South Africa’s ‘Enron moment’ changes things

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Firstly, a happy New Year to both regular and new readers. May the new year be filled with happiness, and dividends of course.

2017 ended on a scary and at the same time fascinating note in South Africa. We have witnessed the implosion of one of our biggest companies, Steinhoff, due to accounting fraud it would seem. They had been acquiring companies at a dizzy pace for a number of years, not just in South Africa, but also companies like Conforama in France and Poundland in the UK. I will not get into the technicals, but it would seem debt and fancy accounting (fraud) are at the root of the problem.

Now this company was one of the golden companies, the CEO was the golden boy of South African business, he had the midas touch.  Fortunately Dividend Tycoon HQ was not exposed to this company as I was always a little doubtful, although did not think this would happen to be honest.

However, what an incidence like this does do, should you escape unscathed, is send a chill down your spine and make you look again at your portfolio with fresh eyes. Have I been complacent in reading annual reports too quickly and skimming over the difficult to read sections? How much debt do the companies in  my portfolio have? Are my position sizes too big?

How my views have changed

1. Understand the company

I must understand the company. I think I can give myself a pat on the back on this score, I have studied all my portfolio companies in detail – annual reports/AGM’s/interviews/twitter searches…anything to get an edge in understanding not just the numbers but also the DNA of the company. I need to be able to tell you exactly what the company does. In this regard I have tended to invest in smaller companies with easy to understand business models and easy to understand accounts.

This saga reinforces this strategy in my mind. I simply cannot get my head around large insurance companies or banks for example. I do not know the extent of their liabilities or whether they are accurately portrayed.  So why would I invest in such a company if there are easier to understand companies.

Same go’s for a company like Steinhoff. They had acquired so many companies that their accounts became a nightmare to understand. There was goodwill aplenty, lots of debt and it was difficult to compare to prior years because each year was muddled up due to new acquisitions.

One of the best things about the investing business is that one never, as Warren Buffett likes to say, has to swing the bat. So if something is too hard to understand, leave it alone. There are thousands of other companies to invest in, so you are never forced to do anything

2. Watch the debt

This is partly the same as point one. However if there is one thing that has to be very carefully understood it is the debt levels. Debt is the biggest danger most companies face. A debt free balance sheet for example allows you to sleep well at night, whereas a highly leveraged balance sheet can give you nightmares. Some debt is usually inevitable, but keep an eye on it.

3. Position sizing

Of the three points, this is the one where I have perhaps erred. I have a few very large positions in terms of their percentage in the portfolio. Steinhoff has shown that should you get a position wrong, and it is a large part of your portfolio, it can be very negative.

Due to the fact that I believe I have been diligent on points one and two I am not too concerned at the moment. My big holdings are easy to understand and have strong balance sheets. However, going forward I may adjust the portfolio sizes downwards as I make new investments and perhaps trim large positions where they look fairly valued or overvalued.


It has been quite startling to see how quickly fortunes can diminish, how quickly reputations can be left in tatters. It makes one realize that investing is a serious business, and complacency is deadly to your survival in this game. Besides the quickening pace of business disruption, political events and macro events, one has to be on top of your investments and watch them like a hawk.

I have committed to upping my game by reviewing all investments thoroughly and being far more circumspect when making new investments.

Take care and please also try your best to avoid any ‘Enron moments’ in 2018.



Continuing to build apartments, patiently waiting for profits to flow

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It has been a trying time again at Dividend Tycoon HQ. While there are a few exceptions, much of my portfolio is stuck in a no growth phase, share prices are stagnant to down.

While I have been reading and re-reading my article on organic growth, where I had stated that I do not want to make any changes to my portfolio for a while, sometimes plans get interrupted and stuff happens.

The stuff that happened of late, is that my property developer stock, Balwin Properties has sunk somewhat, to under R5. This stock earned R1,31 last year, so is now on a price earnings ratio of 5 or less, even if earnings were to sink to R1, which I believe is doubtful. That means it is likely to be yielding 20%, or more. Certainly in the next year or two things may be difficult because they are in the start up phase of some huge projects, and South Africa is currently in a difficult political/economic environment. But in a few years profits should flow nicely.

