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A very good year for stocks

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A very good year for stocks | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Each year, I head back to the US to see my mother and meet with clients. It also allows me to see how things are going. I need to do this to see if there’s any truth to the headlines I read. You know the ones I’m talking about – stocks in a bubble, economic slowdown, unemployment and so on.

From what I saw, things are humming along quite nicely. One day, I took my mother and bought her a new car at AutoNation Toyota. Across the street was a CarMax dealership, where we were able to sell her old car for cash. We did this all in one day, and the process was so quick and convenient. I asked the salesmen at both places how business was, and the response was that it’s never been better. This was evident when I looked at the shares of AutoNation and CarMax. CarMax shares have risen more than 40% in the past year and AutoNation’s have risen by more than 20%.

One factor driving automobile sales is lower gas prices. Lower gas prices are an instant pay raise for the US consumer. That’s why both AutoNation and CarMax are busy. Analysts expect automobile sales to rise 2.6% next year to 17 million vehicles. The average transaction price is expected to increase 2.4% to US$32,589.

Both companies are outperforming their competitors. They have sought to take the haggling aspect out of buying a new or used car. Their focus is on rock-bottom prices and moving inventory. They’re not like the typical car dealer where you spend all day at the dealership trying to get the price down. By having a limited markup, they sell more cars and make their money in the service department. It’s a sound business model and it works.

What I like about both companies is that there’s plenty of room for growth. AutoNation operates in only 15 states. CarMax has just 131 used-car lot locations and aims to open 10 to 15 new ones each year. I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of owning a company expanding by 10% a year.

It’s not just the consumer driving the US economy, but businesses as well. US corporations have made record profits. A lot of this money is going on improving their IT backbone and infrastructure. Two companies that are really benefiting from this trend are Oracle and Red Hat.

Of the two, I like Oracle. Oracle was founded by Larry Ellison, who is now the third richest man in America with a net worth of more than US$55 billion. He serves as the company’s chief visionary, while Co-CEOs Safra Catz and Mark Hurd run the day-to-day operations. Mark Hurd was the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and is considered one of the sharpest managers in tech. Safra Catz has worked with Larry Ellison since 1999.

You know, many investors fail to look at management when it comes to investing. Warren Buffett has famously said that he would rather own a poor business with good management than a great business with bad management. Oracle has one of the best management teams in the world and the results speak for themselves.

Last month, shares of Oracle jumped more than 10% after a strong earnings report. Oracle expects revenues to come in strong for the next quarter and shares look to be setting up for another bull run. This optimism has traders, investors and big institutions looking for a sure thing. A business making consistent profits, like Oracle is, will keep making new highs.

It’s not just investors buying shares of Oracle, but also Oracle itself. Every three months, Oracle is spending about US$2bn buying back its own shares. This takes shares out of the market and helps drive earnings per share.

CarMax and Oracle both have strong businesses and make plenty of money. As a result, their share prices keep going higher. As I tell my clients, it’s much easier to buy a stock that’s going up versus a stock that’s going down. It may sound simple, but you’ll be amazed at how many don’t follow this advice and instead buy companies at 52-week lows. What most fail to realize is that the reason those stocks are at new lows is because their business is broken. Margins have been squeezed and competitors have eaten their profits.

Don’t make these classic mistakes. The trend is your friend, so don’t fight it. Instead, give me a call and let’s talk about how you can profit in 2015.

Don Freeman is president of Freeman Capital Management, an independent US Registered Investment Advisor. He has over 20 years experience and provides personal financial planning and wealth management to expatriates. Specializing in UK and US pension transfers. Call 089-970-5795 or email: freemancapital@gmail.com.

— Don Freeman

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Maya Taylor

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Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

The accounts were associated with the Thai military and were targeting people in the southern provinces, Facebook said its regular report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The south of the country has been the scene of decades-long conflict, with insurgent groups in the majority-Muslim, Malay-speaking region calling for independence. To date, around 7,000 people have died in the ongoing struggle.

Facebook says the deleted accounts were most active last year and used both fake and real accounts to manage pages and groups, both openly military pages and pages that hid their links to the military. Some of the fake profiles pretended to be people from the southern provinces.

The report mentioned a post by the now-removed account named “comprehending the operation” in Thai. The page posted the logo for Amnesty International Thailand and wrote “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role in society. Normal people are not famous. Any case is not big news. They are not worth the investment of foreigners so they will not do anything to help. This is why we don’t see anything from the NGO.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role nor money.”

On another now-removed account, named “truth about my home Pattani” in Thai, a post said “Muslim leader declares southern border is a peace zone. The southern separatists started a movement by spreading the idea that Thailand is under control by different believers so that people would come and fight for their religion. This was declared that the action clearly violates Islam faith.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “Southern border is not Jihad zone.”

When contacted by Reuters, the military had no comment on the removal of the Facebook accounts, with a spokesman saying the organisation does not comment outside of official press conferences.

The head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, has confirmed the reasons behind the platform’s decision.

“This is the first time that we’ve attributed one of our takedowns to links to the Thai military. We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.”

He adds that the accounts had spent around US$350 on advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One or more of the pages had about 700,000 followers and at least one of the groups had 100,000 members. Gleicher says the accounts were removed because of their misleading behaviour and not because of the content being posted. The content included support for the military and the monarchy, with allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in the south.

It’s not the first time accounts linked to the Thai military have been removed by a social media platform. In October, Twitter removed 926 accounts it says had links to the army and posted pro-military and pro-government content. The Thai army has denied any involvement with the accounts in question. In November, Twitter also suspended an account posting pro-monarchy content that was found to have links to the palace and to thousands of other accounts posting similar content.

To read the February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters| Facebook

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Central Thailand

Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers

Maya Taylor

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Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

An airline executive has been arrested in the central province of Samut Songkhram, after complaints from150 employees that they had not been paid. Chawengsak Noiprasan, who had a court warrant issued against him in October, was taken to Don Muang police station from a property in the Bang Khan Take sub-district. He is a board member of Siam Air Transport.

The airline began operations in October 2014 with services out of Don Mueang to Hong Kong, using 2 Boeing 737-300s. 2 Boeing 737-800s were added to its fleet in late 2015. It expanded by adding Zhengzhou and Guangzhou in China to its network in early 2015. In late 2015, the airline launched flights to Macau and Singapore. In 2017, the airline ceased all operations.

But according to an article in the Bangkok Post, the carrier operates a number of scheduled and charter flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. The Post reports that, as Chawengsak signs the company’s legal paperwork, all legal matters concerning the airline fall to him.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau says the executive has admitted to ignoring a 30 day notice issued by the labour inspector and ordering the payment of wages to 150 workers. It’s understood he is also wanted in relation to 7 other cases.

The authorities sought Chawengsak’s arrest following complaints from employees who say they haven’t received their wages for 2 months. It’s understood the airline had previously deferred salary payments for over 8 months. 150 workers filed an official complaint with Don Mueang police and also approached media outlets, asking them to pressure the airline into paying the money owed.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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