Friday, March 28, 2008


What is a DRIP?

DRIP stands for Dividend Reinvestment Plan. There are 3 different types of DRIPs however they all work on the same principle, instead of shareholders receiving dividend payouts in cash they receive their dividend payout in the form of more company shares.

3 basic types of DRIPs

Company Run
This type of DRIP is administered directly through the publicly traded company. Fractional shares are permitted in this type of DRIP meaning that if you receive a quarterly dividend of $1 and the share price is $5 you would receive an additional 1/5 of a share. Additionally, many company run DRIPs also provide shareholders some incentive for staying enrolled ie – 3% bonus to the regular dividend. Company run DRIPs also usually offer a Share Purchase Plan which is a plan that allows investors to buy additional shares with no commission.

Transfer Agent-Run
For the shareholder this type of DRIP is the same as a company run DRIP. Transfer Agents are employed by companies to streamline their DRIP process and reduce the administrative costs associated with running a DRIP. Transfer Agents run DRIPs for a many customers and as a result can run offer the same program to multiple companies using the same resources resulting in lower costs.

Brokerage Run
Many brokers will now allow customers to reinvest their dividends at no cost. This type of DRIP is not a “real DRIP”, it is more of a service that the brokers provide to their customers and is often referred to as a “synthetic DRIP”. One benefit of brokerage run DRIPs is that they will allow you to DRIP many companies that do not even have a formal DRIP program. This allows investors to now DRIP virtually every blue chip company on the US exchanges. Although synthetic DRIPs have really expanded the number of drippable companies they do have a few drawbacks. The first of which is brokerage run synthetic DRIPs do not allow for fractional share ownership, only full shares will be purchased and the remainder of the dividend will be deposited as cash into the customers trading account ie-company ABC has a $15 quarterly dividend and a $10 share price, this would result in the customer receiving 1 share of ABC and $5 cash instead of 1.5 shares. The second drawback of brokerage run DRIPs is that share purchase plans are not available. If you want to buy additional shares you have to pay the regular commission price of your broker.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Facebook Worth 15 Billion?

For those of you who haven’t heard of Facebook here is an extract from the “about” section of Facebooks website.

About Facebook
Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

Anyone can join Facebook
All that's needed to join Facebook is a valid email address. To connect with coworkers or classmates, use your school or work email address to register. Once you register, join a regional network to connect with the people in your area.

Discover the people around you
Facebook is made up of many networks, each based around a company, region, or school. Join the networks that reflect your real-life communities to learn more about the people who work, live, or study around you.”

Microsoft recently invested $240 million for a 1.6% stake in facebook while Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing invested $60 million for a 0.4% stake. Using those figures, would value the company at a whopping $15 billion. I have little doubt that the 4 year old company and its 23 year old founder are brilliant but are they worth $15 billion? Just to put this into perspective here are the market capitalizations of some popular U.S large caps.

Walgreens – $38.3 billion
Brookfield Properties – $7.9 billion
Lowes – $35 billion
Newmont Mining – $20.6 billion

Although there is no denying the popularity or marketing potential of Facebook I would have reservations about investing in an online “social utility” that is valued the same as 75% of Newmont mining. The valuation may be appropriate if its current growth were to continue indefinitely however, personally I think there is a chance that Facebook has the potential to become a “flavour of the month”. Anyone remember geocities? Of course there is a chance that it may stick around however, if I had $15 billion to invest I think I would rather take my chances and buy 100% of Brookfield Properties and half of Newmont Mining than gamble on Facebook. Which would you rather own?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stock Selection Process

Here is the general process I use to evaluate a stock.

1. Are their products/services in a growing or stable industry?
-for me this would exclude companies such as newspapers, tobacco etc. Basically, I look for companies that I think will still be around in 50 years.

2. Do they have a competitive advantage or are there large barriers to entry?
-for example companies like TRP and CNR have huge barriers to entry. Other than the billions of dollars that would be required to build the infrastructure it would takes year and years to get the proper approvals.

3. Do they have a history of returning value to shareholders?
-for example, JNJ has raised their dividend for the last 44 years. MMM has paid a dividend since 1916. A history of share buy backs would also be a plus.

4. Are they trading at a reasonable price?
- I use my fair value calculation when appropriate.

To calculate fair value I use a modified discounted cash flow model. Basically, I calculate the present value of the future dividend income and the present value of the future estimated EPS (multiplied by the PE ratio that I think the company SHOULD be trading at) and the sum of those two numbers is the fair value

My stock selection process has evolved over the years and I find it effective to select companies for my particular investing style. However, for other strategies or investing styles my selection process would be very ineffective. I’d also just like to note that the formula I use to calculate fair market value is not valid for all types of companies. For example, it’s not effective for many REIT’s or resource companies as their share prices are generally based on NAV, FFO, or reserves which are not included in my formula.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thinking about Taking a Vacation?

