Small Cap Value Report (27 Apr 2015) - REDD, BRY, SPRP, STAF

Monday, Apr 27 2015 by

Good morning!

Charity challenge

It's been a while since I've done anything for charity, so this one caught my imagination - it's called "Live below the line" - and is a 5-day challenge, starting today, to see if you can live on just £1 per day for all food & drink. The idea is to raise sponsorship for charities helping some of the poorest people in the world.

It's always difficult to choose which charities to support, so I picked 3, and the donations are split 3 ways on my fundraising page, here was my rationale for picking each charity;

  • VSO - has a very good reputation, and the people going abroad to help are volunteers.
  • Syria Relief - the scale of destruction in war-torn Syria is just appalling, and we must help.
  • Action Aid - particularly relevant, as they're fundraising to help the earthquake victims in Nepal.

I've posted a starting video blog, created the other night, and have stocked up on Asda smart price provisions for this week. Breakfast this morning was porridge made with water only (so, gruel basically!) which was OK. I really missed my morning coffee today though, but there was no room in the £1 per day budget for any coffee, tea, or milk.

Anything you can donate (any amount is welcome, however large or small) would be great, and it's fine to wait until the end of the week, if you want to be sure that I've actually completed the challenge. Hopefully I might lose a couple of pounds too, as I am apparently a "pompous, pie-eating, salad-dodging windbag", according to a charming fellow called "Stud-Muffin" on advfn bulletin boards!

Redde (LON:REDD)

Share price: 122.5p
No. shares: 294.1m
Market Cap: £360.3m

Trading update - it's more good news from this legal services, accident management group. The group has undergone a remarkable transformation in the last couple of years, coming back from almost going bust, to being strongly profitable and cash-generative - unlike most other players in this sector. It has also been paying out generous dividends.

As the company has a 30 June year end, today's update covers Q3, which has seen "strong trading volumes ... operating profits exceeding the Board's expectations". Excellent stuff!

Cash collection - "a new record low" for debtor days, down to only 104 days, "and further reductions are expected". Compare this with the chronic inability…

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Redde plc is a holding company. The Company is engaged in providing non-fault accident management assistance and related services, fleet management and legal services. The Company offers a range of motor claims accident management services, including vehicle replacement and repair management together with full claims-handling assistance, as well as legal and other personalized services. The Company manages its own fleet of approximately 7,000 vehicles and has access to over 50,000 vehicles through selected rental partnerships. It also provides specialized large fleet accident and incident management services through the FMG group of companies with over 300,000 fleet vehicles under management. It provides accident management services from operational call center sites in Peterlee, County Durham, Huddersfield and Croydon, as well as solicitors' services through Principia Law Limited from Northwich and NewLaw Legal Limited from Bristol, Cardiff and an associated office in Glasgow. more »

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Brady plc is a United Kingdom-based provider of trading and risk management software to the global commodity and energy markets. The Company combines integrated and complete solutions supporting the commodity trading operation, from capture of financial and physical trading, through risk management, handling of physical operations, to back office financials and treasury settlement for energy, refined, unrefined and scrap metals, soft commodities and agriculture. The Company's business units are Commodities and Energy. Its clients include various financial institutions, trading companies, miners, refiners and producers, scrap processors, tier one banks, various London Metal Exchange (LME) Category 1, 2 clearing members, and other European energy generators, traders and consumers. It offers commodities solutions, energy solutions, credit risk, cloud services, and client services and support. more »

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Fireangel Safety Technology Group plc, formerly Sprue Aegis plc, is engaged in the business of design, sale and marketing of smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and accessories. The Company also operates its own CO sensor manufacturing facility in Canada. The Company is also a provider of home safety products. The Company's principal products include smoke alarms and CO alarms and accessories. Sprue manufactures CO sensors for use in all its CO alarms. Sprue serves in the United Kingdom retail and the United Kingdom's fire and rescue services. The Company offers a range of brands, including FireAngel, AngelEye, Pace Sensors, First Alert, SONA, BRK and Dicon brands. The Company's subsidiaries include Sprue Safety Products Limited, which is engaged in distribution of smoke and CO alarms, and Pace Sensors Limited, which is a manufacturer of CO sensors. more »

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  Is LON:REDD fundamentally strong or weak? Find out More »

30 Comments on this Article show/hide all

Richard Goodwin 27th Apr '15 11 of 30

Re. Staffline (LON:STAF) I presume that A4E was apparently cheap as it's main Work Programme contract is soon up for re-tender. That part of the market may also shrink as unemployment is on the way down. In the short term this is good as payment is based on getting people into jobs. In the medium term it is bad as there are fewer people wo need the Work Programme in order to find a job.

