Stock guru gets his second wind

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 April, 2006, 12:00am

After a long, colourful life, Tony Measor seems to be having something of a renaissance these days.

The conservative investor's portfolio picks published in a Chinese-language magazine is up 280 per cent over seven years, his daily online column has a loyal cross-cultural following and his new book sits prominently in stores across Hong Kong.

Fittingly, Invest to Last is not your average personal investment text. With a writing style best described as conversational, he's neither a feral abacus who blinds punters with trade science, nor an aloof investment titan with a background vastly removed from his readership.

Starting out life as an accountant and stockbroker, the 74-year-old has lived in Singapore, England and Hong Kong. At various times, he's owned and managed Hennessy Road bars, race horses and an orange juice business. He's dabbled in journalism and fund management and helped found Quamnet in 1998, the online investment service that is his current professional home.

'I found myself at 50 and basically broke ... I had just given my house away to an old girlfriend,' Mr Measor told Sunday Money. 'I got married and my wife proved very adept at having children. I suddenly realised I had to do something about the future.

'I had always been interested in shares but had never really been interested in money itself - I had a rather hedonistic lifestyle up until that point. I don't regret that, you do have to live after all.

'But I realised that my situation had changed and I had to provide.' A stroke further emphasised thoughts of the future.

Forged out of long experience, his philosophy is a variation on the Benjamin Graham/Warren Buffet value investment school - look for sound companies at reasonable valuations. Buy them and, where possible, just hold them. Let the miracle of retained earnings and reinvested dividends do the work.

'It is all about having confidence in yourself and the fundamental strength of equities in good companies and the market,' he says. 'If it dives, don't worry because further down the track it will be back up...over time the market always grows.'

Any regular reader of his column knows he can be summed up in four letters - HSBC. His portfolios, columns and his book are steeped in his faith in the share, which he claims must have outperformed just about any company anywhere in the last 40 years.

'It is a straightforward company, a bank, with good growth prospects and good management. It is well valued. You really cannot go wrong. Even as big as it now is, there is no reason why HSBC should not continue to grow.

'When I was a stockbroker in Singapore in the early 1970s, I remember a customer who wanted to buy a large number of Australian mining shares,' he says, the obvious distaste wiping his customary gentle smile from his face. 'I sold him HSBC instead. He's still got them as far as I know. He's too rich to hang around with people like me.'

His mantra includes Manulife, Swire B, Henderson Land and Petrochina and the young companies now emerging on the mainland in the classic conservative businesses - utilities, insurance and banking.

Given the continuity of his message, Mr Measor can be at his most interesting when advising people what not to do. Deeply sceptical of investment funds and their high costs, he also likes to skewer trends towards sky-high share valuations that have no relevance to a company's actual earnings and creative accounting. He also guides investors away from firms whose annual reports have a tradition of being over-complex, with assets shifting around subsidiaries.

And despite doing well out of a couple of house moves while he was building up his seed money, Mr Measor advises against the purchase of property other than as a place to live.

'I am convinced you are better off in equities over the long term. With an investment property, you have all the worry of maintenance, tenants and management. That is much too hard work for me,' he says with a gentle chuckle.

He says he and his wife have more than enough to secure the rest of their lives and his children's educations have been taken care of courtesy of a fundamental faith in shares. 'Education is the best legacy you can leave. I don't believe in handing on wealth. People need to earn it themselves.'