I felt I could not let the opportunity slip and have increased my stake in this company by 15%, making it my second biggest holding. I managed to acquire shares at R4.85 and will receive an interim 10c dividend shortly.

The bad news is I did have to make some sales to fund the purchase. My sales were some European property stocks, which were trading above their Net Asset Value and in the case of one on a very low yield after appreciating by over 50% in the last year. This would be contrary to what most investors would be doing right now in South Africa, as there is a great deal of pessimism around South Africa Inc stocks, and a love for anything ‘offshore’, given the uncertain political outlook. I do believe however that every asset has a price, and that I will be rewarded for the switch.

I will now need to be patient with this stock, it is now a cornerstone of my portfolio, and I will need the profit it can generate, and the resultant dividends (30% of profits) to build my portfolio further. There may be a few tough years, but it can start to churn out massive profits if the market picks up. I see it as my own business, and like any other property developer, I will be able to take some of that profit and build my asset base, although not necessarily in property. A stock that yields over 20% should help me with this far more than one yielding less than 5%.

It should be noted that I also invest based on what one could call qualitative factors, and I am quite impressed by the CEO of Balwin Properties. He has built a big business in 21 years and is hungry to do more. I have attended two results presentations now, and have come away from both feeling assured that I have partnered with a company that can do very well.

Hopefully not much will be happening in the long term portfolio, although I have a few ideas bubbling away.., so things may be quiet here till the new year. I will see though and may write another more general article before the Christmas break. If any readers are off on holiday, I hope you will enjoy them and return to Dividend Tycoon in the new year.

Disclaimer: As always this is a risky stock, in a risky industry. Do your own homework. What I have is written is merely my opinion and certainly not a recommendation.






In pursuit of my ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’

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I recently finished reading the book ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’ by Gregory Zuckerman. I can highly recommend the book. It is about various investors, but mainly John Paulson the hedge fund manager, who shorted the US housing market in the run up to the global financial crisis in 2007/2008.

I am not going to get into the specifics of the trade, mainly because I am not clever enough to understand it, but secondly it is rather complex and boring, but I can sum it up by saying they used derivatives to short pools of risky mortgage bonds. And if that is still confusing you like it did me, they made money when people could not pay their mortgage bonds.

Now this sort of trade is one that I personally would not be comfortable with for a few reasons, but the story reinforced a few things for me.

1.Have the courage of your convictions

This was a risky trade, the US housing market had been booming for so many years, the mantra was that property always goes up, there is a limited supply etc etc. The facts were however that housing prices had far exceeded income growth, and this led to even Ninja’s (ie. No Income No Job) loans being granted. Crazy, and you probably thought I was talking about a Japanese mercenary. A group of investors went against the tide and bet that it could not continue. They were ridiculed and had to wait longer than they thought, but their conviction was right, and many multiplied their capital ten fold or more.


Initially this trade did not work well. Housing did not go bust quickly, and even when house prices did start to fall, the price of the instruments being shorted continued to rise. One of the investors, Michael Burry, almost went insane, many of his investors left or wanted their money back. He would sometimes go to the office and close the door behind him and play heavy metal music for most of the day…Rest assured things have never gotten so intense at Dividend Tycoon HQ, my trades tend to be more of the plain vanilla equity type.

3.Wait for a fat pitch

Warren Buffett talks about waiting for a ‘fat pitch’. This is waiting for an excellent investment idea, not settling for a mediocre investment. He is trying to get across the idea that it is better to wait for an excellent idea, even if you have to wait years for it, than just invest in something mediocre. He likes to remind us that he read the Coca-Cola report for decades before deciding the time was right to invest in the company. You may also like to read my article on punch card investing.

Pursuing ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’

You may be asking what this book has to do with me. Well, I could identify somewhat with the characters in the book because I also have a had a ‘trade’ on the go for seven years, for which I have had to have plenty of patience and have had to have the courage of my convictions.

