Dividend Yield Analysis of Nifty in 2015 (Since last 16+ Years)

This is the analysis of 3rd and final indicator which I track on a monthly basis in the State of Indian Markets. The previous two posts have analyzed P/E Ratio and P/BV Ratio of Nifty since 1999, i.e. a dataset of more than 16 years.

The data for this and all previous analysis has been sourced from NSE’s official website (link 1 and link 2). Since data prior to 1st January 1999 is not available on the website, the analysis starts from that day itself..

So here is the result of the analysis…

The table above shows that if one is investing in markets where Dividend Yield (DY) > 3.0, returns over the next 3, 5 and 7 year periods have been an eye-popping 55%, 40% and 27% respectively. But if you think that you are smart enough to time the markets and invest only when DY>3.0, then let me tell you that it is really very tough. Markets with DY>3.0 are extremely rare. And to give you an idea about the rarity, here is a fun fact…

The markets have been available at DY>3.0 on only about 28 days since 1999, i.e. in 4000+ trading days!! Now you know how tough it is. And though as everyday investors, it’s almost impossible to wait for such rare occasions, it shows the power of long term, patient investing for those who know when to wait and when to jump in the markets.

On the other side of this return spectrum is DY<1.0, where returns over a period of 3 years drops down to a mere 2.2%

For your information, currently Nifty is trading at Dividend Yield of 1.23%

Below are three graphs to provide details of the exact Returns against the exact dividend yields on a daily basis (though arranged with increasing PB numbers).

The left axis shows the P/B levels (BLUE Line) and the right axis shows the Returns (in %) in the relevant period (Light Red Bars)

All three graphs clearly show that there is an direct correlation between Dividend Yield and returns earned by the investor. Higher the Yield when you invest, higher the expected rate of return going forward.

This completes the analysis of 3 key indicators. A few readers have mailed me and requested to combine these 3 Analysis and make it available online at one location. In few days, I will do a Comprehensive Post covering all three indicators P/E Ratio, P/BV Ratio and Dividend Yields and a few other findings about these 3 indicators.

Hope you found this and previous two analysis useful…


Mailbag: What are DVR Shares which State Bank of India (SBI) is planning to issue soon?

I got this question from one of the readers yesterday. The State Bank of India’s Chairperson recently announced, that they were going to look at issuing shares with differential voting rights (hence the name DVR) to raise funds to meet the Basel-III capital adequacy norms.

Government has also clearly indicated that it won’t continue to fund Public Sector Banks indefinitely. And these banks now need to look after their own needs. I believe that it is easier said than done because any problem, which these banks face will eventually become the problem of the government – reason being that these banks are deeply woven into the fabric of Indian economy, and hence the government cannot have a hands-off approach with them. But nevertheless let’s believe the government for the time being. 🙂 

The government has allowed these banks to raise up to Rs 1.60 lakh crore from markets by diluting government holding to 52% in phases – so as to meet Basel III norms, which come into effect from March 31, 2019. The norms are aimed at improving risk management and governance while raising the banking sector’s ability to absorb financial and economic stress.

So what exactly is this DVR creature?

What are DVRs?

Differential Voting Rights shares or as popularly known as DVRs, are a special category of shares issued by an already listed company to raise funds, with lower dilution of ownership when compared with issuance of normal shares.

Like ordinary shares, DVRs are also listed and traded on stock exchanges.

How are DVRs different from ordinary shares?

A DVR provides fewer voting rights to the shareholder than a normal share. While a normal shareholder generally has one vote per share held, a DVR shareholder needs to hold many more shares to get the right to ‘one’ vote.

One example of an Indian company having DVRs is Tata Motors. A normal shareholder of Tata Motors gets one vote for every share, whereas a holder of DVR shares gets one vote for every 10 shares held.

Companies generally compensate DVR shareholders with a higher dividend. A Tata Motors DVR has 5% extra dividend than normal shareholders as compensation for lower voting rights.

DVR generally trade at a discount to ordinary shares and Tata Motors has seen its DVRs historically quote at more than 30% discount to normal shares. I have written about the dual categories of shares of Tata Motors – Ordinary and DVR earlier too.

Is issuing DVR a common practice? Haven’t seen many in India.

Indian companies have somehow been averse to issuing DVRs. Apart from Tata Motors, very few have gone on to issue DVRs of their own – namely Gujarat NRE Coke, Jain Irrigation, etc. World over its a much more common practice and well known companies like Google, Berkshire Hathaway have dual categories of shares listed on exchanges.

This Stock is up 30,000% – So Why is my Relative Not Selling it?

What would you do..?

…if the stock you purchased is up more than 30,000% from your purchase price?

A common and a sensible reaction would be to sell it immediately & celebrate. If I would have been in your place, even my first reaction would have been the same. And more so if this appreciation had taken place over a very short period of time. 

But this particular one took almost 25 – 30 years.

And the stock I am talking about is Hindustan Unilever (HUL).

One of my relatives called me up last night for a general chit-chat. Since he is into long term investing, or rather passive & lazy kind of investing, we generally end up talking about stocks much more than anything else. And this time was no different.

He told me that since markets had run up so much due to election-induced-euphoria, many in his friend circle were asking him to sell this ‘mega-multibagger’ now. As mentioned above, he was referring to the shares of HUL which were a part of his portfolio. Adjusting for various bonuses, splits and dividend re-investments in last few decades, his average cost per share worked out to be less than Rs 2.

And the stock is currently trading at around Rs 580!

And as mentioned in the title of this post, this amounts to a un-booked paper profit of more than 30,000%

Now the question is, why isn’t he selling his shares? That to after a rise of more than 30,000%!!

In 2013-14, HUL paid/announced a dividend of Rs 13 per share.

So what does this information have to do with the decision to sell (or not) a stock which is already up more than 30,000%?

This means that my relative is earning a monstrous dividend yield of 650% per year, i.e yield-on-cost. Yield-On-Cost is the dividend yield of a stock on its purchase price.

Dividend Stock Wealth
Sometimes, its the only button you need on your Wealth Keyboard

For a stock having an effective purchase price of Rs 2, a dividend of Rs 13 every year means a yield of 650%. And since HUL generally pays dividends which increase with time, it is highly probable that this yield-on-cost will continue increasing in future too.

Now where else can you find an investment, which pays 650% every year?

And that is the reason my relative is not selling his shares. The logic which he gives is an extension of previous statement. If he sells his shares of HUL, it would be impossible for him to find an asset class which would provide him with such phenomenal annual returns.
Returns Assets India
Comparison of Annual Returns by various assets
** HUL in this particular case
And this makes a lot of sense.

Though I call myself to be a long term investor, I still think that it is really, really tough to buy stocks and keep them for more than 25-30 years. Really, I am proud to be a relative of this person. 🙂

You can read my article on the concept of Yield-On-Cost in world famous value investing website Old School Value here.

Is it a good time to buy / accumulate shares of SAIL – Part 1

In one of our previous posts, we mentioned that we avoid highly cyclical stocks. The reason being that we are not good at evaluating cyclical businesses and because these businesses have unpredictable earnings and cashflows. Instead we prefer sticking with known great businesses & simple companies.

But, just a few days back, a highly cyclical business caught our attention. The business was Steel. And the company was Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL).
steel authority of india logo sail
Steel Authority of India Ltd.
We found SAIL available at Rs 68 apiece (March 15, 2013). This seemed a little too cheap at first. We then checked the historical price movements and found that it was indeed available close to its multi year lows [see graph below].

sail - stock prices over the years
SAIL – Trading close to its Multi-Year Lows
Now, a price close to multi-year lows can mean few things: Entire economy is in midst of a once-in-a-generation-recession OR Company has everything going against it OR Company is nearing bankruptcy (or similar financial outcomes). But as far as we could make out, neither is India facing a really big crisis, nor is SAIL nearing bankruptcy.

