Buying intangibles

White Mountains Insurance Analyst Day 2009 - Part II  April 14, 2011 – 01:11 pm
Here are my notes from the White Mountains Insurance Analyst Day held on May 20, 2009. These are for the introductory section, the financial highlights and a review of bad news in 2008. When I went back to the events section of the White Mountains Insurance web page, the webcast link was missing, so I don't know if I'll be able to review the rest of the meeting. I have e-mailed the company asking for the link but haven't heard back. If anyone has the link to the webcast, please send it to me.
2008 – Bad News
TM had $1 billion in excess undeployed capital last year because of a lack of investment opportunities – so the company bought back stock and did Berkshire transaction. Barrette admitted that with hindsight this was obviously, not a good idea. He doesn’t think it will destroy value but will not do what he thought it would do.
Equity Portfolio – Bad News
quities as a percent of adjusted shareholder value has gone from 55% in December 2007 to 70% pro forma for the Berkshire transaction in June 2008, to just under 38% in the first quarter of 2009. He said that with hindsight the company should have sold down its equity portfolio, but instead paid Berkshire out of proceeds

Source: Stock Market Fundamentals

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Two possibilities for not seeing this

1: good appraisers are quite conservative and avoid over-valuation
2: intangibles were not communicated to appraiser (copies of contracts, records demonstrating repeat buying patterns, strong employees in-place many years, etc.)
it's probably #1 - i outsource my business valuations and getting them to recognize intangibles requires a lot of supporting materials

You've obviously never successfully done...

High end sales, or sales to executives, or sales of intangibles or services.
These are all examples where "soft sales" techniques are utilized. The best salesmen get the buyer to think that buying the product was their idea all along. I know of very few sales jobs where hard tactics are all that effective, save perhaps used car sales.
The sales analogy is absolutely appropriate. But, I wasn't trying to suggest tacky, outmolded techniques. Basically, effective sales is a combo of listening and subtle persuasion. Ultimately, that includes making progress towards closing the deal.
Never, ever, leave a sales meeting without creating some reason to get back in front of the potential customer.

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