The company is Grand Parade Investments, which has both gaming assets, and a fledgling food business, mainly QSR restaurants like Burger King and Dunkin Donuts. I am very positive in the long term, but the share price has gone down 60% in the last three years. I have been invested since 2010 and have not lost money yet as bought very cheap, and have received good dividends and special dividends over the seven years, but I really expected more, and sooner. However, reading this book helped me realize that I should follow my own path and not be swayed by market commentators and other investors. The share is trading well under the Net Asset Value of the company, and I believe will be a great long term compounding investment. I believe it could easily multiply 10 times over the long term from here, but nothing is assured of course.(Disclaimer: This is a definite small cap and is risky, do not see this as a recommendation, it could go down as easily as up.)

I have placed nearly 20% of my portfolio into this one stock, so I have a lot riding on it, I know it may not be ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’ in terms of a quick gain to be made, but I have come this far and am confident it will at least be a very good investment. My search for ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’ however continues and I have a few other positions developing with this title in mind, so hurry up Grand Parade Investments, your have some stiff competition for the title..

A change of mindset

My thoughts of late, and reflecting on this book, have changed to thinking of every stock, before I buy it, as potentially being ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’. If I do not think it can earn that title, I should not buy it. I think that if we invest in this way we will do our research thoroughly and avoid mediocre investments.

Let me know if you are pursuing your own ‘The Greatest Trade Ever’ and what you do to keep yourself getting discouraged when things take longer than you thought to play out.





Growing my business organically

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I must confess that the phrase ‘organic growth’ always used to confuse me somewhat when I heard companies say they had ‘good organic growth’ or plan to grow ‘organically’.

What I now understand is that it is growing your business using the cash flows from your current business. It differs somewhat from acquisitive growth where you take over new businesses by selling current businesses or using debt or issuing shares.

A real example is when as a private investor in a property stock (or REIT) you are given the option to reinvest dividends in the property stock (or REIT) rather than receive the cash, thereby owning a greater share in the company.

In the last few months there has been quite a flurry of activity at Dividend Tycoon HQ. I have been selling out of a large holding where I had lost some faith in the management and did not like the debt levels they were starting to take on. I have also sold some other stocks where I found new or existing stocks too cheap and compelling to ignore and needed the cash in order to invest in them.

It does however always leave me with a slightly uncomfortable feeling, this process of buying and selling, of shuffling the deck so to speak. You are making hopefully good choices about allocating of capital, but you are also interrupting that formidable machine called compounding. The reason for this is every time you buy and sell you are incurring transaction costs on both legs of the trade, and quite likely incurring capital gains tax on the sale. You are shrinking the pie.

This feeling of shrinking the pie, along with a pie that is already shrinking due to a recession in the market where I am invested, is making me rather uneasy. I want my business to grow, not shrink.

I think that sometimes one has to take a bit of pain to get your business to where you want it, which is what I have done. I now feel I have a good business, consisting of stocks I feel will grow and prosper, as long as I leave them alone. Most of them are good dividend generators and will provide me with an income and some reinvestment opportunities.

Why is this so difficult?

I think the main problem is that as investors we crave activity of some sort. It is difficult to look at the same portfolio every day and not to tinker with it. I am always reading about stocks, doing research etc and it is natural to want to invest in new ideas and add a new name to your portfolio. It is not always the best thing to do though. In my current portfolio I believe I need to leave it to grow, why sell a good thing?

What I do however plan to do is to collect dividends and build up a cash base again for further investments. This must not however be at the expense of my current portfolio.

Unfortunately a lot of my dividend income is needed at present for living expenses, so I will be exploring other ways of raising cash. I am not sure how I plan to do this, but perhaps some part time work or freelance writing/business journalism (anybody listening?…) that allows me time to keep doing my passion which is researching companies and markets. Let me know if you have any ideas.


I am satisfied that for the first time in a long time Dividend Tycoon HQ holds a stable of good businesses, which include fast food restaurants, a grocery retail chain, a plastic packaging business, a logistics business, two beverage businesses, a finance business, a property developer, a self-storage business, an apartment letting business, and a few others beside. It is now time to let them grow through the current recession and not to reduce them in any way.

My job is now to sow what dividends are available back into growing these businesses, or new businesses if funds allow, as well as trying to increase my capital outside of the stock market. My mind though remains fixed on looking for good businesses, because if I leave compounding to do it’s job, it may be no time before I am on the job full time again.


