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Are you investing in the right industry

are you investing in the right industry?

● by joshua tay
 does the term book-to-bill ratio sound familiar to you? 

do you know the demand and supply numbers of private 

condominiums in singapore for the next year ? if you do, you

must have already performed some sort of industry analysis 

on the electronics and property industries (or sectors as 

commonly referred to in stockmarket terms).
 most investment processes include some sort of industry 

analysis. this is important because many studies have shown 

that over a period of time, some industries have per-formed 

better than others. for example, between 1987 
and 1996, banking stocks in singapore have generated better 

returns than other industries such as shiprepair. industry 

analyses will uncover these performance differences and help

identify both unprofitable and profitable opportunities 

(situations).
 it is also important to note that past performance alone 

will not help predict future performance. the factors or 

conditions that helped an industry to prosper in the past 

will change over time. identifying and studying these 

factors will provide some clues to the entry and exit points

of the investments. going back to our earlier example, 

economic growth is an important criterion for banks' 

earnings. between 1987 and 1996, singapore enjoyed an 

uninterrrupted average gdp growth of 8.9%. this allowed the 

banks' earnings to grow at a compound rate of 11.3% when the

broader market generated only 8.5% growth. with gdp growth 

decelerating because of the asian crisis, can we maintain 

the same sanguine outlook for the banks?
 having determined that industry analyses are important for

successful investing, the next step is to find out how we 

can go about doing one. there is no generic framework that 

is applicable to all industries, but there are commonalities

which we can identify. in a free market economy, demand and 

supply are key determinants of price, and price is always an

important contributor to any profit-driven organisation. 

hence, a successful indstry ana-lysis will have to identify 

the underlying fac-tors driving demand and supply.
 factors that drive demand vary across industries, and are 

too numerous to list. however, it is important to note that 

demand can be categorised as "seasonal", "cyclical" or 

"secular". as the word suggests, seasonal fac-tors recur 

year after year. cyclical factors, on the other hand, follow

very closely to the economic cycles of the market. secular 

factors are more long term in nature. seasonality or 

economic cycles will have minimal impact on secular trends.
 take an airline as an illustration. most singaporeans take

their vacation in december. that is why airline seats are 

difficult to secure during that time. this is the seaso

nal factor because it occurs every year around the same time. having said that, singaporeans usually take vacations more frequently when the economy is doing well, and less so during reccessionary times. the rise and fall in demand in accordance to economic activities is the cyclical factor. finally, the middle class population in singapore has been rising over the last 20 years. this group is generally more affluent. part of the lifestyle usually includes taking regular vacations to exotic destinations. such lifestyle doesn't change annually, nor does it follow the ups and downs of economic growth. the demand for air travel will grow so long as the middle class population continues to increase. this is an example of secular demand.  classifying demand factors into these categories is very useful. as long-term inves-tors, we do not want to be constantly reacting to signs that are short term and volatile in nature such as seasonal, and to a lesser extent, cyclical trends. buying and selling stocks based on these short-term trends are not only expensive (brokerage cost) but difficult to time as well. instead, we should focus on long-term trends. they usually have a longer and more permanent impact on share prices.  a key factor in identifying an attractive industry is pricing power. the ability of an industry to price its product at a profitable level without compromising its business pros-pect is important, and this is affected by many factors. inelastic demand allows the tobacco producers to maintain good profits despite the rapidly rising tariffs all these years. barriers to entry is another factor. mobile-phone charges used to be very expensive because there was only singapore telecom providing the ser-vice (monopoly). with increased competition from m1, rates have been declining gradually. all things being equal, the more competitive the industry is, the lower the pricing power, and hence profits. competition may be good for the consumers, but it seldom benefits the shareholders.  another factor that will impact the com-petitive environment of an industry is the cost structure. in general, indsutries with high fixed costs are more competitive than those that have high variable costs. we often hear about coun-tries being accused of 'dumping steel' onto other countries. well, this is the case in point. steel mills are expensive to construct. but once built, the investment costs are 'sunked'. on the other hand, the running cost to produce steel is relatively low. since there are so many steel mills around the world (almost every country has one for strategic reasons), supply is in abundance. as competition intensifies in the global market, recovering investment cost of the mills becomes a secondary objective for management. what is more important

