Charlie Munger

Risk & The Permanent Loss Of Capital

All investors are exposed to risk when investing in any form of asset class, be it equities, bonds or  property. Risk is not this unknowable, esotheric concept that so many amongst us fail to recognise. Risk, according to Warren Buffet, really is defined as the probability of a permanent loss of capital. And taking a lesson from the world's greatest investor, I would think it unwise to define risk in any another manner. Perhaps, an example at this point would suffice to drive home a message on risk.

Company A & Company B

Let us focus on a thought experiment for a moment here. There are 2 companies, Company A and Company B. Company A has little to no debt . Company B however is a highly indebted company with a debt to equity value of more than 200%, decreasing revenue and operating income as a ratio to interest expense has deteriorated in the last couple of years . Company A has a price to book value of 0.7 while Company B has a price to book value of approximately 0.6 as well.

Would you buy Company A or B at this point? Now, bear in mind that Company B gives dividends while Company A also gives dividends. So which company would you buy? So on a dividend basis, let's take it that both companies differ only slightly and these differences are negligible. Since this is a thought experiment, let us simplify things that way.