Archive for the ‘Famous Investors’ Category

George Soros on European Fiscal & Banking Crisis and EU Summit on June 28-29, 2012

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Here I present key take-aways from George Soros’ in depth Bloomberg interview on the current European fiscal and banking crisis, Angela Merkel, the Spanish bailout, and Greece leaving the Eurozone.

The video is also below:

Banking & Fiscal Issues

  • “There is an interrelated problem of the banking system and the excessive risk premium on sovereign debt – they are Siamese twins, tied together and you have to tackle both.”
  • Soros summarizes the forthcoming Eurozone Summit ‘fiasco’ as fatal if the fiscal disagreements are not resolved in 3 days.
  • There is no union without a transfer.
  • Europe needs banking union.
    • Germany will only succumb if Italy and Spain really push it to the edge (Germany can live in the present situation; the others cannot)
    • Europe needs a fiscal means of strengthening growth through Treasury type entity
      • What is needed is a European fiscal authority that will be composed of the finance ministers, but would be in charge of the various rescue mechanisms, the European Stability Mechanism, and would combine issuing treasury bills.
        • Those treasury bills would yield 1% or less and that would be the relief that those countries need in order to finance their debt.
        • Bill would be sold on a competitive basis.
        • Right now there are something like over €700bn euros are kept on deposit at the European Central Bank earning a 0.25% because the interbank market has broken down, so then you have €700bn of capital that would be very happy to earn 0.75% instead of 0.25%, and the treasury bills by being truly riskless and guaranteed by the entire community, would yield in current conditions less than 1%.
        • Governments should start a European unemployment scheme, paid on a European level instead of national level.
        • Soros’ solutions, however, are unlikely to prove tenable in the short-term as he notes “Merkel has emerged as a strong leader”, but “unfortunately, she has been leading Europe in the wrong direction”.
          • “Euro bonds are not possible because Germany would not consider euro bonds until there is a political union, and it should come at the end of the process not at the beginning.
          • This would be a temporary measure, limited both in time and in size, and thereby it could be authorized according to the German constitution as long as the Bundestag approves it, so it could be legal under the German constitution and under the existing treaties.
          • The political will by Germany to put it into effect and that would create a level playing field so that Italy and Spain could actually refinance debt on reasonable terms.

Scenario Discussion

  • LTRO would be less effective now
  • At 6%, 7% of Italy’s GDP goes towards paying interest, which is completely unsustainable
  • Spain may need a full bailout if summit is not successful
    • Financial markets have the ability to push countries into default
    • Because Spain cannot print money itself
    • Even if we manage to avoid, let’s say an ‘accident’ similar to what you had in 2008 with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the euro system that would emerge would actually perpetuate the divergence between creditors and debtors and would create a Europe which is very different from open society.
    • It would transform it into a hierarchical system where the division between creditors and debtors would become permanent…It would lead to Germany being in permanent domination.
      • It would become like a German empire, and the periphery would become permanently depressed areas.

On Greece

  • Greece will leave the Eurozone
    • It’s very hard to see how Greece can actually meet the conditions that have been set for Greece, and the Germans are determined not to modify those conditions seriously, so medium term risk
    • Greece leaving the euro zone is now a real expectation, and this is what is necessary to strengthen the rest of the euro zone, since Greece can’t print money
    • By printing money, a country can devalue the currency and people can lose money by buying devalued debt, but there is no danger of default.
      • The fact that the individual members don’t now control the right to print money has created this situation.
      • A European country that could actually default. and that is the risk that the financial markets price into the market and that is why say Italian ten-year bonds yield 6% whereas British 10-year bonds yield only 1.25%.
  • That difference is due to the fact that these countries have surrendered their right to print their own money and they can be pushed into default by speculation in the financial markets.

On Angela Merkel

  • Angela Merkel has been leading Europe in the wrong direction. I think she is acting in good faith and that is what makes the whole situation so tragic and that is a big problem that we have in financial markets generally – she is supporting a false idea, a false ideology, a false interpretation which is reinforced by reality.
  • In other words, Merkel’s method works for a while until it stops working, and that is what is called a financial bubble
    • Financial bubbles look very good while they are being formed and everyone believes in it and then it turns out to be unsustainable…
    • The European Union could turn out to have been a bubble of this kind unless we realize there is this problem and we solve it and the solution is there.
    • I think everybody can see it, all we need to do is act on it, and put on a united front, and I think that if the rest of  Europe is united, I think that Germany will actually recognize it and adjust to it.

On Investing

  • Stay in cash
  • German yields are too low
  • If summit turns out well, purchase industrial shares, but avoid everything else (consumer, banks)

Conclusion: We are facing conditions reminiscent to the 1930s because of policy mistakes, forgetting what we should have learned from John Maynard Keynes.

Glencore Considering $19.5 Billion Bid for ENRC…

Monday, June 13th, 2011

You thought you had heard the last of Swiss based Glencore, the famed diversified commodities trading firm, with the news of its multi-billion dollar IPO.  Now rumors of a nearly $20 billion takeover?  Looks like Glencore’s management team is taking advantage of its new currency.  According to ENRC’s 3 founders, Alexander Mashkevitch, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov, who control 45% of the company, Glencore’s CEO recent discussed a possible merger.  ENRC, a Kazakhi miner, trades at a 15% discount to its peers, using a trailing P/E multiple, and is down almost 30% this year.