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Beginner 28th Apr '15 12 of 30

In reply to post #97675

Richard is right here. Nothing would be too much to pay for A4E. As well as the fraud convictions, there is the inexorable slow decline of business. I used to pass four A4E offices on my way to work. These are now all closed and empty.

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fred9566 29th Apr '15 13 of 30

Just a note to let you know how much I enjoyed your presentations at the Mello event last week -is 2 profit warnings in a week a record for you !!!! ; I learnt a lot from what you said .I don't know if you attended the presentation from Neil O'Brian at Alkane Energy -fascinating .It probably does not pass some of your balance sheet tests but it seems to be seriously undervalued - share price is 20 p and net assets 30 pps so you have a massive discount but the most interesting thing for me was the deal with Egdon Resources who are into shale gas .In exchange for the mineral rights on their land Alkane received 18% of Egdon Resources .Its seems a bit like buy one get one free to me or two for the price of one with the free one being a punt on shale gas .They have a statement out tomorrow and It would be interesting what you think

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Edward Croft 29th Apr '15 14 of 30

In reply to post #97672

Paul - re Sprue Aegis... it was the top StockRank stock in our very first version of them in April 2013 and I blogged about it in depth here:  Sprue Aegis bid, a win for sound investment methodologies.  It was around 80p back then, and I know there are a lot of subscribers who tripled to quadrupled their money in Sprue since that date. 

The Ranks have fallen steadily since that date as the valuation has grown more expensive and the fundamentals tailed off - here's the chart since October of that year.

The fall yesterday ties in quite closely with the ranks tumbling into the second quartile in recent months.  Am sure the ranks will update with the new results, and maybe Sprue's trend will turn the corner. It's been a great case study of the effectiveness of the StockRanks.

Regarding your comment here: 

As mentioned before, I'm a great believer in the power of man & machine combined (so I use StockRanks to provide me with a shortlist of shares to then manually assess), rather than Ed's preference for relying on the machine only! (which makes sense for people who are too busy to do the research, or who don't enjoy researching, or who are just not very good at it!!)

I take issue with this as I'm a very empirical person.  I want to see the facts that human judgement is better than simple rules-based judgement.  Sadly there is just about zero evidence that human judgement is better than the use of even simple checklists. 

There's a famous "study of studies" by Grove et al called "Clinical versus Mechanical Prediction" that collected 130 different academic studies which had compared simple mechanical rules-based models versus human (expert) judgements.  These studies were across fields as diverse as:

  • business failure
  • wine price prediction, 
  • medical diagnosis
  • criminal recidivism
  • college academic performance
  • magazine advertising sales
  • game outcomes & point spread

etc etc

In 122 of these studies the simple mechanical models won.  In only 8 fields did humans 'win', and in those fields the humans had access to different information to the models.

What was most astonishing was that in every case where the humans had access to the output from the models, the humans still couldn't beat the models - they over-rode the output.Mechanical models appear to set a bar from which humans (in general) detract  performance - NOT the other way around.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the work of research.  And there's just a tiny, eeny, weeny chance that somebody reading these columns is the next Warren Buffett... but he's the exception that proves the rule.   An individual outlier does not prove that experts beat mechanical models. 

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jjis 29th Apr '15 15 of 30

In reply to post #97813

& that's what Joel Greenblatt found when people used his system too as they stripped out the big winners that seemed unpalatable. Like your graphic with Green & Red for top and bottom quartiles. Have you thought of conditional colour coding the various VQM and Stock Ranks   Q1 Green, Q2 Grey, Q3 Amber Q4 Red or similar traffic light colouring you use elsewhere on the site?

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Damian Cannon 29th Apr '15 16 of 30

In reply to post #97813

Hi Ed - I tell you what - I can't wait until we're able to generate these "rank over time" graphs for any stock! IMO they really help to tell the story of where a stock is heading!

