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The Worst Bear Market in History

 

Which country has the dubious distinction of suffering the worst bear market in history?

To answer this question, we ignore countries where the government closed down the stock exchange, leaving investors with nothing, as occurred in Russia in 1917 or Eastern European countries after World War II. We focus on stock markets that continued to operate during their equity-destroying disaster. There is a lot of competition in this category. Almost every major country has had a bear market in which share prices have dropped over 80%, and some countries have had drops of over 90%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 89% between 1929 and 1932, the Greek Stock market fell 92.5% between 1999 and 2012, and adjusted for inflation, Germany’s stock market fell over 97% between 1918 and 1922. The only consolation to investors is that the maximum loss on their investment is 100%, and one country almost achieved that dubious distinction. Cyprus holds the record for the worst bear market of all time in which investors have lost over 99% of their investment! Remember, this loss isn’t for one stock, but for all the shares listed on the stock exchange. The Cyprus Stock Exchange All Share Index hit a high of 11443 on November 29, 1999, fell to 938 by October 25, 2004, a 91.8% drop. The index then rallied back to 5518 by October 31, 2007 before dropping to 691 on March 6, 2009. Another rally ensued to October 20, 2009 when the index hit 2100, but collapsed from there to 91 on October 24, 2013. The chart below makes any roller-coaster ride look boring by comparison.

The fall from 11443 to 91 means that someone who invested at the top in 1999 would have lost 99.2% of their investment by 2013. And remember, this is for ALL the shares listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange. By definition, some companies underperform the average and have done even worse, losing their shareholders everything. For the people in Cyprus, this achievement only adds insult to injury. One year ago, in March 2013, Cyprus became the fifth Euro country to have its financial system rescued by a bail-out. At its height, the banking system’s assets were nine times the island’s GDP. As was the case in Iceland, that situation was unsustainable.
Since Germany and other paymasters for Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece were tired of pouring money down the bail-out drain, they demanded not only the usual austerity and reforms to put the country on the right track, but they also imposed demands on the depositors of the banks that had created the crisis, creating a “bail-in”. As a result of the bail-in, debt holders and uninsured depositors had to absorb bank losses. Although some deposits were converted into equity, given the decline in the stock market, this provided little consolation. Banks were closed for two weeks and capital controls were imposed upon Cyprus. Not only did depositors who had money in banks beyond the insured limit lose money, but depositors who had money in banks were restricted from withdrawing their funds. The impact on the economy has been devastating. GDP has declined by 12%, and unemployment has gone from 4% to 17%.

On the positive side, when Cyprus finally does bounce back, large profits could be made by investors and speculators. The Cyprus SE All-Share Index is up 50% so far in 2014, and could move up further. Of course, there is no guarantee that the October 2013 will be the final low in the island’s fourteen-year bear market. To coin a phrase, Cyprus is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to invest there.

Dow Jones’s 22,000 Point Mistake

  One of the long-term components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been IBM. The company was originally added to the Dow Jones Industrials on March 26, 1932 in a reshuffle involving eight stocks including Coca-Cola, Nash Motors (later American Motors) and Proctor & Gamble. On March 13, 1939, however, both IBM and Nash Motors were removed from the average and replaced by American Telephone & Telegraph and United Aircraft Corp. (now United Technologies). AT&T was in the Dow Jones Utilities Average until June 1, 1938. Until then, the Dow committee had interpreted utilities in a broader sense to include electric, gas, and communications companies as providers of essential services. In 1938, the Dow Jones committee decided to restrict membership in the Utilities Average to power utilities. The resulting reshuffle removed nine stocks, including AT&T, International Telephone & Telegraph, and Western Union, all of which were communications utilities rather than power utilities, from the Dow Jones Utilities Average. Since AT&T was such a huge company, it was moved over to the Dow Jones Industrial Average which required that another stock be removed to make room for AT&T. Thus, IBM was kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. What if the Dow Jones committee had not redefined the Utilities Average to only include power utilities? What if IBM had stayed in the Dow Jones Industrial Average between March 13, 1939 when it was removed and June 29, 1979 when IBM replaced Chrysler in the Dow Jones Industrials? Obviously, the Dow Jones Industrials would be higher than it is today, but how much higher? International Business Machines incorporated on June 16, 1911 as The Computer-Tabulating-Recording Co., a merger of The Computing Scale Company of America, The Tabulating Machine Company and The International Time Recording Company of New York. The company listed on the NYSE in November 1915, and on February 14, 1924, the company acquired International Business Machines and changed its name in a reverse acquisition. IBM has been one of the best performers on the stock exchange in history. If you had invested $1 in IBM when it started trading OTC in August 1911, it would have grown to $40,000 today on a price basis. If you had reinvested your dividends, your $1 investment would have grown to $1,434,300. In the past 100 years, IBM has given over a million-fold return. The graph below shows the performance of IBM stock over the past 100 years.
AT&T incorporated in New York on March 3, 1885 and began trading on the NYSE in May 1900 after it had acquired American Bell Telephone Co. in March 1900. The company was forced to split up into “Ma Bell” and the “Baby Bells” by the U.S. Government on December 31, 1983. On November 18, 2005, AT&T Corp. (“Ma Bell”) was acquired by one of the Baby Bells, SBC Communications, which then changed its name to AT&T Inc. in a reverse acquisition. AT&T has not performed as well as IBM over the past 100 years. If you had invested $1 in AT&T in May 1900, your investment would have grown to only $4.26 on a price basis, or $639 if you had reinvested all of your dividends back in the company, by the time AT&T was broken up in February 1984.  

