Monday, July 29, 2013

On Growth

There are two things that grow for the sake of growth: cancer and business.

Every business paper I read nowadays talks about how Company X have been budgeting a growth of Y% this year and they are (or most likely are not) on track to achieve it.

Why are we so obsessed with growth when it comes to our businesses?

I have recently read the excellent book Economics of Good and Evil by the brilliant Tomas Sedlacek (I had the privilege of meeting him in Bucharest at the Romanian launch of the book). It is a dense, scholarly book, by any means, but he brings excellent insights into the historical chain of economic theories that brought us in this growth craze mindset.

In many developed countries around the world, stock market cap is higher than GDP. On a worldwide level, in 2012, stock market cap was around 55 trillion USD, while the GWP (Gross World Product) was around 72 trillion USD. Since the stock market is usually made up of the few elite companies, it must be that there is a strong disconnect between the real economy and its financial representation.

I know I am not comparing apples to apples here, but precision is not needed to spot the disconnect.

The financial representation is based on future cash flow valuations, inherently based on a growth assumption. When growth doesn't come, we panic and heavily discount for reality.

So, let's all act surprised when the next financial crisis happens.

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