Net-Net Investing Strategy: Investing in Underlying Value

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Net-net investing is a value investing strategy that focuses on acquiring stocks at prices significantly below their intrinsic value. Originating from Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, this approach emphasizes buying stocks whose market prices are lower than their net current asset value (NCAV). This article delves into the principles of the net-net investing strategy, its criteria for stock selection, risk management, performance aspects, and the challenges and future outlook of this investment approach.

Principles of Net-Net Investing

Net-net investing is grounded in the philosophy that a stock is worth investing in if its market price is significantly lower than its liquidation value.

Focus on Intrinsic Value

The core principle of net-net investing is to identify companies trading below their intrinsic value. The intrinsic value is calculated based on the company’s net current assets, not on speculative future earnings or growth potential.

Margin of Safety

This strategy inherently incorporates a margin of safety. By investing in stocks priced lower than their net current assets, investors protect themselves against potential errors in valuation or unforeseen market downturns.

Criteria for Stock Selection in Net-Net Investing

Identifying suitable stocks for net-net investing involves strict criteria, primarily focusing on the company’s balance sheet.

Calculating Net Current Asset Value

The net current asset value is calculated by subtracting total liabilities from current assets. Stocks trading below this value are considered potential investments for net-net investors.

Quality of Current Assets

Not all current assets are created equal. Net-net investors often give more weight to cash and marketable securities, as these can be more reliably valued and liquidated if necessary.

Risk Management in Net-Net Investing

While the margin of safety is a built-in risk management tool in net-net investing, there are other considerations for mitigating risk.


Investing in a diversified portfolio of net-net stocks can spread risk. This reduces the impact of any single investment’s underperformance on the overall portfolio.

Assessing Operational Viability

Evaluating whether a company is operationally viable and not just a “falling knife” is crucial. Companies with declining fundamentals or in dying industries might not be sound investments despite meeting net-net criteria.

Performance Aspects of Net-Net Investing

The performance of a net-net investment strategy can vary, but historically, it has shown potential for high returns.

Historical Performance

Historically, net-net investing has provided above-average returns, as these stocks often rebound when the market recognizes their true value.

Market Recognition

The key to success in net-net investing is patience, waiting for the market to recognize and correct the undervaluation.

Challenges and Future Outlook of Net-Net Investing

Net-net investing faces unique challenges in the modern investment landscape, and its future outlook depends on various factors.

Rarity of Net-Net Stocks

In developed markets, particularly in bull markets, finding stocks that meet the net-net criteria can be challenging. These stocks are more common during market downturns or in less efficient markets.

Evolving Market Dynamics

The strategy’s effectiveness in the future may be influenced by evolving market dynamics, including changes in accounting standards and the global economic environment.

In conclusion, the net-net investing strategy offers a unique approach to value investing by focusing on the underlying asset value of companies. It provides a margin of safety by targeting stocks trading below their net current asset value. While the approach requires rigorous analysis and patience, it has historically offered the potential for significant returns. The rarity of finding suitable net-net stocks and evolving market dynamics present challenges to this strategy. However, for discerning investors who can navigate these challenges, net-net investing remains a viable approach to uncovering undervalued investment opportunities in the market.

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