Archive for June, 2010

Seahawk Drilling, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAWK), which I’ve posted about before, has taken a pounding over the last few days, down over 11% just yesterday to close at $9.61. It seems crazy to me. HAWK is cheap as a going concern, but with its market capitalization at $113M, it’s now at a hefty discount to its liquidation value. Here’s how I figure it:

Here’s a list of HAWK’s rigs and their operating status from the June 9 Drilling Fleet Status Report:

There are two possible liquidation values for HAWK rigs. In the slightly more optimistic scenario, HAWK’s rigs are sold off as operating rigs to other drillers in the Gulf of Mexico. In the other more dour scenario, some of HAWK’s rigs are sold for scrap. HAWK is trading at a discount to both values.

Rig resale values

In March and April this year, ENSCO Plc (NYSE:ESV) sold three 300′ ILC rigs from the same vintage as HAWK’s rigs for ~$48M a piece (see press releases here and here). These are clearly higher specification and therefore more valuable than HAWK’s rigs, but the sales do provide some insight into recent market conditions. Here’s a chart from HAWK’s presentation (.pdf) to the Macquarie Securities Small and Mid-Cap Conference on June 15 and 16 showing comparable sales since 2004:

When 300′ ILCs have sold in the past for ~$48M, rigs comparable to HAWK’s have sold for around $15M each. HAWK is presently trading as if its rigs are worth only $6M each. Retired rigs have sold recently for between $5M and more. Hercules Offshore, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:HERO) 31 December, 2009 10K is illustrative:

Additionally, the Company recently entered into an agreement to sell our retired jackups Hercules 191 and Hercules 255 for $5.0 million each.

In June 2009, the Company entered into an agreement to sell its Hercules 100 and Hercules 110 jackup drilling rigs for a total purchase price of $12.0 million. The Hercules 100 was classified as “retired” and was stacked in Sabine Pass, Texas, and the Hercules 110 was cold-stacked in Trinidad. The closing of the sale of the Hercules 100 and Hercules 110 occurred in August 2009 and the net proceeds of $11.8 million from the sale were used to repay a portion of the Company’s term loan facility. The Company realized approximately $26.9 million ($13.1 million, net of tax) of impairment charges related to the write-down of the Hercules 110 to fair value less costs to sell during the second quarter of 2009 (See Note 12). The financial information for the Hercules 100 has historically been reported as part of the Domestic Offshore Segment and the Hercules 110 financial information has been reported as part of the International Offshore Segment. In addition, the assets associated with the Hercules 100 and Hercules 110 are included in Assets Held for Sale on the Consolidated Balance Sheet at December 31, 2008.

During the second quarter of 2008, the Company sold Hercules 256 for gross proceeds of $8.5 million, which approximated the carrying value of this asset.

The rigs have a resale value well beyond the price implied by the company’s stock. Not convinced they can all be sold as operating rigs? How about as scrap?

Scrap value

In this audio of the presentation to the Macquarie Securities Small and Mid-Cap Conference, Randy Stilley, the President and CEO of HAWK, says in relation to the slide below, that the value of the scrap steel and equipment on HAWK’s rigs is worth roughly $8M to $9M each:

Randy Stilley (at about 21 minutes into the presentation):

This is something that is just kind of amazing in a way. If you look at the underlying asset value of our rigs: five million dollars. The scrap value of a jackup is about eight or nine [million dollars], and that’s assuming that you get almost nothing for the steel and you just start taking stuff off of there; mud pumps, engines, top drives, cranes, draw works. If you start adding all that up, that alone is worth more than our current asset values based on our equity.

Now you can also say, “Well, if they’re not working, they’re not worth much,” and we’re not likely to just start cutting them up for scrap, but I think that’s kind of an interesting reference point that you don’t want to forget about because we’re trading at a very low value today.


