Good morning

Note: to receive these posts in your inbox, please sign up at the top of the sidebar on the homepage.

The headlines:

  1. China has new leaders.

    Link: the rise of Xi.

    Xi and Li it is. First onto the stage (the traditional way of announcing new leadership – the new Politburo Standing Committee come out onto the stage in order of authority).

    Xi also took over chairmanship of the Central Military Commission – which is less traditional, as the outgoing president usually remains chairman for two years after he hands over the presidency. This is going to result in “stability” and “consolidation of power”.

    Mr Jinping has also pledged some reforms.

    Expect days of news headlines about what this all means for America.

    I’m not sure why everyone is so dead keen on Chinese political reform. It’s not like democratic capitalism has been such a roaring success for the West… Hello?

  2. A Buffett of community newspapers.

    Link: less one.

    Berkshire has announced the closing of the Manassas News & Messenger in Virginia. The newspaper was part of a collective Media General Inc. purchase and had a circulation of 10,000 – and seeing as 33 jobs are being cut, it must have consisted of 33 members of staff.

    Do we not think it strange that Mr Buffett seems to have this obsession with small-town community newspapers?

    Maybe it is. Mr Buffett’s line is “community newspapers can withstand an advertising slump” – which means that these newspapers could get by with just subscription proceeds. I’m not sure if that makes them an awesome investment though: community newspapers are never going to be associated with “economies of scale”.

    THAT SAID: there is another argument to make here. Which is that we are quickly going to become disillusioned with the quality of the news we’re getting. Sure: twitter and facebook and free news sites. But that’s not really quality, is it? Plenty of bias and conjecture and no fact-checking.

    There are a multitude of clichés around “the modern world” and “information is everything”. Are we willing to pay for quality information? I’m not convinced that the general public will distinguish that (think: Heat magazine). But possibly…

  3. Tea with your Starbucks.

    Link: more hot beverage than before.

    Starbucks has agreed to buy Teavana for $620 million. This is in addition to the recent Starbucks’ purchase of the Tazo tea brand.

    Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead: “We should be leading in tea.”

    I’m not sure that the market agreed yesterday, in a spate of selling after the afternoon announcement:

  4. More QE?

    Wrote about it here.

  5. New violent strikes in South Africa.

    Link: more less whining.

    The strikes have spread to the vineyard workers in the Western Cape, where one person has already died. The strikers are “demanding” a doubling of their salaries.

    The farmers have apparently seen protesters being bussed in – which does suggest that there is some political targeting of the only province in South Africa that isn’t run by the ruling ANC party.

    The mining – I can maybe understand. The vineyards? No.

    When I lived in Cape Town, the urban legend was that there were only two profitable vineyards in the whole of the Western Cape. That may be untrue – but the point is that the vineyards are capital-intensive, long-term projects with extraordinarily high levels of financial risk. What will happen if the workers strike?

    The farms will close.

    You can’t just *demand* higher wages in that type of industry.

  6. How not to tax.

    Link: attention Monsieur Hollande.

    It looks like the financial transactions tax is backfiring. The idea was to tax the wealthy and the speculators on their purchases and sales of shares. What has happened?


    The speculators are buying CFDs (Contracts for Difference) from brokers which give them exposure to gains and losses on the shares without them actually having to hold the shares.

    But who does have to hold the shares and pay the transaction tax? Pension, Provident and Retirement funds. And small individual investors without the clout to buy CFDs.

    Now, the French government is suggesting that the real solution here is to make this an international tax.

    Fail, M. Hollande. Fail.

  7. Glencore-Xstrata.

    Link: the vote is back on and there’s a countdown.

    The vote is on November 20th. This time Qatar Holdings is seemingly on board.

That’s all for now.

Have a good day.