Podcast: The case against offshore investing

In JSE Direct, Latest by Simon Brown


Simon Shares

  • Stor-age (JSE code: SSS) results were totally solid and in a very niche property space that is doing very well. When they listed a few people recommended them to me and I wasn’t convinced. Well I was wrong.
  • Sasol* (JSE code: SOL) was one of the first stocks I ever bought and my longest holding in my ’til death do us part’ portfolio having first bought it around 1994. A few years ago I gave serious thought to exiting, but held on albeit deciding not to add any more to my portfolio. But I have been thinking and digging and frankly it is a change company and looking good. The Lake Charles project has been a mess in terms of cost over runs, but it is now nearing completion and that means two important points. Firstly, no more spend on the development and secondly in a few years the profits will start to flow from the project (even if they’re not as great as promised). So I am starting to buy again, however my usual pricing methodology doesn’t work here for two reasons. Massively cyclical always breaks my method and Lake Charles changes things. So asking around the view seems to be that HEPS of some R60 is possible for 2021 and if we apply the average PE of 9.3 that equals a price of R558, so that’s my fair value and I am happy to buy at the current R488.
  • Help, I’ve lost money!
  • OUTstanding Money: Types of savings
  • Upcoming events;

* I hold ungeared positions.

I don’t own offshore

In the last few weeks a number of people have asked me about what offshore shares I own. The answer is simple, none. I do own a small holding in VOO which I bought in 2002 with some offshore money I earned, but that’s it.

Here’s the thing, I know a lot about the local market and a little about even the smallest shares on the JSE. I have spent literally decades investing and trading on the JSE and hence decades building my knowledge of our market. Further it certainly helps that it is a small market, so it makes life easier and let’s not forget that watching and studying the JSE is in part my job.

But as soon as I step offshore the size and complexity of the market is frankly over whelming. The NYSE has three times more ETFs then the JSE has stocks. Globally there are some 100,000 stocks. How does one select which are the best of the best? This is more than a full time job, this is a full time job for a full sized team.

Chatting to somebody recently they mentioned they wanted to buy Honda. I have no idea if it is a good stock or not. But what of the other US motor companies (Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Tesla, Toyota) and then what of those listed in Europe where there are even more listed? Does Japan have any listed? Suddenly you have to be an expert on dozens of motor stocks to decide if the one you want is the out and out global winner.

Now I know the response. In the above example we don’t have a single motor company we can invest in. Our Tech stocks are frankly wildly boring and disappointing, Naspers (JSE code: NPN) the exception, a lucky exception. Our market is small in more than just number of stocks, it is also small in terms of industries. But we can buy a tech ETF, and yes we can’t buy a motor company ETF. But I am comfortable with that because frankly the risk is I buy the wrong motor company anyway.

Am I being lazy? Maybe. Or maybe I am being realistic abut my abilities and time available to become an expert.

These days I get offshore exposure via dual listed and global companies and locally listed offshore ETFs, keeping it nice and simple.

Another issue with offshore is costs, it is a lot cheaper investing offshore then it has ever been for South Africans. But it is still not cheap and with offshore assets you now also need a second will in the country in which those assets are held. More costs and more complexity.

Here’s a random stat to show how little we know. Google (Alphabet) and Dominos Pizza both listed in 2004. Which has a better return since listing?


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JSEDirect is an independent broadcast and is not endorsed or affiliated with, nor has it been authorised, or otherwise approved by JSE Limited. The views expressed in this programme are solely those of the presenter, and do not necessarily reflect the views of JSE Limited.

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