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DANIEL HANNAN: The EU is run by and for corporate interests

9 Jun

Via Dan’s Blog:

Daniel Hannan speaking at the European Parliament plenary session in May 2011. He describes the grip of lobbyists on the EU institutions.

IMF Job Advert

22 May

No commentary required.

Bear of the Day: Zacks Investment Research

21 May

Zacks Investment Research provides stock commentary, ratings and investment ideas mainly to the retail investor base. I would presume that they have a smaller institutional following as well but that the retail focus represents their core offering. Personally I have no need for Zacks as I have a Bloomberg terminal, but even in the absence of that I would stick to Google or Yahoo Finance. I rarely see anything from Zacks of value. In fact I cannot ever recall anything from Zacks that I have ever benefited from. Most of it seems to be targeted at getting you to sign-up to their newsletter franchises to expand their margins.  Their upgrade and downgrade ratings are purely a reflection of earnings outcomes and follow the general trend on Wall St i.e. wait until a company reports earnings, if good and upward revisions to future earnings guidance = Zacks upgrade, poor results and downward revisions to future guidance = Zacks downgrade. If you want to weasel your way out of making a call = Zacks neutral. As you can see you don’t need to pay a subscription for this amazing insight.

Furthermore, Zacks also seem to have an overwhelming number of ratings which are neutral. What does that mean? There are a number of stocks where an investor would want to remain neutral or not to have a position, but Zacks takes that to another level. Just take a look at some of their marketing material. When I clicked Zacks Top 10 stocks for 2011 this is what I got: 

You know the look, it looks like one of those penny stock scams in the way it is structured and presented. It seems unbelievable that the yellow box says: “Most investors are still skeptical about today’s market. But thousands of Zacks members don’t care. They know that often the best market action is not to fight the tide but to exploit it”. This investment thesis is likely to lead to a spectacular tragedy.  

And here we are please “Subscribe to Zacks Top 10 now and get these stock picks immediately”. To reinforce this further in postscript, “P.S. Again, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to this service today.” Avoid Zacks, most of their material is freely available elsewhere. 

Since when did Karren Brady become a respectful business woman

21 May

I find it awkward watching The Apprentice UK. In the middle you have a man of some awe. Struggled throughout his teenage years to establish an empire out of a van, perhaps the more successful Trotter brother. To the right of him, Karren Brady, lauded as the spokeswoman of all successful business women. The BBC describes her as “The highly successful business woman…” who “takes her role as Lord Sugar’s new board member.” Just parsing through her business history it strikes me that it is more characterised by complete failure rather than any successes. After a brief stint at Saatchi & Saatchi she then joined Sports Newspapers Ltd in 1998 at the healm of David Sullivan’s media porn empire.

After becoming Chairman at Birmingham City they were languishing in the lowly leagues and my school had the oft pleasure of hosting their training as their pitches were so poor.  It is well known that David Sullivan, the prior owner of the Blues sought to monetise the fame that a young female Director would have brought to Birmingham City Football Club. After many years of out-spending their peers the Blues finally managed promotion under the guidance of Steve Bruce. Brady also oversaw the murky takeover of the club by Carson Yeung which involved a weird ownership structure where it is reported that Yeung agreed to buy the club in partial, and then would buyout the remainder over an agreed schedule of time. Easy enough for Brady and the Board to understand, but fans were left bemused and the manager, Steve Bruce, with uncertainty around full disclosures and prolonged contract negotiations exited the sinking ship.

Sullivan and Brady were also arrested by the City of London Police in 2008 as part of a wider police probe into corruption in football. She was released on bail and all charges were dropped. She left Birmingham City Football Club following the full takeover.

Now she is Vice-Chairman of West Ham, oversaw the horrible signings of Kieron Dyer, Benni McCarthy (who has already agreed a payout in exchange for an early contract termination) among many others.  Significant financial losses have also been racked up and the club have now also had the humuliating confirmation of regulation. So the only female chairman of a Premier League club ends up bottom. It is this demarcation of the genders that is unhealthy. People should be measured on talent and ability, when factors other than that are introduced it is usually accompanied with corresponding problems as we have seen with Karren Brady.

If Alan Sugar is short of successful female business women, here’s a few he should consider: convince Margaret Mountford to come back,  Mary Perkins, co-founder, Specsavers, Rosaleen Blair, founder CEO, Alexander Mann Solutions, Cynthia Carroll, Chief Executive of Anglo American among many others.

This is not a sick joke

21 May

Why has Dominique Strauss-Kahn been released on bail? John McConnell, Assistant district attorney  has already stated: “The proof against him is substantial and continues to grow every day.”  He has been alleged to have committed such crimes as attempted rape, sexual abuse and criminal sexual acts. Given the circumstances he should have not been given the latitude and flexibility to have been released on bail.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn should be remanded in full police custody, given the rights of a trial without question, but given the already established incriminating evidence bail should have been refused. Prosecutors are already making preparations to present their case and the public will not withstand an unnecessary delay to proceedings being started. We had altogether similar antics with Made-off.

What is also important here is that a full investigation is now undertaken at the IMF and its internal practices.  If he is prepared to transgress to such heinous crimes anything of a lesser nature, by extension,  he would have had the propensity to commit. We need to rest his moral compass. This is not an investigation of sexual assault, it’s a wider matter of the head of one of the world’s most powerful organisations (the IMF) and he’s blurry behaviour. The regulators have an opportunity to redeem themselves and to really delve into the IMF and other organisations to unlock the circles of corruption, fraud and favouritism which are more likable to third world dictatorships.

Peter Schiff’s economic analogies

21 May

A collection of potent metaphors reflecting the current state of the US economy. Reminders are always beneficial for those who are aware. While I do not subscribe to all of Schiff’s views he’s core direction in terms of promoting gold, silver, oil and foreign currencies against the US dollar is something which most apt investors are attuned to.

Some of the quotes: 

“They might as well nominate my six year to be treasury secretary. At least he would play with his toys instead of screwing up the economy.”

“We’ve just been going on a consumption binge, where we borrow money like drunken sailors from the rest of the world, and blow it!”

“The American did nothing all day but sun himself on the beach, he had a service economy!”

“The boom is the problem, the bust is the solution.”

“The government is like a kid experimenting with a chemistry set, and eventually they are going to blow us all up.”

Best quote:

“If a kid tells his teacher he has a straight A policy, but he skips class and he doesn’t study, he’s not going to get A’s just by saying he has a policy. The treasury can say they’ve got a strong dollar policy all they want but if we’ve got Ben Bernanke debasing the money it is going to go down.”

CEO hubris

17 May

Peter Thiel: The Higher Education Bubble

17 May

A great article by Sarah Lacy at TechCrunch.

One of Thiel’s best quotes from the piece:

“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

The full article link is here.

Xerox CEO panicked by lack of qualified applicants

17 May

Xerox CEO, Ursula Burns is deeply concerned about the lack of science and technology skills among US job applicants. In 2006, in one sub-enginereeing category 106,000  jobs remained unfilled due to skills shortages. Burns is adamant that if US domestic students do not step up in fields such as math and science the US will lose its competitive bias.

Burns attributes a number of factors responsible for the overall decline in US competitiveness.  The disintegration of family structures, a breakdown in schools, a deviation from performance and accountability, a focus away from science and math and what creates value. She calls for a return to basics. Burns is panic stricken about the lack of suitable candidates in the US and the increasing need to recruit abroad to locate the skills Xerox requires.

Video Link

Apple – a $2 trillion dollar company?

16 May

James Altucher is never short of a wacky off-the-wall idea or two. To the extent that one has a book to sell, it seems sensible to create as much publicity as possible. Now, add a great ingredient, Apple, mix it up and simmer for a while.

Altucher’s zesty approach in creating an almost unthinkable proposition, Apple at $2 trillion, is purely a bit of fun. Clearly, Apple has the tenacity, drive and innovation to become the world’s largest company but $2 trillion is a significant deviation from reality. Apple at $2000 dollars a share, unless Bernanke gets his fingers stuck on Print (Ctrl+P) Altucher’s thesis is unlikely to be tested.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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