Ritholz And Brown Riff On Tesla, Bitcoin, And SPACs – Barron’s

Posted: December 21, 2020 at 11:48 am

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Ritholtz and Brown are impresarios of the Twitterverse and the presiding geniuses behind the fast-growing Ritholtz Wealth Management. In a recent talk with Barrons, they talked about their market views and the charms of direct indexing. Here, in an edited outtake from the interview, the two discuss the allure of Tesla, Bitcoin, and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

Barrons: In a wild year, some wild investments captured investors imagination. Tesla (TSLA) has shot up 731% so far this year; Bitcoin reached an all-time high of more than $23,000, and SPACsshell companies created to go public in order to acquire a private company, became the hottest mechanism in M&A. Whats going on?

Brown:Jack Bogle [founder of Vanguard and inventor of the index fund] has done more for the profession of asset management and individual investors than Warren Buffett, but one of the things that bothered me about his acolytes and the puritanical movement around indexing in general, its how it doesnt allow for the idea that sometimes people just feel like speculating, because they want to. Its their money. Its their life. We of course want to play around with Tesla. So I think that stuff has a place in portfolios.

Lets start with your thoughts on Bitcoin.

Brown: Whether or not Bitcoin increases in prominence among institutional investors and then trickles down into individuals wealth management accounts, remains to be seen. I can completely picture it. Bitcoin could be the next generation version of gold, but that part of the story is not as interesting, and were not building positions in Bitcoin [based on] that. Right now financial advisors are terrified to add cryptocurrencies, because nobody wants to be the first one to get sued for blowing up a clients account with Bitcoin.

And SPACs? These shell companies reemerged as a way to take private companies public without going through the traditional vetting an initial public offering requires. SPACs dont have a great track recordare they as risky as they used to be?

Brown: Theyre actually extremely conservative. Theyre basically piles of cash. So hedge funds can buy them and [say] theyre invested. But theyre not invested. They own cash with an option to become invested. They can flip it the day of an announced deal, or even vote against the deal. So its a clever way for managers who are expected to put money to work, but dont have ideas or dont want to take that much risk. SPACs are speculative if you hold them past the point that they make their acquisition, because then you are investing in a business that was vetted essentially by one investor, rather than a traditional IPO roadshow. Had Nikola (NKLA) tried to go public as a traditional IPO, it never would have made it.

Ritholtz: Why should SPACs follow any different type of performance distribution than mutual funds or ETFs or hedge funds? Ninety percent of everything is junk.

Brown: Their historical performance is atrocious. Its because the type of company that historically did the SPAC wasnt good enough to warrant their own traditional idea. Now, I am somewhat sympathetic to the idea that a SPAC is professionalizing. But not all of them.

Ritholtz: Theyre competing with each other for the same handful of things.

What are your thoughts on Tesla, which just entered the S&P 500?

Ritholtz: Everybody looks at Tesla wrong. Teslas already shifted the paradigm. Theyve already won. Whatever happens with the stock price of Tesla is almost irrelevant. I did an analysis recently that looked at the 10 most valuable car manufacturers. About half their value comes from the electric car side. Traditional automakers are thinking were not going to let Elon Musk do to us what Jeff Bezos has done to booksellers and retailers.

Tesla and Bitoin represented totally different things. Tesla is basically a recognition that no matter what the president says, the world is shifting towards renewable and green energy. Look at the price of coal under an anti-green president. Look at the price of oil. The market has already decided this new technology is the future. Ultimately its going to be Mercedes (DAI.Germany), BMW (BMW.Germany), Honda (HMC), Volkswagen (VOW.Germany), and Toyota (TM) are going to be worlds leading electric car producers.

Brown: I find it funny that a huge swath of the industry thinks its more conservative to have held ExxonMobil (XOM) over the last 10 years, [which is essentially] deliberate climate science denialand that actively trying to address climate science [via Tesla], thats the speculative play. As weve learned, Exxon is now a shell of its former self. The idea that it could hang onto oil forever was more speculative than the idea we could build batteries.

Thank you, gentlemen.

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Ritholz And Brown Riff On Tesla, Bitcoin, And SPACs - Barron's

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