yrs time, it will be US$100bn pa, and 14yrs time US$200bn. It will be very hard for AMZN to succeed in doing that - herculean, and even if they do, it will only be enough to have generated a mediocre 10% DCF return from a US$400 stock price 6-7yrs ago.
The reason the stock has gone up 8x is not because they have made and generated enough cash, but because the market is now pricing in US$150bn a year - from today - in FCF generation, from US$20bn in 2013. That will be US$300bn from in 2027.
The real reason Buffett didn't buy is he knows how to do math, and the mathematics of compounding and DCF valuations, much much better than the average growth punter that determine the success or failure of their judgment by the share price, rather than cash flows out vs. in.
Buffett didn't buy because he looked at the math and said, you know, there are far easier and lower risk ways to earn 10% a year than relying on Amazon to grow to an extent that it ends up distributing far more cash than any company ever in the history of the world has done.
We will be able to declare Warren Buffett wrong for passing up AMZN at US$400 7yrs ago if and only if AMZN is distributing >US$100bn in annual cash to shareholders by 2027, or >US$200bn by 2034. Any less, and Buffett was right not wrong.
Buffett became the world's most successful investor by avoiding the constant temptations the market offers you to do dumb things, succumb to FOMO, and chase short term returns. Instead, he remained steadfastly focused on buying things offering low risk, double-digit DCF returns.
It's worked - spectacularly well. But every single cycle where we have a growth bull market/bubble, and certain stocks run up to high valuations, he cops mass criticism from average Joe investors for having missed opportunities, and not "getting" the new paradigm.
The actual truth is, Buffett would never have achieved the success & results he has achieved if he had been tempted away from his investment discipline from the multitude of fads that have come and gone through his 90 year lifetime. The current cycle is no different.
PS now let's compare this to his AAPL investment. When Buffett bought AAPL around $130-150, it was on 12x earnings ex cash, and they were using the cash to buy back stock and committing to return future FCF via buybacks & dividends as well. That was a capital return of 8% pa.
All you had to believe to get to 10% pa was (1) the earnings/FCF was sustainable, and (2) they would be able to grow distributable FCF sustainably by 2% pa. When Buffett was able to form a conviction about the above & believed there was a MoS in those assumptions, he bought.
Compare what you had to/have to assume to justify AMZN's price on a DCF basis compared to what you had to assume to justify his AAPL purchase. It's night and day.

It's the opposite of what people claim. Buffett understands valuation math. It's the compounder bros that don't.

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More from @LT3000Lyall

11 Nov
Dongfeng Motor (489 HK). Value investing in a nutshell. Stock is up 16.1% YTD, + a mid to high single digit yield, and yet 99% of the time over the past 12 months you've looked wrong and long a value trap, and underperformed.
The iron law of value investing is that in order to generate excess returns at below average risk over the long term, you need to be willing to look wrong and underperform for long stretches of time. There is no free lunch. It's always been that way - it's not a new thing.
Value investing outperforms over the long term, but the nature of that outperformance is a combination of (1) long periods of lackluster returns; and (2) short bursts of extreme outperformance. Momentum/growth strategies are the exact opposite.
Read 7 tweets
1 Sep
The tech bubble is w/in 12-24mths of a major bust IMO. Growth has not structurally accelerated during pandemic- it has been pulled forward. Comps will be tough from 2021; growth will slow; supply & competition is ramping & when supply>demand it will get ugly. Will start in 2021.
In the dot. com bubble, people forgot tech companies are subject to the same prosaic laws of demand & supply and competition as other industries. The pandemic has accelerated growth temporarily, as coys the world over clamour for digital transformation & consumer adoption hastens
Almost every software/tech company you look at is growing very rapidly at present. All the BNPL companies in Ausy are all growing fast. This is not sustainable & is a temporary demand/supply imbalance. Growth will slow from 2021 and supply ramp, and it's going to get competitive.
Read 8 tweets
8 Jul
I think ppl are far too confident in AMZN's future all-encompassing dominance.
*WMT and TGT having significant success with omni, & more profitably than AMZN.
*Shopify providing e-com access for smaller merchants outside AMZN; + social commerce.
*AWS falling behind GOOG & MSFT.
AMZN is a great company with a great future, but people are getting carried away & ignoring the risks. The biggest risk for AMZN is a lack of focus. More focused players are already starting to chip away at edges of many of their businesses. AMZN is also way behind outside US.
AMZN is up against focused players in all areas of its business. Eg. companies like Ocado which can scale and offer specialised outsourced e-com fulfillment capabilities to traditional groceries stores for eg. Other companies partner; AMZN tries to go it alone and dominate.
Read 10 tweets
2 Jul
For AMZN to generate a 10% pre-tax cash-flow return from here (at $2,878), it needs to distribute US$144bn annually into perpetuity, starting from today - almost 3x AAPL's current profits. And that number compounds by 10% a year for every year that goes by without them paying it.
Seven years from now, assuming they haven't paid any dividends during that period, and including 1-1.5% annual stock dilution, that number will exceed US$300bn.
Warren Buffett used similar math in one of his shareholder letters circa 1999 to highlight how unlikely it was Cisco would justify it's valuation. He also pointed out at the time how investors forget investors as a whole cannot take more out of market than what companies earn.
Read 4 tweets
26 Jun
Throughout history, the intelligentsia has often played a large role in inciting racial/inter-group hatred which has sometimes lead to civil war, authoritarian government, and even genocide. It is pretty easy to see how that occurred. We are witnessing it in our own times (cont).
The playbook is always the same. Disparities in economic outcomes between group A and B are used as evidence A is oppressing B for A’s benefit. B is told not to emulate and learn from A, but that A is profiting at B’s expense, and everything bad that happens to B is A’s fault.
This leads to resentment and anger by B towards A, and to greater group consciousness. This creates a belief that implementing policies that dispossess or disadvantage A to the benefit of B are justified and needed, and also creates resentments that can bubble over into violence.
Read 16 tweets
12 Mar
Probably stupid to tweet this, and I do so with suitable humility knowing full well I could be totally wrong (no one really knows), but this really does feel like the bottom (for markets; not the economy/corona spread).

When prices fall exponentially faster and faster, it is akin to an 'anti-bubble' - the inverse of climactic tops during bubbles, for much the same reasons in reverse. It is very characteristic of market lows.
Now I'll acknowledge many markets are still expensive. I'm still not fairly pessimistic on Australia for e.g. which is not only still expensive, but late cycle. But you can't ignore that bond yields are also at record lows and more CB stimulus is coming.
Read 13 tweets

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