Repsol YPF
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Lukoil is bidding for a controlling stake in Repsol YPF. Lukoil is offering to pay twice as much per share for acquiring a 29% stake than the rest of the shares in the company are worth. This transaction is questionable on many fronts. Should a EU country, Spain, give control of a crucial area of its economy to an non EU country, Russia when already the EU is so worried about Russian control of its energy supplies as a whole? Should Lukoil be allowed to control Repsol without buying the whole company? Should Argentina´s energy sector which already has ceded control of its former state oil company to Repsol now be controlled by Russian Lukoil? I should clarify that a small percentage stake in Fon my company is owned by Sistema´s controlled VC fund Coral and that we are very happy having Coral as an investor. The issue here is that one thing is WiFi as a form of internet connectivity and the other is a nation´s oil supply.

I just met with Eduardo Elsztain founder of Irsa and Cresud (stock symbols in NY, IRS and CRESY). The meeting was around 90 minutes long. Eduardo has put together the largest office building, land, hotel, residential and shopping mall company in Argentina that is made of three holding companies: Irsa, Cresud and Alto Palermo. Unfortunately he has assembled a complicated ownership structure in which some of his companies own parts of his other companies making the whole thing very confusing. Having said this there´s no doubt that the properties that are owned by this real estate holding companies are prime and that Eduardo is probably running the real estate company with the smallest debt to equity ratio in the world. As opposed to other real estate companies who are all struggling to refinance their debts Eduardo´s companies have very little debt (3 times cash flow) and they do not need refinancing. This is a short post and I don´t have time to explain why I felt that his shares were a good buy in detail but I did. Considering that these shares are 80% down and trading at probably 20c on the dollar in terms of asset value at current Argentine market prices I do think they are a steal and I will buy some. But I am convinced is that the way to get the most value over time for Eduardo is to start selling all the properties he owns and pay the cash proceeds to himself and his shareholders. It is clear that the market, at least now, gives a deep discount to his ownership structure.

Google is an investor at Fon and I don’t really use Yahoo Search but having said this, I still think it’s a good intellectual exercise to think about what Yahoo could do to improve its standing as a search engine.

So here are a few ideas I’ve had:

– I would allow users to find out how many other people do the same search. For example when I search Monaco Media Forum I would find a number or a ranking of how popular that search is.

-I would offer search in all Yahoo properties like Yahoo! Mail.

-I would compare my search results with Google in the background and if they deviate a lot I would try to understand who is right.

– I would offer people to tell more about themselves so Yahoo can give them more personalized results. Yahoo could do it with a Facebook app that would allow it to know about you to give you more personalized results. This would in turn allow Yahoo to show you more personalized ads.

– I would let the community act as a filter and beat Google at making search a more Digg-like experience, where each user can vote search results up and down and bury those he thinks are not good enough to be in the first pages. SEO geniuses can now trick Google into believing bad quality AdSense cluttered pages are indeed what’s best around on many topics. Putting search results in the hands of humans, like Mahalo or Wikia Search are doing, can indeed add value by letting people select the best information and results on certain topics.

– I would let the user choose what kind of results he wants to see at the top of search results pages. For example I may want to see Wikipedia as a first result for any city name I search and Linkedin first for any person name I search or Kelkoo for any product search I do and for any weather search I do… So I would then use Yahoo! search as a shortcut for all the services I use.

– I would try to innovate on the user interface. Yahoo! Search now looks just like Google, so much that you can hardly tell them apart by looking at the search results. I would differentiate on the user experience, I would make the searching experience faster and better. I would let you scroll through results instead of moving from one search result page to the next, I would show you previews of web pages in AJAX pop-ups when you move your mouse over a search result. I could let you see results as thumbnails and let you zoom on them to get an idea about each page without actually visiting it.

– I would make search more vertical. I would guess from your search terms if you are looking for a job and narrow down the search results to job websites. If you are looking for a hotel I would show you just relevant search results, same for other verticals, like classifieds for houses. I would partner with vertical search websites and show you a preview of their results.

