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      « November 2005 | Main | January 2006 »

      December 31, 2005

      Happy New Year

      I'll get around to posting year-end results for the stock picks before the markets reopen on Tuesday morning.

      In the meantime, let me wish all readers a great 2006. I hope the coming year brings the best of health, happiness and prosperity to you, your families, and everyone you care about.

      Happy New Year!

      December 30, 2005

      Another Vote for Liberty Media

      Maybe this is a case of misery loves company. Or maybe it's a case of reaffirmation.

      Either way, Kiplinger's mentions something that really isn't news -- that Mason Hawkins and the gang at Longleaf Partners are bullish on Liberty Media (L/NYSE). This isn't news because Longleaf Partners Fund established a large stake in Liberty Media during the 2nd quarter. (If you're reading this, then you already know that the Weitz, Cundill and First Eagle folks own tons of the stock as well.)

      Anyway, it's nice to see another story pointing out that Liberty Media is undervalued.

      Perhaps this will be the one sparking a huge buying spree on Wall Street, leading to a higher stock price before the market closes for New Year's. So high that my holding in Liberty will no longer be underwater.

      Well, I can always dream. ;-)

      December 29, 2005

      Dorfman's Top 10 Picks for 2006

      Money manager John Dorfman names his top 10 favorite value stocks for the coming year in his latest Bloomberg column.

      I don't own any of the companies he mentions. Though one (the New York Times) is a media stock, which as a group are undervalued. Readers of this site know that I own a few of these in the broadcasting and cable area, not newspapers directly.

      Dorfman is always an interesting read. I like the fact that he doesn't hype and recommends stuff that he either owns personally or holds for clients:

      I have more than just a rooting interest in these stocks. My clients own all 10 of them, and I own most of them personally.                

      I must confess that my record on this Favorites list isn't as good as some of the other lists I publish in this column.

      My favorites have been profitable four years out of five and have beaten the S&P 500 three times out of five. Due to a horrible 2002, however, the average return has been 4.2 percent, the same as the S&P 500.

      Read the column. But my unsolicited advice is to remember these are value stocks. So don't buy any you're not willing to hold for more than just the next 12 months.

      December 28, 2005

      CNBC's New Format

      Rumor has it that CNBC has "received tens of thousands of complaints" about its new graphics and noises.

      I've sampled the new format myself and don't find it nearly as awful as many. That said, I've never been anywhere near a daily viewer of CNBC. And my hunch is that a new format won't be enough to lure back viewers the cable channel has lost in recent years.

      I think this is true for two reasons:

      First, the ratings bonanza CNBC enjoyed during the tech boom is probably a once-in-a-generation phenomena. It happened at a time when the Wall Street Journal was spelling "new economy" as "New Economy" and all sorts of people talked about stocks (especially internet stocks) everywhere -- at work, at home, at parties, at gyms and the like. It was a mania.

      Second, CNBC still suffers from being tagged as "bubble vision," the belief the channel served as a cheerleader for the tech bubble. I believe that charge is largely true (based on my irregular viewing, remember).

      In addition to trying to attract viewers, the new graphics and noises may be a strategic move in advance of the much-anticipated launch of a FOX Business Channel. The FOX News Channel isn't shy about using bells and whistles (it introduced the "swoosh" sound effect in cable news), and this looks like an attempt to look like a Roger Ailes-run business channel before he gets his on the tube.

      Hey, I've never worked a day of my life in broadcasting. But my humble opinion is that CNBC should play to its strength. FOX will almost certainly start out as an American channel covering American markets. CNBC's strength is that it can already provide viewers with truly GLOBAL business news.

      So CNBC should further tie in with CNBC Asia and CNBC Europe and be a true 24-hour business channel. Once the North American markets close, do a couple of hours of "market wrap" shows with one or two roundtables. Then switch to CNBC Asia in time for the markets in the Pacific opening, then switch to CNBC Europe overnight in time for those markets opening.

      You can get that now with CNBC World -- a premium channel the network offers. It should scrap this and make CNBC World the basic cable channel.

      This also means CNBC should drop nightly talk shows. It made sense to do them when FOX News and MSNBC weren't around. Not now. Either move them to MSNBC (a sister channel), put them on weekends, or get rid of them entirely.

      Doing this may not make CNBC a huge ratings winner. It still may not beat a Roger Ailes-led FOX Business Channel. I wouldn't bet against Ailes, but going global gives CNBC a competitive advantage.

      If they try to beat Ailes and FOX at doing "news talk" type of programming, they're almost sure to lose.

      Sucker for Lists

      I admit it. I'm a sucker for lists. Love reading things like "Ten Great Summer Reads" or "The 100 Best Books of the 20th Century" or whatever.

      So it's no surprise I enjoyed Bloomberg columnist Matthew Lynn's predictions for 2006 and his fellow columnist Chet Currier's list of things to worry about in the coming year.

      Not that I agree with them all -- but that's part of the fun.