 
So what if the Dow Jones Committee had kept IBM in the Dow Jones Average between March 1939 and June 1979 and had never admitted AT&T, keeping it in the Utilities Average? What would the result have been? IBM closed at 187.25 on March 14, 1939 while AT&T closed at 166.125. IBM closed at 73.375 on June 29, 1979 while AT&T closed at 57.875. Price wise, the results appear to be similar. The difference is that both stocks split, and the stocks had several rights offerings in the intervening 40 years. The cumulative effect of these stock splits and rights offerings is significant. You would have to adjust the stock price of AT&T by 7.15 to allow for the impact of stock splits and rights offerings, but you would have to adjust IBM stock by a factor of 562.48. If neither stock had split or provided rights offerings in those intervening forty years, AT&T stock would have been at 414 in June 1979, but IBM would have been at 41,272. IBM increased one hundred times more than AT&T during those intervening forty years.  

 
The DJIA stood at 151.1 on March 14, 1939 and 841.98 on June 29, 1979. Since the DJIA is price weighted, you can remove the impact of AT&T on the DJIA by subtracting out the price of AT&T allowing for the splits, and replacing this amount with the value of IBM stock, allowing for the splits in IBM. If you do this, you would find that the DJIA would have been at 23,582 in June 1979, not 841.98. In other words, IBM would have added 22,740 points to the DJIA had it never been removed.
The DJIA is currently trading above 16,000. If you add 22,740 points to this value, you would arrive at a DJIA close to 39,000. If IBM had stayed in the DJIA, CNBC and The Wall Street Journal would be preparing for the DJIA’s approaching rendezvous with 40,000. However, since the Dow Jones Committee removed IBM from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1939 and kept it out for forty years, we will have to wait several more decades to reach that goal.

Six Ounces that Saved a Hundred Billion-Dollar Company

  Today Pepsi is one of the strongest brands in the world with a capitalization of nearly $125 billion. But this wasn’t always the case. It may be hard to believe, but Pepsi was on the verge of bankruptcy during its first forty years of business. In fact, Pepsi-Cola’s financial situation was so bad that three times between 1922 and 1934, Pepsi-Cola approached Coca-Cola and offered to sell out to their competitor. All three times Coca-Cola rejected their offer. Coca-Cola’s rejections could be among three of the biggest marketing snafus in history, while Pepsi’s “12 ounce” jingle campaign turned out to be one of the most successful marketing efforts of all time. Not only did the campaign prove a success for Pepsi, but it revolutionized the soda industry as a whole. This case study is an interesting one indeed and shows how perseverance in the marketplace and promotional advertising can be worth billions.

A Secret Recipe: Pepsin and Kola Nuts

First introduced in North Carolina as “Brad’s Drink” in 1893 by Caleb Bradham, the name was changed to Pepsi-Cola in 1898 mainly because of Pepsi’s secret ingredients. Digestive enzymes named pepsin and kola nuts were used in the creation of this special drink. However, when Bradham unsuccessfully speculated on wildly fluctuating sugar prices (shown below), the company faced bankruptcy.
A series of buyouts and structural re-organizations occurred between 1922 and 1934. In 1931, the National Pepsi-Cola Co. reorganized as Pepsi-Cola Co., selling its assets to Roy C. Megargel. After Megargel also failed to make Pepsi-Cola Co. profitable, he sold the company to Charles Guth, President of Loft, Inc. Loft, a candy manufacturer and retailer that owned Happiness Candy Stores had been around for 20 years prior to acquiring Pepsi . The Loft-operated Happiness Candy Stores had soda fountains and saw the marriage as a good fit.

Pepsi– Rejected by Coke, Acquired by Loft

Charles Guth wanted to cut costs at his soda fountains, so he tried to get Coca-Cola to lower the cost of their syrup. Coke refused, so Charles Guth turned to Pepsi-Cola. Guth bought an 80% controlling stake in Pepsi-Co. in September 1938, and had Loft’s chemists reformulate the Pepsi-Cola syrup. Guth then quit Loft, Inc. as President to run Pepsi-Cola Co. and sold the syrup to Loft, Inc., his former employer, at a profit. At the same time, Loft, Inc. was sliding into bankruptcy. The chart below shows how the price of Loft, Inc. sank to new lows in the 1930s: The company’s Happiness Candy Stores were consistent money losers and Loft, Inc. lost money on its candy for five years in a row. The Depression was so bad, not even candy could cheer people up! The chart below shows the desperate situation the company’s shareholders were facing in the late 1930s:

Losses and Loft Suits

Where there are losses, there are law suits. Claiming that the companies had been mismanaged, shareholders sued Happiness Candy Stores, Inc. as well as Loft, Inc. Loft, Inc. sued Guth since he had used the finances and facilities of Loft, Inc. to help Pepsi-Cola, Co. succeed. Guth not only increased Pepsi’s profits by selling the syrup to his former employer, but he made one of the most brilliant marketing decisions in history. He had the excellent idea of packaging Pepsi-Cola in twelve-ounce bottles rather than 6.5 ounce bottles while keeping the price the same at five cents. Coca-Cola and other soft drinks were then sold in 6.5 ounce bottles at the same price. Guth introduced the clever jingle “Pepsi-drink for you”. As a result, Pepsi’s sales increased and profits doubled between 1936 and 1938. Pepsi stock soared, rising one-hundred-fold within two years, as shown in the chart below: