This week’s “Chart for the Curious” follows up on our CFTC from last week and our piece on Andrei Shleifer’s legendary book on Behavioral Finance. In those pieces, we discussed how investors piled into Gold after the GFC implosion, which ended up being precisely the wrong time to do so.

Will Consensus on Electric Vehicles, Solar and Wind Crush Investors?

How similar is cleantech today to the stock speculation of 1999? Here’s a quote from CNNMoney published on December 31, 1999[1]:

Wall Street finished the 1900s at an all-time peak Friday — capping a century of unprecedented growth punctuated by two market crashes, the longest-running stock rally in history, and the emergence of technology companies as leaders for the 21st century. …

The market captured the imagination and interest of millions of Americans who participated in some form, either by tracking their own stocks online in the comforts of their homes…

Practically anything with a “dot.com” at the end of its name could expect to see its stock price double, triple or quadruple in a few months, profit or no profit. And investors, eager to cash in, joined the party by the thousands, thanks in large measure to discount brokerage firms, mutual funds and online trading accounts.

Wall Street experts … have become household names.

KCR suggests we are in a nearly identical place today. That article was written before the dot.com crash. So once again, we are at record highs punctuated by two market crashes, and retail investors are “all-in” chasing quick profits. The major difference in our view is that instead of anything with “dot.com,” it is “anything to do with cleantech.”

The Wall Street experts of 1999 have been “replaced” by newly minted super-star fund managers and CEOs. Their investment advice advocates for disruptive technology that is often priced to perfection if at all-profitable. Comments fly around in public that sound almost like a guarantee of future results to our conservative ears. For die-hard growth investors in the most speculative environment we can recall, please see our work on GARP investing.

Is Clean Energy the New “Dot.Com”?

1997 to 2000 Run up to Dot Com Peak and Last 3 Years Clean Tech greater than Dot Com Stocks

We believe the analogs between “cleantech” and the “dot.com” stocks are painfully obvious. As we will discuss in our piece next Wednesday, we believe this problem is exacerbated by unsustainable corporate leverage.

Are Green Energy Investments a Good Idea?

Barclays recently released a report ranking the sectors people were most optimistic and pessimistic on. They show investor’s predictions for the best stock market sectors for the “Next 5 years” and “Years 6 and Beyond”.

Investor Expectations for the Stock Market over Next 5 Years and Beyond

Source: Barclays

The common theme here is not hard to spot. Investors are extrapolating recent trends. The winners of the last three years are, apparently, just going to keep winning.

The #1 prediction in the Barclays study for both the “Next 5 Years” and “Years 6 and Beyond” is Sustainable Energy. The Technology and Environmental sectors are accorded similarly sunny outlooks. We would like to note that “Sustainable Energy” is not even a GICS sector. Instead, it is a loose collection of clean energy stocks that often includes some of the most speculative and fundamentally weak firms we have seen since the dot.com bubble.

In our piece Oil Stocks to Buy: A Preference for Profits Over Promises, we showed an exhibit contrasting the fundamentals of two clean energy ETFs (PBW & QCLN) with the S&P Energy ETFs (XLE) holdings. The clean energy ETFs held companies that lost money and diluted owners. But, since November of 2018, they are up 300% and 323%, respectively.

The below exhibit shows the stocks from QCLN that have a market cap over $1bn, trade at over 10x price to sales (P/S), are burning cash (negative FCF/EV), and diluting shareholders (negative Total Yield). We have documented the catastrophic financial performance of firms that trade at over 10x and 20x sales.

Are Green Tech Stocks to Short?

Clean Energy Stocks over 1bn Trading at over 10x P to S Negative FCFs and Diluting Shareholders

KCR believes investors are making the same error they ALWAYS have. With cheerleaders on Wall Street bringing deals at a furious rate, investors are excited about what has recently worked. They have forgotten about things like valuations and fundamentals and are extrapolating long-run future returns based on recent history.

Let’s now take a moment and look at where there is the most negativity in the Barclay’s Survey.

We see the same extrapolation phenomenon in their predictions for the worst sectors. Tobacco, Oil & Gas, Mining, and Retail are forever doomed, apparently. For subscribers to KCR, you know that we have been bullish on Energy and Tobacco over the last year. We are emphasizing smoking, eating, drinking, and old-fashioned energy.

“Invest in stocks that earn money, are reasonably priced, and make products or services you need” is our unofficial motto today. Our research has shown that these are also stocks that fare well if interest rates should rise or supply chain problems metastasize into inflation.

Let’s look at the sector that has been the worst performer over the last 3 years that investors expect to continue to perform horribly: energy.

A recent article from Bloomberg noted that Chevron and Exxon generated almost as much free cash flow in the most recent quarter as they did in all of 2019. Both stocks are still LOWER than they were at the end of 2019. Both companies are also paying it all out, and their capex is 40% lower than it was the last time oil was at $80.

Yet Energy is still LESS than 3% of the S&P Index. That means despite exploding free cash flow, these companies have barely budged since we posted:

  • This chart showing Energy was at an all-time record low weight in the S&P
  • A highlight of Devon Energy’s world-class management, capital discipline, balance sheet, and soaring dividend payments or…
  • Our piece, Oil Stocks to Buy, which demonstrated that energy stocks were tracking to massive earnings expansion even if oil sat at $60

The historical research around the folly of investors’ forecasts leads us to believe today’s predictions will prove very wide of the mark.

As expected, the investment management industry is racing to incorporate ESG issues into specialized products to sate demand from investors. None of us here at KCR take issue with the value that the emphasis on environmental, social, and governance issues can bring to the world. And, as documented in our piece on the IEA’s Net Zero report, we are not adverse to the scientific community’s findings in any way.

Quite the contrary. We have highlighted how sustainable investing can be done profitably. We believe those using ESG factors have completely overlooked what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have accomplished. We documented the stunning success Berkshire Energy has built using wind energy. What Buffett’s utility may lack in the fanfare associated with many ESG funds, it has made up for in creating massive long-term profits via superb corporate governance and cooperation with state and federal regulators.

We believe investors predisposed towards the facts and fundamentals rather than fads have an opportunity to buy blue-chip companies today at reasonable prices. If you are an institution or RIA, please know we would love to hear from you.

What is Clean Technology/Energy Stocks?

Clean technology and the associated stocks are, to generalize, companies that specialize in technologies and processes that are designed to mitigate if not outright help the environment.  Some clean technology seeks to advance the capabilities of things like renewable energy (think solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and others).   Other clean energy strategies seek to work on directly mitigating carbon emissions through capture projects  which are designed to pull the political levers of the world.  These type of initiatives focus on getting government leaders to pay attention to the environmental causes of various clean tech initiatives. 

How to Invest in Green Technology?

As this piece notes, in November of 2021, KCR felt that the majority of clean technology stocks investors were focusing on had become prohibitively expensive, often displayed poor if not outright dysfunctional economics and posed dire risks to investors (again, just our view, seek professional guidance from an FA for personalized investment advice).  

We want to be clear that we are not “anti-climate” and we also do not deny the climate science.  KCR is an investment newsletter that seeks to help highlight anomalies – both good and bad – that are based on data-driven statistical observations.  Clean technology became a veritable bubble in its own right, leading many firms of dubious merit to benefit from inclusion in fad driven ETFs.   As documented in our piece on margin of safety investing, fads are to be avoided at all costs. 

How to Invest in Clean Technology?

One of the most interesting things about clean technology is the government sponsored green energy initiatives underway.  KCR has looked at the economics of government subsidized solar projects for some of our own homes and the economics can be compelling.  In one cash we saw that by adopting solar panels with these subsidies, we would have a 5 year full payback on our outlays and then earn IRRs of around 8%.    That is a non-trivial return on capital in this age of near-zero yields and you can make that money while doing something that is good for the environment.   KCR believes some of the best green investments you can make are simple ones around your home.  

What are the best energy companies to invest in? 

This answer will likely not be to some readers liking.  But KCR has documented the remarkable opportunities in legacy producers of oil and gas companies since the depth of the Covid crash in 2020.  KCR believes that villainizing the producers of oil and natural gas is both counterproductive and may hinder your finances.  At the end of the day, the transition to a green future will require a tremendous amount of oil and natural gas.  That people have shunned these companies has made them, in our view, a unique opportunity.   Even more important, from 2014 – 20202, the industry was poorly run with 100s of companies going bankrupt.    Those brutal experiences have left the remaining energy companies among the most disciplined, profitable and careful in the market today.  

While others ponder “what clean energy stocks to buy?” we encourage readers to look local for ways to make money helping the environment and think with and open mind about traditional oil and gas companies.   

While it is easy to demonize these firms, we have to ask: do you still eat food from the grocery store, use plastic, have a refrigerator etc.?  If so, you are entirely dependent on the products these firms make.  The transition forward, in our view, is best done with the recognition that these energy stocks are part of the solution. 

  1. As a reminder for our Financial Advisors: our models are available on a continuous basis, and most have been in production for over a decade.  If you are looking for simple, concentrated, low turnover, and tax efficient model portfolios we would like to talk with you.  KCR also offers a wide range of easy-to-use but sophisticated tools.  Our toolkits can help identify mispriced stocks with the best and worst risk/reward characteristics, estimate a stock’s duration and warn you when a company is engaging in low-quality accounting. Over the last 12 years, KCR has built and offers time-tested and class-leading products built by experienced and proven money managers for fixed to low prices.
  2. Kailash Capital’s sister company, L2 Asset Management, runs market neutral, long/short, large-cap, and mid-cap long-only portfolios with a value and quality bias.  L2 employs a highly disciplined investment process characterized by moderate concentration, low turnover, high tax efficiency, and low fees. While nobody can predict the future, we believe the recent resurgence in risk-adjusted returns seen across all products is the beginning of what may be a long period where speculation is punished, and prudence and patience rewarded.
The topics discussed in this article are aimed at seasoned professionals, as such, we have included some extra reading for anyone seeking out more information related to the topics above.

Disclaimer

The information, data, analyses, and opinions presented herein (a) do not constitute investment advice, (b) are provided solely for informational purposes and therefore are not, individually or collectively, an offer to buy or sell a security, (c) are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate, and (d) are subject to change without notice. Kailash Capital, LLC and its affiliates (collectively, “Kailash Capital”) shall not be responsible for any trading decisions, damages or other losses resulting from, or related to, the information, data, analyses or opinions or their use. The information herein may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any manner without the prior written consent of Kailash Capital. In preparing the information, data, analyses, and opinions presented herein, Kailash Capital has obtained data, statistics, and information from sources it believes to be reliable. Kailash Capital, however, does not perform an audit or seeks independent verification of any of the data, statistics, and information it receives. Kailash Capital and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. © 2021 Kailash Capital, LLC – All rights reserved.

Nothing herein shall limit or restrict the right of affiliates of Kailash Capital, LLC to perform investment management or advisory services for any other persons or entities. Furthermore, nothing herein shall limit or restrict affiliates of Kailash Capital, LLC from buying, selling or trading securities or other investments for their own accounts or for the accounts of their clients. Affiliates of Kailash Capital, LLC may at any time have, acquire, increase, decrease or dispose of the securities or other investments referenced in this publication. Kailash Capital, LLC shall have no obligation to recommend securities or investments in this publication as result of its affiliates’ investment activities for their own accounts or for the accounts of their clients.

November 12, 2021 |

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