Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Integrated Portfolio Solutions Acquired

Back in 2021, I co-invested alongside Aura AUD 100k in Integrated Portfolio Solutions, a private company. At the time, I thought there wasn't a lot of downside risk as an acquirer would be willing to pay to obtain the client accounts they were advising. The company didn't manage to execute on the expansion plans that they touted at the time. In the wealth management/advisory/platform business there are economies of scale needed to achieve profitability. Today it was announced that the company is being acquired for roughly the value at the point when we invested. Various closing costs are going to result in about an 8% loss. Part of the consideration for the acquisition is going to be in terms of equity of the acquirer, DASH Technology Group, but now my position will be a much more reasonable amount for an investment in a non-profitable private company. I feel lucky I didn't lose more!

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Longwave Small Australian Companies

Recently, what used to be the First Sentier Developing Companies Fund became the Longwave Small Australian Companies Fund. In other words, First Sentier dropped managing the fund and transferred it to Longwave. I checked Longwave's track record and it wasn't that great. So, I decided to close our holdings of this fund. I withdrew part of Moominmama's holding to fund her concessional superannuation contribution for this financial year. Then I wanted to withdraw half of my holding and switch the rest to the FS Imputation Fund that does manage to beat its benchmark. 

As my holding of this fund is under my CommSec margin loan, I had to send the Colonial First State forms requesting the transaction to CommSec. Then CommSec sent me back their own withdrawal form, which was super unclear. Turns out that they have switched 50% of my Longwave holding to FS Imputation. But then instead of withdrawing the rest, they have withdrawn 50% of the rest! I can't be bothered to fill out another set of forms to submit right now as I don't need to withdraw the money...

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Superannuation Returns for the 2023-24 Financial Year

The Australian reports on the performance of superannuation funds for the just completed financial year. This year, retail funds tended to perform better than industry funds because of their higher allocation to public stock markets rather than private assets. How did our SMSF do by comparison? I don't actually compute comparable after-tax performance figures, which are how superannuation returns are reported.* Public offer funds make an allowance for future tax payable, which includes capital gains tax if the assets are sold. This means that members who withdraw funds don't push tax liabilities onto those that stay. This is unlike a regular unlisted managed fund where tax is at the investor level and attached to distributions... 

So, instead I estimate what the performance of our employer funds might be pre-tax. This probably over-estimates the performance of the employer funds, but reconciling tax expected with tax actually paid on our SMSF would be hard work. On that basis, the SMSF returned 9.54%. Unisuper returned 10.89% and PSS(AP) 10.55%. Both the latter are balanced funds. Even though we underperformed for the year, we are still ahead overall since inception:

PSS(AP) has, however, inched ahead in risk-adjusted performance. It now has an information ratio (Sharpe ratio with zero risk free rate) of 1.02, versus 0.96 for the SMSF. Unisuper is on 0.83. 

Since inception, the SMSF has returned an annualized 7.9% pre-tax versus 6.44% for Unisuper and 6.63% for PSS(AP).

* Reported performance does deduct administration, audit, ASIC fees etc. As an example, for the year to 31 December 2023, Unisuper report a return of 10.3%, while I estimate a pretax return of 11.15% for the fund.


Saturday, July 06, 2024

Spending 2023-24

For the last seven years I've been putting together reports on our spending over the Australian financial year, which runs from 1 July to 30 June. This makes it easy to do a break down of gross income including taxes that's comparable to many spending reports you'll see online, though all our numbers are in Australian Dollars. At the top level, we can break down total income (as reported in our tax returns plus employer superannuation contributions) into the following expenditure categories:


The gross income for this year (bottom line), and so also "Other Saving", is just an estimate. It is based on the gross income we expect to report in our tax returns (before investment expenses etc.) plus employer superannuation contributions. Tax includes local property tax as well as income tax and tax on superannuation contributions. Investing costs include margin interest. Mortgage interest is included in spending here (though usually I consider them to be an investment cost), while mortgage principal payments are considered as saving. Spending also includes the insurance premia paid through our superannuation. Other saving is then what is left over. This is much bigger than our saving out of salaries because gross income includes investment returns reported in our tax returns. Spending increased by 4% this year in line with inflation. Gross income, especially in real terms, has been slowly declining since the peak in 2020-21. This is partly because I moved high-tax investments into superannuation. Expected other saving is the lowest it has been. The latter includes the AUD 20k concessional contribution we made for Moominmama to our SMSF in each of the last three years. Graphically, it looks like this:

We break down spending into quite detailed categories. Some of these are then aggregated up into broader categories:

Our biggest spending category, if we don't count tax, continues to be childcare and education, which declined slightly this year as the youngest moved out of daycare and the older one changed schools. Both are now in the same private school since the beginning of this calendar year. As mentioned above, the income, tax, and other savings numbers for this year are all estimates. Commentary on each category follows:

Employer superannuation contributions: These include employer contributions (we don't do any salary sacrifice contributions) but not the concessional contributions we paid into the SMSF.

Superannuation contributions tax: The 15% tax on concessional superannuation contributions. This includes tax on our concessional contributions to the SMSF. It does not include taxes on SMSF earnings as the superannuation earnings are not included in income here.

Franking credits: Income reported on our tax returns includes franking credits (tax paid by companies we invest in). We need to deduct this money which we don't receive as cash but is included in gross income in order to get the numbers to add up.* Foreign tax paid is the same story.

Income tax paid is one category that has fallen since 2017-18! Franking credits rose fourfold.

Life and disability insurance: I have been trying to bring this under control and the amount paid has also fallen since 2017-18 as a result.

Health: Includes health insurance and direct spending. Spending peaked with the birth of our second child.

Housing: Includes mortgage interest, maintenance, and body corporate fees (condo association). Rising interest rates have pushed up spending this year again as has replacement of our central air-conditioner, which will cost more than AUD 11k.

