#WeeklyInvestorReader | wk. 46

Note to readers: #WeeklyInvestorReader contains a few of the articles I read during the week. Visit my Twitter @HurriCap for any other articles not included. If any of the articles are behind paywalls it may be possible to read them by searching for the article’s title via Google News.

Why Moats are Essential for Profitability (Restaurant Edition) – Tren Griffin, November 18, 2016 | Investing is about owning a partial stake in a real business. You must understand whether the actual businesses in which you own stock earns a return on capital to be a successful investor. The more different types of businesses you understand in this way, the more skill you will acquire in understanding another new business.

The Big Short: is the next financial crisis on its way? – The Guardian, November 19, 2016 | Steve Eisman saw the last crash coming and was portrayed in an Oscar-winning film. Now he believes Europe’s banks, especially Italy’s, are at risk.

Berkshire Hathaway Buys Airline Stocks – The Conservative Income Investor, November 19, 2016 | But of course the reason why we care whether or not Buffett himself made the decision is because we want to know whether airline investments are so attractive right now that we should appeal to authority and mimic the decision.

Thoughts on Media Companies – Grahamites, November 19, 2016 | A discussion on the big picture challenges faced by media companies and different business models of media companies.

How Two Trailblazing Psychologists Turned the World of Decision Science Upside Down – Vanity Fair, November, 2016 | After his book Moneyball became a best-seller, Michael Lewis learned that many of the ideas it presented to the general public had actually been introduced decades earlier by a pair of Israeli psychologists: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. In an adaptation from his new book, Lewis investigates their story, and the intense bond between these radically different men.

Trump may be the very best thing that happened to the US and the world: Mohnish Pabrai, Investor & Philanthropist – The Economic Times, November 17, 2016 |  In a chat with Punita Kumar Sinha of ET Now, Mohnish Pabrai, Investor & Philanthropist, says President-Elect Trump understands quite a bit about the way business and the economy works. He is definitely better than presidents who have never run a lemonade stand in their lives. Edited excerpts.

The Money Management Gospel of Yale’s Endowment Guru – The New York Times, November 16, 2016 | Mr. Swensen, 62, runs the school’s $25.4 billion endowment, one of the largest in the country. Usually he is joined by his intellectual sparring partner, Dean Takahashi, his senior director. It amounts to an internship in the world of managing a university’s billions — and the young analysts have a front-row seat.

Why CEO’s are Getting Fired More – The New Yorker, November 7, 2016 | Companies treat—and pay—top executives as if they were all-powerful. So when things go bad the boss is shown the door.

Why the Industrial Revolution didn’t happen in China – Washington Post, October 28, 2016 | To economic historians like Joel Mokyr, there’s nothing inevitable about the incredible wealth and health of the modern world. But for a spark in a little corner of Europe that ignited the Industrial Revolution — which spread incredible advances in technology and living standards first across the north Atlantic coast in the 1700 and 1800s and gradually around the world — we could all be living the nasty, brutish and short lives of our ancestors centuries before.

Car Makers Gear Up for Electric Push – WSJ, November 13, 2016 | Auto makers, rushing to meet tightening emissions standards, are unveiling new battery-powered vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, mirroring last month’s flood of such cars by European companies. These curtain-raisers will be followed by first shipments of General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Bolt, a $35,000 Tesla fighter that goes on sale next month. What’s missing are consumers, however.

Q&A With “Pre-Suasion” Bestselling Business Author Robert Cialdini – Forbes, November 7, 2016 | Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger turned me on to Robert Cialdini. Cialdini, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, wrote a book back in 1984 called Influence. Munger recognized that this was pure gold in terms of the mental models he used to understand (a) the stock market and (b) life. By raising his consciousness about techniques that were being used to bias his judgment, he could make appropriate mental adjustments.

Bill Ackman Says Valeant Might Change Its Name to Fix Its Reputation – Fortune, November 11, 2016 | Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, the drugmaker that became a poster child for high drug prices during the U.S. election season, may change its name to help boost its reputation, board member and top investor William Ackman told CNBC on Wednesday. A name change would be the latest effort by the company to break from its past, after hiring a new chief executive, overhauling the board and exploring billions of dollars in asset sales to pay down a $30 billion debt load.

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Excerpts: CNBC’s David Faber Speaks with Liberty Media Chairman John Malone Today – CNBC, November 10, 2016 | Following are excerpts from the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Liberty Media Chairman John Malone from Liberty Media Investor Day. The excerpts aired during CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” (9AM-11AM ET) today, Thursday, November 10.

Is Netflix Disney’s next big buy and is Reed Hastings its next CEO? – Techcrunch, November 13, 2016 | Last month, Netflix crushed Wall Street’s expectations with its Q3 earnings and surprisingly spry international subscriber growth. But, make no mistake, it’s all-out war in our Internet-driven and increasingly mobile-first Media 2.0 world of OTT premium video.  And, Netflix is directly in the line of sight and vulnerable both short and long-term.

Joel Greenblatt’s Investing Secrets Revealed – Barron’s, October 15, 2016 | The Columbia University professor and co-founder of Gotham Asset Management made the case for value investing in his best-selling The Little Book That Beats the Market, buying shares of businesses that were cheap relative to returns on invested capital and earnings yield.

The SEC On Non-GAAP Metrics: A Collection of Writing at MarketWatch – re:The Auditors, July 31, 2016 | I wrote in February at MarketWatch about a real estate REIT called Brixmor used non-GAAP metrics to determine executive compensation, and how a few executives there likely manipulated them to juice their pay.  The were all fired for their efforts. The SEC has yet to weigh in on that case but there’s been no lack of commentary in the last year or so about the use —and abuse—of non-GAAP metrics from the SEC, the lawyers who work with the SEC on their clients’ behalf, and the media.

That Big Berkshire Hathaway Railroad Deal  – Bloomberg Gadfly, November 11, 2016 | It’s been seven years since Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. announced its biggest deal to date — the $35 billion-plus purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. The Oracle of Omaha had the foresight to place his “all-in wager on the economic future of the United States” just as the nation emerged from a recession, and has reaped the benefits. After analyzing the transaction, Gadfly gives it a slam dunk.

To Understand Facebook, Study Capgras Syndrome – Nautilus, November 10, 2016 | For 99 percent of hominid history, social communication consisted of face-to-face interactions with someone you’ve hunted and foraged with most of your life. But then the recognition and familiarity components got pried apart by modern technology.

William Ackman’s 2016 Fortune: Down, but Far From Out – The New York Times, November 15, 2016 | There is one mistake Mr. Ackman has admitted to making: Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. The drug company has come under political attack for its pricing policy and has faced regulatory scrutiny over its accounting practices. In April, Mr. Ackman was called to Washington to testify at a Senate hearing, where he was questioned over his aggressive support of the company. A flustered Mr. Ackman was forced to concede, “I regret that we didn’t do more due diligence on pricing.”

SEC Criticizes GE’s ‘Non-GAAP’ Metrics but Hasn’t Taken Further Action – WSJ, November 15, 2016 | The Securities and Exchange Commission has criticized General Electric Co.’s use of tailored, “non-GAAP” financial measures in recent months but has completed a review of the company’s filings without taking any further action, according to newly public documents.

Would Seth Klarman Buy His Own Book? – Chief Investment Officer, September, 2015 | In October 1991, an unknown hedge fund manager published a book. A tight 249 pages, Seth Klarman’s Margin of Safety was by all contemporary standards a commercial flop. His publisher, he said, “didn’t do a very good job. Didn’t advertise it. Editors kept getting fired—I don’t think because of me—and by the third editor we finished the book, and then it sold about 5,000 copies and it died out. It was dead. It died.” Except that it didn’t.

