How investors could have known Poseidon was running aground

February 18th, 2013

While not a huge company Poseidon Concepts was a very widely held retail stock, in part because the deep-thinkger at CPMS had it as a top pick (CPMS is a computer based stock picking system used by a lot of brokers). Investors got slaughtered on this one, which had now degenerated into an accounting scandal.

But there were clear and obvious signs, as The President’s Club Investment Letter made clear starting 7 months ago.

First, insiders dumped a huge amount of stock from the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2012. Given that the company was only recently spun off from Open Range at that time, it was a red flag:













The second one was margins: at 90% they were just too high to assume there would not be intense competition, especially given lack or proprietary information. High returns guarantee competition.

Third, drilling activity was slowing down, especially in the Bakken, suggesting that Poseidon would have to chase customers to get business, and compete harder, meaning lower prices. This was easy to verify with a Google search.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, was rapidly rising accounts receivable. In the third quarter of 2012 they surged $75 million compared to nine months earlier:

RIM reaps what it sowed

March 29th, 2012

Now that he resigned from the board, Jim Balsillie is totally gone from Research in Motion, except perhaps as shareholder. He’s been selling his stock for years though and will probably accelerate his sales now.

As I said in The Globe recently, you knew the fourth quarter results would be bad because otherwise the two CEOs would not have resigned. They would have stuck around to take credit for a turnaround – it really is as simple as that. Now that Balsillie is leaving the board, rest assured that things will get worse.

RIM is a classic tale of failure by a board of directors. Notwithstanding what Roger Martin told The Globe, he and his fellow directors (including Balsillie and Lazaridis) botched it. There is no one to run the company. The new guy has no clue (“we can’t be all things to all people,” he says, and vows to focus on the business market, even as most businesses let employees choose what phone they want to use), and all the senior people are leaving. They had no plan, zero.

And worse, RIM is now losing money. This board authorized a share buyback even as the two CEOs sold their stock.

Good to know Roger Martin is the dean of the UofT business school.


Down with unions, at Air Canada and everywhere

March 24th, 2012

It’s not polite to be anti-union in this country. Even people who privately detest unions are, in public, much more diplomatic.

Why? Union are deplorable. They are self-ruinous. They destroy jobs and wealth. They have few if any redeeming qualities. Once upon a time they served a purpose but that time has long passed.

Take Air Canada. Its unions are whining about the feds forcing them back to work every time they want to strike. So then they stage illegal job actions, including inflicting massive inconvenience on hard-working families who want to get away for spring break.

These are the same unions and workers who benefited mightily when the airline asked the federal government for $250 million during the financial crisis. Ottawa’s money doesn’t grow on trees; it comes from taxpayers. So the feds took money from these families and gave it to Air Canada which gave it to their workers. The reasoning? Air Canada is essential.

Today, when the government makes the same argument, that the airline is essential and shouldn’t be allowed to strike, unions stage illegal actions and pilots call in “sick.”

We also subsidize these whiners in another way. Ottawa blocks other airlines from flying here, resulting in much higher fares for us. Those fares are like a tax, and the beneficiary is again Air Canada (workers and shareholders to be fair about it).

Air Canada has a monopoly on business travel in this country and a duopoly, with Westjet, on most travel. Westjet, it should be noted, has no unions, and has done nothing but create wealth for its workers and shareholders since it started. Air Canada and its unions have done nothing but destroy wealth for everyone. And it’s not a question of management. Westjet has fired many top executives over the years; it clearly hasn’t had uniformly good management.

Illegal strikers should be fired. If you don’t like your job, get another one. If you can’t another one, be grateful and shut up.

PS: Governments could lead by example by clamping down on their own unions. If you’ve ever worked in government you know it’s overstaffed by a factor of 50%. You could get rid of one in three workers and not even notice the difference. Federal workers work less than 40 hours a week and get ridiculously generous benefits, like every Monday off in the case of a friend of mine.

Dividends are not a bubble

March 21st, 2012

The financial media love bubbles. They’ve called seven of the last two. Gold was a bubble at $1000 and again at $1500. At today’s price it’s a bubble with a capital B. It reminds me of the promoters who say “well if it was a buy at 50 cents, it’s an even bigger buy at a nickel.”

The latest bubble, so we’re told, is dividends, on the grounds that stocks that pay them have done well. That’s all it takes to be dangerously overbought. I think the pundits are wrong. Dividends are in a bull market, not a bubble, and the bull market is still in its early stages.

To read the rest click here.

For ideas on where to put your money, here.