Google street view should be one of your first things to check when you think about investing in a stock.
It might sound simple, but bear with me...
If you get chance to watch The China Hustle on Netflix, do it. It's about how Chinese companies performed security fraud to get listed on the NYSE/DAQ with nothing but lies about how big, good and profitable they were. Basically, they said they were billion dollar companies. Nobody from the SEC or the US bothered to check and took their word for it.
The documentary spoke to a short seller who uncovered the fraud. The very first alarm bell was when he looked at the road leading up to a paper plant that claimed it was running thousands of tonnes of high quality paper in and out daily. The road leading up to the site was a crappy dirt track road that could no way, take the number of trucks the company said they were running.
Now, they physically went out to check the site, but theres a lot from Google Street View you can learn. I find this more so with chinese companies.
As an example, I looked at a chinese company earlier that had a market cap of around 3 billion. Don't ask me what, i've checked so many today >_>
Anyway, their head office, as listed on their website and SEC filings was nothing more than a shop in a line of other shops. It looked total garbage. I nope'd out straight away. The one thing I learned from the documentary, even more so about Chinese companies, is they present to the SEC/Banks whatever they want, and *NOBODY* checks it. They are 'auditors', as in they 'audit' what is presented. They are not physically checking if a company is trash or not. That's your job i'm afraid. Nobody will protect you, especially the banks or brokers, because they take your money.
Now, bear in mind this might not be flawless, as companies might have holding adresses or something, but I find most of the time it's all good.
This just doesnt apply to China. Check Europe or the US. Is the company that is "growing, expanding and breaking out" still running its office out of some fucking ghetto with some cops in the background of streetview clearing up some bodies? Or do they have plush offices in an affluent area which probably cost a small fortune to upkeep.
This is by no means flawless, but if you wanted to buy a house, you'd want to look at it first. Same for a car. You wouldnt just read the stats/dimensions on paper. Why should stonk be any different?
I think streetview is a very under valued tool when it comes to doing some DD and can give you a fairly good impression of if what they present on paper could be mirrored with what they present in real life.
***Edit - I just wanna clear a few things up here since this kinda exploded.***
Firstly, I'm NOT saying "oNly iNvEsT iN bIg CoRpOrAtE oFfICeS" which is what some people think I'm saying. Doing DD is a full process. It's a jigsaw, and what i'm suggesting here is one piece of that Jigsaw. Yes, companies sometimes have a mailing address. Yes sometimes companies use multiple adresses. This is what DD is about. Why are they using multiple adresses? Go and look into SEC filings and research those adresses. Is it because they are being dishonest, or is there a legit reason for it?
Secondly, it appears the documentary i referenced isnt open on Netflix to US users. Some people here have suggested Amazon or Hulu.
Thirdly, yes Google Maps only covers a small region in china. Use map.baidu.com - It's all in chinese but the format is the same and its easy to figure out. Be aware, it's slow and laggy but better than nothing. Also be aware, that there have been reports of the Chinese government censoring some buildings out of the views. I doubt this will cause a big issue if you're looking at small/medium cap companies but just in case... Something to bear in mind.
Forthly, people saying "iF U nEeD tO Do Dis tHe CoMpANy iS obvS TrAsH". *Christ*. If you think i'm telling you to go and google the Facebook or Berkshire headquarters, then you're wrong. I'm talking about DD on stocks you are looking at investing in. Check out all the top movers today on Finviz. I gurantee that you would have heard of a couple of them at most. I'm talking about people who want to invest in a stock that they hope is going to make big returns, not someone who is content with earning 2% every 3 months on Apple or Amazon.
Fifth, goddam i'm gonna repeat the first point again. I'm not saying this is the basis for solid DD. Yeah, Amazon started selling books from a garage, i get it. What i'm saying is to help you build a bigger picture of your entire DD before you plump your hard earned money into something. You need all the facts. You wouldn't buy a house and look in great detail at every room except one. You wouldnt buy a car and study the detailed pictures and 0-60 times without having a look at the miles per gallon (euro scrub here, we pay 70% tax on fuel so it matters). If you're dead set on a company but on Google it looks like its run from a shed, then you might still be happy with this. If you're 50/50 about a stock, it might tip the balance for you one way or the other.
And 6th, I shouldnt really need to address this because I thought everyone knew it, but yes - some map data is old. Check the date on the map data. If its very old, try the Sat image because it might be newer. I thought we all knew this... We all check our own houses out every few months to see if there's an update, right?
I cant stress enough, this is *one tool* to use while making your entire DD picture. It'll work for some, it won't work for others. If someone has a tactic that makes all DD work perfectly all of the time, then give Buffet a call and get off Reddit.
Love you all x
*Edit #2* = I appreciate the awards but seriously guys, spend that money on stocks or something :)