Monday, February 4, 2013

Customer Solutions Profit Model




“So I set out to find the answer. I interviewed dozens of customers to get a sense of how Factset operated. Piecing together fragments of information from all these conversations, I eventually put together a clear picture of how Factset had designed their business. Here’s what I learned.

“The business information marketplace in which both Factset and my client, Data House, were operating involved close to a thousand major customers. But within that arena, to maintain a strong growth curve, Factset needed to capture only twenty new customers per year. Knowing this, they developed a powerful approach to make that happen.

“Once Factset identified a company as a potential customer for their information services, they’d send a team of two or three people to work there. They would spend two or three months, sometimes longer, learning everything they could about the customer—how they ran their business, how their systems worked (and didn’t work), and what they really cared about. Based on this genuine knowledge of the customer, Factset then developed customized information products and services tailored to the specific characteristics and economics of the account. Once they landed the account, they spent a ton of time integrating their product into the customer’s systems. During this process, Factset’s revenues were tiny and their costs were huge. If you looked at a monthly P&L for a particular account, you’d see they were losing a ton of money. Costs of $10,000 might be charged against revenues of $3,000.”

…“After three or four months, Factset’s products would be woven into the daily flow of the customer’s operations. Their software would be debugged and working fine. Now Factset didn’t need three people working fulltime on the account. One person could maintain the service, probably part-time. And as the word spread among the client’s employees about how powerful Factset’s data was and how effectively Factset’s service had been customized to their specific needs, they began taking more and more advantage of it. Factset’s monthly costs fell from $10K to $8K, while monthly revenues started to grow, from $3K to $5K to $12K.

. ..“What were Factset’s margins?”

“How much do you think?”

…Steve grabbed a pencil and began jotting down numbers. Let’s see, he considered. Twenty-four million dollars in revenue generated by a staff of about forty people. How much would payroll costs be? These folks would probably be well paid. Some might make just sixty or seventy thousand, but a bunch would be in six figures. Steve seemed to recall hearing that benefits usually amounted to about fifty percent of salaries. So even well rewarded, the people would cost no more than, say, $200,000 apiece, counting salary, benefits, the whole nine yards. He multiplied. That makes eight million in payroll.

“How much would overhead be?” Steve wondered aloud.

“Use ten percent,” Zhao suggested.

Okay, figure ten percent of revenue for overhead—$2.4 million. Then there would be licensing fees for the rights to the information being sold.

Those might amount to another ten percent. Throw in a few more points for other costs . . . “I’ll guess forty percent operating margin—about ten million bucks, all told.”

Zhao smiled. “Very, very close.”

“So Data House came nowhere near what Factset accomplished.”

“That’s true.”

“I don’t get it. You laid out the whole plan for them, didn’t you? Are you saying that Data House didn’t choose to follow the winning strategy, even after they knew it would work?”

“About right.”

Steve shook his head. “Wow. I guess that must have been one of the worst organizations you’ve ever encountered. Did you ever work with any other company that simply refused to be successful?”

“Actually, it happens all the time. I can give you the complete recipe for the secret sauce, and the chances are good that you still won’t use it.”

“That’s strange. Why visit the doctor, then ignore his advice?”

“It’s a bit of a mystery. There’s probably no one reason why people seem to prefer failure to success. We know that change can be psychologically threatening—that’s part of the answer. In the case of Data House, they may have realized that following the Factset model would have taken a lot of hard work—much more than they were accustomed to. That’s part of the answer, too. But I think the ultimate explanation is a simple one. To succeed in business, you have to have a genuine, honest-to-goodness interest in profitability. And most people don’t.”

Zhao leaned back and spread his hands wide. “That’s all there is to it.”


Steve frowned. Can that really be true? he wondered. It’s hard to believe.

“That’s all for now. Today’s profit model was a simple one. But what is it, Steve? What’s the idea?

Steve thought for a moment. Then he said, “Invest time and energy in learning all there is to know about your customers. Then use that knowledge to create specific solutions for them. Lose money for a short time. Make money for a long time.”

From The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky

What are the distinguishing characteristics of this business model, of this profit model?

(1) Intimate knowledge of the customer; and (2) customization of products and services into (3) integrated solutions that address (4) the customer’s mission-critical problems (5) in such a way that these solutions are woven into the daily fabric of the customer’s business operations.