How Your Brain Decides Without – Nautilus, November 10, 2016 | In watching and interpreting the game footage, the students were behaving similarly to children shown the famous duck-rabbit illusion, pictured above. When shown the illusion on Easter Sunday, more children see the rabbit, where on other Sundays they are more likely to see the duck.1 The image itself allows both interpretations, and switching from seeing one to the other takes some effort. When I showed duck-rabbit to my 5-year-old daughter, and asked her what she saw, she replied: “A duck.” When I asked her if she saw “anything else,” she edged closer, forehead wrinkled. “Maybe there’s another animal there?” I proffered, trying not to sound as if magnet school admission was on the line. Suddenly, a shimmer of awareness, and a smile. “A rabbit!”

James Montier says nothing is cheap and his GMO is holding cash – Financial Times, November 15, 2016 | “Part of the problem from our perspective, when you look at the world’s assets, is nothing’s cheap. It’s not a great starting point if you’re an investment manager,” says Mr Montier.

Latticework of Mental Models: Porter’s Five Forces Analysis – Safal Niveshak, November 18, 2016 | Michael Porter, a business strategist and a professor at Harvard Business School, is well known for his five forces framework. His analysis framework remains one of the best ways to assess an industry’s underlying structure. The five force model doesn’t necessarily tell you if an industry is attractive or unattractive but, in Porter’s own words, it’s a tool to understand “the underpinnings of competition and the root causes of profitability.”

Chipotle, Ackman Near Settlement – WSJ, November 18, 2016 | Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and William Ackman are nearing a settlement that would give the activist investor a say in the boardroom at the beleaguered burrito chain.

The Apple TV, Apple’s 50% fee cut, and the walled garden – The Loop, November 17, 2016 | The Apple TV is not the walled garden of iOS. While iOS uses services like Apple Music and blue Message bubbles to keep you inside, you can easily switch inputs on your TV to accommodate game consoles and other inputs, including devices from Google and Amazon that feed non-Apple content into the mix. If a video service is more expensive through Apple TV, it’s easy enough to switch inputs to another device if it means saving money each month.

Amazon Prime Video is going global next month to take on Netflix – The Next Web, November 17, 2016 | Until now, Amazon’s streaming video service has mostly been a nice add-on to sweeten the deal on its Prime subscription plan, which grants customers quicker shipping and other benefits for a recurring fee.

The Story of How McDonald’s First Got Its Start – Smithsonian, November 1, 2016 | From the orange orchards of California, two brothers sought a fortune selling burgers.

The Deutsche Bank Downfall: How a Pillar of German Banking Lost Its Way – Spiegel Online, October 28, 2016 | For most of its 146 years, Deutsche Bank was the embodiment of German values: reliable and safe. Now, the once-proud institution is facing the abyss. SPIEGEL tells the story of how Deutsche’s 1990s rush to join the world banking elite paved the way for its own downfall.

How Spoify Can Tear Up the Music Biz – Bloomberg Gadfly, November 1, 2016 | Spotify Ltd today is essentially a massive music collection and radio station mashed into one: users can listen to whatever they want, or let the virtual DJ in their pocket recommend tracks and artists. It’s a seductive combination that’s attracted 100 million listeners, of whom 40 million were paying subscribers as of September. Yet despite nearly doubling sales last year, the high cost of licensing music from record labels and publishers means the Swedish company has yet to turn a profit.

‘Free’ Shipping Crowds Out Small Retailers – WSJ, April 27, 2016 | Ginger Greer, a Medford, Ore., attorney who does nearly all her shopping from work without leaving her desk, has drawn a line in the sand: “I absolutely refuse to pay for shipping,” she says. “You can find anything, anywhere at this point” that ships free, she adds.

Free Shipping Is A Lie – Fast Company, November 1, 2016 | Free shipping is a top priority for online shoppers, but many merchants are struggling to keep up with the costs.

Tesla Investors Still Need to Watch Their Wallets – WSJ, November 18, 2016 | To make CEO Musk’s ambitions a reality, more capital will soon be needed.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

―George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Disclosure: #WeeklyInvestorReader contains a few of the articles I read this week and enjoyed the most. I am not receiving any compensation for any of the links provided. 

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