As yet another year draws to a close at ‘Portfolio’, we can say with confidence that we have given nothing but our best to our readers this year. In the same breath, we also acknowledge that there is always room at the top and promise to continue to add value in whatever ways we can in the coming years. Here’s looking back at the year which will soon go by and what we did to stay relevant for you.

How we fared on stocks

Stock ideas have been the cornerstone of ‘Portfolio’ since our ‘Investment World’ days. And in a year in which markets were on a roll for the most part and IPOs were dime a dozen, we strived to separate the wheat from the chaff for our investors.

Two things have defined our stock recommendations this year (July 2020 – June 2021 period considered as we give a period of at least six months before we judge the success/failure of our secondary market calls). One, considering the rising market since the March 2020 lows, we tried to be safe, by giving ‘Accumulate’ calls rather than ‘Buy’ calls wherever possible. An ‘accumulate’ call is usually given when there is a positive view on the stock, but where we believe the margin of safety can be higher at a lower price. ‘Accumulate’ recommendations that have done well include L&T Infotech (up 262 per cent), Tata Steel (up 163 per cent), ABB (up 136 per cent) and Adani Ports (up 129 per cent). Given the market ups and downs, opportunities did arise at lower prices in some stocks such as Tata Steel and ABB. But it may not have, in some others, given the general mood of exuberance.

Secondly, some ‘book profits’ calls based on high valuation have worked, yielding lower returns than the bellwether index as well as the broader Nifty 500 in the time period since the call. Examples of these include TCS (Jan 24, 2021), Berger Paints (Feb 28, 2021), JSW Steel (April 11, 2021). ‘Sell’ calls on Indigo, SpiceJet, Ashoka Buildcon and LIC Housing Finance, considering sectoral headwinds/deteriorating fundamentals proved right too. ‘Buy’ calls that worked wonders include Sobha (up 181 per cent since first call on Nov 24, 2020, 86 per cent on a reiteration on June 24, 2021), Fiem Industries (up 99 per cent) and Tech Mahindra (up 78 per cent). But the enthusiasm for real estate stocks did not carry through to REITs, with the stocks recommended (Embassy, Mindspace) not moving anywhere since our ‘buy’ call. FMCG calls such as Britannia, Jyothy Labs and Zydus Wellness given in second half of 2020 fell flat too, as defensive bets no longer interested investors.

With respect to IPOs, we must admit we have been very cautious. Of the many that we asked investors to refrain subscribing from, calls on Chemcon Speciality Chemicals, Kalyan Jewellers and Shyam Metalliks have alone worked. Our ‘Invest’ call in the IPO of Gland Pharma (up 160 per cent from price band) and well as Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (up 63 per cent) has proved to be right. With many of the new-age IPOs coming in after our cut-off date of June 30, 2021, we reserve our comments these stocks, though calls to skip on much hyped ones such as One97 Communications have so far worked.

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Fixed income and personal finance

As interest rates on debt products were nothing to write home about this year, we identified oasis of investment of options for risk-averse investors that provided a combination of safety as well as superior returns. Post-office schemes such as PPF, SCSS, RBI Floating Rate Bonds, FDs of select banks and NBFCs, short-term funds and target maturity funds and were recommended. With FDs, we stuck to only 1-2 year time horizon, considering that rate hikes may come sooner than later. Ditto was the thought process when recommended floating rate funds which could benefit from a rise in rates. Into 2022, rate hikes are indeed expected sooner than later.

Investor protection has been an important pivot in our personal finance coverage this year. We started year warning readers on the murky world of digital lending apps and towards the end of the year, as RBI came out with its report on the same subject, we wrote on what measures were being proposed to make them safer. As the popularity of crypto investing grew, we wrote on the loopholes in the back-end of crypto-investing as well as on the alluring crypto investment schemes offered by various players, warning readers on the traps. Similarly, the implementation of Risk-o-Meter rules and the introduction of the Potential Risk Class Matrix for debt funds to help mutual fund investors assess risks as well as the need to look before one leaps into P2P lending were dealt with in detail.

Fresh initiatives

With the relaunch of Portfolio on December 6, 2020, we made several value additions. A key introduction was the coverage on international investing. This turned out to be timely as well, with Indian investors taking to international investing like never before, thanks to upbeat market sentiments. Among international markets, direct investing in US stocks has taken off in a big way, thanks to robust regulations, currency (rupee) depreciation benefits apart from access to stocks in sectors which don’t have a big presence in India. Mutual Fund houses too brought in international funds with new fervour, with themes ranging from NASDAQ investing and global real estate to climate change and emerging markets. We did not let the opportunity go. We featured stories on international investing across several pages / online sections – Big Story, Your Money/Personal Finance, Mutual Funds, Taking Stock / Stock Fundamentals, as well as news pages.

Another of our initiatives was focused on the new crop of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) investors who have been flocking to the market in the latest bull run. To cater to this audience, we brought out reviews of several fintech apps that new age investors use. We also put out screener-based stock ideas which they could use as a stepping stone for further research and investment. Some of the very useful stock screeners include those based on PEG, Dividend masters, DuPont Analysis, Fed Model, Altman Z-score, and Promoter pledging.

The introduction of detailed coverage on derivatives, with useful market data, F&O strategy calls and a masterclass for investors is another highlight, apart from a ‘Simply put’ column to get down to brass tacks on any financial market jargon.

Reader connect

At Portfolio, we have always provided timely and topical content week after week, deep diving beyond the news. Being in the business for over 25 years has also given us a fair idea of the kind of content that will be most relevant and actionable for investors. To take this forward, we took conscious steps to enhance reader engagement in the last year. This was done in three ways. One, we encouraged readers to actively give their feedback on our content through mail, the comments box in our site, social media handles as well as through SMS/Whatsapp and QR code modes. We began featuring your thoughts / comments and our responses to the same regularly, through a dedicated space for reader feedback in our editions in the last year. Two, we also tracked more closely what our online readers were showing interest in and that gave us valuable inputs, which we put to use to enhance our offering as well as our readership. Three, we instituted two reader surveys on key personal finance questions – one on the impact of Covid on your finances and two, on financial freedom and your plans on how to attain it( in the context of our 75th year of Independence). These surveys saw enthusiastic participation from hundreds of readers whose responses were then aggregated to weave a human interest story replete with anecdotes and statistics, and featured in the ‘Big Story’ section.

A finger on the pulse of our readers firmly puts us on the front foot as we step into 2022. A weekly newsletter and more multimedia content are some of the plans brewing for the next year.

Keep reading and writing to us. Happy New Year!

(This is a free article from the BusinessLine premium Portfolio segment. For more such content, please subscribe to The Hindu BusinessLine online.)

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