Anurag Sharma is the author of Book of Value: The Fine Art of Investing Wisely published in September 2016. Book of value provides both theoretical and philosophical aspects relevant for an investor conducting a business analysis and deciding on whether or not to invest in a certain business.
The core thesis of the book is that fundamental analysis – both quantitative and qualitative – is useful when it comes to investing. Further, the approach of investing should be considered as a problem of choice, not as a mathematical problem. In the author’s view “wise investing” is based on carefully made choices based on sound intelligent analysis of facts and circumstances. Every investor then must learn to make a habit out of making good choices. Something that is easier said than done since undoing oneself from bad habits, even changing good ones, is rather complicated to accomplish in practice. But having a robust framework will at least help you on the way.
Book of Value provides a framework for the reader to use as a basis for developing a way of thinking – about financial markets, business analysis, and investing – and of casting investing as a problem of choice, and then drawing upon a broad range of disciplines to improve the quality of choice. Recasting investing as a problem of choice will require professional judgement from the investor, something that this book attempts to provide a basis for.
We are all prone to systematic biases to some extent which could make our decision-making process easily corrupted. Confirmation bias and loss-aversion are only two examples that could lead to irrationality and in the end, permanent loss of capital. By incorporating these behavioural economical aspects into the framework – even though they are pretty hard to manage many times – we increase the odds of 1) not forgetting them to start with and 2) managing them as best as we can as part of our investment process. Building upon this the author sets out to build a framework for investing based on the principle of negation, i.e., a systematic approach to disconfirmation. The systematic approach to business analysis and investing is essential here.
Walmart is used as a case study throughout the book and the author applies the different concepts for analysis in a coherent way, from valuation to analysis of stability and strength on to qualitative analysis. This will make it possible for the reader to conduct the same analytical process applied to other businesses. By setting up an investment thesis the analysis is then carried out with the aim of negation, that is, to disconfirm the thesis (for example, current market price = value). The first step is the quantitative analysis and to look at market price, valuation, stability of earning power and cash flows and returns, financial strength etc. If the investment thesis still stands and is not refuted from the qualitative analysis, the next step is to move on to the qualitative analysis and looking at the business itself, the industry it’s in, and any trends etc. The question then is whether we are going to be able to refute the investment thesis from the conclusions drawn based upon our qualitative analysis.
The last section of the book provides some discussion and thinking about how to set up a stock portfolio in a proper way. Also, the author reviews Berkshire Hathaway’s stock portfolio in the most recent years and also reviews the IBM investment to see whether this was a reasonable investment at the time it took place and what it looks like at the moment.
This book could have been much longer than it actually is, something that applies to a lot of other books as well. Some parts are a bit thin but the reader most likely gets the basic principles and concepts needed to be able to see the framework as a whole. When reading the book you can highlight any parts that you want to learn more about. For example when reading about what makes a good or great business you might want to consider reading other books on the same subject to deepen your understanding even further (for example in this case you could read Competition Demystified, Competitive Strategy, The Little Book That Builds Wealth, Strategic Logic, just to name a few). The same goes for the part about valuation and how to value a business.
To conclude, the Book of Value is clearly a good book, and definitely a book worth reading. It might even be a great book, but that I leave for you to find out.
Disclosure: Book of Value: The Fine Art of Investing Wisely (Kindle version) was purchased by Hurricane Capital from Amazon at the retail price.