Government and Wall Street Elites Are Ripping Us Off So Invest Where Demand Is Low, Says Jim Rogers. Buy Cheap

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Jim Rogers is a legendary investor, a swashbuckling traveller, a man who made his fortune before he turned 40. Now, he is an author and commentator. The man Time magazine once called the Indiana Jones of the world of investing has now morphed himself into a modern dad. In an exclusive interview with Ramesh Damani on CNBC-TV18’s show RD 360, Roger discusses his latest book, A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lesson in Life and Investing.

On the economic scenario right now, Rogers said we are in for an extended period of difficult times.

Jin Rogers’ investment strategy is to look countries where valuations are cheap or paths that are less trodden. He said, "I do try to find things that are cheap. Normally if something is cheap, it is because it is in the dustbin. People are not looking at it. If everybody is looking at something or if everybody is investing in something, you know as well as I do that it is not cheap. That is how he said he realised commodities was a good play in the 90s. I came to the conclusion at the end of the ’90s that the commodities had been in a bear market for about 20 years because there had been excess supply in the 70s. But by the end of the 90s, I came to the conclusion that nobody built a drilling rig for 20 years and nobody had been discovering oil, farming had been a terrible business, farmers were going bankrupt all over the world. So, I realised that is going to mean there is less supply."

Here is a verbatim transcript of Jim Roger’s exclusive interview on CNBC-TV18. Also watch the accompanying video.

Q: You came into fatherhood fairly late, didn’t you?

A: Yes. I always felt sorry for people who had children. I never wanted to have a child. I thought children were a terrible waste of time, energy, and money. I literally felt very sorry for people who had children. I was never going to do something so foolish. I was totally, unbelievably wrong. I am telling you, it is the best thing that has happened to me. If there is anybody watching this show who has not had children, I urge you to get home and get on with it. You take a day off if you have to. You don’t take a day off these days, go home for lunch. But you should definitely have children.

Q: Let’s talk about the lessons in investing, some of which you have outlined in your book. The first lesson is, how do you size up a country? Can you give us an example of which country you are sizing now?

A: As I look around the world right now, I am not investing in many countries because if I am right about the world economy, we are in for an extended period of difficult times. So, the only place where I bought shares in the past year or so has been China. I have got Sri Lanka on my mind. It is just that I have been busy doing other things that I haven’t been able to get to Sri Lanka. But one of the things that I have learnt is that if you get to a country after a long and bitter war, you usually will find that things are very cheap, you will find a lack of capital, there is low morale, and everything is despondent, and there are usually great opportunities. So, Sri Lanka is on my list as a place where that sort of thing is happening, but there are not many, not these days.

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Q: How do you size up a country? What are you looking for?

A: I am looking for two things. I am looking for them to be cheap, for whatever reason: War is a good reason. Cheap and change, where there is some kind of positive change taking place. Sri Lanka is cheap, because it has had a 30-year war and if I am right there is positive change because the war is over now. So, there is going to be peace and so the country can spend a lot of its time, energy and money on pursuing peaceful pursuits.

Q: When you gave an idea and people laughed, is that actually a good sign?

A: Yes. You know that, you have been investing a long time that the more sceptical people are — it doesn’t mean you are right because sometimes I am wrong anyway and I am sure you are wrong too sometimes and sometimes the sceptics are right. But the more scepticism there is, in my experience anyway usually you are probably on to something good, especially if there is a lot of scepticism or ridicule. Ridicule is even better. When they ridicule your idea you are probably really on the right track.

Q: The way your method works is. You look at the dustbins; you look where people are bearish because that is where you find the bargains?

A: Frequently, I do try to find things that are cheap. Normally if something is cheap, it is because it is in the dustbin; people are not looking at it. If everybody is looking at something or if everybody is investing in something, you know as well as I do, it is not cheap.

Q: More certainty equals less profit?

A: Exactly.

Q: A good lesson in investing is learning the laws of supply and demand. Can you explain that to us?

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A: It is very simple. I came to the conclusion at the end of the ’90s that the commodities had been in a bear market for about 20 years because there had been excess supply in the ’70s, people found oil and a lot of things happened, huge inventories of food buildup. But then by the end of the ’90s, I came to the conclusion that nobody built a drilling rig for 20 years and nobody had been discovering oil, farming had been a terrible business, farmers were going bankrupt all over the world. So, I realised that is going to mean there is less supply.

I had driven around the world a couple of times as you know, and I could see that demand was booming. I mean Asia was exploding. The difference in Asia in 1998 and in 1978 was very dramatic. So, I could see that demand was going up for 20 years, and supply going down and that had to mean that the bear market in commodities was going to come to an end. So, I started buying commodities for the first time in the last 15—20 years at that time. Lo and behold, I got it right. Sometimes I get it right.

Q: That works every time, the law of supply and demand. No dictator, no monetary authority has ever been able to change that?

A: They all try. Not just dictators, democracies try. I mean the Indian government, the American government. They all try to abolish the laws of supply and demand, think that they are smarter than anybody else. Periodically, governments put price controls on to food. Recently, the Filipinos put price controls on rice. Now if you were a farmer, you are not going to go into the field over 12 hours a day in the hot sun to raise rice if the government says you can only sell it for 2 pesos. You are just not going to do it.

Q: As Russia found out also?

A: As everybody finds it, every time they try it they always find out. No politician is going out there in the hot sun to work 12 hours a day to sell rice for 2 pesos, I promise you. Indians find out periodically. Your government’s always doing absurd things, so is mine. It just doesn’t work. You cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand.

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