Marben's Misc Bits

Monday, Apr 02 2012 by

Well, I've finally moved into the 21st century and have started tweeting @marben100 .

Seems like a great medium for exchanging brief investment notes. However, it's not so good where things need more explanation or tweets need to be discussed... So, I've created this thread as a place to post more detail that doesn't conveniently fit into another thread - e.g. economic/political topics and brief posts on non UK companies that S'pedia can't yet support.

If anyone wants to discuss my tweets,or ask questions about them, this would be a good place to do so.

Filed Under: Investment Strategies,


The author may hold shares in this company, all opinions are his own and you should check any statements that appear factual and not rely on them before making an investment decision. The author is NOT a qualified analyst nor authorised to give investment advice. Whilst the author is a director of ShareSoc, all views expressed are entirely his own and not necessarily those of ShareSoc.

Do you like this Post?
22 thumbs up
1 thumb down
Share this post with friends

174 Posts on this Thread show/hide all

SparksTrader 6th Apr '12 16 of 174

Informative and enjoyable reply as always, sincere thank Mark

| Link | Share
marben100 6th Apr '12 17 of 174

Though, as some have commented, I've "hit the ground running" with Twitter :0), I'm still a "noob" to the medium and am finding it fascinating/useful. Thought I'd share some of my observations and experiences, for those not already familiar with it.

First, it is very simple, at least superficially. Like Google in its early days, your personal home page is very sparse (to begin with). One of the things that delayed me joining Twitter was that I was concerned that I would be bombarded by junk messages. What I found is that you are very much in control of what and how much you receive. You won't receive anything until you start "following" other Tweeters (Twits? :0)). Several well known names such as @paulypilot, @Wshak1, @Carmensfella, @MrContrarian, @scawkwell [Evil Knievel], @RebelHQ (CockneyRebel) and little 'ole me (@marben100) are active (but most don't make so many tweets as to flood you with info!).  Perhaps emptyend can be tempted to tweet, if we ask him nicely? :0) Organisations such as @Stockopedia and @ShareSocUK also issue tweets to draw your attention to significant matters. Apologies to the myriad of excellent Tweeters I haven't mentioned.

Once you start following a Tweeter, their messages appear on your Twitter screen in real-time (you can have them e-mailed or sent to your mobile, if you want). That's more valuable than real-time share prices, BTW! Twitter's great strength is that messages are limited to 140 characters. So the medium is perfect for short comments/news updates or for drawing attention to longer posts/web pages. It takes a minimum of effort to note the tweets and decide what you want to explore further. If you want to follow specific people, rather than having to refresh screens for several websites that they might post on, you can just monitor your twitter screen and be made aware of what's new from them (of course, it's up to the individual Tweeter whether they notify all their posts with Tweets).

Finding people you might be interested in following is really easy, once you know one or two. Follow them or type their names into Twitter's seach box and you can call up their "profile". Besides their Tweets, you can also see who they're following - usually, that will suggest some interesting names you might know.

From the perspective of a "Tweeter", I find that Twitter really makes sense in conjunction with a thread like this, so I can post a short comment on Twitter and, where I want, link to a longer post like this. Similarly, discussion of tweets is best on a discussion board like this.


Right, that's the basics, now onto the really interesting bit, from the money-making POV. Have you seen anything in the news about Mali? No? Funny that. If you're an investor in Avion Gold, like me, what's going on in Mali is crucially important. As it happens there have been massive developments in the country. See for part of the story. How did I find out? I typed #Mali into Twitter's search box. It rapidly comes up with a raft of Tweets keeping you up to the minute on developments, e.g. that borders with neighbouring countries have been closed, sanctions have been imposed and military action to restore order is being contemplated by those countries (ECOWAS). Large parts of West Africa seem to be in turmoil. Something investors in the region need to know. Avion's share price continues to decline. I am waiting for a turn in events to add to my holding. By watching Twitter, I can be amongst the first to know.

If you haven't tried Twitter yet, I highly recommend it - give it a whirl and see for yourself!



| Link | Share
marben100 6th Apr '12 18 of 174

Talking about Mali... this is some of the latest unearthed by Twitter. I am stunned that this hasn't made it into the mainstream UK news. It makes me wonder what other important world affairs I'm missing?:


...The UN Security Council says it is gravely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Mali and is calling on all parties to allow aid organisations to help those in need.

But how can aid agencies get to those suffering in a country effectively divided in two by recent fighting and where international sanctions, imposed after last month's coup, are beginning to bite?

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said it is "deeply concerned" by the deteriorating political and security situation in the country where thousands of people continue to flee their homes.

Tuareg rebels are now in control of most of northern Mali - where they want to set up their own independent state. But there are also other armed groups in the area, some linked to al-Qaeda, and there are reports of looting, attacks and rape.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says it has been forced to stop delivering food in parts of northern Mali after its offices and warehouses were ransacked.

In the country's capital, Bamako, economic sanctions imposed by neighbouring countries after the military coup on March 22 are beginning to be felt...




| Link | Share
Asagi 6th Apr '12 19 of 174

That's a useful insight marben100: it sounds like a more immediate news source than the old trick of typing the topic into Google News.

For example, in the old days, this was how I found out about the government's U-turn on Home Information Packs when I had a short on Rightmove (an IPO widely derided at the time as blue-sky, but now looks very cheap!).

I also regularly type 'US online poker legislation' into Google News for the latest on that issue as things seem to be moving forward on a state-by-state basis. However, I'm left wondering if a Twitter search would be so effective for such a narrow topic.

A first attempt suggests it won't help, perhaps due to the nature of the query much is 'spam'. However, it does work in that it suggests some 'People' in the box on the left, who seem to have a comprehensive record tweeting on the exact topic e.g. @CKrafcik

| Link | Share | 1 reply
marben100 6th Apr '12 20 of 174

In reply to Asagi, post #19

Yes, Asagi. Not only is it more immediate than Google news but in situations like this you get tweets in real-time from people actually"on the ground" in places of interest. All they need to do is type their short message into a phone. With traditional media, including sources Google News covers, it may take hours for news to percolate. Of course, with traditional media, good journalists/editors can be expected to check their sources, whereas with a medium like Twitter, you have to do your own editing/filtering - and apply a sceptical eye to sources you do not know/trust.

As you say, a search for news on a topic rapidly leads you to sources worth following.

"Retweeting" is also a powerful mechanism for spreading news. Whenever I come across a tweet that I think will interest the broader investment community, I retweet it to my audience. Similarly, my followers do likewise. When someone retweets a message that you tweet, you get an e-mail informing you of that.

For those thinking of investing in social media, I see serious privacy issues with Facebook, which users will become more and more aware of and may ultimately lead to the business's downfall. Twitter, OTOH, seems to be a powerful tool which will become indispensable. Mind you, how they monetise it is an open question. ;0)



| Link | Share
marben100 8th Apr '12 21 of 174

In reply to SparksTrader, post #9

Without wishing to labour my earlier points, just came across an excellent article in the Psy-Fi Blog that makes the point more clearly than I can:


...The idea that we’re in an arms race against a better equipped, better funded and far less moral enemy isn’t one that most private investors take on, but they should. Despite our manifest deficiencies we aren’t without our own weapons – the behavioral weaknesses of the financial industry itself. We can fight a successful guerrilla war by refusing to engage in a pitched battle on their terms: trade rarely, go where they don’t go and never, ever believe you have to react in seconds or even minutes and hours. When High Frequency Trading algorithms can execute faster than you can blink you’re wasting your time, your money and throwing away your intellectual advantage: faster is not better.

To succeed over and above a globally diverisified tracking fund, you have to find a genuine niche and be (sensibly) contrarian. Find something that the City ignores, or misjudges - and don't forget that the City is far from stupid. You have to be confident in your views, and be prepared to wait it out, sometimes over long periods. OTOH, we also need to seek out and evaluate contrary evidence, trying to override our innate "confirmation bias", and be prepared to admit we're wrong, when it becomes clear that we have been.

