When Growing Companies Disappoint

Sometimes it’s tough being a shareholder in companies that are changing the world.

Uber, a leader in ridesharing services, brought shares of their companies to the public market in May. Excitement was muted as the shares opened below the IPO price of $45 per share. Tesla, known for its revolutionary electric cars and charismatic CEO, has struggled of late. Shares of Tesla have slid 43% this year. No doubt these companies are changing the way we move about the world, but that doesn’t mean that it always works out for their shareholders.

In fact, since 2015 a private investor in Uber would have a compound annual return of about 4%[1].  That is better than the return on T-bills but grossly underperformed both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ, which returned 10% and 18% respectively.

Performance for shares of Tesla has been even more disappointing. Over the last five years, the stock returned a compound annual average -1.8% while the S&P 500 has returned over 10%.

It can last even longer. Commercial airlines opened the skies to the masses, and truckers have gained market share from the railroads. But you would have rather held shares of railroad companies over these new disruptors in transportation[2].

Indeed, Uber has made a lot of the earliest investors very wealthy, and Tesla’s performance was much better in its first five years as a public company.

Investing like this is hard. Most of us love the idea of finding a lottery ticket – something that may triple or quadruple our money. The reality is those are hard to find.

Robotics, 3D printing, and marijuana-legalization are exciting themes. Some may work out. Most will make their way to the historical trash bin with the Palm Pilot and Blackberry.

The saying goes: there’s a difference between a good company and a good stock. Finding good stocks requires identifying what the market has missed. When you buy a company with prospects for high growth, you implicitly are betting the market doesn’t reflect that growth in the stock price. Discerning what you get that the market hasn’t figured out yet is very difficult. That’s partly why 89% of actively managed mutual funds have underperformed their benchmark in the past 15 years[3].

It’s a myth that you can pick big winners to gain financial independence. Betting big and losing can set you back years. The good news is the ability to pick winners and losers doesn’t matter in the long-run. How much you allocate to stocks is more important than which stocks you choose to own.

Please see disclosures

[1] It was incorrectly reported that Beyonce banked $300 million from Uber’s IPO. The Financial Times reported it to be closer to a 4% annualized return.  https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2019/05/16/1557998308000/Did-Beyonce-make--300m-from-Uber-s-IPO-/

[2] Dimson, Marsh, and Stuanton. Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook 2017: Summary Edition.

[3] The other reason is the high costs associated with these funds. https://us.spindices.com/spiva/#/reports