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The Conn’s Paradox, or the Synergy of Awful

in Analysis

One plus one equals three: That is a business school definition of synergy. Two companies join forces, and the quality and profitability of the combined entity improves more than the arithmetical sum of the parts. On the other hand, when you combine two awful businesses you get the inverse synergy: Negative one plus negative one equals negative three. I expected to see inverse synergy at Conn’s when we started analyzing it;...

How Emotional Intelligence Can Make You a Better Investor

in Process

Your knee hurts, so you pay a visit to your favorite orthopedist. He smiles, maybe even gives you a hug, and then tells you: “I feel your pain. Really, I do. But I don’t treat left knees, only right ones. I find I am so much better with the right ones. Last time I worked on a left knee, I didn’t do so well.” Though many professionals — doctors as well...

Unraveling the Mystery of Oil and the Swiss Franc

in Macro

Has the DNA of the global economy been gradually altered by endless injections of quantitative easing, morphing it into a freakish mutant? Are things that are not supposed to happen for centuries on end going to become common occurrences? The collapse of oil prices and jump in the Swiss franc have forced me to puzzle over these weighty questions. In isolation, these events and the direction of their moves did...

Buying Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs at a Discount

in Analysis

What would you get if you crossed Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs? Answer: Masayoshi Son, the Korean-Japanese, University of California, Berkeley–educated founder of one of Japan’s most successful companies, SoftBank Corp. Just like Buffett, Son is a tremendous capital allocator with a very impressive record: Over the past nine and a half years, SoftBank’s investments have had a 45 percent annualized rate of return. A big chunk of this...

Putin’s World: Why Russia’s Showdown with the West Will Worsen

in Macro

I grew up hating America. I lived in the Soviet Union and was a child of the cold war. That hate went away in 1989, though, when the Berlin Wall fell and the cold war ended. By the time I left Russia in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, America was a country that Russians looked up to and wanted to emulate. Twenty-three years later, a new version of cold...

Bad News at Tesco Could Be Good News for Investors

in Analysis

Sir John Templeton, father of international investing, coined the term "points of maximum pessimism" — you want to buy when the news flow is horrible, because the bad news is likely to be more than priced into the stock. This is where I feel Tesco is today, and this is why my firm recently added to our position in the U.K.-based retailer. Although Tesco’s business is doing worse today than it...

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