And the graph below clearly shows that though slow, the sales are increasing. Also, the operating and net profits are falling in last few years. That is a red flag. But considering that entire economy is struggling to gain momentum, a cyclical business like steel is bound to pay the price with declining profits.

sail - Net sales profits trends
Increasing Sales & Decreasing Profits
Once we had it confirmed that SAIL is not about to close down, we decided to check simple parameters like Book Value, Price to Book Value Ratio & Dividend Yields. And what we saw only confirmed our initial thoughts. The stock is trading not only close to its multi-year lows, it is also trading at valuations (P/BV) which have almost never been seen before for this company!!

SAIL - Price to book value
SAIL is available at its lowest P/BV ever!!
We also found that in past, book value per share had almost always acted as a very strong support for the stock price. But same has changed recently. The stock has consistently traded below its book value for last 18-20 months. It may be due to negative sentiments attached to commodities and economy in general, but we are not sure.

SAIL - book value per share trends
Consistently increasing Book Value (2002 – 2013)
We analyzed the stock on another parameter which we love a lot dividends. And once again, we were not surprised. Being a PSU, it has been quite generous with its dividend payouts. As of now it is available at mouth watering 4.2% Dividend Yield. Historically, it has had an average dividend (%) of 28%, which seems sustainable in the long term.

SAIL Dividend History
SAIL is a consistent dividend payer : Presently available with a yield of 4% +
So we come back to our original question?

Is it a good time to buy / accumulate shares of SAIL?

We feel that though a lot of indicators point that it may be a good time to start accumulating this stock, a little further analysis might be needed before deciding to start accumulating this stock. 

We take up the second and last part of our analysis in our next post.

Disclaimer – Created positions recently in SAIL.

Disclaimer – Author had a short stint in steel industry.


Mailbag: Why do you choose such simple criterias for shortlisting stocks?

We received a question in comment section of our last post on selecting 10 stocks to buy in next market crash. The question asked was very simple, but relevant…

“Why do you guys choose such simple filters for shortlisting stocks? There are more comprehensive and well proven methods of doing the same.”
We will first explain a little about these 5 filters and then answer the question –
Filter 1: Management (Atleast Decent)
The last two words of this filter, ‘atleast decent’, make this a completely subjective criteria. We believe that we are average investors. Hence, we are the last ones to receive company / promoter related news, leave alone insider information. Hence, in the event we do come to know that management is not trustworthy (read decent), then it means that there is more negative news which has not even come out in public domain. Isn’t it? Hence, we will prefer to stick with companies with ‘known decent’ promoters / management.
Filter 2: Not Highly Cyclical
Some experts say that one should buy cyclical business at high PEs. It is at these times, when things are about to turn around for better. They may be right. And sometimes, it seems logical on face value of the argument. But we are not sure. Frankly, we haven’t devoted adequate time to analyzing cyclical businesses. And hence, we don’t understand them too well. Also, highly cyclical businesses are highly uncertain. Such companies are at the mercy of the economic cycles. So it’s better that we avoid such companies.
Filter 3: Atleast Average Growth Potential
If the underlying business does not have any growth potential, then how can we expect the stock to move up? We should never forget how Kodak, a great company which did not embrace the advent of digital photography and how it paid the price with its bankruptcy.
Filter 4: God Dividend Record
We just love dividends. That is all we have to say. 🙂 But we have a reason for it. You can read it here.
Filter 5: Are we ready to hold the stock for 10 Years?
Mr Buffett once remarked, “Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.”Being self-claimed long term investors, we ourselves would like to hold stocks of great businesses. We would love to act like owners of companies. And when a great company is going through tough times, the owners don’t sell and runaway. They stick with it. They know that when times will change, the company would be back. And in a much better shape.
So now, we are back to our original question…
Why do we use such simple filters??
The primary reason for using such simple filters is that these have worked for us. It is easier to evaluate stocks on these filters than more complex quantitative ones. Though we do use such quantitative metrics in our case studies of individual stocks, we always prefer to keep things simple. We try to stick with proven businesses. We try to find indicators of overall pessimism in the market, so that we can be a little sure that we are being greedy when others are fearful. We know that by following these filters, we are simply eliminating the possibility of finding those 50 and 100 baggers. We are restricting ourselves to a very small universe of 40 (or max 50) stocks. But we accept this tradeoff. We don’t want to lose money in stock markets by taking very risky bets. We know what we are good at and we will prefer sticking to our strengths. Over time, we will increase our expertise in other areas and may be, would be able to find the next multibagger. As of now, we are happy to lay a strong foundation for our long term portfolio.
We hope this post clarifies the doubt which our reader(s) had. 🙂

A Case Study on Balmer Lawrie & Co., its Book Value, Dividends & how to decide when to buy this stock?

