Friday File Part One: Visit to the Thawing North, and a Few Buys (and sells)

Notes from the Fairfax Financial Annual Meeting (plus sum-up of a bunch of transactions -- more coming in separate posts this week)

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, April 27, 2018

It was a little ugly to go from frolicking on the Florida beaches with the Little Gumshoes to wandering the cold and rainy streets of Toronto, but my trip to the Fairfax Financial Annual Meeting was worth the chill.

Since I was there for Prem Watsa’s chat-fest, I came in a day early to check out the value investing conference put on by the (Watsa-endowed) Ivey Business School at Western University — and that gave me some additional perspective, as well as the valuable dose of old-time “value investing” religion I get from most of these confabs, but it also set a few specific investment ideas percolating in my noggin… so I’ll share those with you as I get a better handle on them, and in a couple cases I’ve even opened small “entry” positions in these stocks.

The top-line results, to put it in Insufferable Wall Street Pundit terms? I sat in the airport on the way home yesterday thinking that I want to buy more Fairfax shares, more Fairfax India shares, and begin to build positions in Premier and Kennedy-Wilson… and I want to shave off the growth-y speculations that have grown to become larger parts of my portfolio, and continue to build a large cash position for the opportunities that might come my way.

But first, what’s the Fairfax annual meeting like?

It is, despite Prem Watsa’s insistence that he never likes to be called the “Warren Buffett of Canada,” a lot like the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting… all of the Fairfax subsidiaries and partners have booths in the lobby of the hall where they present, with doodads and giveaways (mostly novelty stuff from the various insurance companies, like fidget spinner pens), and Watsa gives a presentation on the performance of the company over the past year and then sits and takes questions from shareholders for a few hours, pulling the Presidents of subsidiaries or other Fairfax officials out of the audience to answer questions or elaborate as needed.

There are plenty of differences, of course — Fairfax is far smaller and doesn’t have many retail or consumer-oriented subsidiaries, so they don’t try to sell you Justin Boots with Warren Buffet’s face embossed in them… but they also own a lot of restaurant chains, so the food is much better. They provide a nice reception at the end with some classier chow, like ...

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