According to the Internet, Heaven is where the police are
British, the cooks French, the mechanics German, the lovers
Italian, and it is all organized and run by the Swiss.
Contrarily, Hell is where the police are German, the cooks
British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss, and it is all
organized and run by the Italians.
Stereotypes, sure, but having just returned from a week in
Switzerland, I can vouch for the punctuality of that country's
systems. I rode on 14 trains while there, and every one was as
punctual as their legendary Swiss watches.
My most prosaic train ride was the quick hop from the airport
(where the luggage carts are adapted to ride on escalators!) into
My first "exciting" train ride was the Gornergratbahn, which took
me and my German friend Gunter from Zermatt up to the height of
3,089 meters (10,134 feet) in the shadow of the Matterhorn. The
Gornergratbahn is the highest open-air railway in Europe, and our
ascent marked the start of the best day of skiing in my life.
As it was Tuesday, there were no crowds. The sky was sunny. The
temperature was the best you can expect for the Alps in January,
hovering near freezing at mid-day. And the snow was wonderful,
with packed powder on the marked trails, and a few inches of new
powder on a firm base off the trails.
But the ultimate train ride came two days later when our wives
joined us for the ride up to the "Top of Europe," the
Jungfraujoch. That's the saddle that lies at 3454 meters (11,333
feet) between the Jungfrau (the Virgin) and the Monch (the Monk),
who protects her from the spectacular Eiger (the Ogre).
This track was completed in 1912, after 16 years of work … which
included the accidental explosion of 30 tons of dynamite in 1908.
The main difficulty came not so much from the elevation but from
the fact that the final seven kilometers (four and three-quarters
miles) of track were cut through the solid rock (limestone and
gneiss) of the Eiger and the Monch.
Also difficult, as with many such projects, was fund-raising.
Luckily, as the railroad was completed in stages, its investors
could generate income by selling tickets to the intermediate
The ride to the "Top of Europe" is an expensive ticket
today-about $170-but on a clear day, there's no better view in
Europe. You can see Italy, France and Germany, as well as the
glaciers at your feet, which recede a little more each summer.
You can walk outside on the snow, eat at a restaurant and visit
the Ice Palace, where the floors, walls and ceiling are solid
ice, and you can view a variety of ice sculptures, including this
If you're puzzled, ask your kids.
And, of course, you can buy a Swiss watch, to ensure that you
catch the train down on time.
Economically, Switzerland is an interesting place.
It sits at the geographic heart of Europe, but it doesn't use the
euro, preferring instead to stick with the Swiss Franc … which
means that as the value of the euro has fallen in recent months,
life for travelers to Switzerland has been become even more
Famously neutral, the country hasn't fought a war since 1847. Its
defense budget is less than 1% of GDP. The U.S.'s is more than
Its electrical adapters are different from the European standard.
The colors of its highway signs are different from the European
Agriculture is subsidized, so the country can feed itself.
Cars and fuel are expensive, so many people ride bicycles, even
The public transportation network is a model of efficiency.
Per capita income is the eighth-highest in the world.
And the country is clean.
But none of this would be possible without the revenue generated
by the deposits in those famously secretive Swiss banks, which
may hold as much as 33% of the world's offshore investments and
contribute nearly 12% of Switzerland's GDP.
And there's no certainty those assets will remain in Switzerland,
as a global trend toward growing transparency-thanks in part to
Wikileaks-makes large-scale criminal activity (including tax
evasion) more difficult, and as Singapore develops into a strong
competitor in the offshore banking business, particularly from
--- Advertisement ---
Cabot's Best Stock Across All Sectors
If you want to diversify your portfolio and profit from using
several different investing philosophies to pick winning stocks,
Cabot Stock of the Month is right for you.
Not only is it priced so low that every investor can afford it,
it's also designed so that subscribers get a taste of a multitude
of investing styles. The price is so low, you'll recover it from
your very first profitable investment.
Get started today!
Still there are opportunities for investors in Switzerland.
Which brings me to this issue's recommendation.
It's pharmaceutical giant
, which is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, but does business
in 140 countries all over the world. Created in 1996 from the
merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, the company generated $51
billion in revenues last year. Its biggest market was the U.S.,
accounting for 32% of revenues. Its biggest revenue-generators
included Gleevec, Diovan, Lucentis, Amoxicillin, Augmentin,
Claritin, and Excedrin. And it's growing at a good pace, in large
part by acquiring smaller competitors with valuable properties.
Last year it acquired eye care giant Alcon.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, Novartis saw revenues grow 10%
from the year before, to $14.5 billion. Profit margins were
18.7%. And the dividend yield was a solid 3.0%.
It's not a hot stock; NVS is owned by some 600 mutual funds, most
of which are in for the long haul. But it is decently valued.
In fact, the latest issue of Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Letter
says that the stock, currently trading at 56, can be bought
anywhere under 55 … buying low gets you a Margin of Safety. And
it can be held until at least 72.90, above which it will be
overvalued and therefore carry excessive risk.
I think it's a good choice for conservative growth investors who
like the stability of some income from dividends.
For more, click here.
Yours in pursuit of wisdom and wealth,
Cabot Wealth Advisory