25 Years CSL: What Can We Learn?

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Always an independent thinker, Rudi has not shied away from making big out-of-consensus predictions that proved accurate later on. When Rio Tinto shares surged above $120 he wrote investors should sell. In mid-2008 he warned investors not to hold on to equities in oil producers. In August 2008 he predicted the largest sell-off in commodities stocks was about to follow. In 2009 he suggested Australian banks were an excellent buy. Between 2011 and 2015 Rudi consistently maintained investors were better off avoiding exposure to commodities and to commodities stocks. Post GFC, he dedicated his research to finding All-Weather Performers. See also "All-Weather Performers" on this website, as well as the Special Reports section.

Rudi's View | Oct 24 2019

Dear time-poor reader: what can investors learn from 25 years of CSL on the ASX?

In this week's Weekly Insights:

-25 Years CSL: What Can We Learn?
-WiseTech Global Is A Target Now
-Rudi Talks
-Rudi On Tour

25 Years CSL: What Can We Learn?

By Rudi Filapek-Vandyck, Editor FNArena

This month marks the 25th anniversary of CSL ((CSL)) as a listed company on the ASX. In fitting fashion, shares in Australia's highest quality global success story surged to an all-time high of $253 in October.

Looking back, corrected for share splits, the initial opportunity to add some CSL shares to anyone's portfolio translates to circa 76.7c per share on the first day of public trading. In other words, regardless of what the immediate future holds, the investment return from owning CSL shares over the period has been nothing short of ginormous.

This realisation becomes even more so when one considers the share price graph over the period shows what looks like a steady, gradually rising uptrend unlike, say, Fortescue Metals which also reached a new all-time high in 2019.

That steady, almost un-natural looking performance has made CSL today's third largest component of Australia's leading share market index, the ASX200. Now also consider the fact that Commonwealth Bank shares peaked in May 2015, along with the other banks, and that BHP Group shares in 2014 were trading above $40, and one can only conclude CSL's performance has been even more impressive.

If it hadn't been for index heavyweights such as CSL, Macquarie Group, Transurban and Goodman Group it would have been near impossible for the ASX200 to reach for a new all-time high in 2019. Yet, the sad fact remains most investors don't own shares in CSL, though some may have owned shares at some point throughout those 25 years.

The usual explanations heard are "too expensive" and "cannot get my head around it". This goes both for the self-managing retail crowd as for professional fund managers. The logical observation to make here is that everybody who bought shares in the company, no matter when or at what price, is today sitting on a profit.

This story is not aiming to convert the masses. With the shares trading on FX adjusted, forward looking estimate of circa 37x FY20 earnings per share, it will nearly always be too "expensive" for typical value-seekers, while the implied 1.2% dividend yield is too low for the income hungry.

Maybe, without owning shares in the company, there are some valuable lessons to be learned from CSL for investors of all kinds and various levels of experience?

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For starters, it is easy to declare CSL Top of the Pops, King of all Kings, the Ultimate Performer in the share market when total return has once again exceeded 40%, or about double the index for calendar year 2019 thus far. In the perception of many an investor and/or market commentator, a positive view on a company goes hand in hand with the performance of its shares in the here and now.

While CSL management is highly regarded, as is the business itself, it is good to realise there are other forces at work in the share market that temporarily at least can hold back, or further stimulate share prices higher. In CSL's case, the easiest identifiable external factors at play are the Australian dollar (in particular against USD and Swiss Franc), the level and direction of global bond yields, and market sentiment generally towards the healthcare sector.

In 2019, all three major external factors have ultimately aligned to push CSL shares to a new all-time high. This is not necessarily always the case. When bond yields rise strongly in a short time-span, as they did in late 2016, the CSL share price temporarily faces a formidable headwind.


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