Vodafone's Sarin on India

arun_sarin.gifVodafone’s Arun Sarin is originally from a small village in central India. He left for the US to attend graduate school and more recently the CEO of Vodafone PLC. Recently, Sarin gave an interview to the WSJ and one of his quotes has stuck with me. I’ve been in India for 2 1/2 years and I’ve been trying to summarize the fundamental work culture of the East vs West. Sarin’s quote summarizes it best:

…what he considers American values: a hard-working ethic, openness and egalitarianism. America’s “go-getting values [were] what I was drawn to,” he says. He describes Indian values as “integrity, humility, a pretty heavy dose of fatalism,” of which he says he has bits of the first two but is “not into fatalism at all.”

Fatalism – a doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them; also : a belief in or attitude determined by this doctrine

Fatalism is so pervasive in India, you hear it when describing anything. You got into a car accident? it’s your destiny. You made a lot of money – it’s your destiny. Mukesh and Anil Ambani – it’s their destiny. I’m not sure if I fully buy into the fatalism argument and living in a country that is so focused on it sometimes makes things a bit uncomfortable.

Full WSJ article. (Tip – The link goes to the Digg site where all WSJ articles are free.)

Macau – What a let down

I was in Hong Kong for the past 3 days and decided I would head to Macau and check it out. Over the past couple of months I’ve been seeing a lot of press on Macau and how it’s taking over Vegas as the global gaming hot spot. In 2006, Macau did USD 7 billion and Vegas did USD 6.5 billion. In 2007, Macau did USD 10.4 billion and Vegas did USD 7 billion.

I figured the last time I was in Vegas was 2006 and had a GREAT time. I thought if Macau is doing roughly 50% more business then when I went to Vegas, I should have an AWESOME time in Macau – no chance.

The ferry to/from Macau is a buzz kill. One hour each way and if the ferries are sold out it means you might have to wait an hour or so till the next one. But, that’s all doable if Macau were worth it.

The general atmosphere of the casino’s was dull and boring. They don’t serve alcohol, instead it as OJ, milk, coffee, tea, etc…WTF. Please tell me I was in the wrong casino, but I went to a couple and they were both the same.

If you are accustomed to Vegas and the party atmosphere then Macau is not the destination. I think it’s more for hard core gamblers like Atlantic City.

If you know me I take a camera everywhere and take pictures of anything (my motto – it don’t cost nothing). I took it to Macau, but I was so disillusioned I didn’t take one picture. Hence no picture for this blog posting – first time EVER.

Building the Ambani Empire

polyester_prince.jpg What timing, I finished reading Polyester Prince on Feb 10th and on Feb 11th the Reliance Power IPO from Anil Ambani got listed on the Indian exchanges. Finding this book was about as easy as getting shares in the Reliance Power IPO. The book is apparently banned in India on the request of the Ambani family since it shows Dhirubhai rise via unscrupulous business tactics.

The book was published in 1998 and 10 years later some of the usual suspects mentioned in the book are still around. Whether its Nimesh Kampani, Vallabh Bhansali or Anand Jain on the financial side to Pawar, Deora and Deshmukh on the political front.

More eye opening is the same basic concepts that sold people on the Indian equity markets back then are still being using today, such as the emergence of the Indian middle class or the India “story.” An example from the book talks about Barton Biggs, who at the time was Morgan Stanley’s investment guru, rated Reliance as one of the best buys in Asia and a proxy for the India “story.” Today, Biggs runs Traxxis a global macro fund out of NYC.

Overall, the book is a great read on the rise of Dhirubhai and what it took to make Reliance what it is today, good or bad.

On a side note, I was able to buy my copy at the Haji Ali intersection from one of the street vendors, he started at Rs 600, but I ended up paying Rs 200.

Emaar IPO yanked

emaar_logo.png In a major ding for the Indian equity markets, the planned IPO for Emaar MGF was withdrawn from the markets on Friday near the close of the market. Emaar MGF had blanketed the country with advertising highlighting all the projects they did, that is Emaar did in Dubai. And that’s the issue, Emaar MGF is a joint venture between Emaar of Dubai and MGF of Delhi. MGF has completed ZERO real estate projects in India, Asia or planet earth. Whereas, Emaar has done a boatload of work in Dubai, which is great but that is Dubai and the IPO was for India.

The back tracking has already started by Emaar MGF saying they have “enough funding” available for their projects. – Really, then why go through the whole IPO process?

Better yet, they said now they will look at other avenues such as private placements or PE deals at the SPV level. Once again why didn’t they do that before, because private investors would ask 1,000 questions while the general investing community would look at the nice billboards and blindly invest.

Their slogan is “Creating a New India”, which still might be the case it just won’t be creating it with money from the equity markets.

Trivia time. What does MGF stand for? Motor and General Finance. Which has been their main business for many years – loaning money.

Update: Someone just sent me an SMS saying “Emaar has become BEmaar”, too funny.

Microsoft bids for Yahoo

microsoft_yahoo.gif Many people are wondering what the name of the new company will be if the deal goes through…in reality who cares. MSFT has a market cap of USD 280 billion, I’m pretty sure Ballmer ain’t changing the name.

What’s more interesting is the rise and fall of YHOO. During the dot com bubble everyone was falling over themselves to partner with the 2GFS (2 Guys From Stanford) company. They were the kings at the time, they invented the internet search space. Much was written about Yang and Filo having business cards reading “Chief Yahoo!” However after the bubble burst they have been on a constant decline, mainly attributed to Google.

Yahoo stock has vaporized over 90% of its value since it peaked in 2000. If anything comes from this deal is that Google should watch out and not stumble and fumble as badly as Yahoo has. Right now Page and Brin are the 2GFS company everyone is talking about, similar to Yahoo in 2000.