– I would save your search history and when you search for the same thing again I would show you a reminder of what results you visited the previous time, thus save you time when you are looking for that specific result you found the last time, maybe buried in the second or third page.

– I would add “social” to search. I would understand your interests learning from what you usually search for. I would then show you a list of your Yahoo! Mail or Yahoo! Messenger contacts that share your same interests and I would do it on relevant search results pages, so you can find the help of a friend when looking for information on the a PC to buy or where to go for your next vacation.

– I would know your location (Yahoo! also runs Fireagle) and show you local results first.

I love it! And I love the Youtube radio addresses. I know it does not mean total transparency. But it means more transparency. Something closer to an ideal of government.

This is a video of Larry Lessig‘s presentation, Professor at Stanford Law School and Co-Founder of Creative Commons, gave today on copyright at MMF. He was brilliant.

I just discovered The Daily Beast. This site seems to be launched as a direct competitor to the super successful Huffington Post that I sometimes write for. Here´s a comment that may sound sexist, but here it goes anyway. When guys do news sites with little money that are enormously successful they build sites like Jay and Kevin´s Digg. And I don´t know the demographics, but I would venture to say that Digg is 80% male.

When women do sites they do Huffington Post or The Daily Beast. These sites are much less about technology and much more about editing and collaboration. Tina and Arianna search the world for writers who want to post without getting paid, people who have other jobs, don´t need the money and want the possibility of getting heard in a very popular site. Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose don´t want to be editors, don´t even want to host original content. They trust the code.

I just saw the world premiere of G Speak. It is a a spatial operating environment. It is a way to interact with computer through sign language and not through the mouse. It is somewhat related to how you feel when you play with a Nintendo Wiii. It looks great but like Cool Iris in the end few people use it.

Jeffrey Cole is giving a presentation that should be similar to this one about the future of television. He is arguing that people are moving away from illegal downloading services into iTunes, and other legal services. I don´t agree as probably over 95% of what is in most people´s ipods is free content. He has a point when he says that Sony should have invented the iPod but they didn´t because they actually owned a music rights company. How much money does the ave American family spend in digital services that did not exist a decade ago? $260 a month made of mobile, satelite tv, satellite radio, etc. And the poorest households in America pay as much as $180. The poorest people in America spend an enormous proportion of their income in digital services. But they pay more for delivery than the actual content. New York Times was unable to sell any unique info online and cancelled their program. Only Bloomberg makes a killing selling information and that is cause he says ultratimely info to people who are (were) loaded. So for everyone else the only hope for producing content in advertising.

I was not familiar with Social Median. I am now listening to founder Jason Goldberg. He is a former campaigner of the Clinton elections. Before I go on I would like to say that MMF is the best tech conference in Europe if what you would like to know is the latest as to what is happening in California. Jason is one of those brilliant Silicon Valley presenters. He introduces Social Median as a news clipping. While I listen to him I signed up. Users in Social Median creates news networks based on themes. Example: Obama White House Transition. Users create a community around that. It is like a Digg made on themes not on individual news. A news network was created about the Monaco Media Forum that is good if my readers want to follow this conference.

i just heard Sebastian de Halleux present at Monaco Media Forum. He is brilliant, his company´s strategy is brilliant. They are growing like crazy. Playfish seems to be the Nintendo Wii more than the PS3 of games played at social platforms. These are simple, stupid, addictive games. His company just raised $17 million from my friends at Accel and partners at Index. Google just chose them to be their partners for a new platform for advertisivn in games. They have 20 million people playing their games. But as I listen to Sebastian I can´t stop thinking that in this new era in which nothing is worth more than 10 times earnings no matter how they growth I wonder how at a $50 million valuation aprox will they deliver $5 million of earnings a year before they run out of money. If they don´t my friends at Accel and Index will lose money (I am a small investor in Index, Index is on my board at Fon).

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