The quantitative aspect is easier to describe. It, however, is much more complex and detailed and may take months to complete. As a professional, I always thought part of the art of portfolio management was in deciding how much of this I had to do before I bought a stock, how much I could obtain from brokerage house securities analysts, and how much I could leave to fill in after I established a position.
The quantitive plan consists in a projection of future company performance–revenues, operating profits, interest, depreciation, general expenses, taxes…–for each line of business and for the company as a whole, over the next several years. Creating spreadsheets this detailed is an ideal that’s striven for but seldom reached in practice. That’s because companies rarely disclose this much information in their SEC filings.
Lengthy reports, called basic reports, issued by old-fashioned (i.e., “full service”) brokerage houses are the best example of what a quantitative analysis should look like. Signing up for Merrill Edge discount brokerage will get you access to such reports.
The most important thing about them, in my view, is the analytical work, not necessarily the opinion. I think the Merrill analyst covering Tesla, for instance, does extremely good work. All the relevant issues and numbers are clearly laid out. Last I read, he thought that fair value for the stock was around $75 a share. Although he provides very valuable input, and he may ultimately be proven correct, I think he’s way too pessimistic about the stock.
This is the general concept behind an investment. It’s extremely important–more important than the exact numbers, in my view–but it may be as short as an elevator speech. In most cases, the shorter the better.
Examples, many of which are not current:
–Wal-Mart builds superstores on the outskirts of US cities with a population of 250,000 or less. They offer better selection and lower prices than downtown merchants do, so they take huge market share everywhere they open. There are a gazillion such towns left to exploit.
–J C Penney is trading at $25 a share. It owns or controls property that has a value, if rented to third parties, of $50 a share, plus a retail business that is making money. The latte is worth more than zero as-is. Let’s say $5 a share. Taking control of JCP and breaking it up could double our money.
–Adobe is changing from a sales model for its software to a rental one. This will eliminate counterfeiting, which is probably much more extensive than anyone now realizes. We know from other industries that going from buy to rent probably doubles profits, even without considering eliminating theft. No one seems to believe this. Therefore, ADBE’s profit growth over the next two or three years will be surprisingly good.
–Company X is a cement company. It’s currently beaten down by an economic slowdown and is trading at 40% of book value. At the next economic peak, it will likely be trading at 100% of book–which will be 20% higher than it is today. Therefore, the stock should triple in price.