Value Ideas Blog
My best book of the year: Superforecasting – The Art and Science of Prediction

On October 12, 2004 Yasser Arafat, the 75 year old leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, became severely ill with vomiting and abdominal pain. Over the next three weeks his condition worsened. On October 29, he was flown to a hospital in France where he fell into a coma. On November 11, 2004 Yasser Arafat, who survived several Israely attempts on his life, died. What killed him was uncertain. But even before he died there was speculation that he had been poisoned.

 

In 2012 researchers at the Lausanne University announced that they had tested some if Arafat’s belongings and discovered unnaturally high level of polonium-210, the same radioactive element that was found in the body of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

 

In August 2012, Arafat’s widow gave the permission for his body to be exhumed and tested by two separate agencies, in Switzerland and France.

 

Now the question which you have to answer before you continue:

 

Will either the French or the Swiss inquiries find elevated levels of polonium in the remains of Yasser Arafat’s body?

read more

After I spend a week in Omaha to attend a German value investor conference and the show of Buffett and Munger, we have a couple of more ideas to work on and even more valuable readings. Overall I can say that this week was a unique experience and I have to be deeply grateful to the organisations of the event and particularly to two persons from which I learned the most and have such a great personality. The two guys I owe so much are  M&MMI, thank you guys for all the lessons which you have taught me.   Created with Nokia Smart Cam   I bought Berkshire Hathaway`s letters to shareholders from 1965-2013  for 12 Dollar in a book form, which is a pure bargain for a guy who does not like to read so much on a screen. I will try to summarize them all (after I have finished my studies) and upload them.   Furthermore I`d like to highlight the book “Dream big” which was highlighted by Warren Buffett at the end of the Meeting. You can read a summary here.   You can read the notes of the Meeting here, I would like to highlight WBs answer to the Cost of Capital.   Additionally I would recommend the lessons of failure from the really good moatology blog. As a person who admits to have failed a couple times I can recommend to use such an approach.   Due to the fact that I like entrepreneurship and like to spend my leisure time on edx courses I only can recommend to read about entrepreneurship, strategy  and learn something new in an edx online course! And last but not least I have learned how important a franchise is, so go out and lean-to account for it! (We will try it as well)   And always keep in mind that the intelligent investor estimates likely returns, and invests if the returns are worth the risk.  Most profitable investing takes an uncomfortable view versus the consensus, and buys when the market offers good deals.  If there are no good deals, profitable investing sits on cash, and waits for a better day. Have a great week!    
VALUE ESSENTIALS: MARGIN OF SAFETY (SETH KLARMAN)   This post is essentially going to cover the most important points of the well-known “Margin of Safety” by Seth Klarman. It might be just as useful for people new to the topic as to those who have read it several times and would like a short summary.   The first chapters basically explain how institutional investors can cause market inefficiency or, in other words, says why value investing works. To keep the length of this post appropriate and not to go into every detail (we do still recommend reading the book!), we would like to jump to the overview of value investing that Klarman gives. Three elements are crucial:   The bottom-up strategy separates the value investor from others; the investment focus should lie on specific investment opportunities. Know a few companies really well instead of knowing little about very many. In the best case, you can focus on just one company at a time, by trying to buy a bargain and to wait.   Focus on absolute instead of relative performance. You cannot beat the market every year. In fact, most of the time you are going to be wrong. But every investment that has been valuated correctly has the potential to help you beat the market in the long-term, which are you are very likely to do. It is necessary to tolerate long periods of underperformance. Cash reserves are crucial when no bargain is available. If the portfolio is fully invested and an opportunity comes along, get rid of companies closest to being fully valued.   read more
Today we want to take a look at one of the latest books that we have read, namely “The Investment Checklist; The Art of In-Depth Research” which is written by Michael Shearn. The book is around 330 pages long, well written in and quite easy to understand. As a rating we would suggest 4.5 of 5 stars.   The book has 11 chapters and deals with the systematization of the investment process. According to the author this systematization is necessary because of the fact that investors make the most mistakes when they rush into an investment idea without doing the proper work to understand the value of a business. The investor is betting in probabilities that certain assumptions will work out, instead of basing their investment decision on real analysis. The key to be better investor is to truly understand the value of a business and where it creates its value  by answering questions about it. read more
Today we want to take a look at one of the latest books that we have read, namely “What’s behind the Numbers; A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in your Portfolio” which is written by John Del Vecchio and Tom Jacobs. The book is around 265 pages long, well written in a fairly American style and quite easy to understand. As a rating we would suggest 4 of 5 stars.   The book opens with the sentence: “Show me where I’m going to die, so I don’t go there” and that is actually what the book is about. The management of public companies faces enormous pressure to beat Wall Street guidance by a penny and make things look better than they are and therefore weaken their earning quality. “What’s behind the Numbers” tries to show how one can detect weak earning quality and where the management of a company most frequently tries to hide the information that shows their chicanery. read more
In the last few days we have seen a really interesting development for Hornbach which is one of our holdings. In our analysis we had written that we assume that Praktiker will go bankrupt and the Sales of the Praktiker stores will be divided (in three different scenarios) under the main competitors. At this time Max Bahr was not included in this calculation because of the fact that we have two different bidders who like to takeover all remaining MaxBahr stores. In the last two weeks both bidders cancelled their offers, now MaxBahr is also bankrupt and the different stores are sold store by store to different competitors. So far Hornbach only bought two stores of about 60 sold stores, each store is bigger than 11.500m² and again you see how observing this management is. We think this development is positive for our estimation and will slightly increase our margin of safety for Hornbach. You can find a daily updated list of all sold stores here.   Furthermore we have some weekly links and quotes for you:  
  • A very good article from Jeremy J. Siegel (Professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania`s Wharton School) from 2009 on Efficient Market Theory and the Crisis. If you compare it to todays data and his implications you can paint your own picture. Here are some highlights from his article: The Shiller Home Price Index is up 13.29% over the last year vs. an increase of 1.0% of the consumer price index while median household income fell for the fifth straight year in 2012, to $51,017. That was the lowest annual income, adjusted for inflation, since 1995.
  • Very good blog from Phil Birnbaum, and one big key to take with you: “First, concentrate on eliminating bad decisions, not on making good decisions better.”
  As always, if you think you have something we should read or some own thoughts feel free to write us or leave us a comment!