Posts

January 17, 2019

Global Market Comments
January 17, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade: 

(WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOW?)
($INDU), (EK), (S), (BS), (CVX), (DD), (MMM),
 (FBHS), (MGDDY), (FL), (GE), (TSLA), (GM)
(WHY YOUR OTHER INVESTMENT NEWSLETTER IS SO DANGEROUS)

What Happened to the Dow?

When I joined Morgan Stanley some 35 years ago, one of the grizzled old veterans took me aside and gave me a piece of sage advice.

“Never buy a Dow stock”, he said. “They are a guarantee of failure.”

That was quite a bold statement, given that at the time the closely watched index of 30 stocks included such high-flying darlings as Eastman Kodak (EK), Sears Roebuck & Company (S), and Bethlehem Steel (BS). It turned out to be excellent advice.

Only ten of the Dow stocks of 1983 are still in the index (see tables below), and almost all of the survivors changed names. Standard Oil of California became Chevron (CVX), E.I du Pont de Nemours & Company became DowDuPont, Inc. (DD), and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing became 3M (MMM).

Almost all of the rest went out of business, like Union Carbide Corporation (the Bhopal disaster) and Johns-Manville (asbestos products) or were taken over. A small fragment of the old E.W. Woolworth is known as Foot Locker (FL) today.

Charles Dow created his namesake average on May 26, 1896, consisting of 12 names. Almost all were gigantic trusts and monopolies that were broken up only a few years later by the Sherman Antitrust Act.

In many ways, the index has evolved to reflect the maturing of the US economy from an 18th century British agricultural colony, to the manufacturing powerhouse of the 20th century, to the technology and services-driven economy of today.

Of the original Dow stocks, only one, US Leather, vanished without a trace. It was the victim of the leap from horses to automobile transportation and the internal combustion engine. United States Rubber is now part of France’s Michelin Group (MGDDY).

American Tobacco reinvented itself as Fortune Brands (FBHS) to ditch the unpopular “tobacco” word. National Lead moved into paints with the Dutch Boy brand. It sold off that division when the prospects for leaded paints dimmed in 1970 (they cause mental illness in children).

What was the longest lived of the original 1896 Dow stocks? General Electric (GE), originally founded by light bulb inventor Thomas Edison. It went down in flames thanks to poor management and was delisted in 2018. It was a 122-year run. Today, it is one of the great turnaround challenges facing American Industry.

Which company is the American Leather of today? My bet is that it’s General Motors (GM) which is greatly lagging behind Tesla (TSLA) in the development of electric cars (90% market share versus 5%). With a product development cycle of five years, it simply lacks the DNA to compete in the technology age.

What will be the largest Dow stock in a decade? Regular readers already know the answer.

 

 

 

 

The Rising Drumbeat for Alibaba

Rumors hit the market Friday that Sprint (S) will mount a $20 billion takeover bid for T-Mobile (TMUS) in early January. The news caused a late day kerfluffle on what would otherwise have been a slow December pre holiday Friday.

The Shares of both companies immediately jumped 10%, which left many analysts scratching their heads. Normally, the shares of the acquirer falls (they?re spending money), while those of the target rise (they are selling for a premium to the market).

Why do I care about a minor US phone company? Guess who owns Sprint? Softbank, which took over the company for $21.8 billion last July, and carries a hefty 20% weighting in my model-trading portfolio.

The move would make Softbank one of the three largest US carriers. That will automatically trigger an antitrust review by the Justice Department, which blocked a similar takeover attempt for giant AT&T (T) earlier. Look at how Eric Holder stood in the way of the American Airlines-US Air deal, which both firms clearly needed to survive. And this is in a country with 100 airlines. So any decision here could be a long wait.

I think this is just an opening shot in a long campaign that eventually leads up to the Alibaba IPO, expected to be one of the largest in history (the biggest was also from China, the $128 billion deal for the Industrial Bank of China in 2010). Expect to hear a lot about Softbank?s role in all of this in coming months. This should be good for its stock price.

As part of the build up, my old employer, the Financial Times of London, named Alibaba founder and CEO, Jack Ma, as its Person of the Year. The paper chronicles Ma?s rise for abject poverty in Hangzhou, China, where he was the son of impoverished traditional performers, to becoming one of the world?s richest men.

Ma was fascinated by the English language at an early age, and used to listen to my own broadcasts on BBC Radio to learn new words (another one of my former employers). After graduating in 1988, he earned $12 an hour as a teacher in China. While working for the Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, he escorted foreign visitors to the Great Wall. One of them turned out to be Jerry Yang, co founder of Yahoo.

Thus inspired, Ma went on to found Alibaba in 1999. Its initial strategy was to match up Chinese manufacturers with American customers, an approach that proved wildly successful. He then took on Ebay. In the following years the US e-commerce giant saw its Chinese market share plummet from 80% to 8%, most of that going to Alibaba. Today, Alibaba has 600 million registered users, and one day in November it clocked a staggering $6 billion in sales.

