Greenland is turning Green and that’s not good

By far the most depressing thing I have seen in a long time. This is a post on global warming when it’s -25°C here in Canada. Vice News’ Shane Smith travels to Greenland to investigate why the glaciers are melting, and how the resulting rise in sea level will devastate our world sooner than expected. It was aired on HBO last month and it’s pure depression. In this case depression is synonymous with also the scariest thing I have seen in a long time.

The melting glacier and global warming. It’s hard to explain the magnitude of the problem until you see it. It’s weird that something with major global catastrophic consequence doesn’t really get any attention. There’s no urgency to address the problem. It’s like “oh I know, global warming, that’s really bad, so what are the Kardashians up to?” There’s something about global warming that doesn’t grab you emotionally. It’s like telling you for the 400th time that cigarettes will make your lungs go black and you will die from cancer. You know it’s true but you ain’t quitting. Why? There’s no emotional reaction. That’s why I recommend watching this little news clip, it’s educational and it hits the emotional button on global warming.

Oh, and if that’s not depressing enough the 2nd part of the show focus on Pakistan, where millions of men, women, and children work as bonded laborers in brick kilns. It makes a sweatshop factory looked like a dream job.

Happy Friday!!!


Photo Credits: Google Images

A Cheaper Plane Ticket to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway AGM

I made an interesting discovery while shopping for planes tickets to go to Omaha, Nebraska for the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting.  Because of the popularity of the event, US airlines take advantage of the situation to boost ticket prices. By shopping around I found to save money and it could work if you live near a Canadian airport.

Since I’m on the US-Canada border, I can either fly from Canada or the U.S. Normally, if I have a flight in the U.S., I usually take off from a US airport since US domestic flights are much cheaper compare to leaving from Canada, except for going to Omaha Nebraska on the first weekend of May. It appear that Canadian airlines don’t jack up prices for that special weekend. This is pure discrimination because I’m redirected to an US airline for the trip. I also have one stop in the US to pick up people that paid more than me to get to the same destination. Maybe it’s because Canadians doesn’t have that many BRK shareholders. So here’s how you save money:

1) Buy your cheaper ticket in Canada

2) Use your strong US dollar. At the moment one USD = ~1.25 CAD.

That’s like a form of double dipping. You save on the ticket plus you save on the exchange. On the downside, you have to leave the US to come back in the US. It’s weird how it works.

I don’t know if it will work all the time and if it will work from anywhere in Canada, but it worth’s to a ticket search.




Billionaires – Hollywood vs Real Life

Billionaires real life vs hollywood

THE EUROPEAN CHESSBOARD: A Map Of The Russia-NATO Confrontation

I just saw this excellent map of the Ukraine/NATO vs Russia conflict on Business Insider. If you feel a little lost and confused with conflict, the map below can help sort things out. Another cease fire agreement was reached today, let’s how long this one last.

Voilà a detailed map with conflict zone, military bases, nukes and troops.

Repost from Business Insider
By Armin Rosen, Mike Nudelman AND Amanda Macias

russia vs nato Europe map

The Most-Promising Emerging and Frontier Markets, Ranked

Bloomberg has an interesting article on the most-promising emerging and frontier markets with two tables of the ranking. It’s not the ranking that interest me but the tables which I posted below. The rankings are based on a bunch of indicators, so it’s very subjective and what they think and what will happen are two different things.

The tables are interesting because it provides a bunch of useful info in an organized manner. It provides a country estimated 2015 GDP growth with price to book ratio of the main equity index. South Korea, the #1 ranked country, trade at 1x book value.  A low book value ratio is a good place to start looking but you need to do your homework to make sure it’s not a value trap. For example, Ukraine trades at .50x book value, you can make the argument that it’s warranted. The point is that you don’t buy a stock or country index just on one valuation metric. If it was that easy everybody would be rich.

The table also provides the two-year sovereign credit default swap (CDS) spread, a measure of risk interpreted in basis points. So 50 basis point is 0.50% and 100 basis point is a full percent. It gets a little more complex than that but to summarize they are like an insurance policy against debt default. For example, a country with a perceive high risk of default, such as Russia or Greece, will have a higher CDS spread. That means it’s more expensive to insure against against debt default. If a country is believed to respect its debt obligation like South Korea, the CDS spread is low. In the event of default the buyer of the CDS receives compensation.

Lowest price to book value:

  1. Cyprus: 0.1x
  2. Chile: 0.3x
  3. Panama: 0.4x
  4. Latvia: 0.5x
  5. Ukraine: 0.5x
  6. Kazakhstan: 0.6x
  7. Bulgaria: 0.6x
  8. Russia: 0.7x
  9. Greece: 0.7x
  10. Hungary: 0.8x
  11. Croatia: 0.8x

As you can see from the countries above, it’s not certainly not the Pax-Romana of investing land. I raised an eyebrow when I saw Venezuela trading at a very high 4.5x book value, the most expensive on both lists. The country is in a recession and about to default, you can see that is reflected it’s CDS spread of 6420 basis points (64.2%!). I didn’t look into why the stocks are so high and it might be the topic of another post. So I won’t speculate for now.

Most promising emerging markets

Most promising frontier markets

Shake Shack

Shake Shack logo

I recently read Shake Shack S-1 prior to the IPO.  It’s definitely a special company being run by great people. Danny Meyer is the guy behind Shake Shack and many other great restaurants. He took Shake Shack from a single hot-dog stand to a business with a market cap over $1 billion. So for anyone outside with a hot-dog stand that dreams of becoming a billionaire, now you know it’s possible. Danny also has a book on the business of hospitality that I plan to read. I have never had the chance to go to one of Danny’s restaurants but simply by reading this sample below from the S-1 gives you a glimpse on their philosophy and on why they are having so much success.

This is a copy and paste of the S-1:

What Makes Shake Shack Special
        1. Our culture of Enlightened Hospitality: taking care of each other.    We believe that the culture of our team is the single most important factor in our success. We aim to recruit and develop a team with the innate “personality to please” that cannot be taught. We look for people who are warm, friendly, motivated, caring, self-aware and intellectually curious team members, or what we call “51%’ers.” We use the term “51%” to describe the emotional skills needed to thrive at the job and “49%” to describe the technical skills needed for the job. Our 51%’ers are excited and committed to championship performance, remarkable and enriching hospitality, embodying our culture and actively growing themselves and the brand. Our team is trained to understand and practice the values of Enlightened Hospitality: caring for each other, caring for our guests, caring for our community, caring for our suppliers and caring for our investors. These principles have been championed by Danny Meyer throughout his career and are detailed in his New York Times best-selling book Setting the TableThe Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business; they are fundamental to the way Shake Shack operates its business. We invest in our team through extensive leadership development programs to ensure that Shake Shack remains a great place to work and an exciting career choice for team members at every level. We have built a culture of active learning and we foster an environment of leadership development throughout the entire lifecycle of employment. We seek to be the employer of choice by offering above industry average compensation in most markets, comprehensive benefits and a variety of incentive programs, including a monthly revenue-sharing program with our employees. We believe that our culture of Enlightened Hospitality enables us to develop future leaders from within and deliver a consistent Shack experience as we continue to grow.
        2. Fine Casual: inspired food and drink.    We embrace our Company’s fine-dining heritage and are committed to sourcing premium, sustainable ingredients, such as all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free beef, while offering excellent value to our guests. Our core menu remains focused and is supplemented with targeted innovation inspired by the best versions of the classic American roadside burger stands. As a result of culinary creativity and excellence, we attract continued interest from partners such as award-winning chefs, talented bakers, farmers and artisanal purveyors who want to collaborate with us in different and engaging ways. We never stop looking for the best culinary ingredients and the best partners in order to exceed our guests’ expectations in every aspect of their experience.
        3. Beloved lifestyle brand.    In Shake Shack’s 10-year history, we have become a globally recognized brand with outsized consumer awareness relative to our current footprint. Shake Shack is a New York City institution, a vibrant and authentic community gathering place that delivers an unparalleled experience to loyal, passionate guests and a broad, global demographic. Born in 2004, Shake Shack grew up alongside the emergence of social media and has benefited from an ongoing love affair with passionate fans who share their real-time experiences with friends. We aim to establish genuine connections with our guests and the communities in which they live. Each Shack is localized with design and menu options that we believe drive a sense of appreciation and enthusiasm for the Shake Shack brand. Shake Shack has been recognized with numerous accolades, includingBon Appétit’s “The 20 Most Important Restaurants in America” (ranked #16), TIME Magazine’s “17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time” (ranked #7 for the ShackBurger) and winning “Best Burger” in 2007 and 2014 at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s Burger Bash.
        4. Versatile real estate model built for growth.    During fiscal 2013, we grew the number of our domestic company-operated Shacks by 62% with the opening of eight new Shacks, and have opened 10 domestic company-operated Shacks during fiscal 2014. We will continue to not only fill in existing markets such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago and South Florida to leverage operational effectiveness as we cluster in high-density markets, but also enter new markets, such as Austin, where we have signed leases. Although we currently have only 63 Shacks around the world, we have identified many attractive and differentiated markets for the Shake Shack experience. In major metropolitan areas, we seek locations where communities gather, often with characteristics such as high foot traffic, substantial commercial density, reputable co-tenants and other traffic drivers such as proximity to parks, museums, schools, hospitals and tourist attractions. For every potential domestic company-operated Shack we consider, we apply rigorous financial metrics to ensure we maintain our targeted profitability. We measure much of our financial success by analyzing Shack-level operating profit margins, cash-on-cash returns and payback periods. Our flexible model allows us to design our Shacks so that we can pursue a variety of property types. We have successfully launched different layouts and sizes of Shacks in varied locations throughout urban high density areas, suburban in-line and pad sites, regional malls, lifestyle centers, ballparks, airports and train stations. Each design is critical to the Shake Shack experience and we blend our core brand identifiers with features specifically designed for each Shack to be of its place and connect directly with its neighborhood. With a disciplined approach to new Shack development and a successful track record in site selection, we are positioned well for future growth.
        5. Shack-onomics.    Our brand power and thoughtful approach to growth have resulted in strong Shack performance across a variety of geographic areas and formats and during both strong and weak economic environments. Our Shack model is designed to generate attractive Shack-level operating profit margins, strong cash flow and high returns on invested capital. We have notable AUVs at both Manhattan Shacks and non-Manhattan Shacks. In fiscal 2013, our domestic company-operated Shacks had AUVs of approximately $5.0 million, of which our Manhattan Shacks generated AUVs of approximately $7.4 million with Shack-level operating profit margins of approximately 30% and our non-Manhattan Shacks generated AUVs of approximately $3.8 million with Shack-level operating profit margins of approximately 22%. Historically, our domestic company-operated Shacks have delivered an attractive average cash-on-cash return of 65% and payback period of 1.5 years, of which our Manhattan Shacks generated an average cash-on-cash return of 82% and payback period of 1.2 years and our non-Manhattan Shacks generated an average cash-on-cash return of 31% and payback period of 3.2 years. Since the vast majority of future Shacks will be non-Manhattan locations, we are targeting AUVs in the $2.8 to $3.2 million range, Shack-level operating profit margins in the 18 to 22% range and cash-on-cash returns in the 30 to 33% range.
        6. The Shack travels abroad.    With 27 licensed Shacks outside the United States, we believe that we have proven to be an internationally desirable restaurant concept. Our track record of opening successful Shacks in both the United States and overseas demonstrates the global appeal of Shake Shack and validates our belief in our significant whitespace opportunity internationally. We currently have license agreements for four major international territories, with Shacks operating in eight countries. The Middle East has been our most prominent growth market with 20 Shacks in operation, followed by Turkey with four, Russia with two and the United Kingdom with one. In fiscal 2013, our international licensed Shacks had AUVs of approximately $6.1 million, which resulted in license fees of approximately $3.5 million. In addition to license fees, we also receive exclusive territory fees, which help us fund further domestic growth.
        7. Leaders training future leaders.    Our team is led by passionate and experienced senior leaders, balanced with professionals formerly from USHG’s fine dining operations and industry veterans from larger restaurant companies. Randy Garutti, our Chief Executive Officer, combines strategic multi-unit leadership experience with fine dining expertise. Randy has worked in restaurants since he was 13 and joined USHG in 2000 as General Manager of Tabla, followed by Union Square Cafe, and later took on the role of Director of Operations overseeing all USHG restaurants, prior to launching the first Shake Shack in 2004. Randy has led the development of the Shake Shack concept from its earliest stages and guided every aspect of the business. Jeff Uttz, our Chief Financial Officer, brings valuable experience managing high growth restaurant concepts drawing from his 22 years of restaurant finance experience, most recently as Chief Financial Officer at Yard House Restaurants. Jeff led the expansion of Yard House from three units when he began to over 40 units when Yard House was acquired by Darden Restaurants, Inc. Randy and Jeff are supported by a talented executive leadership team that has deep experience in operations, culinary arts, supply chain, finance and accounting, training and leadership development, people resources, real estate and design, construction and facilities, information technology, legal, marketing and communications.



The Shipping Man By Matthew McCleery

The Shipping Man cover

I really enjoyed reading The Shipping Man (TSM) by Matthew McCleery. TSM is a novel that combines finance, business, and a great story. There’s something exotic about having your own giant tanker ship. Who doesn’t want a ship that travels to the world most exotic places? And that same ship can make you rich really quickly but can absolutely ruin you. You don’t need to be a professional in finance to read this book. I’m actually recommending it for beginners in finance because you get the chance to see boring financial concepts to work. There’s also pirates and over the top characters just in case you need more convincing.  I have attached the first chapter, courtesy of Marine Money International, the company behind the book. ShippingManChapter1 (pdf).

The book follows the story of hedge fund manager Robert Fairchild. With a dull life and an under-performing hedge fund, Robert stumbles into the adventures of ship finance. The ocean shipping industry is a rock and roll one where I don’t think too many people sleeps at night. It’s definitely not for your conservative investor.

This book takes you in the seat of numerous people. The investors, the traders,  shipping tycoons, the bankers, the ship inspectors, the Greeks and more.

If you plan on buying the current shipping stocks that have been tanking since the financial crisis, read this book first. You will learn what a TEU is (twenty-foot equivalent), charter rates, DIP (debtor-in-possession), the BDI (Baltic Dry Index), the cost of capital, negative carry-fee, cash-flow leverage and marine economics while being entertained. It seems complex but it’s not when you are enjoying it.

Here a few passages:

“Everyone knows what a ship was worth and everyone thinks they know what a ship will be worth in the future. It is a market comprised of experts, but the experts are not always right. In fact, the experts are often wrong”…”The expert are often wrong because they know too much about a market that is inherently unknowable…”

“Yes, another problem is that everyone has the same information, which means there is no hidden value; there is only the market. If the market goes up, you win. If the market goes down, you lose. And the moment you think there is no risk, that is the same moment you have failed to recognize the risk. At least the market doesn’t lie.”

“You are going to be successful at this business because you are a little crazy and you need to be a little crazy to be a ship owner.”

There’s a sequel that I plan to read, Viking Raid, I will try to keep you posted on that.