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  • Solazyme: Taking Advantage Of Healthy Food Trends And The Need For Innovation [View article]
    Isn't the key problem with SZYM one of production? I see very little in the way of increasing output from any of its plants, but especially from the Moema plant. One can speculate about the large short position in the stock, but what it indicates to me is simply that the company still isn't producing enough from its plants. Though I'm long in the shares and still have a profit at the current price, the lack of product and resulting cash flow problems could create further pressure on the stock.
    Sep 15 08:38 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Update: Energy Recovery Earnings [View article]
    As a long term holder of ERII, I find it ironic that there is relatively little interest in the company or its products at a time when the key product should be in great demand. A recent article in Science, the weekly journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, noted that the California drought over the last three years as led to the deepening of water wells in the major agricultural areas to the point where 60% of all water usage in California is from wells. The increased usage causes the land to sink, in many cases preventing the aquifer from recovering when more water is available. The long term impact is to increase reliance on other sources of water; namely desalination. Yet there still is very little investment in new desalination facilities.

    The best policy for investors, in my view, is to hang in there, simply because, sooner or later, California and other water short regions will be driven by necessity to find new water supplies.
    Sep 5 12:05 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Micron Vs. SanDisk And The 'Big Data' Explosion Effect [View article]
    The article is misleading by treating SanDisk and its joint venture partner as separate entities. The two companies share manufacturing facilities in Japan and are by far the lowest cost producers of NAND flash memory of any sort. You can see the difference in costs between those of Micron and SanDisk by looking at their respective gross margins. SanDisk's are about twice as high as Micron's.

    So why would someone think Micron is a better investment? Maybe in DRAM, which SanDisk doesn't even make, but not in NAND flash memory. Furthermore, there appears to be a major difference in performance of SSD units for enterprise servers, with those made by SanDisk now seen to be much faster and at least as, if not more reliable than those made by Micron.
    Sep 2 02:08 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Intel Seeks Relevance With Spreadtrum Tie-Up [View article]
    What would it take for Intel to actually get a deal with Spreadtrum? Wouldn't Spreadtrum need some assurance that a chip with Intel innards could take market share from chips that use Qualcomm proprietary designs. And wouldn't Intel's proposed deal be helped if the Chinese government found Qualcomm was engaging in anticompetitive business practices?

    There is a political component in all these deals, and Intel is not above dealing.
    Aug 28 11:10 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Chevron: Past, Present, Future [View article]
    Chevron's return on investment was helped significantly through its 2005 purchase of Unocal at a price that amounted to approximately $10 per barrel of proven crude oil reserves held by Unocal. That is the main reason Chevron's margins and dividends as well are better than its big competitors such as Exxon. Because oil and gas reserves are a depleting asset as they're used up, the cost of finding new reserves begins to look more like the rest of the industry. And that cost keeps going up for the most part because of the challenges of developing new reserves in deep water, shale, etc.

    The question in my mind is not whether Chevron will continue to be profitable over the next five to ten years (it will), but whether worldwide fossil fuel energy consumption will continue to expand at current or lower rates. If the current rate of demand continues, the price of oil and gas, and products made from oil and gas will continue to rise. If new technologies are adopted such that the proportion of energy from oil and gas drops significantly, then oil and gas profits will also drop, or at least level off. There is a better future for alternative forms of energy, but Chevron at present seems to be curtailing its alternative energy (e.g., solar) investments.
    Aug 20 02:43 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Qualcomm: Too Much Focus On The Chinese Situation Might Create A Buying Opportunity [View article]
    Self–driving vehicles, plus added features for conventional vehicles could require a lot more than one chip per vehicle. Apparently Qualcomm has processor designs that would be ideal in these applications, which require processing power at very high processor speeds. One can also be sure that Apple and Intel are eyeing the same market.
    Aug 19 10:10 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Washington REIT - Continued Stagnation [View article]
    I agree completely. Besides, the new management, finding it difficult to get shareholder approval to issue preferred stock or other similar cash generating schemes, opted instead to get cash by reducing the dividend. A prime example of a shareholder Unfriendly company.
    Aug 17 05:36 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Qualcomm, Audi In Anti-Trust Spotlight; Europe Responds [View article]
    I don't know the source of your data, but I believe the data are inaccurate, if not totally false. Qualcomm initial agreements with Chinese companies allowed for LOWER royalty rates for sales confined to the Chinese market. In exchange, the companies agreed to higher than normal royalty rates for exports. Chinese companies without this dual rate system pay exactly the same royalties as other Qualcomm licensees. The only difference appears to be that some Chinese licensees have avoided paying royalties altogether.

    The only Chinese patents I know of that may be incorporated into products designed by Qualcomm have to do with the TD–SCDMA system that was developed in China, but which is based to a major extent on CDMA patents developed by Qualcomm. If the Chinese tried to establish TD–SCDMA as a worldwide standard, any sales of related products outside China would be challenged for infringing Qualcomm patents. In fact, for this reason, many of the so–called Chinese patents relating to TD–SCDMA would be declared invalid because of their reliance on CDMA prior art, developed and licensed to the Chinese by Qualcomm.

    In any event, it's becoming a moot issue because even the Chinese have admitted that TD–SCDMA, as a third generation data communications system has serious performance problems and will be replaced eventually by the more efficient fourth generation LTE system now being implemented in China. Qualcomm also has patents relating to this system, as do many other non–Chinese companies. So if China wants to play ball, they should acknowledge that more than a few outsiders deserve recognition for the technology (in the form of regular royalty payments).
    Aug 17 05:31 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Qualcomm, Audi In Anti-Trust Spotlight; Europe Responds [View article]
    Characterizing Qualcomm as really having "a degree of control in their markets" is misleading. The only "control" Qualcomm has is its more than 17,000 patents, which include many essential patents for wireless communications, no matter which system a country or company adopts. Qualcomm has a uniform royalty rate that applies to all licensees, not just to licensees in China. However, Qualcomm also provided LOWER royalty rates to Chinese companies making devices intended for domestic use, in order to give those companies some benefits and lower costs.