Once all five components of the model have been locked in, it is very hard to compete against the incumbent, especially in a slow-growing, smallish market. 

It can command very high margins with impunity and earn returns far above its cost of capital. It is a moated enterprise, a franchise. It would take a revolutionary leap of some kind, or sustained bout of self-abuse, to threaten it. You can count on its earnings and you can calculate its earnings power value. 

Despite the everyone-is-special-in-their-own-special-way heterogeneity of business, profit models, like plot lines in fiction or film, recur with surprising regularity. Understanding the elements and structure of a profit model well gives one the opportunity to recognize it where others may not.  If one understands this Customer Solutions Profit model, any company employing it is in one's circle of competence. Isn’t that why Buffett bought IBM

Classifying companies by profit model is an effective way of gaining insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an investment case. It is far more useful, in my view, than the headline categorizations of industrial organization popularized by Michael Porter and reformulated somewhat by Bruce Greenwald: “economies of scale”, “brand power”, “switching costs”, and so forth, very easily deteriorate into hollow, vacuous bumper sticker slogans. 

Consider now a business like Howdens Joinery, listed in the UK.  I will quote from the Chairman’s essay at the front of its 2011 Annual Report:

“250,000 local builders hold credit accounts with Howdens because we provide the products and services they require in order to run a successful business of their own. Through our national network of 509 depots we offer the builder a range of well-designed, well-made kitchens and associated joinery and hardware, all of which is available all the time in every depot. We sell to the builder on a trade-only basis, with a confidential discount that allows him to determine his margin and a net monthly account that gives him the ability to manage his cash flow requirements.

Howdens has acquired national scale, but it remains a local business, serving local builders who do not want to waste time travelling long distances or dealing with impersonal, centralised operations. Each depot runs its own customer accounts; employees are engaged locally; and profit-sharing is calculated locally, not centrally. Howdens’ customers expect to see familiar faces in their depot and rely on people they know to offer them sound advice.

A typical Howdens’ depot occupies around 10,000 square feet and employs about a dozen people. The depot is a low-cost operation, located on a trading estate rather than a high street, with convenient access and parking for the builder. Rent averages £5 per square foot and the typical depot fit-out cost is around £170,000.

The depot is able to keep everything in stock, and Howdens is able to refine stock levels, because each depot manager can use local knowledge to tailor re-order requirements to suit the needs of his or her customers...

The results we are reporting for 2011 reflect the inherent profitability of the business, and its capacity to generate cash, which has allowed us to grow and develop as well as meet our legacy obligations…

I’ll start at the beginning, with the Howdens’ model, which is based on a number of well-defined elements.

First, and principally, it is trade only, which means a constant focus on serving one customer – the small builder. We must not forget that we supply builders, who in turn supply people like us. Only Howdens can offer: a well-designed range of rigid cabinets, frontals and joinery that are easy to install, saving the builder time and therefore money; a quality of construction that means our kitchens do not break, look good and work well, saving more time and money (we call it “fitability”); a confidential discount that allows builders to determine their own margin and make a living; and a net monthly account that   allows them to manage their cash flow.

Second, we promise small builders everywhere that all our ranges are available locally, all the time, so they can pick up a complete kitchen when they need it, and they can finish their job and get paid by their customers, which means they can pay us.

Third, Howdens is a local business.  We have 509 local depots, because builders do not want to waste time driving to and fro – they want to get on with the job. Their account is with their local depot. The depot staff know what each account customer needs. And so there are no misunderstandings, and no call centres, which saves everybody a lot of time, as well as money.  “Local” also means that each Howdens’ depot is fully accountable for its own performance. Depot managers hire their own staff, refine their own stock to suit local needs, market it themselves to their own customers, and adjust their own pricing to suit local conditions.  They are wholly responsible for their own sales and their own margin.  Depot managers and staff are all incentivised to drive more sales and more margin, as efficiently as possible. Their bonus is based on a share of their locally generated profit less any stock loss – there is virtually no stock loss.  It is therefore not surprising that depot managers and staff are keen, willing and able to open new accounts and make sure that they trade.

Last year they opened 76,000 new accounts, which equated to 38,000 net new accounts in just one year. The total number of credit accounts now stands at almost 250,000.  On any given day, you can observe  the combination of around  £80 million of stock, spread across  509 depots, with 1,000 kitchen  planners capable of planning up  to 3,000 kitchens per day, 600  depot-based telesales people, 700  sales reps out on the road looking  for new customers, and 250,000  existing customers also out on  the road looking for their next job  to be getting on with – all of which  makes Howdens a business to be  reckoned with. 

