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Vikram Saxena  

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  • Bangalore Blasts Threaten Indian Outsourcing [View article]
    Blasts like this happen with amazing regularity in India, thanks to the generosity of a neighboring country. Things come back to normal in a day or two, even if there are massive casualties. Most of the blasts happen in public places and are designed to scare people, rather than damage buildings or infrastructure. In this particular case, the loss of life thankfully was minimal compared to the past.

    BTW though IT seems to get a lot of headlines in the US, it is certainly not the life-blood of India.
    Jul 25, 2008. 03:41 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • India: The Bear Case [View article]
    The communists are out!
    Jul 22, 2008. 08:36 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • India Battles Rising Inflation, Lower Growth; Ratings Agencies Turn The Screw [View article]
    The key of course is oil, which is the main cause of the increasing imbalance. However, the Indian equity markets are trading in mid-teens P/E to trailing earnings. Even if the growth rates come down the market is very fairly valued. There is a general apathy towards equity investing across the globe, which might be coming to an end soon and will benefit the beaten down Indian market. The confidence motion is a boost in the short term; the market is poised for a rally. And if oil continues to correct, the rally could really develop legs.
    Jul 22, 2008. 08:29 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • India's Strong Growth Should Continue [View article]

    Can you comment more about the Ponzi scheme? There is little or no seller financing in India; even bank led financing was a mirage less than a decade ago. Most of the money came from the unaccounted economy (black money) and transactions were conducted in all cash deals with people literally exchanging bags of cash.

    As the other Vikram(Vikram12) pointed out, you also have to look at real prices versus nominal prices. The Indian Rupee has been depressed for the past two decades that shows up in pricing.

    You also have to account for population density in India versus the USA. Land is relatively scarce in India and that will show up as higher premiums for homes, especially when compared to non-Metro/non-Coastal America where homes sell more on replacement value and not speculative value.

    Growth in real estate prices in rapidly growing emerging economies is a not exclusive to India. Rising incomes coupled with the availability of credit, and rapid urbanization increases the value of real-estate at a much larger rate than the GDP.

    Vikram12: Your comments about Gold is not easy for a non-Indian to understand. There used to plans to get the gold into circulation as capital but now that availability of capital is no longer a challenge they have been shelved. India is benefiting from the wealth effect of Gold which not many people factor in to their models.

    Today's vote of confidence will be good for the equity markets. Further the recovery in the US equity markets is going to be good for equities in the emerging markets as well. And BSE is trading in mid teens of trailing P/E. Much cheaper than the US market with much better growth prospects.
    Jul 22, 2008. 08:20 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • India's Strong Growth Should Continue [View article]
    1. Real Estate went down in India is a very generic statement. It may have corrected in some areas where it went up very quickly but there was no nationwide bust like we are currently seeing here in the USA.

    2. What we are seeing right now is a catch-up phase where the country is making up for almost 50 years of lost growth. Thanks to development in information availability, the process is getting accelerated quickly. To get a sense of the potential, India's per-capita income is about half of China's. So even if the per-capita GDP double's in ten years (about 7-8% CAGR), it will still be behind China's!

    3. The current real-estate boom in India is a result of:
    (i) Industrial/Urban Expansion: Agricultural land near urban centers which was once valued based on depressed agricultural prices, is now being valued in terms of the commercial value in a globally integrated economy.
    (ii) Development and expansion of credit facilities: Till very recently, buying a home in India required decades of savings, since credit availability was poor. In the past decade, as the banking sector developed and made credit available which led to the growth of the sector. Of course massive white-collar job growth helped the process along.

    But if you view real-estate prices on a national scale, outside the hot urban growth centers, they are nowhere near inflated. There is no nationwide bubble in real-estate or asset pricing.

    4. There is going to be massive infrastructure development in India in the next decade which not only is necessary to sustain growth, but like in China will likely be a driver of economic growth. There is enough private sector capital available to drive that since the economics are so well stacked up in the favor of investors. Gradually the political posturing which constrained infrastructure growth is also taking a back seat, with investors figuring out how to manage the politicians.

    I do agree with some posters that the author could have organized his thoughts better and made a more cogent case. however many of the comments here are completely off-base. There is uncertainty in India about the fate of the Central (Federal Government) but if the past offers any clue, there are going to be no negative policy changes; in fact the lull might allow some tougher measures to go the legislature.
    Jul 22, 2008. 12:55 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • India's Strong Growth Should Continue [View article]
    DragonSlayer: Taiwan and S. Korea are not emerging markets; so comparing the growth rates in those countries to India is like comparing apples to oranges. Taiwan's economy is growing at around 4% rate; S. Korea is expected to be under 5% this year. Further these economies are much more strongly coupled to the US and the Chinese economy than the Indian economy and are likely to suffer more pressure from any problems there. The Indian economy is primarily an internal growth story and less likely to be affected by the problems in the US and anything which might happen in China after the Olympics. Would you compare China's growth rate to ROC?

    WefWef: The Indian financial market use lacs (0.1M) and crores (10M) and the author chose to use them since he is based in India. SA is read outside the USA also, and investors in India are well aware of these terms. You could write to SA editors to convert these numbers to the US system.
    Jul 21, 2008. 02:25 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Google’s TAC, Revenues, and Headcount Signal Red Flags [View article]
    I guess Google is in a no win situation. If TAC goes up, margins go down. If TAC goes down something is fishy. It all boils down to the spin you want to put on it.

    When a new product is launched, the cost of sales and the sales commissions are high to encourage new members to sign up. As the product becomes established the sales commissions come down. Once Adsense was well established and has no worthwhile competition, Google could afford to pay less in commissions and that showed in the declining TAC expenses. However there is floor to what Google can go down to, and the slowdown in the rate of decline is an indication of that.

    Further since TAC payouot is based on real clicks, it is likely that any quality improvement initiatives which alters the number of clicks vs the value of the click will impact it. As the revenue per click increases, Google may not pass on the revenue proportionally to the publishers.
    Jul 18, 2008. 09:21 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Institutional Investors Still Don't 'Get' Google [View article]
    Some thoughts:
    1. Like Microsoft and desktop PCs before, Google does not want to be left out in anything major to do with the web. So if there is anything new (and there is a lot), Google wants to have a finger in the pie.

    2. #1 does not imply that Google devotes a lot of resources to every new idea. A team of 2-3 efficient developers is often all that is needed to work on a new idea.

    3. Google also does not have to spend a lot (if any) money on marketing new ideas; their primary expenditure is on development. Put the idea on the site, and let people try it out. If it catches on increase the resource allocation and the focus.

    4. If the idea does not work, then at the least you have now built up internal expertise about that domain. If the flaw is with the implementation, and a competitor grows in the space, you go and buy them. Your internal project has significantly improved your ability to evaluate potential buy out candidates. If the idea itself is flawed (even the competitors are hurting), then you gradually wind the effort down, while having a presence in the space which can be revived if and when the idea catches the public fancy again.

    BTW Lively looks cool, a possible precursor to Google sponsored role- playing games, especially role playing games which you can carry on your gPhone.
    Jul 17, 2008. 09:23 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Can Big Oil Balance Shareholder Interest Against National Interest? [View article]

    Thank you for the links. It is great to know that BP and Shell are doing their part now. They really do not need to worry about the new tax since they should be able to get enough credits to offset that. The purpose has already been achieved.

    Prop 87:
    The first rebuttal from the oil industry insider makes some claims without much analysis behind them. Further they might have been relevant when oil was trading in the $30s-$40s. When oil trades well above $100, any increase in the marginal cost of production of oil because of a few dollars of taxes per barrel is irrelevant. Oil is currently priced based on value plus model, not the cost plus model. It will definitely affect the profitability of the producer but when the gap between the cost of pumping and market price is almost three figures, the tax does not matter when it comes to the decision to pump or not. The corporate tax issue affects any firm doing business in CA; nothing unique to oil.

    Oil Drum: The debate between RR (Rapier) and Khosla was not much about Prop 87 but between Khosla's focus on ethanol and RR's opposition to ethanol as an alternative. RR has done an excellent roundup article which clarified both the sides here

    Khosla believes in ethanol since it is the least disruptive way of reducing gasoline usage without turning our world upside down.

    RR has another recent article (2008) where he has started to agree with one of Khosla's sponsored venture:

    BTW, since you know so much about the solar industry who not right a position paper describing what is wrong with the solar subsidies out there. Just because the subsidies (capital) are not being deployed in the most efficient manner does not mean that the objective is not worthwhile.

    fixedincomequant gmail
    Jul 15, 2008. 05:09 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Can Big Oil Balance Shareholder Interest Against National Interest? [View article]

    I am not going to respond further to your posts UNLESS you provide links. Your claims of FACTS are have little credibility especially when in some cases (like Prop 87) they were essentially half-truths designed to instill fear among the voters, who have approved much more costly initiatives. To me 'everyone knows' is not good enough; if it is truly the case it should not take more than 30 seconds to find a link to a credible source.

    1. Net Zero and Solar System Costs:
    I am not sure I follow your arguments about the cost of the solar systems. On one hand you say net-zero systems are abundant and on the other hand you say that solar is too expensive because of incorrectly applied subsidies. Sure if you are willing to pay 3-4x the cost of PG&E electricity in financing your net-zero system, you can get there, but for anything reasonable (cost < 1.5x PG&E electricity), net-zero is not feasible. I had tried three different vendors in Fall of 2006, but could not get to less than 1.5x PG&E costs after all the rebates/credits. Today with HE loans are much harder and expensive to get, the costs are even higher. Do everyone a favor and get a quote today instead of spreading misinformation under an anonymous alias.

    2. Your audacity in spreading misinformation about VCs is indeed an eye-opener to me.
    The first news about Calpers potentially investing in Khosla Ventures emerged about a month ago. Until now then *ALL* the money and the investments were from his or his families/friends' wealth. Further Calpers will be a limited partner. But you make it seem that the guy has been looting pension funds and blowing their money in pie in the sky idea.

    You continue to claim, in spite of being called out, that the ventures financed from Prop 87s investment fund would not have given the state an equity state. You also say that it was VCs primarily who pushed Prop 87, when the biggest donor for Prop 87 was file producer/real estate developer Steve Bing who has donated to similar causes before. Further you believe that the funds to help state residents to replace existing systems with newer technology would have helped companies funded by VCs via Prop 87 funds. Do you have *ANY* idea of how long a VC funded company would take to commercialize a new technology and make it mass-market? Prop 87 had a ten year horizon and most of the money for consumer assistance would have gone to existing technologies in the market or which were ready to come to the market. It would not have gone to products based on pie in the sky technologies which are still in the lab, or in the mind of VCs and a long time away from commercial use.

    (c) Investments: Do everyone a favor and find the percentage of GDP being invested in path-breaking research today when compared to the 1960s-1970s. Over the past few decades, the pay-back horizon on most investments has shrunk to a point, where our ability to be a pioneer fundamental research is under serious threat. If Khosla puts his own money in pie in the sky idea, I laud him. The proof is in the pudding: Do you wonder why researchers are contacting him, an individual, rather than rely on traditional sources?

    (3) Big Oil and Renewable Energy:
    Under the broad principles of the current proposal, firms who invest in renewable energy (like BP as you claim) will get a credit for that investment and not be taxed on that portion. It is not just renewable energy; firms who invest in new refineries will not be taxed. So if BP is indeed investing, the purpose of the initiative is already achieved and BP's tax bill will be proportionally reduced.

    And regarding green BP: The money spent in the BP's Green Image ad campaign is in the similar range as the money actually invested in renewable energy! Taking a page out of your book, ' and that is a FACT which everyone but you know'

    (4) And finally, this is not about solar energy; it is about getting Big Oil to put their immense financial and political muscle to work in helping the nation get out of the mess we are in. Even if alternative energy picks up big time, it will take a LONG time for the role of oil in the world economy to become insignificant; a century of investment in an oil based infrastructure ensures that. A few billion in investments in new technologies, will not alter their current balance sheets in any significant manner; nor will it destroy demand for oil when billions in Asia integrate with the modern economy. And it is very likely their new investments in renewables are going to be in *LONG TERM* share-holder interest of Big Oil companies too.

    Big Oil has benefited a lot from the current system; it is time they put their profits to work in national interest instead of playing spoil-sport, while the transfer of wealth to countries amicable to our interests spirals upwards.
    Jul 15, 2008. 12:24 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Can Big Oil Balance Shareholder Interest Against National Interest? [View article]

    0. This article is about oil companies, and their potential role beyond oil. For some reason you believe that persuading Oil companies to support renewable energy is because of some reflexive hatred of Oil Companies. As an individual who loves driving, let me assure you I have nothing against oil per se; I do however feel that Big Oil can do a lot more to further our national interests. Also it is not just about solar energy but alternative and renewable energy sources.

    1. To set the record clear, I haven't even watched the Inconvenient Truth. This article is also not about partisan politics (I am an independent). It is about getting oil companies to get some skin in the renewable energy train which will help end the partisan gridlock and move our country forward towards a more balanced energy policy.

    2. You say "The FACT is that the VCs would have received hundreds of million in free money and everybody knows it "; However you have been unable to dig even a SINGLE official document supporting that. Unfortunately I do not believe in 'facts which everyone knows' if they are not supported by verifiable proof.