Blog: Ambling Randomly
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Paul Scott 29th Apr '15 17 of 30

In reply to post #97813

Hi Ed,

Indeed, StockRanks picked up on Sprue Aegis (LON:SPRP) when it was cheap, as did many Value investors that I know! I bought at 92p originally, but sold too early at c.200p, which was a mistake - but a more than 100% profit was still a good success.

Re empirical evidence - as you said yourself at Peterborough, the Ben Graham/Warren Buffett style of value investing is absolutely empirically proven! Value investing is the one, proven, style of investing that out-performs everything else long term.

Also, there were dozens of self-made millionaires at Mello Peterborough, who all use a value investing approach, so the empirical evidence was sitting in front of, and sideways to you, in the room!

The beauty of value investing is that it's actually very simple. Anyone can do it. But it takes discipline & patience. Personally I aspire to become a better & better value investor, and from my own experiences, it's when I stray from a value approach that I tend to lose money, and when I stick to it in a more disciplined way, that I consistently make money.

By the way, I would say that the Stockopedia "Value" score, is very definitely NOT a value score! Since it seems to ignore the balance sheet, which is a key tenet of value investing.

I think you summed it up best at Peterborough, by saying that an automated system works best for people who don't have the time or inclination to pick stocks, and will work well - the track record of the Stock Ranks is excellent, and it's a very good system in my view. However, the Chinese frauds for example sailed right through it, and have only slipped back now because the share prices have collapsed - so momentum is now negative. Smart value investors knew to avoid them from day 1, and avoided potentially hefty losses.

From my group of investing associates, I have seen more than enough empirical evidence to conclude that a smart & experienced value investor will seriously out-perform the market over many years.

It's gratifying to see many of my favourite stocks with high StockRanks, which is why I like the system, but I can also see obvious flaws in some of them, that the computers can't see. Hence why man & machine combined, is my personal favourite approach.

There are many ways to make money from the market, and good luck to anyone with whatever approach you take. The irrefutable evidence is that value investing works, long term, and always will. Because buying a stock at significantly less than its intrinsic worth, is a virtually guaranteed way to make money long term, as it is in any area of commerce.

Cheers ! Paul.

P.S, Academic studies are great, and the examples you gave from the James Montier book at Peterborough are all interesting & make valid points about behavioural investing, etc, an area that greatly interests me.

However, in practice you will meet very few rich academics, but lots of very rich value investors. There's a reason for that! ;-)

P.P.S. Have I still got a job?!!!  ;-)

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shanklin100 29th Apr '15 18 of 30

Hi Ed

Presumably the value metric and overall StockRank for SPRP will improve dramatically when your data provider gets round to loading the SPRP results.

Regards, Martin

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PhilH 29th Apr '15 19 of 30

Coming from a psychotherapy background, I'm personally tired of "My way is better than your way" I prefer hard evidence that I can look at so that I can make my own informed decision.

So for me the ideal way to provide hard evidence is for Paul to create a fantasy fund on this site so that we can track the performance of it over time. At present readers don't really have a clear view of the success of Paul's personal approach. Personally, I think the SCVR value approach is muddied by speculative purchases, that could confuse novice investors.

All my own opinion of course

Warm regards

Professional Services: Sunflower Counselling
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Paul Scott 29th Apr '15 20 of 30

In reply to post #97831

Hi Phil,

Well I've made a very good living from the markets for the last 13 years, so clearly I must do something right (whilst accepting that I screwed things up with gearing in 2008).

I'm not particularly saying that my approach is always best (clearly it isn't sometimes, since profit warnings happen). What I am saying is that Value investing is totally empirically proven, the richest investors in the world are all value investors, so it's obviously something we should pay a lot of attention to! Hence why we read Warren Buffett avidly, and rightly so.

Ed likes a systematic approach, which is fine, that works for him, and I like the StockRanks system, but I would never blindly follow it into scammy stocks - I would manually edit those out. I might run a StockRank-only portfolio on larger caps, where you don't really have that scamminess individual stock risk.

There are lots of ways to make money from the market, as one friend said to me, "Just do more of what works!"

So as Ed said at Peterborough, everyone just needs to find an approach which suits them personally - their temperament, the amount of time available, etc.

