Gongol.com Archives: December 2011
Brian Gongol

December 1, 2011

Business and Finance Berkshire Hathaway to purchase Omaha World-Herald for $200 million
The deal is for $150 million in cash, $50 million in debt. It capitalizes the newspaper's operations and brings the paper under the umbrella of Warren Buffett's benevolent protectorate, but it sure looks like it's mainly a nostalgic move by Buffett. It's a much smaller purchase than what he's usually entertained (he's talked a lot about looking for something in the $5 billion to $10 billion range, and this purchase is just 4% of that target amount), but it's the kind of purchase he probably regrets not trying to make 20 years ago. Of course, newspapers have economics a lot like railroads (the Burlington Northern railroad being another recent high-profile Buffett purchase) -- with high capital costs, a natural-monopoly state, and low marginal costs per unit sold -- so as long as one doesn't finance the purchase with debt, newspapers can be a very good, stable investment. It's definitely in keeping with his strategy of staying within a circle of competence and looking for businesses that don't lose money. [Full disclosure: Site owner is a Berkshire shareholder at the time of writing]

Iowa Long-term accounting for IPERS needs a lot of buttressing
Iowa's pension system for public-sector employees has a very large shortfall of assets to what it's going to need to pay off future obligations. It's disconcerting news that we've actually known about for quite some time -- but layered upon the growing problem of towns finding themselves short on pension funds as well, it's part of a one-two punch that should give Iowa taxpayers some reason for concern.

Humor and Good News Unemployed? Might be that face tattoo.
(Video) Hilarious spoof from The Onion that's almost too close to reality

Business and Finance $25 billion for a full buyout of Yahoo?
Supposedly, that's what's being discussed among private-equity firms. It's pretty hard to stomach a buyout that big being justified by the economics of the company. In Yahoo's favor is a balance sheet with $12.6 billion in net equity, but that assumes $3.8 billion in goodwill. Net income is in the range of $200 to $300 million a quarter, but the big-picture problem is that there's no good way to know what the online environment is going to look like more than a few months down the road. There's so little predictability -- and it's so easy for consumers to change their minds and go elsewhere -- that it's really hard to imagine that sinking lots of money into a technology company today will be rewarding tomorrow.

Business and Finance Big discounts are driving lots of consumers to buy new TVs
46-inch flat-screen televisions selling for $300 mean the cost per diagonal inch is well under $10, which used to be the price point at which tube televisions were sold. That's a pretty remarkable example of price deflation...on a product that's much better than what was available in the past.

News Kurt Warner to Tim Tebow: Lay off the evangelization, buddy
Words are less demonstrative than deeds

Iowa Some people hate the new Subway sign near the western gateway sculpture park
Can signs for stores like Subway be a little over-the-top? Yes. But, come on: Big advertising signs are the American way. People love the Citgo sign in Boston, and anyone who takes a look at old Des Moines skyline photos from 1901, 1907, 1914, or especially 1919, will see that much larger, more garish signs have been around practically forever. The complaints about this particular sign are unfair, especially considering that the new restaurant is a hundred times better than the dumpy buildings that used to sit in the same area (including, if memory serves, a porn shop).

The United States of America Minnesota's state budget is unexpectedly $876 million in the black
Perhaps it's an indicator that the economy is picking up, despite the negative messages out there

Science and Technology US air pollution from coal power plants is declining measurably

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