Analysis: NOW Inc. (NYSE: DNOW)

Now Inc. (NYSE: DNOW) hit $11.85 today and I began to build a position. This document contains an independent analysis of the company. Information on my investment philosophy can be found here.

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Book Review: Competition Demystified

In Competition Demystified, Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn simplify Michael Porter’s five forces framework (threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, customer bargaining power, supplier bargaining power, industry rivalry) into a single force from which all others derive: barriers to entry. According to the authors, there are three sources of this competitive advantage:

  1. Supply Advantages: Lower input costs, proprietary technology, complicated processes, etc.
  2. Demand Advantages: Captive customers, habitual products, high switching costs, high search costs, network effects.
  3. Economies of Scale: High fixed costs spread across high market share.

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Analysis: Q2-2017 Macro Update

Say we throw a ball up in the air and want to predict what will happen next. Newton tells us that transferring kinetic energy to the ball will accelerate it upwards, and the force of gravity will accelerate it downwards. We can confidently say the ball will eventually come back down to earth. Now, try predicting what would happen to the ball if instead, a random survey of the human population decided its movements. If more people felt like the ball should go up it would go up and vice versa.

There is no shortage of forecasters who would take a simplified approach to this problem – just assume the physics bound world and ignore the human element. Eventually, the two should match up. We can think of this as the efficient market camp. Contrast that to the behavioral camp, which focuses primarily on the human element. They note that the fear and greed of a crowd can push the ball to further extremes than the constraints of physics would suggest.

Our goal today is to predict where that economic ball is going. We will borrow from both camps, while not forgetting that this is an exercise in art, not science. We can’t predict where the ball is going nor when it will get there with any certainty, but we can get a decent idea of where the ball is. If the ball is closer to earth, odds are it will begin its journey upward. If the ball is closer to space, odds are it will begin its journey downward. Give or take ten years.

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