If the ten cold stacked rigs are worth $80M in scrap, and the ten other operating rigs are worth $150M ($15M each), HAWK has $230M in rig value. Add HAWK’s $88M in cash and receivables, and deduct HAWK’s $164M in total liabilities, and HAWK is worth $154M in the most dour liquidation scenario. With a market capitalization of $113m, HAWK is trading at a hefty discount to this value, and HAWK is too cheap. It’s burning cash, it’s got a chunky payable to Pride and some Mexican tax issues, but subliquidation value never materializes without hair.

Hat tip BB.

[Full Disclosure: I hold HAWK. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

Read Full Post »

Further to my post yesterday on The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) Chris Pavese of Broyhill Asset Management has submitted to Zero Hedge a comprehensive take on JOE:

Baron Rothschild, an 18th century British nobleman, is credited with saying, “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.” Fast forward to today, and one might suggest that, “The time to buy is when there’s oil in the water.” Crisis creates opportunity for the disciplined investor, and the unfortunate disaster caused by the BP Blunder has produced one of the most compelling long term values we have ever come across. As they say, “ever” is quite a long time.

We recently watched a certain TV personality jumping up and down, like Jo-Jo The Idiot Circus Boy with a pretty new pet, and yelling at his viewers to “Sell, Sell, Sell” The St. Joe Company (JOE) after the stock had lost nearly half of its market capitalization in under two months. Viewers were told, “I know it’s got a strong balance sheet. SO WHAT! It may have acquired 477,000 acres of land in North West Florida at a very low cost. SO WHAT! . . . The risk from the oil spill is no longer a question of if, it’s not even a question of when. Now the only question is how much is this going to hurt? Could it wipe out the company??”

We’ll spare the suspense here and answer that one right up front – not a chance. The St. Joe Company has $39.5MM in debt, $27.1MM of which is offset by pledged treasury securities, and $30.6MM in maturities after 2014. The company has total liquidity of $286MM comprised of $164MM and $122MM of cash and credit facilities, respectively. A strong balance sheet may not be of much importance to speculators, but it provides long term investors with a comfortable security blanket. Not to mention, the company has 577,000 acres of land, but what’s a 100,000 acres if you’re not interested in the assets a company holds anyhow?

Later in the segment, the audience is told that, “I am not saying this company is going to go bankrupt. It’s probably not. That’s what I’m saying about BP.” We thought that last comment was particularly interesting, considering that on May 3rd, with BP trading over $50, our favorite TV personality explained that “BP’s debt to capital is really incredible” and on May 10, he told viewers that he was purchasing shares of BP for his charitable trust at just under $50. “If you get any good news at all, you’re at the bottom.”

Which leads us to our next question – why doesn’t the same hold true for JOE, a stock that is already selling at half the price it was trading at less than two months ago, with ZERO responsibility for the spill? Instead, viewers are told, “We cannot quantify the downside.” While this is certainly the case for BP, who’s costs and liabilities are rising by the day, anyone remotely interested in buying discounted Florida property, and willing to take the time to actually analyze the company’s assets, can “quantify the downside” in JOE pretty easily. At a minimum, we can get a sense for what the stock is currently pricing in. To help us determine the risk of a permanent loss of capital, we ask ourselves a few straightforward questions when considering any investment opportunity:

  1. Is the investment within our Circle of Confidence? Can we describe our thesis in one paragraph?
  2. Can we confidently estimate value in relation to price? What is an appropriate Margin of Safety?
  3. Does the business have a moat? What is the firm’s competitive advantage?
  4. Is the business run by honest and able people? Is management an efficient steward of capital?
  5. What can go wrong? How much do we stand to lose?
  6. Are we willing to invest a large part of our capital in the business?

