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Author: TMFFuz Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 5980  
Subject: Value in Vogue Date: 3/9/2000 10:44 AM
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Investing styles obviously move in and out of favor, and that has been the case for 200 years. Value investing will come back in vogue, but maybe from a different perspective this time around. What do I mean? Well, I am not sure exactly, but I will provide a couple of examples.

Somewhere on the Fool site, before I joined the company, I read a quote that I thinks says it all. It said, " Cheap crap is still crap." Boy, the power of words. I would bet that if you look into the portfolios of a lot of professional managers, there is a lot of crap. Let's just say that in the World there are 30,000 equities (maybe a lot more). Obviously the crap factor is pretty high.

So, how does value become back in vogue. Well, maybe one thing to look at is how the company is making itself relevant in the new millennium. Something pretty amazing happened last week (well, amazing in my mind). Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler teamed up to create a huge B2B exchange, most likely a trillion dollar marketplace. Rather than let some pimple faced kid become the next billionaire, the management of "old economy" took control of their e-destiny (my term for it). They took control of the situation with unprecedented cooperation by Goliath's in the industry. They'll spin it off, and since a lot of investors are scratching at the door to gain entry into the B2B world, a good deal of value will be created, and it will accrue directly to the "old economy" companies (the tech. firms may benefit less directly like Oracle and Commerce One). So, there is no reason why the "old economy" companies should not benefit in the stock market. Ford has sold off huge as of late. But, with this marketplace, they will save billions of dollars, and the projects they invest in should become increasingly profitable. I read that in Fords first auction, they saved between $10-$30 million. Not too shabby.

So, what market value should the market place on a B2B exchange that may do a trillion $ per year, when they are already valuing other companies at 1,000 times sales? I dunno, but maybe the F/GM/DCX exchange is worth $30 billion. Again, not too shabby.

So, rather than look at whether or not the company is just "cheap" (and what does cheap mean anyway?), ask yourself how the company is making itself relevant. With the dynamic pricing of the Internet, companies may be less and less price setters, and increasingly become price takers. As a result, anything they can do to streamline operations through cost containment may add to the bottom line.

If I were unfortunately the head of Bethlehem Steel, ticker BS (which may say a lot about its relevance in the economy), I would have been on the phone to Larry over at Oracle or Commerce One or Ariba or whoever, and would have said, "Hey, steel is a zillion dollar industry", let's set one of these B2B-thingies up so I can contain costs, compete with the Japanese, expand my market, interact with clients, and create some value. And then, maybe instead of a $750 million market cap, I could have the piece of action of a $30 billion B2B marketplace (Hey, I'm not greedy, just give me a third of that, thank you very much).

Of course, I could be totally off, and this is just my opinion. I'm not saying F, GM, or BS are good buys. But, I also know that AAPL, SNE, and ORCL were BI buys down the line, and all of them changed their relevance in the World as we know it. What has EK done lately?

Just something to think about.

Best,

John
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