HISTORY OF GLENCORE

Glencore, headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, is the world’s largest commodities trading firm, which a 60% market share in the trading of zinc, and a 3% market share in the trading of crude oil.  The company is also the biggest shipper of coal in the world.  Glencore’s 485 traders own and run the company today.  It was formed by a management buyout of Marc Rich & Co AG in 1974.  Marc Rich, now a billionaire commodities trader at the time was charged with tax evasion and illegal business dealings, fleeing to Iran.  Years later, he was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

In 1994, after failing to corner the zinc market, the company lost $172 million and nearly went bankrupt, forcing Rich to sell his share in the company back to the firm, which was renamed Glencore.  It was run by Rich’s inner circle, including Willy Strothotte and Ivan Glasenberg.

Over the years, Glencore has also been accused of illegal dealings with rogue states, including the USSR, Iran, and Iraq (under Hussein).  It has a history of breaking UN embargoes to profit from corrupt regimes.

The company owns stakes in Rusal, Chemoil, Xstrata, Minara Resources, PASAR, Evergreen Aluminum, Katanga Mining, Windalco, OAO Russneft, and many other firms.

INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING

With its initial public offering weeks ago, Glencore was valued at about $60 billion, and raised about $10 billion.  Each of the 485 traders received average payouts of $100 million through the flotation.

I highly recommend reading, “Secret Lives of Marc Rich.”

Martin J. Whitman on Distressed Investing – A Legend and Founder of Third Avenue

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Over the past two years, I have become a staunch follower of Martin J. Whitman, a legend in deep value investing and founder of Third Avenue. I have read his book, Distress Investing twice now, and wanted to share some excerpts with you. Hopefully you will pick up a copy too!

According to Whitman, there have been three major trends that have shaped the credit markets since the innovation of the high yield (junk bond) in the late seventies through 2008:

1)      Financial Innovation

2)      New Laws & Regulations

3)      2007-2008 Financial Meltdown

1)      New credit instruments, capital structures, and financial institutions grossly inflated the size of the credit and derivatives markets from the 1980s to 2008.  The shadow banking system (SIVs, SPEs) and securities this system issued like CLOs were part of this trend.  Credit default swaps eventually allowed banks and hedge funds to make highly levered bets against issuers, directly influencing market perceptions about credit worthiness.

New primary and secondary markets improved liquidity for below investment grade issues in the late 80s and early 90s.  Leveraged loans that one would have paid 40 cents for in the 1980s, investors were paying 85-90 cents for in the early 90s through the 2007/2008 meltdown.  Almost 70% of leveraged loans were held by nonbank institutions like hedge funds, CDOs, CLOs, etc.

2)      After Gramm-Leach Bliley passed in 1999, commercial banks also began to act more like underwrites, completely eschewing credit risks, and collecting fees on originating loans, bonds, and ABS.  Securitization allowed for the transfer of risk off of bank balance sheets.

BACPA, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 imposed new time limits for filing a plan of reorganization (POR) and shortened the amount of time required for business bankruptcy filings.  It additionally shortened the time over which investors could decide to curtail payments on property and reject non-residential real estate losses.  Finally, it curtailed executive pay for firms under Ch. 11 and enhanced vendor rights, so trade vendors were pari passu with the unsecured creditors.

Many of these innovations drove litigation costs so high, that today most of the reorganizations done today are prepackaged or prenegotiated filings.

History

According to Whitman, since 1950, credit market debt has grown at 4.1% in real terms, while GDP grew at 2.7%.  In the 1970s, more of the below investment grade debt was classified as “fallen angel,” and was originally investment grade credit.  Originally issued high yield bonds, which were unsecured and had much less restrictive covenants than loans, were quite rare.  They took the form of Rule 144A securities (unregistered with the SEC).

Junk bonds were unsecured claims usually subordinate to senior loans and senior unsecured debt.  But by the 1980s, they were the preferred security for driving LBO and M&A transactions.  By 1989, high yield debt consisted of 20%+ of the non-financial bond universe. (to be ctnd…)

Cheers, Tom Rendon

Top Hedge Fund Managers of 2009

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Hedge fund pay has always been astounding, but few realize that it is only a handful that make over $1 billion per year.  BBC recently released a report highlighting some of the most successful alternative asset managers in the world, which include David Tepper, George Soros, Steve Cohen, Edward Lampert, and Ken Griffin.

According to BBC, HF managers “wouldn’t even consider getting out of bed for the $13m (£8m) Goldman Sachs’ boss Lloyd Blankfein was paid last year. Such a trifling pay packet represents just a few days’ work for these staggeringly well-paid financial executives. If bankers inhabit a different world, says London-based headhunter John Purcell, “these guys are out on their own in a different universe”.

‘Private bunch’

So just how much do these guys – for the vast majority are men – earn each year? At the very top of the pile, we’re talking $4bn. Just in case that hasn’t quite registered yet – that’s four billion dollars. This does, of course, include bonuses and fees as well as salary. In fact, the salary is a tiny fraction of their overall pay. And who are these men? They are called hedge fund managers – in other words, they are investors who buy and sell all manner of financial instruments with the express aim of making money for their clients, and for themselves. Finding out much about them is notoriously difficult. ”They’re a very private bunch,” Mr Purcell explains, “largely because they earn so much. They are highly secretive in every aspect of what they do.” Discovering how they make their money is a little easier.

Popular myths

Hedge funds are actually one of the most misunderstood of all financial products. They get something of a bad rap, largely due to some spectacular failures, most notably Long Term Capital Management, which blew up in 1998 and almost took Wall Street with it, and Amarinth Advisors, which lost billions of dollars in a few weeks on bad natural gas trades in 2006. Many have also tried to blame them for some of the excessive risk-taking they say triggered the global financial crisis, but with little success. As one industry insider argues, hedge funds are worth around $1.5 trillion in total – “less than the assets that some individual banks have on their books”. Hedge funds, then, are not the the gung-ho, high-risk beasts of popular mythology. In fact, the majority are quite the opposite, seeking to produce what are called absolute returns – those over and above what you get from the bank, risk free – year in, year out. In other words, they are designed to be low risk. What sets them apart from most investment funds is the range of instruments they can use and the strategies they can employ. Whereas traditional fund managers buy shares and bonds in the hope that they will rise in value, or occasionally dabble in financial derivatives, their hedge fund counterparts can do so much more. For example, they can take advantage of movements in interest rates and currencies, company restructuring and bankruptcies, and pricing anomalies across different markets. One of their most important strategies is shorting – borrowing shares to sell into the market in the expectation that they will fall, then buying them back at the lower price. This means they can make money when markets fall.

Results business

This investment freedom is what attracts so many investment managers to hedge funds. That and the quite extraordinary sums of cash that the very best can earn, of course. In fact, many are not ready for the challenge. Encouraged by potentially huge fees, they begin running portfolios without the necessary knowledge and experience of the strategies they employ. As a result, many come unstuck. And this is one reason why it is rather unfair to compare directly the pay of hedge fund managers with that of bankers. For there is a very crucial difference – hedge fund managers get paid bonuses only when they make money. In other words, there is no reward for failure in this highly competitive business. Salaries in the industry are not dissimilar to those paid in investment banking, so to make seriously mind-boggling amounts of cash, managers need their performance-related fees. These typically amount to 20% of any returns made on a portfolio above a set benchmark, and this is how hedge fund pay rockets into the stratosphere and beyond. But for those that make no returns, through no one’s fault but their own, of course, the rewards are less attractive. In fact, the large number of managers who set up on their own don’t even have a salary to fall back on, although they do take a 2% management fee on the funds they manage. For this reason, “a lot of managers are not making any money at all,” says the industry insider. Equally, hedge fund managers invariably have their own money invested in the funds that they run, unlike bankers who generally stake other people’s cash. ”Investors are very keen to see the fund management company have ‘skin in the game’,” says Mr Purcell.

Celebrity pay

It’s also important to bear in mind that the very best-paid hedge fund managers – the John Paulsons and George Soroses of the industry – own their own companies. They take a cut on all the assets under management across a number of funds run by their firm. In other words, George Soros owns Soros Fund Management. By contrast, Lloyd Blankfein does not own Goldman Sachs. And while it’s relatively easy to find out what the boss of a public company owns, it’s far harder to discover what the owner of a private company pays him or herself. Individual hedge fund managers actually earn a fraction of what their employers earn – on average $4.9m in 2007, the last year for which figures are available. Still, nice work if you can get it. In fact, when it comes to comparisons, bank bosses are nowhere near the best paid executives of even publicly-listed companies. H Lawrence Culp Jnr, boss of US manufacturing and technology group Danaher, was paid $141m in 2009, while Larry Ellison, head of technology giant Oracle, got $130m, according to Forbes. Not even sports starts or actors can match that – Tiger Woods, for example, earned $91m, while Johnny Depp pulled in $75m. In the UK, the boss of consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser, Bart Becht, was awarded £93m ($148m), while Sir Terry Leahy, outgoing chief executive of supermarket group Tesco, earned £18m, according to research company IDS.

Charitable giving

Staggering sums they may be, but they pale into insignificance compared with the multi-billion dollar packages the very top hedge fund managers earn. It is important not to forget the huge amounts in tax that those managers not based in tax havens, of which there are many, pay. Many also donate vast sums to charity and have become well-known philanthropists. Carl Icahn, for example, who earned $1.3bn in 2009, recently signed up to the Giving Pledge, a club of billionaires who have promised to give large chunks of their wealth to charity. Still, whichever way you look at it, $4bn sure is a lot of dough for one man to be earning over many lifetimes, let alone one year.

Are they worth it?

No doubt a good number of their clients, which include many the world’s biggest pension funds, will say that they are. Their tailors may well agree. Others may take a slightly different view.

Hedge fund rich list 2009

Hedge fund manager Hedge fund group Earnings
SOURCE: AR MAGAZINE
David Tepper Appaloosa Management $4bn (£2.5bn)
George Soros Soros Fund Management $3.3bn
James Simons Renaissance Technologies $2.5bn
John Paulson Paulson & Co $2.3bn
Steve Cohen SAC Capital Advisers $1.4bn
Carl Icahn Icahn Capital $1.3bn
Edward Lampert ESL Investments $1.3bn
Ken Griffin Citadel Investment Group $900m
John Arnold Centaurus Advisors $900m
Philip Falcone Harbinger Capital Partners $825m

Check out our intensive investment banking, private equity, and sales & trading courses! The discount code Merger34299 will be activated until April 15, 2011. Questions? Feel free to e-mail thomas.r[at]leverageacademy.com with your inquiries or call our corporate line.


TPG’s Bonderman Sees Mega LBO Coming – $10-15B Deal

Friday, March 4th, 2011

David Bonderman, the founder of TPG, claims that large deals are back, and they are back to stay.  Fueled by cheap credit and impatient investors, mega LBOs will return, and according to him, TPG will be at the forefront.  TPG has not been shy of these deals in the past, leading the $44 billion takeover of TXU with Goldman Sachs and KKR in 2007.  Surprisingly, investor memories are short, and the same leverage multiples and weak capital structures we saw in 2006 are emerging today in the private equity industry.  As takeover multiples rise, so will leverage.  And funny thing is, banks are willing to provide it more than ever.

“Larger deals are back,” Mr. Bonderman said Thursday at the SuperReturn conference in Berlin. “It is as I said before absolutely possible to do a 10-to-15-billion-dollar deal now. It might not be one you want to do. It might not be one you should do. But the capital is available.”