Fourth, we run Howdens as a focused and therefore low-cost operation, with high volumes and predictable sales. We have invested in our own manufacturing capability to ensure better service, greater efficiency, and no waste – whether of money, people, process or space.  Our trade depots are typically 10,000 square feet in size, with rent of around £5 per square foot. They are located on trading estates – not retail parks. We do not have glossy showrooms. Our depots open early in the morning and are shut on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.  So altogether, they are not like High Street retailers at all, and their costs are very different too.

As I have remarked before, the Howdens’ model only works if it is implemented as a whole, which  means all of the elements are  non-negotiable [emphasis added].  Our model was designed when the business began in 1995. Its aim is to enable the business to find solutions to complexity efficiently and profitably, because we are engaged in a highly complex activity – that of getting kitchens into homes and making sure they work…

We are seeing an increased level of trust from builders keen to benefit from our knowledge, as well as from the other aspects of our offer, including the attractive terms I have described, and our planning facilities, which are second to none. As we have always said, builders follow the work and right now, proportionately, we are seeing more money spent by the private sector and less by the public sector.

I mentioned at the start of this review that continuing investment had been a critical factor in our ability to outperform the market and to continue to take market share in these challenging times. But what we have invested in? The short answer is that we have invested in serving one customer. That means making sure that we can offer our customer both service and efficiency, which together are the drivers of margin and market share. In order to improve service, we have invested in customer awareness. We provide each of our 250,000 account customers with catalogues, videos, samples and plans of kitchens, worktops, joinery and flooring to support their sales. We have also invested in focused advertising aimed at the end-user or consumer, rather than at our customer, the small builder, because we have observed that this helps the builder to market the whole range of Howdens’ products to an expanding population of aware consumers…

Furthermore, manufacturing supports our reputation with our customers. Builders do not like surprises with product.

They prefer to buy from manufacturers, and feel they know what they are getting, from people with credibility and a track record. By manufacturing product ourselves, we are also investing in supporting the margin of the business as a whole – and growing it, compared to others – because of the inherent efficiencies of not producing for anyone else. There is also the matter of security of supply. This is extremely important to a business that makes over 3.5 million cabinets and 860,000 worktops last year. We have also invested in the systems that control the manufacturing process, and by so doing have supported our ability to increase productivity and reduce waste. For example, we have invested in robots at the end of the production line, which have helped us gain more efficiency in the smooth transition from manufacturing to warehouse. Our investment in systems underpins our sales activity too. For example, we have invested in the latest CAD technology that means we can offer the builder an industry leading design service to support his sale, and he can fit a properly planned kitchen as quickly and efficiently as possible…

We know the importance of vigilance and we monitor everything, all the time – sales, margin, stock, cash, and the performance of every part of the business. In this market, we need to be quick on our feet. The way Howdens is organised means we are very close to where sales happen, and that is a source of competitive advantage. Vigilance also means responsiveness in every area. If a depot has an IT problem, we see it the moment it happens, and will set about fixing it immediately. If a customer account does not trade for 15 months, we close it, so that we keep a clean account base and know that we are tracking only active customers. We control credit by means of our nett monthly account, which is tightly managed, so that our total cost of credit, including debt recovery and bad debts, still remains less than 1.5% of sales.

What this all adds up to is that Howdens outperforms because we are clear about what we are doing. We design and build a professional product, with an up-to-the-minute design, that requires a professional fit, and we sell it to professional fitters who can go and pick it up from local stock day in, day out; and because we give them a truly reliable service, and a confidential discount, they can make a living out of it.

You might recognize the customer solution profit model in that opening essay. (1) Intimate knowledge of the customer; and (2) customization of products and services into (3) integrated solutions that address (4) the customer’s mission-critical problems (5) in such a way that these solutions are woven into the daily fabric of the customer’s business operations. 

It is a conscious, coherent, comprehensive, and sophisticated business model that should allow it to earn returns that are far above its cost of capital and well in excess of that earned by other home and construction supply companies operating in the UK market.

It has much more in common with IBM and Factset Research Systems than it does with Home Retail Group, Kingfisher, or even Travis Perkins.  It would take something special, something other than the hum-drum of daily competition, to knock Howdens down.

