The No Pain, No Gain portfolio has enjoyed an active few months. I do not recall a period of such intense involvement since its creation in 1999. So far this year two constituents have been sold and four recruited.
Yet the strength of my share collection is still, at a total of 14, two below my preferred level.
I believe private shareholders should aim for a portfolio of around 16. Such a collection allows a sufficient spread of interests for investors to survive, in all probability and in some style, any of the vicissitudes that at one time or another confront all of us.
My portfolio has suffered some painful reverses but remains well in the money with some current and past constituents recording outstanding progress.
The two disposals are Spirit Pub Co and Alkane Energy. Spirit departed due to takeover action; Alkane underperformed.
Three of my recent recruits are showing small gains, although Patisserie Holdings is below my buying price.
Spirit, removed at a handsome profit, was the last in a long list of takeover victims. Indeed bid action has been responsible for many of the changes I have been forced to make. Essenden, the ten-pin bowling chain, is under threat and could be the next to succumb to bid activity.
Buybacks have also affected stability, as have more obvious factors such as shares not living up to expectations. Meanwhile, my tendency to alight on small companies has brought its rewards but there have been a number of unfortunate disasters.
Mears, the support services group that should benefit from the election of a Conservative Government, is the only survivor from the portfolio's very early days. But its membership was interrupted for a few years.
The shares were first adopted at 23p. Subsequently they were sold at a rewarding level but re-recruited in March 2008 at 272p. As I write, the price is 430p.
Mears, like most companies, sends colourful and extensive yearly reports to shareholders who request printed documents rather than accepting online versions. The last effort ran to 132 pages, plus enclosures.
Whitbread's contribution is a 148-pager, containing an array of pictures and graphs with assorted statutory documents. Even small, often cash-strapped businesses indulge in extensive reports that are not only expensive to produce but incur heavy postage costs. I realise many companies see their reports as a reflection of their endeavours and a highly prized promotional tool, as well as a useful advertisement.
Yet many rely on shareholder inertia to stop posting reports, almost forcing us to adopt internet perusal. At one time, a number of companies in my investment orbit sent abridged versions, and I was quite happy to receive such documents. After all, many of the multi-page reports now contain a plethora of information, much of it incomprehensible to the average small shareholder.
Various professionals may be in their element, but the little guy probably finds it bemusing – and a waste of money.
Some powerful forces in the City are refusing to countenance certificated share trading and, coupled with the desire to curtail hard reports, there is a clear intention to make life difficult for us traditional little 'uns.
And don't forget that the European Union wants to ban share certificates – an intrusion that will pile on the agony for the small shareholding fraternity.