The Prize

The sticky Enron-like end of the once lauded Wirecard, has prompted a thick line of copy on the dangers of investing in loss making businesses and CEOs with a fondness for black polo neck sweaters, a size or two, too small. Indeed, the red flags are many: glossy future profit forecasts, eye-popping C-suite pay, a supine board, debt and a hot-mobbed crowd of outcasts who wheeze outrage on social media, at every Wall Street upgrade. History repeats. Not so much in the headlines but, perhaps, ever present in investors’ minds, is the holy grail of investment, the nirvana: the ‘ten-bagger‘. Recent work from Baird, the broker, tried to sharpen the pencil on what made a ten bagger by sampling those stocks that had collected the Blue Peter badge since the 2007 peak. Indeed, as with all considered pieces of work, they finished with a list. For those interested, it appears high revenue growth is must. Moreover, sustaining that revenue growth year after year, is critical. So too a dominant market position, with barriers to entry high enough to put the willies up even the most bulled-up Silicon Valley VC. Don’t worry too much about valuation, nor too – it seems – profits. Those issues get ironed out. The truffles are also mostly found in the technology, consumer discretionary and healthcare space. Don’t bother with staples, REITs, materials and utilities: all barren. Whilst the starting point generally involves a spare room and a dream, there have been instances of the big getting bigger. Apple being a case in point. And don’t look at the price chart. Just don’t look at it. If the stock has doubled, there is no reason why it can’t double again. On headline multiples the market may currently look rich in the context of a long list of reasons to fret; but under the hood, the ten-baggers are lurking; maybe in online gaming, maybe elsewhere. Sadly Baird did not make a list of them; those you have to find yourself.