Technology Investor

Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton

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9:00 AM EDT, Wednesday, October 21, 2009: Indian summer in New York. Nice for tennis. Not so nice for the markets, maybe.

How long does it take to grow your new technology company? IPO Dashboards is a neat web site. It begins:

Have you ever seen a business plan with hockey stick revenue projections? It’s common for VCs to receive business plans showing sales growing from 0 to $100m in the first 5 years of a company’s life.

In fact, growth conversations between VCs and management teams often cause angst. One of the reasons is that people from both groups tend to have unsubstantiated beliefs about how long it takes to build an important company.

Maybe these conversations would be easier if we simply knew how long it takes to build a successful company?

You pick the technology sector and it plots a chart showing how long it took the company to get to $50 million in annual revenues. Here's a chart I did on operating systems:

Time to get rid of credit cards: New fees:

+ If you pay your bills in time, you could be hit by a new fee from the Bank of America -- $29 to $49.

+ If you don't charge enough, Citibank wants to charge you extra.

This chart is from USAToday:

Credit unions offer cheaper, better credit cards. For more, go to USAToday.

Cell phones can be dangerous: Use one while driving, you'll crash. Use one in a thunderstorm, you may get hit with lightning. Use one with a third party made battery and it may explode. Use one too much and you'll need to get a life.

Bargaining in the skies: The airline quoted $18,000 on a first class trip. It came down to $13,500 after the airline was asked for a "price match." Them's new words in war against gouging.

Everyone eats too much. Latest restaurant tip: Eat an appetizer, or two. Skip the main course. Advantages: fewer calories, better food, lower bill.

Microsoft lovers ganged up on Harry. They didn't like my comments yesterday about the uselessness (and long-term inevitability) of Windows 7. My advice remains: Stay away from Windows 7. I follow an old adage: If it works, don't mess with it. Right now, Windows XP is works fine for me.

However, if you're obsessed with Windows 7 hype, ComputerWorld has a piece today, FAQ: How to prep for an XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade.

How to find bargains for the ultra-rich.

For American buyers shopping in cosmopolitan European cities may lose its appeal. Why purchase a $670 pair of Gucci loafers in Berlin, when they cost a full 15% less at home in New York? However a Rolls-Royce Phantom at $377,500 is cheapest in Hong Kong.

For more useless information on living "well," click Forbes.

Sure, insider trading works. Raj Rajaratnam got greedy. He seemed to be doing well. Then he got obsessed by the idea that insider trading would make him even richer (and even fatter?).

Maybe he also figured when he became rich, he could afford to buy a decent suit?

So how did all the insider information work? Apparently not too well. Here's an excerpt from today's New York Times business section:

In Fraud Case, a Deal That Lost Millions by ALEX BERENSON

Raj Rajaratnam, the authorities say, masterminded one of the biggest insider-trading schemes in a generation.

But if Mr. Rajaratnam was trading on insider information, apparently he was not very good at it.

A close examination of the trades that led to his arrest last week reveals a startling fact: In all, Mr. Rajaratnam lost millions from what prosecutors characterize as illegal trading.

One bad trade, in the shares of the chip maker Advanced Micro Devices, cost his hedge fund, the Galleon Group, $30 million. That loss more than wiped out the profits that prosecutors claim Mr. Rajaratnam and his accomplices reaped with their scheme.

Prosecutors highlighted the winning trades in a case that they say stretched from the secretive world of hedge funds to some of the country’s biggest technology companies. They did not mention the losers.

Profitable or not, insider trading is insider trading. And Mr. Rajaratnam, who maintains he is innocent, might have broken the law even if he lost money on his trades. (The ultimate irony?)

But the fact that some of the investments soured, and that, in all, Mr. Rajaratnam lost money, could be powerful evidence for defendants. Inside information is, by definition, information that is material to investors, and thus could cause a company’s stock to move in a direction that will be obvious in advance.

For example, if a company’s stock is trading at $75 and someone learns that the company will be taken over for $100 a share, that information would be material. But routine corporate news — a retailer announcing new store openings, for instance — is generally not considered material.

“The violation is trading on material nonpublic information,” said Robert A. Mintz, a former federal prosecutor who now heads the white-collar defense practice at the law firm McCarter & English. “There’s no requirement that that trade results in a gain to the defendant. But if it turns out to have been a money-loser, it obviously gives the defense some fodder to argue that the information was not material.”

Utpal Bhattacharya, a professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the co-author of a study on insider trading convictions from 1995 to 2004, said that convicted defendants had profited in every one of the cases he examined.

“A loss is likely to weaken the prosecution’s case,” Mr. Bhattacharya said. ...

A one-page graphic released by prosecutors mentions six trades made by Mr. Rajaratnam that netted Galleon, his hedge fund, total profits of $20.6 million.

Missing from that handout is a 2008 trade that moved badly against Mr. Rajaratnam and Danielle Chiesi, who also is charged in the fraud case. Ms. Chiesi worked at New Castle Funds, another hedge fund, and is accused of supplying insider information to both Mr. Rajaratnam and New Castle.

From August 2008 to October 2008, Mr. Rajaratnam ordered Galleon to buy at least 16 million shares of A.M.D., a computer chip maker, according to the federal criminal complaint against him and a related complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

During the same period, New Castle bought about 2.5 million A.M.D. shares, according to another criminal complaint that focuses on Ms. Chiesi.

Galleon and New Castle bought the shares because Mr. Rajaratnam and Ms. Chiesi received information from an I.B.M. executive in August that the government of Abu Dhabi would invest billions of dollars in A.M.D. as part of a deal for A.M.D. to spin off its manufacturing facilities, according to the complaints.

But the possibility of a deal between A.M.D. and Abu Dhabi had been rumored before Galleon and New Castle began buying.

“Some analysts speculate that the spinoff will require a substantial investment from the government of Abu Dhabi,” The Austin American-Statesman reported on July 18.

Galleon spent $85 million to $90 million on the 16 million share purchases that are disclosed in the two complaints, an average of about $5.50 a share. But as global stock markets plunged in September and October, A.M.D. shares sank too. By Oct. 6, Galleon’s shares in A.M.D. were worth only about $68 million, a loss of roughly 25 percent. On Oct. 7, A.M.D. announced its deal with Abu Dhabi. Its stock closed about 8 percent higher that day, but was still significantly lower than Galleon’s purchase price.

Galleon then held on to nearly all its A.M.D. stock after the deal was announced, and A.M.D. stock resumed its plunge during the rest of October. ...

I always thought if you were trading on an event and the event happened, you got out. After all, you'd been waiting for the "event." It had now happened. So why hang around? What am I missing?

Time for a colonoscopy. Yes, Harry is nagging again. Make sure you remember to say some of the alleged comments made by patients (predominately male) while a doctor was performing their colonoscopies:

+ 'Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!'

+ 'Find Amelia Earhart yet?'

+ 'You know, in Arkansas , we're now legally married.'

+ 'Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?'

+ 'Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!'

+ 'Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.'

+ 'You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?'

+ 'Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?'

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 ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.