Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Who Needs Horatio Alger, We Have Hamilton!

Peggy Noonan recently reviewed  a hip hop play.  "Hip hop?" you day, "Has she flipped her wig?"

Actually she has tipped her wig figuratively to a Broadway biography of one of our bewigged founders: Washington's right hand man, a triumvir of the Federalist Papers, and our first Treasury Secretary: Alexander Hamilton.

The U.S. economy achieved its takeoff into sustained economic growth by 1840, long before all but two countries in the world.  Yet a betting man or woman in 1780 would have found little to choose among our new fledgling republic strung along the Atlantic compared to Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil in terms of who would have been economically successful. Richard Sylla, perhaps our preeminent financial historian of U.S. financial markets, makes a compelling case that Hamilton's financial reforms enabled the emergence of a sophisticated financial system.  That financial system financed the young republic's emergence as an economy.  Thus economic takeoff took place here and not somewhere else.

Alexander Hamilton is one of my favorite Founding Fathers.  More to the point he exemplifies what makes America America and nowhere is it better expressed than in this very 2015 Broadway musical, "Hamilton"  Listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda, its playwright and star, as he performs "The Hamilton Mixtape" at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. He is accompanied by Alex Lacamoire:

As always, Peggy Noonan expressed it well: "Why did they weep? Why was everyone so moved?
Because it hits your heart hard when you witness human excellence. Because the true tale of how an illegitimate, lowborn orphan from the West Indies went on to become an inventor of America is a heck of a story. And because it is surprising yet perfect that that story is told in a hip-hop/rap/rhythm-and-blues/jazz/ballad musical whose sound is pure 2015 yet utterly appropriate to the tale."

Miranda read Ron Chernow's biography and wept because he identified with a great story of a great man who overcame all odds, yet a man made with feet of clay. Read it and drink in the story of our country.   

If Americans in 2015 can listen to this tale without a dry eye, then we know the revolution has spent its course and it is time to learn Mandarin. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chian's deceleration: What Should the CFO Worry about?

The Chinese economy grew averaged double digit growth for two decades. Recently that has slowed to 7-8 percent.The Conference Board has identified a set of structural factors that indicate a long “soft fall” to 3 to 4 percent growth. Ethan Cramer-Flood explains what this implies for pricing, credit, and compliance.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bolloré Is No Mercier

Jean-Marie Messier took a stogy French utility and construction conglomerate and converted it into an unwieldy media monstrosity in numerous related and unrelated businesses including Universal Studios.  During the dot.com bubble, he drank the internet Cool Aid and paid fabulous prices for companies whose value evaporated like water spilt on summer asphalt.

As the value of his empire collapsed, he met his Götterdämmerung

Eventually French financier Vincent Bolloré took a dominant position in the company, became Vivendi's chairman, and divested many of its assets to concentrate on content. In the process, Vivendi has piled up €16bn of cash. Lex’s Oliver Ralph and Robert Armstrong discuss whether Vincent Bolloré should return this money to shareholders in this Mar 23, 2015 video:

However, there is nothing like idle cash to attract the wolves.  Bolloré now faces an activist challenge from Wall Street’s quiet professor Peter Schoenfel, the head of the hedge fund, P. Schoenfeld Asset Management.

The inside story of how Clarke’s tenure at Tesco came to an end

Andrea Felsted and Andrew Hill tell "The inside story of how Clarke’s tenure at Tesco came to an end" in the Financial Times, July 23, 2014

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Tea with Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina advises Stamford MBAs on making tough choices and leadership:
Emily Mekinc gives us an interview with Carly Fiorina Landini Brothers in Old Town Alexandria , Virginia. The powerhouse who made HP what it is tells, among other things, the advice Steve Jobs gave her after she was fired. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The ABCs of Income: MLPs, REITs, and BDCs

Jack Hough and Jack Otter on the best investments for income in 2015, including the benefits of dividend stocks and the pros and cons of Treasury bonds.  MLPs are master limited partnerships, REITs are real estate investment trusts, and BDCs are business development companies.  They suggest there are some which are oversold.

Are there are a few undervalued stocks out there?

Meryl Witmer is a portfolio manager with Eagle Partners.  She looks for undervalued stocks which is getting harder and harder as the market gets pricier. Speaking at the Barron's Roundtable,  she explains why two stocks, Houghton Mifflin and Gildan Activewear, are undervalued in this January 17th video:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Carly Fiorina Faced 'Tough Choices'

The "HP Way" and the change agent.

Carly Fiorina talks about leadership, management, and culture ans her book, 'Tough Choices:' 

"When culture becomes convention, then something has to change."

"...sometimes the toughest choices you have to make are to fire somebody, not because they're not getting results, but because their values and judgment are inconsistent with what you say you stand for. The toughest personnel choices I have ever had to make in my career are where I have had to deal with abusive or dishonest people and, let's be honest with each other, abusive, dishonest people get results in business."

"I was taught long ago that values are what guide your behavior when no one's looking and you think no one will find out."

Thursday, January 01, 2015

On Monetary Policy, Are You a Dove or a Hawk?

Our own Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President, Ester L. George, has been called a hawk based on her votes and statements in the Federal Open Market Committee. The financial press characterizes those in central banks who want to move strongly to fight inflation and speculative excess by tightening monetary policy and raising interest rates as "hawks." Those who advocate lower interest rates are called "doves."

What's with these terms?  : The terms 'dovish' and 'hawkish' are second nature to anyone covering central bank policy, finance and economics. But where do the terms come from? In this December 24th, 2014 video, FT Alphaville's Izabella Kaminska delves into the Vietnam war, evolutionary game theory and even 'Mary Poppins' to find out.