I feel like the news coming out of Dividend Tycoon HQ has been a tad glum of late, so I thought I would share a little bit of good news which came out a few hours ago, related to my last article about buying businesses, not stocks. The results of the company I used in this post to make my point, Bowler Metcalf, the boring old packaging company, released very good results today along with a 23% increase in the dividend. Being a core holding of mine this was great news!

Buying stocks can be scary, businesses less so

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Well another month has passed, and for me the stock market has not been a good place. I am invested in mostly small and medium cap shares in South Africa, and to be quite frank, the market has been terrible.

The reasons: Political instability, recession, lack of liquidity in these shares, and people just giving up on some of them.

Now you might think this has depressed me no end, and you would be partly right. Nobody likes to see their net worth decreasing on a sometimes daily basis. You may detect though that I am not totally downhearted about this, and in fact to some degree I take a certain pleasure out of it.

The reason for my pleasure can be traced back to the father of value investing, the man who Warren Buffett says he looked up to the most in investing, Benjamin Graham. He spoke of a Mr Market, who was a manic fellow at the best of times, sometimes happy and sometimes downright depressed. The only weapon we have as investors he said was to ignore Mr Market and to control our own emotions. He also said that the best time to buy was generally when Mr Market was depressed and throwing away good businesses at knock down prices. In my market, I believe that time is now.

I have been doing a fair amount of buying, and selling a long term holding which I have lost some faith in, in order to fund my purchases. I will not go into all my activity, but will touch on one stock I have been buying. The reason I will do this is because, like the title of this article alludes, we are buying businesses, and the key is not to just think of stocks as pieces of paper.

Buying a boring old packaging business

I have been accumulating shares in a company called Bowler Metcalf (stock code BCF on the JSE). This stock has been listed for 30 years on the stock exchange, has been consistently profitable, has no debt, has cash on the Balance Sheet, and most importantly of course, pays dividends! They make things like the plastic containers that are used for your bathroom cleaning materials and tubes/containers that hold cosmetics etc. They generally make the more specialized ones with advanced nozzles, but lets leave it there, I did say boring.

The share price though has been terrible, it is probably down over the last 5 years. Part of the reason for this is that a number of years ago the company bought into one of their clients, a beverage company which makes soft drinks. Subsequently they have merged their stake into a larger entity called Softbev, which is now a national beverage company which sell various soft drinks and energy drinks, as well as being the Pepsi bottler in South Africa. Unfortunately Softbev has had various teething problems, and Bowler Metcalf has had to write down the value of their 42% stake in Softbev.

The thing is that even if Softbev was worth nothing, which it certainly is not, then the core business of Bowler Metcalf, which is plastic packaging, is worth far more than the value the market is currently valuing it at.

I have recently bought some shares at R5.65, and a recent trading statement said that core earnings would be 65-82c, placing this business at an earnings multiple of 6 to 8. This for a well run business, that is conservatively managed. You effectively have a free option on Softbev, which may be listed as a separate business.

This is why I say stocks can be depressing, but businesses less so. This business is situated in my home town of Cape Town, so I go off to the AGM every year to hear the directors discuss prospects for the year. I see their soft drinks, including Pepsi, in the supermarket. I see this as my business, albeit as a minority shareholder. I enjoy reading their annual reports, which are easy to understand, being a fairly simple business.

I find a lot of comfort in a business like this. I have a few shares, such as Choppies, which is a supermarket group which has the whole of Africa into which it can grow, which could shoot to the moon over time, but equally fall flat on it’s face. Bowler Metcalf though is like a trusty old friend, somewhat boring, which keeps churning out profit and dividends. Unlikely to make me wealthy, but like anybody owning a business, I would like it to keep feeding my family and providing for my needs, and the stock price does not bother me, because I have no plans to sell something so important, especially to that horrible Mr Market guy!

Disclaimer: I have been discussing a small company I like, it is not a recommendation though, as all shares carry risk. Do your own research.


Back from holiday, including how it saved me money..

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It has been quite a while since my last post, so apologies to those who are regular readers. I have been on holiday, a wonderful trip to the UK.


