Just more than two decades ago, I had a little farm to the northwest of Pretoria.
To me it was like a little piece of heaven on earth (the two puns in the first two sentences of two songs are completely unintended).
It was one of the happiest times of my life. I had 30 head of cattle, 117 sheep, and a lot of chickens.
At night I went to sleep, listening to the jackals calling each other. Marvelous.
The only little thorn in my side, was the soil. It was very rocky, and all attempts at vegetable gardens were unsuccessful.
But hey, one can’t have it all, and I was as happy as a man could be.
Until one day…
I had been away on business for two weeks; on my return I saw that there was, what looked to be, about a hectare of “thin” and unhealthy-looking plants.
I let them be and later the “unhealthy-looking plants” began bearing funny looking fruit (this was my perception anyway).
The thin pointy fruits started colouring, some red and others a deep green.
The other plants fruits were shaped like an egg shape, and purple.
A friend came for a weekend visit, and I asked him if he knew what kind of vegetables/fruit it was. “Oh yes,” he replied, “it is chilli peppers, the very hot kind, and the others were brinjals.”
“Jegh,” I thought to myself. I intensely disliked any food that was really hot, and really, really detested brinjals. Terrible stuff to my palate.
The following Monday I told my foreman (and only full-time farm worker) to shovel the plants out.
The look of confusion on his face, and when he asked if I am sure I wanted it done, should have sent some alarm bells ringing, but it didn’t.
“Just get it out of the ground,” I said.
When my friend visited again, he saw that the chillies and brinjals were gone. “How much did you get for it,” he asked.
“Nothing,” I replied. “I hate the stuff and got rid of it.”
“That was very clever of you,” he replied sarcastically. “You lost in the region of R15 000.”
Apparently chillies and brinjals were in short supply at the time, and very popular.
So, what would the common denominator between chillies, brinjals and shares be?
It is very simple. If you intuitively don’t “like” a share, it doesn’t mean the market won’t like it. And vice versa, if you like a share, it doesn’t mean the market will. Part of selecting and buying shares, is that it is all about sentiment.
The market’s sentiment, not yours.
Early in 2001 (or 2002) you could buy Naspers shares at 1120 cents per share.
At the time I was working for one of the group’s newspapers and a couple of sub-editors and journalists were having coffee and being generally concerned about the company’s future.
One of the senior journalists (retired now), joined us and said. “Chaps, get a second lease on your house, sell your furniture, and buy Naspers shares.”
To the chorus of protest, he simply said: “Koos (Bekker) doesn’t earn a salary. He gets paid in shares. He’ll see to it that this share price goes through the roof.”
Being diehard printed press people, we, of course, didn’t buy . . .
Hence the similarity between chillies and shares.