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    « November 2007 | Main | January 2008 »

    December 31, 2007

    Happy New Year

    Here's wishing all of you a 2008 filled with health, happiness, and prosperity. Speaking of which, with regards to that last item, I know many of my stock picks have taken in on the chin. Particularly in the second half of this year.

    I plan to post results for the picks -- both "Life of the Blog" and for 2007 -- as soon after New Year's as possible. But things have been a bit hectic for me over the holidays and I am already loaded up with lots of non-blogging duties starting bright and early January 2. So bear with me.

    In the meantime, you might enjoy Mark Steyn's piece on the song Auld Lang Syne, which was written by Robert Burns.

    Happy New Year to readers around the globe.

    Third Avenue International Sees Subprime Opportunity

    The Seattle Times runs this Bloomberg report:

    Third Avenue Management, the money manager founded by value investor Martin Whitman, reopened its $2.3 billion international fund after the U.S. subprime crisis lowered prices and created buying opportunities.

    Third Avenue International Value Fund, managed by Amit Wadhwaney, began accepting money from investors Dec. 20. Third Avenue closed the mutual fund in July 2005, when a surge of deposits left the manager with 51 percent of assets in cash.

    The subprime-mortgage debacle had sent global stocks tumbling on concern economic growth will slow.

    "The whiff of panic currently blowing through the financial markets has the potential to present tremendous buying opportunities," the fund manager said.

    Wadhwaney is putting money to work in places like Canada, Japan, and Europe.

    December 30, 2007

    Clyde Milton's Land Review, Part II

    Clyde Milton has posted the second installment of his review of stocks with significant real estate holdings:

    For clarification, we are not suggesting that any or all of these companies are ripe for purchase. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and the companies I value are likely to be shorted by someone who has an opposing view.

    Like the first installment, Clyde lists some interesting names. And, also as he did with the first group, he discloses which names he is invested in.

    December 28, 2007

    Clyde Milton's Land Review

    Clyde Milton of the Cheap Stocks blog posts:

    What better way to say goodbye to 2007, we thought, than to review some of the companies holding one of our favorite assets, land. It’s generally been a pretty rough year for most firms that have anything to do with real estate. Some have no doubt been punished well beyond justification, but then again, Mr. Market is in control, and does as he sees fit. We believe this has created some compelling opportunities even if the housing situation worsens.

    He lists 10 stocks, none of which I own, but some interesting names.

    December 27, 2007

    It's That Time of Year Again: Lists

    I'm a sucker for list articles. This is the time when we'll see loads of theses pieces -- some looking backward, others forward.

    Bloomberg's always-interesting Matthew Lynn (who also contributes occasional articles for The Spectator) has 8 tips for 2008. His fifth one pops out at me. It's UBS getting sold:

    In soccer, there is a useful phrase: "Form is temporary, but class is permanent.'' In European banking, there is no more class act than UBS AG. Its form, however, has been terrible. The Swiss bank has been forced to write off $10 billion in losses on subprime investments. With a burnt-out share price, UBS looks like a bargain. It recently raised fresh capital from an "unidentified Middle Eastern investor.'' Why remain "unidentified'' unless you plan to raise your stake further? Don't be surprised if UBS is owned by one of the oil-rich sovereign wealth funds by the end of 2008.

    UBS was a new position added to the Longleaf Partners International Fund in the third quarter -- before the big write off. If was undervalued then, it's even more so now. Unless the subprime damage is worse than so far realized. This is one to keep an eye on.

    Breakingviews: Buffett Hasn't Called the Bottom on Financial Stocks

    The Breakingviews editors on (scroll down) write about Warren Buffett NOT spending his company's cash hoard on financials:

    Warren Buffett didn't call the bottom.That is the main takeaway of investors from Berkshire Hathaway's takeover of the Pritzker family's Marmon Holdings industrial complex. Markets have been abuzz with expectations the billionaire would use some of Berkshire's $50 billion war chest to scoop up financial firms floundering on the sandbars of the credit crunch, such as Countrywide Financial or Bear Stearns.

