Wednesday, 28 November 2012

More evidence that the reality tapes were switched

The BBC has a rather odd news item today from the land of European disciplinarians and moralising creditors. Two things rather stand out in this article;

First is that sex with animals was ever made legal in Germany.

"Germany legalised bestiality (zoophilia) in 1969, except when the animal suffered "significant harm"."

Who lobbied for this law?

The other thing that makes me wonder is the comment from a self-professed zoophile;

"Michael Kiok, the chairman of the pressure group Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (Zeta), said he was going to take legal action to fight the proposed changes.

"We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification. We don't force them to do anything. Animals are much easier to understand than women," Mr Kiok claimed."

Whilst I do concur with Mr Kiok on the latter point I can’t see this as a legitimate reason to abandon attempts at fornication with the fairer sex in favour of creatures who will never realise that the reflection in the mirror is themselves.

If this story wasn’t about Germany and wasn’t so utterly bizarre I would definitely be checking my diary for April 1.

Portfolio Update November 2012

Another update to talk my own book on my current personal positions and the why I hold them. I like to think of my portfolio as a way to outperform cash so Im looking for total returns and the key is capital preservation.

SBRY: I topped up some SBRY in June which was a great decision. Since then the stock as gone vertical up 60p to £3.50. Sainsburys is way ahead of Tesco in terms of store quality and home delivery and its outperforming both Tesco and Morrisons. It now looks fairly valued to me unless bid rumours start to resurface but Ill continue to collect my healthy dividend yield and reinvest.

Pandora A/S: I sold out of this completely a few months back around the 80DKK mark. I am of course gutted to see it now trading up at 118DKK which would have been a 200% return rather than the 60-100% return I saw on my sales. Still one can’t be too greedy.

RSA: This stock still just looks cheap to me as it’s a good franchise, internationally diversified and it throws off cash. Dividend yield looks fantastic and is much better than this renewed wave of buy-to-let for income optimism since the yield on RSA is better and one can sell a stock in an instant with no material fees. The UK fetish for all things property continues unabated however.

BBd/B: This stock has continued to languish below $CAD  4 per share which is a shame. Hence I’m nursing a loss here but this still looks like a solid industrial to me which actually makes things that people, companies and governments need. So much so that I bought some more shares around the $CAD  3.3 mark this month. It has continued to decline until yesterday when a massive new order for small jets was announced setting off an 8% rally.  At 7x forward P/E this looks too cheap to me.

ABX: I bought into Barrick Gold during July at $36 and $33 per share because it frankly looked very cheap for a mega cap miner albeit it one suffering from a lack of momentum in the gold price. Since then the stock was doing well but realtively poor results in Q3 caused a significant drop. Im around break even here but I still think it looks cheap albeit not ridiculously so. I continue to like its exposure to gold as most of the mines are in locations which are not politically dangerous or difficult (mines in Nevada rather than South Africa).

FGP: I bought some FirstGroup shares the day after their bid on the west coast mainline was cancelled. I take the view that not winning that bid was a good thing as they had overpaid. It looks to me like it could easily pickup a bit from here with bad news priced in but not my idea of long term fundamental holding. Currently it just lacks a catalyst to see it rerate toward sector peers.

MAYG: I bought shares in May Gurney after their profit warning in September as the stock looked cheap at 4x fwd P/E (it still does; 6x fwd P/E with a 5% yield) with low financial leverage and the bad news seemed well priced in. An intraday drop of >40% seemed like an overreaction to what was basically some poor management decisions. I bought into the shares at £1.32 and £1.20. I sold all my shares this month for a tidy 27% profit at £1.60. I was a bit early as they rallied as high as £1.77 but again to my mind this isn’t a great company it just had an oversold valuation.

Performance has been down a bit with the market and ABX suffering and I’m measuring on a period of around 18 months since April 2011 during which time my total return has been 20.3% to date. My only realised loss was 6% on a short platinum ETF. I have had a dividend yield of 1.73%, realised gains of 20.4% and unrealised losses are currently 1.9% overall. The biggest contributor to my returns has been Pandora where I saw gains of more than 65% overall across my sales.

Current unrealised gains:


Current unrealised losses:

ABX, BBd/B and FGP

Caveat: Clearly I have a financial interest in these investments and this post relates solely to my personal investment positions. It is in no way a solicitation to buy or sell these investments nor does it constitute advice to do so.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Living in a glass house and throwing stones

It started with the bankers. The bankers were to blame for the great crisis of 2008 with their greed and their slick suits. The politicians were quick to stick the knife in apportioning blame (their favourite pastime) across those evil and greedy bankers.

But alas their moment in the sun was short lived as the expenses scandal revealed they too had been living high on the hog flipping homes all over the place and building moats or bathing in champagne or whatever the media decided was an exciting and controversial waste of public funds.