is to keep the production ongoing and sell the steel at a price that can at least cover the variable cost component. these mills will definitely be loss-making, but at least they can continue to operate and not generate serious unemploy-ment for the economy (steel industry is very labour-intensive).  having looked at the fundamental issues, do we always buy into an industry with positive trends developing? the answer is 'no'. con-fused? here is why. the key to any successful investments is to stay ahead of what the market is discounting. suppose we are bullish on the outlook of the residential property sector because owning a home is every singaporean's dream and the island has limited land supply. but this view is widely observable. further-more, most of the residential property stocks have already outperformed the market by huge margins. these are signs that the market has probably discounted the positive conclusion of our analysis. as such, the investment upside is probably limited. conversely, if our conclu-sion unearths new information from the gene-ral market, we may have discovered something interesting here.  to confirm that we have a good find, check out the valuation to see if it is attractive. there are many valuation tools, but the commonly used ones are price/earnings (pe), enterprise value/ebitda*, price/book(p/b), and dis-counted cash flow (dcf). make a cross-industry comparison as well as historical com-parison. going back to our property example. if our conclusion is new to the market, the industry is trading at the lower end of its histo-rical pe band, and it is also very attractive on pe terms versus the other industries in singapore...bingo!  in conclusion, i would like to leave you with a brain teaser. imagine this is 1996 and you are an investor looking at the dynamic random access memory (dram) industry:  dram is a semiconductor chip used in most electronic products such as personal computers. the business is cyclical in nature because corporate and private consumption of pcs usually rises when the economy is doing well. there are, however, two secular trends that underpin the growth in the industry. first, more and more people are buying pcs for their home and oiffice. second, the requirement of dram per pc is also on the rise as processing power of computer increases exponentially. on the competitive issue, the cost to build a wafer fab is extremely high (about us$1b), and the technology is usually state-of-the-art. besides capital and technology, there are no other significant barriers to entry. margin for the industry had been very good because of supply shortage. this probably explained why share prices outperformed the market in 1995. the historical five-year pe band for selected stocks in the industry between 1991 and