      December 27, 2005

      Buyout Firms in Japan

      Today's Wall Street Journal has a piece on buyout firms doing more deals in Japan. This should be seen in the context of Western style business practices taking root in the country:

      Today, there are many signs that interest in Japan is on the rise and that the pace of mergers, spinoffs and other deals -- which has been slow over the past several years -- is picking up. Just last week, the private-equity arm of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. led an investor group that says it plans to spend more than $2.5 billion for a stake in electronics concern Sanyo Electric Co.

      More to the point is this:

      The confluence of private-equity coffers and increased shareholder activism in Japan could serve as a catalyst for Japanese corporations to increase the tempo of restructuring. "Japanese capitalism used to be static," says Yukiharu Kiho, general manager in the business-development division at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. "Now we are learning dynamic capitalism. We will see more spinoffs and restructurings. Growth can no longer come just from within."

      Shareholder activism. Spinoffs. Buyouts. Takeovers. All of this helps unlock value in companies. And can be good for those of us owning stock in Japanese companies.

      P.S. It can also be good news for those of us who own 3i Group PLC (III/LN), though I don't know offhand how much 3i is doing in the Land of the Rising Sun.

      Kerry Packer, R.I.P.

      Kerry Packer, Australia's richest man, has died much too young at age 68.

      Most of us in the US aren't as familiar with Packer as we are his fellow Aussie businessman Rupert Murdoch. Packer and Murdoch were both partners and rivals at various times. (For what it's worth, Murdoch has taken American citizenship.)

      His business empire spanned magazines, television, ski resorts, cinemas, petrochemicals, heavy engineering, diamond exploration and cattle ranching. He took two of his two favorite hobbies, cricket and gambling, and turned them into business successes. Outside Australia, Packer was most famous for joining forces with the late Sir James Goldsmith and Lord Jacob Rothschild in 1991 to mount a failed takeover bid for British American Tobacco PLC.

      Kerry Packer lived his life to the fullest. May he rest in peace.

      December 26, 2005

      Gala Hedge Fund Post!

      Some interesting stuff on the topic of hedge funds to pass on.

      First, courtesy of Trader Mike, I saw this link to a New York Times story about Barton Biggs' new book, "Hedge Hogging." Biggs is the former Morgan Stanley strategist and now a hedge fund manager. The go-go stuff associated with running a hedge fund has never appealed to me in the least, and there's nothing in this excellent article that changes that.

      Still, the article makes the book seem like it might be a good read. I received a couple of gift certificates to Barnes & Noble for Christmas, so I might use one of them to purchase Biggs' book when it comes out (release date is January 3). I'll post a review here if that happens.

      Second, Alan Ableson devotes part of his "Up and Down Wall Street" column in Barron's to reporting Seth Klarman's negative view of hedge funds:

      The best and most lucid critique of hedge funds we've come across was written by Seth Klarman, who runs Baupost, in his 2004 year-end letter to partners. Baupost is kind of a hedge fund, although of a conspicuously risk-conscious bent, so Seth speaks as more or less a member of the club. We've known him, incidentally, for a bunch of years, and he's smart as a whip, a truly savvy investor and both a gentleman and a scholar, qualities that certainly set him apart from the crowd.

      As Seth points out in his communiqué, there's a heap of pressure on pension funds and endowments to "achieve investment returns in the upper quartile of their peer groups, obviously possible for some but impossible for all, which usually doesn't stop them from trying." He quotes Warren Buffett's observation that most financial debacles result from good ideas carried to excess and suggests that it's an admonition that "those now rushing to invest in hedge funds" could do worse than take to heart.

      Klarman isn't mentioned much in the press, so even a column based on his comments from a year ago are a must-read.

      Third and finally, The Stalwart takes the view that the hedge fund industry isn't overcrowded.

      P.S. On another note, this figures to be a slow news week. But value investing with a long-term horizon isn't based on day-to-day (or week-to-week or even month-to-month) events. So look for more posts in the coming days.

      December 24, 2005

      Season's Greetings

      I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of year.

      I hope that 2005 has been a great year for you, and that you, your families, and all you care about enjoy health, happiness and prosperity in 2006.

      This seems the ideal time to turn off the computer, switch off the TV, and enjoy the company friends and family. And to think of those close to you who for whatever reason are away. As for me, I'm heading out to have Christmas Eve dinner with my family.

      So, Merry Christmas and a very Happy Holiday to all.

      December 23, 2005

      Advertising on Controlled Greed.com

      As you've (hopefully) noticed, Controlled Greed.com has attracted its second paid advertiser in the form of the Blogad on the right.

      The first paid advertiser on this site emailed to say how happy they were with the performance of their ad. They renewed their ad placement twice -- the second time for two weeks. That's a tribute to the quality of readership we're getting and I appreciate all of you who support this site by patronizing its advertisers.

      Thank you for your continued readership, for recommending this site to your friends and colleagues, and for being such an attractive audience for anyone marketing quality products and services.

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