Transport: About half is spending on our car and half is my spending on Uber, e-scooters, buses etc. I tried to spend less on Uber this year. I reduced my transport spending by 22% as a result. Also, the value of our car rose, contributing AUD 1,700.

Utilities: This includes water, gas, electricity, telephone, internet, and online storage etc.

Subscriptions: This is spending on all online services that aren't basic infrastructure. After rising strongly during the pandemic we brought it back under control this year with an 8% reduction.

Supermarkets: Includes convenience stores, liquor stores etc as well as supermarkets. Spending has been stable in nominal terms for the last three years.

Restaurants: This was low in 2017-18 because we spent a lot of cash at restaurants. It was low in 2020-22 because of the pandemic. It then jumped as life got more back to normal and rose 11% as prices are climbing I feel particularly in this area. I just paid more than AUD 7 for a large coffee this morning in Queensland, which is a record for me.

Cash spending: This has collapsed to almost zero. I try not to use cash so that I can track spending. Moominmama also gets some cash out at supermarkets that is included in that category.

Department stores: All other stores selling goods that aren't supermarkets. Has been falling since 2019-20.

Mail order: This continued to decline since the pandemic peak in 2020-21. Down another 15% this year.

Childcare and education: We are now paying for private school for both children plus music classes, swimming classes...

Travel: This includes flights, hotels, car rental etc. It was very high in 2017-18 when we went to Europe and Japan. In 2020-21 it was down to zero due to the pandemic and having a small child. This year it almost reached the nominal level of 2017-18. We paid to rent a house in Bondi Beach in Sydney because my brother and his wife were supposed to visit. That was very expensive. In the end, they couldn't visit because of the war in the Middle East. And now we took a second vacation in Winter in Queensland.

Charity: Continues to fluctuate around my goal of AUD 1k. When I think I am really financially independent and my children are grown up I'd plan to increase it.

Other: This is mostly other services. It includes everything from haircuts to fees for tourist attractions. I don't include the latter in travel because we might also pay to go to a museum or paid play place when we are home.

This year's increased spending was mainly driven by increased housing and travel costs, while most other categories declined despite inflation. Both of housing and travel included one-off costs. I paid the second half of the air-conditioner bill a few days ago in the new financial year, so I expect housing costs will remain similar in 2024-25. Travel is hard to predict, but I expect that spending will remain high as we begin to spend more on airfares again. We were still paying for daycare in the first half of the financial year, so I expect education costs to fall a little in 2024-25. 

* Moominmama has negative income tax and gets some of her franking credits paid out as cash. This is accounted for here as a reduction in the net income tax category.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Revisiting Inflation vs. Investment Returns

In January, I posted about how much of investment returns were being taken up to cover the effects of inflation. I fitted a quadratic curve to monthly investment income to smooth it out and compared that to the current inflation rate multiplied by our net worth. It didn't look good. How are things looking now that inflation has come down a bit?

On this graph, I have also added fitted saving and an alternative calculation of expected investment returns. To calculate this one, I fitted a linear trend to the monthly percentage rate of return and multiplied that by net worth. It doesn't include any gain in the value of our house, and turns out to be relatively more conservative. On the other hand, the "boiling point" where investment returns exceeded saving was still around 2012.

The picture has improved in the last few months as inflation has declined. Using the more conservative measure of projected investment income we have a surplus above inflation of around AUD 15k per month, which is in the ballpark of our current spending not counting taxes. If inflation stayed low, retirement should be feasible. But there is still huge uncertainty around future inflation, investment returns, and spending, which continues to make me cautious.


Thursday, June 20, 2024

Coinsnacks Issues Negative Report on Defi Technologies

Coinsnacks issues a negative article on Defi Technologies. The stock fell 25-30% in Tuesday trading as a result. The article is very selective. The company has issued statements suggesting that their financial position has improved radically since the end of Q1 in March. We will have to wait till the end of the current quarter to fully understand that. The current rise in stock price is as much about that as the promotional efforts that the company has made to raise its stock price. The company issued a statement claiming that the report may be connected to short sellers, which is pointedly not denied by Coinsnack's report which says they do not own shares in the company... If I understand the Defi's statement, they were approached to sell new shares to an investment bank, which they suspect would be used to cover a short position. But that was back on 10 June, when stock price was lower. So, I am confused. Anyway, in today's trade in Europe and Canada (US market was closed) the price stabilized for now.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Getting a Bit Crazy

Crazy to see an investment up by more in a day than any of my investments have been up in a month before in terms of dollars.... So far it is up about four times this month what any individual investment has done before. Of course, no guarantee that this will hold, so thought I'd post while it lasts. If you are puzzled, then you haven't read my recent posts. Let's see where we're at a the end of the month.

No, it's not bitcoin, which has been doing nothing. Still I saw this really nice chart of bitcoin's price path to date:


The x-axis is log days since the inception of Bitcoin, while the y-axis is the log price. With this transformation, bitcoin has followed a linear path. Yes, the growth rate has slowed over time, but now we see that it hasn't been an arbitrary rate of slowing. This is called the Bitcoin Power Law Theory. Of course, this is based on econophysics and might not continue to hold in the future.

P.S.

After being up 25% in European trade we closed up "only" 6% in North American trade.

Monday, June 10, 2024

L1 Long-Short Fund

The L1 Long-Short Fund (LSF.AX) is a closed end hedge fund listed on the ASX. It has had a very strong performance, beating the ASX 200 by threefold since its inception in 2014. But is it worth investing in now. The fund trades at a premium of about 9% to net asset value, as we might expect from a fund that has historically outperformed the market. So, that is a negative but not too large a premium. I plotted the fund's total return iondex (NAV not market price) against the ASX 200. The pattern looked familiar. It was a lot like that of Regal Funds' RF1.AX listed fund:

I set all three total return indices to 1000 in May 2019 when Regal Investments debuted on the ASX. What are the performance statistics of the two funds relative to the ASX? Since mid-2019, LSF had a beta of 1.066 and RF1, 0.80. The monthly alpha of the two funds have been 1.05% and 1.07%. RF1's alpha is a little more precisely estimated. The betas of the two funds using market price instead of NAV are much higher. RF1 has been around 1.3.