These questions form the foundation of our investment thesis in The St. Joe Company, which is outlined below:

Buy When There’s Oil in the Water (Jun-10)

[Full Disclosure:  I hold JOE. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

Read Full Post »

The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) owns approximately 577,000 acres of land concentrated primarily in northwest Florida, as well as approximately 405,000 acres in the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The stock has been pummelled by the downturn in Florida real estate and the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The stock is a perennial favorite of value investors, but opinion is not uniformly positive. Bruce Berkowitz’s Fairholme is the largest shareholder. Marty Whitman’s Third Avenue is a large, long-term holder. Sham Gad is long and Jon Heller held it in the past, which lead to a fantastic back-and-forth with David Einhorn, who was short in 2007 (and may still be short). Cramer is short (or selling, at least). Why the wide divergence in opinion? A valuation of JOE turns on the value of its real estate, and arriving at a sensible estimate of value of JOE’s real estate holdings is a difficult task. Further, the damage to the coastline from the oil spill is unquantified.

The long thesis

Berkowitz, Gad and Heller’s long theses are essentially the same. JOE owns huge tracts of undeveloped land in Florida. Access to JOE’s land holdings is via an international airport, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, which opened on May 23 this year. JOE donated the land for the airport and owns over 71,000 acres in the surrounding area. JOE’s 172,000 inland acres have sold for around 1,500 per acre, indicating they are collectively worth around $260M. With $150M in cash and long-term debt of $38M, after backing out the inland acres, JOE’s ~$2B enterprise value implies that the remaining 405,000 acres within 15 miles of the coastline are worth only around $5,000 per acre. Berkowitz, Gad and Heller believe that land is worth more.

For more, see Bruce Berkowitz’s thesis, Sham Gad’s thesis, and Jon Heller’s posts, which provides a link to Marty Whitman’s shareholder letter (Third Avenue has held JOE since 1990).

The short thesis

Cheap Stocks sets out David Einhorn’s August 2007 short thesis when the stock was trading at around $40:

The per acre analyses used by most St. Joe bulls exclude selling expenses and taxes. I believe that the equivalent gross value to the $9,000 an acre used in your analysis is the equivalent of $18,000 an acre, when taking expenses and taxes into account.

As it was, I did not quantify any amount of swampland at the Ira Sohn conference. I simply noted that some of the land is swampland. The weather is much worse than South Florida (just as hot in the summer and cooler in the winter), there are a lot of mosquitoes, there is not a lot to do, and the demographics are poor. I noted that I thought St. Joe overplayed the value of land within ten miles of the ocean and noted that I thought that vacationers would prefer to be “on the ocean.” More than a mile is too far for many families to walk to the beach. Finally, I thought the airport development is the type of story often seen in promotional stocks designed to buy years of time to encourage the market to ignore current financial results. The current airport does not operate near capacity. Airports in Jacksonville an Ft. Myers did not spur a lot of development next to their airports and it is odd the St. Joe seems to believe that a lot of people will want to live near the airport, as if that is a residential attraction.

As I pointed out in my speech, since 2001, St. Joe has sold 268,000 acres at an average price of under $2,000 an acre. Since my speech, St. Joe announced another quarter where they sold over 30,000 additional acres at $1,500 an acre. As such, I don’t see that it is very challenging to determine a value for most of St. Joe’s land. Assuming they haven’t sold the most salable stuff first, it appears that undeveloped land is worth on average sub $2,000 an acre before expenses.

I believe that about 680,000 of the remaining 739,000 acres are similarly undeveloped. Assuming St. Joe has no un-salable tracts of swampland and all the undeveloped land could be sold for $2,000 an acre, it would be worth $1.36 billion gross or about $700 million after selling expenses and taxes.

St Joe has just under 20,000 acres in development (some of which has already been sold). They have an additional 21,000 acres “In Pre-Development”, meaning they have land use entitlements, but they are still evaluating the development or need additional permits. They have another 10,000 acres they are planning to entitle.

The developed projects have a book value of $800 million. St. Joe is not making good margins on selling developed property. Residential and commercial land sales have not covered its overhead in any quarter since 2005, when it was still in the homebuilding business. St. Joe is one of very few companies that has spent large amounts on residential development and has not taken any impairment in the current environment. To give St. Joe the benefit of the doubt, let’s say the developments could be worth 1.5x book or $1.2 billion.

On that analysis St. Joe is worth $1.9 billion. Subtract $400 million of debt, leaves $1.5 billion of equity or $20 per share. I believe that adding in the time value of money would take this analysis down to the $15 number I used at the conference.

Cramer’s short or sell thesis is as follows:

With oil continuing to gush in the Gulf of Mexico, one obvious stock to put on the Sell Block is St. Joe, a property developer in Florida, 70% of whose properties sit on the “now imperiled coastline.” The positives just don’t matter; the company bought 577.000 acres of land at a rock bottom price, is expanding beyond luxury properties into commercial real estate and is suing BP (BP) for damages. If tar balls show up on beachfront property no one will want to buy.

If this is such a clear sell, why is Cramer singling JOE out? Because three analysts rate the stock as “neutral” and one says it is “undervalued.” Cramer has three words for that analyst: “Sell, sell, sell.”

“St. Joe down 40% off the oil spill isn’t an opportunity,” Cramer said, “it’s a falling knife and it will be able to cut you unless we get some certainty, some clarity about the scale of the damage.”

Why I am long

There are good reasons to be out of this stock. Florida real estate is synonymous with “Tulip bulb”, David Einhorn has been or is short, and JOE is, apparently, a falling knife, which sounds dangerous. Further, no one has a good bead on the value of JOE’s real estate. Einhorn is an exceptionally smart investor and, at his most charitable, valued JOE’s entire real estate holdings at $3,000 per acre. Einhorn’s short thesis is more dour. The most saleable property is worth $1,500 per acre before expenses and taxes, and a great deal of the rest is swampland. Cramer says the tar balls will push the value down further. The long thesis is simply that JOE’s real estate is worth more than $3,600 per acre (blending the inland real estate and the coastline corridor).

I’ve got no real view on the value of the real estate. I think it’s sensible to adopt Einhorn’s downside valuation as the downside valuation. Importantly, from my perspective, the downside valuation is not zero. In 2008, JOE raised $580M at $35 per share to pay down debt. Even in the worst case scenario – that the most saleable land has been sold and a great deal of the rest is swampland – JOE probably still has some value, which I’ve pencilled in at $5 (land is worth $1,500 per acre, two-thirds of it is unsaleable swampland) to $10 per share (land is worth $1,500 per acre, one-third of it is unsaleable swampland). The best case scenario is unknowable, but, because JOE has no net debt, and modest cash burn, we can hold the stock long enough to find out. The oil spill is a small concern, but BP is responsible for any clean up, either via the $20B fund or through the courts. For me, JOE represents two things: The first is a cheap bet on some longer term mean reversion in the prices for Florida real estate. The second is some shorter term mean reversion in the stock once the panic selling from the oil spill subsides. If I’m wrong, I think I’ll still get back 20% to 50% of my investment at these prices. JOE closed Friday at $22.87.

Hat tip BB.

[Full Disclosure:  I hold JOE. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

Read Full Post »

Primus Telecommunications (OTC:PMUG) is an interesting post-reorganization equity. Both Farukh Farooqi at Oozing Alpha and Wally the Tiger at Zero Hedge have written about it recently.

Here’s Farukh Farooqi’s take (via Oozing Alpha):

Last week, Primus Telecom announced Q110 results which handsomely exceeded my expectations and Plan Projections. In my opinion, Primus is one of the most attractively priced post-reorg equities from the current bankruptcy cycle.

As a reminder, Primus Telecom emerged from Chapter 11 on July 1, 2009 after restructuring its debt down to $255 mm from $316 mm pre-bankruptcy. It is an integrated telecommunications company which provides voice, VOIP, Internet, wireless, data and hosting services to business and residential customers.