Recent private equity deals have been valued at $5 billion or less, a far cry from those of the 2006-2007 buyout boom. Indeed, in 2007 TPG teamed up with KKR and Goldman Sachs to buy the energy company TXU for $44 billion.

But money for private equity deals dried up in the financial crisis and the recovery so far has brought only smaller deals.

Among those deals is the $3 billion leveraged buyout of the preppy retailer J. Crew by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners, a deal that  was approved by the company’s shareholders this week.

Along with larger deals, Mr. Bonderman and other private equity executives at the SuperReturn conference were all abuzz about the potential of emerging markets.

Mr. Bonderman called emerging markets the “flavor of the month” and predicted that initial public offerings in emerging markets would represent an even larger proportion of the deals in years to come.

“Interesting enough, if you survey folks like all of us in this room, everybody sees emerging markets growing just about as fast as mature markets in the deal business, which of course has never been the case before now,” Mr. Bonderman said, adding that the upside potential for deals remained high.

Growth in emerging markets is being fueled by China’s booming economy, which could even be on the verge of a bubble, as well as broader trends, including the rise of the middle class in those regions, Mr. Bonderman said.

“Even Brazil is a China story,” Mr. Bonderman said, adding that the emerging middle class would add trillions of dollars to emerging economies, particularly on the consumption side. This should lead to a “huge rebalancing of how the world sees itself,” he said.

Mr. Bonderman was asked about TPG’s recent exit from the Turkish spirits company Mey Icki , which TPG acquired in 2006 for about $800 million and sold in February for $2.1 billion.

He responded: “We thought it was a good opportunity, and it turned out to be. We would have taken it public had Diageo not shown up. As in any other place, if you can sell the whole business, you’re better off than taking it public, where you have to dribble it out even though you might get a nominally higher value. We like Turkey as a place to invest and we’ll be back.”

On the sovereign crises, such as the one in Greece, Mr. Bonderman said: “When governments are selling, you should be buying. And when governments are defaulting, we should look at that as an opportunity. Prices are always lower when the troops are in the street. A good default, like Portugal or Greece, would be very good for the private equity business. Might not be so good for the republic, but it would be good for us.”

200 Years of U.S. Treasury Yields – Short the 30-Year, Ticker: TMV

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The Fed increased the Federal Debt Ceiling dozens of times over the past year, and it seems like it is not over for the Bernank.   The Fed’s balance has been growing every single day as he pumps the economy with more liquidity.  Here is a link to the NY Fed’s POMO schedule: http://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/tot_operation_schedule.html.

In the SocGen chart above, you can see 200 years of U.S. treasury yields.  From the chart, you can see why we are currently in danger of rising yields.  We have a combination of oil shocks and riots facing the world today, with the threat of stagflation.  Almost every emerging market has raised rates over the past 6 months: Singapore, Brazil, India, you name it.  Even Europe, which is in a MUCH worse fiscal situation than the United States, is now “vigilant” on inflation and may raise rates in April…http://www.independent.ie/national-news/trichets-bombshell-makes-bad-situation-even-worse-2565545.html.

According to Bill Gross of PIMCO, “Treasury yields are perhaps 150 basis points or 1½% too low when viewed on a historical context and when compared with expected nominalGDP growth of 5%…This conclusion can be validated with numerous examples: (1) 10-year Treasury yields, while volatile, typically mimic nominal GDP growth and by that standard are 150 basis points too low, (2) real 5-year Treasury interest rates over a century’s time have averaged 1½% and now rest at a negative 0.15%! (3) Fed funds policy rates for the past 40 years have averaged 75 basis points less than nominal GDP and now rest at 475 basis points under that historical waterline.”

In the charts here on the LA blog, you can see (1) the % of investors who own U.S. Treasuries, (2) who is currently buying, and (3) who will buy?  The third chart is in question.  Someone will buy, but at what price and yield?  What will this mean for the U.S. yearly interest burden, for U.S. tax hikes in the future?

One can conclude from these thoughts that yields will have to increase, especially if QE3 is announced in June, and unless the economy booms, so will tax rates.  Here are Mr. Gross thoughts on QE:

Most observers would agree with us at PIMCO that QE I and II programs were initiated and employed under the favorable conditions of (1) and (2). The third criterion (3), however, is more problematic. A successful handoff from public to private credit creation has yet to be accomplished, and it is that handoff that ultimately will determine the outlook for real growth and the potential reversal in our astronomical deficits and escalating debt levels. If on June 30, 2011 (the assumed termination date of QE II), the private sector cannot stand on its own two legs – issuing debt at low yields and narrow credit spreads, creating the jobs necessary to reduce unemployment and instilling global confidence in the sanctity and stability of the U.S. dollar – then the QEs will have been a colossal flop. If so, there will be no 15%+ tip for the American economy and its citizen waiters. An inflation-adjusted “negative buck” might be more likely.

Washington, Main Street – and importantly from an investment perspective – Wall Street await the outcome. Because QE has affected not only interest rates but stock prices and all risk spreads, the withdrawal of nearly $1.5 trillion in annualized check writing may have dramatic consequences in the reverse direction. To visualize the gaping hole that the Fed’s void might have, PIMCO has produced a set of three pie charts that attempt to point out (1) who owns what percentage of the existing stock of Treasuries, (2) who has been buying the annual supply(which closely parallels the Federal deficit) and (3) who might step up to the plate if and when the Fed and its QE bat are retired. The sequential charts 1, 2 and 3 are illuminating, but not necessarily comforting.