At this stage I am not that inclined to invest in LSF given I am invested in RF1, but I might add it in the future.


Sunday, June 09, 2024

Regal Partners Thesis

Regal Partners (RPL.AX) – the listed management company of Regal Funds – has increased rapidly in price recently:


I have doubled the size of my holding from 10k to 20k shares. I think both the Merricks acquisition and the private placement by the Pershing Square management company at a high valuation have been positives that have helped push the price higher. I am now back in profit on this investment. The IRR has hit 7.7%, which is pretty decent all things considered. The chart looks bullish for now, especially given the large volume associated with the green candles.

In other news, Defi Technologies (DEFI.NE) briefly hit double my initial entry point on Friday at CAD 1.88 before pulling back to close at 1.76. My average price is higher than CAD 0.94 due to subsequent additional purchases, including another 5,000 shares on Friday. I now have 70k shares.

Relative Wealth

Take all the bitcoin in the world and divide by the number of people - how much is an equal share? About 0.0025. Similarly, an equal share of the world's mined gold is about 0.8 ounces. Our family of four people has about 400 times its equal share of bitcoin and 50 times its equal share of gold currently. The dollar value of our gold holding is about 1.5 times our bitcoin holding.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Cambria Funds Launches a New Managed Futures ETF: How Will it Perform?

Cambria Funds have launched a new managed futures ETF – MFUT – managed by Chesapeake - Jerry Parker's (one of the turtle traders) firm. I compared the historic performance of the Chesapeake Diversified Plus managed futures program to the Winton Global Alpha Fund since 1996:


Clearly, Winton has outperformed Chesapeake and with substantially less volatility. The average return of Chesapeake has been 11.6% p.a., while Winton achieved 15.0%. Chesapeake's information ratio (Sharpe ratio with a zero percent hurdle) was only 0.44, while Winton's was 0.96.

It seems that Chesapeake's volatility decreased after about 2012. So let's focus on the period since then. Since the beginning of 2012 Chesapeake has outperformed Winton with an average annual return of 8.8% vs. 7.3%. However, Winton was still less volatile with an information ratio of 0.77 vs. Chesapeake's 0.52.

The full period, the correlation between the monthly returns of the two funds was only 0.44. Since 2012 it was 0.54. So, there it would seem there is a potential diversification case for investing in both funds. However the information ratio of an equal weight combination of the two funds is lower than that of Winton alone. This is true for both the full period and the post 2011 period. So, based on this, I won't be investing in MFUT.

Friday, June 07, 2024

Defi Technologies Announces a Stock Buyback

The news is pushing the price up strongly again today, though they won't start buying till next week.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

May 2024 Report

In May, the Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.6494 to USD 0.6650 so US Dollar returns are much stronger than Australian Dollar returns this month. Stock indices and other benchmarks performed as follows (total returns including dividends):

US Dollar Indices

MSCI World Index (gross): 4.12%

S&P 500: 4.96%

HFRI Hedge Fund Index: 1.87% (forecast)

Australian Dollar Indices

ASX 200: 0.75%

Target Portfolio: 0.56% (forecast)

Australian 60/40 benchmark: 0.36%. 

We gained 1.22% in Australian Dollar terms or 3.62% in US Dollar terms. So, we beat all the Australian Dollar benchmarks and the HFRI index but not the MSCI or S&P 500 indices.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class:

The asset class returns are in currency neutral returns as the rate of return on gross assets and so are larger than the Australian Dollar returns on net assets mentioned above. Returns for most asset classes were positive. Futures had the highest rate of return and made the largest contribution to returns while gold had the lowest return and private equity detracted the most from returns.

Things that worked well this month:

  • The top 3 investments this month were: Bitcoin (AUD 49k), Pershing Square Holdings (PSH.L, 13k), and Tribeca Global Resources (TGF.AX, 9k).

What really didn't work: 

  • Nothing was particularly bad this month.

Here are the investment performance statistics for the last five years:

The top three lines give our performance in USD and AUD terms, while the last three lines give results for three indices. Compared to the ASX200 we have a lower average return but also lower volatility, resulting in a higher Sharpe ratio of 0.92 vs. 0.64. But as we optimize for Australian Dollar performance, our USD statistics are much worse and worse than either the MSCI world index or the HFRI hedge fund index. We do beat the HFRI in terms of return, but at the expense of much higher volatility. We have a positive alpha relative to the ASX200 of 3.61% with a beta of only 0.45.

We are fairly close to our target allocation. We are most underweight private equity and Australian large cap stocks and overweight real assets and hedge funds. Our actual allocation currently looks like this:

About 70% of our portfolio is in what are often considered to be alternative assets: real estate, art, hedge funds, private equity, gold, and futures. A lot of these are listed investments or investments with daily, monthly, or quarterly liquidity, so our portfolio is not as illiquid as you might think.

We receive employer contributions to superannuation every two weeks. We are now contributing USD 10k each quarter to Unpopular Ventures Rolling Fund and less frequently there will be capital calls from Aura Venture Fund II. This was a bit quieter month than April. We made the following additional moves this month:

  • I sold all 1,000 shares of PBDC and all 350 shares of the Bendigo Bank hybrid security. I expected to keep these longer, but new opportunities came up. Made AUD 356 on the Bendigo trade or about 1% in a month and USD 725 or about 2% on PBDC so it was better than holding cash.
  • I bought 65k shares of Defi Technologies (DEFI.CA). I ended up buying 35k on the Canadian CBOE exchange and 30k on the US OTC market, as there was a public holiday in Canada. Brokerage is lower for buying in Canada.
  • I bought another 5k shares of Platinum Capital (PMC.AX).
  • I bought 3k shares of Regal Partners (RPL.AX).
  • I bought another 100 shares of FBTC and six bitcoin futures trades, all of which made money (total of USD 1,645).
  • I invested USD 7.5k in three new investments syndicated by Unpopular Ventures. This may seem like very small investments but I have now invested USD 32.5k in their syndicated investments. I am treating this like gradually buying into a fund that holds these different investments. These are in addition to our rolling fund investments. It's just random chance that three investments that met my criteria were offered in a single month. My last syndicated investment was in September 2023.