The Co has 9.7 mm shares and its equity market cap is $65 mm. It has total debt of $254 mm, cash of $63 mm. Its enterprise value is $256 mm. The stock currently trades at an EV/LTM EBITDA of 3x, Price/Free Cash Flow of 2x and an EV/Free Cash Flow of 7x.

Over the past four quarters, it has generated EBITDA of $87 mm of which 54% was from Canada, 41% from Australia and ROW accounted for 5%. U.S. and Europe are meaningless to Primus’s profitability.

On May 17, it reported Q110 adjusted EBITDA of $23.4 mm and EBITDA is now at an annualized run rate of $90+ mm compared to its projected 2010 EBITDA of $67 mm per Plan of Reorganization.

In Q110, it generated free cash flow of $12.8 mm, paid down $3.4 mm of capital leases and retired $9.5 mm of its 14.25% notes.

Revenues from VoIP, Broadband and Data Centers over the past four quarters totaled $220 mm. Datacenters is currently a $38 mm business with 42% EBTIDA margin compared to the Company’s overall margin of 11%. According to management, this business can grow 40%-50% within Primus’ existing footprint and become a significant contributor to future profitability.

Primus’ Net Debt/LTM EBITDA ratio is at 2.2x which, in my opinion, is quite manageable.

Comp EV/EBITDA multiples range between 5x-6x. For Primus, a 4x EV/EBITDA multiple would imply a $16 price for the common stock.

So in summary, Primus is inexpensive, undiscovered and has been growing EBITDA for the past four quarters. It is a levered equity so with this improving profitability and debt pay down, the stock could benefit meaningfully.

The bear case on the story is that Primus’s traditional voice revenues continue to decline due to product substitution (wireless/internet for fixed line voice). This is an industry issue, not Primus-specific. Primus contends that over the years, it has grown its VoIP/Data/Internet business and its reliance on Voice, while significant, continues to decline. Voice accounted for 54%, 52% and 48% of revenues in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.

It is important to note that this slowly fading voice business is the cash engine for the Co (requires little R&D and capital expenditure). The key to Primus’s success, in my view, will be to manage this transition effectively and allocate capital to higher growth businesses with a keen eye on return on invested capital.

Says Wally the Tiger at Zero Hedge:

Primus Telecommunications Group Inc. (Ticker: PMUG.OB) provides integrated telecommunications services primarily in the United States, Australia, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and western Europe. Primus’ stock trades on the over-the-counter bulletin board, as the company emerged from bankruptcy on July 1, 2009 and has not yet relisted on a major exchange. The company has substantial size, with LTM revenue and EBITDA of $826 million and $86 million, respectively. Importantly, Primus’ management estimates that the company will generate $23-28 million of annual free cash flow, or $2.38-2.89/share of FCF, representing a 34-41% FCF yield at its current $7.00 share price. On a multiple basis, it also trades very inexpensively, at 3.1x EV/EBITDA and 0.3x EV/Revenue (as of June 15, 2010). Potential catalysts may include: (i) listing on major exchange; (ii) continued use of FCF to retire debt; and (iii) potential sale of entire company. The company’s exposure to Canada and Australia are large positives given their relative stability. Per the proxy, as of May 1, 2010, Primus’ top eight shareholders collectively owned 45.3% of the company’s stock.

The stock bounces around on low volume, so it might be worth watching.

Read Full Post »

Join us for the 6th Annual New York Value Investing Congress, taking place October 12 & 13, 2010 in New York City, to learn and profit from some of the world’s most extraordinary money managers.

You’ll (L)EARN with:

  • David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital Management
  • Lee Ainslie, Maverick Capital
  • John Burbank, Passport Capital
  • J Kyle Bass, Hayman Capital
  • Mohnish Pabrai, Pabrai Investment Funds
  • Amitabh Singhi, Surefin Investments
  • J. Carlo Cannell, Cannell Capital
  • Zeke Ashton, Centaur Capital Partners
  • Whitney Tilson & Glenn Tongue, T2 Partners

…with many more to come!

The price will increase substantially as the event nears. Avoid disappointment – register today!


Regular Price
Your Price
Value Investing Congress
October 12-13, 2010
$4,395 $2,495 $1,900
Value Investing Congress &
An Advanced Seminar on
Value Investing
October 11-13, 2010
$6,795 $4,095 $2,700

Read Full Post »

Andrew Shapiro, President of Lawndale Capital Management, has provided an update on Reading International Inc (NASDAQ:RDI) (see the RDI post archive here. Andrew has also responded to commenters in the first post.):

Reading International: Index Fund Selling Presents Unique Liquidity Opportunity

As previously reported in mid-May, movie exhibitor and real estate developer Reading International (NASDAQ: RDI) announced what should be a major near-term catalyst for unlocking substantial embedded value in one of its most highly appreciated real estate development projects, Burwood Square, located in Melbourne, Australia. A unique major liquidity opportunity for buyers is being presented over the next week as substantial RDI shares (approx 1.3 million) are to be sold by Russell index funds. Such funds are completely indifferent to Reading’s value-unlocking activity, but are forced to sell at the end of this week when RDI is deleted from the Russell 2000 index, because it missed this year’s market capitalization cut-off.

Burwood Sale is a Catalyst
A May 16, 2010 article on SeekingAlpha.com, discusses the property and provides URL links to the parcel’s up-zoning and present development plans. A follow-up SeekingAlpha article on May 27, 2010 makes the argument that Burwood’s sale would convert difficult-to-value real estate and sizable hidden unrealized appreciation into easily valued cash, and that if Reading’s real estate value were removed from Reading’s present enterprise valuation, investors get a large geographically diverse movie exhibition business for “free”. (Note, alternatively, monetizing the movie theater business would create long-held and highly appreciated real estate for “free” as well.) That article concludes that, as Reading monetizes Burwood, investors ought to more easily price, via a higher stock price, the intrinsic value of both of Reading’s cinema and real estate segments.

Catalyst realization is in the Near term

A detailed Information Memorandum (a sales “teaser”) on the Burwood Square parcel posted on Reading’s website not only includes some some compelling photos and information illustrating the parcel’s substantial value, but it also sets a near term timeline for the sales process. Submissions of expression of interest and buyer qualifications are due next week on June 28th. Selection of short-listed candidates to participate in the next round of bidding will take place July 5th.

RDI being deleted from Russell 2000 Index on Friday June, 25

On Friday, June 25th, the Russell indices will be recomposed for the coming June 2010-June 2011 year with new members added and some old members deleted. The composition of the Russell 2000 index (a subset of the Russell 3000E) is purely based on market capitalization size on Russell’s cut-off date (May 28, 2010), not any fundamental business assessment of value or prospects. Reading’s closing market capitalization on May 28 placed the company about 40-60 slots below the 3000th ranking company, and thus, Reading has been listed by Russell as one of over 200 companies being deleted from the Russell 2000 index. Note, RDI will remain in the less followed Russell Micro Cap index.

Index fund selling presents unique liquidity opportunity for RDI buyers
It is important to note that RDI’s upcoming deletion from the Russell 2000 index was not qualitative based and index funds can’t consider whether Reading is monetizing its Burwood Square parcel or not. They MUST sell their shares on or around the Friday June 25, 2010 recomposition date. RDI’s average daily trading volume is about 50K shares, a modest and respectable number for a company that lacks any sell-side analyst coverage whatsoever. However, this amount is dwarfed by the estimated 1.3 million or more RDI shares held by index funds connected to the Russell 2000 index that must be sold.