    Patents are a natural monopoly for their limited life. No nation has a right to consider the royalties for the use of those patents as anticompetitive, unless the royalty rates are excessive, which in Qualcomm's case, they aren't. Since China is a member of the World Trade Organization, it's up to the WTO members to decide if one of them has failed to follow WTO rules, and if so, to take effective measures.
    Aug 15 03:08 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Qualcomm: Too Much Focus On The Chinese Situation Might Create A Buying Opportunity [View article]
    "Qualcomm has become an interesting stock"? It's always been interesting – and one of the best managed companies, to boot. But I disagree with your view that the situation in China isn't all that important. It's very important, but capable of being resolved because what the Chinese are doing, not only to Qualcomm but to several other firms, runs counter to the rules of the World Trade Organization, of which China is a member.

    The problems faced by Qualcomm and others in China can only be fixed by concerted action of WTO nations, including banning imports of Chinese products whose low prices are based on illegal use of intellectual property, state subsidies, and/or lower than standard royalty rates.
    Aug 15 02:55 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Highlights From Solazyme's Q2 2014 Conference Call [View article]
    Despite IEA predictions, it's unlikely that there will be lower oil prices next year. The reason is basic to oil and gas investments: The rate of growth in demand for oil and gas for fuel exceeds the rate of growth of proven reserves at constant costs. New additions to reserves have generally been at much higher costs than older reserves, and this alone prevents the price of oil from any long term declines.

    Short term declines might occur if worldwide economic conditions suddenly worsened. China, for example, might undergo turmoil because of a real estate bubble and the impact on energy demand in China. But China has been on a policy of increasing consumer demand in order to counter the excess investments in real estate. An increase in consumer demand will likely be accompanied by increased demand for oil and gas.

    In Europe, the situation is not getting much better, but the disruptions in energy consumption caused in part by the situation in Ukraine do not contribute to lower oil and gas prices, to say the least! In Africa and Latin America, demand is growing rapidly, especially in Africa. Put all these factors together, along with the long term trend in the cost of developing new reserves, and the earlier predictions of T. Boone Pickens are vindicated.

    As far as Solazyme is concerned, these trends should have little impact because the company is concentrating on products that carry much higher margins than fuel oils (diesel and aviation). As many have commented, and as SZYM officials noted at their recent conference call, the key here is execution, and how fast Solazyme can ramp up production at Moema and Clinton. The fact that some institutional investors still see SZYM as an alternative energy stock gives other investors a better buying opportunity.
    Aug 13 02:29 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Update: Energy Recovery Earnings [View article]
    Looking at the balance sheet and cash flow from operations, it doesn't look to me that the company is in a position to buy back shares. But it does appear that the company is vulnerable to a takeover. I would not rule out a takeover attempt with financing from China, in view of the need for desalination facilities to provide drinking water to millions now drinking polluted river water.

    Looking at the drought afflicting western states, enough potential demand exists to satisfy supplies not just from ERII but from competitors such as the company founded by one of the original ERII founders. These are all long term opportunities, and they do not argue at all for short term share price recovery, unless, of course, there is a takeover attempt.

    In comments to a previous article, I suggested that even with competition that utilizes intellectual property thought to be owned solely by ERII, there is no proof that any competitor can manufacture pressure exchangers, much less pumps, at a price substantially less than ERII. Thus, to sum up, the near term prospects aren't all that great, but longer term, by which I mean a year or more, the prospects look attractive.
    Aug 7 01:44 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Qualcomm Is Still One Of The Best Buys In Tech [View article]
    The "pretty steep runup prior to the China story" was related more to the undervaluation of QCOM, in terms of price–earnings ratio, cash on hand, zero debt, and book value, 88% of which is in cash and marketable securities.

    Qualcomm, with its investments in research and chip production in China, has a lot more leverage than one might think after reading the hostile statements from China on anticompetitive business practices, royalty rates, etc. In addition, Qualcomm is not the only US company that is under pressure from a nationalist, authoritarian government bent on finding some way to acquire others' innovations on the cheap. The latest statements against the likes of Microsoft, Mercedes Benz, BMW, etc., added to recent instances of outright piracy of intellectual property could lead to actions by the World Trade Organization, of which China is a member.

    Finally, the rash of anti–American sentiments coming from the Chinese government, presumably due in part to US objections to China's attempt to exercise sovereignty over everything in the sea out to 200 miles or so, including an island long under Japanese supervision, call for a strong response from the US government, to the effect that enough is enough.
    Aug 7 12:14 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Highlights From Solazyme's Q2 2014 Conference Call [View article]
    Toxic algae blooms are related to open water algae, not algae from closed systems. Closed systems, which are more easily controlled and more reliable, have a long history. For example, at Kibbutz Ketura in the southern part of Israel, the community for several years has maked most of its profit on algae raised in tanks and exported throughout the world for use in salmon farming. These algae give farmed salmon their characteristic pink color. I haven't seen any complaints or misgivings about the use of this very popular product.
    Aug 6 12:06 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • RXi Pharmaceuticals: Early-Stage Biotech With A Promising Future [View article]
    No one that I know of has a competing product to reduce scars from operations. But there are many less invasive surgical procedures that reduce the extent of scarring. When I discussed the technology with a surgeon who performs hip surgery at the University of Michigan Hospital, he was impressed.
    Aug 6 11:59 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment