Author Topic: Moats in investing and businesses  (Read 555 times)


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Moats in investing and businesses
« on: June 10, 2018, 04:42:34 PM »
Brian Bares on creating a moat in investing style and strategy.

also Pat Dorsey on identifying moats in businesses.

The basic points I gleaned from both videos,


Moat doesnt equal edge

A moat is how hard it is to replicate what you do

Differentiation may not lead to outperformance.

What is an investment edge?

Repeatable sourcing of variant perception that leads to sustained outperformance

Sources of variant perception,


Not much edge in informational, this is where market is pretty efficient

Analytical is the big edge, we all have similar info, its what we do with it, especially on a qualitative basis. Repeatable.

Behavioural, based on market psychology, makes sense, but no one seems to do it successfully, very difficult to implement consistently. (probably because of the very biases you are looking for.)
Turn arounds, market mispricings due for fear or greed.

Two pillars of investment process

Building a differentiated investment process that is hard to replicate - Moat

Creating Repeatable sources of variant perception that should lead to outperformance. -Edge


Capitalism seeks the highest returns possible, high profits attract competition.

Most businesses with high returns on capital will see returns decrease over time

But a small minority will enjoy many years of high returns on capital - because moat & edge.

They do this by having some form of structural advatage that makes competing on price difficult.

Great tech or great products are not moats/edge - think crocs!

Economic moats are structural and sustainable qualities that are inherent to the business.

Not hot products - popular toys, Krispy cremes

Not cool tech, if it can be easily replicated it will be.

Its not big market share, the only time market share can be a moat is when its anti-competitive, eg monopoly or duopoly protected by externalities. (geographic, legislative)

Moats generally manifest themselves in pricing power, a company that cant raise prices is unlikely to have a strong moat

Exception is if you have a moat based on scale (rare) then driving price down to force competitors out of the market can be a successful strategy of businesses with a moat.


Intangible assets


Increasing willingness to pay more or lowered search costs.
This must exist in one form or the other - would you pay $1500 more for a Sony TV over Panasonic?

Brand must change consumer behaviour to be a moat.

Brands are valuable if they deliver a consistent and or aspirational experience.

Dont change product and give people a reason to change brand, new coke, new pizza shapes

Create scarcity and exclusisivity. Restrict availability of new products etc. iPhone releases

Online brands involve trust for obvious reasons so a trusted online brand has an advantage beyond price, eg Amazon customers typically dont look elsewhere even though it would be easy.

probably need lots of them to provide any sized moat

Licenses and approvals

casinos, landfills,


Does the cost of switching to a competitors business outweigh the advantages? (or at least not be advantageous enough to bother,)

Integration with customer business, high upfront cost to switch, payback from renewals - MYOB, Office 365,

Service contracts for expensive infrastructure - eg lifts.

Input costs that are fractional, allows you to price set. eg an additive that greatly improves product, small unit cost, big value, you can increase costs easily. adhesives, fastners, lubricants, enzymes,

Provide a service that increases in value as the number of users increases. Facebook because of advertising.

Aggregated demand b/t fragmented parties. MC & Visa, ticket clippers, barrier to entry very high

See it with distributers, connecting fragmented suppliers with fragmented retailers. DDR.


Find a cheaper way to deliver a product that cant be replicated quickly/easily

Scale, spread fixed costs over a large base, obviously suits a business where fixed costs are a high % and variable costs are low. Relative size matters more than absolute size  = Australia Post

Niche, minimum efficient scale. Things like very specific and embedded software solutions, (maybe CDA?) - emergency services comms software, maybe ADA? Flight simulators.


A good jockey will do well on a good horse but not on a broken down goat.

A poor jockey on a racehorse will beat a great jockey on a goat, if he can just stay on the horse!

Managers matter in the context of the moat.

The required level of managerial skill is inversely proportional to the quality of the business

Bad managers invest capital outside a company’s moat, lowering overall ROIC.This process is called deworsification or burning piles of cash.

An exception to every rule

A tiny minority of great managers can create enormous value via astute capital allocation even if they dont start with great horses. (buffet, textile mills)

Moats in a global context.

Local differences can create moats

Minimum efficient scale is more common, (woolies & coles) basically niche markets


They add intrinsic value

A firm that can compound cash flow for many years is worth more than a firm that cant

The value of a moat is largely dependent on reinvestment opportunities, the ability to reinvest loads of cash at a high incremental ROIC is a very valuable moat.

If a company has limited ability to reinvest, the moat adds little to IV. It does add certainty and confidence to the IV.

Moaty businesses that generate cash are good, ones that can reinvest cash are amazing!

Overestimating the moat means you may pay for value creation that never materialises.

Underestimating the moat means paying a large opportunity cost.

Isnt the moat already priced in?

Less often than you think.

Short termism.

Quantitive data is efficiently priced

Qualitative insight is less efficiently priced.

“All of the information is in the past, all of the value is in the future”
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 12:22:01 PM by galumay »