Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Retail Rats...

Yesterday it was Subhiksha. Today it’s Vishal Retail. Auditors are smelling a rat all over the place, not just inside the retail stores. The charge – Books are cooked, inventory depletion happening at an alarming pace. All in the midst of a CDR process in tow.
Retail is a fantastic sector to book cooks. The characteristic of the business also helps. There is a huge inventory base and is all meant for trading. They don’t manufacture anything and so it’s just sourcing, shelfing and selling. Now that leaves enough scope for spillage, wastage, damage and an issue of age itself in case if the goods are slow moving or just…non-moving.
The Agarwals of Vishal Retail have played it to the hilt. They raised about Rs.110 crores by IPO in June, 2007 then went on to raise over Rs.800 crores of debt that is now seeking reprieve from lenders. The news was that the lenders have also agreed to finalize a CDR package of Rs.730 crores. Now there is the demand for forensic audit. A la Subiksha scam where ICICI Ventures was an early investor, played along the Board, then Renuka Ramnath, CEO of I-Ventures quit pretending ignorance when she was about to be hauled up for investigation but not before palming off a substantial stake to Azim Premji’s PE fund.
I say everyone is an accomplice. A fraud of this magnitude, at a very base level (i.e.rapid build-up of inventory and writing it all down in double quick pace cannot happen unless everyone including Auditors, Bankers, Board members all collude. Ordinary investor is the only one that is left off circle. This is bullshit and it should clearly stop.
Or just do away with Auditing as it exists now. Make the Auditors directly responsible to shareholders – not just making certificates and disclaimers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dick anyway !

I’ve always been a great fan of the `inside CEO’.

That’s no great find, agreed. Insiders, I mean those who have significant stakes in the lasting success of enterprises such as its various stakeholders including Shareholders, long serving employees or its largest suppliers or even beneficiary community members will certainly make a better CEO than wet-behind-the-ear B-School graduates that have just one goal – "personal prosperity. Let the enterprise go to hell."

Here’s a report on HBR survey that just confirms it.

Imagine a Reliance minus Dhirubhai in the mid 80’s –mid 90’s ? Or worse, try putting a jargon wagging B-School cartoon in his place? One reason why Lehman Bros collapsed could be that it’s CEO was not someone with Lehmann as his second name. It had a dickhead at the top, sorry his name was Dick Fuld. Dick anyway !

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Back and in deep freeze mode

Yeah, I am back to blogging after a 100+ day hiatus. No reason. Just found nothing exciting to blog.

A few minutes back, I read a nice piece by Greg Pytel titled “A US way out” and I almost froze. Here’s the excerpt from that chiller of a post –

“Washington Times compares the US model to Franklin D Roosvelt’s New Deal. However the current financial crisis does not resemble the 1930’s depression in its root cause. The current crisis is a result of a giant global financial pyramid collapse that left a quadrillions of dollars liquidity hole. Therefore President Obama’s actions may not be modelled on the New Deal, but on some other premise…

Considering the current US debt and its rate of increase, the US borrow and spend solution reminds an insolvent person who keeps on borrowing money, as long as there is anybody “silly” enough prepared to lend him. He knows that at the end of this process he will not pay anything back but simply declare bankruptcy, write off the entire debt and start its financial life anew.

The US, as the country, is economically and militarily powerful enough to declare that it no longer honours its debt and its currency. Effectively the dollar could be written off as a currency. As around two thirds of world reserves are held in dollar they will be written off. The US will have no debt.”

And then I read “History of Collapsed Dollar” in and Pytel’s hypothesis didn’t seem like a fictional conjecture at all. It could get catastrophically real.

“As with any fiat currency, the Continental dollar [USD version 1] later collapsed due to inflation. With politicians unwilling to fix the deficit and instead choosing to inflate the currency, the currency was left in ruins. The Continental dollar was eventually recalled by Congress and redeemed at 1/40th its face value. In a very few localities, it remained in existence for many more years, where it eventually plummeted to 1/1000th of its issuing value.

The factors that led to the demise of the first currency of the United States are the same that are leading the assault on the current US dollar. History shows us that when fiat currencies fail, precious metals remain as a standard of wealth and an accepted medium of exchange.”

And I now turn to a new asset class that I had shunned so far. Paper Gold. Gold ETF, I mean. Googled up and landed here. I will watch the price of Gold for next 4-5 months and might end up investing in this by August, 2010.

Just wish Barack Obama allows me time till then. Amen.