[AJC: you’ve probably already seen that from the detailed responses that I try and give commenters on my posts on this blog … try me, if you have a question … I just won’t give direct personal advice, because I am not a qualified professional, but I will give general advice if I think it will benefit all of our readers]
… and this unique site provides a great platform (as does Tickerhound, which provides a great Q&A forum on everything from stocks to real-estate).
For those of you who aren’t members of Networth IQ, here is an exerpt of a great question:
I found a business for sale that has generated the following free cash flows since 1998.
1998 – $3,426.0 Mil
1999 – $3,949.0 Mil
2000 – $4,917.0 Mil
2001 – $7,133.0 Mil
2002 – $6,077.0 Mil
2003 – $8,333.0 Mil
2004 – $8,956.0 Mil
2005 – $9,245.0 Mil
2006 – $11,582.0 Mil
2007 – $12,307.0 Mil
The current owners are asking $183.49 Bil, …. I don’t have $183.49 Bil, but they said that they would sell me a smaller portion of the business if I wanted … Should I buy?
I like this question on two levels:
1. It’s a neat reminder that when we buy stocks, we’re not just buying ‘bits of paper’ … we’re buying a small piece of a real, live business!
2. It gives me an opportunity to show you the sorts of questions that I would ask – and the types of information that I would be looking at before buying into this – or any – business.
That is, a business is – or should be – a cash machine … what’s the reason for owning it, if not to get some cash out?
So, in the above example, we should be able to decide if the business is worth $183.49 Billion (not knowing the company in the above excerpt, I am assuming that this number represents the entire current market capitalization of the business) by discounting the cash-flows shown above …
… a quick look at the most recent cash-flow figure shows that it is currently producing $12 Bill. cash per year (probably growing, if history is any guide); that would mean about 15 years to get our money back … yuk.
Now you know why the stock market is generally a fool’s game … I would by far prefer to invest in my own business, or buy a private one at ‘only’ 3 to 5 years free cash-flow (better yet, Net Income), and grow it … then float it myself!
Or, at least sell it to a public company who can immediately ‘claim’ 15 times my Net Profit (hence, give me 7 to 12 times my Net Profit).
But, if we are going to play ‘the stock market’ game, what would we need to know before we can make an informed decision about ‘investing’ in this stock?
Do I believe this company will be around for the next 100 years … do I really want to buy THIS business in THIS industry?
Lastly, if I like the answers to all of the above (unlikely … so far I’ve only liked the answers to similar questions for 7 companies out of the 5,000+ that I can currently buy a ‘piece’ of) …