I don't talk about our positions anymore. Well, scratch that. I do talk about our positions, but only in my monthly letters to investors and during meetings. I've underperformed the markets pretty dramatically over the past 12 months. That's not the reason, however.
We are now at a point in this bull market where real opportunities - I'm talking about those that fit my criteria of 300-400% upside in exchange for 20-30% downside risk - are nonexistent. I'm able to find potential doubles out there on occasion, but nothing that warrants replacing any of the names in our current portfolio that have upside of, at least, 200% long-term with minimal downside. Additionally, the rich valuations and excessive risk that needs to be taken to open up a new position in a company that I invariably will understand to a lesser degree than any in our current portfolio makes the framework for new opportunities that much more thin. In other words, something extraordinary needs to pop up to be worthy enough of investment.
It didn't used to be this way, of course. In years past, new opportunities would pop up nearly every other month. There were plenty of opportunities in the markets for substantial upside that required very little risk to enjoy. Go through the research section of the website to see all of our past investments. Many of them have doubled, if not more. A few of them have completely fizzled, but we were fortunate enough to sell most at a nice profit in years past.
In 2017, I'll be lucky if I write two new reports on small-cap opportunities. I certainly expect to write one, most likely during the second half of the year, once the froth disappears.
That one new opportunity may not be necessary, however. Circle of competence and the benefits that are enjoyed by that circle is severely underestimated by a majority of investors. The fact that there are thousands of investments to choose from makes investors think that they need to be Wall Street's equivalent of a Renaissance Man, with a broad swath of knowledge, ranging in investments of all types. That doesn't work, but for a small contingent of professional investors who typically have large staffs. Being an individual investor who attempts this only confuses the process, leading to excessive risk taking, dilution of process and ultimately, plain equity induced confusion.
In terms of that circle of competence, there are about 20 companies that I have invested in over the past several years that I have a thorough understand of and am completely comfortable with. Going outside of that circle, again, will require a unique opportunity that will, most likely, only come with a substantial decline in the markets.
When I don't talk much about our current positions or bring up new positions, it is because it's where I am in our investment process right now. We are at a point in the game where simple waiting for events to unfold and general recognition of the value in the portfolios is the best path forward.
That simple act of waiting is only made difficult because the movement of the market induces activity that is often times unnecessary. Choosing to fall victim to that inducement will increasingly be detrimental to investors as a long-term time horizon in a differentiated, concentrated portfolio becomes the most necessary tool for outperformance in the years ahead.