As regards these reports, I'm rummaging through the market for bargains, and I find lots of them - if I didn't, nobody would read these reports! I've also warned readers away from many howlers, so am happy to keep doing what I'm doing.

But the onus is then on readers to construct their own portfolios. And readers can & should ignore my more speculative stock ideas - a point I specifically made at Peterborough!

As always nothing is ever a recommendation, people need to do their own research (or use a system, whatever floats your boat).

What I like about StockRanks, is that they help steer me away from stocks that are too unproven & bluesky-ish. So I do a creaful reassessment when a stock I might buy has a StockRank of less than say 60.

Also, I use StockRanks as providing me with a  ready-made shortlist of stocks to research.

Finally, I check my existing holdings against StockRanks regularly, to ensure they are holding up alright, and might reassess if they are falling.

So it works great for me, in the way I want to use it.

I think the Stockopedia message should be - here's this great system we've developed - feel free to use it as you wish, to help your stock-picking, or as an automated system. I don't think rubbishing the whole concept of stock-picking makes sense, when Value investing is the proven empirically best way to invest! we should concentrate our energies (those of us that want to) on getting better at stock-picking. Which incidentally, is enormously enjoyable, in my view - a stimulating, lifelong pursuit. I don't want a computer to make me redundant!

Regards, Paul.

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Paul Scott 29th Apr '15 21 of 30

Hi Ed,

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the work of research. And there's just a tiny, eeny, weeny chance that somebody reading these columns is the next Warren Buffett... but he's the exception that proves the rule. An individual outlier does not prove that experts beat mechanical models."

I totally disagree! Empirical evidence? My iPhone! My contacts section contains the details of about 50 friends who are self-made multi-millionaires, who have all made their money from a disciplined value investing approach.

Buffett & Munger themselves say that anyone can do what they do, using the same principles. So shouldn't we be encouraging people to try, and improve, rather than give up & say it can't be done, so let a computer do the work for us?

Regards, Paul.

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Edward Croft 29th Apr '15 22 of 30

In reply to post #97827

OK - (I love these dialogues!)...

In practice you will meet very few rich academics, but lots of very rich value investors. 

Not true.  Many of the academics & minds I most quote have gone on to run their own hedge funds and run hundreds of billions of dollars.  e.g. Cliff Asness at AQR,  Joseph Lakonishok at LSV, Thaler at Fuller & Thaler, the low-volatility guys at Robeco, Rob Arnott at Research Affiliates while Fama & French are key advisers at DFA.  These funds crush the market at scale.  

The problem with Value Investing is that it underperforms for long periods of time.  So you've seen many value investors lose their jobs at key market junctures (e.g. Tony Dye at the millenium).   Academics tend not to be so hung up on value investing and much more likely to review the empirical evidence on e.g. momentum.  

Value investing is the one, proven, style of investing that out-performs everything else long term.

Not true.  Momentum investing outperforms Value investing and is a perfectly viable style that's created just as many mega rich investors - ask David Harding,  Richard Dennis, the guys at Man Group.    Read up on how momentum beats value here.   Without Momentum, Value also suffers terribly ... they are best together.  

 I would say that the Stockopedia "Value" score, is very definitely NOT a value score! Since it seems to ignore the balance sheet, which is a key tenet of value investing.

I wrote 2000 words on this topic a couple of days ago - the Value Rank is definitely a value score... it's a "pure value" measure of cheapness... it's not adjusted for quality.   You can catch up on this debate in my article here.  You might prefer to use QV Rank  as a quality adjusted measure of value.  Though it's notable how much it's underperformed the VM score.

I think you summed it up best at Peterborough, by saying that an automated system works best for people who don't have the time or inclination to pick stocks.

That's a mis-quote - it's clear from most of my writing on the topic that I think rule based investment work best for everyone.  Whether you automate it or not is up to you and is beside the point. Rule based investing is all about applying a repeatable processes. You can do it with a pen and paper as a checklist.  You don't need ranks, screens or anything else. Just the discipline to apply it however you want.  Picking stocks is fine - I've no problem with it.  I just prefer to spend my time thinking about and picking rules and figuring out how to apply them effectively.