What an unbiased observer must admit is that most of the publically issued $9 trillion of Treasury notes and bonds are now in the hands of foreign sovereigns and the Fed (60%) while private market investors such as bond funds, insurance companies and banks are in the (40%) minority. More striking, however, is the evidence in Chart 2 which points out that nearly 70% of the annualized issuance since the beginning of QE II has been purchased by the Fed, with the balance absorbed by those old standbys – the Chinese, Japanese and other reserve surplus sovereigns. Basically, the recent game plan is as simple as the Ohio State Buckeyes’ “three yards and a cloud of dust” in the 1960s. When applied to the Treasury market it translates to this: The Treasury issues bonds and the Fed buys them. What could be simpler, and who’s to worry? This Sammy Scheme as I’ve described it in recentOutlooks is as foolproof as Ponzi and Madoff until… until… well, until it isn’t. Because like at the end of a typical chain letter, the legitimate corollary question is – Who will buy Treasuries when the Fed doesn’t?”

So, how do we short Treasuries at Leverage Academy?  Using TMV, Direxion Daily 30-Year Treasury Bear 3x Shares.  Actually, this security should not be used for prolonged periods of time, but has tracked treasury yields fairly well on a daily and weekly basis.  You can always maximize your return on your treasury short by using longer dated securities.

What can the House and Senate do to address the U.S. deficit?  We can only hope that they will act to preserve our currency’s status, otherwise global inflation will continue.  According to Reuters, “the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will hold off on raising the government’s debt limit until Washington is closer to exhausting its $14.3 trillion credit line, sometime after mid-April, party leader Eric Cantor said on Wednesday.

There is often a pitched battle in Congress over allowing the government to borrow more money, but if Congress does not take that step, Washington risks a default on its debt that could damage U.S. access to credit markets, force suspension of government payments, and close federal offices.

The U.S. Treasury Department estimates the debt ceiling could be reached between April 15 and May 31.

“We really don’t know exactly when the date will be that we’ll have to act,” Cantor said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“You know, we’re waiting for April 15 and tax revenues to indicate exactly when the date is that the ceiling needs to be raised,” he added. The must-pass debt limit increase may be leveraged to rein in future spending, Cantor noted.

Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon later said the majority leader was not suggesting the House would act on April 15, a date both symbolically important to tax-conscious Republicans and practically important to the U.S. Treasury as the deadline for income tax payments.

“April 15th isn’t a date certain for consideration of the debt limit. But the revenues that come in from tax day will provide a good indicator in relation to when Treasury might determine when we will reach the debt limit,” she said.

Some Republicans, including Tea Party conservatives, have said they will not vote to allow the United States to go deeper into debt without agreement on controlling spending with Obama and Democrats.

“Along with that vote, we’re going to see a lot of things put in place, whether they be process reforms as far as the budget is concerned, spending caps, whether we can demonstrate that we are tightening the belt this fiscal year,” Cantor said.

“Those are all the kinds of things we’re going to have to do prior to seeing that that vote happens,” he added.

The Republican-run House has passed a budget bill for the current fiscal year that includes $61 billion in spending cuts, but the majority Democrats in the Senate say the cuts would endanger the economic recovery.

A debt limit increase would also have to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama. (Editing by Jackie Frank)”

Check out our intensive investment banking, private equity, and sales & trading courses! The discount code Merger34299 will be activated until April 15, 2011. Questions? Feel free to e-mail thomas.r[at]leverageacademy.com with your inquiries or call our corporate line.


KKR Tries to Fool Investors with Toys R’ Us IPO

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Toys R Us was an Opco-Propco deal done by KKR, Bain, and Vornado in 2005 for $6.5+ billion.  The company was one of the largest owners of real estate in the United States, other than McDonalds.  Since the toy business was not performing well and Babies R Us could not yet produce enough EBITDA to drive the company’s public valuation, these three players found an opportunity to take advantage of its real estate holdings (good call, right?).  Unfortunately, the company now has $5.5 billion in debt on its balance sheet and only has 2.3% growth in sales, a $35mm loss in earnings, down from $95mm in profit last year, and a 25% increase in expenses year over year (SA).  Cash used in operations also increased from $800mm to $1.2 billion over that time period.  Sounds like a great time to IPO, right?  Well, the sponsors in this deal seem to think so.  With equity markets topping, they are trying their hardest to take advantage of foolish retail investors.  Invest at your own risk:

“(Reuters) – Toys R Us Inc TOY.UL is looking to raise around $800 million in an initial public offering in April, though a final decision has not been reached, the New York Post said on Saturday.

The New Jersey-based retailer, which operates stores under its namesake brand and the Babies R Us and FAO Schwarz labels, had put off plans for an IPO in 2010.

“Toys R Us took more market share from competitors last year than they have in the past 20 years,” said one source the Post described as close to the company. “But I don’t think they were satisfied with how they did on the profit level.”

Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said the company could not comment on the matter.

For December 2010, Toys R Us reported a 5.4 percent total sales rise at its U.S. unit as it lured holiday shoppers away from No. 1 toy retailer Wal-Mart with more temporary stores and exclusive toys. But same-store sales fell 5 percent at its international segment.

Overall, a tough 2010 holiday season had margins hit across the toy industry by bargain-seeking, recession-hit consumers.

So the economic environment has stoked continued debate between management and owners at Toys R Us about whether this is the best time to re-launch an IPO, according to a source briefed on the situation, the Post reported.

Toys R Us was taken private in 2005 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts KKR.AS, Bain Capital and Vornado Realty Trust in a $6.6 billion deal.

In May 2010, the company filed to raise as much as $800 million in an IPO. But that was not launched.

Toys R Us’s net loss widened to $93 million in the third quarter ended on October 30, 2010, from $67 million a year earlier. While sales were up 1.9 percent in the period, total operating expenses rose about 9.4 percent.

Last fall, the retailer opened 600 smaller “pop-up” stores that added to the more than 850 larger year-round stores it operates in the United States, the Post said.”