The FT estimates its current market value at $100 billion. To read the rest of the FT profile, please click here. Its IPO will be one of the preeminent investment events of 2014. Better to get in early.

Followers of my Trade Alert Service will notice that this is one of the few outright equity trades that I have done this year. This is a way for me to deleverage my exposure after a spectacular stock market run. Equity ownership ducks the time decay that plagues call options, and avoids the leverage inherent in call spreads.

If the stock is unchanged over the holidays, it won?t cost me a dime. One thing is for sure. When the Alibaba IPO is announced, it will be a surprise. The only way to participate is to get in indirectly through a minority owner now.

Don?t expect an allocation from your broker, unless they think it is going o fail.

SFTBY 12-16-13

S 12-16-13

TMUS 12-16-13

Jack Ma Alibaba

Doubling Up on Softbank

I have always been a big fan of buying a dollar for 30 cents. That appears to be the opportunity now presented by the Japanese software giant, Softbank (SFTBY).

This gorilla of the Internet space was founded and run by my old friend, Masayoshi Son, who many refer to as a combination of the Jeff Bezos and the Bill Gates of Japan. I have known Mas, as his friends call him, for 30 years, meeting him, of all places, at a University of California Alumni Association meeting. Mas received his BA in economics from Berkeley in 1980.

In three decades, Mas has turned an obscure, hard copy Japanese computer hobbyist magazine into today?s massive online empire. You may know him as the organizer of the huge Comdex conferences in Las Vegas every January, the Woodstock of technology gatherings. Today, Mas has an estimated personal net worth $9 billion, not bad for a kid who wore the same pair of ragged Levis to his economics classes every day.

The really interesting thing about Softbank right now is not what Mas is doing, but what he owns. That includes a 37% stake in the Chinese Internet giant, Alibaba, which boasts an overwhelming 80% market share in the Middle Kingdom.

The Hangzhou based Alibaba is actually a group of Internet-based e-commerce businesses including business-to-business online web portals, online retail and payment services, a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. Think of it as Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), Google (GOOG), and Oracle (ORCL) all wrapped into one.

In 2012, two of Alibaba?s portals together handled 1.1 trillion Yuan ($170 billion) in sales, more than competitors eBay and Amazon.com combined.
Its sales account for no less than 3% of China?s total GDP. Yikes! To learn more about their website please: http://news.alibaba.com/specials/aboutalibaba/aligroup/index.html.

Online commerce in China is now growing faster than in any other place on the planet, including the US. Some 5% of retail transactions in the People?s Republic take place on the Internet, and that is expected to grow to 25% over the next three years. By comparison, it took online business in America 15 years to reach that market share.

What is happening in China now is truly fascinating. They are leapfrogging traditional brick and mortar stores, going straight from barter to online purchases, completely skipping the Wal-Mart stage of the retail evolution. I saw the same thing happen during the early nineties, when eastern Europeans jumped straight from having no phones to mobile ones, bypassing decades of unreliable and indifferent landline service.

The value of Alibaba is anyone?s guess as the company is still private. However, my former employers at The Economist magazine estimate that it is worth anywhere from $55-$120 billion. What this means is that you can buy Softbank now purely for the value of its Alibaba ownership, and get everything else the company does in the online universe for free.

But wait! It gets better. Softbank also owns major stakes in Yahoo, whose shares are up a gob smacking 157% since last year (Thank you Marissa Meyer!). It owns a major chunk of Sprint (S), which has gained a mind blowing 325% since 2012. Can Mas pick them, or what? Softbank also owns pieces of Japan Cellular and many other companies.

Add it all up together, and you get a Softbank that is worth at least $250 billion, almost triple its current $97 billion market capitalization. In other words, it?s a steal at this price.

Yes, you may say, this all sounds great. But how do I buy shares in Japan in yen? Easy. Softbank trades on the pink sheets in the US (hence the five letter ticker symbol) and is denominated in US dollars. Normally this means nothing, as liquidity in the pink sheets is notoriously poor.

Not so for (SFTBY), which saw 1.6 million shares worth $67 million trade around $42 a share on a slow Friday with a reasonably narrow spread. You may not be able to margin these, but at least you can get them. You also have some yen exposure here, as these shares are tied to the domestic shares in Japan. As for the big hedge funds, they have to go to Tokyo to get the size they want, and then hedge out their yen risk.

OK, OK, you say. Great story. But the road to perdition is paved with fabulous value plays that were never realized in the marketplace. This thing could stay cheap forever, like Apple (AAPL).

Aha! I got you! Alibaba is about to go public in the US, with Goldman Sachs now polling major institutional investors about potential interest. Given the chance to buy an Amazon clone at ten year ago prices, this IPO will be a blockbuster, making the recent Twitter (TWTR) float pale by comparison.

