Of Wild Geese and offerings

In Korean class we must put together a short briefing about "kirogi" (기러기), or "wild geese."  In Korean folklore wild geese, beautiful and graceful creatures, symbolize harmony in marriage.  In recent years however, the term has taken on an ominous meaning.  It now typically refers to Korean families living separate lives.  Some Korean families prefer to educate their children overseas, especially in the United States.  School-age Korean children cannot attend American public schools on their own; they must accompany adults who first immigrate to the U.S.  Unfortunately, many Korean fathers must remain behind in Korea in order to financially support their families.  Many of these fathers are too young to retire, and they are apprehensive to quitting good jobs in Korea to start over in the U.S.  The reasons that Korean families move overseas vary, but most kirogi believe that living and studying abroad will give their children better career opportunities and afford them the ability to develop their personal skills and interests beyond what they can in Korea.  Korean children focus exhaustively on passing Korea’s national college entrance exams (대입시), leaving them little time to develop their own personal interests.  Many kirogi parents believe that living abroad will allow their children to grow up with greater opportunity, apart the immense pressure of passing the augurous Korean entrance exams.  When families separate however, their relations are often strained because the husband/father remains apart from the family for extended periods of time.  The Washington Post recently published an article about kirogi (registration required).  It’s a sad story of one family in Maryland whose father will remain in Korea for the next nine years until he retires.  Although I have been separated from my family from time to time because of work commitments, I am grateful that we don’t have to be separated for long periods of time.  It puts too much strain on a family.  The benefit is usually not worth the huge cost. 

Yesterday Morningstar, an investment research firm, announced that it was planning an open Dutch-style auction for its initial public offering (IPO).  W.R. Hambrecht & Co. will be the lead underwriter.  I don’t know much about Morningstar other than that I like their investment ratings–they provide a good ratings system for small investors like me.  I would not normally be attracted to this IPO, but I had such a good experience with Google‘s Dutch auction IPO that I might just look into it.  To participate in this IPO you must open an account with W.R. Hambrecht.  Morningstar’s IPO will be the first Dutch auction since Google’s IPO.  Spurred by Google’s success, auctions seem to be gaining popularity.  However, it’s obvious that Wall Street is skeptical about open auction IPOs.  For one, Wall Street is a clubby world, and open auctions open up the game for everyone to participate in equally.  They eliminate back door deals between investment banks and large investors.  It is true that auctions are prone to overpricing.  For example, Google IPO’d at $85/share.  If it has debuted with a traditional IPO it may have listed at $30-$35/share.  The traditional closed IPO system freezes out small investors and penalizes participating companies by underestimating IPO pricings and minimizing their IPO proceeds.  I would love to see the Dutch auction method widely adopted because it’s a fairer way for all investors to participate, and shares are more apt to be fairly priced at opening.  I was happy to pick up Google at IPO against the advice of most analysts.  I particularly enjoyed watch the Wall Street fat cats resist buying Google until it was too late.  Once the price of Google skyrocketed from $85 at IPO to over $150 Wall Street firms realized their mistake and started accumulating shares, which boosted the price even higher.  For once the bigwigs were burned, benefitting small investors.  Do I think Morningstar’s IPO will be a hit like Google’s was?  I doubt it.  Morningstar doesn’t generate buzz like the upstart tech company does.  It’s a relatively staid and nondescript firm.  Still, many IPOs by well-known companies perform well in the long-run.  I remember wondering when boring ol’ UPS, the shipping company, went public a few years ago whether I should have purchased shares on the first day of trading.  Had I done so I would have made a great investment return.

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