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Customer Review

99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating and unworkable, maybe., June 2, 2013
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This review is from: Shareholder Yield: A Better Approach to Dividend Investing (Kindle Edition)
I'm just an average retail investor, not the sophisticated financial analyst that the author is, so I might have some things wrong here. But, here goes..

The book is a fairly quick read though I did take the time to think about things as I went along and re-read sections to make sure I thought I understood it. The author's main point is that companies return value to shareholders through multiple means: dividends, share buybacks, debt paydown, and investments and aquisitions. He concentrates on the first three, but mentions and then drops the last one. He makes note that due to changes in a 1982 law, more companies are returning value to shareholders by share buybacks, which needs to be taken into account to get a fuller picture. Also, value is returned to shareholders in the paying down of debt, which increases shareholder claims on future earnings. I think I'm getting this right. I found this discussion to be quite illuminating and I started feeling that I really needed to be taking those aspects into account when choosing my purchases. I don't know why he first mentions shareholder returns due to investments and aquisitions and then goes completely silent about those. It left me wondering.

By the end of the book, I was looking forward to trying some of the screens that he suggested in the last chapter. I visited 3 of the, I believe, 4 websites that he said screened for shareholder yield (dividend yield + net buyback yield + net debt paydown yield.) First I went to the Turnkey Analyst website. They have a screener but it is completely opaque and certainly does not screen for Shareholder Yield by itself. Then I went to ValueInvesting.eu. That does have a Shareholder Yield (in name) screener but doesn't include the Net Debt Paydown Yield component. Furthermore it warns about the volatility inherent in the Net Buyback Yield. Hmmm. I then went to YCharts, which for $50 a month, you can play around with what they have. So much for the suggested screeners that I tried.

So I decided to try and evalute my companies based upon the Shareholder Yield concept. The shareholder dividend yield is easy. But how about the Net Buyback Yield? Some years a company might buy back shares, many years they don't. So how can I include the volatile nature of buybacks in my current valuation? Do I use a 10 year average? And what does that mean for what I should do right now? If a company just completed a buyback, do I now sell because I got those returns and I likely won't be getting any more Share Buyback returns for a while? Or do I use that information when evaluating new companies and try to time my purchases to just before a new share buyback starts? Furthermore, take Intel who is currently buying back shares; they borrowed billions to fund the buyback! How is that returning value? Do I limit my investments to only those companies that consistently buy back shares year after year, just like dividends? So I couldn't get this to work so well. Then I looked at debt paydown yield. I could make more sense there, but often companies would take on more debt, sometimes at the same time as they were paying down debt. And often companies take on new debt with no paydown. The author's concept of debt paydown includes the net change in paydown, but it didn't seem to include net increases in debt. If debt paydown is considered returning value to shareholders, shouldn't debt increases be considered taking value from shareholders? After all, a debt increase will *reduce* shareholder claims on future earnings. So it seemed I had to take into account new debt as taking shareholder value, which it didn't seem to me the author takes into account. But often the new debt was used to fund new investments and aquisitions. Now, investments and aquisitions were indeed mentioned, briefly, in the book as a means of returning shareholder value, but it was never incorporated into his final Sharehold yield formula. So I felt I had to extend his concept to take care of that. Well, the more I took all those things into account, the more it looked like his idea of Shareholder Yield ended up just being Free Cash Flow / Market Cap. Is that what this all boils down to? At least THAT would be something I could actually calculate and it does remain more consistent over time.

I'm sure the author would have some input on my comments, perhaps to set things straight. But that's what I got out of it. It certainly served the purpose of making me think more carefully about these things. But, so far, I have found the author's Sharholder Yield concept difficult to use to make better investment choices. In spite of that, I think this is a good book. Well written, an enhanced perspective of shareholder returns, definitly got me thinking and the ideas it contains are worth far more than the purchase price. If you are interested in value investing and are not already well familiar with these ideas, then I recommend you buy it, study it, and do what you can to incorporate the concepts into your own analyses. I'll be reading it again.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 3, 2013 4:51:48 AM PDT
Thank you for a very useful review.

Posted on Jul 19, 2013 7:32:59 AM PDT
ASmith says:
For what it's worth, you can just have Mebane Faber invest the strategy for you by buying the SYLD etf. It is low cost compared to most actively managed mutual funds.

Posted on Jul 22, 2013 5:55:07 PM PDT
BBB says:
excellent comments

Posted on Jul 26, 2013 4:15:49 PM PDT
CFosterKane says:
Thanks for a very informative review - saves me reading the book! Perhaps the intention of the book is to give sophisticated, full-time investor a new metric and to promote SYLD to us average investors?

Posted on Dec 14, 2013 8:13:02 AM PST
Murali R says:
i had the same questions. Brilliant review. My take is a) look at debt paydown ove 10 years; b) re share buy back - I think any share buy back over past 10 years good. Even better is consisten buy back and the best is buy back when you think the share is at discount level. Japanese companies are excellent with this. When share prices rise they are not buying back but when share prices depressed they do (eg CAJ, NJ)

Posted on Feb 25, 2014 7:39:01 AM PST
bc says:
Hi,
I haven't read the book, but in response to your comment about borrowing to buy back stock:
if the cost of the capital/loan to buy back stock is lower than the yield (or ROI or ROA) of the company, than borrowing at 3% to make 6% makes sense to me. But then I don't know all the particulars. Maybe somone could elucidate?

Posted on Jul 6, 2014 6:41:15 PM PDT
Zach T. says:
Thank you for the great review. To be honest, I have tried the "owner's earnings" manually (reading 10-k and 8-Q reports). Free Cash Flow Yield is just as easy and is "good enough". I have had very good luck with dividend paying companies with FCF Yield greater that 10% (especially during market pull backs).
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