Outliers of the WSJ Management Top 250

In one of those meh everyone-gets-some-kind-of-award supplements the Wall Street Journal reported the Drucker Institute’s top 250 “best managed” companies.

There are five criteria: customer satisfaction, employee engagement, innovation, social responsibility, and financial strength. The categories are batting only 3-5 out of the gate. “Social responsibility” might be strike against management in some consideration, and Financial Strength can also be read different ways. If you have a good management team and good opportunity, shouldn’t you be levering up? Each of the 250 companies (of 752 reviewed large cap publicly traded firms) got star ratings on a 1-5 scale for each of the five categories: 1,250 total ratings. Grade inflation ran rampant: only 6% of them were a 1 or 2.

Usual tech suspects take the first seven positions. They’re willing to divest from Indiana if not Saudi Arabia which might help their responsibility score, and are throwing off oodles of patents and cash. Since they’re not restaurant chains of course they’re going to invest in their employees.

As one’s eyes’ roam down the printed page, I find it only interesting to pick out the outliers. Who are the unloved runts of the litter?

Of the 1,250 ratings there are only four one star ratings:

DXC Technology (DXC: $66) for Employee Engagement

Phillip Morris International (PM: $83) for Customer Satisfaction

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B: $220) for Social Responsibility

Comcast (CMCSA: $39) for Customer Satisfaction: no surprise there.

There are only 75 two star ratings (from my possibly erroneous hand count), highlights:

Amazon (AMZN: $1772) for Social Responsibility

General Electric (GE: $7) for Financial Strength (not 1? This maybe bankrupt once glorious stalwart is the eighteenth best managed company? $10 says their rating on this front was a four or five not very long ago.)

Wal-Mart (WMT: $99), and McDonalds (MCD: $186) for Employee Development. Wal-Mart and McDonalds have probably trained a fifth of America how to work in a corporate job. (I’m pulling that number out of my ### but it probably is enormous.) Wal-Mart openings in depressed areas can have a greater ratio of applicants to positions than Harvard. Training entry level workers to show up on time (and profit share!) is development of a different kind than Google’s and should be on a different scale.

Walt Disney (DIS: $116) for Customer Satisfaction. Wut?? Is there a chemical plant next to a population center also named Walt Disney? Are some people unhappy that ESPN is bundled in the cable plan? Talk to Comcast (see above).

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE: $15) gets two 2 star ratings (Employee Development, Financial Strength) yet still slides into a tie for 114th

The biggest laugher is Take Two (TTWO: $108) as a 2 star innovator. They’re redefining the cutting edge of open world gaming, providing the analogies for Elon Musk that’s its likely we’re living in a simulated world. This is the same rating given to fast food companies that haven’t changed how they or anyone else does business in many decades.

 

 

Lessons for Big Retail from The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America

Marc Levinson has a good history of one what probably should be characterized as the first dominant grocery retailer in America, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea company, or as ever more frequently known, the great A&P.   Histories of retail often benefit from the abundant number of records kept and A&P is no exception save for a mysterious void of corporate records from the 1920s.  This is an unfortunate loss whose vacuum is filled more by minuate of political response to A&P, most notably in the person of Congressman Wright Patton.  The more juicy loan  made by John Hartford under apparent pressure to Elliot Roosevelt is comparatively unexplored!

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Notable Barron’s Predictions September 1

The market strategist survey was as usual effectively worthless with most of the analysts predicting a market very close to where we are today, Treasury bills at 1.75 give or take, and without decisive opinions about whether the “fiscal cliff” will be avoided.  Only Goldman Sachs stood out with an end of year S&P prediction of 1250.

Steven Auth of Federated recommended CAT at 84.47, QCOM at 61.20 and Daimler DDAIF at 48.85 (“luxury goods”).  Robert Doll of Blackrock recommended Chevron CVX @ 110.93, ConocoPhillips COP at 56.11, and UnitedHealth UNH at 54.69, Adam Parker of Morgan Stanley concurred on Chevron, Bristol Myers BMY at 32.8, AmerisourceBergen ABC at 38.1

I like the CAT call — 8 p/e also favorably ranked at Valueline — and this is on my watchlist after any market drop but low priced enough perhaps just to jump in.  Continue reading

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