Warren Buffet BH Annual Shareholder Letter – 2010

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Warren is ready to start making acquisitions.  Berkshire Hathaway is now earning nearly $1 billion per month in net income and has nearly $38 billion in cash reserves, the largest reserve hoard since 2007.  WB has been known to use his cash cow insurance business to fund acquisitions.  Investment income from his insurance operations alone was $5.2 billion in 2010, and earnings were up 61% from 2009.  It is hard to imagine how Mr. Buffet started his career by purchasing a couple pinball machines.  His company’s cash reserves now rival the gold reserves of many developing nations.  BH’s annual letter to shareholders was released on 2/26/2011 and bodes well for the U.S. economy.  Since 1965, Berkshire has averaged annual returns of 20.2%, while the S&P has returned 9.4%, including dividends.

Warren Buffett 2010 Berkshire Hathaway Letter

Warren Buffett, in his widely followed annual letter to shareholders, said he is prepared for “more major acquisitions,” as the conglomerate on Saturday reported a 61% jump in 2010 earnings and a growing cash hoard.

“We’re prepared. Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy,” the billionaire investor said in the letter accompanying Berkshire’s annual report.

The Omaha, Neb., company’s 2010 net income of $13 billion received a big boost from railroad operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which Berkshire acquired for roughly $27 billion last February. In his letter, Mr. Buffett called the deal “the highlight of 2010″ and said it is working out “even better” than he had expected, The railroad business generated $4.5 billion in operating earnings last year and $2.5 billion in net earnings, up about 40% from 2009.

While Berkshire has spent tens of billions of dollars on capital-intensive businesses like railroads and utility operators in recent years, its other businesses, such as insurance, are still generating large amounts of cash for Mr. Buffett to invest in financial assets and to acquire more businesses. At the end of 2010, Berkshire’s pile of cash and cash equivalents stood at $38 billion, the highest year-end amount since 2007. Berkshire’s businesses, Mr. Buffett noted, are now earning about $1 billion a month.

As Berkshire tries to keep growing from an ever-expanding base, Mr. Buffett has to find more avenues to invest to achieve his long-stated goal of increasing the company’s value faster than the rate of growth in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

WSJ’s Jamie Heller and Erik Holm discuss the implications of the newly released letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders from billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Berkshire’s book value, a measure of assets minus liabilities that is a rough proxy for the company’s actual, or “intrinsic,” value, grew 13% in 2010 to $95,453 per share, versus last year’s 15.1% total return in the S&P 500. It was the second year in a row, and only the eighth time in Mr. Buffett’s 46 years of running Berkshire, that the company’s book value change didn’t beat the index, whose returns include dividends. Berkshire is now a component of that index following last year’s B-share stock split and purchase of Burlington Northern.

Mr. Buffett repeated a refrain from past years, stating that Berkshire’s future performance is unlikely to replicate its past. Noting the company’s “now only satisfactory” performance against the S&P in recent years, Mr. Buffett wrote: “The bountiful years, we want to emphasize, will never return. The huge sums of capital we currently manage eliminate any chance of exceptional performance.”

Berkshire’s Annual Report

Mr. Buffett said if Berkshire over time outperforms the market, as shareholders should expect from the company, it will likely be from producing better relative results in bad years for the stock market while suffering poorer results in stronger years.

Shareholders last year weren’t disappointed. Berkshire’s Class A shares, which don’t pay dividends, gained 21% in 2010, besting the S&P and giving the company a market value of roughly $200 billion at year end. The shares are up nearly 6% this year, closing at $127,550 on Friday.

Berkshire’s book value, which grew $26.2 billion in 2010, was boosted by the continuing recovery of stocks in Berkshire’s giant investment portfolio. Wells Fargo & Co. and Coca-Cola Co., Berkshire’s largest equity positions, each rose 15% last year, and each holding is now valued at more than $11 billion.

Stocks and Burlington Northern weren’t the only part of the portfolio that delivered.

A host of Berkshire-owned businesses that had suffered from declining sales and shrinking profits amid the recession now appear to be recovering. Mr. Buffett heralded improvements at units including Fruit of the Loom Inc., Israel-based toolmaker Iscar Ltd. and electronic-components distributor TTI Inc.

Net earnings from Berkshire’s manufacturing, service and retailing operations more than doubled from a year earlier to $2.5 billion in 2010 as the businesses rode the recovering economy. The company’s annual report said it anticipates that “general economic conditions will continue to gradually improve, albeit unevenly, over time.”

Mr. Buffett said an “overwhelming” part of the future investments of Berkshire’s businesses would be in the U.S. Of $8 billion in capital spending slated for 2011, which his letter called a record amount, Berkshire will spend all of the $2 billion increase from last year in the U.S. He said the U.S. offers “an abundance” of opportunity.

Berkshire’s insurance units give Mr. Buffett money to invest until the premiums collected are needed to pay claims years in the future. Mr. Buffett calls these funds “float,” and he reported Saturday that the pool of funds swelled to about $66 billion from $63 billion a year earlier. Investment income from the insurance operations was about $5.2 billion, compared with $5.5 billion in 2009.

In the letter, Mr. Buffett discussed what he and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger would regard as a “normal year” for Berkshire. That would be one with a general business climate better than last year’s, but weaker than 2005 or 2006, and one without a large catastrophic event that could trigger large payouts from its insurance business. In such a year, Berkshire’s assets could expect to earn about $17 billion in pretax and $12 billion in after-tax earnings, excluding capital gains or losses, he said.

