Involving: a hedge fund manager smackdown over Herbalife (so much entertainment!), Soros turns into a gold bear, a corporate tax solution/opinion, and Warren Buffett buys ketchup.

Good morning

The headlines:

  1. Gold bears.

    Link: about time, really.

    George Soros and John Paulson are the two gentlemen who are usually cited when someone talks about gold, or exchange-traded funds linked to gold. And they’ve been building up reserves in it/them for ages.

    Soros, however, has started dis-investing. By, like, more than half. Paulson is holding steady – but Mr Paulson is really just famous for being contrarian on the subprime mortgage market back in 2005/2006. So, like, either he’s an awesome investor. Or he’s just really really pessimistic.

    I have been prepping a gold rant for some time (a follow up on this post from last year). I still haven’t changed my mind. Expect it soon.

  2. Fixing corporate tax.

    Link: I like this opinion.

    One of the issues that governments face is the fact that global companies are global, where tax is national. So, then, how to tax them? Because if you get unfriendly, the expenses get funnelled into your country, and the revenue gets funnelled out, and the subsidiary web just slips the taxable profit elsewhere. But governments hate to do that, so they also like to incentivise companies to settle by offering tax breaks.

    What the bureaucrats seem to be suggesting is that the governments of the world harmonise their tax systems: which is monumentally (a) difficult; and (b) foolish. The difficulty is obvious. And it’s foolish because, like, let’s say that they manage to do it and everyone harmonises. What then? Well then – every single country has the incentive to cheat. Because if one does as the rest hold steady, they get a sudden rush of foreign direct investment. Boom.

    The suggestion in this article is that governments go back to taxing the investments of individuals, and dropping corporate taxation. Because ultimately, all corporate value gets reflected in the investments held be individuals, their family trusts, and their pension/provident/retirement funds (which are ultimately theirs anyway). It’s not so easy for individuals to just funnel their money into their subsidiaries in the Caymans and Hong Kong. I can’t make my right hand the only part of me that’s resident in Bermuda.

    And it’s a trade-off. Lower corporate taxes make for higher investment values – which can then be taxed through people who can appear in court and get imprisoned. Doesn’t it sound like a much more energy efficient process?

  3. Berkshire buys Heinz.

    Link: does anyone else notice Berkshire’s obsession with food product?

    Berkshire-Hathaway and 3G Capital are joining forces to buy out Heinz.

    Heinz will join Coca-Cola, Dairy Queen and Kraft Foods in a solid list of well-branded food/beverage product investments made by Mr Buffett and Co.

  4. The Tale of Carl Icahn.

    Link: “challenge accepted”.

    The Herbalife saga (read here) is awesome. Pyramid scheme accusations and short-selling (link: an explanation of short-selling) and billionaire fights between Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn on CNBC (the clip).

    During said clip, the key question that went unanswered: “Carl – do you own any Herbalife stock?”

    Answer: he does. Although it was apparently bought after the live meltdown through a series of call options.

    The Crux: Ackman has a $1 billion short position (about 20% of the stock); Icahn is now holding 13% of the stock.

    Even if Ackman is right about the pyramid scheme: Herbalife just became entirely irrelevant. This is now a Battle of the Hedge Fund managers. Icahn seems out to ensure that Bill Ackman is forced to make a loss. Because Mr Icahn has now “reached out” to Herbalife to discuss “a going-private discussion”.

    And what does that mean? It means that anyone that has lent Herbalife shares is going to recall them from Mr Ackman just in case. So if Bill is holding to his short position: then that’s well unfortunate for his investors.


That’s all for now.

Have a good day.