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How certain are you?


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The formula for valuing assets requires answering these three questions:

How certain are you that there are indeed birds in the bush? When will they emerge and how many will there be? What is the risk-free interest rate?


It seems an answer to the first question is necessary to estimate a probability-weighted range of values for an asset.


Can anyone comment on the quantitative application of certainty estimates to a range of valuations for an asset? Thanks

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A good set of questions!


I would respond that the "risk free" rate of return is about 1% or so, very, very low.


Secondly, as long as you are "very" certain that there are birds in the bush, how accurate do you need to be?  You can never be 100% sure.  There have been cases where I've figured that I'm 96% (19 out of 20 tims) sure there are indeed birds in the bush.  How much better would it be to be 98% (49 out of 50) sure there are birds in the bush?  Obviously something...but I've found that beyond a certain point, you RAPIDLY reach a point of diminishing returns.  For example, you spend 3 months watching and 30 hours researching to reach the 96% sure level.  To get to the 98% sure level, you might need to spend 80 or more hours researching.  Is it worth it?


I guess it might if you dealing in millions of dollars per position...Not so much if you are talking about $5k or $10k positions.


A similar thing exists for the number of birds in the bush...If you are sure there are 3 birds, but maybe there are more, how much time is required to get the exact amount?  As long it clears your minimum hurdles with some room to spare...is that good enough?


I think WEB said you don't need to know if a man weighs 385 lbs or 360 lbs to know that he is fat... The end result is the same...

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I find it helpful to do a probability weighted sensitivity analysis. I think about the key drivers of the business. Then, consider the key drivers under bear, bull and base cases. The process is not about precision, its simply an exercise to help me think about the quality of the business (and nature of the industry) and if it is reasonable to expect the return be asymmetrical. 


"It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." ~ William Bruce Cameron (1963), “Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking” http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/05/26/everything-counts-einstein/

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