    3. Further you continue to take aim in investors in renewable energy and any benefits which investors in these companies will get because of government sponsored incentives. Should incentives and subsidies only help investors in oil companies? You call VCs charlatans, when at least one of them is putting millions of his own money at stake in supporting new research, some in projects which even he believes are just pie in the sky. BTW, this was the same guy who had the integrity of going to a Goldman Sachs conference and state that many of the high flyers of the tech bubble will crash, six months before the crash began when he and his firm were big investors in the same firms.

    4. Historically the support of more forward looking research (or promising pie in the sky ideas) was driven by government funding or by the research budgets of large corporations. It is indeed a sad day for our country when VCs are putting their own money in pursuing this research. This does not bode well for our nation's technological leadership.

    5. PG&E changed its rate structure in 2006 so that the power bought back by it no longer was at an attractive rate; as a result a majority of home with solar installation, even those which do not use power at the peak hours, will not get a net zero bill.

    6. If you believe that the current policies to support the solar industry needs to catch up with the ground reality, then please do educate the rest of us by writing an article focussing on the problem areas. More importantly, please support your claims by appropriate links instead of unverifiable claims of FACTs which everyone knows.
    Jul 14, 2008. 02:26 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Can Big Oil Balance Shareholder Interest Against National Interest? [View article]

    5. It seems in your eyes, the rules should be different for oil and other industries when it comes to running a business. It is OK for oil companies to:

    - have a vise like grip on our energy policy
    - use their political and monetary muscle to oppose new technologies
    - get the political and military support available to nationalized industries with little recognition of their responsibilities in return, -continue to get new subsidies while their reserves dwindle due to reduced investments

    However, if the investors in competing technologies, which will:
    - help our nation's economy by reducing energy costs
    - restore our position as a technology leader
    - strengthen our nation's strategic position
    - and also help the environment
    try for some government support, they are charlatans?
    Jul 13, 2008. 02:42 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Can Big Oil Balance Shareholder Interest Against National Interest? [View article]

    0. My arguments are supported by facts and links to documents which confirm them. Your arguments are based on unverified assumptions, which more often are wrong. There is nothing 'smart guy' about my posts; they contain arguments built on top of verifiable facts.

    1. You asked me to read the drafts for Prop 87 and I read it to prove that there is no mention of money even going to VCs; any claim you make beyond that is a strawman proposal, based on an unverified assumption followed by an argument which defies past precedent. Half-truths at the best, deceptive propaganda at the worst.

    2. You claim that the solar industry is making extraordinary profits. Till recently (2-3 years ago), most solar companies, even the high-flyers of today were start-ups with a long history of struggle. It is only in the past 2-3 years that the solar industry has taken off, along with the price of oil. Sunpower was not profitable till 2006
    FirstSolar was not profitable till 2007

    3. Government Subsidies are designed as a policy tool to encourage the use of new products early in their adoption cycle. The subsidies help reduce the pricing gap between an established product with economies of scale and a new product with a small market, to make them more attractive to early adopters. The early adopters of any expensive technology are likely to be more affluent apart from being socially conscious. Your class warfare argument ignores the fact remains that it is the affluent who pay a bulk of the taxes in the USA. There is nothing wrong in them getting some of the tax back to help nurture an industry which will help the less affluent in the long term.

    4. You wrote "You are basically rehashing what we already defeated ..". During my discussion with you, I have learned a lot about the campaign used to defeat Prop 87, and have realized that most of the arguments used do not stand up to any detailed scrutiny. The oil industry used its wealth to outspend the proponents by a factor of 2-3x, to spread a message of fear (gas prices will go up, when TX, LA, AK charge a much higher tax), false arguments (how government employees will suffer because they get no dibs), and outright defamation (VCs getting free money). Californians are progressive in nature; they passed the stem cell proposal even though it was coming out of their own pocket. However Prop 87 failed even though it would have bought more money into the state, thanks to the half-truths. Just another illustration of the power of Big Oil and their ability to hinder the growth of renewable energy while their own reserves are depleting
    Jul 13, 2008. 02:02 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Can Big Oil Balance Shareholder Interest Against National Interest? [View article]


    This article is about persuading oil companies to get some skin in the game when it comes to the development of alternative energy sources; otherwise they will continue to block progress. If they are unwilling or unable, let them pay slightly more tax while they enjoy huge profits thanks to the difference between the cost of production and the market price of oil.

