Sunday, August 28, 2011

Buffett, BAC, and AAPL (stock/trading)

This past week was quite a week for the markets, with a record move in gold and Bernanke's comments leading the charge. However, there was also unexpected news in Warren Buffett's investment in Bank of America and the resignation of Steve Jobs from Apple.

Yes it's true that Buffett made an investment in BAC, but I certainly don't think it's the vote of confidence some make it out to be. The worst offender in that regard, as always, is CNBC. Early in the morning, their main caption headline was "BAC up on Buffett investment in stock". This is very misleading. The cumulative perpetually preferred shares Buffett received can barely be classified as stock. With a guaranteed 6% return, and no market risk (par liquidation value), Buffett is not really accumulating any real equity in the company. Then there are the warrants, which give Buffett the ability, but not the obligation, to truly invest in BAC stock.

So what does it mean for BAC shareholders? Yes, there's a vote of confidence that BAC will not go bankrupt any time soon. But at the same time, the warrants mean that the shareholders can suffer heavy dilution at any time. Who wants to own equity in a company that has such an huge overhang limiting its upside? Of course some say that Buffett is a long term investor. If Buffett exercises those warrants, it's because he plans to hold a large piece of the company for a long time. That may be true. But the warrants last for 10 years, and is it clear that Buffett will still be there in that time?

Which leads me to what I thought was one of the more interesting questions to come out of the events this week. Would I rather have Berkshire without Buffett or Apple without Jobs? Who has the bigger impact on their respective company? Will Apple be slow to innovate without Jobs like the struggles Microsoft has had? Will Berkshire be able to get the same vulture-tastic deals without Buffett? I personally think AAPL is the better bet there as it has such a loyal customer base.

Speaking of vulture-tastic deals, how does this BAC deal compare? Obviously the 6% pales in comparison to the 10% GS deal. A deal so one-sided GS couldn't buy Buffett out quick enough. While Buffett reportedly is offering BAC a better deal because conditions are better, I don't buy it. I think it's a statement to the fact that there are fewer opportunities to get an equivalent return elsewhere. While the investment may be a vote of confidence that BAC isn't going bankrupt any time soon, I think it shows a lack of confidence in the future economic outlook.

Cheap Eats Around the Area (food)

Some may be good, some may be meh, but all the food in this post is definitely cheap, and not far away from where I am.

Uncle Zhou's 83-29 Broadway (Dongan Avenue), Elmhurst, Queens

A favorite of Queens Chowhounders, this place has excellent noodles and terrific broths. It also had a good writeup in the NYT not that long ago. But the thing that really stood out for me was when I was in there one morning and the owner refused shipment on a delivery of lamb because the lamb was already diced. They wanted whole chunks of lamb which their cooks would butcher and break down themselves. That's a good sign that the food will be great.

The signature stewed noodles ($5.5) are wonderful with its rich lamb broth, cubes of lamb meat, and chewy knife-shaved noodles. Because of the way the noodles are served, they hold up well to take out in the broth.

More surprising for me were the lamb dumplings ($3 for 9). The dumplings were juicy with a good bite to the skin, but the really great thing was how flavorful the minced lamb filling was. So flavorful in fact, that it borders on funky, so it's definitely not for everyone in my opinion.

Krystal's Cafe 6902 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside, Queens

There are a lot of Indian lunch buffets around the 74th street area, but it was refreshing to find a Filipino buffet that's both good and cheap. The buffet ($7.37) is on the second floor of the cafe/bakery. You have to walk in and go to the stairs in the back, as the ground floor cafe does not serve the buffet.

There are about 10 total items including rice and noodles. The items really do tend to change daily while most of the Indian buffets tend to only switch one or two of the vegetarian options on occasion. Proteins range from fried chicken, beef, and pork, to Filipino staples like milkfish and jackfruit.

Besides the food items, there is also all you can drink soda (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite) poured out of pitchers, as well as dessert. The dessert selection is quite good (the place is also a bakery), and tends to change daily as well.

Little Caesars 86-10 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, Queens

Yes, that Little Caesars. The one that had "Pizza! Pizza!" as its catchphrase in commercials when I was growing up. The one that was once the second most popular pizza in the US and is now the fastest growing pizza chain in the world. The signature product right now is a $5 Hot-N-Ready Pepperoni Pizza. The pizza is premade and kept warm in an oven, so it is always available. However, when you catch them at a busy time, the pizzas will come out fresh.

It's pretty much like any chain pizza. The dough isn't bad, but definitely needs to be cooked more well done for NY tastes. In the end, it's about being able to get a full sized pepperoni pizza for $5, which is great for kids.

Jose Fish Market 81-04 Roosevelt Ave, Elmhurst, Queens

Everyone loves fried food, and fried seafood allows one to indulge without feeling guilty about making a completely unhealthy choice.

The fried whiting/shrimp/scallop combo with fries ($6). Certainly a lot of food for that price. I don't think even "fried seafood" chains like Long John Silvers can compete with that price.

A closer look reveals the large mound of fries underneath as well. Honestly, the fry job wasn't bad. The shrimp and scallop lacked real flavor though, so I would recommend only getting fish and chips next time.

Corn and meat skewer stand, 82nd street, Roosevelt Ave

While the corn and tamales stand that pops up next to the taco trucks at the 74th street station is closer to me, they don't grill their corn which gives it just a bit more flavor. The corn at the 82nd street stand is pre-grilled, but they throw it on the coals to finish when you order one. Then the usual mayonnaise and chili powder and you have a terrific snack for $2.5.

Tacos and Juice place opposite the park/basketball courts near Elmhurst Hospital

I go here once in a while after playing basketball. Can't even tell you the address or the name of the place. But they have everything from tacos to enchiladas, and fresh squeezed juice.

There's a good amount of meat in the tacos, all made to order.

But the thing that makes this place special is the 3 tacos + juice deal during the day. They used to advertise it but don't anymore. I think you can still get it if you ask. Anyway, for $6, you get three tacos plus a freshly squeezed juice. Given that even tacos from the taco trucks by the subway station run $2.5 per and freshly squeezed juice can run $6 easily in Manhattan, this is quite an amazing deal. Here I had some carrot juice with my tacos.

iCook Teriyaki 85-08 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, NY

This is pretty much like the food from teriyaki chicken stalls you find in big mall food courts, but sometimes that's all one craves. Chicken, slightly sweet sauce, and rice.

This was the chicken and shrimp combo over a large mound of vegetable fried rice. The shrimp wasn't bad, but I would suggest just getting the chicken. There actually is a lot of food here for $6.75, as the container is quite wide with lots of fried rice and it comes with a small side salad.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Coming Back Soon!

My laptop broke so I haven't been able to write anything. Now that I bought another one, there should be a cheap eats post, a restaurant meal review post, and NFL preview post coming up real soon. Please be patient.