Michael Hlinka is a professor who has taught investing courses at George Brown College since 2000. He is also a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and an instructor at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, where he runs a program that prepares students for the CFA exams.
We recently talked to Mr. Hlinka about his investing approach.
How do you invest?
Much of my financial capital is invested in a broadly diversified portfolio of stocks with above-average dividend yields, the focus being on generating a growing a stream of income. The rest of my financial capital is focused not so much on dividend income as on outperforming the market.
How are you trying to outperform the market?
One way is through my “Four Top Picks” approach. As the title implies, it is limited to four stocks. A concentrated portfolio has more of a chance to beat the market than a diversified one.
It was established in September, 2015, and is scheduled to run for 20 years. I believe if one is very patient and selective, they can do better than the market. I wanted to show this in a public fashion, so I provide monthly performance updates on my website: http://michaelhlinka.com.
As of the 34 months from inception to Aug. 3, the annualized return for the “Four Top Picks” portfolio [mainly U.S. stocks] is nearly 14 per cent. The S&P 500 registered 12 per cent annually over the same period. I am hoping to raise the margin of outperformance to generate an even greater compounding effect. An annual return of 20 per cent for 20 years, for example, would turn $100,000 into $3,833,760.
Can you tell us about your stock selections for this portfolio?
I tend to choose larger capitalization stocks trading below some measure of intrinsic value, such as book value. The stocks will also have a reasonably safe dividend so I get paid while waiting for the rebound.
I am not a hold-forever investor. There has been some turnover because I sell stocks if their prices rise to my estimate of intrinsic value or if a better investment opportunity comes along.
For the first two years, returns bounced up and down, largely trailing the market. Things picked up in the fall of 2017 after I bought some depressed retail shares. Fears about Amazon taking over were overdone: After I bought in, there was a nice rally and I took profits.
From the retail sector, I still have AMC Entertainment Holdings. My other current positions are Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, New Senior Investment Group and Government Properties Income Trust.
What do you like about these holdings?
I suspect AMC Entertainment [a movie chain in the United States and Europe] is dead money, so I am thinking about selling it. I bought into Teva [the world’s biggest generic drug-maker] when it sold off after a dividend cut because its business still seemed strong to me.
New Senior Investment Group [it owns a portfolio of senior residences] and Government Properties Income Trust [it invests in properties leased to government tenants] give my portfolio a tilt toward U.S. real estate investment trusts. They have sold down to the point where their distribution yields up around 10 per cent.
The REITs are out of favour because people think bond yields are in an upward trend and becoming more attractive versus REIT yields. But I think bond yields don’t have much more upside and could maybe even reverse [one reason being the anchor of low rates in other countries]. So, U.S. REITs could see more love. Meantime, I am being paid a 10-per-cent yield to wait.
What’s another way your money is actively deployed?
As a result of the courses I teach, I meet many bright young people. In the fall of 2015, I set up an investment club, put money into it and asked some of my brighter students to invest the funds.
They were given the challenge of doubling the funds within three years. As the monthly updates on my website indicate, an annualized return of 7.1 per cent has been achieved to date. This is respectable but short of the lofty goal, with just two months to go until the three-year period is over.
Doubling money in such a short time requires taking big risks and using leveraged investments – such as stock options – so there could have been a major loss of capital. That there was a fairly decent positive return instead is still something to feel good about.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Larry MacDonald is an economist, author and financial writer.