1995 was about 10 to 100. the average pe during the period was 30. the industry is currently trading at a pe in the low teens.  would you invest in this industry? (the writer is the investment manager of jardine fleming investment management. this column has the support of the investment management association of singapore and the stock exchange of singapore.) 你是否选对投资领域?   你对“订货与帐单比例”这个名词熟悉吗?你知道新加坡私人公 寓在明年的供需数据吗?如果你知道,那么你肯定已针对电子业和房 地产业作了行业分析(或者是股票市场所惯用的“组别”)。www.redprintm.com   大多数投资都带有行业分析的成分。这当然重要,因为许多研究 显示,经历时日有些行业会较其他来得出色。例如,从1987至1996年 之间,新加坡银行股所创造的回报率便较其他行业来得高,比如修船 业。行业分析可将它们的差别表现暴露无遗,也让我们辨别它们到底 盈利与否。   需要注意的是,过去的成绩并不能帮我们预测未来的表现。促使 某项行业在过去蓬勃发展的因素或情况,将会随着时间而改变。辨别 和研究这些因素,可为投资的进退决定提供线索。回到前面的例子, 经济uedbet增长是银行盈利的重要标准。从1987到1996年之间,新加坡取得 了8.9%的持续平均经济uedbet增长。这使银行盈利取得11.3%的复增长,而 整体市场的增长却只有8.5%。当经济uedbet增长因亚洲危机而下跌时,我们 的银行业是否还能维持这种乐观局面呢?   既然我们知道行业分析对投资的成败关系重大,下一步便要知道 如何进行。没一种方法可以普遍应用于所有行业,但我们还是可以从 中找到一些共同点。在自由市场经济uedbet中,供需是决定价格的关键,而 价格则对盈利机构贡献良多。因此,成功的行业分析,便须对那些影 响供需的基本因素作出辨别。   影响需求的因素因行业而异,可是不胜枚举。然而,我们须知, 需求可以分为季节、周期或长期。顾名思义,季节因素每年重复,而 周期因素则与市场的经济uedbet周期密切相关。长期因素却是长期的。季节 性或经济uedbet周期两者对长期趋势的影响都不大。   以航空公司为例。多数的新加坡人都习惯于在12月度假。这就是 为什么在那时候较难订到机位。这是季节因素,因为它在每年的同一 时间发生。然而,新加坡人在经济uedbet情况良好时经常度假,而在经济uedbet衰 退时则减少。供需情况依经济uedbet活动而变化是周期因素。另外,过去20 年来新加坡的中产阶层大为增加。这群人一般上较为富裕,他们经常 到国外度假。但这种生活方式不会每年改变,或者随着经济uedbet增长而起 伏。所以,只要中产阶层人口继续增长,航空的需求便会上升。这 是长期需求的一个例子。   将需求因素加以归类非常实用。作为长期投资者,我们不须经常 因季节性或周期性这些短期、多变的讯号作出反应。基于这些短期因 素来买卖股票不只昂贵(手续费),而且时间也难以拿捏。因此,我 们应该将焦点集中在长期趋势。这项因素通常会对股价产生长远和持 久的影响。   价格是寻找具有吸引力行业的重要因素之一。一个行业如果能将 产品定在盈利水平却又不致于影响商业前景很重要的,但这点受到许 多因素的左右。缺乏弹性的市场需求,使香烟制造商得以维持良好的 盈利,即使在关税持续上升的情况下。行业障碍是另一项重要因素。 流动电话的收费一度非常昂贵,因为只有新电信提供这项(垄断)服 务。当m1带来竞争后,收费率便逐渐下降。在正常情况下,行业越竞 争,价格就越便宜,而盈利也是。竞争可能对消费者有利,但对股东 来说好处不多。   另一项对行业竞争环境大有影响的因素是价格结构。一般上,固 定成本高昂的行业会较变动成本高昂的行业更有竞争力。我们常听闻 一些国家向另一些国家“倾销钢铁”而遭来非议,而这正是问题所在 。钢铁厂的建造极为昂贵,可是一旦建成,投资成本便“沉淀”下来 。而另一方面,生产钢铁的变动成本却相对低廉。既然全球有许多钢 铁厂(基于战略理由,几乎每个国家都有),供应非常充足。当全球 市场竞争加强,争取投资成本的回笼已成为管理层的次要目标。更重 要的却是让生产维持下去,并以只求收回变动成本的卖价将钢铁卖出 。这些钢铁厂肯定会亏损,但最少它们可以继续营运,而且不致于带 来严重的失业问题(钢铁工业极为劳动密集)。   考虑了基本因素后,我们所要投资的行业是否应从趋势乐观方面 下手?答案是“不”。如果你感到莫名其妙,以下就是解释。在投资 上取得成功的关键,是跑在市场的前端。例如,拥有房屋是每一个新 加坡人的梦想,而且这个小岛土地有限,所以我们对于住宅产业前景 看好。但是这项观点已被普遍认同。此外,大多数住宅产业股票的表 现已经远远超越市场。由此可知,市场可能已将我们的结论加以消化 。因此,投资盈利可能有限。相反的,如果我们的结论是超出一般观 点,那我们可能有所发现。   要确定我们是否有所发现,让我们从估价中来证实。估价的方式 众多,但较为常用的是本益比、企业价值/税前盈利和现金流量贴现 。我们要作出全行业的比较和历史比较。回到房地产的例子,如我们 的结论在市场上仍属新颖,这行业又在本益比历史波动的下限交易, 而与新加坡其他行业相比这本益比也非常具有吸引力……那我们中奖 了!   最后,大家来动动脑筋。假设这是1996年,而你又是一个关注动 态随机存取记忆体的投资者:   动态随机存取记忆体是应用于电子产品的半导体晶片,如个人电 脑等。这项业务基本上属于周期性,因为企业和个人对个人电脑的消 费常随着经济uedbet繁荣而增加。然而,有两项长期因素支撑着这行业的增 长。首先,越来越多家庭和公司购买个人电脑。其次,由于电脑的处 理能力大量提升,使每台电脑对动态随机存取记忆体的需求不断增加 。从竞争角度而言,建造晶圆代工厂的成本极为高昂(约10亿美元) ,而科技则十分先进。除了资本和科技,便没有其他显著的行业障碍 。由于供应短缺,所以这项行业的利润向来不错。这就是为什么在 1995年这行业的股价超越市场。从1991到

1995年之间,这行业内某些 股票的5年本益比历史波动大约是介于10至100。而在这期间的平均本 益比是30。目前这行业是在本益比偏低的范围内交易。   你会在这行业投资吗? (本文作者为怡富投资管理公司投资经理。本栏是新加坡股票交易所 和新加坡投资管理协会联办的公众教育uedbet计划。)

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