Some stuff you may want to read

Too many things to read...
  • (Recommended) Benjamin Graham on intelligent vs unintelligent speculation (CanadianValue for GuruFocus): I'm not a classic value investor and think Graham is wayyy too conservative, but it's still good to think about risk.
  • One distressed company to watch: Deans Foods (Bloomberg): Contrarians and distressed value investors may want to check out Dean Foods (DF), the largest dairy in America. Dean Foods is off around 66% in the last 3 years and is apparently struggling due to, what else, too much debt. I don't like companies like this but I notice many value investors like these old-school companies. One of the big risks with situations like this is a take-under. There is nothing to stop someone from coming in and buying this company at a really low price, especially if the stock keeps sliding for a while.
  • WikiLeaks reveals Pfizer pressured Nigerian officials to drop suit by trying to uncover corruption (New York Times): According to one of the leaked cables from WikiLeaks, it appears that Pfizer was trying to avoid paying damages from its drug tests, by trying to dig up corruption charges against the Nigerian officials investing the case. Not too surprising but it just goes to show how far companies will go to defend themselves, even when they may be at fault.
  • Tata Nano sales slipping in India (New York Times): Introduced to much fanfare in India, the tiny Tata Nano was supposed to make cars affordable in poor countries like India. Sales took off with a bang but appears to have stalled due to various problems with the car and its marketing. Competitors with similar cars appear to be taking away market share.
  • The almost out-of-control drug war in Mexico starting to take a toll on small businesses (Bloomberg Markets magazine): I've commented on the bogus "war" on drugs in the past so I'm not going to go into it here. But if the trend described in this article, where small and medium-sized businesses are suffering due to the kidnappings, bombings, shootouts, and the like, continue, it is going to have a catastrophic impact on the economy. A lot of the wealthy don't care about starting bogus wars, like the war on drugs, but when the economy falls out, they will start to care. So will the rest of the world.
  • (Recommended) Profile of Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Funds (Fortune; h/t Geoff Gannon for GuruFocus): I don't understand Bruce Berkowitz! He has a good track record but I don't even know what type of investor he is. Geoff Gannon seems to suggest he is a distress investor but to what degree? Latest forays into financials—a very high risk move, unless you assume US govt will bail out the banks again if something goes wrong—is definitely investments in distressed assets but his investments in Sears a few years ago isn't quite distressed—contrarian but not exactly distressed IMO. In any case, good article.
  • (Recommended) Canadian superinvestor, Paul Desmaris of Power Corporation (Geoff Gannon for GuruFocus): Good article recapping the history of Paul Desmaris, who is not widely known outside Canada.
  • (Recommended) Canadian superinvestor, Prem Watsa of Fairfax Financial (Geoff Gannon for GuruFocus): Well known in value circles but very few others know much about Prem Watsa. Gannon's work shows how spectacular Watsa's record has been (at least in growing book value).
  • (Recommended) New Rules of Investing interiews Jeff Annello (New Rules of Investing): Some of you may remember Jeff Annello, who ran the short-lived Circle of Competence blog. I always got the impression that Jeff was a sharp investor and I'm glad to see him running his own fund now. If you are interested in running your fund, do check out this interview.
  • Open-source electronics? (Bloomberg): Interesting story about an entrepreneur whose business provides open-source hardware kits and tools. The article talks about hobbyists using Microsoft's Xbox360 Kinect, a motion-sensor device that was introduced recently, in their robotics and automation programs. After initially disapproving of the use, Microsoft seems supportive of it if the Kinect itself is not modified. I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing for Microsoft. It comes down to how much money Microsoft makes off Kinect versus the amount they project to make off Kinect services and games.
  • The emergence of online rental markets (Bloomberg Businessweek): One of the major impacts of the Internet is its ability to provide better match-making services between buyers and sellers of almost any good. This article talks about the emergence of online sites that allow individuals to rent out their property.
  • The downside to totalitarian-type systems... can Russia ever reform itself? (The Economist): Even if Putin and Medvedev do a good job running Russia, the risk, as with China, is that future leaders may mess everything up. Russia, not surprisingly, is starting to stagnate and turn into a rigid system.
  • (non-investing) Ten key dissidents in China (The Globe & Mail): A slideshow of ten key Chinese activists who have stood up against the state. Ironically, given the latest saga with WikiLeaks and similar stories, it appears some countries in the West are sliding towards the Chinese model.


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