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March, 2004



Liberty Media (L) closed 3/19/04 at a share price of $11.05, but several excellent value investors have placed its true worth significantly higher. According to Barron's "Sweet Liberty," by Andrew Bary, in the 3/8/04 issue, page 21, this media holding company has an intrinsic value, net of all debt, of $14 to $17, depending on how the calculations are done and to which analyst or money manager one talks about the corporation. Thus, the experts suggest it is now selling at about a 28% (average) discount.

L has substantial investments in many key, lucrative media companies and programs, including News Corp, InterActive, UnitedGlobalCom, Time Warner, QVC, and Discovery Channel's Discovery Communications (of which it owns 50%).

As of their last quarterly reports, Liberty Media was a favorite asset in the portfolios of such mutual fund managers as Wally Weitz, of Weitz Partners Value Fund, and David Nelson of Legg Mason: American Leading Companies Trust.

Some Handy Personal Finance Links

The internet can be a quick, easy source of references helpful for financial planning and decision making. Here you may find everything from guidance on mutual funds, to calculators for investment goals, essential information on individual stocks, help with tax strategy questions, the means to checking one's credit reports, ways of comparing the relative benefits of different mortgage options, the merits of Roth vs. traditional IRAs, and much more.

Included in this issue is a small sampling of links to useful web sites relevant to our budgets and the overall topic of money management:

Choice Trust allows one to order a copy of his or her five-year insurance claims history reports, the same ones insurance companies use before issuing a new homeowner or automobile policy. If the report(s) has(have) errors, this can affect your eligibility for home or car insurance and the amount of your premiums. But mistakes happen, and you may challenge any you find in these Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) reports. You may also order your Credit Report here. (Costs range from $9 to $19.95.)

MSN Money offers free, online help with portfolio management, reports on stocks, and screens for the selection of securities according to guidelines you set yourself. Want a nano-cap value stock? This is where you can find one, get comprehensive information on it, and keep track of your new holding after you've bought it, all at no cost.

Quicken and its software provide money management tools of all kinds, from determining and recording the cost basis of your stock and mutual fund transactions, preparing tax returns, selecting stocks, planning for retirement or your children's education, etc.

Loose Change is a fun, informative, illustrated, all-purpose personal finance newsletter with across-the-board monetary topics. In the latest issue (March/April, 2004), for instance, there were articles on one's budget, rising tuition considerations, evaluating how much risk you should take with investments, steps to achieving financial goals, keeping the bill for a wedding within bounds, thoughts about work after official retirement, help with paperwork following a death in the family, tax time issues, and precautions to take in selecting a stock to purchase. (To view, click on "Review Sample Issue" to right of "Mar/Apr 2004 Loose Change." Requires Acrobat Reader.)

The Motley Fool, among many other helpful personal finance features, has multiple discussion boards on a variety of relevant subjects. Here one may learn as much as she or he wants to know, usually fairly quickly, about Benchmark Investing, Berkshire Hathaway (among hundreds of other stocks), Stock Valuation, retirement planning, or a host of other categories. One I've found particularly practical to consult this time of year is the Tax Strategies discussion board. (The three-year charge for access to The Motley Fool Discussion Boards is $75. I found that the benefits of their readily available extra information, as opposed to appointments with lawyers, accountants, or financial planners for routine questions, repaid this cost in the first month.)

Kiplinger Personal Finance has an excellent web site with abundant budgetary and investment-related topics. Besides everything one would ordinarily expect from such an internet location, there is a series of free tutorial articles on personal finance basics, covering such topics as: building a stock and/or mutual fund portfolio; bonds; selecting a credit card best for one's needs; working after retirement; saving for college; the ins and outs of IRAs; maximizing one's 401(k) plan; getting the most out of a savings program; automobile shopping considerations; health insurance essentials; home equity refinance options; buying and/or selling a home; student loan issues; and life insurance guidance.

(Thanks much, Ann, for the info that inspired this article!)


Larry is not a professional. Don't take him seriously!

Actually, the investment article provided here is for general information only and should not be considered as professional advice, a solicitation to buy or sell any security, or the Word of God. Investors are encouraged to do their own research while considering their personal goals and circumstances, or consult their own professional financial advisors, before making investment decisions. Neither Larry nor LARVALBUG will be liable for any losses sustained by any visitor to this site.

(Disclosure statement: Larry and Val have holdings in some of the suggested assets but do not "make a market" in any of them and do not derive any direct benefit from recommending them, except perhaps for a bit of smug self-satisfaction.)

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