Shamelessly I return to reading lists, one from McKinsey & Co. and the other from Harvard Business School. If you don’t know whether to thank me or hate me (“I haven’t finished the last books I bought and here comes an interesting list…”), I completely understand you.
I have just finished reading Berkshire Hathaway’s 2015 10-K. The letter to shareholders by Warren Buffett (edited by Carol Loomis) is brilliant, as usual. I have written here about how these two “walk their talk” (Buffett and Munger), and this 51st letter to Berkshire shareholders is another fine example. The section on Productivity is mandatory reading, especially so for Brazilians.
In a return of reader-suggested stories – keep them coming! – we explore an specific example of how “some moats are harder to cross” using a Financial Times story on Elsevier, RELX Group’s scientific journal publishing unit. According to the FT, it is “the business the Internet couldn’t kill”.
Bovespa’s Corporate Sustainability Index (“ISE”) is about to turn 10 in November and it has outperformed the flagship Bovespa Index. We are firm believers in active, case-by-case, in-depth investigative investing in our fund, but it doesn’t blind us to the potential benefits – for some – of index investing. The devil is in the details of any index’s formation, criteria, balancing and so on. Furthermore, the dangers of an inflexible mandate are well-known.
David Brooks ponders the merits of two apparently antagonistic Educational approaches and tries to establish what it take to form a “wise” person.
By now anyone on Earth minimally interested in business and finance has heard about the Heinz + Kraft deal. Buffett went on CNBC to speak briefly about the deal and said especifically about Berkshire and 3G (actual quote): “We look at everything. There is no finish line in either Berkshire’s investments or 3G’s investments.”
There isn’t one foreign friend of ours – from inside or outside the investment community – that hasn’t asked us “the Petrobras question(s)”. We are sorry to say that we don’t have an answer and probably never will. Call us superstitious, but state-owned companies have a knack for causing the occasional investment disaster. We put them in the “too conflicted” box and move on. In the meantime, we point to Prof. Aswath Damodaran’s musings on Petrobras.
A Financial Times story today highlights what is certainly a top-3 item on value investors’ wishlists: raising permanent capital. The compliance, corporate governance and incentives challenges are immense, but every investor thinks at some point that they could make it work for them and their clients – as the potential benefits of a truly long-term investment horizon could outweigh the risks/ unintended consequences incurred.
As long-term investors, we are always trying to understand where the companies we cover are competition-wise. We have to try to understand for years, sometimes decades into the future, something that very well-educated, intelligent and experienced company executives, industry consultants, academics (and so on) can get oh-so-wrong, so often. All this from reading a NY Times’ article about the semi-conductor industry, whose products power so many of our beloved consumer gadgets that make the likes of Apple so rich, and what they could do to change the game – if anything. Very interesting read, especially when you consider the technology-induced pickle in which the New York Times itself is in!
H/T to Abnormal Returns for posing a tough question – “would a mandatory savings program be net-net beneficial to society?” – and for getting many financial bloggers to answer it. To be taken with the necessary pounds of salt as I don’t know how much work went into the answers, how much time they had to think about it and how much each individual respondent actually knows about this subject. It is a question that has been bothering me tremendously when considering Brazil and demographics.