The Big Boys are Playing

I was starting to wonder when – not if – and how the big guns would start deploying their cash stash.  Most have investors to answer to and it has been a relatively quiet year so far – so it must be time to begin prowling for deals to bake and pots to stir.

First out of the chutes was the kingpin Warren fresh off the aborted Unilever deal.  Leaving 3G in his dust, last week he ran one from his playbook that worked before.  This time the victim being Home Capital Group which required a cash infusion following a run on deposits.  His $C2B 9.0% loan is at better terms than the one currently in place provided by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.  He’s also getting a discounted share price on a stake that could equal 38%.  The advisors were RY and BMO in which I’m long both.  As an aside … if the US dollar weakens further, profits could be booked on the FX angle as well.

Then only this morning he announced a 9.8% stake in Store Capital.  This one should provide support for REITs in general while (at least on paper) be an investment that meets his standards for playing nice.

This morning brought the announcement that Dan Loeb’s Third Point has amassed a 1.3% stake in Nestlé.  This appears to be a ploy to pressure the company to create ‘shareholder value’ by shedding assets and taking on debt.  It could be argued that Nestlé’s stake in L’Oreal is a slight hedge against commodity pricing and their conservative nature is an asset rather than liability.  I see this as more of an attempt at greenmail with minimal risk.  If pundits are correct, the Swiss Franc should get stronger versus the US dollar this year.  If so, even without spurring corporate change, profits could be booked on the currency.

In today’s most twisted play, the title goes to Tiger Global who reportedly have shorted Tesco plc while being long Amazon.  Not a bad call with Amazon’s Whole Foods announcement last week hurting grocery retailers.  But if the FT report is correct and this position was initiated in January, one has to wonder if they were privy to inside information?  Especially when initiated anonymously through an offshore entity?

So much for this week’s questions … and onward toward month end.

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Pure Randomness

Every now and again events are thrown our direction which necessitate a change.  Being one who abhors change, I tend to procrastinate until the absolute last minute.  I knew the drive in my laptop was on its’ last legs a year ago when I bought a new one.  Last week it bit the dust.  I did perform regular backups so data loss was minimal.  What loss exists is not due to Wanna Cry but their evil twin, Micosoft (MSFT).  Though I have an Office license, my use (legally) of an upgraded version resulted in the inability to perform a backward migration.  It appears my best recourse is to purchase an upgrade.  My frugal nature has an issue with this solution (being held hostage?).  Meanwhile, seeing if Google fills the void.  I did add a sheet to my Dividends spreadsheet (Div Dates) which – assuming I get the hang of conditional formatting – has the potential of automating my watch list.

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Money Found Under the Couch Cushion

With apologies to Lanny (Dividend Diplomats), I figured since it’s relatively appropriate I’d play on the title to his recent post.  Couch money generally refers to the spare change lurking in the cushions of your sofa and  is commonly used to describe assets you own that have been long forgotten until found while scrounging in the crevices.  I encountered such an animal this past month and figured I’d share my experience to (at least) give my readers a little food for thought. 

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My 2017 Strategy (Coca-Cola)

Usually during the third quarter of each year I analyze my portfolio’s performance, do a little tweaking and cast about for an underlying strategy for the new year.  2016 was especially difficult due to a couple of mergers wreaking havoc on my portfolio structure as well as the uncertainty caused by the election.  The easy fix is to add to my anchor, core and satellite holdings at reasonable price points to get them to their target weightings.  This is illustrated by my recent purchases of KMB, CLX and SBUX with more to come.  The more difficult issue was identifying potential value plays for an ancillary portion of the portfolio.

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Conspiracy Theories

Two of the investing kingpins are in the news this week for different reasons.  Warren, obviously, for his annual meeting.  Carl, on the other hand, stole some of the thunder with his announcement yesterday that he exited his Apple position.  I’ll get back to Warren in a minute, but over the years have come to realize that rarely is a given act random.  Most times it’s calculated, particularly when significant amounts of money are at stake.  So I look for the hidden agenda, or for lack of a better term, the Conspiracy Theory.

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Warren’s Letter

Falling in the dead of winter between the end of football season and baseball’s opening day, the most anticipated spectator sport is upon us.  Berkshire’s annual letter.  There will likely be hundreds of articles parsing Warren’s every word between now and the annual meeting and mine is not the first.  But – as always – there are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from his experience.

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