Monday, June 18, 2012

My Big Fat Greek Weekend

It's all over: there was a Greek election, as opposed to a return of the Colonels, which is good news.  There will be a coalition, and that's better than anarchy.  So really, nothing beyond the obvious has happened to assuage the markets, and certainly no positive surprise.

In the financial press, it is a discouraging sign that there are so many different Eurocrats speaking and opining about what to do next.  As much as Mario Draghi, as President of the ECB, wants to be the Paul Volcker figure of the European crisis, he doesn't seem to have the political support in Bonn and Paris that he needs.  White papers can be issued and ideas floated, but there is no Eurocrat financial leader who can really move this process forward.  Perhaps most discouraging is the Spanish government's rather puerile insistence on accepting Euro assistance for its banking sector without any commitment to quick resolution of its problem banks. 

On a different note, we wrote in May about Dodge and Cox Growth Fund reporting a Nokia position of 53.3 million shares at March 31, 2012, worth $292.5 million at the time.  The stake is worth considerably less today.  However, the financial press is abuzz about Microsoft stepping to buy Nokia: it seems that MSFT would have few reasons NOT to buy Nokia at this point.

Microsoft, as is its wont, is generationally late to the smart phone and tablet markets, and it has announced plans to develop its own tablet.  They are generally not competent at developing consumer products, perhaps with the exception of XBox.  However, Nokia really pioneered the modern cell phone, discounting the early ATT remodeling of the military satellite phone.  Nokia phones were small, easy to use, had excellent battery life, good form factors and were durable.  They should be able to develop the products for them, which is worth a LOT to MSFT shareholders.

The culture in Finland is very much of a Silicon Valley software company, and it's now headed by an ex-Microsoft exec.  Plus the final decider: the vast patent portfolio would not be something MSFT would want to be picked off by Google or its Android partners.  One presumes current discussions are about terms, timing and executive succession at Nokia.  Sometimes value investors have to get bailed out to realize their value: nothing wrong with that.

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