International -- Readers Report
LET'S HEAR MORE ABOUT VALUE INVESTING (int'l edition)
As a longtime subscriber to your excellent magazine and as an investor on Wall Street, I fully agree with Peter Coy's analysis of the long-term safety and success of a value-investing strategy as opposed to the risky momentum investing so popular in the past few years ("Headed for bubble trouble?" Finance, Nov. 17).
While the Dow Jones industrial average and other stock indexes have not suffered big corrections recently, many individual stocks--some of which were once the darlings of Wall Street pros--have crashed from their ridiculously high prices. Oxford Health Plans Inc. and Boston Chicken Inc. are recent examples, and perhaps at their current prices they are value investments!
Good equities at reasonable prices can still be found in the food-distribution, steel, environmental, and technology sectors. It is disappointing that financial institutions and the financial press give little coverage to such undervalued shares, which merit the attention of long-term investors.
Anthony J. Yuja
Florence, ItalyReturn to top
MERCEDES RATES AN `F' IN THE A-CLASS AFFAIR (int'l edition)
Daimler Benz deserves little praise for its efforts to save the Mercedes A-class ("A-class damage control at Daimler Benz," European Business, Nov. 24). The company's initial response to the crisis was anything but a textbook exercise. While stubbornly defending the safety of the A-class, Mercedes officials publicly ridiculed the Swedish journalist who drove the ill-fated car that rolled over during testing. Apologies were offered only when the vehicle's poor stability had been confirmed by several other sources, including its maker.
Daimler Benz still promotes the notion that the A-class is victim of an extreme maneuver performed under exotic conditions, as suggested by the name of the now famous "elk test". This test is actually a standard procedure, used in highly regarded auto reviews for two decades. But the "elk test" designation never appeared until the Baby Benz's spectacular failure. The invention of the derogatory elk label looks like no accident, but rather as part of a scheme to downplay the incident.
StockholmReturn to top
A CLEAR VIEW OF THE MESS IN KOREA (int'l edition)
"Korea's Crisis" (Asia Business, Nov. 24) couldn't have arrived at a better time. It provided evidence that the solutions I constantly suggest to my Korean friends are not odd fantasies but part of a larger professional consensus. The quote from the Korean housewife, insisting that the government should "do something," is a fairly typical insistence that any change must be imposed and guided from the top down.
One fine example of chaebol blindness that Mark L. Clifford's excellent piece didn't mention: On the same day a local paper announced Kia Motors Corp.'s bankruptcy, it also carried a story discussing the chaebol's plans to expand into life insurance.
Thomas J. Creasing
Young Wha Consulting Corp.
I found Mr. Clifford's article penetrating and illuminating. As a very young boy in Korea in the '60s, I can recall waiting in long lines with my grandmother to receive vaccinations from foreign doctors. Since emigrating in 1968, I have observed the development of my motherland from Canada. I naturally have a North American view of Korea, albeit with significant insight into Korean culture.
The rapid creation of great wealth in any emerging economy is often a misleading indicator of true development within a society. Typically such wealth is not ubiquitous, but is generated on the backs of the working class. It actually serves to exaggerate the gulf between rich and poor, and thereby sow the seeds for eventual social disharmony and political, social, and economic upheaval.
The only reason the latter has not occurred in many Far Eastern countries, particularly Korea, Japan, and Taiwan (although the pressures for reform in all areas are increasing), is because these are monolithic cultures that, despite enormous international trade, remain insular. The citizens (even the exploited) are feverishly patriotic vis-a-vis foreigners and are willing, at least initially, to sacrifice for the sake of the larger community.
Ultimately, it is the appetites of those benefiting most from the economic status quo that also cause crises. Such people fail to appreciate the extent to which their success derives from good fortune, such as low labor costs, low taxes, committed workers, and trade advantages. There is no lack of hard work here, but, as has been seen, hard work is not sufficient by itself.
The failures of so many big conglomerates in Korea are testament to the fact that success today does not guarantee success tomorrow.
Young H. Lee
Korean-Canadian Cultural Assn.
TorontoReturn to top