After doing case studies on ONGC and IOC, we chose another company from our Dead Monk’s Portfolio for case-based analysis. But before we get down to details, just have a look at the 2 graphs given below. One shows increase in book value per share during the last 10 years. The second shows increase in dividend per share during the last 10 years.

Book Value Per Share (2000-2013)
Dividends paid per share (2002-2012)
The company in discussion is Balmer Lawrie & Co. It has continuously increased its book value from Rs 101 (2003) to Rs 423 (2013) at a CAGR (what is CAGR?) of 15.4%
It has also increased its dividend per share from Rs 1.80 (2002) to Rs 28 (2012) at a compound annual growth rate of an astonishing 32%. Even if you consider the last 5 years, growth rate has been a market beating 16%.
In India, dividend stocks do not get the respect they deserve. A similar stock in US markets would have definitely found a place in USA’s coveted list of great dividend stocks: S&P Dividend Aristocrats.
But this is India. 🙂 So lets move ahead with our case study…
What does this strangely named Indian company, Balmer Lawrie & Co. do?? We haven’t even heard about it…
Almost 8 out of 10 people involved in stock markets have not heard of this name. People don’t even know about the existence of this company. And even if they do, they don’t understand the rationale behind the name, let alone the heterogeneity among its business verticals. So let us first introduce the company to you.

Balmer Lawrie & Company was started by 2 Scotsmen, Stephan Balmer & Alexander Lawrie in 1867. Yes, the company is 146 years old!! As of today, it is a Public Sector enterprise under the control of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. So here we have a debt-free PSU with turnover of Rs 2100+ crore, which we never knew of. 🙂

The company operates its businesses under 5 heads – Tours &Travels, Industrial packaging, Logistics, Lubricants & Others (engineering products, tea packaging, leather chemicals, etc). You can read more about the company here.
How has Balmer Lawrie increased its book value and how this data can be used to enter this stock?
Stock Price & Book Value Movement (2003-2013)
The red blocks in above graph are book value per share over the last 10 years. As already discussed in earlier graphs too, it has been on a constant uptrend since last 10 years. On the same axis, we plotted the share prices. And it is not very difficult to see that book value has acted as a strong support for the stock price (a similar pattern was found in our analysis for Indian Oil). The stock price has rarely fallen below its book value. And when it has, it has almost always moved up into higher zones.
Can we use Price/Book Value as a parameter to check stock valuations and as a criteria to enter this stock?
Correlation between P/BV & 5 Year Returns
The graph clearly shows that lower the Price/Book Value per share, higher have been the 5 year returns. So you have the answer to the question. 🙂
Assuming Balmer Lawrie maintains its generous dividend payout policy, how can we use Dividend Yield as criteria to enter this stock?

If we see historical averages, the company has maintained an average dividend yield of 3.2%. The yields hit a historic high of mouth-watering 8.2% when markets crashed in March 2009. But it quickly moved back to more ‘normal’ levels of 3% to 4%. (see graph below)
Dividend Yields – Average, Highest, Lowest (2003-2013)
To check whether there exists some correlation between dividend yields and 5 year returns, we plotted a graph between these 2 parameters. And the result is summarized by one statement and graph below –
Correlation between Dividend Yields & 5 Year Returns
Higher the yields, higher the returns. 🙂
As we have warned in all our previous investment case studies too, please do remember…

…that above approach uses just 2 parameters, P/BV & Dividend Yield to decide about when to buy the stock. You as a reader should remember that there is a considerable difference between real life and case study. One should never invest based on just one or two parameters. This case should not be taken as an investment recommendation. Do your own research before investing your hard-earned money.

A Case Study on IOC (Indian Oil) & why its Book Value can be used as a criteria to buy the stock?

Our last case study on ONGC & analysis of 9 year old investment in its IPOhad us exhausted. 🙂 And with 1600+ words, even our readers were exhausted. 🙂 We even received a mail asking us to reduce the size of our future posts!! So we decided to keep this case study a little shorter.

Indian Oil (IOC) is India’s biggest public sector oil refiner. Unlike ONGC, Oil India & Cairn India which are in business of oil exploration and production, IOC is in business of crude oil refining and marketing of petrol, diesel, kerosene, ATF, etc. You can read more about the company here

Though we haven’t included IOC in our Dead Monk’s Portfolio, we do hold it in our personal portfolio for its high dividend yield. It has been consistently paying dividends for last 14 years.

Indian Oil Logo
In this case study, we try to look at the following issues:

  • We look at how IOC has increased its book value per share over the last 14 years. How this data can be used to make decisions about when to enter this stock for long term?
  • What are the rolling 3 & 5 Year returns of the stock and its relation with P/BV ratio?
  • We also look at reasons as to why this approach might fail.

How IOC has increased its book value and how this data can be used to enter this stock?
Indian Oil Book Value
IOC’s Book Value has been a support for its stock price
The red line in above graph is IOC’s book value per share (adjusted). As evident, it has been continuously increasing over the evaluation period (10+ years). It is similar to a series of steps. On the same axis, we plotted the adjusted share price (blue line0.

And it is not difficult to see that in past, book value has acted as a strong resistance for the stock price. Pardon us for borrowing a term (resistance) from the trading community. 🙂 But the trend is actually ‘un’missable. The stock price has rarely fallen below its book value. And when it has, and if an investor went ahead and bought the shares, he has been handsomely rewarded. You may say that in past, we have been against timing the markets. But here we are advocating the same. True. We don’t feel that it is worthwhile to time the market unless and until you have some insider information. But if you are a disciplined investor, who invests regularly, it makes sense to periodically boost your portfolio returns, by buying good stocks when they are available at multiples below historical averages… Isn’t it?

What are the rolling 3 & 5 Year returns of the stock and its relation with P/BV ratio?

To check the relation between returns & P/BV Ratio, we plotted two graphs. One between P/BV & rolling 3 year returns and another between P/BV & rolling 5 year returns.
ioc returns and book value 3 year
3 year Rolling Returns & P/BV per share of IOC

ioc returns and book value 5 year
5 year Rolling Returns & P/BV per share of IOC
On X-Axis, P/BV Ratio has been plotted on an increasing scale. On Y-Axis, returns (CAGR %) have been plotted. And as evident from the graphs, an investment at lower P/BV values (towards left part of x-axis) in IOC’s stock has resulted in higher returns. The scatter in the graph is downward slopping. Simply speaking, if one invests in IOC’s stock at low P/BV multiples, then probability of high capital appreciation is very high.
Why this approach might fail?

A few immediate concerns about this approach are as follows:
  • This approach relies solely on the stated book value of the share. And book values can be inaccurate because they do not always reflect the true networth of a company. This can be attributed to use of different accounting methods for items like depreciation, which can significantly affect the book value.
  • The above book value based approach does not give any weightage to company’s management (appointed by government of India in this case). And though oil prices (in particular petrol) have been deregulated, govt. still has a shadow control over the prices. But in last 2-3 months, things have started looking brighter for oil companies like IOC.
  • Another issue with this approach is that it does not evaluate alternatives available within the sector. For example, there are other refiners like HPCL, BPCL. And BPCL itself has profitable interests in oil exploration business too.

Please remember…

The above approach uses just one parameter (P/BV) to evaluate the stock. You as a reader, should remember that this is just a case study. Real life and case studies are generally out of synch. 🙂 One should never invest based on just one parameter. This case should not be taken as an investment recommendation. Do your own due diligence before deciding about where to invest your hard earned money.

Disclosures: Long term positions in Indian Oil, Cairn India & ONGC. No positions in HPCL, BPCL or OIL.

A 9-Year Case Study of an investment in ONGC & why it is available close to its historically cheapest valuations?

Some time back, we did a post on ONGC’s dividend history. Since, we hold this stock in our long term personal portfolio as well as Dead Monk’s Portfolio, we thought we could (or rather should) give it a deeper study. We were debating on how to go about it, when we came across a great post by Joshua (link) analyzing an investment in Starbuck’s IPO. We really liked the thoroughness with which the investment was analyzed. This prompted us to take a similar approach to evaluate ONGC.

ongc logo
Caution – This is a long and number intensive post.
ONGC’s IPO came sometime in first half of 2004. The price band was initially set as Rs 680 – Rs 750. And retail investors were offered a discount of 5%, i.e., shares were allotted to them at Rs 712.50 (non-adjusted as of today price). Retail category comprised of those who invested less than Rs 50,000. The proceeds of the share sale were going to Government of India and not ONGC.
This ONGC case study looks at following issues:
  • What a Rs 50,000 investment in company’s IPO would have turned into over a 9 year holding period? We look at all aspects including capital appreciation and dividends.
  • We also try simulating results of another approach where we make regular investment in ONGC’s stock over this 9 year period.
  • We also look at how ONGC has increased its book value per share over these years and how it can be used to make decisions about when to enter this stock for long term.
  • We also evaluated why the above approach might fail.
This is the first time we are trying to evaluate a company in this manner and would like to get your feedback and suggestions. Though this post took several hours, we think its result was worth it, atleast for us. J
What a Rs 50,000 investment in company’s IPO would have turned into over a 9 year holding period?
Suppose you had Rs 50,000 to spare in 2004. You decided to invest in ONGC’s IPO as a retail investor. The shares were sold at Rs 712.50 apiece to retail investors. You received a total of 70 shares (rounded for ease) for your investment.
First of all, after these 9 years, your 70 shares would have grown to 421 shares as a result of 2 bonuses (2:1 and 1:1) and a split (from face value of 10 to 5). At a market price of Rs 320 (at time of writing this post), your stocks would be worth Rs 1,34,737. To top it, you already know that ONGC is a generous dividend payer due to government’s mandate. This means that in past 9 years, you would have received 19 dividend payouts totaling a sum of Rs 30,035.
That means that between capital gains and dividends, your Rs 50,000 investment grew to Rs 1,64,772 in nine years.  That is a compound annual growth rate of 14.17%. Compare this with Sensex journey from 5600s to 19500s, i.e. a compound annual growth rate of 14.87%. Not bad for a dull and boring company like ONGC when compared to glamorous Sensex. J

(Edited to add): The Sensex returns would be higher than 14.87% if we also consider the dividends issued by the constituent companies.

investing in ongc ipo
Investment in ONGC IPO: Calculation of returns (including dividends paid in last 9 years)
This also means that in less than nine years, ONGC has returned more than 60% of the initial investment as dividends (that too pretty regularly: 19 times)!! It is here that one can truly understand John D. Rockefeller’s feeling when he said – ‘Do you know the only thing that gives me pleasure? It’s to see my dividends coming in.’
ongc dividend history
Dividends Paid in last 9 years & comparison with initial investment in ONGC’s IPO
Note – John D. Rockefeller was the richest man ever. More than 10 times richer than the current richest man!! You can read about him and his company Standard Oil’s story here.
What a Rs 10,000 investment every quarter (3 months) in ONGC’s stock would have turned into over these 9 years?
This approach is born out of our interest in disciplined investing. Suppose you decide to invest Rs 10,000 every three months in ONGC’s stocks. This can be considered similar to having a regular SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) in mutual funds. This approach would have resulted in you investing Rs 3,50,000 in last 9 years. Result?
First of all, after these 9 years of quarterly investments, you would own about 1656 shares of the company. At, current market price of 320, these shares would have a value of Rs 5,30,077. Apart from that, these shares would have earned a total of Rs 73,828 as dividend income. That is, your total investment of Rs 3,50,000 has turned into Rs 6,03,906.
regular investment in ongc
Quarterly Investment of Rs 10,000 in ONGC during last 9 years: Analysis of  total returns (including dividends)
What has been the trend in Book Value per share for ONGC in last 9 years and how this data can be used to decide when to invest in the stock?
The company has been growing its book value at a decent 13.6% (CAGR) for last 9 years. The great thing about this growth is that it has been uniform, i.e., all yearly increases have remained in the range 11-15%.
book value history ongc
ONGC’s Adjusted Book Value Per Share (2004-2013) – (Note: 2013 book value is estimated)
book value trend ongc
ONGC Book Value Per Share & Annual Growth Rates
The above trend shows that the company has been successful in increasing its book value over the years. You may question this as the book value can be rigged. Also there are much better parameters available for valuing oil exploration businesses But lets just delay that discussion for a while. So, now what we have at our hand is a company (ONGC), operating in a capital intensive business of oil exploration, which has consistently grown its book value in last nine years.
So, now if we consider a very simple ratio: Price To Book Value Per Share (P/BV), can we find some trend which can actually help us in knowing whether it is a good time to invest in ONGC’s stock or not? Let’s first look at the graph below:
ongc book value
Price/Book Value Ratio: Lowest, Highest, Average – An indicator of when to enter the stock
The blue line is a plot of P/BV ratios of ONGC’s stock over the years. As we can see, the lowest which it has ever reached is P/BV=1.62. The highest it ever went was in late 2007 when it hit 4.14. The average in last nine years has remained at 2.51. So, when the stock was trading in the band 1.6-1.7 in late 2012, it was one of the cheapest multiple (P/BV) at which the stock could have been possibly bought!! Nevertheless, government’s deregulation news pimped up the stock and now you can see the abrupt rise in blue line near the end of graph. The stock is headed towards its mean. And this is a historical pattern. Any stock cannot remain far off from its historical averages for long durations. There is always a regression towards the mean. As far as our personal portfolio is concerned, we bought a few ONGCs near Dec 2012, when it was available at one of its cheapest valuations ever. J So is this the right method to decide whether to buy a stock like ONGC or not?
Because there are many other factors which play an important role in deciding whether to purchase a stock or not. We look at a few which are relevant in this context.
Why the above approach should be taken with a pinch of salt? What are the possible loopholes in this approach?
A few immediate ones are as follows:
  • The above approach relies entirely on the stated book value of the share. And book values can be inaccurate because they do not always reflect the true networth of a company. This can be attributed to use of different accounting methods for items like depreciation, which can significantly affect the book value.
  • Oil exploration companies like ONGC offer a unique problem of valuation due to their large value based on oil reserves. There is also a large uncertainty in many of the assumptions, such as value and quality of their reserves. So, unless and until this data is taken into account, a comprehensive analysis of oil stocks cannot be done.
  • Other oil and gas specific metrics includes valuation based on barrel of oil produced per day, etc.
  • The above book value based approach does not give any weightage to the management team (appointed by Govt. of India in this case). Experience is crucial and ONGC has loads of it. But with ageing oilfields and increasing complexity of newer projects like ones taken up by ONGC Videsh (& its Imperial Energy fiasco), this aspect should be given its due importance.
  • Another issue with this approach is that it does not evaluate alternatives available within the sector. For example, there are other explorers like Oil India Limited and Cairn (India), which sometimes offer higher growth potential due to better reserve quality.
  • Its common knowledge that most of ONGC’s oil fields are ageing and in no position to increase their output. Such questions on future growth potential, in wake of lack of new oil finds, can also be attributed to lower P/BV multiple being assigned to this stock in last year and a half.


Last thoughts…

Oil & Gas companies are generally complex to value because of above mentioned limitations. But they offer solid investment vehicles for safety of principle, long term growth and consistent dividend payments. The above approach uses just one parameter P/BV to evaluate the stock. You as a reader, should remember that this is just a case study. Real life is much different from case studies. One should never invest based on just one parameter. This case should not be taken as an investment recommendation. Do your own due diligence before deciding about where to invest your hard earned money.
Disclosure: Long term positions in Cairn India & ONGC.