Mr. Buffett, who turned 80 years old last August, also touched on succession planning in his letter. Besides being Berkshire’s chief executive and chairman, Mr. Buffett is also its chief investment officer with responsibility for the company’s investment portfolio of more than $150 billion in cash, stocks, bonds and other assets. He has said that when he dies, his job at the helm of Berkshire will be split into three, with a separate chairman and chief executive, and one or more chief investment officers.

Berkshire recently hired former hedge-fund manager Todd Combs as an investment manager following a lengthy search for candidates that could potentially step into Mr. Buffett’s role as Berkshire’s chief investment officer. Many money managers had good investing records recently, but Berkshire has been looking for individuals who have a deep understanding and sensitivity to risk and can anticipate the effect of events that have never occurred, Mr. Buffett wrote.

“When Charlie and I met Todd Combs, we knew he fit our requirements,” Mr. Buffett noted. He said the 40-year-old would initially manage funds in the range of $1 billion to $3 billion, an amount that can be reset annually. While Mr. Combs’s focus will be on stocks, he isn’t restricted to that type of investment, Mr. Buffett noted.

The search for competent money managers isn’t over. Mr. Buffett said Berkshire may, over time, add one or two investment managers “if we find the right individuals,” and the managers’ compensation will be tied to their performance.

As in previous years, Mr. Buffett devoted portions of his annual letter to praising the managers of Berkshire’s operating units, including some individuals that company watchers believe are candidates for the Berskhire CEO job.

Mr. Buffett wrote that he “can’t overstate the breadth and importance” of achievements by David Sokol, chairman of utility operator MidAmerican Energy Co. and chief executive of NetJets Inc., who turned the fractional jet ownership business around from a loss.

He noted that Tony Nicely, who runs auto insurer Geico, increased its market share to 8.8% from 2% when he joined the company in 1993, adding he owes Mr. Nicely a huge debt. And Ajit Jain, head of Berkshire Hathaway’s highly profitable reinsurance business, “has added a great many billions of dollars to the value of Berkshire. Even kryptonite bounces off Ajit,” Mr. Buffett quipped.

Mr. Buffett made it clear he has no plans to relinquish any of his jobs. Referring to the investment portfolio, he wrote: “As long as I am CEO, I will continue to manage the great majority of Berkshire’s holdings, both bonds and equities.”

He said that when he and Mr. Munger, 87, are no longer around, Berkshire’s investment managers will have responsibility for the entire portfolio in a manner then set by Berkshire’s CEO and board of directors. The board, he added, “will make the call on any major acquisition.”

Viking Hedge Fund Loses Dris Upitis

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Viking Global Investors LP, the Greenwich, Connecticut based hedge fund faces another high level departure only 10 months after Chief Investment Officer David Ott resigned in April 2010. Dris Upitis, one of the four management committee members, recently announced his resignation from Viking. Since Ott stepped down in April, Upitis, along with his colleagues Tom Purcell, Dan Sundheim, and Jim Parsons, have overseen most of the hedge fund’s $10 billion capital. Upitis was promoted to senior portfolio manager last year after working as an analyst at Viking for six years.

Viking, founded in 1999 returned an average of 13% annually. The Viking Long Fund gained 14.5% in 2010, slightly under the S&P 500 Index of U.S. stock, which returned 15%, including dividends.

Dris Upitis, one of four management committee members at hedge fund Viking Global Investors LP, resigned, the second high-level departure in 10 months after Chief Investment Officer David Ott stepped down in April, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Upitis and colleagues Tom Purcell, Dan Sundheim and Jim Parsons have overseen most of Viking’s $10 billion in capital since Ott stepped down in April, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Clients were notified of Upitis’ resignation in a note last week, the people said.

Upitis was an analyst at Greenwich, Connecticut-based Viking Global for six years before being promoted to senior portfolio manager last year. The firm is run by Andreas Halvorsen, one of the “Tiger Cubs” who helped build Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management LLC into the world’s biggest hedge- fund group in the 1990s.

After losing 4 percent in the first six months of 2010, Viking Global Equities gained 10 percent in the second half of the year after the fund reshuffled the managers, the people said. The long-short fund rose 3.8 percent last year, investors were told in the letter. That trailed the 7 percent increase of the BAIF Hedge Fund Index.

Halvorsen didn’t respond to two telephone messages left with his office seeking comment. A person answering a number listed for Upitis said he no longer works at the firm.

13% a Year

Viking, which Halvorsen founded with Ott and Brian Olson in 1999, returned an average of 13 percent annually in the decade ended Dec. 31, one of the people said. Viking Global Equities lost 1.9 percent in 2008, when the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy triggered the global financial crisis, and the fund climbed 20 percent in 2009, the person said.

Halvorsen started a new fund two years ago to focus on buying stocks after selling them short, or betting on price declines, became more risky. The Viking Long Fund began trading in January 2009 after raising about $80 million, the firm said in a regulatory filing. The Viking Long Fund gained 14.5 percent in 2010, one of the people said. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks returned 15 percent, including dividends.

David Tepper Personally Earns $4 Billion for 2009 Performance

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We thank Dan for his contribution to Leverage Academy, LLC and for writing this biography on David Tepper, of Appaloosa, who made $4 billion for himself last year.

David Tepper grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. He became interested in the stock market after observing his dad, an accountant, trade stocks during the day.  Following high school, he enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, where he excelled. After Tepper graduated with a degree in economics, he found a job with Equibank as a credit analyst. He quickly became bored with the role and enrolled in the MBA program at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Business, now named after him. [1] Tepper’s experience at Carnegie Mellon helped him learn options theory at a time when there were no textbooks written on the subject. Kenn Dunn, the Dean of school of the school himself taught these option courses.[2]

After graduating, Tepper worked in the Treasury division at Republic Steel, once the third largest steel manufacturer in the U.S.  Soon after, Tepper moved onto Keystone Mutual Funds, and finally to Goldman Sachs.  At Goldman, Tepper focused on his original role as a credit analyst.  However, six months later, he became the head trader on the high yield bond desk!  Despite his successes, Tepper was not promoted to partner due to his disregard for office politics.  After eight years at Goldman, he left and started Appaloosa Management in 1992 with Jack Walton, another Goldman Sachs trader.

