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调整收益报告的规定,或许可以让这些萎靡的股票重振旗鼓

Ryna Derousseau 2018年10月22日

一些投资者欢迎取消上市公司要发布季报的规定,认为它可以抑制那些影响研发、长期来看损害投资者利益的短视行为。

 

美国总统特朗普即兴的推特言论往往会引发股市(和投资者心率)的波动。不过在最近的一条推文中,他提出了改革证券市场的建议。许多资金经理认为这一改革可能意义重大。

今年8月,特朗普通过推文发表了一项令人惊讶的声明,表示他已经要求美国证券与交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission)进行研究,取消上市公司刊发季度报告的规定,改用半年报代替。特朗普认为此举有助于降低公司成本,不过一些投资者喜欢它另有原因:它可以抑制那些影响研发,长期来看损害投资者利益的短视行为。

按照法律,一旦公司上市,就有义务每个季度公开详细的财务信息。分析师和股东会专心分析这些报告,并用它来诊断公司状况。许多公司还会提供“业绩指引”,即预测未来的收益情况。如果公司没能达到指标,股价往往就会下跌。

在批评者看来,这就是麻烦的开始。

对一些公司而言,达成季度预测来提振股价的重要性开始超过长期规划,这促使他们采取一些伎俩,例如使用成本低廉的短期手段(如股票回购)或自毁式地节约成本(包括削减研发经费等)。

这些做法反过来又会导致业绩下滑。南加利福尼亚大学(University of Southern California)的会计学教授K.R.·苏布拉马尼亚姆最近以“热衷发布业绩指引的公司”为主题,对近2,000家公司进行了评估,这些都是在各行业内发布业绩指引最为频繁的公司。那些比同行更多地达成季度预测,却在研发上投入更少的公司,长远来看收入的增长率都较低。

这类数据促使由摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)的首席执行官杰米·戴蒙担任主席的游说组织Business Roundtable在今年夏天联合沃伦·巴菲特,呼吁公司降低发布业绩指引的频率。总统的提议又在减少业绩报告本身上更进一步。

并非人人都认为投资者能从这类变革中获益。包括苏布拉马尼亚姆在内的一些观察家相信,即使证监会放宽了报告的要求,许多公司依旧会继续沉迷于发布业绩指引。他们还认为,如果财报缩减到一年两次,收益数据将会引发更大的股价波动。

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S IMPROMPTU Twitter musings often move stock markets (along with investors’ heart rates). But in one recent tweet, the President proposed a reform of those markets—one that some money managers see as a potentially important improvement.

In August, Trump made a surprise announcement via tweet that he had asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to consider reducing the required number of financial reporting periods for public companies from four a year to two. Trump cast the proposal as a money-saver for companies, but some investors like it for a different reason: It could discourage the kind of short-term thinking that undercuts research and development and hurts shareholders in the long run.

Once a company goes public, it’s legally obligated to release detailed financial information every quarter. Analysts and shareholders study these reports intently, using them as a stethoscope to track the corporate heartbeat. Many companies also provide “guidance,” or estimates of how earnings will fare in the future, and when a company misses those marks, the stock often suffers.

That, in the eyes of critics, is where the trouble begins.

For some companies, meeting quarterly estimates to bolster share prices begins to outweigh long-term planning, encouraging maneuvers that range from cheap short-term tricks (like stock buybacks) to self-destructive cuts—including reductions in R&D spending.

Those choices, in turn, can lead to weaker results. K.R. Subramanyam, an accounting professor at the University of Southern California, recently evaluated nearly 2,000 companies, focusing on “dedicated guiders,” those within each industry that issued guidance most frequently. Those companies met quarterly goals more often than their peers but also invested less in R&D—and generated lower earnings growth over the long term.

Data like this helped move the Business Roundtable, the lobbying group chaired by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, to join with Warren Buffett this summer in urging companies to provide guidance less frequently. The President’s proposal would go a step further by reducing the reports themselves.

Not everyone agrees that such changes would benefit investors. Some observers, including Subramanyam, believe that many companies would keep playing the guidance game even if reporting requirements were eased. They also argue that stock prices would exhibit more volatility around earnings announcements if those reports happened only twice a year.

不过,一些股东的确有可能获益。“优质”公司,即那些管理稳定、收支健康、表现历来可靠的公司,他们的股票可能上涨,因为即使管理层一段时间内“寂静无声”,投资者也会信赖他们。而获益最大的可能是那些市场上的实验室狂人——那些将大量预算用于研发的公司。毕竟,在任何时候,你都可以看到投资者不耐烦导致股价下滑的情况,因为公司领导层的长期计划正在影响短期收益。

目前有三大研发巨头属于这类情况。随着公司的研发投入得到回报,股价也会出现反弹。(没错,无论财务报告的政策是否变更。)

以透明胶带和便利贴闻名的工业巨头3M在研发上投入的经费达到了总收入的6%,是业内平均水平的两倍。晨星(Morningstar)预测他们研发投入的每一美元最终将产生9美元的利润。然而,这一预测无益于提振3M的股价,公司的股价在过去六个月里下跌了13%。3M还因为中国市场智能手机购买量的增速放缓受到了拖累,因为采用他们光学薄膜(用于设备保护层)的电子设备销量有所减少。而汽车行业不景气,也导致他们的汽车护理产品线受损。不过RBC的分析师迪恩·德雷表示,3M的问题与执行力无关,公司的股价有理由高于行业整体水平。

降低汇报频率,也会让转型期的公司受益。福特汽车(Ford Motor)就是个很好的例子,普华永道(PwC)认为它是汽车业研发投入最多的公司之一。该公司与硅谷展开了合作,大力研发无人驾驶汽车。他们计划推出新的探险者(Exloprer)SUV和重新发布的撼路者(Bronco)SUV系列,但目前这些令人翘首以盼的跨界新品还没有一款上市。不过晨星的分析师大卫·韦斯顿表示,如果公司的努力最终转化为成果,并削减其他开支,“股价就被低估了。”福特股价的反弹可能需要一段时间,不过投资者的等待会得到回报,该公司的股息率如今达到了6.4%。

旅游技术公司Expedia Group有45%的收入都来自美国本土以外。为了增加这一份额,公司在影响力有限的地区大力投入营销和发展。Wedbush的分析师詹姆斯·哈迪曼表示,尤其是在欧洲,该公司大大落后于旅游网站Priceline和Kayak的所有者Booking Holdings。投资者对Expedia打造市场的做法心存疑虑,该公司的股价去年也下跌了10%,不过随着更多细节得到披露,股价也有所好转。若公司在欧洲大获成功,投资者的情绪长期来看也会变得乐观。(财富中文网)

本文的另一个版本登载于《财富》杂志2018年10月1日刊,题为“获得更高回报的规则”。

 

译者:严匡正

Still, some shareholders would probably benefit. Stocks of “higher quality” companies—those with stable management, healthy balance sheets, and track records of solid performance—would likely get a boost, since investors would trust them even if management “went quiet” for a while. And the biggest beneficiaries might be the market’s lab geeks—companies that devote a high percentage of their budget to R&D. After all, at any given time, you can find stocks that are getting clobbered by impatient investors because company leaders’ long-term plans are hurting short-term earnings.

Here are three R&D big spenders that are currently caught in that bind, and whose stocks could rebound as their research investments pay off. (That’s true, whether or not reporting rules change.)

The industrial giant 3M, famed for Scotch tape and Post-its, invests 6% of revenues in R&D—about double the level of the average industrial firm. Morningstar estimates that each of those dollars eventually generates $9 of profit. Still, that forecast hasn’t been enough to boost 3M’s stock, which is down 13% over the past six months. The company has also suffered from a slowdown in smartphone purchases in China, which has hurt sales of electronics that sport its optical film (used as protective covers on the devices), and the auto-sector slump has nicked its car-care product line. Still, 3M’s problems have nothing to do with execution, says RBC analyst Deane Dray, who says the stock deserves to trade at a premium to its peers.

Less frequent reporting could also benefit companies in mid-turnaround. Ford Motor, which PwC identifies as one of the auto industry’s largest R&D spenders, is a prime example. Ford has made big commitments to autonomous-vehicle research, putting it on a collision course with Silicon Valley. And it hasn’t yet launched a long-awaited revitalized product mix, which will include a new Explorer SUV and a relaunched Bronco SUV series. But if those efforts pan out, and Ford reduces other expenses, “the stock is undervalued,” says Morningstar analyst David Whiston. The rebound will likely take a while, but investors will get paid to wait; the stock’s dividend yield now stands at 6.4%.

Travel-tech company Expedia Group gets 45% of its revenue outside the U.S. To boost that share, it’s spending heavily on marketing and development in regions where its presence is limited—particularly Europe, where it lags Booking Holdings, owner of travel sites like Priceline and Kayak, by a significant margin, notes Wedbush analyst James Hardiman. Investors have been skeptical of the market-building, driving shares down 10% over the past year, but they’ve warmed up as more details have emerged. A big success in Europe could lift their mood in the long run.

A version of this article appears in the October 1, 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline “A Formula For Better Returns.”

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