Problems with Goldman Sachs $GS, $BRK.B, $MS, $XLF, $AIG

Berkshire Hathaway is having their annual frenzy. Ponder the Bear Case Scenario for one of their key holdings Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs is obviously Wall Street. They hop scotch their way through different products as they pay homage to the all mighty buck. Wall Street is cyclical. Goldman Sachs earnings will be cyclical. Cyclical is not a core value for deep value investing. Add to the mix regulatory risk that Goldman still faces from the Obama presidency and you do not have the deep value that should pay dividends forever. Goldman Sachs is a horse that gets used up. Berkshire should be buying the farms and ensuring value exists for generations.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Problems for Coca-Cola $KO, $PEP, $BRK.B

Berkshire Hathaway is having its annual frenzy. Ponder the Bear Case Scenario in this core Berkshire Hathaway Holding even while Warren Buffett thinks its un-American to vote against its management.

Coca-Colas revenues are not as diversified as Pepsi. In any portfolio exercise this is a bad thing. Warren Buffet should understand this point perfectly.

Coca-Cola revenues are 74% sparkling beverages which is slow to no growth. Overall growth is from other drinks products which should speak volumes as to where the growth really is. Cola growth is negative in the USA. Investment in bottling operations is capital-intensive and returns are not accretive to Coca-Cola.

George Gutowski writes from  a caveat emptor perspective

Problems for Moody’s $MCO, $BRK.B, $MHFI

Berkshire Hathaway is having its annual frenzy. Lets take a look at Moody’s which is a large holding and reputedly on the sell list for Berkshire.

Since the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the reputational hit that ratings companies took Warren Buffett has been a net seller.  The problem is he has been slow at it. The problems are being fixed and the reputations of ratings companies are being rehabilitated. What Warren did not like is being fixed so maybe he should have taken the classic value investor approach and buy ugly followed by sell pretty. Seems like he has it backward here. He did not max out his thinking on this position.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.


Berkshire Hathaway is having their annual frenzy. Ponder the Bear Case Scenario for one of their key publicly traded holdings. USG.

USG is the leading wallboard and gypsum-related panels producer in the U.S. This means housing, real estate, interest rates, employment and consumer confidence. Warren what part of the sub-prime mortgage and housing crisis did you not understand. Housing is in a mild fragile recovery. This stock does not have any drivers which indicate superior share wealth creation will occur. Add in the fact that they are highly levered in a low-interest rate environment does not create more confidence.

I suspect he is anchored in olde school thinking where you bought large and dominant without much regard to the entire supply chain. the days of dry wall shortage are well behind us and not likely to re-appear soon.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Problems for General Motors $GM, $F, $TM, $VLKPY, $DDAIY, $BRK.B #WARRENBUFFET

Berkshire Hathaway is having its annual frenzy. Consider some problems for General Motors which is a large component part of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio.

When it comes down to it I believe Warren Buffett has a behavioural bias and tends to anchor on Big American stocks. GM which is really just finished up the restructuring already is having massive recall issues. the olde school big auto arrogance is back. GM will most likely lose share to foreign more nimble manufacturers. No one has a firm grip on the US market. expect inroads from Hyundai and Volkswagen among others. Global vehicle demand is very uncertain and subject to risks which Warren Buffett is not used to seeing. Automotive stocks sell off when macro concerns boil over. at any given point in time the question will be why are we holding this one.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Bear Case Scenario Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett $BRK.B, $AIG, $XLF, $AXAHY, $AZSEY

Ponder the Bear Case Scenario for Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B). Yes even Warren Buffett’s legendary investment vehicle has some potential Black Swan events which may hurt it. The main points are:

Insurance Operations are large-scale risk factories. Statistics says you cannot win every day. Large catastrophic events such as whether or geo-political can destroy the best risk manager and actuary. That includes Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

Berkshire Hathaway is so large it is hard to do new deals which are sizeable enough to impact overall operations. The classic value investment is to get in when it’s bad and dirty and sell when its pretty and lovely. More easily said than done. But at this point $100 million deals are too small to be of consequence.

Leadership. Both Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are very very olde. They can go any minute and doctors would not be surprised. Or worse they can become cognitively or physically impaired and linger creating anxiety and confusion. While they seem to have many able lieutenants only Croesus matches the Brand Power and investors will be disappointed.

Most of Warren Buffett’s wealth will go to that wonderful charity that Bill Gates is running. Charities spend money to fund worthwhile causes. They have the same problem all charities have. More causes than money. There will be a huge danger to become a net seller and depress the stock value.

The charity will also be looking to diversify its investment for all the classic reasons touted by Warren Buffett. Again a net selling dynamic will come into play.

Watch for a large financially engineered scheme to reshape Berkshire Hathaway and satisfy the Gates Foundation needs for good investment governance.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Warren Buffett’s Crazy Oil Logic Makes Him Bullish on Keystone XL $XOM, $BRKB, $SU, $BNI

Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B) is always bullish on America. He is buying big oil like Exxon (NYSE:XOM) because he sees value. Oil and hydro carbon consumption only comes with economic activity. He already is big on Suncor (NYSE:SU) and the Canadian Oil Sands.

Being a major railroad investor with Burlington Northern Sante Fe (NYSE:BNI) he knows all about commodities and oil shipments by rail cars. He therefore would have a view on the Keystone XL pipeline and its impact on oil, energy and the economy.

By accumulating this portfolio he must have concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline will come to fruition and benefit his positions.

Warren is a sly olde dog.

George Gutowski writes from a Caveat Emptor Perspective.

Tragedy Strikes Zurich Insurance What Sordid Scandals To Come? $ZURVY $XLF $KIE $KIX

Zürich Insurance (OTCBB:ZURVY) experienced tremendous tragedy when their group Chief Financial Officer  Pierre Wauthier committed suicide. My condolences to the Wauthier family and friends.

Now the Chairman of the Board  Josef Ackermann has resigned stating that the family may be blaming him for the suicide of Pierre Wauthier. So he can’t go into the office anymore.

There is a CEO Martin Senn that supposedly is driving the Zürich Company and you would think he is the one calling the shots. Also a Vice Chairman Tom de Swann would supposedly have had direct influence and presumably now becomes the de facto Chairman at least for the time being.

Both Martin Senn and Pierre Wauthier do not sit on the board of directors but obviously inter-related closely.

The financial press has hinted darkly about Josef Ackermann past at other financial institutions. Lots of unresolved innuendo which I’m sure will be revisited.

Also there are dark hints that Zürich has some kind of difficulties coming to the surface. The Chairman has chosen to vacate his post and walk away from probably some very lucrative compensation.

It sounds like he needs to have the storm blow over. The question is what kind of storm will it be. Markets hate uncertainty and a normally staid Swiss Insurance Company is serving up a jumbo platter sized serving of uncertainty.

Is Warren Buffett checking his liquidity just in case some great opportunities present themselves? Probably looking at a few assets with hungry eyes.

The family has a few questions and may have a few answers that they are unaware of. While everyone is grieving it would be an hypocrisy to hide behind grief and not come clean on the corporate governance side of the issue.

Is there something to be concerned about? Why does a seasoned CFO at the top of his game commit suicide? Why does the Chairman resign? This sounds like a Tom Clancy novel with a strange Swiss Financial Secrecy twist. In the mean time I pity the stockholders who have lost wealth. More than a few will or should contact their lawyers because someone is getting screwed and it could be you.

For the deep deep value players keep your powder dry and watch the stock closely. Eventually they will fix this and there will be profits to be made. Tragedies aside investing is a blood sport and there are no prisoners.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective. follow him on Twitter @financialskepti

Starbucks The Next Warren Buffett Investment. $SBUX

Starbucks (Nasdaq:SBUX) may become more and more like the Warren Buffett classic.

How so.

Behold the smart phone Starbucks App. The app cleverly likes to a credit card and pulls down cash to your phone app is pre-loaded and keeps the consumer spending. Minimum down load triggers at $15. So if your account balance hit $15 or less another say $25 comes out of your credit card.

The balance now becomes an interest free loan to Starbucks. Much the same travellers cheques used to be or pre-paid credit cards or stored value cards offer now.

Lets look at some math. Starbucks will not disclose how many people use the App. But in March 2011 Mashable cogitated that 3 million people a day are using the App. Assume they can generate in time 100 million worldwide users with a minimum $15 average balance. Starbucks gets a free balance of $150 million. Increase with inflation and time the free balances work. Increase the offerings and maybe use the Starbuck`s App to buy other things the float, transaction and user fees just grow.

The Black Swan may waddle over if the Big Banks start to complain. But they will only attract attention to a good thing.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective. He was not drinking Starbucks as he wrote this piece. Nor does he understand why he was not drinking coffee at the time.

Warren Buffett’s Annuity bias. Economic Slavery to Trump Green Energy $NVE, $BRK.B

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B) through is Mid American subsidiary is buying energy company NVE at a substantial premium. Dividend yield is slightly north of 3%. Revenues jumped smartly after cost cutting and some environmental factors such as cost of fuel and plant closures. After some hard work the positive cash flow should start to kick in and reward investors. Sounds like a good deal.

But energy costs are still high for consumer and commercial accounts. Everything is about energy savings. Solar power if it ever truly takes root will obsolete the classic power utility. Warren Buffett just bet that green energy will not negatively impact this investment.
In the very near future he is correct.

However if solar power is to work it will be in areas with high sunshine. Like where NVE operates. Solar Power will come around. It’s a question of time. Individual homes and businesses will buy more and more panels and go off grid.

Then what Warren? Then what? That’s quite the Black Swan waiting.

The financial metrics appeal to Buffett’s mind-set. Supposed wide moat. Sustainable cash flow. Few serious competitors.

But when the disruptor finally happens it will spread like wildfire. Imagine and American economy with each household having another hundred bucks a month as disposable income.

Warren Buffet claims not to understand technology. He does not understand Microsoft or Apple or Google. but he has made a time bet against Solar Power. Are you with it or against it?

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.