Given the substantial surge over the last several months in RDI shares held short to approximately 780K shares on May 28, I feel some RDI shares to be sold by index funds are already spoken for. However, a substantial block of RDI stock liquidity remaining to be sold by index funds will enter the market in the coming week and, once sold, won’t be available to interested buyers under similar circumstances again. The next index participation in RDI likely won’t be till next year, after Burwood and possibly other real estate parcels are monetized or built out. That scenario would be index funds buying RDI shares, when the company likely gets added back into the Russell 2000 index.

Disclosure: At time of writing, funds author manages hold a long position in RDI. The funds may buy or sell shares at anytime.

[Full Disclosure:  I hold RDI. This is neither a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. All information provided believed to be reliable and presented for information purposes only. Do your own research before investing in any security.]

Read Full Post »

Slate has a superb interview with Victor Niederhoffer, who I think is one of the most interesting people in finance (or elsewhere, for that matter). A friend gave me his book The Education of a Speculator when I was about 19. It’s a wonderful window into an eclectic, humble intellect, and a great read. Slate introduces Niederhoffer thus:

Niederhoffer is a hedge fund manager, a former partner of George Soros, a five-time U.S. Nationals squash champion, and the best-selling author of The Education of a Speculator and Practical Speculation. Those successes notwithstanding, Niederhoffer is best known for two spectacular financial blow-ups. In 1997, a risky investment in Thai bank stocks combined with a dramatic one-day drop in the Dow Jones to permanently close the doors of Niederhoffer Investments. Ten years later, having recouped his losses, Niederhoffer saw his Matador Fund, buffeted by the 2007 credit crunch, self-destruct.

Niederhoffer’s e-mails suggested a man already obsessed with wrongness. In them, he referenced the statistical concept of path dependence; shared a series of proverbs about the game of checkers (of 5,000 such proverbs, he hazarded, about 250 concerned error); meditated on the difference between Type One mistakes (excessive credulity) and Type Two mistakes (excessive skepticism) (he himself is much more prone to Type One, he says: “I’m tremendously gullible”); observed that “one should be careful of multitasking or multiromancing”; sent me the citations for hoodoo in the Oxford English Dictionary (a hoodoo is something or someone that brings bad luck); and noted that the harpooner in Moby Dick would have made a great interview subject for this series. Finally, he pointed out that the word error has no antonym. “In retrospect,” he wrote, “I know much too much about errors and much too little about the opposite, whatever it is.”

Here Niederhoffer comments on the rumor that Soros, among others, cautioned him on his Thai investment:

Why didn’t you listen to the naysayers?

Well, Soros would be the first to tell you that his predictions are completely random. He never says anything that doesn’t jibe with his current position or his hoped-for outcome. And he’s chronically bearish. He’s chronically thinking that the world needs a central planner to put it to rights and that the market itself is too prone to disaster.

I think a much better view is that the stock market never rises unless there’s a wall of fear it has to climb. When the public is most frightened, only the strong are left, and that’s when the market is in the best possible hands. I call it taking out the canes. Whenever disaster strikes, the very sagacious wealthy people take their canes, and they hobble down from their stately mansions on Fifth Avenue, and they buy stocks to the extent of their bank balances, and then a week or two later, the market rises, they deposit the overplus in their accounts, invest it in blue-chip real estate, and retire back to their stately mansions. That’s probably the best way of making money, to be a specialist in panics. Whenever there’s panic hanging in the air, that’s a great time to invest.

And discussing Soros’s attitude to wives, and, presumably, speculation:

One last thing from your e-mails: I love this checkers saying, “The popular player loses without an alibi.” I think most people are pretty bad at that. It’s like, “Well, if it hadn’t been for X, I would’ve won.”

I hope you don’t feel like I’ve alibi-ed too much. But a person likes to have a certain amount of self-respect even after disasters. Still, it’s terrible to be a bad loser. I like Soros’s proverb that you should never marry a woman you wouldn’t want to divorce.

Click here for the full interview.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: