Sunday, March 12, 2006

More odds and ends

A few comments on this past week's events.
  • Dubai Ports World announced that it won't be taking over US ports' operations. This voluntary move should take the sting out of the threatened moves by legislators. It is a sad end to this saga. Mark this as the official rebirth of xenophobia and protectionism in the US. What was surprising was not that politicians raised concerns, but that, according to various polls, ordinary Americans saw this takeover as cause for concern. That is disturbing. Capital wants to be free and trade wants no barriers. No ill-will here, but along with the earlier forced aborting of takeover of Unocal by a Chinese firm, I see this as early signs of the beginning of the end of an empire - an empire that has finally found the shell that it wants to retreat into. US needs more friends in the Middle East. With this act of holding an entire nation accountable for the act of two terrorists, US has lost its sense of reasoning. We are talking about a moderate Middle East nation here - in fact, a country where the people view the US favorably. Should the Federal government blacklist all Oklahoma based companies from bidding for contracts because a few militiamen went berserk ? As for the quality of the firm, Dubai Ports World can teach a thing or two about managing ports efficiently and keeping them clean! Heck, I wish Emirates Air took over the operations of Continental and American Airlines - we may actually see better service, not to mention a few smiles.
  • We finally got someone with credibility to speak up against executive (over)compensation. Warren Buffett spoke out against fund fees and executive compensation, especially exit compensation packages that have now become mind-numbing. The good news is that this was heard loud and clear by the media. The bad news is that Buffett carefully avoided naming names, and this is a shame, actually made an excuse for the gross overcompensation that was part of the P&G / Gillette deal. This is the exact mindset that probably makes every executive think that he or she is different and deserves it.
  • I have been harsh on real-estate in the past. I still think real-estate doesn't make sense. But Mojave could be a good speculative buy now. Space tourism has moved from science fiction pages to Business Week and is set to become a mass-market within a decade. Mojave is set to be the center of this industry, unless New Mexico is able to beat it with attractive government grants/tax-breaks. It is Silicon Valley all over again, but this time you get a good deal on the land! My own brush with Mojave was accidental - I ran out of gas in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but realised that Mojave town's gas stations were just a few miles away. That was my first real entry into the town, having bypassed it during past trips.


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