    This closes the item:

    Sure, skeptics could say the deal highlights Mr. Buffett's aversion to innovative, if riskier, businesses. Such criticism has increased in intensity as Mr. Buffett ages. More likely, he sees further pain in the industry, from greater recognition of dud loans to a decline in the velocity of financial services more broadly, before valuations support his entry. It would take a brave investor to question him on this matter.

    December 26, 2007

    Jerry Flint on Bob Lutz

    A couple of Saturday's ago, I driving my car and listening to Bob Brinker's "Moneytalk" radio program. Brinker was interviewing Jerry Flint, Forbes' long-time columnist writing on the automotive industry.

    Toward the end of the hour-long interview, Brinker asked Flint if General Motors (GM/NYSE) was "going to make it." Flint said he thinks GM has "turned the corner" and would be fine over the course of time.

    I'm a GM shareholder -- since early 2005. I think the stock will do fine over time, but my opinion is just that, mine. Flint is talking more about the company and I'm talking about the stock -- though the company "turning the corner" should eventually mean the stock price goes in the right direction as well.

    When? I don't know.

    What I do know is that if GM doesn't work out it won't be because of Bob Lutz, the company's vice chairman.  Flint has two Forbes pieces devoted to Lutz. The first focuses on energy efficiency and new technology. The second on GM's cost structure, new product strategy and the shifting U.S. automotive market.

    Great stuff.

    December 25, 2007

    CBS Treads Water

    Portfolio holding CBS (CBS/NYSE) has come down to almost where it was when I first bought it in February 2006. It was first mentioned on this blog at $25.61 and closed Christmas Eve at $26.77.

    I'm not happy about that -- but at least it hasn't been the wild ride I've suffered with ArmorGroup International (ARG/LN or AMGPF/OTC), Media General (MEG/NYSE) and some others.

    Perhaps CBS is the case of a stock getting ahead of itself. It throws off a nice amount of cash and the stock rose 40% the first 18 months after being spun off from Viacom.

    The writers' strike hasn't helped, either. Though I see Shira Ovide of The Wall Street Journal reports:

    Some observers say fears are overblown and that warming up to CBS simply requires adjusting expectations. The company has returned more than $4 billion to shareholders this year and its stock is cheaper than most of its media peers. CBS is poised, backers say, to deliver what it promised when it split from Viacom Inc. nearly two years ago: dependable financials with healthy cash returns to shareholders.

    I think that's true and I'm content to hold for now.

    Warrent Buffett Bags His Latest Elephant

    When discussing the constraints Berkshire Hathaway's size placed on making acquisitions, Warren Buffett chuckled in telling Charlie Rose something like, "We're looking for elephants."

    Bloomberg reports Buffett has bagged his latest elephant -- paying $4.5 billion for a 60% stake in Marmon Holdings, the private company owned by trusts for Chicago's Pritzker family. Berkshire will purchase the rest of Marmon within six years, according to the linked story:

    Marmon has an "impressive record of growth and profitability,'' with businesses including wires and cables for energy-related markets and the leasing of construction equipment, Buffett said in the statement today. "The decision to purchase and work out the details of this transaction was done without delay.''


    The takeover is the largest announced by Buffett since 2005, when Berkshire's utility company agreed to buy PacifiCorp from Scottish Power Plc for $5.1 billion in cash and assume $4.3 billion in debt. Buffett agreed last year to pay $4 billion for 80 percent of closely held Israeli toolmaker Iscar Metalworking Cos.

    December 24, 2007

    Merry Christmas

    And Happy Holidays to all. I'll blog between Christmas and New Years, assuming there's anything interesting to post about. And, heck, I may even buy another stock in the next week.

    In the meantime, you might enjoy reading Mark Steyn on the song, "Here Comes Santa Claus," written by Oakley Haldeman and Gene Autry.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.


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