Tag Archives: shares

Société des moulins de Bazacle

The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) or the (United) Dutch East India Company is widely regarded as the first company to have issued stock. It was at least the only company traded at the time in Amsterdam stock market at the Dam, what is regarded as the first ever stock market. I wrote about it in the review of the bookConfusión de Confusiones” by José de la Vega (Confusion of Confusions in English).

However, I had read some time ago about the Bazacle in Toulouse, and a disputing argument behind it. I went to visit it this weekend, in order to learn more from it.

The word bazacle in French means ford, or a shallow place in a river where one can easily cross it. The Bazacle in Toulouse is located at a place where the river Garonne makes a turn to the left, becoming quite wide and shallow. Apparently in ancient times, it bifurcated in several branches and people did use to cross the river there. Some time later a bridge crossed the river at that location.

View of The Bazacle, Toulouse.

View of The Bazacle, Toulouse.

At the end of the XII century, permission was granted to build a sort of dam and some mills. Those mills, according to the sign post outside of the Bazacle (see the picture above) were widely admired up to the French Revolution, being regarded as the largest of the type in Europe and appearing in the encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert.

The argument in dispute comes next: the Société des moulins de Bazacle was financed by an association of noblemen who shared the profits of the company. Thus, this company is also regarded as the most ancient joint-stock company. The shares from the company could be traded at the market Toulouse, their value fluctuating and depending on the yields of the mills. Shouldn’t then be Toulouse regarded as the first stock market ever?

The Bazacle Milling Company ceased to exist in 1946, when it was acquired by EDF, French national electricity company. The Bazacle today has a museum on the use of water, energy, origin of electricity, etc., hosts temporary art exhibitions and has as a main attraction a fish ladder, permitting migratory movements of some species.

View of the Bazacle, its fish ladder and the river Garonne.

View of the Bazacle, its fish ladder and the river Garonne.

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Buffett on shares buy back by companies

I was reading last weekend Warren Buffett’s 1980 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, when I encountered the following passage about shares buy back by a company (emphasis is mine):

One usage of retained earnings we often greet with special enthusiasm when practiced by companies in which we have an investment interest is repurchase of their own shares. The reasoning is simple: if a fine business is selling in the market place for far less than intrinsic value, what more certain or more profitable utilization of capital can there be than significant enlargement of the interests of all owners at that bargain price? The competitive nature of corporate acquisition activity almost guarantees the payment of a full – frequently more than full price when a company buys the entire ownership of another enterprise. But the auction nature of security markets often allows finely-run companies the opportunity to purchase portions of their own businesses at a price under 50% of that needed to acquire the same earning power through the negotiated acquisition of another enterprise.”

Then, sometimes, we see companies that decide to hold excess cash while waiting for opportunities of what to do with it, or to protect themselves against uncertainty, etc. Some do as Buffett says and buy back at minimum prices. Others do the contrary, they buy back shares at maximum prices.

There is always an explanation to taking one option or the other, even if the final reason is not always told, understood…


Filed under Investing