What I Have Been Reading – March 2021


Valuations

Not giving a damn about current income is the secret formula that sets you free from all terrestrial bounds of physics and logic. The way you pull it off is by executing on growth at any cost (GAAC?). Profits can come later once the market share battle is already won. Shareholders are willing to wait. And why wouldn’t they be patient. None of the money is costing anyone anything.

The Reformed Broker

 

 

Market Leaders

We were buying Yahoo 15 years ago instead of Google, because Yahoo had a bigger market share, they had a bigger moat, and it was a lot cheaper than Google. We were buying Dell instead of Apple, we were buying eBay instead of Amazon because they all had wider moats and they were all selling cheaply, but we were absolutely wrong. What we’ve learned since 15 years ago, as I said, is the importance of the direction of the competitive advantage versus the size of it.

Contango

 

Digital Advertising

“When Mondelez invests in digital advertising, it gets a 25% better return than with TV ads, the company says. It has found that its Google and Facebook ads do especially well, generating 40% higher returns than an average digital ad.”

WSJ

 

 

WeWork

In January 2019, WeWork was valued at $47B, making it the second-largest private company at the time, 15x the price of its closest competitor. After its failed IPO at the end of 2019, it nosedived to $7.3B. In March 2020, just as offices around the world were closing amid the coronavirus outbreak, SoftBank refused to participate in a $3B tender offer of early employee shares. The valuation of WeWork fell all the way to $2.9B, down 94% from its peak.

WeWork’s rise from startup to $47B company took 9 years—its fall back down to $2.9B took just over 1.

Sacra

 

 

SPACs

“People used to say that hedge funds are a compensation scheme masquerading as an asset class,” William A. Ackman, the famed hedge fund manager, told me. “You could say the same about SPACs.”
Mr. Ackman himself has a SPAC — in fact, the largest raised thus far. What makes his vehicle different, aside from its $4 billion size, is a unique arrangement that makes it tougher for him to score a big payday unless the subsequent merger is successful.

“Every friend is launching a SPAC,” Mr. Ackman said. “It’s like everyone who had an internet company in 2000. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, I got one, too.’”

NY Times

 

Free Shares

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200. All You need to do is sign up via this link –   Freetrade,  top up your account, could be as little as £1 and complete the w8-ben form on the app.

 

 

Productivity

Margaret Heffernan, professor of management at the University of Bath, says: “We’ve been studying productivity since 1888, and it taps out at about 40 hours a week. After that your brain gets tired, it starts to make mistakes.

“So you can work people longer to hit a deadline, But if you do it long term, what you find is people start to get depressed, they start to retreat in a way in an effort to protect what energy they have left, they start to disassociate from their loved ones, and they start to feel very isolated.”

BBC

 

 

Luxury Status

We feel pressure to display our status in new ways. This is why fashionable clothing always changes. But as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods.

The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.

NY Post

 

 

Making the Moderna vaccine

“They never had the virus on site at all; they really just used the sequence, and they viewed it as a software problem.”

NY Times

 

 

Unintended consequences

This year’s flu shot may not work as well as in previous years because plunging influenza levels—ironically due to mask wearing and other steps to tamp down the Covid-19 virus—means there’s a lot less data for picking strains for this fall’s flu season.

Bloomberg

 

 

Rat Race

It’s wild how many different activities I (you, we, us) juggle on a daily basis. Getting the kids up and dressed. Work. Podcasts. Blogging. Household finances. Spending time with my wife. YouTube Videos. Cooking. Checking in with friends and family. Cleaning the house. Work. Putting the kids to bed. TV/Netflix/sports/movies. Books.

I’m not saying our parents didn’t have plenty going on, but not like this. Right?
I feel mentally stimulated all day. Not a minute is wasted. But wait, are most of these minutes wasted? It feels like the days are quickly turning into years. Slow down, damnit!
And yet, I have no desire to slow down. No interest in unplugging. I love it. Like, I really really love it.

The irrelevant investor

 

 

After Covid

In the spring, we joked about the Before Times, but they were still within reach, easily accessible in our shorter-term memories. In the summer and fall, with restrictions loosening and temperatures rising, we were able to replicate some of what life used to be like, at least in an adulterated form: outdoor drinks, a day at the beach. But now, in the cold, dark, featureless middle of our pandemic winter, we can neither remember what life was like before nor imagine what it’ll be like after.

The Atlantic

 

 

Work After Covid

Give each full-time worker three sick days each year. It is not only “paid” sick leave, rather you are paid an extra bonus to take those days. That way you do not bring a cold into the office. On net, it now becomes more than culturally acceptable to plead sickness. Most people will be doing it, and without shame.

Other components of the wage package can adjust to keep the net real wage constant.
Some very hardy individuals still won’t take any sick days at all, and many of them will love working. In fact they should be “taxed” somewhat more, since their intangible benefits from working are so high.

Marginal Revolution

 

 

Hand Grip Strength & Disability

A study that ran from 1965 to 1993 found that men’s maximal hand grip strength in middle age was “highly predictive” of disability and functional limitations in old age, 25 years later.

James Network

 

 

Demographics

Japan, France and Belgium are among the nations reporting unusually abrupt drops in births nine months after the pandemic began, compared with a year earlier. In France, the number of births in January was down 13.5% compared with a year earlier, a much steeper drop than the 1.7% monthly decline recorded on average during the first 10 months of 2020.

Births in Italy plunged 21.6% in December from the previous year, according to first estimates by Italy’s statistical agency based on data from 15 major cities. That is a far bigger drop than during the first 10 months of 2020, when births declined 3.3% on average. Overall in 2020, nearly twice as many people died in Italy than were born there.

WSJ