It ain't easy being known as "the next Warren Buffett." It's certainly not a title I'd want to have to live up to. For years, value investor Mohnish Pabrai cranked out phenomenal returns through his Buffett-esque investing style, earning him a near cult following.
The past year, however, has been a little shaky. His investment style -- based on the premise of never losing permanent capital -- took a detour when Delta Financial went bankrupt late last year. Was it a bad investment? In hindsight, yes, but at the time it looked like a steal. Easy come, easy go.
What's Mohnish been up to lately? As a big investor, he's periodically required to disclose some of his positions. Here's what Mr. Dhandho himself poked around in during the last quarter.
A new position was formed in tax preparer Jackson Hewitt (NYSE: JTX ) . Shares are down more than 40% in the past year, so there's no shortage of speculation that value might start to emerge from these battered shares. What exactly Mohnish sees in this company, I wouldn't venture to guess. Beyond a few bits of value that can be squeezed out, the prospect of a simplified tax code -- which both presidential candidates support -- doesn't bode well for tax preparers. Should be interesting.
Pabrai also upped his previous stakes in WellCare Health Plans (NYSE: WCG ) and Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) . WellCare shares were clobbered last fall when 200 federal agents raided headquarters. Perhaps the carnage of looking like the next Enron was overdone? Time will tell.
Pabrai seems to have ditched his position in Stamps.com (Nasdaq: STMP ) . Shares nearly doubled from February to June, so the timing isn't that odd. He also scaled back his positions in online gambling software firm Cryptologic (NYSE: CRYP ) and steelmaker Ternium (NYSE: TX ) , which had a Venezuelan segment nationalized by Hugo Chavez earlier this year.
What to make of it all
Some investors have given up on Pabrai after a year of dismal performance. "He's just been lucky until now," they say. That's nuts. There are few investors who've proved they have not only the stellar stock-picking acumen, but also the proper mental mindset, as well as Pabrai has. When your investment model is rooted in holding a few concentrated positions, rough patches happen. As Yogi Berra says, "Slump? I ain't in no slump … I just ain't hitting."
For related Foolishness: