Time to Buy the New GM

10/24/2011 9:00 am EST


Paul Goodwin

Emerging Markets Specialist and Analyst, Cabot Wealth Network

This long-term growth story has inexplicably fallen to levels too low to pass up, observes Paul Goodwin of Cabot China & Emerging Markets Report.

Whether you’re a growth or value investor, there are two simple rules to investing, a la Warren Buffett:

  • Rule No. 1: Never lose money.
  • Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No. 1.

But the fact of the matter is that growth investors just aren’t built to be grateful for cautious advice and conservative strategies. Growth investors are willing to take on risk in pursuit of higher returns. It’s their defining characteristic.

In a manner of speaking, growth investors are willing to flip a coin because there’s a 50/50 chance that they’ll win. Value investors, on the other hand, refuse to flip the coin, because there’s a 50/50 chance that they’ll lose.

Value investors work hard to avoid the kind of big dips that just hit Apple (AAPL) following its rare earnings miss on October 18, or the one that just knocked Crocs (CROX) face down in the dirt.

I find the differences between growth and value investors genuinely fascinating. I’m also intrigued by the tendency of both groups to regard members of the opposing camp as deluded idiots.

But the real reason for this commentary is to encourage you to examine your own behavior and to use your insight to make yourself a better investor. If you examine the results that your portfolio has delivered in the past year or so, you might be surprised what you find.

There may be stocks that have traded sideways for a long time, not delivering a dime’s worth of appreciation. And if you are holding stocks like that because you think of yourself as a value investor, you need to examine your thinking.

Similarly, if you have stocks that have slumped to big losses but you have avoided selling them because you’re aggressive and don’t mind sitting with the loss, you’re probably fooling yourself. Stocks with big losses often lose even more, which means you’re throwing good money (whatever the stock is still worth) after bad (what you’ve already lost). A review of your sell disciplines will get you back on the right track.

I’m a firm believer in the old Walt Kelly (anyone else remember Pogo, the best comic strip ever?) saying that, "We have met the enemy and he is us." The time you spend figuring yourself out can be every bit as valuable as trying to figure out the market.

Despite my personal preference for growth stocks, there are times when an investor has to give a nod to reality. In a market like this, great setups for growth stocks are thin on the ground, and some of the old leaders are springing leaks left and right.

So it’s a good time to get in touch with your inner value investor, and that’s what I’m doing with Tata Motors (TTM).

Tata Motors is an Indian car and truck builder that manufactures an astonishing variety of vehicles, from the Tata Nano—the world’s cheapest fully enclosed four-passenger car—to Jaguars and Range Rovers.

The company sold just over 1 million vehicles during its 2010-2011 fiscal year that ended in March. That’s up from 870,000 the previous year.

Second-quarter results extended the company’s string of quarters with double-digit revenue growth to seven, although earnings dipped a tad (down 3%) during the quarter. So this is a growing, solidly profitable company.

There are two killer numbers for TTM. The first is its P/E ratio of 6, which is absurdly low for a profitable manufacturer in a high-potential home market that also has significant overseas opportunities in its Jaguar and Range Rover lines.

The second number is 318, which is the number of institutional investors who are on board with the stock. That number was 214 a year ago, and has increased steadily every quarter since the beginning of 2009.

Tata’s management has shown both its ambition in taking on two international prestige automotive lines and its competence in managing the integration of those brands.

After a drop from $38 in late 2010 to a sloppy triple bottom just below $15 last month, TTM isn’t a growth investor’s poster child. But for those with patience (and who appreciate the stock’s 2.2% forward annual dividend yield), TTM offers a solid opportunity.

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