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.


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.