5 ASX shares that haunt fund managers

Regrets I’ve had a few: professional investors reveal the stocks that humbled them, either because they held them or missed out!

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investor holding a net and trying to catch money flying around in the wind.

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Share investors love talking about their successes: ‘Here’s one where we multiplied our money 7 times over!’

You will always hear that wise uncle talk to you about the hot stock he made lots of money on, without mentioning the other one that crashed and burned.

But the reality is no one, even professionals, has a portfolio of 100% winners.

Either there will be some businesses that have lost them money, or there are those stocks they hesitated to buy that annoyingly shot up later.

This is why it’s interesting to see fund managers open up to talk about their regrets. 

Here are 5 ASX shares that humbled the best of the pros:

CSL Limited (ASX: CSL)

Perennial portfolio management director Stephen Bruce wonders what might have been if he bought CSL during a small window in 2002.

“It was just after they’d merged with ZLB or acquired ZLB,” he told Ask A Fund Manager. 

“It was quite a difficult period in the industry, you had [the] currency going the wrong way and a few other factors, but it was the one time that you could have bought CSL really cheaply.”

CSL shares were trading for around $10 in the middle of 2002. They closed Monday at $292.57.

“Obviously, CSL has gone on to be probably one of the best, if not the best, amongst the absolute best companies that Australia has produced,” said Bruce.

Altium Limited (ASX: ALU)

Monash Investors co-founder and director Simon Shields actually gave software maker Altium some advice back in the day… but he didn’t invest in it at the time.

He told Ask A Fund Manager that he first encountered Altium during the 1990s dot-com boom, and saw it drift sideways during the 2000s.

“I did a company visit with them and they were asking me what I thought of their business strategy. And I said, ‘Well, I think you should go to a subscription rather than just sell upfront‘,” said Shields.

“And unbeknownst to me, they did that, and then the next thing I know, the stock’s taken off and I felt like I’d missed it.”

But of course, history now shows that even investing in the 2000s still would have rewarded Shields handsomely.

“I hadn’t missed it and it kept going. So that was my big regret… I regret not making a lot of money from Altium.”

Afterpay Ltd (ASX: APT)

Medallion Financial managing director Michael Wayne actually got some clients to buy into the buy now, pay later giant on its first day on the ASX. For $1.30 per share.

So why would this be a regret?

“We got a little bit too trigger-happy and sold out too early,” he told Ask A Fund Manager.

“Ended up selling [some] at $4.50 and then at $8 the rest – so that’s obviously got on to a lot bigger and better things, but we did okay out of it.”

The Afterpay share price sat at $96.38 after Monday’s close. It has been as high as $160.05 this year.

“I think that’s par for the course [in] investing, unfortunately,” he said.

“I’m sure there are numerous names for the people that missed out on over the years, but that’s probably our biggest one that we’ve sold early.”

Spotless Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: SPO)

The facilities services provider “caught out” the Pengana Capital team, led by Rhett Kessler.

“We paid the price and ended up losing a bit of money,” he told Ask A Fund Manager.

“When I went back and did a forensic on how we did, it was all in the provisions that we should have picked up.”

Fortunately, Kessler’s team clawed back some of the losses when another ASX company showed interest in a buyout.

“They were actually bought out by Downer EDI Limited (ASX: DOW), I think… That actually gave us a great opportunity to at least lick our wounds a little bit where there was a lot of talk from M&A, and the share price ran up quite strongly on the back of that.”

Speedcast International Limited (ASX: SDA)

Speedcast was a business that had everything going for it, according to Wayne.

“This is a telecommunications company that was providing telecommunications services to those companies and those interested parties that operate in remote locations,” he said.

“So if you think about the military or you think about the cruising industry, they’re two sectors that use those services heavily. That’s a business that looked very good for a long period of time.”

But its fortunes turned when it took on debt to go on an acquisition spree.

“Those acquisitions weren’t successfully integrated. And when that occurs and you’ve run up your debt, you get yourself into a lot of trouble,” said Wayne.

“Fortunately, we managed to get the vast majority of clients out before it delisted or went belly up – but it wasn’t our proudest moment, that’s for sure.”

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Tony Yoo owns shares of  AFTERPAY T FPO, Altium, and CSL Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of and has recommended AFTERPAY T FPO, Altium, and CSL Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended AFTERPAY T FPO and Altium. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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