Buffett’s Investment in Dempster Mill–A Cigar Butt

Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Superinvestors, Warren Buffett

I came across a case study that discusses Dempster Mill recently. I thought I’d post a brief summary of some notes I jotted down while reading it. Dempster Mill is a company that Buffett bought in the early 1960’s when operating his partnership. The company manufactured farm equipment, specifically windmills and water irrigation systems. It was a difficult business because the farm equipment it made was not much different than its competitors’ products, and because of these commodity-like economics, the […]

Lessons from the Fall of SunEdison

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Case Studies

“The boom is drawn out and accelerates gradually; the bust is sudden and often catastrophic.” – George Soros, Alchemy of Finance There was a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago on the story of “the swift rise and calamitous fall” of SunEdison (SUNE). Like a number of other promotional, Wall Street-fueled rise and falls, SunEdison became a victim of its own financial engineering, among other things. SUNE saw rapid growth thanks in large part […]

Comments on Mistakes and Buffett’s Original Berkshire Purchase

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Superinvestors, Warren Buffett

I was reading through the 2014 (last year’s) Berkshire Hathaway annual report and 10-K looking for a few things, and happened to reread Buffett’s letter from last year. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago concerning buybacks and Outerwall, and how a company that is buying back stock of a dying business is not a good use of capital. I noticed a passage in last year’s letter that is relevant to the topic—Buffett himself was attracted to buybacks on a […]

Outerwall, Buybacks, and Activists

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, General Thoughts

Outerwall is a stock that has been struggling as the cash flows from Red Box are drying up much faster than investors have expected. Not only that, but Outerwall management has had the troubling habit of throwing good money after bad by “investing” in things like ecoATM–kiosks that allow you to turn in your old cell phones for cash, a concept that doesn’t seem to be gaining traction. This spending on business lines that were unlikely to succeed was all in an […]

Some Notes on Fastenal’s Results

Posted on 12 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Investment Ideas & Company Research

I wrote a post a few months ago on Fastenal’s quarterly results. As I mentioned then, it’s one of the few companies that puts out an earnings press release that is more like a quarterly investor letter than a typical corporate press release. As I did last quarter, I thought I’d basically share some of the notes I wrote down in my FAST file as I read through the press release. This isn’t comprehensive, but I’ll probably get into the […]

Focusing on the Investment Process

Posted on 19 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Education, General Thoughts

“It is the basics. It is focusing on selection, low prices, and reliable, convenient, fast delivery. It’s the cumulative effect of having this approach for 14 years. I always tell people, if we have a good quarter it’s because of the work we did three, four, and five years ago. It’s not because we did a good job this quarter.” – Jeff Bezos, 2009 The new year is always a good time to review your investment process. The other day, […]

Valeant, Short Selling, and the Too-Hard Pile

Posted on 12 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Investment Philosophy

In general, I find reading short reports to be a very valuable exercise. I don’t do much shorting in my partnership, but I find that for the most part, short sellers provide a useful service to the capital markets and I think that the good short sellers (who are few and far between) often do more thorough investigative analysis than the vast majority of long-only investors. For a good book on shorting, I recommend reading Scott Fearon’s book called Dead […]

Focus on the Key Variables of an Investment

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Investment Quotes, Warren Buffett

Earlier this year I watched Lang Lang play Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor—one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. The concerto is a monster—full of big octaves, virtuosity, excitement and power. It has around 30,000 notes, but the music is tied together with a simple 10 note melody that is repeated throughout the piece. I am currently working on a few different investment ideas that have numerous moving parts, but as I conduct my research, I continue coming back to […]

Sears and Seven-Foot Hurdles

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Case Studies

A few weeks back I came across an article that someone had posted on Sears. It is a fascinating read for a few different reasons. One, I think Sears is an excellent case study of the retail industry and the difficulties of investing and allocating capital in that type of business, and two, the article was written in the summer of 1988. This post is not a prediction of the demise of Sears, or an indictment against those who find value […]

Buffett’s PetroChina Investment: Finding Large Gaps Between Price & Value

Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in Case Studies, Investment Philosophy, Investment Quotes, Superinvestors, Warren Buffett

“You don’t have to know a man’s exact weight to know that he’s fat.” – Ben Graham I was reading through some notes from the 2008 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting and one of the questions grabbed my attention. The question was pertaining to Warren Buffett’s decision to purchase stock in PetroChina back in 2002. Basically, the questioner was surprised that Buffett made such a sizable investment after a seemingly small amount of due diligence saying “all you did was read the annual report… […]