Investor Letter – 2017 4Q

Below is general commentary section excerpt from my investor letter for 17Q4

Download pdf: TaoValue_2017_Q4_final

General and Market Commentary

If anything is to be remembered for the financial markets in 2017, the lack of volatility will be on the list. S&P 500 index, for an example, finished positive for all 12 months, unseen for majority of the investors living today. The unprecedented financial market quietness was also accompanied by the mania in cryptocurrency as all major cryptocoins pocketed astronomical returns for 2017. It is not hard to identify bubbles everywhere under traditional definition, but I find it is meaningful to think through a level deeper. Below is my attempt to find some common lessons by doing quick studies of “bubbles” in three distinct markets. As always, I like to think about the most controversial ones, as they are the most “information-rich”. I hope they are interesting read for you as well.

Tesla (Public Market)

2017 is not Tesla’s best year, as it underdelivered the dream they sold before about Model 3 by large margin. However, Tesla bears are bewildered by the lack of reaction of Mr. Market to negative developments. One possible reason to this phenomenon is the bulls’ almost religious belief in Tesla. That means the time for Tesla short to work out is not the “change of the fact”, but rather “change of collective perception towards the changed fact”.

To see whether this positive collective perception is justified, I think of the Tao (i.e. the societal value it creates and the corresponding return it takes) of Tesla. An alternative way to see it is that Tesla may be Elon Musk’s clean energy social campaign disguised as a corporation. If you in 2003 were given a mission to push the global auto industry to a more innovative and socially responsible (e.g. cleaner energy) direction, what would be your estimate of the time line and budget? Tesla single-handedly took about a decade and 0.08% of the societal value created in 2017 (Tesla EV/Projected 2017 Gross World Production). Not a bad score for a social campaign.

However, whether the incremental societal value would be entirely accrued to Tesla in forms of shareholder value is uncertain. This is why I wish Tesla could have remained private, thus funded by more loss-tolerant classes’ wealth. I also wouldn’t short it, because there is still possibility some incremental value could accrue to Tesla through M&A.

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