By the way: Taking it to the media

by admin on January 8, 2013

This post has been certified as total mental diarrhea and is not related to Japanese stocks.

Taking it to the media: the FT

We all know that there are few sober people east of the Atlantic who can get by without reading the FT.  It is the newspaper of record for those outside the US, taking the place of the shamelessly dumbed-down Times.  However, two recent commentary pieces made me pull a face while reading them on my iPad (gosh, I feel so up-to-date just writing that) in Starbucks. One was on the idea that Korean pop music being popular means that the US’s fantasy of being a nation of creative geniuses is over.  Meanwhile, the same article notes that the guy who made the recent Korean pop dance hit only made some $60 K out of it in his home country. Pardon me, but how the hell is Korea going to continue growth of non-English music sales to the only market that counts – namely, the market outside Korea*? This is like predicting at the time of the film Titanic that Céline Dion’s music will take over the world soon. Also, anyone who can remember the wincing “Cool Britannia” thing will know that warbling from the likes of Spice Girls et al. does not an economy make.

Meanwhile, the Japanese have been quietly taking over Southeast Asia.

Here in Thailand there has been an explosion of Japanese restaurants, people wearing Japanese-inspired fashion, Japanese signs in shopping malls, and basically Japanese everything. Not only that, but Japanese companies, as those who read the news during the Thai floods of last year will remember, make a huge amount of upstream electronic components in Thailand as well. Yesterday, I drove past no less than 15 cars without seeing a single non-Japanese one. The only thing the Japanese have lost on over here is the televisions, which are all made by Samsung and LG.

And, in Vietnam, where I have just come back from, it is even more extreme. Japanese companies are all over investment into Vietnam, with the Japanese government making loans to support Japanese businesses there, as well as loans being made directly for infrastructure projects with Japanese participation (kind of like Keynes overseas).

There are so many Japanese restaurants in Saigon right now, and so many people speaking Japanese there compared to 2 years ago, that it is incredible – and apparently noone speaking Chinese or Korean. The Japanese government set up a “Cool Japan” strategy recently, which involved getting Japanese businesses into shopping malls etc., and it seems to be working.  The aim of the strategy, as far as I recall, was to increase “cultural” exports, which means basically media. This seems to so far not really be working very well, but there is definitely some kind of Japan mania afoot.

Interestingly, there is a shopping centre here in Bangkok called Terminal 21, and each floor has a theme from a different country (Italian, French, British, Japanese, Korean, and “San Francisco”), and, the Korean floor and San Francisco floor have quite a lot of stuff from Japan. Two years ago I would never have expected this – I would have expected Chinese businesses to be everywhere, but surprisingly, they are nowhere.

So, it seems that the perception of Korea’s success in cultural and other exports may be somewhat ahead of reality.

* Japan is a big export market for Korean TV and music, but it is not growing significantly anymore, as far as I can tell.


Taking it to the media: the FT (II)

Did anybody see the commentary about how the SEC should stop investigating Chinese accounting and stop threatening to delist Chinese firms because, you know, China is special, their government doesn’t like you knowing about what companies are up to, and China has its own way of doing things?

Yeah right. Why don’t you steal all our technology n’ stuff, underprice your currency, and support systemic corruption and fraud while you’re at it.


Taking it to the media: Barron’s

When I used to be an analyst, I occasionally read the copy of Baron’s which was floating around the office. Somehow, I thought it was all very reasonable at the time.

However, has anyone lately noticed how feeble Baron’s is?

In my opinion, the only good thing in there on the pieces on small caps, but their outperformance in that area seems to be due to their popping on the same day as Barron’s writes on them. Is there another name for that…?

In my mind, most of the writing tends to go like this:

We are positive on ACME Toaster, which makes slightly differentiated toasters.  The company is trading at a very reasonable 16 times forward earnings, and we think that they can grow EPS by 12% over the next two years by investing in a new line of toasters, cutting costs, reducing taxes, buying back shares and rescheduling depreciation. Debt is reasonable, at two times equity. Also, [latest political whatever] may be a boost to the company, as the government may increase loans for small appliances to…

Admittedly, I have over-egged this a little bit, but who the hell is going to have sustainable outperformance buying so-so companies at “reasonable” (read: rip-off) prices?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

rm January 11, 2013 at 5:34 am

hi, could you shoot me an email? would love to discuss ideas


catsick January 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

I also read the FT cover to cover each morning while having breakfast, It is the only paper with well thought out, in depth coverage rather than the garbage that comprises most of the US based financial media, The alarming thing for me is that bloomberg is said to be considering buying it off pearson, in which case we will lose all forms of journalistic integrity …


admin January 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm

If that happens, then God help us all.

You’d expect that the colossal amount of junk that gets pushed around instant news media (CNBC being the terminal case) would create a backlash, but I can’t really see one.


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