Earnings Call Digest 2017.07

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

AI is indeed getting to smartphone. That’s for sure. And that is — actually, AI is going to every segments in our growth sectors. AI is getting to mobile. AI is getting to high-performance computing like deep learning. AI will go into automotive, which is ADAS and so forth. And AI will go to simple IoT, MCU also. So this AI is a general application driver of momentum — put this way, one of the driver — driving momentum, and it is ubiquitous.

Our top 10 customers account for 64% in 2015. And that number went up to 69%, as you can see from our annual report. This is mainly because there are consolidations among customer base. For this year, we expect the concentration will come down a little bit. But I want to say that people may feel customer concentration is not a good thing. But we feel the other way. It’s not really a bad thing, because when you have a bigger customer, that means the dependency for them to TSMC as the customer and for us to then as the supplier needs to be stronger, the relationship collaboration needs to be stronger, which is in favor of a foundry business model. So we view that as a positive thing.


Netflix (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

I think we’re just seeing that the rewards of doing great content focused on the quality of the service are paying off.

You ask about how we prioritize? Generally, when we see success, we try to add on to that until we reach a point of diminishing returns. And so, if we’re going to see success in some markets, we may up the content budget in those markets.

We’re such a small player in our viewing compared to linear TV, compared to YouTube. So we’ve got a long way to go to have more and more content to please more and more members and continue to grow.

…matching the program into local taste is really the key and we’ve seen it in our expansion through Latin America, our expansion into Europe. And as we look to Asia, we have to get better and better matching those tastes. And those tastes are not as easily aligned with Western tastes. So we’ll invest more time and energy in Asia putting some people on the ground in Asia that we haven’t historically, but well within how we’ve looked at the size of the teams generally but locating them more likely outside of the U.S. as we continue to grow for local audiences in Asia and throughout the rest of Europe.

I think Internet television is an enormous space and there’s going to be lots of competition. And as they come in, they’re going to bid up the cost of the best stuff which is great. It’s great for consumers, because more things get made. And it’s great for creators because they’re more buyers at the table. So we expect the content cost to go up on the top premium things, but I think, as I said, I think that’s a good result for everybody.


International Business Machines (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The cognitive opportunity is a global one, it’s not centered in New York or Boston or Silicon Valley; but you can’t just look and listen in those places. In healthcare alone, you’d miss that this quarter the first healthcare provider in Latin America is deploying Watson for oncology, and Baheal Pharmaceutical Group is bringing Watson for genomics to clinicians across China. In fact, 80% of the hospitals who’ve adopted Watson for oncology are outside of the U.S., and that’s just healthcare, we have Watson deployed with other leaders like Berdasco [ph], Honda and Vodafone as well. So across industries and around the world our clients realize that data, in fact their own data is the route of competitive advantage for all companies.

80% of the worlds data is owned by enterprises, it’s not searchable on the worldwide web, it’s customer data, and patient data, clinical data, supply chain data, transaction data and companies want to unlock and exploit that data; and so that’s why enterprises will move to cognitive on the cloud with someone they trust who has leading tools and industry expertise and a data model and business model consistent with their goals, that is the IBM cloud plus Watson.


Qualcomm (Q3 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The pending NXP acquisition will provide us greater scale in automotive IoT security and networking with their highly complementary product and world class sales channel, serving the long tale of customers that are driving growth. The combined company will be a technology and semiconductor leader with future annual revenues projected to be more than $30 billion.

ASPs probably a moderating even the ASP declines are moderating even more than we expected meaning the declines are less than we would have expected going into the year. And that’s largely being driven by strength in China as well as increasing ASPs by many of the Chinese OEMs as they build their businesses outside of China, which are couple of the important trends that we highlighted starting 2 or 3 years ago of why we believe we would see long term growth in the market. So again, if you wrap that all up end market will continue to grow, we think it can continue to grow meaningful.


Microsoft (Q4 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Azure revenue accelerated this quarter, growing 97% year-over-year. CIOs and Business Decision Makers increasingly prefer Azure as they make decisions about their cloud strategy. They value our hybrid consistency, developer productivity, AI capabilities, and trusted approach. And we keep investing in cloud computing to create broader economic benefit and opportunity, as we’ve done with our South Africa datacenter expansion, bringing Azure to 40 regions globally – more than any other cloud provider.

The core currency of any business going forward will be the ability to convert their data into AI that drives competitive advantage. It all starts with having support for the comprehensive data estate spanning Azure Database, Cosmos DB, Data Warehouse, Data Lake, combined with SQL Server. Azure Cosmos DB is the industry’s first globally distributed database service. It enables customers to securely and reliably power data-intensive applications at unprecedented scale and performance from IoT to AI to mobile and much more.

Retailer Jet.com is using Azure Cosmos DB to process trillions of transactions every day. Customers are infusing AI into their products & services using Azure AI infrastructure and services such as Bot Framework and Cognitive Services. Sabre, a leading technology provider to the global travel industry, is piloting AI-powered solutions for travel agencies to better serve customers. And Dixons Carphone is using Azure and our Cognitive Services to boost customer engagement and provide a more consistent, seamless experience across online and in their stores.

If you look at some of the most exciting things that are happening in the cloud, is cloud applications that actively require an edge Azure IOT, or Azure Stack are becoming the runtimes of the edge where you do need not only the ability to do compute and storage, but to run the AI inference and the edge. So to me that’s what we’re building to. It’s actually a big architectural shift from thinking purely as a migration to some public cloud to really thinking of this as a real future distributed computing infrastructure and applications, but I quite frankly feel very, very good about leading and so in that context our server license revenue will fluctuate based on what the macro is and these transitions and mix shifts, but from a forward-looking perspective, I want us to be very, very clear that we anticipate the edge to be actually one of the more exciting parts of what’s happening with our infrastructure.


Alphabet (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The increase in both Sites TAC as a percentage of Sites revenues, as well as Network TAC as a percentage of Network revenues, continues reflects the fact that our strongest growth areas, namely mobile search and programmatic, carry higher TAC. Total TAC as a percentage of total advertising revenues was up year-over-year as a result of an increase in the Sites TAC rate, driven by the shift to mobile, which was again partially offset by a favorable revenue mix shift from Network to Sites, which carries lower TAC.

One focus area for us this quarter has been enabling our machine learning algorithms to learn and improve our products much faster. One such research initiative auto ML enables us to pursue approaches to automate the design of machine learning models. Our ability to rapidly deploy the best machine learning in all of our products enabled us this quarter to launch all sorts of new smart features, to help moderate comments, suggest smart replies in Gmail and improved translations. We rolled out new machine learning features in Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and Google Photos, which now has more than 500 million monthly users who backup 1.2 billion photos and videos every day.

YouTube now has 1.5 billion monthly viewers and people watch on average 60 minutes a day on their phones and tablets. That’s incredible and it helps 1000s of passionate video creators make money. The fastest growing stream for YouTube is in the living room. YouTube watch time on TV screens has nearly doubled year-on-year.


Corning (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

When announcing Valor at the White House last week, Merck’s CEO, Ken Frazier, said biologic medicines and vaccines remain on the leading edge of scientific innovation, and Valor Glass represents a similar advancement in materials science, a glass that is purpose-built for medicines and vaccines. Merck plans to convert several injectable products to this exceptional new glass packaging solution, pending appropriate regulatory approvals.

And Pfizer’s CEO, Ian Read, stated we believe that our collaboration with Corning is a game-changer. The glass industry represents about $4 billion in expenditures for the pharmaceutical industry. But subsequent issues, potential shards or breakages require strong quality control to ensure that it doesn’t get through to patients. The subsequent costs are multiples of the glass cost, to ensure that we deliver a high-quality product to patients. So Valor is a major innovation, a major way that we can be more competitive.

Valor also provides a powerful example of what happens when our focused and cohesive portfolio meets a customer opportunity. We started out with major customers from our life science vessels platform. We reapplied our expertise in glass science, optical physics, vapor deposition, precision forming and extrusion to develop a breakthrough product that we believe has the potential to power Corning’s growth for the next decade and beyond.


Facebook (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

This quarter we reached an important milestone for our community. 2 billion people now use Facebook every month, and more than 1.3 billion people use it daily.

For the past decade, we focused on making the world more open and connected. We have a lot more to do here to give people a voice and help everyone stay connected with their family and friends, but now I believe we have a responsibility to do even more. Our new mission is to bring the world closer together. A big part of this mission is building communities.

…a quick update on what we’re building over our three time horizons: making our existing services more useful now; building new ecosystems over the next five years around our products that a lot of people already use; and creating foundational technologies to achieve our mission over the next ten years.

Instagram Stories now has more than 250 million people using it daily, and WhatsApp Stories also now has more than 250 million people using it daily.