Sold 500 Shares of 3i

I sold another 500 shares of UK private equity firm 3i. At the peak I had 5,000 shares and a net investment of around £41k. Now I have 3,500 shares and a net investment of £2k. So, I have taken out almost all my original investments. The holding is worth £103k, which, therefore, is almost all profit. The firm has a very oversize position in Action, a chain of European discount stores and so I am reducing my exposure to this single firm risk. Of course, I also have ideas about what to do with the money instead...

3i has been an excellent investment to date, so I plan on holding the remaining shares till something fundamental changes. The IRR has been 21.8% and has been a 23-bagger. I haven't multiplied my investment 23 times though, as for the longest period I had only 600 shares. My original investment in 2008 was a purchase of 200 shares and at the low point I had only 100 shares. I reached 5,000 shares only in 2022. Still it is the highest notional multiple on any of my investments ever. The second best of those I currently hold is Platinum Capital at about 10x.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Regal Partners Acquires Merricks Capital

Regal Partners announced that it is acquiring Merricks Capital, a private credit manager. The performance of their main fund is quite remarkable:

The rate of return is high and there was only one down month. It reminds me of Bernie Madoff's fund. I am not saying there is anything wrong here, but this kind of performance shouldn't be possible according to efficient market theory! The fund is way outside the envelope of the other assets on this risk-reward graph:


We are investors in Regal Partners (13k shares).


Pershing Square Sells Stake in Management Company

Pershing Square has sold a 10% stake in its management company for USD 1.05 billion. Last year, Pershing Square Holdings, its listed hedge fund that makes up most of its assets under management (we have 5k shares in it), made around USD 400 million in management and performance fees. Even if we assume that most compensation of employees is through dividends and share appreciation rather than salaries, that makes the P/E of the management company around 25, which is very high for an asset management company, especially one depending on variable performance fees. Regal Partners - an Australian listed hedge fund manager that I am invested in (13k shares) - has a forward P/E of about 15. Rather, Pershing Square's high P/E is predicated on raising a new USD 25 billion listed fund in the US. At 2%, this would produce management fees of USD 500 million per year! The fees of the existing Pershing Square fund listed in London will be reduced by part of the management fees on the new fund, so the $500 million isn't purely accretive. Previously Ackman said that they planned to raise USD 10 billion for the new fund.

Defi Technologies Announces More Trading Profits in May

Defi Technologies put out a press release announcing another USD 40 million in trading profits in May. If this is sustainable, the company would be worth billions. On the other hand, it makes me worry that it is another FTX - the crypto exchange that blew up. We will just have to wait and see if it can also generate losses. So, I am going to be very conservative on position sizing for now. I have 65,000 shares.

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Alternative Way to Value Our House

 

Based on recent sales at our development of 96 "townhouses" and the neighboring development built by the same developer, I estimate the value of our house at AUD 1.246 million. Now I've come up with an alternative way to value it. We recently had the annual meeting of the body corporate (condo association), which included details of the complex's insurance policy. The buildings are insured for AUD 71.1 million. According to the local government, the unimproved value of the land is AUD 17.2 million. You can get this data from the AllHomes website as shown in the image above. Our share of body corporate fees is 1.32% as this varies by property value. So, the value of our house based on these three numbers is AUD 1.165 million. Our share of the land value is only AUD 227k, which seems very low for a 400 square metre block in this area. As you can see a standalone house block in the top right of the map is valued at AUD 699k. On the other hand, our share of the structure value is AUD 938k, which seems high to me.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

SMSF Portfolio Allocation

As there has been a lot of recent change in the SMSF portfolio allocation, I thought I would have a detailed look at it. The last time I updated this spreadsheet was in August 2022, when the portfolio was quite different.

We also are long two Australian Dollar futures contracts. The asset classes are where each investment is classified for my reporting based on asset classes. PBDC is equity of private credit lenders, Defi Technologies is a crypto asset manager, and bitcoin isn't mostly actually futures. So, their designated asset classes are a bit to a lot misleading. Regal is actually only about 50% hedge funds now, with real assets (water and royalties), private credit, and venture capital in the mix. In my reporting on asset classes I break it down along these lines.

So there is about 30% managed futures exposure, 21% crypto exposure, about 17% private equity, 16% property, 15% hedge fund with some real assets thrown in, and 1% cash.

There wouldn't be much point in having an SMSF if the portfolio looked like a typical industry fund 😊. 

We pay only 0.26% per year in admin fees to SuperGuardian.


Saturday, May 25, 2024

Chosing a Fixed vs. Variable Interest Rate Again

I fixed the rate of my CommSec margin loan over the last year. I now have a choice for next year. The variable rate is 9.65% while the fixed rate is 7.79%. For the variable rate to pay off, the Reserve Bank would have to cut its interest rate by more than 1.86% on average over the course of the next year. So, for example, if they don't start cutting interest rates till the middle of the year they would need to cut by 3.75% in total. I can't see that happening and so it makes sense to choose the fixed rate again.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Defi Technologies Seeking Formal US Listing

The company announced that is actively seeking a listing on a US exchange and has hired Liquid Advisors to work on their case. It's currently an OTC or "pink sheets" stock in the US.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Zacks Report on Defi Technologies

Get the report here. Bottom line is: "Unsustainably Low Valuation". They have a valuation target of USD 3 vs. the current price of USD 0.80. This seems quite conservative. Still, I am being very cautious and invested 1.1% of the portfolio.

Apparently, chances of a US Ethereum ETF being approved are growing. But as a result, the price of Ethereum rocketed, which is good news for Defi.

P.S.

Zacks issued another report after the conference call today. They upped their price target to USD 7.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Keith Haring Painting in Exhibition

 I am an investor in the painting on the left. Hopefully no-one will throw soup at it or something!

New Investment: Defi Technologies

Anthony Pompliano recommended Defi Technologies in his daily newsletter, the Pomp Letter. He is heavily invested as his research firm was acquired for shares in DEFI. So, you wouldn't take this tip at face value but he might know what he is talking about. I checked out the company. Basically, they are forecasting around CAD 30 million in profit in 2024, when the market capitalization was about CAD 200 million. So, based on that it seems undervalued. If crypto prices rise, then assets under management and profit rise automatically. They also have a bunch of venture capital investments on their balance sheet. The management team looks good. Main threat is that competing products like a US launch of an ethereum ETF could take investors away from their exchange traded products that trade in Europe. But the SEC is not looking like they will approve this. So, I made a small investment (0.4%) yesterday. Made the mistake of buying shares on the Canadian CBOE exchange where the brokerage fee turned out to be 0.5%!

P.S.

The reason the brokerage turned out so expensive is that it is CAD 0.01 per share with a maximum fee of 0.5%. As I bought 20,000 shares trading at about CAD 0.94 each, I ended up paying 0.5%. For trading in the US it is USD 0.005 per share with a maximum of 1% and minimum of USD 1. So, I would have ended up paying more buying in the US! I'm not used to buying such low priced shares in North America.

Monday, May 06, 2024

SPY vs. Putnam BDC ETF

The Putnam Business Development Company ETF (PBDC) has outperformed the S&P 500 since inception with lower volatility. No guarantee this continues of course, especially as it's probably not statistically significant, but interesting:

The chart shows the share price of SPY divided by the share price of PBDC when both are adjusted for dividends. SPY, declined relative to PBDC over this period.


Saturday, May 04, 2024

April 2024 Report

All good things come to an end. This month was the first down month after a run of five winning months. It was also very busy investment and trading-wise.

In April, the Australian Dollar fell slightly from USD 0.6514 to USD 0.6494. Stock indices and other benchmarks performed as follows (total returns including dividends):

US Dollar Indices

MSCI World Index (gross): -3.26%

S&P 500: -4.08%

HFRI Hedge Fund Index: -0.77% (forecast)

Australian Dollar Indices

ASX 200: -2.93%

Target Portfolio: -2.04% (forecast)

Australian 60/40 benchmark: -2.21%. 

We lost 1.27% in Australian Dollar terms or 1.57% in US Dollar terms. So, we beat all benchmarks apart from the projected HFRI index.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class:

The asset class returns are in currency neutral returns as the rate of return on gross assets and so are smaller than the Australian Dollar returns on net assets mentioned above. Returns were mixed across asset classes. Gold had the highest rate of return and made the largest contribution to returns while futures had the lowest return and detracted the most from returns.

Things that worked well this month:

  • Gold was our star performer despite falling back from its peak. Tribeca Global Resources also gained more than AUD 10k.

What really didn't work: 

  • Bitcoin had its first losing month since August 2023, falling more than 16%. The loss was the biggest monthly loss in AUD terms on any single investment ever. We've clawed back almost 1/4 of it so far this month.

Here are the investment performance statistics for the last five years:

The top three lines give our performance in USD and AUD terms, while the last three lines give results for three indices. Compared to the ASX200 we have a lower average return but also lower volatility, resulting in a higher Sharpe ratio of 0.91 vs. 0.66. But as we optimize for Australian Dollar performance, our USD statistics are much worse and worse than either the MSCI world index or the HFRI hedge fund index. We do beat the HFRI in terms of return, but at the expense of much higher volatility. We have a positive alpha relative to the ASX200 of 3.34% with a beta of only 0.45. 

We are fairly close to our target allocation. We are underweight private equity and RoW stocks and overweight real assets. Our actual allocation currently looks like this:

About 70% of our portfolio is in what are often considered to be alternative assets: real estate, art, hedge funds, private equity, gold, and futures. A lot of these are listed investments or investments with daily, monthly, or quarterly liquidity, so our portfolio is not as illiquid as you might think.

We receive employer contributions to superannuation every two weeks. We are now contributing USD 10k each quarter to Unpopular Ventures Rolling Fund and less frequently there will be capital calls from Aura Venture Fund II. It was very a busy month:

  • The biggest move was to redeem our holdings in the APSEC hedge fund. I have been dis-satisfied with our returns in 2023 and want to shake things up. This is a defensive type of investment that lost 7% in 2023.
  • I also sold Berkshire Hathaway. This investment has been OK, though some people are now bearish on it. Others are bullish. We may come back to it.
  • And we also sold the China Fund. This has not been good. Mostly because China under Xi Jinping has not been good and he's not going anywhere. But CHN bounced right after we sold and is up 10% on our exit price as of 3rd May!
  • I also switched my remaining CREF Social Choice Fund into the TIAA Real Estate Fund. I was still too early.
  • I invested in the Putnam BDC ETF and a Bendigo Bank hybrid security. Both are doing well so far.
  • I bought 25k shares of Platinum Capital. I am expecting the price to converge to NAV after the announcement of a strategic review.
  • I bought 22k more shares of CD3.AX - a listed private equity fund. It is gradually winding down and making large distributions. The fund still trades below NAV. However, each time the fund pays a dividend it seems to move closer to NAV as the price doesn't change but the NAV goes down. So, the potential return in the short-term is high.
  • I bought AUD 30k of the Macquarie Winton Global Alpha Fund. 
  • I bought 1,150 shares of FBTC, a bitcoin ETF.
  • I sold 5k of RF1.AX as it approached NAV.
  • I sold 2k shares of PMGOLD.AX, a gold ETF. This was good, as gold in AUD terms has fallen since then.
  • I did both good and bad trades.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Platinum Capital Announces Strategic Review

Platinum Capital is a closed end international hedge fund listed on the ASX, which I have invested in for a very long time. In the past, I gained by trading when the fund traded above or below net asset value. But since the pandemic started it seems to have been in a permanent slump. Currently, the share price is 25 cents below the NAV. The underlying performance of the fund has also been relatively poor for a long time. Now, Platinum has announced a strategic review that could include converting to an open ended fund. The latter would allow redemption at NAV. I support this idea. I might even buy more of the fund in anticipation.