For regular readers, the holiday was made possible by the sale of my hotels, which generated enough of a return to let me take a portion of the profit and indulge in this trip. I have written before that investing is about more than just making money, and that it is best to have balance, and doing something special and enjoying life when your finances allow is also important. I did reinvest the rest of the profit into some stocks which will hopefully in time generate their own returns, and perhaps finance another holiday.. I should also mention that the holiday was also possible thanks to the fantastic generosity of family in the UK, which meant most nights we had accommodation provided by them.

In terms of my portfolio I have continued to add to my property holdings, including my property development company, my residential letting business and self-storage business. These purchases are not showing much in the way of capital profit, but I believe I have secured a pipeline of future income. I plan to hold all of these businesses for a very long time.

The market has also thrown up what I believe will be shown to be massive bargains in years to come. I bought a share called Grand Parade Investments, at a fraction of its intrinsic value. The share has two components, gaming and restaurants. The price I paid was less than what the gaming assets are worth, so thrown in for free were valuable restaurant brands such as Spur, Burger King and Dunkin Donuts. There was also an office block in a prime position. I have written about this stock before, and while the price is now less than my average holding, I am happy to wait for the values to be appreciated by the market. I believe this is a classic case of buying a dollar for 50 cents! Note though that this is a small cap and in a risky sector, so do your own homework!

There have been a few other small purchases, and some sales to fund the purchases, but the nature of this blog is evolving to becoming more a sounding board to myself and hopefully others, as to my investment thoughts. I find it useful to read past posts in order to collect my thoughts and review my thought processes at a certain time. An added bonus would be for others to find it useful, and hopeful to interact with me about their own ideas and thoughts.

Investing lessons for July 2017:

As per the title of this post, going on holiday actually saved me quite a lot of money. Let me explain. The share I have discussed above, Grand Parade Investments, was selling cheaply while I was away. Had I not been away (and vowing not to look at my portfolio while away), I would most likely have found a way to buy it. In the three weeks I was away, it got significantly cheaper and in the month since I have been back I have bought a fair amount at much lower prices than when I was away. Hence my point that going on holiday actually saved me quite a bit of money.

The take away for me is that when we stop looking obsessively at our portfolios and looking for things to do, we do better. It comes back to patience, and waiting for our best ideas to come to us, rather than us chasing them. It is hard to do because we feel we have to be busy all the time and that we are not being productive when we take a day off or go on holiday. Maybe I am just trying to justify my next holiday, or to go surfing for the day, or visit Dunkin Donuts for their delicious coffee..


but I will leave you with a quote from Warren Buffett:

“Lethargy bordering on sloth remains the cornerstone of our investment style”

Well, I would not go that far, I want to keep working hard finding investment ideas, but the point is that he is referring to the fact that they do not actually trade much, although he actually works incredibly hard finding things to invest in.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for future posts.





When stock prices are falling, income is the best motivator

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The majority of my portfolio is invested in South African stocks. The country was recently downgraded to junk status by two international agencies. This was largely on the back of political moves they see as damaging to the economy. My portfolio has taken a bit of a beating..

Now one can get depressed about this, sell everything and throw ones hands up. However, I firmly believe such times can be an opportunity as well. I also believe the stock prices are not how I measure my progress as an investor. It all comes down to one word, income. And yes, income comes in the form of dividends.

Some stocks have fallen as much as 20%. The dividends declared in most cases have however remained stable or increased. So why be bothered too much about stock prices. Most of my current stocks (businesses) are not for sale anyway.

I have one stock which I am slowly selling off but that has remained stable in price as it seems someone would like to buy out the company. It is also a stock I have lost some confidence in so it suits me. This is where the opportunity comes in. I am getting float from the one stock I am selling and investing some of that into stocks that have fallen a great deal. I believe I am acquiring future income at a discount.

As I see my stocks as businesses I am not too hung up on the price that is quoted each day for that stock. It would be like owning the local pizza joint and worrying about how much somebody will pay me for it. I would be happy just making a good income off the pizza joint. If the income continues to go up each year, then eventually somebody will want to buy the business (and resulting income) off me for a fair price.

Not being blind to reality

The above being said, one has to also keep your eyes open when investing, and take into account changing circumstances. As such I have been investing differently now compared to before the downgrade. The downgrade in all likelihood will lead to a depreciating currency and an increase in interest rates, as well as being generally negative on businesses which could lead to earning declines.

Therefore I have concentrated on the acquisition of two stocks which are debt free and growing their income. They are both on single p/e’s with high dividend yields. I will not name them here as have not quite finished buying, but if you ask me I do not mind disclosing them.

What I am buying is as important as what I am not buying. I have been writing extensively lately about building a property business, first as a property developer, then a self-storage owner, and finally a residential landlord. I am committed to keeping all these businesses, as they are good businesses and in the long term I believe I will do well out of them. However, due to the fact that property businesses are interest rate sensitive, I will not be adding to these businesses at the current time. Should the prices of these businesses fall dramatically (which they have not done as yet), I may become more interested. Again, that will be where the opportunity comes in.


The aim of being a Dividend Tycoon is to secure a large and ever increasing stream of dividends. I have documented my journey so far. I have succeeded in some areas, but still need for example to get my foreign portfolio going. The income stream will at some point be used for this purpose, but currently South Africa is the market I know best and where the yields are fairly high. The decrease in stock prices has not phased me too much and I have not been a forced or panic seller. These income generating stocks are jewels I need to harvest and nourish, not throw away at the first sign of trouble.

Certainly, these are troubling times, but I would like to end with two quotes. As it is the Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting tomorrow, which I will be watching live via streaming video right here in South Africa, the quotes are from none other than Warren Buffett, and I believe tie in to my post:

“The future is never clear, you pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus. Uncertainty actually is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.”

“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.”

Thanks Mr Buffett, hopefully we will hear some more good advice tomorrow!




Creating income in order to sow wealth seeds

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I have posted a flurry of property related articles of late.

First was the big one, becoming a property developer. This is a cornerstone stock for me, and after an additional purchase of stock, I will now, via my shareholding, be developing and selling one apartment per year.

Secondly came my long desired purchase of a self-storage stock. Hopefully more of this stock to come in future.

This week I wrap things up on the property side.

Renting out apartments and a UK bargain hunt.

I trimmed a few holdings of stocks that were lagging a bit on the earnings side and where I was perhaps too concentrated. I have used the proceeds to buy a variety of property stocks. One I am very excited about is called Indlu Place. This is a residential property stock, yielding over 9%, with low gearing. The kicker for me is that it pays a quarterly dividend. So far each quarter has paid a higher dividend that the quarter before. Like the self-storage stock, I like the fact that this stock is not in shopping malls or offices. I believe there will always be a demand for residential accommodation, especially in the lower income brackets where they play.

A few of my new apartments

I have also been taking advantage of the currently strong currency where I live to invest in two UK property stocks and one German property stock. These stocks had all fallen quite a bit since Brexit, so I believe I have paid a fair price, some were half the price compared to a year ago. Two have the option to reinvest dividends, which I will take up in order to compound the investments.

Now to use income to plant dividend seeds

I never expected to start a property business. Investing seldom goes according to plan, which is one of the things I like about it. Circumstances, currencies and markets are always changing. When I started to feel over exposed to two stocks, which made up close to 60% of my portfolio, and they offered attractive exit prices, I decided that I wanted to convert a portion of that equity into safe income. Also selling my hotels allowed me to buy a property development stock.

However, my income needs for now have been met by the recent purchases. That is not to say I do not want or need more income, but I feel I have created a decent income stream, and can now get back to the process of creating wealth again.

I believe wealth will ultimately come from owning great stocks, the great compounders. The Coca-Cola’s, the Wal-Marts and the Unilevers. However, ideally one needs to find early versions of these stocks to achieve maximum benefit. The property stocks will buy me some more time and some income with which to find and invest in these stocks when I find them.

I currently have five or six of these potential wealth seeds in my portfolio, now it is time to accumulate some cash again, and look for the next great one, or add to my existing wealth seeds.


It will just take a few of these wealth seeds to come to fruition to really change my financial future. You have to be in it to win it after all, and now I can at least look forward to a quarterly dividend from my apartment tenants, they will not make me rich but will at least help keep me in the game a bit longer, and the great thing about a property stock as opposed to the physical property is that they will not call me in the middle of the night with a blocked drain! I will also sleep a little easier knowing that I have some euro and pound income trickling into Dividend Tycoon HQ, especially given recent political developments in my home country.

