Category Archives: Capital allocation

SPACs vs . IPOs – Is it Different This time ?

I have covered the current SPAC Mania already in a post in June on Nikola, but since then SPACs only seem to gather more steam.

VC legend Bill Gurley (Banchmark Capital, Uber) has released an interesting post on the three main venues for a company to go public: A “classic” IPO, a simple listing and finally the SPAC.

I’ll try to summarize his post:

  • he argues that the IPO process is “broken” and rigged by the I-Banks. His proof is that on average, IPO’s are “Popping”  ~20% on the first day of trading which means that this difference, multiplied by the number of shares placed, is “stolen” from the previous owners (i.e. himself as a VC)
  • on top of that, companies have to pay IPO fees
  • The reason is that banks prefer special clients and do not really match demand and supply
  • as direct listings (Spotify) do not allow to raise large amounts of money, reverse mergers with SPACs are preferable
  • He argues that SPACs have “lower cost of capital” than IPOs but doesn’t give any examples. His main “proof” here is that there are so many SPACs now and that companies can negotiate really hard.
  • and of course the way to public markets is a lot faster for a SPAC

Bill Gurley is clearly not an idiot as he most likely is now a billionaire following some very impressive investment successes (Uber) with Benchmark capital. However I do think that his arguments have some serious flaws.

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InterActive Corp (IAC) – Some thoughts and SOTP valuaTion

InterActice Corp (IAC) is a company I had on my list for a long time but for whatever reason I never managed to look at them in more detail. Over the past few weeks I read in several quarterly reports of good funds that they had invested, so I decided to look at least a little bit deeper this time.

Founder/ Chairman Barry Diller

barry-diller-1

InterActive is the creation of Barry Diller, who is now 78 Years old. He had a very interesting career. As a media executive, among other things, he created Fox Network, and mentored media executives such as Michael Eisner (ex CEO of Disney).

He took control of IAC in 1995 and finally bought out “Cable Cowboy”  John Malone in 2010. The relationship with Malone was long but not always without issues.

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Active Ownership Capital Fund (BUY)

Disclaimer. This is not investment advice. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH !!!!

Background:

More than five years ago I wrote about why it could make sense to invest into other actively managed funds even if one considers oneself an active investor. I would summarize the criteria that were important to me as follows:

The interests of the manager should be long term aligned with investors and the manager should possess specific skills to complement the own portfolio as well as to enable some learning.

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Interactive Brokers (Sell), Sino AG (Buy), Tiffany & Co (Buy)

Interactive Brokers:

As mentioned in the comments on the previous post, I sold my Interactive Broker stocks.  Why ? Mainly because of the following reasons:

  • although I still think that it is a very good company, I reconsidered some of my assumptions after reading the “Chuck” Schwab autobiography
  • Despite the fact that the  Covid-19 crisis seems to have driven an increase in new accounts and trading commissions, the long term effects of lower interest rates (and margins) will be significant as interest margins are the main driver of profitability in the mid- to long term. My current scenario is that interest rates will remain very low even in the US for a very long time.

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Panic Journal 6 – After the “Hammer”

At the time of writing, it seems that the worst is over at least for the developing world. Numbers of newly infected persons are shrinking and in the Epicenter, Wuhan, life slowly seems to open up again. Yes, the number of deaths is still rising but this is to be expected as there is at least a 10-14 day delay in deaths compared to new infections.

All in all, it looks that “the hammer” including lock downs seems to have worked for the time being. For me time to think about two areas:

  1. What did I learn in the last few weeks ?
  2. What should I focus on going forward ?

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Panic Journal (4) – Consolidation

Transaction summary:

The last few days were almost  “High Frequency Trading” for me with more transactions in 10 days than the 2 years before. Here is the overview (also in the comments) after my “Panic Journal 1” Post including a short assessment. I have also listed the stocks that I bought before the panic as part of my “German” basket, but which I should have clearly bought later.

Overall, I added 10 11 (!!) new positions, sold 3 positions and ended up with a cash position of 14,4% (this is also an effect of the ~-22% lower portfolio value YTD).

I was clearly too early in many case, but what I have learned over the last 20 years or so is the following: In a tanking market you always look stupid in the short term as a buyer and smart as a seller. In the long term, you look smart when you have bought at cheap valuations and you look stupid if you sold at cheap valuations.

This week I need to slow down a little more and think if everything that I did really makes sense ;-). I will try to limit daily transactions to 0.5% of the portfolio in any direction.

My overall assessment at the moment is that some sectors (Travel, events) will be hit much longer than I initially thought. I do think that “The Hammer and the Dance” scenario is a very likely one.

Here is the the transaction list:

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Panic Journal (1) – “Baby steps”

This post is written mostly for myself in order to document my thoughts and actions and to learn from my obvious mistakes. But I promise that the blog won’t turn into a short term trading site !!

Today was a lot worse than I expected. Who would have expected that OPEC members disagree and the Oil price would tank more than 30% overnight ? In general, lower oil prices are good for most economies, but such a move will create some issues with regard to margin loans, counter party risk, indebted frackers etc etc.

So instead of the expected Monday “Corona panic” we have now the “Corona + Oil super panic”. Plus some strange moves like the EUR gaining strongly against the USD, despite Europe always being in the weaker position, even now with the Corona Virus.

Nevertheless, I started to put some money at work. Surprisingly not in the tourism sector, as I need to do more homework there.  Not everyone might have read the comments but this is what I bought today:

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Updates: Kinnevik (SELL), Vostok New Ventures (ADD), Vostok Emerging Finance (BUY)

Kinnevik

Kinenvik was an investement I first looked at in December 2017 and then decided to invest in late 2018 however only up to a 1,5% allocation.

As mentioned in the comments by a reader. since then a few things happened. From the market side, first their Zalando stock cratered and then recovered. What worries me more is the flurry of personal changes including Christina Stenbeck, the heir of the major founding family completely leaving the board. Personally; i also didn’t find their main new investment, online Grocer MatHem, very convincing. Overall, I am slightly underwhelmed from the strategic perspective. I don’t know enough about the Nordic Telecom market and if I really like Zalando, I could buy them outright. The non-listed part at Kinnevik is just to small to make a difference and the changes in the Board are hard to understand.

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My 22 (+1) investments for 2019

Edit: I actually forgot to include Expedia…..

This post has become now a small tradition at the end of December and is also very helpful for me to review my holdings.

The summaries of the previous years can be found here:

My 21 investments for 2018
My 27 investments for 2017
My 27 investments for 2016
My 28 investments for 2015
My 24 investments for 2014
My 22 investments for 2013

From the 21 stocks of last year, 4 have left the portfolio:

Silver Chef and Metro were clear mistakes from my side and I exited them as discussed with significant losses. IGE & XAO was a much more positive case. The company received a buy-out offer from Schneider SA and I exited at 138 EUR per share. DOM Security finally was merged into the main shareholder company SFPI. Luckily, I could sell 40% of my holdings at 75 EUR/ share.

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How to invest into Venture Capital part 2: Augmentum, Vostok & others

This is the follow-up on part 1 some days ago.. These were the listed VC vehicles,I presented as the base in part 1 (in brackets my short vote for the first 4)

  • Softbank (too crazy)
  • Kinnevik (Yes)
  • Rocket Internet (bad rep)
  • German Startup Group (no thanks)
  • Vostok New Ventures
  • Vostok Emerging Finance
  • Augmentum

I have added two US vehicles to this list:

  • Firsthand Technology Value Fund (SVVC)
  • GSV Capital (GSVC)

A few thoughts on Permanent Capital vs. “classical” fund structure vs. “SPACs”

In the previous post, one commentator mentioned that he was “sceptical of permanent capital” vehicles. Personally I would not support this. Berkshire Hathaway for instance is a permanent investment vehicle with quite some success. However there are other vehicles like Greenlight Re or Bill Ackman’s Persing NV which clearly have done a lousy job for shareholders as we can see in this chart: (Greenlight in yellow, Pershing Square blue):

greenlight pershing

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