The difference with a rule based approach is that it's actually been written down - it's a repeatable process.  Many stock pickers haven't written down their investment philosophy, don't keep a journal and bend their rules depending on the exciting stock that's in front of them on any given day.  I'd argue that they don't have a repeatable process and thus are more likely to suffer from behavioural biases and underperform as a result.  After all human judgement fails versus mechanical prediction 94% of the time.

I'd also argue that most fund managers don't pick stocks, they pick rules.  e.g. Giles Hargreaves owns 600 his outperformance really due to stock picking at that scale ?  I would say not - his performance is due to the consistent application of stock picking rules and the payoffs to the factors he's exposed to.  It's no surprise that most fund managers in small caps who outperform (Slater, Hargreaves, Williams) shun story stocks and stick to profitable, cheap and improving shares.   I'd argue they are consistent QVM investors.  Neil Woodford... he's a quality income guy and I've written before that he's not outperformed similar quality income ETFs.   He's just exposed himself to the right payoffs - quality & yield (value).

Anyway, going to write a longer form piece on this stuff.  Maybe a book. 

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PhilH 29th Apr '15 23 of 30

In reply to post #97846

With respect to research into value investing proving it's the best option ... does that mean cave men should have stopped experimenting with materials when they discovered flint axes?

If value investing is so great why aren't there millions of US investors (they manage their own investments much more than we do in the UK) who are also multi-millionaires?

You and the millionaire value investors in your phone list are I'm guessing full time investors probably with extensive business knowledge. Mere mortals like the rest of us need to find a way to grow our investments when we are time poor, balancing busy lives, kids, demands on our time.

Value investing requires considerable:

a) knowledge of how to value a company
b) research to dig into the company
c) nerve (to continue to back your value assessment as it becomes even better value as the price decreases)

A mechanical strategy can reduce the need for a & b above. If you combine it with a stop loss approach you can reduce c too.

Perhaps your desire to not be replaced by a computer highlights the attitude of different investors ... is an investor who you are? or is investing merely something you do?

For me it's a means to an end and so anything to free up my time to invest elsewhere is welcomed.


Professional Services: Sunflower Counselling
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Paul Scott 29th Apr '15 24 of 30

In reply to post #97878


Fine, do as you wish. That's really my whole point - people can use whatever investing strategy & tools they want to. Some like a mechanical approach, and as I've said before, for people who are time poor, that makes a great deal of sense, and StockRanks look a great system for that - the logic behind them & the results so far, are excellent.

Others (like me) want to use the StockRanks differently, to help refine our stock-picking, provide shortlists, etc. I find StockRanks very helpful for that.

Being cheeky, if you're time poor & not interested in stock-picking, I'm wondering why you read my articles at all, let alone bother to reply to them!!
The purpose of these reports is to give people interesting stock ideas, and flag up things they may not have spotted (e.g. weak balance sheets, etc). I'm generally considered a good analyst, so people like reading my views on stocks.

But it's very much then the job of the reader to do their own research, taking the points I raise into consideration if they want to, as a small part of the overall research process.

Each to their own - there are many different ways to make money from the market, and I'm not really interested in getting into any more discussions on this topic. If you have a strategy that works, then stick with it, is my view!

Regards, Paul.

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PhilH 29th Apr '15 25 of 30

In reply to post #97885

Hi Paul,

Being cheeky, if you're time poor & not interested in stock-picking, I'm wondering why you read my articles at all, let alone bother to reply to them!!

Nothing wrong with being cheeky. There is of course much value in your reports and I appreciate the time and effort you put into them. I'm more interested in the bits I can extract around things like balance sheet strength than the comments you make on the companies themselves as we're miles apart in terms of timing purchases. For example, you buy when you spot value and a bombed out share price, I buy value or growth when it's cheap but also breaking out of a price range. You sell when you think valued has outed, I sell when the price turns (case in point Sprue I'm up 352%).

I reply to your posts as sometimes it feels as if you think the whole community is value focused and it can come across in your reports that this is the only way. Yet, some of the plays you make are so not value plays. Any newbie investor coming to this site and reading your report could well become confused about 'value' investing and I think that carries risk for them. In fairness you do generally offer warnings and of course they are responsible for their own investments.