I hope I have inspired you to create an income stream of your own which will buy you a little more time, and help accumulate funds, to go after the really big winners. For myself I do feel that becoming a (minor) property tycoon will be a benefit in the ultimate goal of becoming a (major?) Dividend Tycoon.





Owning a self-storage business, at last!

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My last post was about me becoming a property developer. This was possible since I sold my hotels. Becoming a property developer was the first step in my new quest to become a property tycoon, which naturally fits in very nicely with being a dividend tycoon.

While my property development company will in fact pay out a healthy dividend, they do also retain 70% of the profits for new developments, which limits the income yield compared to a pure property stock. As such I felt I also wanted some property stocks that will pay me rental income come rain or shine. The development business could be up and down depending on the economy, but a decent REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) should pay out under all conditions.

Given the above, I was very happy to have some funds from the sale of my hotels in order to buy a stock I have had my eye on for ages. It is a self-storage REIT, called stor-age. (

Why I wanted a self-storage business?

The self-storage business has been appealing to me for some time. It looks so easy and profitable. I often drove past a fairly large one close to where I used to live. From the outside you could see lines and lines of garages. At one point I needed storage and found out that it was basically full up. What struck me however was that whenever I drove past, there was rarely any movement or activity. You might think that strange but when you consider that once a person takes out storage, the average time they leave their goods in storage is well over a year. So while perhaps a couple of people move goods in or out each day, you have a couple of hundred garages each silently generating revenue. Being garages, you do not have plumbing problems or difficult tenants. They also do not need to be upgraded every couple of years with the latest floor tiles or bathroom taps. Sounds good to me!

With this promise of easy and almost passive income you cannot blame me for wishing I owned a self-storage business. Alas the capital requirements are huge and I would not be able to raise it myself from banks, besides the fact that I do not have any actual experience in the storage business.

However, the beauty of the stock market is that you can become a part owner of some of the best businesses in the world by buying a share in the business. I have been watching this particular share since it came to the stock market in 2015. I also know them from their large sites that one can see dotted around as they have a very distinctive red color theme.

A typical outside image
Clean and modern inside

I also know them as I once visited a branch as a prospective client, in the name of stock research of course, and was very impressed by their modern and clean facilities, as well as friendly staff. It is a well managed business, and I would say is the best in this particular niche of the property business.

Now I realize that owning stock is not the same as owning a whole self-storage business myself, but it is a start, and I can think of a few good reasons for rather owning the stock:

  1. I do not run it myself. I say it is an easy business, but it would still require your presence and time, you would still need to hire potentially difficult employees. Sitting at a desk looking into stocks is probably a better job.. and the only difficult employee is me..
  2. There are lots of rather shabby looking self-storage businesses around. I got to pick the best run one, the most innovative one, and a business with very ambitious expansion plans.
  3. I did not need to take out a large loan in order to enter the business, as one would most likely need if starting the business yourself.

I would also say that while I may have a fairly small portion of a self-storage business, I do not plan to stop here. As long as the price is reasonable I will add to my holding over time and look to re-invest the dividends back into the business. As such my stake in the business will get larger over time. I also do not plan to sell my stake even if the stock gets a little bit expensive.

My entry price was at at a dividend yield of just over 8% and the price has moved up a bit since then, but I have not completed the building of my own self-storage business yet.


I hope you can see from this post why I believe that you can become a dividend tycoon by owning stakes in great businesses, just like a tycoon would start any other business.

This business happens to be in the property business. My recent efforts have been aimed at property, and I now have three good businesses in the property business. In fact I have five but I will write about the new additions in a later post. I feel good about the diversification the property businesses have added on my path towards becoming a dividend tycoon, and especially like the high dividend yields they provide.

My focus is still on operating businesses, rather than property itself, but hey, everybody needs a roof over their heads, or at least a place to store their goods.




Becoming a property developer!

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Dividend Tycoon has not packed it in..I am in fact more committed than ever to becoming a Dividend Tycoon. So what is this talk about becoming a property developer?

