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  • 03/07/2016

Paula DiPerna: Of Mice and Management: Unexpected Costs That Eat into Value and Time




Of Mice and Management: Unexpected Costs That Eat into Value and Time


By Paula DiPerna

The “check gas cap” indicator lit up on the dashboard of my car, all of a sudden. I retightened it, and the indicator light went off.  But, then next morning, another warning:  this time it said,” Check engine.”  What was going on?

I had a tight schedule ahead and had not planned my time to include car problems.  I looked in the manual to decode the indicator warnings.  But though the manual proposed many possible causes, it proposed no clear-cut answer, other than, “Check with your service provider.” In other words, the handbook told me what I already knew:  see a mechanic. Cut to the chase.

I was reminded of all the roundabout management meetings we attend where we entertain opinions often from so-called stakeholders who have no directly relevant expertise. Often, after much discussion of possibilities for the sake of inclusiveness, we still have to boil down the proceedings to the universal truths of management: stay with the fundamentals, use common sense, don’t over think a problem, and only take advice from people who know what they are talking about.

… I took my car to the mechanic, whose protocol told him to first run sophisticated computer error message scans to see what was wrong. But he got no clear answer from the many options presented. At last he popped open the hood–and voila! The culprit was clear. Mice. During an especially long period of cold weather, a mouse had set up a cozy nest in my engine, lined with fuzzy blue threads from a fabric I had left on a seat.  And food? The mice had been nibbling at the hoses of the emissions control system, causing minute leaks that triggered the “check engine” messages.

We lose a lot of valuable time in speculation, when in our gut we all know that the best manager is the one with a clear-cut view, based on experience, who has the courage to be definitive.

US$ 200 or so later, I drove away, with new hoses, and the mechanic offered high level advice on how to keep the mice out of the car. According to him, the best answer was hot sauce. He suggested I buy a jar of the spiciest hot sauce I could find, put it in a spray bottle, and coat the new hoses with the spicy mist. “Mice do not like spicy food,” said the mechanic, “No mouse will ever nibble your hoses again,” he predicted.

But before I could buy that sauce, after just a few miles of driving, the warning lights came on again on the dashboard. Back to the garage for more computer scans. Again, no answer. So, again, back to fundamentals. Take a further actual look. This time, the mechanic looked deep into the engine and there, sure enough, more mouse evidence. The nibbling had cut into the neck of the gas tank, and the neck alone could not be replaced. I would have to buy a whole new gas tank. Another US$ 300, making the mice caper a US$ 500 unexpected cost.

All of this is laughable, except the joke was on my checkbook.

Of course, a parable emerges. Our fully computerized autos can flood us with sophisticated sensor devices, but, a simple “Black swan” event, such as a mouse in the engine, can flummox the system.

When I think of value chains and cost overruns, I’m reminded that often we cannot outguess the ordinary.

Engines are nothing more than the physical manifestation of ideas–they have to work in real life. So it is with management. We lose a lot of valuable time in speculation, when in our gut we all know that the best manager is the one with a clear-cut view, based on experience, who has the courage to be definitive without being arbitrary. The best manager is the one who can simplify even the most complex challenge into doable, comprehensible remedies.

Next time I’m tempted to give a complicated answer to a simple question, I’ll remember the mice nest. That nest was costly and reminds me that the most elegant answer is often just a matter of taking a good look at the basics. And the answer may not be, at all, in the manual. My mechanic invented the only answer that worked.  He even did me the extra service of buying that bottle of hot sauce and super coating all the new hoses and the tank.  I drove away with my hot sauce engine, smiling at the idea that now I was counting on a bottle of hot sauce that cost US$ 4 to protect me from another unpredictable US$ 500 down the drain. BM

從印度轉型中獲利

Matthew Fletcher 撰文

說到選股,一切皆關乎對細節的認真探究,這正正是木星資產管理的優勝之處。因此,由文智華(Avinash Vazirani)管理的木星印度精選SICAV基金,自2008年中推出起表現一直跑贏基準指數。 為表彰此方面的卓著表現,基金已獲評為《指標》2016年度基金大獎印度股票「同級最佳」基金。

把握印度的國內增長潛力

選股時,文智華採用由下而上分析法,物色市盈率與市賬率低於市場均值、但往績與預測每股盈利增長高於市場均值的公司;換言之,就是以合理價格買入他看好的公司。他通常先和管理層見面,了解一段時間後才放心投資。「我們追求由人才雄厚的團隊經營,並將股東利益放在心中的好公司。」

文智華指流動性並非他選股的主要投資準則。「我們投資的企業必需擁有可持續收入和現金流。假如您細看我們的投資組合,您會發現各公司一般均擁有強勁的品牌和知識產權,而且入行門檻較高,亦側重於內需消費。基本上,我們瞄準從印度國內增長中獲利的機會。」