And if you recognize Howdens as an effective, successful example of the customer solutions profit model, you will have an insight into the investment case if its shares fall. 

In May of 2012, for example, Howdens’ shares were priced at 109p, or at half its current earnings power, even though it boasts 60% gross margins, 22% after-tax operating margins, and 20% returns on invested capital. Investors looking only at its financial statements would worry that such performance was unsustainable. An intelligent, prepared investor, on the other hand, would be thinking of the quality of the underlying business, as though a businessman considering a private purchase of the whole company. And that investor would have an advantage over the market.

This post is the first of twenty or so in a series. 


If you find this approach interesting and know of any small, listed companies that employ this profit model, go ahead and name them in the comments section below.

Disclosure: No position in FDS, HWDN, or IBM.








26 comments:

  1. I looked at HWDN a while ago when the share price was 95p. I decided against it because they had a huge pension deficit and onerous leases that would swallow profits for the next few years.

    Regardless of whether that was a right or wrong assessment it stills pains me to see them at 190p now!

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    1. I hear you. The nice thing about the pension and lease obligations was/is that they are legacy obligations that helped to hide the underlying profitability of the business. In my experience, it always helps to have the truth surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.

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  2. From Germany: SAP, Nemetschek. Both are software companies.

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  3. Great article.

    It's nice to see articulated what I would have simply described as it being a 'good business' - understanding that a more fundamental level has more meaning and more power.

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  4. Excellent article and The Art of Profitability is an excellent book. Presumably the rest of the series is the other chapters - I look forward to them.

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    1. Some will be, but not all. A few of the models I don't find convincing. It is a very good book, however, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

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  5. Hi Red
    your response to the first post Anonymous is interesting.I too looked at this and the pension deficit and onerous leases were off-putting - I did actually buy some around 120p - but lost my nerve. They were dirt cheap based on the operating model which you have articulated very well above. And, they are/were cheap because of these legacy problems - and therefore understanding the legacy problems as well - provides the buying opportunity. In my view the onerous lease issue will wither away; the pension deficit I'm not so sure about. Ultimately, I guess it's all about the entry price.

    Lamprell, another of your subjects, is faced with legacy problems - but I think there it's resolvable just by new effective management, and if that fails takeover prospects provide a buffer.

    I think the great opportunities arise because shares are mis-priced because of legacy problems - and the shrewd moves happen when one can determine whether the legacy problems are resolvable. With Howden I'm just not sure about the pension deficit.

    Excellent and interesting article though.

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    1. Thanks for this.

      Maybe I'm missing something important but, by my reckoning the pension deficit amounts to one year's after-tax operating profit.

      When I value these things for my self, I take into consideration the size of the pension deficit (in this case, manageable) and the volatility of profit/cash flows (in this case, almost none) and make a judgment about risk based on the relationship between the two. I can understand why AGA Rangemaster is not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm surprised that Howdens pension deficit is thought worrisome.

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    2. One thing to consider when thinking about underfunded pensions -- in some ways, it's a form of cheap financing, not unlike float (in most years, Combined Ratio for most P/C is >100) or other negative working capital permutations.

      Obviously it depends on the specifics of the situation (e.g. what regulatory jurisdictions govern the pension(s), how big is the underfunding vs. the Company's other liabilities, what's the cash contribution schedule look like, what return and discount rate assumptions underpin the pension math, etc.)

      As long as the enterprise continues to grow (or at least not shrink), the "implied rate" (i.e. contribution rate / underfunded balance) can sometimes be quite attractive vs. more traditional financing avenues.

      Obviously, pensions being what they are (read: mostly old developed-world companies w/ poor cost structures in sick industries) the most experiences with underfunded pensions don't meet the criterion of "non-declining" enterprise.

      P.S. Red, I've tried replying to a question on the School Specialty thread a couple times and it's not appearing on my screen (although oddly it IS showing the # of comments going up).

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    3. Tbone -- I noticed that. I refreshed a couple of times and it's now showing up

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  6. TBone- underfunded pension schemes aren't cheap financing, or at least it's not a good way to look at them - they flag a hard to value liability that's outside the control of management.
    My recollection was that the Pension Scheme had a lien on the company or its assets. I may be wrong about that, but if so - prospective buyers need to think about it.