If you love adventure and go on vacation for an adrenaline rush then you might want to check out the below hot spots. Reuters has compiled a list of great travel destinations for the really depressed/insane. The article entitled “Travel Picks: The world's top 10 dangerous destinations” provides a brief description of each destination as well as the possible risks ie- warlords, kidnapping, land mines etc…

Here they are in order of danger:

1. Somalia
2. Iraq
3. Afghanistan
4. Haiti
5. Pakistan
6. Sudan
7. Democratic Republic of the Congo
8. Lebanon
9. Zimbabwe
10. Palestinian Territories

To view the entire article please click here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Much Does It Cost To Beat the Market?

I was recently reading the New York Times and came across a very interesting article by Mark Hulbert. In his article he outlines the results of a recent study that attempted to quantity the collective cost of Americans trying to beat the market. The study entitled “The Cost of Active Investing” found that collectively it is costing Americans roughly $100 billion annually to try and beat the market. The study “took into account the fees and expenses of domestic equity mutual funds (both open- and closed-end, including exchange-traded funds), the investment management costs paid by institutions (both public and private), the fees paid to hedge funds, and the transactions costs paid by all traders (including commissions and bid-asked spreads). If a fund or institution was only partly allocated to the domestic equity market, he counted only that portion in computing its investment costs.

Professor French then deducted what domestic equity investors collectively would have paid if they instead had simply bought and held an index fund benchmarked to the overall stock market, like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index fund, whose retail version currently has an annual expense ratio of 0.19 percent. The difference between those amounts, Professor French says, is what investors as a group pay to try to beat the market.”

The results of this study imply that there are really only 2 strategies that investors should stick with:

1. Buy and hold a diversified portfolio.
2. Play the market through low cost ETFs.

To view the entire article please follow this link.

Friday, March 7, 2008

New Billionaire on Top

There’s been a little shuffling at the top of the billionaire list this year. Warren Buffet is now officially the world’s richest man. His net worth is now an estimated $62 billion up from $52 billion last year. His 10 billion dollar ride has ended the 13 year reign of his longtime friend Bill Gates who was been bumped down two notches to the world 3rd richest man. But come on...once you hit a few hundred million does it really matter anymore? Regardless here is a list of the top 20 richest people in the world.

1. Warren Buffett
2. Carlos Slim Helu
3. William Gates III
4. Lakshmi Mittal
5. Mukesh Ambani
6. Anil Ambani
7. Ingvar Kamprad
8. KP Singh
9. Oleg Deripaska
10. Karl Albrecht
11. Li Ka-shing
12. Sheldon Adelson
13. Bernard Arnault
14. Lawrence Ellison
15. Roman Abramovich
16. Theo Albrecht
17. Liliane Bettencourt
18. Alexei Mordashov
19. Prince Alwaleed
20. Mikhail Fridman

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

25 Stocks to Avoid

In November I remember reading this article by Jon Markman over at MSN Money Central. In his article he explains his rational for avoiding the following 25 stocks. I just wanted to say nice call Jon.

To read the entire article please click here.


1. Merrill Lynch (MER, news, msgs)
2. Lehman Bros. (LEH)
3. Bear Stearns (BSC)
4. Bank of America (BAC)
5. Citigroup (C)
6. Washington Mutual (WM)
7. KeyCorp (KEY)
8. Wachovia (WB)
9. Moody's (MCO)
10. McGraw-Hill (MHP)
11. YRC Worldwide (YRCW)
12. JB Hunt Transport Services (JBHT)
13. Con-Way (CNW)
14. Knight Transportation (KNX)
15. Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL)
16. McClatchy (MNI, news, msgs)
17. The New York Times (NYT)
18. Gannett (GCI)
19. Arctic Cat (ACAT)
20. Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY)
21. Williams-Sonoma (WSM)
22. La-Z-Boy (LZB)
23. Stanley Furniture (STLY)
24. Bassett Furniture Industries (BSET)
25. News Corp. (NWS)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Are We In a Recession?

The talking head on business networks like CNBC have been debating the issue now for months, “are we going into recession?”. Some economists are saying yes we are while others are saying no. Well Warren Buffet has an answer for us…yes we are in a recession.

Based on the technical definition of a recession (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth) we haven’t entered a recession. However, Mr.Buffet was recently quoted as saying “I would say, by any commonsense definition, we are in a recession”. That’s good enough for me. If the world most successful investor says we’re in a recession I believe him.