By Chris Berry (@cberry1)
For a PDF copy of this note, please click here.
In reading the Berkshire Hathaway annual letter this weekend, I was reminded of a response Charlie Munger gave to an investor on how he tests the validity of his investment thesis. Munger’s response was, “Invert. Always invert.” The meaning here is to consciously take the other side of your thesis and try and disprove your beliefs/biases.
I’ve spent the past month or so on the road at conferences and meeting with investors to take a temperature check and “invert” our investment philosophy. We’ve also witnessed a huge increase in our subscriber base in recent weeks and so an outline of our view of the world and how we’re positioning is in order and likely overdue.
While the content here may be repetitive for long-time readers, I welcome any (constructive) comments as they can only help refine and strengthen our outlook.
Despite the overwhelming complexity of the global economy, we see a huge struggle against two headwinds. Though we’ve been involved in commodity investment for over a decade, we view the commodity super cycle (2001 – 2011) as definitively over. The end of the super cycle has left the economy with additional supply of commodities now coming on stream just as demand continues to soften.
By Chris Berry (@cberry1)
For a PDF version of this note, please click here.
· The mining sector remains challenged by multiple headwinds including a lack of investment, currency headwinds, slower productivity, excess capacity, and deficient global demand.
· Debt overhangs and slowing emerging markets – specifically China – appear to be the culprits behind slack demand. These forces must be reckoned with.
· Longer-term, however, innovation, sustainability, and urbanization are legitimate drivers of growth and help promulgate “good” deflation which enhances productivity and can drive returns.
· This note examines these phenomena and which sector(s) of the mining industry may benefit.
After three-plus years of a dismal mining investment environment and the potential for it to continue for some time, a number of questions arise from the soul searching many of us have done to try and make sense of this. According to Bloomberg, the value of the TSXV has fallen from its peak by almost 72%. This market environment necessitates a different method of thinking and evaluation about publicly traded mining companies. The good news is that it appears that many metals prices have bottomed, though this doesn’t mean that the cycle has definitively turned. The bad news is that the global economy still appears to be struggling with excess capacity AND muted demand. China, the seemingly endless engine of metals demand is unquestionably altering its paradigm for economic growth from one of infrastructure build out and exports to one more focused on internal consumption. With China’s debt to GDP ratio of 282% according to McKinsey, this move to a new growth model is absolutely necessary to maintain a sustainable growth rate, but there is no overnight fix to achieve this type of change. The success of this transition won’t be known for years, though the effects are already being felt.