There are those of us who invest our own money in the share market as a side hustle, then there are those who do it for a living, making money on behalf of others.
But even the professionals don’t have a crystal ball. They don’t know precisely what will happen to share prices any more than the amateurs, your 6-year-old son or the cat next door.
This is why it’s always interesting to see what mistakes fund managers are willing to admit.
Here are 8 ASX shares that the professionals regretted buying (or not buying) in 2020:
Treasury Wine Estates Ltd (ASX: TWE)
The Australian winemaker has had well-documented troubles in the past year with China imposing a massive tariff to devastate Treasury’s thriving export business.
Paradice Investment portfolio manager Julia Weng watched in horror as the Treasury share price tumbled from $17.70 on Australia Day last year to now trade at just $9.55.
“Treasury had the trifecta of COVID, of oversupply in US Commercial Wine and then you have this 170% trade tariff,” she told Livewire.
“What else could go wrong really?”
Webjet Limited (ASX: WEB) and Corporate Travel Management Ltd (ASX: CTD)
Eley Griffiths portfolio manager David Allingham regrets not buying into these travel shares when they were going cheap in April and May.
“They were going down, they were collapsing — [but] they were going to recapitalise,” he said.
“We didn’t buy them. That was the mistake. I think we look back now 6 months post the crisis, and some of the market caps of these stocks are actually higher than they were pre the crisis.”
The Webjet share price has risen 89% since its April lows, while Corporate Travel has climbed a stunning 274% since March.
Allingham said this teaches you that when it’s the right time to buy, human nature will make you fearful of the commitment.
Temple & Webster Group Ltd (ASX: TPW)
The online furniture merchant has been a darling of the ASX in 2020, shooting up from $2.68 a year ago to now trade at $11.82.
Sage Capital portfolio manager Kelli Meagher regrets not buying in.
“I can’t believe I [overlooked it] because I’m a shopper and I shop online all the time,” she said.
“I was too finicky on my valuations and thought I was going to be too late to the party once they started running… I missed out on a huge amount of upside, which was very frustrating.”
Meagher admits she didn’t predict the huge surge in homewares after the pandemic arrived.
iSentia Group Ltd (ASX: ISD)
The media data company has caused Spheria Asset portfolio manager Matthew Booker no end of pain.
iSentia sold for 31 cents per share a year ago but now trades at 11 cents.
“We’ve owned iSentia for a long time. It’s been a difficult position for us,” he said.
“The industry has been challenging, with a couple of irrational competitors that continue to burn money. That industry construct has made it a difficult space for a company that’s profitable.”
However, Booker continues to hold iSentia shares as he reckons those upstart rivals will run out of cash eventually.
Elders Ltd (ASX: ELD)
The share price for this agriculture business has risen almost 60% in the past year. Not too shabby.
But Centennial Asset principal Matthew Kidman has been disappointed that he bought in in May rather than March or April.
“Elders is the best of breed in that sector, best management. You buy that at $10. It goes along, the season gets better, the momentum’s in the business, it puts out its result for September — guess what, it beats. It’s been sold ever since I’ve sat on the stock. When the market’s up 30%, it’s flat and it’s beaten every forecast.”
Elders now trades for $10.05.
Kidman admits he misread the situation and bought in when the demand for the shares was already hot.
“Did I learn anything? Not really, because I’ve done it a few times this year,” he told Livewire.
“So I rarely learn from my mistakes. I keep doing them, but luckily it wasn’t too dangerous in an upward moving market.”
Auckland International Airport Limited (ASX: AIA)
Auckland Airport is a quality company so it gave TMS Capital portfolio manager Ben Clark “headaches” when the share price plummeted in February and March.
“When you get hit from ‘left field’ events and big draw-downs, prices get very irrational,” he said.
“Markets aren’t always rational, and you want to be able to take advantage of those times.”
A lesson Clark learnt was strong businesses can access additional capital swiftly.
“In hindsight, they went hard on a raising and that was really the start of the return of confidence in AIA,” he said.
“Sydney Airport Holdings Pty Ltd (ASX: SYD) left it a bit later and that price has lagged a bit more.”
oOh!Media Ltd (ASX: OML)
Similar to Auckland Airport, oOh!Media also raised emergency capital to survive the coronavirus recession.
Lennox Capital equity analyst Olivia Salmon said not participating in that round was her team’s “number one mistake” in 2020.
“That’s the time to buy, and we were just too uncertain on the earnings and the visibility of the earnings,” she said.
“This was a make-or-break capital raise for the company, and this was at the height of the pandemic. We were just too nervous about those earnings coming through.”
The share price sank to 59 cents near the end of March but has since recovered to $1.64.
Salmon’s team did end up buying in, but she regrets the timing.
“It just would have been great to get it at the absolute bottom,” she said.
“What you’ve obviously seen is the ad market improve out of sight. Outdoor media is one of these assets that I think will be around for the long term and is unlikely to really be cornered out by digital advertising any more than it already has been.”