Execution strategy: Sell & buy back

In the talk organized by InvestingNote a few weeks ago, we shared several guiding principles when we buy or sell our stocks. Ideally, when we buy into a stock we hope that the moment when we buy into it, the share price immediately rises and stays for a long time, better still, forever. This means that our stock has appreciated and provides us a good margin of safety. The other part of the return is the recurring income that comes in the form of dividends year after year. So basically, we enjoy both the capital appreciation and dividends. This is an ideal situation. It is akin to buying a bungalow that cost $50,000 in the 60s or 70s and the valuation is now at $25million. The recurring income comes in the form of rentals. This is known as the buy-and-hold-strategy, and was famously used by long-term investors like Warren Buffet and John Templeton.

There are, however, situations that are not viable to hold a stock any longer because the underlying fundamentals have eroded with no immediate solution in sight. A good example is the SPH. In the 90s and the start of the new millennium, SPH had been a good stock. It was a near-monopoly in the print business. Hence, it made sense to buy the stock at a reasonably good price and held it long term to take advantage of the dividends that were distributed year after year. But the inauguration of the internet changed the rules of the whole game. Customers now have a choice – either to continue to read the hard printed copy that comes one to two days late or to browse through the internet in search of immediate news. It is so powerful that many newspaper and magazine printers were pushed to the brink of bankruptcies. While we continue to like the stock, we probably have no choice but to change our tact to a sell-and-buy-back-later execution strategy.

By selling into strength and buying back later, it helps us lower of the average cost for the shares. Even if we decide not to buy back the stock any more, we are effectively enjoying a saving that would have otherwise eroded with time. Let me use an actual scenario of a person whom I know very, very, very well. He had 6,000 SPH shares mid-2016.

The share price was dropping very quickly by mid-2016. He was left with 6,000 shares at that time. Feeling that it no longer made sense to hold the shares any longer, he decided to let go of his holding over a period of three months. The proceeds after taking into account of the brokerage and other fees come to about $23,589.61. Hypothetically, if he were to buy back the same quantity of stock yesterday, the amount that he had to pay would be $17,949.73. Deducting further of the loss of dividends of $1,080 which he did not collect as he had sold the shares, he still can make a gain of $4,559.88. This is equivalent to a gain of at least 4 years of dividends without losing out the shareholding instead of losing out one year of dividends originally. In summary, we need to adapt the right buy/sell strategies for our stocks. Buy-and-hold strategy may not always work.



Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.