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08/02/2011

Book Review: What Would Ben Graham Do Now?


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What Would Ben Graham Do Now?In his new book, What Would Ben Graham Do Now?: A New Value Investing Playbook for a Global Age, Jeffrey Towson offers a unique glimpse into global investing at the very top levels of sophistication. Towson was head of direct investments for the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia Pacific for Prince Waleed, one of the most successful global investors. Towson adapts Benjamin Graham’s value concept to a world that is vastly different from the one Graham knew.

Towson introduces us to the practice of combining value investing and deal making within politically charged settings, where the potential for profit stems from the large gaps between price and value. This is not the traditional portfolio approach with traded securities. Rather, it is a very focused and disciplined investing method for those who have high-level political and banking connections, and it concentrates on capabilities that developed countries want—oil company technologies, for example. Google’s expulsion from China exemplifies the risks: those who are no longer useful have a short investment life span. In China, “who you are matters.”

The ideal is the potentially great investment at a cheap value cost, usually in an environment where there is government protection and limited competition. Warren Buffet’s purchase of stock in the Chinese monopoly PetroChina has shown the dramatic profits than can result. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has been able to obtain key locations in countries where local power groups have control. The Arab Spring may change some of the players, but the old game remains the same.

Despite the uncertainty on the international political scene, global investing should continue its rapid growth. Towson’s book provides a lot of new insight into an area that is an ever-increasing priority for financial professionals.

–Bill Hayes

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