We’re finding AI is both delivering consistent improvements to many of our systems, like News Feed, search, ads, security, and spam filtering and more. But more than just improving these existing experiences, I expect AI to change the way that we do business in some important ways. So for example, today to keep our community safe, we rely on people flagging content that might violate our community standards for us to review. In the future, AI will be able to help flag more of this content faster before people have even seen it.

On the business side, we’re seeing a large shift in the way that marketing works. In the first wave of marketing, people would buy ads and media they thought their customers might watch like a TV show that had similar demographics, but they wouldn’t know who saw their ads. The Internet gave people the power to target their messages to people who actually might be interested and to measure results much more precisely, and that was a big improvement. And now AI is taking this a step further. Now you can put a creative message out there, and AI can help you figure out who will be most interested. A lot of the time you don’t even need to target now because AI can do it more precisely and better than we can manually. This makes the ads that you see more relevant for you and more efficient for businesses.

Messenger and WhatsApp both have large communities, and they’re growing quickly, with 1 billion people now using WhatsApp daily. It is still early on the monetization side here, although we have started showing ads to a small number of people on Messenger.

Given the size and engagement of our audiences, Facebook and Instagram are the best platforms to reach people and drive business results. We have over 70 million businesses on Facebook, and I’m excited to announce today that we now have more than 1 5 million business profiles on Instagram.

People consume content faster on their phones, and marketers are increasingly recognizing that this behavior is different from other media. This means that developing short-form snackable content is a big opportunity on mobile. We’re working hard to help marketers adopt mobile-first video ad strategies for Facebook and Instagram.

We’re focused on growing the user base, first and foremost. And then secondly, it’s about building organic connections between businesses and consumers. And then third, it’s about how do we build monetization around those relationships.

I would really just point to the overall dynamics of the system. And again, what we’re seeing is with slower supply growth, that’s going to play out to higher pricing. And again, are we effective? And we’ve been effective at delivering good return on investment for our advertisers and getting better at converting what we have as inventory into what they care about as outcomes. And that from a systemic point of view is what’s playing through there.


Cimpress (Q4 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

(July 2017 Letter to Investors)

Well, we really like the team at Albumprinter. Several of the key executives now in Cimpress overall came from Albumprinter. It’s a great business, we believe, with a strong future for the team that’s taking it out with a private equity purchase. As much as I’d like to say, it’s been a great success. We think this is a – it hasn’t been a big failure for us financially, but it hasn’t been a great success. We basically, depending if you’re looking at euros or dollars, are floating around our 8.5% cost of capital. And that’s not a success in terms of deployment of capital.

Now, we wish we could’ve done better. Now, I think, why not continue in that and improve the business? Because obviously with the competitive process and we had multiple people bidding, and the buyer believes that they can create great value going forward. So, I guess, what’s the question you’re bringing up is, why do we believe we shouldn’t have kept that and achieve those returns that the PE firm believes they can make in the future.

I think, the reality is that when we look at our strengths of where we are as a business, I’ll just take in the European market where Albumprinter plays, it is very strong in the Benelux and Nordics market. But there are very strong players in – particularly two large players, one in Germany and other parts of Europe and one more in France and the U.K. So we don’t believe that we would ever become the clear market leader in Europe, and it’s a business where we never found a way to bring it into the United States.

So we think that be it Shutterfly or others as great companies in the U.S. who really own that market. So, it was really a question of the old adage. I think, going back to to be number one or two in a market or not be in the market. And we look at other places in the promotional product space, in the Upload and Print, in the Vistaprint space, in Mall where we’re investing and we believe that we have a stronger chance of really becoming the number one or two player in those markets.

And in a world of constrained capital, we go to where we think the biggest opportunity is, which is, in summary, why we came to the decision it would be best to divest the asset right now.

Now, we also obviously keep central those things which must be done central, this call and other types of things. But everything else we’ve decentralized. Now, does that mean we are going away from the economies of scale? No. Because, what it does mean is that, take the example of National Pen versus Vistaprint. They are both very, very strong in different types of mass customized products. And the scale of National Pen in customized writing instruments is vastly larger than Vistaprint and vice versa for component and products that Vistaprint does.

So, now, through the interface of the mass customization platform, Vistaprint and National Pen, as just two examples of many, can exchange value internally to Cimpress, but (30:50) between each organization. And the benefits of scale that National Pen have in the production, in the supply chain, in the product development, can be a benefit to Vistaprint. Those types of point-to-point connections happen between our Upload and Print businesses, between Vistaprint and Upload and Print, between – in any different direction.

So, we believe that this new structure, at the highest level, will allow us to get the majority or, potentially, the vast majority of the benefit of scale, yet, greatly mitigate or hopefully eliminate the vast majority of the cost of centralization. And by cost, it’s not just the dollars we spend on centralization, but it’s the cost of having to manage across a $2 billion plus revenue business and make decisions which, on average, may be right, but for each of the individual businesses, are not optimal.


Starbucks (Q3 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The evidence is clear that the pace of retail transformation is accelerating with a common theme: extending the in-store experiences to include relevant digital scenarios. It is the driving force behind combinations including Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com, the combination of PetSmart and Chewy.com, and last month’s announcement of Amazon’s intent to acquire Whole Foods. Each of these combinations demonstrate that pursuit of enhancing the physical retail experience with a relevant and complementary digital experience.

We will not shy away from expanding our presence in markets that evidence strong growth opportunities at scale. We entered China almost 18 years ago, and today recognized as among the most respected brands in that country; along the way, establishing relationships, relationships with millions of customers, tens of thousands of partners, and a meaningful presence in 130 communities. Starbucks’ opportunity for growth in China is unparalleled and our purchase of the remaining 50% of our East China JV is a significant milestone, reflecting our long-term commitment to China and our unwavering optimism about our future in that key long-term growth market. And we are just getting started.

Tea is a large fast-growing category and a key addressable market and core focus for us. Since acquiring Teavana, we have built the business into a well-recognized, super-premium global brand. We expect to sell over $1.6 billion of Teavana branded, handcrafted beverages through Starbucks stores around the world this year. Overall, our tea business has grown 40% since we launched Teavana in the U.S. five years ago, and it is up over 60% since launching in China and Japan roughly one year ago.

We continue to open roughly 500 new stores in China every year at a rate of new store growth that will accelerate over time. Our newest class of stores continue to outperform and deliver record AUVs, now nearly 700,000 per unit, and world-leading returns. In fact, given our performance and success in China and the momentum we are seeing across the country in both retail and CPG channels, we now see the opportunity for Starbucks in China being even greater than we originally thought.


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

…if the market deteriorates, the market will come down from these peaks. It is not a single downturn, and we’ve seen indications of the market softening in the first half of 2017 and I think you will see softer market conditions…The fundamental difference between us and most of the other people is that we have not built inventory into the pipeline. We’ve been incredibly disciplined and it’s something that we continue to do in managing our position with the U.S. dealers. We have no intention of building excessive inventory that will ultimately translate into pricing pressures. We have shown, I think, a willingness to take that capacity if the market is not there, I think we will continue to do so.

I mean everybody knew that this market was going to come down and so we have made the right strategic choices in terms of exiting the passenger car market. We’re now left with the majority of our productive assets being concentrated on pickups and SUVs. And I think that’s what the market is and I think that we’ll play to our strengths. I think we’ll just write it out, but I think we’re, today, probably in the most enviable position of all U.S. automakers. It took us a while to get here, but I think it’s time for us to reap the benefits of that effort.

…one of the things that we need to come to grips with is whether all the activities that are currently within the FCA world are required to run a proper OEM. And if the answer is not, then I think we have an obligation to purify that portfolio. And if they’re viable enough and large enough and sufficiently capable of carrying on their activities is to give them a space in the sun on their own merits. Because from a valuation standpoint, I can tell you honestly, I’ve been in this business long enough, I have never seen an industry which is as little loved as being an OEM today. For a period of time I thought that banking had reached the bottom but I think we have now surpassed them in terms of dislike.

Let me carve out Ferrari from all this because – and I had this view right throughout my tenure at FCA, I’ve confirmed it now. Ferrari lives and breathes in a different type of atmosphere. And so for it – and there is not – with all due respect to the other alleged contenders to that market, there’s nobody else who lives and breathes the same air. We’re dealing with a completely different concept, level of exclusivity, which is unparalleled, and intimacy with the customer base, which is also unmatched. And it’s a way of life, which I think takes you 70 – I mean we’re celebrating 70 years for Ferrari this year. It will take you 70 years to try and emulate it.

 Ferrari, on the other hand, is a self-sufficient, probably in my view, one of the most technologically advanced manufacturers of a car in the world. It has knowledge which is old, it’s deep and wide. And that knowledge is
something that you don’t acquire overnight. And I think it gives it the legitimacy to make the statement that it makes today. I’m not sure that that’s common to everybody else.