Since selling my hotels became a distinct possibility, I stepped up my search for great companies in which to invest. I needed to reinvest the capital from my hotels being sold. As I have said before, the hotels were not a great business, but the assets were exceptionally cheap, and I made a healthy profit. However, this is no longer the type of business I am looking for. I am now focused on finding companies which are focused, extremely profitable, have some barriers to entry, and preferably are led by an intelligent fanatic.

All the above has led me to become a property developer, because I have invested a significant amount into a company called Balwin Properties. They are the largest developer of sectional title property in South Africa (basically they build apartments). However, they do not build run of the mill apartment complexes, they build huge 600 unit + schemes, some well over a thousand units. They focus on these, and the large size of the schemes leads to excellent economies of scale, which translates to gross margins of over 40%. In simple language, an apartment they sell for $100000 only costs them $60000 to build.


Why I am positive

They operate in the lower to middle residential market, where the demand exceeds supply. The apartments are affordable and are built with excellent security in mind, as well as features such as a clubhouse, which is only really possible when you build with this scale, as such a feature would not be economical on a scheme with say a hundred apartments. The company has a good name with regards quality and after sales service. You can see their website here should you be interested, as I do not want to sound like a salesperson for their apartments.


Why a good fit for a Dividend Tycoon?

  • Well most importantly and obviously, they pay a dividend! They have agreed to pay 30% of profit out as dividends, the remaining 70% will be retained to use as capital for expansion.
  • The word Tycoon is important. I like to see my companies as an extension of myself. I like to understand what it is I am doing. It is easy here, every year we (the whole company) are building around 3000 apartments. As a co-owner of the company I have worked out that I personally, by default, am building and selling one apartment every 15 months or so. Now I do not know about you, but building an apartment sounds like hard work! I know I do not have the technical skills to do it either. So I am partnering with the best property developer in the business, and letting them use some of my capital, and letting them get on with the job. It would be silly for me to try and compete with them, I doubt I would do a good job painting the inside walls, never mind the rest of it!
  • I like companies where I can see a business that will be durable. I have not invested in technology shares for this reason. I cannot tell how these companies will look 5 or 10 years from now. I do however see a good future for companies building affordable and quality apartments in a country with a growing population and a housing shortage. I also try and keep Amazon in mind when investing these days, and I am confident they will not be dispatching whole apartment blocks anytime soon..I hope.
  • The stock is cheap. I am looking for an edge in order to become a Dividend Tycoon, so I want as much stock for my money as possible. This stock was priced around R7 when I bought and will earn between R1 and R1.50 per year, which equates to a yield of between 14% to 21%, which is very good. The dividend yield is between 4% to 6%. Note that these figures are my own estimates and should not be relied on.
  • Management are significant shareholders. I like the fact that the CEO owns 35% of the stock. Clearly he has the most to lose should things go wrong. As part of my research I watch and read interviews given by the CEO. My impression is that this company has been his life for the last 20 years, and he does not want to let the shareholders down. I sense he has pride in the product and will continue to drive growth in this company for many years.


Things are never so easy. There are always risks. Property developers go bust all the time. They use debt, and interest rates can rise, the economy can slump.

However, I have committed my capital to this company as I believe they are good operators, have experienced many economic cycles, and have built a business model that is very resilient. They sell their developments in phases, so cannot get stuck with a mass of unsold property, they pre-sell much of their stock, and ring fence each development.

In addition they have a product that has a definite utility. Should the economy take a serious dip and people do not buy the apartments, they have the ability to rent the apartments out at good yields until better times come around. It is not like they build smartphones or forklifts, which will sit unused until such time they are sold. They will also not become obsolete.


I am excited about this new addition to my portfolio. I did the research on the company first, and then went to see one of their developments as a prospective buyer. Seeing the quality of the apartments and the size and scale of the scheme convinced me this was a good buy.

I am increasingly interested in property investments, and am currently researching a few other opportunities in the property sector, but for now I will be monitoring this investment and any dividends received will be reinvested back into the company should the price remain reasonable.

Now where is my hard hat…I have work to do!

Disclaimer: As usual, this is a small cap stock, so it is risky. Do your own research before deciding to buy or sell.