Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment, Technology Investor. Harry Newton
November 18, 2009: Unemployment
sucks in Europe -- !5% in Berlin, higher in Poland. But there's huge safety net
and you don't see poverty's signs, like beggars and filth. Europe's economy is
turning up and opportunities abound. I checked into commercial real estate --
stuff with a rent roll. Prices plummeted last year, financing evaporated and deals
went into hibernation. But it's now coming back. The banks are lending and some
owners are selling. Finding the real bargains is not for faint of heart. But it
was nice to hear of people making money with real estate. A friend flipped a building
during the Spring-Summer for a huge profit.
Wall has been down 20 years. Berlin is transfixed. It's a "happening town
full of young people, many of whom are artists." They open their shops
only on Sunday in December, not other months, Which makes Berlin really dreary.
The stats from
a mere 0.2% in Q2 2009, Eurozone GDP rose 0.4% in Q3 pulling the region out
of recession. The rise was slightly below the commission's expectations of
a 0.5% increase. Industrial production surged 0.3% in September adding weight
to the recovery. Germany (0.7%), France (0.3%) and Italy (0.6%) all grew in
Q3 while Spain (-0.3%) and the UK (-0.4%) continued to contract.
The Internet is now easy in Europe. Every hotel has it, or the corner
Internet Cafe has it. The more pricey hotels charge more for the Internet. But
their Business Centers are usually free, despite signs.
+ Email can
be a real pain -- especially if you're using Outlook. Google's Gmail is
free and ultra-reliable. Any Internet browser will get you in. I love Gmail.
Bargain with the hotels before you leave. With
begging you can easily get the room down 20% to 30%. Get them to throw in breakfast.
+ The most
useful gadget to bring to Europe is a GPS. We took a Garmin Nuvi 350 with
a $150 chip of European streets. It crapped out in rural Poland. But it worked
perfectly in Austria and Germany. I even walked with it.
is cheap to travel. British
Airways (and others) have sales. I bet the prices will go even lower
on some days. Our planes were not full.
+ A friend
traveled and always sent his friends great pictures. Someone asked him,
"Which camera did you use?" He said he didn't own a camera and had
never taken a photo in his entire life. He simply bought local postcards, scanned
them when he got home and sent his friends "his pictures." The moral
here is you can never do as well. So why bother?
This is the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti from around 1370 BC. On the left
is my photo. On the right is Wikipedia's which is much better. I bet they didn't
shoot through glass with lousy lighting. The bust is in Berlin's Egyptian Museum
which is part of the Neue Museum.
Berlin is loaded
with museums, which incidentally the state funds. Buy the three-day pass and
hit them all.
is absolutely critical. You can't travel and not exercise. Your legs will
die. I ran on treadmills and swam in the pool if they had one. There are public
pool spas all over.
+ Part of traveling
is a pain. Customs. Immigrations. Lines. Waiting. Yuch. The key is to ask
questions. A security lady in Berlin was organizing stuff for the conveyor belt.
I asked, "Seen any good shoes recently?" Her answer: "No."
the lady at the American Airlines Friendship terminal at Heathrow on her fancy
new digs. She growled. Her furniture was so "modern" that she said
"I can't get off my chair to answer the phone because I can't get back
onto my chair."
+ Getting local
money in Europe. You lose something on everything -- credit cards, debit
cards and ATM machines. I tried cash. I suspect the solution might be to buy
Euros before you leave. But I don't know. One of travel's great pleasures is
+ This is me
in the $9,000 jacket I didn't buy.
are generally twice what they are in the States. This jacket came with a removable
mink lining, lots of "fine detail," and a charming, aggressive saleslady.
The price includes 19% VAT, which I'd get back if I had the right paperwork
and was prepared to have it stamped in the right place at the right time on
the right boarding pass. It's efficient, though bureaucratic. It really was
a nice jacket. The saleslady told me she'd sold it to lots of "important
people." But she wouldn't name one.
+ This is me
with "the suitcase."
Chatting up the
concierge turned up this fact: People in the most expensive suites steal the
most. In order: $150 bathrobes, towels, wooden Kleenex boxes, candleholders
and jewelry cases, . The hotel knows about the thefts but doesn't pursue the
The next day I
told the concierge I'd stolen everything I could. But I now had "a problem."
Namely, I'd run out of suitcase space to carry back the stolen loot.
day he produced a suitcase that was mine for the taking. I was not able to convince
him that I was joking. He looked offended when I left without the suitcase (and
the bathrobes and the towels). It was a brand-new suitcase.
+ Imagine this
in New York.
A Berlin subway
sign tells me when the next train will arrive. And, it always did.
+ Berlin has
KaDeWe, Europe's biggest department store. It has an entire floor selling
food. There were at least 200 varieties of sausages,
live and dead eels, beer and champagne by the glass. You could get drunk or
fat just eating bits and pieces.
Germans love to
eat. This is one of the checkout clerks at KaDeWe. Not all Germans are this
big. The young girls are blonde, tall, thin, leggy and wear boots with hugely
This is a sandwich
from a local street vendor.
I felt sorry for
the poor fish.
out for new scams. Assume every email you get
is a scam. The latest scam just happened this morning. Someone got into my Facebook
account and emailed one of my Facebook friends, pretending they were me, that
I was stranded in London, that everything I had was stolen and I needed $300
to get it all back. Please send $300 by Western Union asap.
total bullshit. I'm safe and sound in New York. I'm watching the conversation
between "me" and my friend on FaceBook, as we speak.
to see the stockmarket went up while I was away.
I should go away more often.
This column is about my personal search
for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have
to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter
and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available
for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second,
the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the
Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their
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