O’Reilly Automotive (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Our focus on maintaining an extremely high standard of customer service when business is soft allows us to build long-term relationships, ultimately reinforcing our industryleading position.

In the second quarter, we successfully opened 46 net new stores, bringing our year-to-date total to 1 05 net new stores. We’re well on our way to achieving our new store growth target of 190 stores for 2017. As we have for several quarters now, our store growth in the second quarter was spread across the country with openings in 23 different states. We remain pleased with the performance of our new stores which continue to open strongly as compared to both our historical averages and our internal expectations. We’re very confident in the strength of the long-term prospects for our business and in our strategy of investing capital in new store growth at a high rate of return for our shareholders. Our success in opening profitable stores in new diverse market areas, as well as continuing to fill out existing markets we’ve operated in a long time, is a confirmation of the success of our business model. Our ability to leverage our extensive distribution network to provide industry-leading inventory availability allows us to replicate our success and capture market share as we expand into new markets.

If a customer walks into our store and they are buying a product and they bring to our attention that Amazon or RockAuto or whoever it may be has it priced for less, obviously, they need the part that day and they want to buy it that day, or they wouldn’t be in our store. We work with them to come up with a price that makes sense for them to walk out of the store with the part. We don’t walk customers over pricing relative to Amazon and online pricing pressure.

75% of it is picked up in store, the remainder is bought online. So, I think we have a pretty seamless process now. When a customer orders a part, buy online, pick up in store, it works pretty slick. There’s not a lot we could do to make it work better unless we knew their license plate number and ran out and gave it to them when the pulled up or something, and we may do that someday. But right now, we’re not doing that. They come into the store. I might mention, the majority of our online business is actually B2B. We have a huge business in B2B where we’re integrated into the shop management systems. We have a great browser product that allows shops to order parts using a browser that we’ve deployed that allows them to see pricing and availability and get information that they might need to work on cars, and so forth. So, omni channel, both on the do-it-for-me side and DIY side, is a significant focus for us right now.


Intel (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We expect to close the acquisition of Mobileye in the third quarter, several months earlier than expected. Autonomous driving is a massive compute workload that will disrupt industries and save lives and we are investing to win in this important segment. I’m excited to welcome the Mobileye team to Intel. Together, we expect to be the global leader in the $70 billion autonomous driving systems, data and services market opportunity by accelerating auto industry innovation and delivering cloud to car solutions faster and at a lower cost.

We’re executing well to our strategy to transform from a PC-centric company to a data-centric company that powers the cloud and billions of smart and connected devices. The PC TAM is down more than 1 5% versus four years ago. Despite that headwind, our revenue is up more than 15% and our operating profit has grown more than 30%. More than 40% of our revenue now comes from our datacentric businesses outside the PC sector. And those businesses together are growing at double-digit rates.


Amazon.com (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

…the biggest impact on the margin that you’re seeing in Q2 is really around the 71 % increase in assets acquired under capital leases. Most of that is for the AWS business. So we’ve really stepped up the infrastructure to match the large usage growth and also the geographic expansion. And that is showing up in tech and content.

Prime Now is now available in 50 cities across eight countries. We do learn. It’s something to do in every city and has different – slightly different shapes and sizes of those buildings and different density profiles. And so we are learning as we go, learn as we grow internationally as well. That is a service that customers love. That’s not an inexpensive service, though, and we also have – so we’re constantly working on our cost of delivery and our route densities. And again, we like what we see and we’ll continue to expand that and we’ll be working very hard on making that not only a valuable Prime offering, a Prime benefit, but also a lower-cost operation as well.

Curated Insights 2017.07.30

Capital accumulation, private property, and inequality in China, 1978-2015

Between 1978 and 2015, China moved being from a poor, underdeveloped country to the world’s leading emerging economy. But relatively little is known about how the distribution of income and wealth within the country changed over this period. This column presents the first systematic estimates of the level and structure of China’s national wealth since the beginning of the market reform process. The national wealth-income ratio increased from 350% in 1978 to 700% in 2015, driven mainly by the increase of private wealth.

The top 10 stocks in the S&P 500 at year-end every five years going back to 1980

The biggest stocks

…it’s not that out of the ordinary for a handful of stocks to account for a large portion of the stock market’s gains. This is just the nature of the beast with the stock market. There are very few big winners and lots of big losers over the long haul.

The top 5 companies today are all technology companies (we can quibble on how to define some of these firms but they are mostly tech firms). This has some people worried. Maybe it should cause us some concern but look at the top 10 companies in 1980 — the list was dominated by energy companies, a much more cyclical industry.

Both Citigroup and AIG were on the top 10 list in 2000 and 2005. These were two of the companies that were responsible for nearly taking down the entire financial industry and have suffered enormous losses because of it. Since the end of 2005, Citigroup is down 86% while AIG has fallen more than 95% in market cap.

If it cracked down on password sharing, Netflix could probably make $400 million more a year

If 6% of that audience, or 4 million US households, stopped borrowing passwords and signed up for their own Netflix memberships, Netflix could stand to make as much as $391 million more a year. That’s if each of those new members signed up for Netflix’s cheapest plan, which is $7.99 a month in the US.

Tesla and Elon Musk’s moment of truth with first mass-market car

“No one can produce a car that size, and with that amount of battery, at a lower cost than General Motors.”

Maintaining premium pricing while fending off some of the big carmakers will not be easy. It has been tempting for investors to view Tesla as the latest in a line of disruptive Californian companies that will go on to dominate a new industry, says Bruce Greenwald, a professor at Columbia Business School. But he adds that, unlike Apple and Google, there are no “moats” to protect its business from competition and it does not dominate any single market.

Artificial intelligence is not as smart as you (or Elon Musk) think

…as strong as AlphaGo was at its given task, it actually couldn’t do anything else but play Go on a standard 19 x 19 board. He relayed a story that while speaking to the DeepMind team in London recently, he asked them what would have happened if they had changed the size of the board to 29 x 29, and the AlphaGo team admitted to him that had there been even a slight change to the size of the board, “we would have been dead.”

“In chess, machines dominate the game because of the brute force of calculation and they [could] crunch chess once the databases got big enough and hardware got fast enough and algorithms got smart enough, but there are still many things that humans understand. Machines don’t have understanding. They don’t recognize strategical patterns. Machines don’t have purpose,” Kasparov explained.

 

 

The myth of drug expiration dates

The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard. One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston says the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit, but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term care pharmacies, retail pharmacies and in consumer medicine cabinets.


Do probiotics really work?

The idea that consuming probiotics can boost the ability of already well-functioning native bacteria to promote general health is dubious for a couple of reasons. Manufacturers of probiotics often select specific bacterial strains for their products because they know how to grow them in large numbers, not because they are adapted to the human gut or known to improve health. The particular strains of Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus that are typically found in many yogurts and pills may not be the same kind that can survive the highly acidic environment of the human stomach and from there colonize the gut.

Many researchers think personalized probiotics are the most promising path forward for patients with compromised gut microbiomes.


Should you feed your kid probiotics?

A pill with “40 billion live organisms” is not going to help your child lose weight or “boost” their immune system. It won’t stop your baby from crying on an airplane, protect your toddler’s teeth from decay, lessen the duration of a cold or flu, or cure acid reflux. It’s a billion-dollar industry with virtually no medical oversight.

There’s no credible evidence that the regular consumption of a probiotic yogurt will make your child or you any healthier. But this doesn’t stop marketers from suggesting that it’s a delicious panacea…Food manufacturers may not like to admit it, but it is difficult to control the types of organisms that grow in these live cultures, despite industry standards set to determine what types of bacteria should be in yogurt.


Buy time, they’re not making any more of it

According to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS, people who buy time by paying someone to complete household tasks are more satisfied with life. And it’s not just wealthy people. Across a range of incomes, careers and countries, timesaving purchases were correlated with less time-related stress and more positive feelings. Yet the researchers’ surveys showed that very few individuals think to spend money in this way.

“People are notoriously bad at making decisions that will make them happier,” Whillans [Ashley] said. She suspects the abstract nature of time may be to blame. “We always think we’re going to have more time tomorrow than we do right now,” she said, so we’re hesitant to trade money, which is concrete and measurable, for time, which is much more uncertain.

Why does the other line always move faster?

At the supermarket checkout, should you pick the shorter line or the line where people have fewer items? I have gotten into heated arguments with people who insist on a particular way. And yet, the discussion is actually moot since there is a bigger issue: the entire question is flawed. Mathematically you are bound to wait in long lines because the game is rigged against you.


Why you should never eat food on planes, and other jet-set tips

…at superhigh altitude, your digestive system shuts down completely. Someone said to me it’s like being under anesthesia. So when you get off the plane, everything restarts and [your digestive system] has so much more work to do and so it makes you more tired.