My biggest beef with value investing is the expertise that's required. Stocko are presenting an evidenced based approach which requires less business expertise, less time, less ego and that potentially makes it accessible to the every day Jo Bloggs in the street. I personally don't want just Warren Buffett types to benefit from investments I want that wealth shared to every man and I see the skills required to be a successful value investor to beyond most investors. So a determined pushing of value investing as THE way to invest is I think unhelpful.

I hope that helps you to understand my position

Keep up the good work

Warm regards

Professional Services: Sunflower Counselling
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Paul Scott 29th Apr '15 26 of 30

In reply to post #97890

Hi Phil,

Thanks for that, sensible points, well made.

Using my reports to pick up useful bits of info, to aid your investing approach, is exactly what they're intended for, so mission accomplished on that front. I must admit, earlier today I was starting to think why the hell do I bother writing them?!

As I've said several times today, I really like the StockRanks, and each investor needs to choose an investing style which suits them. There's not really much area of disagreement actually, we're all just placing different emphasis on different points.

Ed likes to blind me with science with all his academic stuff, which is great. But for me, a value-focussed approach is what suits me best, and it's where I consistently make money overall (whilst individual stocks go wrong from time to time, as you would expect). The more speculative stocks are where I usually go wrong & lose money, so again there's a lesson there, and the StockRanks help me be more aware & steer away from some speculative stocks that I would otherwise be tempted to buy.

I think we should probably stop arguing over which approach is best, as we'll go round & round in circles forever on that one. Let's agree on the common ground - which is that most of us seem to like the StockRanks, and find them useful, whichever particular investing approach we like to take.

Regards, Paul.

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PhilH 29th Apr '15 27 of 30

Thanks for you response Paul. It's appreciated.

Warm regards

Professional Services: Sunflower Counselling
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PhilH 30th Apr '15 28 of 30

In reply to post #97813

Hi Ed,

I love the historical SR chart for Sprue Aegis in post #14.

When can you roll this out to us as I think it's a really useful feature?
It would make a really nice popup if you rolled over the StockRank on the StockReport

Thanks in advance

Professional Services: Sunflower Counselling
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dawnpatrol 3rd May '15 29 of 30

In reply to post #97813

Hi Ed

Remember that it is humans that create the algorithms for the mechanical models in the first place.

And also people like yourself who modify the algorithm for the model to execute.

I like to think that it is the fact that the mechanical method accurately reproduces the model every time that may make it more reliable as a stock picker.

I suspect Warren Buffet's brain works in this manner..but we know he also makes bad decisions, so I guess he goes and modifies the algorithm and off he goes again with the model.


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shanklin100 5th May '15 30 of 30

In reply to post #97813

Hi Ed

Following on from my earlier reply to you above re the SPRP rankings I see the results from 27-Apr-15 were belatedly added to stockopedia overnight. As per the suspicions I voiced earlier, I see that V, Q, M and SR for SPRP have gone from 20, 82, 48 and 46 on Friday to 46, 97, 46 and 70 today.

IMHO, during the hiatus between the announcement of their results and their entry on stockopedia, it was unreasonable to comment on SPRP's rankings having weakened significantly, as said rankings were essentially incorrect.

As I have previously highlighted, it is unfortunate your data provider takes so long to add results to stockopedia, when sites like sharelockholmes, albeit only for UK listed stocks, normally does it same-day.

Best wishes, Martin

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About Paul Scott

Paul Scott

I trained as an accountant with a Top 5 firm, but that was so boring that I spent too much time in the 1990s being a disco bunny, and busting moves on the dancefloor, and chilling out with mates back at either my house or theirs, and having a lot of fun!Then spent 8 years as FD for a ladieswear retail chain called "Pilot", leaving on great terms in 2002 - having been a key player in growing the business 10 fold. If the truth be told, I partied pretty hard at the weekends too, so bank reconciliations on Monday mornings were more luck than judgement!! But they were always correct.I got bored with that and decided to become a professional small caps investor in 2002. I made millions, but got too cocky, and lost the lot in 2008, due to excessive gearing. A miserable, wilderness period occurred from 2008-2012.Since then, the sun has begun to shine again! I am now utterly briliant again, and immerse myself in small caps, and am a walking encyclopedia on the subject. I love writing a daily report for on most weekday mornings, constantly researching daily results & trading updates for small caps. Cheese! more »


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