Friday, February 24, 2023

The Valuable 'Cocktail-Party Indicator'

By Whitney Tilson (View Archive)

I've learned a lot over my 20-year career on Wall Street...

But perhaps nothing is as valuable as talking about investing with average folks. I call it the "cocktail-party indicator."

Whether it's your trainer at the gym, a neighbor who has never shown any interest in the markets, or the proverbial shoeshine guy... When you hear these folks talking about how much money they've made in cryptocurrencies, 3D printing companies, or the latest hot IPO... run, don't walk, the other way.

I've found, again and again, that when the least knowledgeable investors I know are piling into whatever is hot, it's usually very near the top of a bubble.

Today, I'll give you another example of how you can use the sentiment of average investors to your benefit – instead of riding the bandwagon to disaster...

While the rest of the investment crowd is busy looking for the next way to get rich quick, I strongly suggest taking a different route.

I buy investments that are so hated, you would be embarrassed to say you own them at a cocktail party...

The best example that comes to mind is the only time in my life I bought an oil stock... You guessed it – BP (BP) in 2010, just after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Shares had gotten absolutely clobbered, falling from around $60 in April to a low of $27 in June.

It was an environmental calamity, and a number of people lost their lives in the tragedy, which led CNBC's Jim Cramer to call the stock "unownable." That week, the New York Times wrote...

It seems unthinkable, even now, that the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could bring down the mighty BP. But investment bankers get paid to think the unthinkable – and that is just what they are doing.

The idea that BP might one day file for bankruptcy, particularly as part of a merger that would enable it to cordon off its liabilities from the spill, is starting to percolate on Wall Street.

This kind of fear in the market – bordering on hysteria – was music to my ears...

I had analyzed the fundamentals and was convinced that BP wouldn't have to file for bankruptcy... and that the stock was an incredible opportunity. So on June 9, 2010, I appeared on CNBC's Fast Money.

Of course, BP deserved the anger and blame. But when it came to the company's future, the crowd was just flat-out wrong. Here's what I told viewers that day...

What everybody's missing here is this is truly one of the most profitable businesses on the planet. They have managed to screw everything up. There's really no excuse, as best I can tell, in terms of allowing this disaster to happen. The PR has been horrific ever since. And BP is going to pay billions and billions, maybe even tens of billions of dollars for this debacle.

But what everybody is missing is this company consistently earns well north of $20 billion a year in profits, and keep in mind all the damages are paid for with pre-tax money, so now we're talking close to $30 billion a year. And it's trading at five and a half times earnings, paying a 9% dividend yield...

We fully expect the headlines to be horrible for a good, long time. But the stock is just too cheap.

That day, BP shares closed around $29...

By early August, the stock was trading around $41. Folks who took my advice were up 40% in just two months.

When I looked at BP, I saw a company that no self-respecting investor would admit to owning... And yet, it was a huge, profitable business – the kind that can weather a storm. Not only that, but it was trading far below what it was worth.

Those are odds I like in an investment. And as my years on Wall Street have taught me, it's the kind of setup you should always be searching for in the markets.

Remember – when you find an investment so hated that you'd be embarrassed to talk about it at a cocktail party, you might just be onto something good.

And right now, I've zeroed in on a little-known $2 stock that most people wouldn't want to talk about at a cocktail party...

Here at Empire Financial Research, my team and I have a super bullish long-term view on the energy market... and on one tiny part of it in particular.

Despite extremely powerful macro tailwinds, this stock recently hit a two-year low. But if I'm right, it won't be at these levels for long... In fact, I believe investors who take a small stake today have a legitimate chance at making 1,000% as this story plays out.

We traveled halfway across the country to get to the bottom of this story. In a special presentation, we share all the details of what could end up being the investing story of the next 12 months... Watch it here.

Best regards,

Whitney Tilson
February 24, 2023