Company Notes 2017.07.28

Public Bank in a filing with Bursa Malaysia (and press release)

“The focus on the financing for the purchase of residential properties, passenger vehicles and lending to small and medium enterprises, has remained a market niche for the Group as it has maintained a large market share in these lending segments despite the still challenging lending market.”

“The Group’s funding and liquidity position has remained healthy with its net loan-to-deposit ratio standing at 93.6% as at the end of June 2017.”

In addition, Vietnam will continue to be on the Public Bank Group’s overseas expansion plan. With the 100% foreign-owned bank license obtained in 2016, the Group has further expanded its business through the opening of 2 new branches in the first half of 2017. As at to date, it has 9 branches and is planning to open 4 more branches in the near term.”


Globetronics in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…expects to see significant improvement in business and volume loadings from the mass production of new products from July 2017. The mass production of new products will enable the Group to register a strong recovery in its financial performance for the second half of the FY.

…will continue to focus on escalating up the value chain and riding on the R&D initiatives in new products design and development with our key customer. This initiative is expected to result in the manufacturing of additional new products in year 2017 and 2018.


Pensonic in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

On 28 November 2016, the Group successfully secured the distributorship for MYTV set-top-box (decoder) in anticipation of digitalisation of the Malaysian television broadcasting in 2018. By then, all households in Malaysia will require the decoders to receive television signals for continued access to Free-to-Air TV channels. This distributorship is anticipated to contribute to Group revenue in the shortto-medium term.


Sasbadi in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…aims to accomplish what we have set out to achieve by continuing to, among others, (i) leverage on our wide distribution network to improve effectiveness of product sales; (ii) expand our product offerings by leveraging on the intellectual properties across all subsidiaries; (iii) develop and introduce new print and online/digital educational products and materials to the market; (iv) grow the STEM education related offerings via Sasbadi Learning Solutions Sdn Bhd and its subsidiaries; (v) grow the direct sales/multi-level network marketing sales via Mindtech Education; (vi) explore opportunities for tenders under the Ministry of Education Malaysia; and (vii) explore collaboration opportunities for projects that leverage on the competitive strengths.


Bursa Malaysia Bhd in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…strong performance came on the back of increased trading activities across all segments. We are seeing renewed interest especially from foreign funds who, I am pleased to note, are continuing to return to Malaysia’s capital market since the start of the year.

…achieved many milestones in 1H2017. These include the revision to the Tick Rule on Regulated Short Selling and Securities Borrowing and Lending to create a more facilitative trading environment. The Exchange also launched the Mid and Small Cap Research Scheme (MidS) to elevate the profile of mid and small cap PLCs. The first half of the year also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Bursa Malaysia and the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The agreement allows both exchanges to explore potential ways to improve visibility and accessibility to market participants in Malaysia and China, reaffirming Bursa Malaysia’s status as the gateway for investors in the region.


Heineken Malaysia in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

“Our focus on growing the cider category is showing encouraging results, delivering double-digit growth in the first half. We are also proud of our latest innovation, Guinness Bright, which strengthens our winning portfolio and makes it even more exciting.”

Contraband remains a key industry concern with the continued influx, notably an increase in Peninsular Malaysia, representing a significant revenue loss to both the industry and the Government. The growing demand for contraband is a result of the large price gap between duty-paid and contraband products due to Malaysia’s excise structure, which ranks second highest in the world behind Norway and alongside Singapore.


Chin Tek Plantations in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Harvesting of newly mature fields in the oil palm plantation of the joint venture located in South Sumatera Province, Indonesia has been delayed due to unrest in the villages neighboring the estate. Commencement of harvesting is pending clearance by the relevant authorities. This has resulted in the joint venture suffering losses.


Tasek in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…due to lower demand for cement in the domestic market and lower average net pricing for both cement and readymixed concrete.

The ready-mixed concrete pricing has been under pressure from the prolonged price competition in the cement market and the segment’s margin of contribution was further affected by higher cost of cartage from rising diesel cost…

…more challenging with the prolonged price competition for cement due to lower demand for cement and weak sentiment of the domestic property market. The demand for cement and ready-mixed concrete would largely be driven by demand from the infrastructure and large-scale property projects.


Pavilion REIT in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Total property operating expenses was higher mainly due to higher maintenance cost incurred as well as higher provision for doubtful debts.