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    1. Hard to value? Yes
      Outside the control of management? Yes
      Aren't cheap financing? Well, it depends

      Other than by writing declarative statements as to their "badness" or other X pejorative, please explain mathematically why an underfunded pension assuming a 6% rate of return in a non-dying business is bad vis a vis 10% cash interest debt?

      Again, it depends on the Management assumptions underlying the pension returns / discount rates along with other item I outlined above, but a blanket statement like the one you just made give short shrift to a complex subject such as underfunded pensions. I haven't spent any time looking at HWDN so can't speak to whether that applies in this particular situation.

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    2. It doesn't need to be mathematically explained. A company which operates a defined benefit pension scheme isn't getting anything in return. If you have debt or negative working capital, you are getting cash that you can invest. If you have a defined benefit pension scheme you simply get a growing liability. You could argue that the company may pay its workers a lower salary as a result of the scheme, but I think that's a bit of a stretch.

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    3. You seem to have it set in your mind that pensions = evil evil evil, so I don’t think I’m going to persuade you with anything I could possibly say.

      I will only point out that your response is based on two blanket premises that are erroneous insofar as they do not apply to EVERY pension scheme:

      - “You could argue that the company may pay its workers a lower salary as a result of the scheme, but I think that's a bit of a stretch.” – well, it depends. Sometimes, in some cases, this will be true. In other cases, you may be able to have more productive workers. It just depends on a case-by-case basis.

      - “If you have a defined benefit pension scheme you simply get a growing liability.” – well, it depends. What is the rate of return you expect to generate on the plan assets? What is the assumed discount rate? What are cash contribution requirements. What does the schedule look like for entering / exiting plan participants?

      If you want to write-off every company with an underfunded pension, that’s fine – it won’t kill you. But to equate pensions = evil, well, I’d say you’re missing out on some good companies that may have inherited some old liabilities along the way before 401k’s, etc. were invented.

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    4. By the way, I like your blog, Sahara. Good reading

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    5. Thanks, glad you like it.

      You're right on the whole. I would rarely if ever invest in a company with a defined benefit pension scheme. Far more often than not, assumptions aren't conservative enough and I don't trust some random third party to manage the funds well enough to meet the required rate of return. I think today's investment environment is fraught with more risk than most appreciate and insurers and defined benefit scheme operators with high bond allocations will suffer.

      But in any case, I would never view such a scheme as a float. I don't see what benefit a company could possibly get from it for it to be described as cheap financing. What is it financing exactly? I suppose theoretically the service costs on the liabilities could be so low and the returns on the assets so good that it actually achieves excess returns that can be withdrawn - but I'm not sure if that's even allowed, never mind possible.

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    6. "I suppose theoretically the service costs on the liabilities could be so low and the returns on the assets so good that it actually achieves excess returns that can be withdrawn - but I'm not sure if that's even allowed, never mind possible." -- again, it all depends on the particular situation. For US companies (not always true for non-US, I grant you), all pension return assumptions are disclosed in the 10k. You have to use your own judgement as to whether the assumptions are realistic or not. For 90% of companies, I agree, underfunded pensions are woefully understated due to aggressive return assumptions. But there are some nuggets of gold out there in the remaining 10% (I know because in the past I've looked).

      "What is it financing exactly?" -- It's just financing old investments by the company (workers compensation). Let's use an example: imagine a company just borrowed $X to invest in R&D for the development of a new product that wouldn't be finished for another 3 years. Which would you prefer -- borrowing $X at 10% interest or borrowing at 5% interest? As long as you are comfortable that the $X invested in the new product will ultimately be worth $X + $Y in 3 years when the product is released, you should prefer the lower cost financing. Whether this "financing" takes the form of a pension, or insurance float, or long AP days, or short AR days, or interest-bearing debt, or sale-leasebacks... the answer is that you would always prefer the after-tax lowest-cost funding vehicle.

      I think part of the confusion is that pensions are usually associated with crappy companies, so you aren't able to have a good picture in your mind where $X of human capital investment is worth $X + $Y. Instead, you have in your mind a bunch of US and European auto makers where $X investment = $X - $Y. I see where you're coming from, but just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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    7. I'm fully aware that the assumptions are in the notes and I understand the concept of financing...

      The point we're disagreeing on is that you equate pension deficits to borrowing. I don't. It is not borrowing under any circumstances. If you take a loan out you are given the face value of that loan to do with as you please. If you suddenly start offering your workers a pension scheme you gain nothing. You may have the eternal gratitude of your employees and you may like to think they'll work harder and you can pay them less and that this is in effect your "cheap financing", but this seems a strange way to think about it.

