Charlie Munger spoke to WSJ reporters Nicole Friedman and Jason Zweig for six hours over dinner in his Los Angeles home on April 23. He covered a wide array of subjects. Here is an edited transcript from that conversation and a follow-up telephone discussion.
Reposted from The Wall-Street Journal
By Jason Zweig and Nicole Friedman
Q: What do you make of the world-wide fan club that you and Warren Buffett have attracted?
A: Well, the world is very peculiar. And these people that like me are mostly nerds in China or India. It’s a very deep attachment. They’re so passionately interested in improving themselves. Some of them just want to get rich in some easy way, but mostly they’re trying to improve themselves.
An awful lot of graduates of great engineering schools are investors. I wouldn’t call a man who uses computer science to sift vast amounts of data for correlation, and then starts trading the correlation and if it works, keeps going, and if it doesn’t, stops, I wouldn’t call him an investor. It’s really, what he is is a trader. And those correlations are very peculiar…. Of course, the more people that try and trade that one correlation, once they find it, the less well it works.
Q: If you were just starting out as an investor, what approach would you take?
A: Well, the original [Benjamin] Graham approach of looking for cases where you’re getting more than you’re paying for is correct. All good investing involves getting a better investment than you’re paying for. And you’re just looking for it in different places, just as a fisherman can fish in one place or another. But he’s always looking for more value than [he’s] paying for. That will never go out of style. I mean, that is just basic and fundamental.
Some people look at it in stocks where the earnings are going up all the time, some look at consumer goods, some look at bankruptcies, some look at distressed debt. There are different ways to hunt, just like different places to fish. And that’s investing.
And knowing that, of course, one of the tricks is knowing where to fish. Li Lu [of Himalaya Capital Management LLC in Seattle] has made an absolute fortune as an investor using Graham’s training to look for deeper values. But if he had done it any place other than China and Korea, his record wouldn’t be as good. He fished where the fish were. There were a lot of wonderful, strong companies at very cheap prices over there.
Let me give you an example. One guy in Korea, he cornered the sauce market. And when I say cornered, he had like 95% of all the sauce in Korea. And he couldn’t stand anybody else ever selling any sauce. So he could have made two or three times as much if he wanted to by raising the prices.
Li Lu figured that out. It’s called Ottogi. And of course we’ve made 20 for 1. There was nothing like that in the United States. Continue reading “Charlie Munger, Unplugged”