基於上述選股原則,對比其指標指數MSCI印度指數,該基金持有較多的消費股及金融股,而商品股的持股量相對較少。

受惠於莫迪的反貪腐運動

他提出五個將帶動印度公司的長遠盈利能力,但目前仍被市場低估的因素,包括:政治穩定性、引入「福利直接轉帳」(DBT)計劃、在全國實施商品及服務稅(GST)、增加高速互聯網的覆蓋率,以及把人民的實體儲蓄轉化成金融儲蓄。去年十一月,總理納倫德拉・莫迪(Narendra Modi)決定廢除大面額現鈔的流通,或稱「廢鈔」,是對印度經濟有重大影響的事件。此項令人震驚的公佈,主要為了遏制恐怖主義發展,杜絕不明來歷的黑錢。由於被剔出法定貨幣的鈔票,包括主要為500 盧比及 1,000 盧比鈔票,佔總流通現鈔量的86%,或約2,200 億元,此舉對「黑市」經濟及官方經濟均構成直接衝擊。

印度經濟中多個依賴現鈔支付的行業均深受打撃。文智華解釋,例如在十一月及十二月初,貨車與陸路運輸公司及其他物流公司的業務忽然剎停,令企業銷售受到全盤影響。但從好的方面來看,印度人機智應變,很多店主於店外設置QR碼,轉用電子形式收款。文智華相信,隨著廢鈔,及越來越多印度人把資金存入銀行並在官方經濟中流轉,增加政府稅收,會有助印度轉型為更數碼化的經濟體。

據不完全統計,廢鈔已在短期內對廣泛經濟造成消極影響。就2017年而言,國際貨幣基金組織(IMF)鑑於廢鈔的影響,已將印度經濟增長預測調低1個百分點至6.6%。然而,廢鈔會如何在短期內逐漸影響到各公司的利潤,仍存在很大的不確定性。文智華指:「我們通常會預視未來六至十二個月的前景,而不明朗因素將於未來三至六個月內浮現。」

對文智華來說,廢鈔對經濟及股票市場極之有利。他指出:「貪污減少、更多人遵從稅法將會帶來長遠裨益,這正正是市場評論員所忽略的。」於印度非正規經濟內營運的公司,是現鈔支付經濟的主要參與者,如今他們將被帶返正規經濟領域內,且須繳立稅款。這將創造公平競爭環境,使這些公司與更有效、更妥善地營運並一直履行課稅責任的上市公司進行競爭,從而令上市公司受益。文智華投資的公司當中,大部份均有信心會從非正規經濟領域內的公司手上,取回更多市場佔有率。

文智華又指,目前斷定廢鈔的長遠贏家與輸家言之尚早。然而,金融服務公司與金融科技公司是兩個很明顯的受益行業,原因是印度人取回投放於黃金及物業的資金,再把資金投放於金融產品,如保險、網上儲蓄戶口和互惠基金,而建築公司會受到負面影響。文智華亦預測,隨著更多資金透過官方金融體系往來,市場利率將降低,公司可享受較低的借貸成本。由於商業客戶償還銀行貸款的能力增加,公營銀行,包括此基金持有的幾隻銀行股,應可從中受惠。

「處於變革期的開端」

印度是2016年表現較佳的新興市場之一,雖然股市不算太好,未有礙此基金跑贏大市。2017年的外圍環境正為印度帶來種種不明朗因素。自唐納・特朗普(Donald Trump)當選美國總統,並決定美國退出《跨太平洋夥伴關係自由貿易協定》起,可能已拉開貿易關係不穩的新時代序幕。美國息率上升的預期,可能有損海外投資者對印度證券的投資意欲。

文智華指出,印度與美國並無訂立自由貿易協定,因此,受特朗普政策影響較微。儘管市場憂慮美國保護主義情緒加劇,可能減少美國人對印度資訊科技服務的需求,美國國內對印度軟件工程師及資訊科技服務仍是求過於供。文智華指:「特朗普是擁有億萬家財的商家,我們應相信美國人的決定,繼續等待及觀望。」他又說,美元息率攀升,已造成海外股票投資者近月更猛力拋售印度股票,但國內流向印度互惠基金的資金增加,抵銷了部份不利影響。

對印度及長遠股市前景更重要的是,莫迪能夠成功推行廢止大面額現鈔,並令已討論了數十年的商品及服務稅,最終能於今年夏季推行。有關稅項將大大簡化印度繁複的稅制,同時令營商更加便利。對於文智華而言,這些是印度自獨立以來最大的制度改進。他說:「莫迪已取得很大的成功,他所作出的改變是如此驚人,你不能低估已推措施的成效。印度現正處於變革期的開端。」他續說:「投資印度多年,我從未如此深信各公司的未來賺錢能力和投資契機。」 BM

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