    It is not just government subsidies or taxes, the Cobasys case illustrates how BigOil can use their financial power to kill promising technologies. Another illustration of their political power is the Bureau of Land Management recent decision (later reversed) to put a freeze on applications for new solar projects on public land in six Western states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah), while it conducts a 22 month long study looking at the environmental, social and economic impacts of solar energy development. The desert areas of these states are ideally suited for solar power; there are 80 million acres of US land leased to the oil and gas industry and zero acres to the solar industry. The decision was reversed after a massive public uproar, but shows the amount of political support enjoyed by the anti-renewable lobby.

    1. Prop 87: Though I do not find it particularly productive to talk about a vote which happened two years ago, I find the misinformation you are propagating worth dispelling.

    (a) If you go through the entire text of the proposition (, you will find that the term VC is not even mentioned and the term Venture is mentioned only when listing the qualification for Board Membership (use the Search function in Acrobat reader). Though I have repeatedly asked you to post any link which states that the state would not have a stake in the venture investments from the taxes, you have refused to do so. You continue to focus on the absence of language regarding equity stake for an investment via VCs, when there is no explicit statement that the funds will be disbursed via VCs either.
    (b) You to fail to take into account is past precedence of state funding of startups and the state agency taking an equity stake. We are not taking about some gullible investors who could be hoodwinked but the state of California which prides itself in nurturing the venture environment and is a veteran in this space. Your conclusions are based on the absence of an explicit statement about an disbursement style which is also not even explicitly mentioned, while you ignore past-precedence. I find them untenable and an egregious example of the distortion of facts to support a particular agenda.
    (c) You also fail to see the difference between university research grants and venture investments when it comes to ownership stakes. Typically university research grants do not give significant ownership rights to the industry sponsoring the project; the rights primarily stay with the researcher and the university. This is because the university infrastructure is supported by funding from a variety of sources (public, private etc.). Further there might be multiple companies with grants supporting a particular researcher. Hence the claim of a single company sponsoring a particular project are weak since there are a lot of other players supporting the university and the researcher. If a company really like the results of a project, their typical modus-operandi would be to take an equity stake in a start-up which licenses the technology from the IP holders (the university and the researcher). If Prop 87 explicitly wanted to get the state a stake in these projects, it was because it was going against past precedence regarding external funding of university research. It makes sense for the state to have a stake in the IP too, since in a lot of cases, the university infrastructure is supported by the state.
    (d) In your first comment you have explicitly mentioned that Prop 87 would have increased the price at the pump. Though oil pricing is an hard to fathom, the process by which the price at the oil trading pits propagate through the system is not that hard to understand. When the marginal cost of production of oil is significantly less (by almost an order of magnitude) than the price at which oil trades, a few dollars in taxes on locally pumped oil would have little to no impact on the street price of gasoline.
    2. VCs: You continue to have a very anti-VC tone in your article. A few things to ponder about:
    (a) There is nothing which forces Big Oil has to invest via VCs to avoid the new taxes. They have the resources to hire top experts and set up their own units to invest in alternative energy if they so desire.
    (b) Vinod Khosla : The latest issue of Fast Company has a fairly balanced article about his investments. A few takeaways:
    a. He formed Khosla Ventures because he did not feel comfortable investing limited partners’ wealth in highly speculative investments; he is putting his own money at risk.
    b. He is investing in a lot of pie in the sky research ideas, and not just promising startups with a proven technology. The focus is in on renewable energy, and lower carbon emissions. He favors ethanol because he believes that it is the path of least resistance when it comes to reducing the dependency on oil while allowing time the national infrastructure to transition without massive disruptions.

    3. Solar Companies/Subsidies: Electricity from a domestic solar PV installation still costs more than what we currently pay for our electricity via the grid. The tax incentives for individual home owners are meager compared to what industries get and thanks to AMT some of those credits do not even apply. Home owners who pay for solar installations do so primarily to help the environment and encourage the growth of solar industry; not because they are going to get rich. Further if lower usage of oil based resources slows down the growth in the price of oil, it is the less affluent section of the society who will benefit the most; they spend a much larger percentage of their income on gas than the more affluent members.
    Jul 12, 2008. 04:31 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Lehman's Preferred Offering: Bullish for Stocks [View article]

    The spread tightening today was 'the most extreme narrowing of yield spreads ever' according to UBS.

    And I continue to believe that a default on the GSE default is at least a 4 sigma event (April 3 comment) with the pendulum shifting towards 5 as a United States battered by a weak economy, high oil prices and a general crisis of confidence, has to step in to stabilize the boat in the short term.
    Jul 11, 2008. 08:09 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment