Monday, November 30, 2020

Deaths of Despair

Something has gone horribly wrong in the US. Compared to other developed countries, it's not only unable to keep up with life expectancy improvements, but it appears to be regressing. This is despite the US badly outspending all other countries when it comes to healthcare, for outcomes that are worse.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Jeff, Unfrozen

Jefferies has been spending a lot of time approaching its book value lately, so my sell orders have filled. This is a stock that traded at a massive discount to book not long ago, as I wrote about here. I think this is a relatevely fair price for the shares, so I'm out.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Waitr Holdings: Cheap, Growing, And Profitable, Unlike Its Peers

Waitr is profitable and capitalized safely. Nevertheless, it is very cheap, perhaps thanks to past share issuances that the market is having trouble absorbing. It is also an acquisition target. Three days ago, a director purchased over $700,000 worth of shares in the open market.
Read more...

Friday, November 13, 2020

Back in Perdoceo

I recently sold shares of Perdoceo as I worried about what complete Democratic Party control of the US government would mean for for-profit education companies. Free college was a very real thread to Perdoceo, in my opinion. As the Democrats failed to take complete control of the Senate, however, I think the biggest downside risk to the company is off the table for some time. As a result, I'm back in Perdoceo as I find it far too cheap, despite the fact that a President Biden is likely to bring back rules that make it harder for companies in this space to get away with not providing useful educations to their students. Read more...

Monday, November 9, 2020

Genesis Land: A Home Builder Left Behind By The Market

Home builders have been on an absolute tear since the market lows earlier this year. Even lower rates combined with fears of the pandemic have driven sales of new homes higher, and home builders have seen their stock prices react positively as a result. From the March lows, Toll Brothers (TOL) and Beazer Homes (BZH) have seen their stock prices triple, while The New Home Company (NWHM) has seen its stock price rise a whopping 400%, to name a few examples.

But there is one home builder that has been left behind in this market frenzy, despite benefiting from the same factors as its peers. That company is Genesis Land Development (GDC)
Read more...

Monday, November 2, 2020

No Rules Rules

Netflix is one of the most popular companies in the world, boasting almost 200 million subscribers, and is also a stock market darling thanks to its impressive growth; revenue is up almost three times in the last four years. In No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings describes the culture he believes is behind the company's success.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Off The RAILs

Shares of railcar maker FreightCar America have almost tripled from their market-panic lows of March, but they still represent a big loss for me, as I purchased the shares in 2018 when they were much higher. This past week, I crystalized that loss, as the company's prospects have become much more difficult to evaluate, for me anyway.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Art of the Good Life

I thought The Art of the Good Life: Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth, and Success would promote three or four important principles, and spend the book elaborating on how to get the most out of them. Instead, I was disappointed to see it instead contained a list of 52(!) items that one should abide by in order to live a good life.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tripping Over The Truth

The war against cancer has not gone well. A great deal of resources has gone into fighting this massive killer, but the casualty count continues to rise. In the fascinating book Tripping over the Truth, author Travis Chistofferson discusses how we have probably poured a ton of money down the drain chasing down a flawed theory. There is a better hypothesis about what causes cancer, and it is leading to more effective treatments and even cures.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Power of Habit

"The Chains of Habit Are Too Light To Be Felt Until They Are Too Heavy To Be Broken," is one of my favourite sayings. Habits have a way of controlling us, and so the more we know about them, the more we can help ourselves. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is all about this topic.

Beazarre

I just love steady businesses with volatile stock prices. Beazer Homes is a stock I've bought and sold a number of times over the years. Now that the pandemic has brought home builders back into favour, I've sold my shares.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Karsan Value Funds: 2020 Q3 Results

Karsan Value Funds (KVF) is a value-oriented fund, as described here. Due to securities regulations, the fund is not open to the public at this time. Should that change in the future, there will be an announcement on this site.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Deficit Myth

As a society, we spend a lot of time worrying about debt. Consumer debt, household debt, municipal debt, state/provincial debt, federal debt etc. But one of these types of debt is not like the other: the federal government creates currency out of thin air, therefore its debts don't matter. So says Stephanie Kelton in her book, The Deficit Myth.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Caste

Despite the belief among many Americans that they live in a meritocracy, income and wealth disparities among racial lines persist. In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson argues that America actually lives in a caste system on racial lines.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Friedman Industries

While a certain sector of the market does seem overheated, I'm finding plenty of value opportunities around. Much of the market is still behaving like one in recession, and that's probably a good place to invest for the long term. One example is Friedman Industries (FRD), a steel processor.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

ADF Group

ADF Group is engaged in "the design and engineering of connections, fabrication, including industrial coating, and installation of complex steel structures, heavy steel built-ups, as well as miscellaneous and architectural metalwork", having been originally founded as a blacksmith in 1956. It trades under the ticker symbol DRX in Toronto.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Very Important People

My memories of my trips to Vegas are bittersweet. On the one hand they have been a lot of fun, but on the other hand a number of incidents leave me feeling ripped off. None more so than going to a club and having to fork over obscene amounts of money at markups of thousands of percent. I don't find this to be good use of either money or time, but the friends I have gone with usually do, so I end up paying my share despite realizing what a racket this is. So it was with great interest that I read former model Ashley Mears' expose of this industry in her book, Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit

Friday, August 28, 2020

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Summit Midstream

While many parts of the market have somewhat recovered towards or even above their pre-COVID highs, the energy industry has not fared as well. Over-capacity has resulted in product pricing that is still low. Unfortunately, predicting cash flows in upstream energy companies is very difficult. Not only is it hard to determine the price the company will receive for its product, but it's also tough to know what it will cost to pull the product out of the ground.

But midstream companies can offer a little bit more cash flow certainty. The fees for gathering and processing are set out in contracts, which often specify minimum usage requirements and last many years. In a lot of cases, the product continues to flow through existing wells and pipes, without much need for capex. And yet, one can find companies in this space whose stock prices are as decimated as any solvent upstream company. Consider Summit Midstream Partners (SMLP).

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Kane & Abel

Historical fiction is probably my favourite genre right now, and within that context Jeffrey Archer's Kane & Abel does not disappoint! The plot is terrific, spans several fascinating historical events including Poland's role in World War I, America's role in World War II, and economic issues in America in between.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Innovation Stack

The co-founder of $60 billion-valued Square Inc has written an intriguing book called The Innovation Stack. Like most books based on a single idea, I think this book should have been an article, as it's repetitive and drawn out. You can't blame the author: who's going to pay $15 for an article? But at the same time, I think the idea is so important that I'm still glad I read it cover to cover.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Wa Un-Bashed

It feels like just 80 days ago that I wrote about Wabash as a beaten down ($7 share price) manufacturer of trailers that is capitalized to weather a possible multi-year storm. Last week, however, the company traded for $13, which is around what I believe it to be worth and so I sold all my shares.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck's 1939 realist novel The Grapes of Wrath won him a Pullitzer Prize for fiction and won The National Book Award. It was probably also the biggest reason Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962. I read it last week and found it both educational (because of the history) and rather one-sided, because of the perspective it takes on poverty.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy

What allows a business to thrive sustainably in the long term? It must have a competitive advantage, or power. In 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy, Hamilton Helmer describes those seven powers that allow a business to prosper.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Mea CULP

When I buy a stock, I'm usually prepared to own it for several years. But sometimes lightning strikes and I'm able to exit much sooner. Such was the case with Culp Inc, which I discussed only two months ago as a potential value investment.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Jeff, Freeze!

Jefferies is a company I've had my eye on for a long time. But I've never owned a single share until this downturn caused a huge reduction in the share price. In my view, this represents a terrific opportunity.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Plot Against America

As FDR prepared to run for his third term as US President, a vocal group of Americans were advocating for the candidacy of Charles Lindbergh, the stunt flyer who had rather pro-Nazi views. Lindbergh did not end up running, but what if he had? Philip Roth tells a story of what could have happened in America during World War II had Roosevelt not won the election in The Plot Against America.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Imperial Ginseng

Ginseng is popular for consumption in Asia, but grows well in Ontario. Imperial Ginseng (IGP) is an Ontario grower and exporter of Ginseng that has hit a slew of what are hopefully temporary issues that have caused the stock to fall by about 80% over the last two years.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Karsan Value Funds: 2020 Q2 Results

Karsan Value Funds (KVF) is a value-oriented fund, as described here. Due to securities regulations, the fund is not open to the public at this time. Should that change in the future, there will be an announcement on this site.

Monday, June 22, 2020

When The Bubble Bursts

Canada's housing market is in an insatiable, multi-decade upward rise. In When the Bubble Bursts: Surviving the Canadian Real Estate Crash, financial advisor Hilliard MacBeth explains the causes and potential ramifications for investors.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The End is Always Near

Our society is seemingly on a path where continued improvements (at least in absolute terms, on average) are the norm. It can feel as though this process can go on forever, or at least as long as the span of our lifetimes. But such feelings have occurred before, in different societies, and been very wrong. In The End Is Always Near, Dan Carlin takes us through what went wrong (or almost did) in a number of societies that preceeded ours.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Moth Smoke

Inequality is high, and as a result the children of the rich and well-connected have opportunities that the rest of the population doesn't. Such is the situation in Pakistan in Moth Smoke, a novel by Mohsin Hamid.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Elephant in the Brain

The main idea of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life is that sometimes we're better off not consciously knowing things, so as to deceive both others and ourselves. Our brains evolved in such as a way as to have figured out what's important to know, and perhaps as importantly, what's important not to know!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Magellan Arrow Space

Magellan Aerospace's stock price has gotten absolutely obliterated, down 71% from its 2-year high and down almost 60% since February. The company name says it all; who wants to bet on air travel at a time like this? Any manufacturer reliant on Boeing and Airbus that has fixed obligations coming up could be in serious trouble. But sometimes, babies get thrown out with the bathwater, and I believe this to be the case here.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Perdoceo: Downside Risk Emerges

Less than two months ago, I discussed Perdoceo as a potential value idea. Unfortunately, a new risk has arisen which is stopping me from continuing to enjoy the upward momentum.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Culp

Culp Inc. sells mattress and furniture fabrics to mattress and furniture makers. The stock has taken an absolute nosedive, down almost 90% since its 2016 high, and also down 55% since the beginning of the year. With these numbers, it's behaving like a risky, over-levered bit player, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Wabash Your Head In

Wabash National "designs, manufactures, and distributes transportation and various industrial products primarily in the United States. The company operates through three segments: Commercial Trailer Products, Diversified Products, and Final Mile Products. The Commercial Trailer Products segment provides dry van trailers; platform trailers; refrigerated trailers; converter dollies, big tire haulers, and steel coil haulers; aftermarket parts and services; and used trailers."

Thursday, May 7, 2020

22 Immutable Laws of Branding

What's a good brand? How do you make it better? How do you make it worse? Al Ries takes these questions on in The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Station Eleven

The pandemic theme of my book selections continued with Station Eleven, a novel during which a flu pandemic takes out most of the world's population.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Ride of a Lifetime

Robert Iger was Disney's CEO for fifteen years, and retired only a few months ago. In The Ride of a Lifetime, Iger discusses his rise to the top and the lessons he learned along the way.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Rationing

A virus is spreading, killing Americans, as the government is not properly prepared to deal with it. Maybe it sounds like real-life, but it is actually the plot of a May 2019 (!) novel by Charles Wheelan called The Rationing.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Karsan Value Funds: 2020 Q1 Results

Karsan Value Funds (KVF) is a value-oriented fund, as described here. Due to securities regulations, the fund is not open to the public at this time. Should that change in the future, there will be an announcement on this site.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Perdoceo

If you've been a value investor for some time, you might recognize online education provider Perdoceo (PRDO) as it is formerly known as Career Education Corp (CECO). CECO appears to have been a bad actor in the for-profit education sector that was forced to clean up its act after a series of scandals rocked the industry several years ago.

The structure of the industry (uneducated and often poor customers/students, government financing of tuition) made it possible for snake-oil salesmen and swindlers to make a lot of money while returning little of value to society, and the industry paid for its sins in the form of bankruptcies, fines and...brace yourself...lower multiples! This latter is what attracted me to the industry, and I struck gold by recognizing and buying one of the few ethical players around, Strayer Education. Sadly, I sold it too soon, as the market eventually recognized it as a stand-out and restored its lofty multiple.

Now, I might be getting another chance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Everybody Lies

Official stats show no changes in child abuse during the Great Financial Crisis. But Google searches for "Why does my dad hit me" (and other similar searches) spiked during that period! In Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, the reader is shown new means of collecting and slicing data that can shed a light on things we thought we knew, but don't.

It's a lot like Freakonomics. It goes deep into some unique data to offer insights that either weren't available before or weren't thought of. I highly recommend the book.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Bees, her

So you people have started buying guns and ammo. Maybe it's a good idea. If the virus gets really big, you might be able to shoot it. I took advantage of the short-term spike to exit my position in Smith & Wesson maker American Outdoor, a lonely green shoot in an otherwise burning sea of red that is my portfolio.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Team of Rivals

I have been meaning to learn more about the revered Abraham Lincoln, and I found a great book to do it with. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln takes you through the lives of Honest Abe and his allies/rivals as they grew up, took power and eventually presided over a civil war.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Course of Love

When I first started reading The Course of Love: A Novel, I thought I must have gotten something wrong. It didn't seem like the type of book I normally read, and so I had to go back through my notes to check the title/author to make sure I was reading the right book. By the end of the book, I was blown away!

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Handmaid's Tale

In the dystopian future depicted in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, toxicity levels are so high that successfully birthing a baby has become difficult. As a result, a new societal order now rules.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Goliath

Goliath tells the tale of America's multi-century war against monopolies abusing their economic power. Government responses to monopolies and oligopolies seems to be cyclical: sometimes monopolies have abused their power to such an extent that the citizenry has fought back through the government to break them up. Other times, the population is complacent, allowing a fresh crew of monopolies to rise to power, against causing a backlash.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Ishmael

Ishmael is an interesting novel that makes you think about Man's place in the world. There are spoilers in the writeup below, so if you plan to read it, you may not want to scroll down.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Adventures of a Curious Character

Richard Feynman was a world-renowned physicist who, among other things, worked on the atomic bomb and won the Nobel Prize. In Adventures of a Curious Character, we learn more about him, through his own eyes, as he walks us through a bunch of anecdotes from his life.

Friday, January 3, 2020

See VG, 'Aye!

On the surface, Commercial Vehicle Group (CVGI) looks like a very cheap stock. This supplier of electronic systems and seats for cabs in trucks and other vehicles trades for just $200 million, having seen its stock price halved from 2018, despite ttm operating income of $64 million. An expected slowdown in the trucking industry has potentially provided an opportunity for investors in a respected, well-entrenched, relatively high-margin vehicle supplier.

Karsan Value Funds: 2019 Q4 Results

Karsan Value Funds (KVF) is a value-oriented fund, as described here. Due to securities regulations, the fund is not open to the public at this time. Should that change in the future, there will be an announcement on this site.

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