With his background in bankruptcies and special situations at Goldman, Tepper applied his skills and experience at the new hedge fund, and it worked out tremendously for him. Tepper is categorized as a distressed debt investor, but he really analyzes and invests in the entire capital structure of distressed companies, from senior secured debt to sub-debt and post-bankruptcy equity. His fund has averaged a 30% average return since 1993!  While that number is particularly high, Appaloosa has fairly volatile historical returns.  In 2008, Tepper’s fund was down around 25% for the year. For the investor that stuck with him, this certainly paid off with a 120% return after fees in 2009. [3] Tepper shies away from the typical glitz and glamour of the ostentatious hedge fund industry. Appaloosa is not based in New York, but in a small office in Chatham, NJ. It is only about 15 minutes from his house so he can spend more time with his family. The firm manages around $12 billion.

Tepper’s astronomical returns resulted from huge bets on the banking industry, specifically Bank of America (BAC) and Citibank (C). He bought BAC around $3.72 and Citi near $0.79. At year’s end, BAC ended at $15.06, a 305% return, and Citi ended at $3.31, a 319% return.  Appaloosa also has invested in other financial companies such as Wells Fargo (WFC), Suntrust (STI), and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Other companies Tepper has investments in are Rite Aid (RAD) , Office Depot (ODP), Good Year Tire and Rubber (GT), OfficeMax (OMX), and Microsoft (MSFT).  He believes that valuations on stocks and bonds in the financial industry remain favorable, and he is now investing in commercial real estate, a place where many analysts expect huge losses.[4]

Tepper’s investment strategy involves finding value in these distressed companies and betting big. He is not very diversified in his holdings compared to most hedge funds. Investing in these distressed companies can be a very lonely business. David Tepper stated about his recent purchases of BAC and Citi, “I felt like I was alone. No one was even bidding.” While some don’t like being alone, Tepper’s contrarian approach helped him scoop up these companies at bargain prices. Tepper reminds himself that he needs a contrarian attitude every day when he walks into his office and sees a pair of brass balls on his desk, literally. “Mr. Tepper keeps a brass replica of a pair of testicles in a prominent spot on his desk, a present from former employees. He rubs the gift for luck during the trading day to get a laugh out of colleagues.”[5] While humorous, these brass balls represent his strategy of taking concentrated bets on these companies that the market does not see any value in.

David Tepper has not been without controversy. In his dealings with Delphi, an auto parts maker, his hedge fund along with other investors backed out of their exit financing agreement after Delphi sought additional funding from General Motors. His hedge fund believed accepting money from an automaker would hurt Delphi’s ability to win contracts with other automakers. The hedge fund also claimed that this funding arrangement broke their financing agreement. Delphi, in turn sued, declaring that the issue was a “story of betrayal and mistrust.” [6] It has since gone into Chapter 11 reorganization.

While most hedge fund managers who have made $4 billion in a year during one of the worst recessions since the 1930s would face scrutiny from the press, public, and government, Tepper has largely gone unscathed due to the lack of glitz and glamour of his lifestyle. Tepper lives in a New Jersey suburb in the same house that he bought in the early 1990s and coaches his kids’ sports teams. He is a family man is proud of raising three good children. He says, “It was much easier when they were younger. It’s harder now when they open the paper and see how much money I make.”[7]

Last year, Tepper told the business school magazine at Carnegie Mellon that money should be a secondary goal, while living an upstanding life and pursuing what you enjoy should be the top priority.[8] Tepper does not forget about his roots either. He regularly goes to Pittsburgh to visit his alma mater and to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers (of which he is now a part owner).  He also donates money to food pantries and other charities around Pittsburgh.[9] Tepper comes to Carnegie Mellon frequently to talk to students about what needs to be improved at the school. Students describe him as down to earth, friendly, and very candid. While he has been an extremely successful hedge fund manager, he does not lead an extravagant lifestyle and continues to deliver excellent results to investors. His philosophy is very simple: if you treat people right, run your business right, and run your life right, you will create a sustainable business.


[1] http://web.tepper.cmu.edu/tepper/about.aspx

[2] http://www.americanwaymag.com/carnegie-mellon-appaloosa-management-david-a-tepper-school-of-business-coo-and-president

[3] http://seekingalpha.com/article/179565-2009-s-billion-dollar-man-david-tepper

[4] ibid

[5] http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/12/david_tepper_made_7_billion_do.html

[6] http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/appaloosa-and-icahn-said-to-mull-bids-for-delphi/#more-85819

[7] http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/news-multimedia/tepper-stories/david-tepper/index.aspx

[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/25bn-pay-packet-for-fund-manager-1847227.html

[9] http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_658849.html

2010 Top 10 Highest Earning Hedge Fund Managers
Rank Name Firm Name 2009 Earnings
1 David Tepper Appaloosa Management $4 billion
2 George Soros Soros Fund Management $3.3 billion
3 James Simons Renaissance Technologies $2.5 billion
4 John Paulson Paulson & Co. $2.3 billion
5 Steve Cohen SAC Capital Advisors $1.4 billion
6 Carl Icahn Icahn Capital $1.3 billion
7 Edward Lampert ESL Investments $1.3 billion
8 Kenneth Griffin Citadel Investment Group $900 million
9 John Arnold Centaurus Advisors $900 million
10 Philip Falcone Harbinger Capital Partners $825 million

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