P.S. 11:35am

The stock has jumped 7 cents on the news, but there is still 17 cents to go to reach the NAV, so I bought 25k shares in the SMSF.

Bitcoin vs. the MSCI Index

 

The chart shows Bitcoin (blue) and the MSCI World Index (red) on two different scales. Major cycles in Bitcoin appear quite closely related to those in the stock market. Formal analysis shows that in recent years, Bitcoin has a beta of about 2 to the market but also a very high alpha and also of course a lot of extra volatility. The relationship of the price of Bitcoin to a 4 year cycle around halvings could just be coincidence. However, the high alpha shows that there is a strong upward trend that is uncorrelated to the stock market. Economic theory would show that the price of Bitcoin is mainly demand driven. The rewards that Bitcoin miners get drive the number of miners rather than mining costs driving the price of Bitcoin. For the price to continue to rise we need to have increasing demand. The recent introduction of ETFs is an example of that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

New Investment: Bendigo Bank Hybrid

Following on from yesterday's post, I did some research on Australian Bank Hybrids. Essentially, a hybrid is a convertible bond. At a certain date it may be converted into shares of the issuer. The ratio is not set up front but is based on the share price at the conversion. In the meantime, you are paid a floating interest rate that is a fixed margin above the market interest rate. As a result, there is little price risk if everything goes well. However, if the issuer gets into financial trouble the value of the bonds can be reduced or in theory go to zero, like any other corporate bond.

I thought about an offering from Judo Bank. The bank is new but is making money and its credit rating was recently upgraded, but Interactive Brokers didn't list it. The next best yield-wise and with a better credit rating was from Bendigo Bank. So I bought 350 shares of BENPI.AX.

New Investment: Putnam BDC Income ETF

I just bought 1,000 shares of the Putnam BDC Income ETF. This is an actively managed ETF that invests in US business development companies. These are basically private credit lenders. The dividend yield is 9.19%, which is high, but lower than many BDCs. I am thinking of this as an enhanced cash investment (though formally I am listing it under US stocks) and so I wanted to avoid the idiosyncratic risks of individual BDCs. I learnt about this investment from Armchair Income. I did think of investing in the KKR BDC, FSK.

This is what I did with much of the cash from selling The China Fund. As it is in our SMSF, only 15% tax applies to the income. I also have Australian Dollar cash in the fund. I didn't want to convert to US Dollars at this low exchange rate and so will research bank hybrids to invest in.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Futures Trading Disaster

I really messed up with bitcoin futures positions and lost a bunch of money. The triangle didn't work out. I really shouldn't trade futures directionally, I think. They give me anxiety that holding stocks does not. It makes no sense but that is the way it is. So then I trade badly. I closed the positions I had, probably at the bottom of the market for a big loss because I couldn't take it any longer. I still have ETF positions. But I feel so much calmer about those. Crazy. I know that I can't handle this sort of trading holding positions overnight but still I do it. You would think I would have learned this, but somehow I am still optimistic that it will work out.


Monday, April 15, 2024

Didi Taihuttu on Youtube

I am following this dude closely on Youtube:

Elliott Wave Triangle in CME Bitcoin Futures

I'm not big on this sort of technical analysis and especially Elliott Wave but it is amazing how the CME Bitcoin Futures just touched the line drawn connecting the previous two recent lows forming a perfect Elliott Wave triangle:


Hopefully, it will hold with the halving this week...

P.S. 16 April

The low at E was overshot during the US trading session, but this often happens in these formations. As the low of C was not exceeded the triangle is till valid if you believe the theory. Downward pressure is coming from both the general "risk-off" mood in the financial markets and prior to previous halvings there was also weakness before the event and then a bull market following. Also, Anthony Pompliano points out that Americans have to pay their taxes by today. So, they may be selling Bitcoin to get the cash for their taxes. But the price of bitcoin apparently does need to be higher than this post-halving for miners to breakeven.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Switched Remainder of CREF Social Choice to TIAA Real Estate

In January, I switched about half my CREF Social Choice (a 60/40 balanced fund) holding in my US 403b account into TIAA Real Estate. It was a bit early, but now I have switched the remainder. Here is a chart of the monthly returns for the TIAA Real Estate Fund and a twelve month moving average:


I had previously switched into Social Choice during 2022 at the previous peak on this chart.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Another Tweak to the Target Asset Allocation

To reflect my changing priorities I am raising the benchmark's futures allocation to 15% and reducing the hedge fund allocation to 15% of gross assets. This means that the allocation to equities (including private equity and hedge funds) is now down to 55% from 60%.

APSEC Update

I invested in the APSEC hedge fund back in 2020 just after they outperformed strongly in the COVID19 crash. They have managed to about match the ASX 200 over time with somewhat lower volatility:

They tend to outperform in bear markets and under-perform in bull markets. Since investing, I have only gotten a 5.9% internal rate of return, which is below average. The median IRR of my current investments is 9%. I would have done better by investing more in the Aspect Diversified Futures Fund instead, which has similar hedging properties, where I have had a 22% IRR. We have 2.47% of net worth in the fund all of it within the SMSF. I submitted a redemption notice for all of our holding today.


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Gold Hits New Australian Dollar High

Gold just overtook Unisuper to become our most profitable (in absolute dollar terms) investment ever.

Chart shows price of gold in Australian Dollars for roughly 1/100 of a ounce. I say roughly, because actually this is the PMGOLD ETF that now has some small management fee. In earlier years they withdrew units from each holder to pay the management fee so it exactly tracked the gold price.


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

... and The China Fund

Also sold out of The China Fund (CHN) at a huge loss for this account (SMSF) though we only lost a little (USD -1.7k) in the long-term as we previously had positions in other accounts that did well. Should have gotten out a long time ago, of course. Internal rate of return to date was -0.75%.

Sold Berkshire Hathaway

I sold my 100 shares of BRK/B. The last earnings report raised questions about the performance of several major Berkshire businesses. My target asset allocation said I could reduce my exposure to US shares and I wanted to do something else with the money. Yeah, I bought more bitcoin. Munger would have been horrified.


Total profit on Berkshire to date was USD 18k and the internal rate of return was 11.09%.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

March 2024 Report

This was a very good month investment-wise. Not all numbers are in, we still might get updates from more illiquid investments. But based on what we have, we had our best investment result ever in terms of absolute Australian Dollars (rather than percentage return) at AUD 228k. It's beginning to feel like 2021 again:


We are approaching having made AUD 3 million in gross returns by investing. In 2020-2021, we had a record-breaking run of 17 positive months ending in December 2021. So far we have only had 5 positive months in a row, but the longest positive run we had in the intervening two years was only two months. So, this feels very different than the last two years.

In March, the Australian Dollar rose slightly from USD 0.6504 to USD 0.6514. Stock indices and other benchmarks performed as follows (total returns including dividends):

US Dollar Indices

MSCI World Index (gross): 3.20%

S&P 500: 3.22%

HFRI Hedge Fund Index: 1.53% (forecast)

Australian Dollar Indices

ASX 200: 3.57%

Target Portfolio: 2.76% (forecast)

Australian 60/40 benchmark: 2.41%. 

We gained 4.44% in Australian Dollar terms or 4.60% in US Dollar terms. So, we beat all benchmarks. Shocking 😀.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class:

The asset class returns are in currency neutral returns as the rate of return on gross assets and so are lower than the Australian Dollar returns on net assets mentioned above. Returns were positive for all asset classes. Gold had the highest rate of return and made the largest contribution to returns followed by futures in terms of contribution and Australian small caps in terms of rate of return.

Things that worked well this month:

  • Seven investments made more than AUD 10k each: Gold (48k), Bitcoin (28k), 3i (III.L, 26k), Regal Funds (RF1.AX, 23k), Pershing Square Holdings (PSH.L, 14k), Unisuper (11k), and CFS Developing Companies (11k).

What really didn't work: 

  • Unpopular Ventures had the worst result (-5k) as one of our investments with them went bust.

Here are the investment performance statistics for the last five years:

The top three lines give our performance in USD and AUD terms, while the last three lines give results for three indices. Compared to the ASX200 we have a lower average return but also lower volatility, resulting in a higher Sharpe ratio of 0.97 vs. 0.72. But as we optimise for Australian Dollar performance, our USD statistics are much worse and worse than either the MSCI world index or the HFRI hedge fund index. Well, we do beat the HFRI in terms of return, but at the expense of much higher volatility. We have a positive alpha relative to the ASX200 of 3.3% with a beta of only 0.45. 

The SMSF continued to outperform both its benchmark funds after under-performing for a few months:

We are fairly close to our target allocation. We are underweight private equity and hedge funds and overweight real assets and futures. Our actual allocation currently looks like this:

About 70% of our portfolio is in what are often considered to be alternative assets: real estate, art, hedge funds, private equity, gold, and futures. A lot of these are listed investments or investments with daily, monthly, or quarterly liquidity, so our portfolio is not as illiquid as you might think.

We receive employer contributions to superannuation every two weeks. We are now contributing USD 10k each quarter to Unpopular Ventures Rolling Fund and less frequently there will be capital calls from Aura Venture Fund II. It was quite a busy month:

  • I sold 1,000 shares of the Perth Mint gold ETF (PMGOLD.AX). This helped fund capital calls from Unpopular Ventures and Aura totalling AUD 40k.
  • I sold 3,000 shares of the WCM Global Quality ETF (WCMQ.AX).
  • I sold 20,000 shares of Cadence Capital (CDM.AX). We no longer hold this in our SMSF, but do hold plenty of shares in other accounts.
  • I sold 5,000 shares of Platinum Capital (PMC.AX).
  • I bought 750 shares of Fidelity's bitcoin ETF (FBTC). This was funded by the sales of stock funds listed above.
  • I also did some successful day-trading of Bitcoin and gold futures. I feel like I am finally getting this trading thing :)
  • I sold 7,794 shares of Regal Funds (RF1.AX).


Monday, April 01, 2024

Trip to Sunshine Coast

As Ramit's Conscious Spending Plan says that we aren't doing enough "guilt-free spending", I booked a trip to Queensland for when the weather will be colder here 😀. Took under 2 hours to decide on location, book an apartment, book flights, and book a car. Pretty efficient I think. Total bill for a family of four: AUD 5,350. I think those are all the additional costs compared to doing similar activities based at home on a staycation. Not sure I am "guilt-free", though! Now we could have picked cheaper options throughout. But we got an apartment on the beachfront with a sea view and a swimming pool, a car that will definitely fit our luggage and extra legroom on the flight (front row) at convenient times. We got the cheapest available price on Jetstar on the way back.

One interesting thing is that I thought about using my Qantas Frequent Flyer points, but my160k points were only worth about AUD 1,000. Apparently, they are worth more for international flights, so I kept them for now. Will probably find I'm not allowed to use them when I next try to book an international flight.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Got HIH Refund

Today I received three cheques in the mail from the Reserve Bank. Here is one:


They are my payout from the collapse of HIH back in 2001. It's about a third of the value of the shares I had bought. I computed the internal rate of return on this investment: -9.44%.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Australian Unity Sells Diversified Property Fund

After a couple of failed attempts at merging the Diversified Property Fund with other funds, Australian Unity has decided to rid itself of managing the fund by selling the management rights to ASA Real Estate Partners. I don't have any objections to this. The previous mergers would have reduced the diversification of the fund and also financially disadvantageous to existing unit holders. This sounds like an experienced team.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Capital Calls

So, as soon as I had increased the cash buffer in our offset account, I got AUD 40k of capital calls, so back to square one again. The capital call from Unpopular Ventures was expected. We have completed our first 2 year subscription period and are renewing for another two years. We need to make quarterly contributions of USD 10k. This is an act of faith that our investments will eventually be as good as their earlier investments. Ten years of fees come out of the investments up front, so we are underwater on our investment so far.

The other call is from Aura Venture Fund II for AUD 25k. These don't come on any schedule. When they need more money they make a call with about two weeks of notice. We have now contributed 55% of the total capital we pledged. There is no choice about this one. It's also losing at the moment.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

The Baseline Matters When Computing Long-run Investment Performance

I am expecting my rate of return over the last 20 years to look bad this year because 2004 was such a good year. In 2004 I gained 42.4% compared to a 13.7% gain for the MSCI World Index (in AUD terms). It was my best year ever in terms of investment performance. The ASX 200 gained 30.3%. You can already see this in this chart:

In 2023 my performance over the last 20 years almost matched the MSCI World Index's performance over the previous 20 years. But this year I am lagging a lot. Why did I do so well in 2004? It was mainly due to leveraging Australian shares. This table shows the AUD gains in 2004 for each investment:


The CFS Geared Share Fund is a levered Australian share fund. It provided the majority of gains. Nowadays I feel that I can't handle that much volatility. The fund is still available. Of these investments I am currently, 20 years later, invested in CFS Developing Companies, Platinum Capital, CREF Social Choice, and TIAA Real Estate.

I started 2004 with a net worth of AUD 170k and ended with AUD 298k.


Tuesday, March 05, 2024

February 2024 Report

In February, the Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6595 to USD 0.6504. Stock indices and benchmarks performed as follows (total returns including dividends):

US Dollar Indices

MSCI World Index (gross): 4.33

S&P 500: 5.34%

HFRI hedge fund index: 1.92% (forecast)

Australian Dollar Indices

ASX 200: 1.03%

Target Portfolio: 3.08% (forecast)

Australian 60/40 benchmark: 1.65%. 

We gained 1.78% in Australian Dollar terms or 0.37% in US Dollar terms. So, we beat the ASX200 and the 60/40 benchmark but underperformed the other four. The main reason we underperformed the target portfolio is because it gained 1.15% from venture capital and buyout whereas we had a negative return from private equity.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class:

The asset class returns are in currency neutral returns as the rate of return on gross assets and so are lower than the Australian Dollar returns on net assets mentioned above. Futures experienced the highest rate of return and made the largest contribution to returns followed by US stocks and ROW stocks. On the other hand,  private equity and real assets had negative returns in February.

Things that worked well this month:

  • Bitcoin (AUD 22k - see below), Pershing Square Holdings (PSH.L 16k), and Winton Global Alpha (11k), and WCM Global Quality (WCMQ.AX, 10k) all had gains of more than AUD 10k.

What really didn't work: 

  • Tribeca Global Resources (TGF.AX) lost AUD 15k.

Here are the investment performance statistics for the last five years:

The top three lines give our performance in USD and AUD terms, while the last three lines give results for three indices. Compared to the ASX200 we have a lower average return but also lower volatility, resulting in a higher Sharpe ratio of 0.90 vs. 0.69. But as we optimise for Australian Dollar performance our USD statistics are much worse and worse than either the MSCI world index or the HFRI hedge fund index. Well, we do beat the HFRI in terms of return, but at the expense of much higher volatility. We have a positive alpha relative to the ASX200 with a beta of only 0.45. 

The SMSF outperformed both its benchmark funds after underperforming for a few months:

 

We are quite close to our target allocation. We are underweight private equity and hedge funds and overweight real assets. Our actual allocation currently looks like this:

About 70% of our portfolio is in what are often considered to be alternative assets: real estate, art, hedge funds, private equity, gold, and futures. A lot of these are listed investments or investments with daily, monthly, or quarterly liquidity, so our portfolio is not as illiquid as you might think.

We receive employer contributions to superannuation every two weeks. We are now contributing USD 10k each quarter to Unpopular Ventures Rolling Fund and less frequently there will be capital calls from Aura Venture Fund II. In contrast to January, it was a busy month:

  • I made a follow-on investment of USD 5,000 in Kyte, who are trying to "disrupt" the car rental business.
  • I sold all our holding of Ruffer Investment Company (RICA.L).
  • Likewise for WAM Leaders (WLE.AX).
  • I sold around 3k shares of Hearts and Minds (HM1.AX).
  • I sold around 5k shares of WCM Global Quality (WCMQ.AX). 
  • I sold around 3k shares of Cadence Capital (CDM.AX).
  • I did a short-term trade in Platinum Capital (PMC.AX) netting only AUD 64...
  • I bought 100k shares of DCL.AX at 1 Australian cent each. Then the stock was suspended again... 
  • I bought 1,000 shares of PMGOLD.AX the gold ETF, which I have already sold by now for a quick trade.
  • I bought 2,250 shares of Fidelity's bitcoin ETF (FBTC). That is about 1.75 bitcoins worth. I have traded bitcoin in the past using futures and CFDs but it is costly with high margin requirements. I don't want the hassle of owning actual cryptocurrency with hacking risks etc. So, the new ETFs are good for me. Oscar Carboni thinks it's going up. The next "halving" is coming. And the ETFs should be a new source of demand. I will include this asset in the "futures" asset class for now, though it is spot bitcoin actually. Bitcoin can serve as both a diversifier and a return booster. A small allocation to Bitcoin raises the Sharpe ratio of the portfolio.