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25-year-old investor looks for ultimate value

James Liao, 25

Occupation: Commercial real estate appraiser

The portfolio

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Bank of Montreal, RioCan REIT, South American Silver, TD Bank, iShares S&P/TSX Capped Energy, Advent/Claymore Convertible Securities and Income Fund, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, General Electric, Goldman Sachs Group, Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

The investor

Professionally, James Liao's life has revolved around valuations, first when he was working in commercial banking, and now as a commercial real estate appraiser. "I like real estate because it's a tangible asset."

Why he likes investing

"I like to see the value of what something ultimately is worth," he says. By way of example, he points to the impact of the credit crunch on RioCan, which fell to less than $12. Mr. Liao did some calculations of his own, finding that to purchase the REIT's assets it would cost more than the cost of the shares.

How he assesses management

Mr. Liao likes management that is not only goal-oriented, but also able to reach those goals. A good example comes from his days working for the Bank of Montreal when, while visiting the Toronto training centre, he met some senior executives. "They talked about some of the things they wanted to do and I looked a year later and saw that they had been achieved."

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Best move

When BP's well in the Gulf of Mexico blew last year, he realized that while the company had a huge liability, oil as a sector had been hit. In particular, he thought Shell had been dragged down because of general fears about the industry. He bought shares in Shell about a year ago in the mid-$50 (U.S.) range; it closed Friday at $71.48.

Worst move

The debt crisis brought Fannie Mae to its knees, so Mr. Liao thought it was a good bet to pick some up shares at 80 cents. "The U.S. government had stepped in, and I thought over the long term, it would still be profitable." So far, that hasn't come to pass. "I didn't do enough due diligence."


"If you don't understand the market and what you read on the Internet, you won't be able to differentiate between rumours and the truth."

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