Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

Berkshire Lags the Market

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Today’s special report focuses on Warren Buffett.

Buffett is well known for wanting to beat the market, and doing so pretty much every year. But you had a hard time outdoing the S&P 500 lately if you just stuck your money in shares of his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.

Since the depths of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 Berkshire has slightly lagged the broad-based S&P index. $100 put in Berkshire’s actively traded Class B shares on Sept. 2, 2008 was worth $102.60 at midday on April 21, 2011. If you put your money in the S&P 500 instead you’d have $104.56.

Buffett has been clear with investors that returns would slow, and his recently stated urge for acquisitions is designed in part to bolster Berkshire’s growth. But shareholders are still asking questions about why returns are so anemic and what the “Oracle of Omaha” will do to improve them.

To read the special report in multimedia PDF format, click here.

The Silence of the Madoffs

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The FBI profiling group made famous in the movie The Silence of the Lambs is turning its attention to white collar criminals. It’s not that the FBI has grown bored with serial killers, it is more an indication of the growth industry white collar crime seems to have become.

The financial crisis not only was the undoing of Bernie Madoff’s long-running Ponzi scheme, it also brought down Allen Stanford’s empire and exposed dozens of other apparent investment schemes. And, lately, it appears federal authorities in New York keep finding another hedge fund trader who made money from illegal stock tips.

The big chill in U.S.-China M+A

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Today’s special report looks at U.S.-China M&A activity – or rather the lack of it. Drawing on previously unpublished State Department cables, the report examines how the failed Unocal bid and other high profile aborted transactions made it difficult for companies in China and the United States to do deals with one another.

Last year, U.S. companies in China struck dozens of small deals but they were collectively worth just $3.2 billion, while Chinese companies spent only $3 billion on U.S. acquisitions, Thomson Reuters data shows. That is a remarkably trivial amount given the two nation’s deepening economic relations: China is one of America’s top creditors and the U.S. is by far China’s largest export market. 

from MediaFile:

Tencent, De Wolfe among interested buyers for Myspace

De Wolfe and Murdoch in happier times (Photo: Reuters)

De Wolfe and Murdoch in happier times (Photo: Reuters)

Chinese Internet holding company Tencent, Myspace founder Chris De Wolfe and Myspace's current management team are among the 20 odd names kicking the tires at the once might social network to see whether it's worth buying outright or partnering in some sort of spin-out with current owner News Corp.

Tencent has previously said it is interested in possible US acquisitions.

The names come up in Reuters' Special Report on 'How News Corp got lost in Myspace',  a behind the scenes tale on how the focused Facebook beat the partying Myspace. (We have the story in a handy PDF format here)

Myspace and Facebook: the numbers tell it all

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Yinka Adegoke delves into what happened at Myspace in his special report today: “How News Corp got lost in Myspace.”

Weak technology, management in-fighting and a rival called Facebook led to the rapid decline of the once dominant social network.

Japanese quake cost bad, but far from the worst

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By Ben Berkowitz

INSURANCE/JAPANThe March 11 Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan was a tragic disaster of historic proportions — but from a purely financial standpoint it pales in comparison. (For a special report on insurers, click here.)

Estimates are still coming in but it seems likely the quake will end up ranking as the costliest of the last generation in insured losses, surpassing even the Northridge earthquake that struck southern California in 1994. (The one that collapsed a number of major freeways, by way of reference).

When will the tipping point come for printed books?

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MDF2683784.jpgMark Egan’s special report “Dumping print, NY publisher bets the ranch on apps” focuses on one man who believes the end has come for printed books.

Since 1980, Nicholas Callaway has made the finest of design-driven books, building a publishing house and his fortune on memorable children’s stories and on volumes known for the fidelity of their reproductions of great art. But the quality of paper, ink and binding mean nothing to him now.

Is a 10 percent chance of disaster too high for a nuclear power station?

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JAPAN-QUAKE/Kevin Krolicki has another alarming special report from Japan today challenging the assertion that the disaster facing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was beyond expections.

The report quotes Tokyo Electric’s own researchers who did a study in 2007 on the risk of tsunamis: 

Will Brazil be ready for kick off?

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SOCCER-LATAM/Everybody knows Brazil is booming these days. But they don’t always see the dark side of that progress: some of the world’s worst traffic jams, blackouts, and trucks that sit in lines for several days at harvest time because seaports are so full.

Hoping to fix those problems, Brazil plans more than $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements in the next decade, and the scope is pretty amazing. The government wants a bullet train between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo; a huge new hydroelectric dam in the Amazon; and a railroad criss-crossing Brazil’s northeast, a region that is a bit like the American Deep South in that it has historically lagged behind the rest of the country in investment.

Fiat move to the United States? Sacrilege

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Today’s special report, “Can an Italian Elvis make Fiat- Chrysler dance?” is stirring up a storm in Italy, where the suggestion that one of the country’s most hallowed institutions might up sticks and move to America is a big deal.

Here’s the critical part of the report:

This year, Marchionne had to rush to meet Berlusconi and Italian cabinet members to reassure them Fiat would “keep its heart” in Italy. In February he’d stirred up a ruckus among Italian politicians by flagging the possibility that Fiat might escape Italy’s died-in-the-wool unions and move the merged company’s headquarters to the United States within two years.