Now having thrown their stones the media too are enjoying their day under the glare of the limelight for many forms of questionable ‘news’ reporting around the Jimmy Savile borefest and a flurry of online name dropping.

The most important question is who next? Probably the general public who like to spend their days blaming others for their problems and tweeting gossip. So to get ahead of the curve I might start punching myself in the face.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The power of suggestion

From where we stood, the top of the hill was not so round and smooth as it had seemed to be from the distance. There was a cave, or a hole, near the top. I looked at it fixedly because don Juan was doing the same. Another strong gust of wind sent a chill up my spine. Don Juan turned towards the south and scanned the area with his eyes.

"There!" he said in a whisper and pointed to an object on the ground. I strained my eyes to see. There was something on the ground, perhaps twenty feet away. It was light brown and as I looked at it, it shivered. I focused all my attention on it.

The object was almost round and seemed to be curled; in fact, it looked like a curled up dog. "What is it?" I whispered to don Juan. "I don't know, " he whispered back as he peered at the object. "What does it look like to you?"

I told him that it seemed to be a dog.

"Too large for a dog, " he said matter-of-factly.

I took a couple of steps towards it, but don Juan stopped me gently. I stared at it again. It was definitely some animal that was either asleep or dead. I could almost see its head; its ears protruded like the ears of a wolf. By then I was definitely sure that it was a curled-up animal. I thought that it could have been a brown calf. I whispered that to don Juan. He answered that it was too compact to be a calf, besides its ears were pointed.

The animal shivered again and then I noticed that it was alive. I could actually see that it was breathing, yet it did not seem to breathe rhythmically. The breaths that it took were more like irregular shivers. I had a sudden realization at that moment.

"It's an animal that is dying, " I whispered to don Juan.

"You're right, " he whispered back. "But what kind of an animal?"

I could not make out its specific features. Don Juan took a couple of cautious steps towards it. I followed him. It was quite dark by then and we had to take two more steps in order to keep the animal in view.

"Watch out, " don Juan whispered in my ear. "If it is a dying animal it may leap on us with its last strength." The animal, whatever it was, seemed to be on its last legs; its breathing was irregular, its body shook spasmodically, but it did not change its curled-up position. At a given moment, however, a tremendous spasm actually lifted the animal off the ground. I heard an inhuman shriek and the animal stretched its legs; its claws were more than frightening, they were nauseating. The animal tumbled on its side after stretching its legs and then rolled on its back. I heard a formidable growl and don Juan's voice shouting,

"Run for your life!"

And that was exactly what I did. I scrambled towards the top of the hill with unbelievable speed and agility. When I was halfway to the top I looked back and saw don Juan standing in the same place. He signalled me to come down. I ran down the hill.

"What happened?" I asked, completely out of breath.

"I think the animal is dead, " he said.

We advanced cautiously towards the animal. It was sprawled on its back. As I came closer to it I nearly yelled with fright. I realized that it was not quite dead yet. Its body was still trembling. Its legs, which were sticking up in the air, shook wildly. The animal was definitely in its last gasps. I walked in front of don Juan. A new jolt moved the animal's body and I could see its head. I turned to don Juan, horrified. Judging by its body the animal was obviously a mammal, yet it had a beak, like a bird.

I stared at it in complete and absolute horror. My mind refused to believe it. I was dumbfounded. I could not even articulate a word. Never in my whole existence had I witnessed anything of that nature. Something inconceivable was there in front of my very eyes. I wanted don Juan to explain that incredible animal but I could only mumble to him. He was staring at me.

I glanced at him and glanced at the animal, and then something in me arranged the world and I knew at once what the animal was. I walked over to it and picked it up. It was a large branch of a bush. It had been burnt, and possibly the wind had blown some burnt debris which got caught in the dry branch and thus gave the appearance of a large bulging round animal. The color of the burnt debris made it look light brown in contrast with the green vegetation.

I laughed at my idiocy and excitedly explained to don Juan that the wind blowing through it had made it look like a live animal. I thought he would be pleased with the way I had resolved the mystery, but he turned around and began walking to the top of the hill.

"What you've done is no triumph, " he said. "You've wasted a beautiful power, a power that blew life into that dry twig." He said that a real triumph would have been for me to let go and follow the power until the world had ceased to exist.

I felt embarrassed. I began to apologize for my tendency of always being so sure of my ways. "It doesn't matter, " he said. "That branch was a real animal and it was alive at the moment the power touched it. Since what kept it alive was power, the trick was, like in dreaming, to sustain the sight of it. See what I mean?" In a controlled fashion, without losing my mind or becoming deranged with excitation or fear, I should have striven to "stop the world."

Carlos Castenda, Journey to Ixtlan