I would not blame my readers if they thought that the Alpha Vulture blog had died, like so many other financial blogs before it. But after more than 10 years, it is still alive, if just barely, and with 2022 behind us it is time for the obligatory performance review. Throughout the years I have claimed that I expected my portfolio to do relative well in years of market turmoil, and 2022 is the first year that really proved it in the annual results. While the MSCI All Country World Index lost 12.58% the portfolio gained a respectable 11.63%. In absolute terms, the lowest return since I started this blog, but that is obviously still a really fantastic outcome. Given that I have a lot of readers from the US, it is important to realize that I measure my results in euro’s, and that the depreciating of the euro caused a significant currency conversion tailwind. In euro’s the MSCI ACWI was down “just” 12.58% while it lost 17.96% measured in dollars. I estimate that the currency conversion gains had a similar impact on my own results.
* Return in euro’s after transaction costs, net dividend withholding taxes and other expenses
** Benchmark is the MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index) gross total return index in euro’s
The basket of special situations saved the year for me with a more than 10% point positive contribution. The two biggest contributors inside that basket were Imara Inc and Twitter Inc. The latter is possibly the merger deal with the most media coverage ever, and I doubt there is anything that I can write here that you have not already read somewhere else. I think it was obvious to almost everybody that Elon Musk had a paper-thin legal case to get out of the merger, but the spread was huge because… well… Elon is Elon. If someone could pull a rabbit out of a hat it would probably have been him. Although that image might now be crumbling…
A bit more off the beaten path is the position in Imara. The company is a broken biotech that decided to wind-down operations. When I acquired the stock, it was trading significantly below net cash, pro-forma for a just announced asset sale, and I expected that they would liquidate and return the cash to shareholders. This did not happen, and instead they decided to go for a reverse merger with another biotech company. If I could have chosen in advance what the outcome would have been, I would have gone for the liquidation, but luckily the reverse merger plan was received well by the market, and the stock is now trading higher than the possible liquidation value. Sometimes you also need a bit of luck!
The other stocks in my portfolio performed somewhat mixed. Considering the overall performance of the global stock market, they performed relatively well, but as you can see, there are a couple of big losers and not many big winners. The biggest losers was United Development Funding that saw its share price go down 60%. ECC Capital fared even worse, and went down 88%, while Beximco Pharmaceuticals didn’t do much better with a minus 56%. What these names have in common is an absolute lack of liquidity. Even if I would have been able to foresee what would happen – which I did not – I don’t think I could have done much. With some stocks you can enter, but then just have to let the dice roll and see where you end up, because realistically there isn’t much more you can do after that point.
As a new years resolution I’m planning to increase my blogging frequency going forward. Given the incredible low bar I have set for myself in 2022 I’m confident that this is a new years resolution I can keep… I hope my readers had a good 2022 as well, and I would like to wish everybody a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023!
Author is long most of the stuff in the performance attribution graph