viernes, marzo 21, 2008

LBS R2 results are out: congrats!

I hear that London Business School sent out last week the invites and results of their second round of applications for the Class of 2010 MBA. Congratulations to all those accepted.

If you were waitlisted, maybe you want to re-read my notes on waitlist management. Keep it up, and remember that not being rejected is already a success!!

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lunes, marzo 10, 2008

Spain's stock market: utilities stocks up

After the elections, the stocks of several utilities traded in the Madrid stock exchange, are going up considerably. This happens because the new government coming out of the elections has a very clear energy policy: no competition (basically: keep the status quo), and sale of assets to foreign (sometimes state-owned) companies. This all implies that a) profits will continue to be strong, and b) there is an acquisition premium priced into those stock levels.

I have little to say about the 2nd issue: as a freemarket supporter, I cannot condemn free sale and purchase of any asset, except for the fact that a free-market requires reciprocity, and it's not possible for anybody to launch an acquisition on a state-controlled utility in France, Italy or Germany.

I am more concerned about the 1st issue though. If the Spanish government continues to ignore that a competitive market is far more efficient than a regulated one, what is going to happen is that consumers will be (again!) the ones who will pay for it. And consumers=voters. I still don't get why a so-called Socialist government is so afraid of market competition in such a critical industry as energy.

Spain is supposed to be a model for other developed countries, because it has managed to create and nurture a local renewable energy industry with global players (windmill producer Gamesa, solar farm developer Acciona, etc.). What is less known is that the prices of energy in Spain are much higher than in the rest of the world, due to the subsidies towards all those "inefficient" energy sources, and to the nuclear moratorium, which forbides any company from building more nuclear plants.

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sábado, marzo 08, 2008

Spain's economy: what's coming up

I read in The Economist that its poll of experts has downgraded the forecast for economic growth in Spain to 2.4% in 2008, and 2.1% in 2009 (and some people forecast as low as 1.8% for this year and 0.9% for the next!!). Of course, the news have been largely ignored by all politicians in the campaign (Spain is having an election tomorrow, March 9th). Now this raises a few questions for me:

- Maybe the superiority of the anglo-saxon culture lies on how people rely/depend on hard data for everything they endeavor (politics, business, maybe even arts and culture). In Spain, politicians are known for spinning the data in their favor, if not to completely manipulate the sources of good data. And the press, even though technically "free", is very partial and contributes to this (some articles on the supposedly "quality press", when talking about both leaders of the main political parties, resemble the depiction of the "Great Leader" in "1984"). In both the UK and the USA, my impression is that people rely much more on impartial data when they take decisions.

Of course, a corollary of that thought is: how could I help change that?? I've always been very interested in education, and I think that's the only way that a country (society, economy, culture...) is able to advance. And by improving education I don't mean just throwing money at it, as the Spanish government has been doing lately.

- the second, and more critical, thought, goes to employment. If the Spanish economy is not able to create jobs at the same pace as people join the workforce while growing at 3.2% (1st quarter of 2008, with a net job destruction of 120,000 jobs), what will happen to the economy when it starts growing at 2%?? It is going to affect me and my friends, but especially it will harm the usual suspects: people in low paying, not very qualified jobs.

In conclusion, the perspectives are quite grim for the Spanish economy. Whoever the winner is in tomorrow's election, he shoul start working on minimizing the damage and getting the economy on the growth path as soon as possible. And if they use some real figures and hard data, that task will be much easier.

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martes, marzo 04, 2008

differences between home and exchange schools

It has taken a bit long for me to write, because I wanted to post a long, researched article on the differences between home and exchange schools during an MBA. I am enjoying every moment of my time here in New York (who wouldn't!), and I strongly recommend the experience to anybody who is doing an MBA with an international profile. Here is how being abroad compared with my home London Business School:

- since I've accepted a job offer, I can focus on my academics, extra-academics, and the city itself!! This clears your mind from worries, and your schedule from the time-consuming job search. Coming on exchange is a decision that should be meditated (since it's to be taken around march of your 1st year), but if you think you'll get a job offer from your internship, or from the october milkround, go ahead!

- if you take a look at the euro-dollar exchange rate (and bearing in mind that my future salary is in euros!), you'll see why every time Bernanke goes out there and cuts interest rates, I smile...

- New York's weather is different than London's. It doesn't rain so much (although we've had some snow). It's also colder here (but you can easily solve that by wearing another layer, or turning on the heating).

Now, the US MBA experience is a bit different from the European MBA experience. US schools, in general (and God knows I should not generalize, but you can look at the BusinessWeek's rankings to contrast this). For starters, my impression is that students are much younger (maybe it's me who is feeling older in my 2nd year?). Also, they have less business experience, which makes class discussions less rich (still, American students tend to compensate this by being more outspoken). Also, even though there are a few Spaniards, Italians, and French among the students, there tends to be less diversity than at LBS.

Professors, on the other hand, are very good. I'm taking 4 full credit and 1 half credit courses, and I'm very happy with both the topics and the instructors:

- Valuation with Aswath Damodaran. A real valuation, and finance in general, guru. Doesn't get any better.
- Real Estate Operations with Harry Chernoff. An insightful professor and entrepreneur who has made a fortune in NY real estate, trying to share his knowledge.
- Venture Capital Financing with Roy Smith. Professor Smith has been Managing Partner of Goldman Sachs, and has been involved in a great deal of transactions involving start-up firms.
- Advanced Strategy Analysis, with Prof. Gonçalo Pacheco de Almeida, is a great course on some cool strategic concepts (disruption, critical mass, industry convergence, etc)
- Finally, my favorite is Competitive Strategies in the Marketplace, by Prof. john Cziepel. This course considers strategy from a military standpoint (who is attacking, who is defending?), is very applied and implies working on a case and presenting it to the class at the end of the term.

As during the rest of my MBA, you can see a combination of both Finance as well as Strategy courses.

Apart from the academics, the exchange is also an opportunity to do some more networking. The group of exchange students here in NY is very nice, and we do quite a few things together (among them , of course, going out for drinks and dining out!). And there are some interesting conferences and events at NYU, just like the ones at LBS, which allow you to interact with the broader business community of New York.

So, as you can see, there are some differences, as could be expected, but in general, I am very happy with the experience of coming here and living again in the US. And this city is great, I am actually starting to wonder what could I do to come back work here....;)

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