It's a tough, but rewarding, balancing act.



| Link | Share
marben100 10th Apr '12 22 of 174

Well, here's an archetypal investment manager to warm the cockles of an LTBH investor's heart:

...Under Mr. Schow, PRIMECAP has always stood out as a quiet iconoclast in the cookie-cutter business of managing other people’s money:

  • The firm manages more than $64 billion, but has limited itself to only 25 clients, most notably the Vanguard Group.
  • Unlike most asset managers, which pursue new clients with all the dignity of drunken teenagers trying to see how many kids can cram into a Volkswagen Beetle, PRIMECAP never sought to manage more money than it could responsibly handle. Its flagship fund, Vanguard PRIMECAP, has been closed to most new investors for more than eight years.
  • The firm charges a maximum management fee of only 0.5%, roughly half the industry average.
  • PRIMECAP trades so seldom that the portfolio turnover numbers in its annual reports seem like typographical errors. At turnover rates of as low 3% to 5%, the firm is on track to keep its typical stock for roughly a quarter-century at a time — versus the one-year holding periods favored by conventional “long-term” money managers.
  • Unlike most other investment firms, PRIMECAP shuns media attention. I spoke to Mr. Schow — whose name is pronounced “SKOW,” to rhyme with “cow” — only once, in 2002. (He told me, “We want to see not only whether managements are honest with shareholders but also whether they’re honest with themselves.”)...


...Vanguard PRIMECAP has generated an average annual return of 13.1% since it launched in late 1984, versus 10.7% for Vanguard 500 Index Fund. A $1,000 investment in PRIMECAP would have grown to roughly $28,800, compared to $15,900 in the index fund, according to Mr. Wiener.

The firm has always sought to identify well-managed, robustly growing companies with low levels of debt — what investors sometimes call “sustainable growth” or “franchise companies...”


R.I.P. Mr Schow: you did a great service to your clients.

The truth I have learnt about investing strategies is that there is no "one size fits all".  We each have to find styles that suit our personality, psychology and objectives.



| Link | Share
marben100 24th Apr '12 23 of 174

In reply to @Greenroom78 's Twitter query about shorting Carpetright (LON:CPR) ....

@marben100 Thanks. Don't understand 'Unborrowable'. Should be able to short everything or nothing at all to create a level playing field.


SB and CFD providers will generally try to maintain a neutral book (and make their money on spreads/commissions/interest). Unless they have corresponding longs to hedge against, to short a stock they need to be able to borrow stock from an institutional holder and then sell it into the market on your behalf. There has recently been a bear squeeze in CPR and stock borrowing has been harder.

IG may well let you short in small size with a telephone order but they won't let you do so online because of this borrowing issue with CPR.



| Link | Share
marben100 26th Apr '12 24 of 174

Just added another tranche of RIT Capital Partners PLC (LON:RCP) @ 1156p, swapping it against a tranche of JPMorgan Brazil Investment Trust PLC (LON:JPB) that I sold a couple of days ago . Here's why:

Firstly, regarding the JPB sale, I have become increasingly concerned about base metal prices on reports that I have heard and read about slowing infrastructure spending in China. With major miners such a Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) , Bhp Billiton (LON:BLT) and Brazil's Vale now heavily dependent on iron ore for profitability, price falls could have a big impact on both their profits and on the Brazilian economy. Growth in Brazil has also been slow (~2%), of late, with little sign of improvement in the near term. These concerns appear to be confirmed (or is that confirmation bias? ;0)) by the latest reports in the FT that I have tweeted about recently - including a near 50% drop in Q1 profits reported by Vale. Some days ago I also halved my holding in Blackrock World Mining Trust PLC (LON:BRWM) on these concerns. I am now  focussing more on oil and gold in my natural resources subportfolio, for the time being, via Medusa Mining (LON:MML) , Pan African Resources (LON:PAF) , Coastal Energy Co (LON:CEO) and Premier Oil (LON:PMO) (with smaller, more speculative holdings in  Bowleven (LON:BLVN) , Diamondcorp (LON:DCP) and Aminex (LON:AEX) too, plus some residual BRWM - despite possible profit falls, major miners still look cheap). I expect these commodities to be more resilient, due to tight supply and relatively robust demand (I recently read an HSBC report of heavy gold buying by central banks). I prefer to focus on producers with low costs that are less geared to oil & gold prices.

Now coming back to today's RIT Capital Partners PLC (LON:RCP) purchase... I like RCP and it's investment philosphy a lot. However, for much of last year it was trading at a growing premium to NAV. With concerns about a toppy market too, I therefore progressively sold my holding, ultimately exiting altogether in August of last year, when the market plunge was not accompanied by a corresponding drop in RCP's share price. In the latter half of last year I even (successfully!) shorted the trust at points when my estimate of it's premium to NAV became silly, and it seemed like a nice hedge against a tumbling market.

