Company guidance

“The whole thing is nuts” fumed Barry Diller into his desktop camera. The opportunity for the Chairman of Expedia and IAC, owner of digital assets such as Vimeo and Tinder, to fume, came about after CNBC’s Squawk Box went looking for a fiery exclusive on the quarterly brouhaha of company guidance. Diller, who built an illustrious career at the sharp end of the entertainment industry didn’t disappoint. As executive teams breathlessly contort themselves to deliver numbers that beat a number they themselves had previously given to the market, Diller makes the point that C-suite time would perhaps be better spent on actually running the company for the long-term benefit of all stake holders. The “dumbness” and short-term focus of the market, copped further disdain. He is not alone. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, has long been a critical voice, and many others agree. And yet the practice continues. Shaping portfolios in the context of the quarterly circus of meet and beat, often offers a rich seam of opportunity; an opportunity to buy in, when good companies miss for the right reason. The market, one where algorithms smash the Bloomberg headlines, all too often shoots first and asks no questions. The future is uncertain, and forecasting it down to a number is something to do to when rain stops play, but the real value in stock analysis is thinking in broader, and often more esoteric terms, about a company’s future value. Indeed, Diller’s rant came the day before the US Bureau of Labour Statistics announced that for the month of May the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%, from April’s COVID ravaged 14.7%. The print winded economists who had been confidently talking of an unemployment figure closer to 20%. The models were wrong. As they so often are. Whilst comfort can be found in forecasting cold numbers, reality is a bit rougher round the edges. Diller knows it, and the hope is that other companies follow the lead of Expedia and IAC and stop the frothy fandangle of quarterly guidance. Good sense all round.