      Sorry for hijacking your thread red.

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  7. Tbonesam -I always look at the pension position when evaluating a company and often it's enough to scare me away. And it does limit the population of companies I can invest in big time.
    You acknowledge it's complex and that for me is the problem - I don't place much faith in the numbers and assumptions - let's face it they were all very wrong 10 years ago when schemes were more or less fully funded. So, I tend to look at the size of the liabilities and compare that to market cap and profits to give me a steer as to how much harm the scheme could do to the company.
    Clearly, a fall in bond prices should trigger a fall in the size of liabilities, but schemes have been loading up on expensive bonds too, so assets will fall too.

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    1. Hi Anon,

      Everything you highlight about pensions above are true and I appreciate your comments on the specific factors as to why you avoid them (especially re: "schemes have been loading up on expensive bonds too" -- that's going to bite most in the a$$ in 5-10 years). I only caution people that write off ALL companies with pensions... it's usually those things that EVERYBODY knows to be true that just ain't so.

      There are more than a few investments out there in the world in companies with underfunded pensions that present compelling investments.

      Still, no worries if you put them in the "too hard" pile... it's not a bad plan.

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    2. Hi Tbonesam,

      About your comparison of pension schemes and floats, the main question which bothers me is whether the company can do whatever it wants with the pension scheme's cash (until it needs to pay a retired employee), or does it have to invest all the cash attributed to the pension scheme in investments solely yielding income to this scheme?

      If the company can't do with the pension scheme's cash whatever it wants (as long as no employee demands his pension following his retirement) it's not really a "float".

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    3. Hi Michael, you ask a good question and I agree with you -- a pension is not like insurance float where the Company is able to dip into the "float assets" at its leisure for various ends to benefit the Company. The pension assets can only be used to benefit the pension.

      I'm making a slightly different observation -- a pension can be a funding instrument that bears a much lower cost-of-capital than other funding options like standard lending alternatives (e.g. bank debt, bonds, etc.)

      Imagine a Company with a $1 billion underfunded pension (forget for a moment *how* it got into that situation). Would the Company prefer to take out a $1bn loan at 10% (so $100m a year) to get the pension back to a non-underfunded status, or would the Company prefer to just pay an extra $50m a year in "catch-up" payments to get it back to par?

      Anyway, you made a very good point that I didn't think about -- a pension isn't nearly as good as "float" in the sense of Buffett, Munger, et. al.

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  8. By the way -- a funny example of both my point AND SaharaInvesting's point is New York Times (NYT).

    Currently (@ December 2012) their pension is under-funded by $396 million. But in 2009, their pension was underfunded by $871 million. Pension contribution requirements in 2009 were $0.

    Would NYT have preferred to have an $871 million term loan outstanding with a cash coupon instead?

    Actually, we know the answer to this question -- NYT was so desperate for liquidity in 2009 that it had to take out a 14% coupon loan from Carlos Slim and do a sale-leaseback of 1/2 of its Manhattan headquarters at an implied rate of 13%.

    Soooo... pensions CAN be a "good" liability to have from a relative point of view.

    Now, why does the NYT case also support SaharaInvesting's point?

    Well, the pension under-funding ballooned in 2009 precisely because the assets were invested largely in equities during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

    More topically, take a look at the return assumptions underlying NYT's $396 million pension under-funding today. "The expected long-term rate of return [on our pension assets] is 8% in 2012." That's way too high in a ZIRP world. *And* they're planning to allocate pension assets increasingly into fixed income at what may be the absolute peak of the fixed income market, so I'd be willing to be that $396 million is actually under-stated.

    Anyway, my point is that pensions can be a source of opportunity for the enterprising investor -- on both the long and short side -- precisely because so many otherwise intelligent investors either throw their hands up and say "forget it, it's too complicated" or throw their hands up and say "let's dive in and completely ignore the underfunded pension."

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  9. @TboneSam - Appreciate the example. Thanks for elucidating the point.

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  10. Custom software development specialists explore exactly what it is a company does - what the necessities of the company are on a day to day basis and what they need from their IT system in order to operate to their optimum. In order to perform efficient functionality, a company would ideally need its software to do exactly what they want it to.

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