That situation is now turning round. The last available NAV report (1217p) was for the end of February, when the FTSE100 stood at 5871 and the S&P500 at 1366. Now whilst the FTSE has fallen to 5746 now, the S&P is actually above the end February figure at 1394. Given that the trust currently has significant US exposure, I therefore do not expect that its NAV is much below the end February figure, whereas its share price has fallen significantly from 1223p at the end of February to 1156p now (plus the Agora realisation will have added value). Hence a discount appears to have opened up  and the shares look better value. The next NAV update will be published in RCP's preliminary results to 31st March, which I expect in June.

NB I remain very nervous about potential shocks to the market from Europe, China and the US, so I maintain a significant cash buffer and hedging in the form of FTSE puts against my equity holdings. Though the puts are expensive, I prefer doing that to just liquidating more of my portfolio, with the market being so difficult to read at present. With many of my stocks already being on cheap multiples/valuations, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where the market (and my investments) grind higher, absent shocks. I will probably actively trade my June puts for longer dated expiries as the mid-June expiry approaches. December FTSE5500 looks attractive, as I fear post-election blues (i.e. reality of the huge deficit biting in the US) maybe no Santa rally this year.



| Link | Share
sirlurkalot 26th Apr '12 25 of 174

On the subject of Twitter mentioned earlier, I find using Tweetdeck as a desktop client for Twitter helps a lot, particularly in the areas of:

a) you can return easily to the point in your stream that you left off reading last time you were at your desk. You do this by Marking All As Seen and Clear Seen up to the point you've got to, at which point you have a blank screen, and then when you return all the tweets there are new so you can start reading at the oldest tweets and quickly start where you left off.

b) you can separate different sorts of tweets to help with privacy issues, as Tweetdeck allows you to set it up to monitor multiple IDs simultaneously. My investment account @SirLurkalot I just use as a rolling news feed for financial sort of things, and whilst I know investment people who look me up can see who I follow, @SirLurkalot only follows financial things which have no connection to my real identity. I suppose I am more concerned about privacy online issues than many other people, and @SirLurkalot in his anonymity is completely isolated in his investment universe. I also have different IDs with completely different usernames for family and friends things and for leisure, travel and sports things, and each is self contained but I can follow all of them simultaneously in the Tweetdeck display.

| Link | Share | 1 reply
marben100 26th Apr '12 26 of 174

In reply to sirlurkalot, post #25

Thanks SirL, I have had Tweetdeck suggested before but hadn't got round to installing it yet. Expect I will do so.

Quite agree with your privacy concerns, and I only use Twitter for financial commentary/news. Whilst I joined Facebook some time ago to use its photo sharing factilites for keeping up with friends and family, I hardly use it now due to those concerns and wouldn't consider using it for anything I'd consider personal. I suspect that this will be a growing problem for Facebook's business model going forward. When frequent users come to realise how much pivate information Facebook holds about them, and how easily that information could be abused, I suspect they'll become much more circumspect about what they post. Google having records of all your search requests is bad enough, but this is in another league.

There have already been reports of some prospective employers (esp. in the US) demanding to know candidates' Facebook passwords, though the legality of this is highly questionable.


| Link | Share | 1 reply
sirlurkalot 26th Apr '12 27 of 174

Hi Mark, Yes I think there are problems for eg students trying to get jobs with their Facebook profiles with partying photos visible to recruiters. One solution is for students to adopt nicknames for Facebook social purposes as distinct from their real names which are for formal jobhunting, but then the lack of any social stuff on the formal name account would itself be obvious to recruiters. I'm not sure what solution is possible on this - Facebook should be careful to set up something.

I know I'm more concerned about anonymity than many others - but then that's on publicly-accessible things only and I'm perfectly happy in individual emailing and meeting normal people for them to know my full real name. SirL works well for me as an investment persona - lots of things are set up in that name now.

| Link | Share
tacheman 26th Apr '12 28 of 174

In reply to marben100, post #26

Hi Mark,

If you ever get round to installing tweetdeck, I recommend installing an older vesion

I wasn't impressed by the latest version.  On investigation, it appears that since twitter bought it they've removed lots of features (particularly for other social networks*).  The older version seems really good and is a lot more configurable.


*Couldn't comment/like on other's facebook posts, or write on their wall from the application.  Also seemed an issue viewing facebook vids/pics in the application (though it did do it occasionally)



| Link | Share
marben100 2nd May '12 29 of 174

WARNING: several prominent posters have had their Twitter accounts hacked by a phishing scam. Thought I'd best post so people understand the scam and can avoid falling victim (similar scams could operate in other social media).

The scam works in a very similar way to conventional e-mail phishing scams, except that the objective is to steal Twitter passwords, rather than bank account passwords. Instead of a simple e-mail, victims receive a Twitter "Direct Message" (DM). That message says something like "Hey somebody is saying terrible things about you... " followed by a short URL. If you click on the URL it appears that you have been directed to Twitter's website and are asked to enter your login and password... Of course, you haven't really been directed to Twitter's website but to a fake one, whose purpose is to capture your password.

Once the phishing website has your password, it logs in to your a/c and DMs all your followers with a message similar to the one you received.. and so it spreads.


If you fall victim to this scam, CHANGE YOUR TWITTER PASSWORD IMMEDIATELY. That stops the scammer hijacking your a/c. NB I do not know what other actions this scam may have taken (e.g. it might add new follows to your list*).

Just as with ordinary e-mails, to avoid phishing scams, BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT LINKS YOU CLICK ON in e-mails you receive - even if those e-mails seem to be from friends.

Please spread the word.



*There is a valuable market in "followers", so if a scammer can add people to follow to a few thousand twitter users accounts, that is worth hard cash.

| Link | Share | 1 reply
mick 2nd May '12 30 of 174

Thanks Mark, I have received the offending tweets and have clicked on the links but thankfully didn't input log ins or passwords

| Link | Share
Isaac 2nd May '12 31 of 174


ShareSoc Recommends Voting Against Faroe Petroleum Remuneration via #constantcontact


What is Sharesoc's view of Soco managment taking 100% bonuses? Does Sharesoc recommend shareholders vote against their remuneration ?

| Link | Share | 1 reply
marben100 2nd May '12 32 of 174

In reply to Isaac, post #31


Fair question.

Firstly, please note that the full text of our press release is as follows:


ShareSoc (the “UK Individual Shareholders Society”) suggests that shareholders in Faroe Petroleum should vote against the new management incentive scheme. This scheme which is entitled the Exceptional Performance Incentive Plan (EPIP) will permit substantial grants of nil-cost options to senior executives, subject to certain performance conditions.

The details of the performance conditions are complex but the prime requirement for full vesting is total shareholder return of 25% per annum over 3 years. ShareSoc suggests that a performance incentive scheme focussed primarily on total shareholder return (in practice mainly dependent on the share price) is not a prudent arrangement. It encourages a focus on the short term share price instead of the fundamental strength of the business.

Nil cost share options are also contrary to the guidelines on remuneration laid down by the A.B.I. and N.A.P.F. for listed companies. This scheme will enable the senior executives of Faroe Petroleum to obtain a substantial proportion of the shares of the company when they already have large numbers of share options– indeed the total shares under option has had to be raised from 10% of the capital to 15% to accommodate the new scheme. The directors already have awards under the existing share option schemes and under the Co-Investment Plan (CIP) that represent over 5% of the total company shares. In addition pay levels at the company are already quite high with total board remuneration (including cash bonuses and pensions) of £1.95 million for what is not a particularly large company.

ShareSoc Chairman Roger Lawson had this to say: “Faroe Petroleum is a good example of what is wrong with executive remuneration in public companies. Multiple complex incentive schemes and a total package that is extremely generous. The use of nil-cost options and not particularly stretching incentive targets is something we recently criticised at another AIM company, Intercede Group, and it is most regrettable that this kind of approach seems to be spreading among AIM companies. We therefore recommend that shareholders vote against the specific resolution on the EPIP and against the Remuneration Report resolution. The only saving grace at this company is that at least shareholders are being given a vote on these matters.”


So, as you can, see it is specifically because of the EPIP that we recommend voting against.

Secondly, note that Faroe's market cap. is £376m vs £1.02bn for Soco & at a quick glace, total Board pay for this year appears similar for both companies. Given Faroe's considerably smaller size, their Board pay apperas disproportionate,as indicated in our press reelease.

I would say that, in general terms, we see little jutsification for bonuses above 50% of basic remuneration. There is no evidence that larger bonuses result in better performance. This is particualry true in cases like Soco's where management already have large stakes in the business and should benefit far more from long-term value that they add to the business than short-term cash awards. Moreover, complex incentive schemes can lead to perverse incentives, that are not necessarily in the company's long-term interests, besides being opaque for shareholders. ShareSoc is meeting with the FRC tomorrow, attending a session to discuss this very topic.

Sadly, there are so many examples of excessive board pay that we have to pick our targets carefully, and select the most egregious cases to highlight.


Whilst I only have a token holding in Soco at present, I do have a larger holding of Premier Oil (LON:PMO) . I must say that I do find their total pay of over £13m for 2011 pretty excessive and most certainly will be attending their AGM, asking questions and voting against their remuneration report. I think that that also illustrates that Soco is far from being the worst example.



| Link | Share
Isaac 2nd May '12 33 of 174

Sadly, there are so many examples of excessive board pay that we have to pick our targets carefully, and select the most egregious cases to highlight.


I would say about 99% of pay awarded to directors of UK PLC are excessive, it is all well and good in choosing the worst examples you can think of or come across but what is the point of that approach if your influence is negligible?

The fact is there are a LARGE number of shares controlled by readers of Stockopedia and TMFetc of Soco & in my view what is required is for these holders to be influenced to vote against Soco remuneration to have a meaningful impact, one that raises a few eye brows.

It hacks me off that the Chairman of Soco's rem committee holds significantly less shares then I do (he holds 10,000) but has been given the job of deciding how much the execs get paid.

I think this is unreasononable and there should be a minimum shareholding the Rem. committee members should hold to qualify in deciding how much the execs are paid etc. Only then will I believe the rem. committee is awarding bonuses etc with the best interests of shareholders.

It is very difficult to have any trust in Michael John's ability, one should be made aware of how is appointment was made and what process and how many candidates were considered for his role. For all I know he could be Soco exec's best mate.

Sharesoc should look to clamp down on companies where they can make a reasonable influence rather then look ay any old company where they have little impact.

With all your posts you keep saying Sharesoc and so does Mr Lawson on ADVFN etc, would it not be better if people read in the broadsheets of the financial press how Sharesoc managed to influence 10 or even 15% of Soco Shareholders to vote against Soco Remuneration?

If that got read in the papers it would bring the Sharesoc site to life and people will reigster without you and your colleagues having to advertise it.



| Link | Share | 1 reply
marben100 2nd May '12 34 of 174

In reply to Isaac, post #33

Well, Isaac,here's an example of our impact in the mainstream media:

I think we're getting our message across and our membership is growing pretty rapidly - but we still need all the support we can get!

More importantly, after our engagement with the BIS, many of our wishes to empower shareholders to have a greater say over executive remuneration and to force rem. coms. to consult more actively with shareholders seem to be forming the basis of government policy. Ideally, we'd prefer to see shareholder-led committees nominating directors for election and determining their remuneration.

You can see our latest response to the executive pay consultation here:

There is still a lot of work to do, not least pushing institutions to exercise their voting power.



| Link | Share
marben100 2nd May '12 35 of 174

In reply to marben100, post #29

An update on this scam: it appears that the hacked accounts are being used to send out spam tweets, advertising weight loss products, as well as trying to recruit more accounts.

If your account is affected, please make sure you change your password ASAP to prevent the scam from spreading and to avoid annoying other Twitter users with spam.

| Link | Share

What's your view on this thread? Log In to Comment Now

You can track all @StockoChat comments via Twitter

Stock Picking Tutorial Centre

Let’s get you setup so you get the most out of our service
Done, Let's add some stocks
Brilliant - You've created a folio! Now let's add some stocks to it.

  • Apple (AAPL)

  • Shell (RDSA)

  • Twitter (TWTR)

  • Volkswagon AG (VOK)

  • McDonalds (MCD)

  • Vodafone (VOD)

  • Barratt Homes (BDEV)

  • Microsoft (MSFT)

  • Tesco (TSCO)
Save and show me my analysis