Friday, August 16, 2019

Links

“Busts are the product of booms, and I’m convinced it’s usually more correct to attribute a bust to the excesses of the preceding boom than to the specific event that sets off the correction. But most of the time there is a spark that starts the swing from bullish to bearish.” --Howard Marks (“Now What?,” January 2008)

Pershing Square's reason for buying shares in Berkshire Hathaway [pages 10-12 of report] (LINK)

John Hempton on the Markopolis GE paper (Post 1Post 2)

Why Viacom Fell (And Why It Can Come Back) (LINK)

Pushing on a String - by Frank K. Martin (LINK)

WeWork IPO Shows It’s the Most Magical Unicorn (LINK)
Everything about the company is over-the-top: its growth, losses, potential conflicts of interest and financial gymnastics.
What is We!? Understanding the WeWork IPO - by Byrne Hobart [H/T @BrentBeshore] (LINK)

The Disruptive Voice Podcast: A Jobs-To-Be-Done Masterclass with Andrew Glaser and Bob Moesta (LINK)

Revisionist History Podcast: Chutzpah vs. Chutzpah (LINK)

A Tissue Sample From 1966 Held Traces of Early HIV - by Ed Yong (LINK)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Links

"I think it is entirely fair, as an investor, to just quitclaim certain areas of business as having too many problems." --Charlie Munger (2002)

The church of chicken: The inside story of how Chick-fil-A used Christian values and a 'clone army' to build a booming business that's defying the retail apocalypse and taking over America [H/T @zebulgar] (LINK)
Related books: 1) Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows, and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand; 2) How Did You Do It, Truett?
New CEO Wants to Make Barnes & Noble Your Local Bookstore ($) [H/T Phil] (LINK)

The growing threat of a corporate bond market meltdown. (LINK)

Argentina's 48% Stock Rout Second-Biggest in Past 70 Years (LINK)
The surprise outcome in Argentina’s primary vote roiled the nation’s financial markets, sending the S&P Merval Index plunging 48% in dollar terms. 
That marked the second-biggest one-day rout on any of the 94 stock exchanges tracked by Bloomberg going back to 1950. Sri Lanka’s bourse tumbled more than 60% in June 1989 as the nation was engulfed in a civil war.
A Danish bank is offering mortgages with negative interest rates — why you shouldn't wish for that to happen in the U.S. [H/T Matt] (LINK)

The World’s Newest Petrostate Isn’t Ready for a Tsunami of Cash [H/T Matt] (LINK)

Storytelling with Data - by Chris Pavese (LINK)
Related book: Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals
Invest Like the Best Podcast: Zack Kanter – All Things Business (LINK)

Ramit Sethi on the Impact Theory Podcast (video) [H/T @dollarsanddata] (LINK)
Related book: I Will Teach You to Be Rich
Land of the Giants Podcast: Why the Robot Revolution is Our Fault (LINK)

Matt Ridley chats with Steve Forbes (podcast) (LINK)

Are You Doing Microworkouts? Here's Why You Should. - by Mark Sisson (LINK)

The Anthropocene Is a Joke - by Peter Brannen (LINK)

One Giant Leap for Maggotkind - by Ed Yong (LINK)

A New Clue to How Life Originated - by Ed Yong (LINK)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Links

"Money tends to be fairly captive, once it’s in a company. If you have a business that gets subnormal returns over time, there’s a big threshold in terms of either a takeover, or a proxy fight, or something like that to unleash the capital. So, money that’s tied up in an unprofitable business, or a sub-profitable business, is likely to stay tied up for a good period of time. Eventually something will probably correct it. But capitalism does not operate so efficiently as to move capital around promptly when it’s misallocated." --Warren Buffett (1995)

The Laws of Investing - by Morgan Housel (LINK)

The Billionaires Behind The Secret Tech Mecca In America’s Heartland [H/T @iancassel] (LINK)

Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment [H/T @wolfejosh] (LINK)

The Tim Ferriss Show (podcast): #381: Charles Koch — CEO of Koch Industries (LINK)

Acquired Podcast: DoorDash + Caviar Quick Take (LINK)

Spectacular Failures Podcast: Toys R Us goes bust (LINK)

The Cocktail Creationist (2004) [H/T @vader7x] (LINK)
At 5:20 on a Sunday morning in the summer of 1996, Sidney Frank—liquor baron extraordinaire, dapper elderly gent, CEO of the Sidney Frank Importing Co.—picked up his phone in a fit of inspiration. He dialed up his No. 2 executive, who listened in a groggy daze as Frank proclaimed, “I figured out the name! It’s Grey Goose!”
This Land Is the Only Land There Is (LINK)
Here are seven ways of understanding the IPCC’s newest climate warning.
Jupiter from Hubble: Enormous, magnificent, and… fading at the edge? - by Phil Plait (LINK)

Book of the day: Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career - by Scott Young

Multiples and the reinvestment of capital...

From Warren Buffett at the 1995 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
It isn’t a multiple of today’s earnings that is primarily determinate of things. We bought our Coca-Cola, for example, in 1988 and ’89, on this stock, at a price of $11 a share—as low as 9, as high as 13, but it averaged about $11. 
And it’ll earn, we’ll say, most estimates are between $2.30 and $2.40 this year [1995]. So, that’s under five times this year’s earnings, but it was a pretty good size multiple back when we bought it. 
It’s the future that counts. It’s like what I wrote there, what Wayne Gretzky says, to go where the puck is going to be, not where it is. 
So, the current multiple interacts with the reinvestment of capital and the rate at which that capital’s invested, to determine the attractiveness of something now. 
And we are affected in that valuation process to a considerable degree by interest rates, but not by whether they’re 7.3, or 7.0, or 7.5. But we’ll be thinking much differently if long-term rates are 11 percent or 5 percent. But we don’t have any magic multiples in mind. 
We’re thinking — we want to be in the business that 10 years from now is earning a whole lot more money than it is now, and that we will still feel good about the prospects of the business at that time.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Links

I may have posted this before, but since I saw it making the rounds again, and in case anyone hasn't seen it..... large Berkshire/Buffett compilation.

Howard Marks on Loans, Distressed Investing, Fed Policy (video) (LINK)

How Economists’ Faith in Markets Broke America - by Sebastian Mallaby [book reviews] (LINK)

Revisionist History Podcast: In a Metal Mood (LINK)
Two seasons after its investigation of the decline of McDonalds french fries, Revisionist History returns to fast-food’s high-tech test kitchens. This time the subject is cultural appropriation. The case study is Taco Bell. Oh, and Pat Boone is involved.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Links

Nightline with Warren Buffett in March of 1999 (video) [H/T @Gautam__Baid] (LINK)

Oaktree Insights: Rising Risks Call for a Tactical Approach to Global Credit Investing (LINK)

Inflated Bond Ratings Helped Spur the Financial Crisis. They're Back. ($) (LINK)

America’s Pension Funds Fell Short in 2019 ($) (LINK)

Muddy Waters Research's latest short report, on Burford Capital Ltd. (LINK)

A Framework for Moderation - by Ben Thompson (LINK)

Was E-mail a Mistake? - by Cal Newport (LINK)

The Long View Podcast: Bill Nygren (LINK)

Acquired Podcast: The Shopify IPO (LINK)

Y Combinator Podcast: Russ Roberts (LINK)

Talking Points Podcast: Hospitality Icon Danny Meyer (LINK)

"Blue Sky Metropolis," a documentary mini-series on the untold story of how aerospace was central to the growth of California and its emergence as an economic power. [H/T @AlexRubalcava] (LINK)

Some Fish Are Still Full of Mercury, for a Worrying Reason - by Ed Yong (LINK)

Credit cards and banking...

This was a discussion at the 1995 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting (Q38 & Q39) that I thought was both interesting as well as one that could, and does, occur today. And the book Buffett and Munger were recommending in the excerpt below was A Piece of the Action : How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class by Joseph Nocera. 

***

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Edward Barr, Lexington, Kentucky. I had a two-fold question.

Number one, you mentioned American Express earlier. And I was curious as to whether the fact that credit card usage is only 10 percent of all transactions, and that may continue to grow for some time going forward, was a factor in your decision?

And the other part of the question pertains to the durability and permanence of the banking franchise with regard to alternative delivery channels that may appear over the next few years, including the possibility of the Microsoft/Intuit merger.

WARREN BUFFETT: Well, the specific number you mentioned about credit card usage and so on, that’s not a big factor with us. We think credit cards are both here to stay and likely to grow, to some extent.

Although at some point you start reaching limits, at least in terms of [outstanding credit card debt] that make any sense.

But the credit card field is a very big field. The question is, is who’s got the edge in it? Because everybody is going to want to be in it, and they already are. And there are a lot of different ways you can play the game if you’re in the credit card business.

And you better have some way of playing one part of the game, preferably a large part. But you better have some way of playing one part of the game better than others or natural capitalistic forces are going to grind you down.

I mean, it’s a business that people are willing to change their minds about what they do in. I mean, if you offer somebody a credit card that gives them some advantages that don’t exist on their earlier card, people are quite willing to shift cards.

So, you need some kind of an edge in some particular segment of the market. So, the growth aspects overall of the market are not a big factor with us.

It’s really a question of figuring out who’s going to win what game, and who’s going to lose what game.

And what was the second question again on that?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The second question pertained to the permanence and durability of the banking franchise.

WARREN BUFFETT: Oh yeah, sure.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: And whether alternative delivery channels over the next few years may erode the durability of that, including the Microsoft/Intuit merger.

WARREN BUFFETT: Well, that’s a good question. You’re certainly seeing the value of bank branches diminish significantly. It used to be a point of enormous pride with managements, in how many branches they had.

And it was, you know, often political influence and everything else was called into obtaining branch permits.