Did I mention that my buddy, Dan Loeb of hedge fund giant Third Point Partners, totally agrees with me, and has bought $1 billion worth of Softbank shares already? In fact, many believe that Alibaba could be the Apple of this decade, about to deliver a tenfold increase in its share price.

That seems to be the right thing to do this year.

SFTBY 12-12-13

YHOO 12-12-13

S 12-12-13

 

Masayoshi SonHitch Your Wagon to Mas

Time to Soak Up Some Softbank

I have always been a big fan of buying a dollar for 30 cents. That appears to be the opportunity now presented by the Japanese software giant, Softbank (SFTBY).

This gorilla of the Internet space was founded and run by my old friend, Masayoshi Son, who many refer to as a combination of the Jeff Bezos and the Bill Gates of Japan. I have known Mas, as his friends call him, for 30 years, meeting him, of all places, at a University of California Alumni Association meeting. Mas received his BA in economics from Berkeley in 1980.

In three decades, Mas has turned an obscure, hard copy Japanese computer hobbyist magazine into today?s massive online empire. You may know him as the organizer of the huge Comdex conferences in Las Vegas every January, the Woodstock of technology gatherings. Today, Mas has an estimated personal net worth $9 billion, not bad for a kid who wore the same pair of ragged Levis to his economics classes every day.

The really interesting thing about Softbank right now is not what Mas doing, but what he owns. That includes a 37% stake in the Chinese Internet giant, Alibaba, which boasts an overwhelming 80% market share in the Middle Kingdom.

The Hangzhou based Alibaba is actually a group of Internet-based e-commerce businesses including business-to-business online web portals, online retail and payment services, a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. Think of it as Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), Google (GOOG), and Oracle (ORCL) all wrapped into one.

In 2012, two of Alibaba?s portals together handled 1.1 trillion Yuan ($170 billion) in sales, more than competitors eBay and Amazon.com combined.
Its sales account for no less than 3% of China?s total GDP. Yikes! To learn more about their website please visit http://news.alibaba.com/specials/aboutalibaba/aligroup/index.html.

Online commerce in China is now growing faster than in any other place on the planet, including the US. Some 5% of retail transactions in the People?s Republic take place on the Internet, and that is expected to grow to 25% over the next three years. By comparison, it took online business in America 15 years to reach that market share.

What is happening in China now is truly fascinating. They are leapfrogging traditional brick and mortar stores, going straight from barter to online purchases, completely skipping the Wal-Mart stage of the retail evolution. I saw the same thing happen during the early nineties, when eastern Europeans jumped straight from having no phones to mobile ones, bypassing decades of unreliable and indifferent landline service.

The value of Alibaba is anyone?s guess as the company is still private. However, my former employers at The Economist magazine estimate that it is worth anywhere from $55-$120 billion. What this means is that you can buy Softbank now purely for the value of its Alibaba ownership, and get everything else the company does in the online universe for free.

But wait! It gets better. Softbank also owns major stakes in Yahoo, whose shares are up a gob smacking 157% since last year (Thank you Marissa Meyer!). It owns a major chunk of Sprint (S), which has gained a mind blowing 325% since 2012. Can Mas pick them, or what? Softbank also owns pieces of Japan Cellular and many other companies.

Add it all up together, and you get a Softbank that is worth at least $250 billion, almost triple its current $97 billion market capitalization. In other words, it?s a steal at this price.

Yes, you may say, this all sounds great. But how do I buy shares in Japan in yen? Easy. Softbank trades on the pink sheets in the US (hence the five letter ticker symbol) and is denominated in US dollars. Normally this means nothing, as liquidity in the pink sheets is notoriously poor.

Not so for (SFTBY), which saw 1.6 million shares worth $67 million trade around $42 a share on a slow Friday with a reasonably narrow spread. You may not be able to margin these, but at least you can get them. You also have some yen exposure here, as these shares are tied to the domestic shares in Japan. As for the big hedge funds, they have to go to Tokyo to get the size they want, and then hedge out their yen risk.

OK, OK, you say. Great story. But the road to perdition is paved with fabulous value plays that were never realized in the marketplace. This thing could stay cheap forever, like Apple (AAPL).

Aha! I got you! Alibaba is about to go public in the US, with Goldman Sachs now polling major institutional investors about potential interest. Given the chance to buy an Amazon clone at ten year ago prices, this IPO will be a blockbuster, making the recent Twitter (TWTR) float pale by comparison.

Did I mention that my buddy, Dan Loeb of hedge fund giant Third Point Partners, totally agrees with me, and has bought $1 billion worth of Softbank shares already?

I?ll wait for a dip before I send out the Trade Alert. If I don?t get one, I may just throw in the towel and buy it at market.

That seems to be the right thing to do this year.

SFTBY 11-22-13

YHOO 11-22-13

S11-22-13

Masayoshi SonHitch Your Wagon to Mas