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Published 12 July 2012 05:02, Updated 18 July 2012 05:49
What investments do you like at the moment?
ANZ, Telstra, Wesfarmers, Commonwealth Bank. That’s my big stuff, paying dividends through the lean times to balance off the smaller stocks where I engage with the boards to try to improve the value they offer shareholders. I’m a top 20 shareholder in Treasury Group [a listed owned and manager of boutique funds managers], as well as in Premium Investors [a listed investment company that uses managers from the Treasury Group stable]. It’s trading at a 20-odd per cent discount to net assets and Treasury, too, is trading at less than the sum of all its parts – it got up to $320 million market cap, now it’s about $98 million.
What are you avoiding or selling?
Well I’m not really selling anything, I’m a selective and highly concentrated investor.
What was your single best investment decision?
I was one of the founding directors in Treasury Group. I established Armytage Private, one of their initial boutique funds managers. So my shares associated with that are probably my best single investment. They took the shell of a little industrial company off a secondary board and turned it into one of Australia’s leading incubators of investment managers. I’ve ridden the stock from the lows to the highs, the $15s back to the $2s, I took some profits along the way although some would say I probably didn’t take enough. Fox Symes [a debt consolidator] was another great investment for me.
Now describe your worst decision and what you learnt.
Mosaic Oil. Lesson: Don’t believe drilling reports! Another was a failed mortgage broker and cash box called Coneco, which sold itself out to World Wide Entertainment Group Ltd, a company associated with Bill Farrow of Pyramid Building Society fame. I told the Coneco board not to proceed with what was a convenient reverse takeover and return the cash to shareholders. They thought differently. There was also a smell about loans to WWG which ended up in the company. It eventually went bust.
Who is your investment hero and why?
I’ve been reading about Robert Monks, the doyen of shareholder activists out of the US. He speaks out for the shareholders who don’t speak out for themselves. It’s an approach I respect: it’s not what I can get out of it, but what I can do to assist the transformation of a badly managed company, for all the shareholders who don’t speak up.