The world will change in banking, probably in some very major ways, over a 20 or 30-year period. Exactly what players will benefit and which ones will be hurt is a very tough question.

I don’t think I’d expect really significant change in banking over the next five years, but I’d certainly expect it over the next 20 years.

And there are a lot of people that have their eye on that market, including Microsoft, as you mention.

It may be to their advantage to hook up with the present players. I mean, I know it’s certainly something that gets explored. But they may figure out a way to go around the present players, too. And that’s one investment consideration.

Charlie?

CHARLIE MUNGER: Yeah. The interesting player that went around the rest was Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch went heavily into banking with its cash management accounts. And I don’t think it’s the only innovation that’ll come along.

WARREN BUFFETT: What’s the name of that book?

CHARLIE MUNGER: You know, I’d forgotten, that’s a marvelous book.

WARREN BUFFETT: Yes, there’s a great book.

CHARLIE MUNGER: Maybe Molly remembers. What was that book you gave me? It was the history of the credit card.

WARREN BUFFETT: Was it Joe Nocera’s? Yeah, Joe Nocera was the author.... It’s a terrific history of the credit card business.

And if you read that you will get some idea of the amount of change that can occur in something like the movement of money. And my guess is that if there’s another edition of it in 20 years, there’ll be plenty more to write about. 

CHARLIE MUNGER: By the way, that is a fabulous book. Most of the people who are here will not be able to put it down. I mean, for a book about an economic development, it captures the human background in a very interesting way.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Chris Bloomstran on the Invest Like the Best podcast

I've been hoping for this conversation for a while, and Chris and Patrick O’Shaughnessy finally got a chance to chat about quality companies, Berkshire Hathaway, and plenty more. In case anyone missed it, Chris has gone deep into the Berkshire weeds over the last few years with his 2015 letter2016 interview with Kate Welling, 2016 letter, 2017 letter, and then his most recent 2018 letter; all of which can also be found on the Semper Augustus Investments Group website. Chris is a close friend and I'm glad he's starting to get out in public a bit more, as he's one of the best investors and business analysts I know. I also think he could manage a lot more capital without having any effect on his ability to earn good absolute returns and beat the market over time, as he's done for Semper's first 20 years in business.



Monday, August 5, 2019

Links

"The investing public is fascinated and captured by the great financial mind. That fascination derives, in turn, from the scale of the financial operations and the feeling that, with so much money involved, the mental resources behind them cannot be less. Only after the speculative collapse does the truth emerge. What was thought to be unusual acuity turns out to be only a fortuitous and unfortunate association with the assets. Over the long years of history, the result for those who have been thus misjudged (including, invariably, by themselves) has been opprobrium followed by personal disgrace or a retreat into the deeper folds of obscurity. Or it has been exile, suicide, or, in modern times, at least moderately uncomfortable confinement. The rule will often be here reiterated: financial genius is before the fall." --John Kenneth Galbraith (A Short History of Financial Euphoria)

A Story of Courage and Hope from the Life of Charlie Munger (LINK)

Why Aren’t Investors Worried? Ask Howard Marks ($) (LINK)
WSJ: Are you concerned about investors’ enthusiasm for profitless technology companies? 
MR. MARKS: The more enthusiasm there is in the world, the harder it is to live up to people’s expectations and the easier it is to disappoint. When a stock goes from great optimism to the optimism sobering up, it’s very painful for investors. What you really want to know is how much optimism is in the price. If you can buy things where the level of optimism is unjustifiably low, that’s where you make a lot of money.
The hidden costs of unreliable electricity - by Bill Gates (LINK)

Greenhaven Road Capital's Q2 Letter (LINK)

Raoul Pal's takeaways from his two week recession watch series (video) (LINK)

David Skok of Matrix Partners: Driving SaaS Success Using Key Metrics (2016) [H/T @MinionCapital] (LINK)

Why Doctors Should Organize - by Eric Topol (LINK)

The Resilience of Analog - by Peter Osnos (LINK)

Peter Thiel's Religion - by David Perell (LINK)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Links

Advantage Flywheels - by Max Olson (LINK)

Where Did This ‘Bull Market’ Come From, Anyway? - by Jason Zweig ($) (LINK)

Buffett Steers Clear of Buying Stocks; Berkshire’s Cash Pile Hits a Record (LINK)

Bill Murray and Warren Buffett spotted at Ted and Wally's in downtown Omaha (LINK)

Good for Google, Bad for America - by Peter Thiel (LINK)

The latest Ken Henry blow-up - by John Hempton (LINK)

The Tides Trump the Waves - by Frank K. Martin (LINK)

Focused Compounding Podcast: 103. Ian Cassel and The Power of Capacity Constrained Investing Strategies (LINK)

Techmeme Ride Home Podcast: The State of Amazon With Jason Del Rey (LINK)

The Rank Hypocrisy of Trump’s Ebola Tweets - by Ed Yong (LINK)

Incredible, must-see video: 'The Comet,' a film noir view of 67P (LINK)