Okay, which of these two charts do you like best?  I’m thinking it’s no contest right?

Methanex vs Shopify

You want the Shopify?  I’m not at all surprised.  But charts like theirs scare me.  Valuations like theirs frustrate me (300X annualized earnings).  The amount of press coverage this admittedly successful upstart is receiving worries me.  The company just reported its 4th Quarter 2019 earnings (from Investor’s Business Daily, Feb. 12, 2020)

Shopify stock vaulted 13.1% to near 557 in morning trades on the stock market today, and touched an all-time high of 593.89 earlier in the session.
Canada-based Shopify (SHOP) said adjusted earnings were 43 cents a share, up 59% from a year earlier. The provider of e-commerce platforms said revenue rose 47% to $505.2

There was no fanfare when Methanex reported it’s fourth quarter.  A notoriously cyclical industrial business, it belongs to that group of companies that hasn’t been in favor since the  boom in resource companies that followed the bursting of the .com bubble.  In 2004 I published my book Resources Rock (co-authored with Pam Clarke) and held a resources conference in Florida for investment advisers – clients of the firm I once led as CEO.

METHANEX TRINIDAD

For the fourth quarter of 2019, Methanex (TSX:MX) (NASDAQ:MEOH) reported net
income attributable to Methanex shareholders of $9 million ($0.12 net income per common share on a diluted basis) compared to a net loss of $10 million ($0.21 net loss per common share on a diluted basis) in the third quarter of 2019.  (From the Company’s press release).

Based on conventional valuation measures, it doesn’t appear to be a cheap stock either (at >90X annualized earnings).  But we cannot use conventional measures when assessing the resource based sector.  We want to buy these stocks when the multiple of earnings is very high (or undefined because your dividing the price by nothing).  When cyclical earnings are high, and the P/E ratio is low – we sell them.

MethanolPricingFeb2020

The disruptions in tanker traffic taking place bode well for commodity prices over the next several months.  Shortages of delivered supply should boost pricing.  So even though (see other posts) I expect the overall market to falter in short order from the current ridiculous levels, there will be some sectors that will do well as the overvalued (tech) sectors plummet.  Consider this quote from by old book Resources Rock):

“A general rule of thumb is that there’s always one resource sector outperforming the overall market.  The trick is to identify it early, participate in the cyclical rebound, and then move along to the next boom – this is the formula for successful investing.”

Why am I convinced this will happen?  Shopify is a great growth story, but investors will be disappointed when retail sales soften over the post-holiday season.  This is a seasonal phenomena that hasn’t been fully discounted.  The below chart of US Retail Sales over time illustrates that sales decline after the shopping season is over (and often during the summer months as well).

Why would I pick Methanex? A byproduct of the corona virus (see other posts) is a surplus of fuel supplied causing energy prices to drop.  Natural gas is the feed stock for methanol production.  So even if methanol prices don’t improve as I expect they will, the profit margin for a producer like Methanex should get better anyway as their costs fall. Besides, the stock has a generous dividend yield of 4.08%.
nat gas futures

So you buy Shopify, and I’ll buy Methanex.




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About the Author

Malvin Spooner is a veteran money manager, former CEO of award-winning investment fund management boutique he founded. He authored A Maverick Investor's Guidebook which blends his experience touring across the heartland in the United States with valuable investing tips and stories. He has been quoted and published for many years in business journals, newspapers and has been featured on many television programs over his career. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, and known across Canada as a part-time musician performing rock ‘n’ roll for charity, Mal is known for his candour and non-traditional (‘maverick’) thinking when discussing financial markets. His previous book published by Insomniac Press — Resources Rock: How to Invest in the Next Global Boom in Natural Resources which he authored with Pamela Clark — predicted the resources boom back in early 2004.

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