Manager’s management fee was slightly higher despite lower net property income due to the increased in total asset value. Borrowing cost was higher due to drawdown of additional borrowings for acquisition of investment properties and working capital purposes.


New Hoong Fatt in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

PBT was lower mainly due to higher manufacturing and raw material costs, higher operating expenses and unfavourable impact from foreign exchange rates.

Amid a challenging operating environment where profit margins are impacted by rising raw material costs, the Group will continue to focus on driving business growth through expanding its product range and market expansion as well as further strengthening its cost efficiency programs.


Tenaga Nasional in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The increase in revenue was mainly attributed to the recoverability of the higher generation costs via the effective implementation of government approved Imbalance Cost Pass-Through (‘ICPT’) mechanism. The ICPT mechanism, a part of the wider regulatory reform called the Incentive Based Regulation (‘IBR’) allows for TNB to be financially neutral from any variations in generation costs and fuel prices.


Caring Pharmacy Group in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The higher revenue was mainly contributed by the higher sales generated from existing outlets due to aggressive and extensive promotional campaign launched during FY2017.

During the quarter under review, we have established additional of 4 complex outlets, closed down 1 high street outlet and 1 specialty retail outlet. As of 31 May 2017, we have a total of 107 community pharmacies.


Kronologi Asia in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Demand for data backup is being driven by the proliferation of data such as emails, staff and business records, legal documents and more. Compliance with tighter regulations and business continuity requirements have led to the need for companies to safeguard their data more than ever before. As recent events have demonstrated, a safeguard against ransomware is also critical for business continuity.

Beyond the continuous efforts to build on the EDM business to meet the above demands, the Group is preparing to roll out its Transnational (cross border) backup solutions targeted for Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. As announced in June 2017, Kronologi has entered into a strategic collaboration with Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (“ST Electronics”) to expand in Hong Kong. This will be the second physical point of presence after Singapore for Kronologi, which is catering to the growing demand in Asia for data storage and protection solutions.


SWS Capital in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Shortage of workers had resulted extra cost to the Group especially in the leather upholstery sofa division which is labour intensive. The leather upholstery sofa division has been recording a declining trend in gross profit margin. The Board notes these economic challenges and does not anticipate the predicament of the shortage of labour to be resolved rapidly in the near future. With the completion of the disposal of SWSISB, this will soften the issue of shortage of workers facing by the Group.

The management is in the process to increase in productivity and investment in technology, thereby reducing reliance on labour-intensive manufacturing practices especially in wood based division.

With the acquisition of ELE, the Group has been diversified to plastic manufacturing industry with a better prospect.

Kossan targets 2020 to complete automation overhaul

“Automation is the first thing we must work on before we can talk about big data or artificial intelligence. It (automation) is a key thing. Hence, we are working on the automation of our new plant while the old lines will be revamped to improve efficiency … the building of the new plant is not only for expansion but also for transformation. New features such as automation and computerisation will be in place. Our internal target is to complete the automation of our plants by 2020.”

With the new technology, Kossan became the first Malaysian glove manufacturer in the world to be granted the “low dermatitis potential” claim in gloves by the US Food & Drug Administration. The “low derma” gloves already contribute to about 10% of the group’s earnings, said Lim, who expects the figure to jump to over 30% in two years as the patented-technology gloves have a wider area of application.


AirAsia to list Indonesian, Philippine units by 1Q18

“That’s very much in progress. Indonesia is probably ahead of Philippines but both are going to be listed. This gives us the currency to look at combining into one AirAsia, which is my ultimate dream. I’ve highlighted to the market that AirAsia is not a company that takes short-term decisions, while the market was telling us to close down the Indonesia and Philippines units. We’re a company that takes a long-term view and we invest for the long term. Not for short-term quarterly profits.”


Malaysia Airlines: ‘China contribution to hit 20% in three years’

“I have never seen a potential in my life like there is from China to Malaysia. The market from China to Malaysia … I think people just don’t grasp the size of the opportunity for tourism in this country. It could easily double within the next six to seven years. I expect the China market to move from 8% to 9% of our business currently to about 20% in the next two to three years.”


Contractor’s pull-out flags mounting cost pressures

“We (big construction companies) were looking at the prices these guys were bidding and we were scratching our heads. Some were bidding as much as 30% lower than us! If they think they can do it at those sort of prices, we are more than happy to let them do it. For us, we rather focus on projects that can make money.”

“Without naming names, there are some parties out there that are looking for financing help to do these highway projects. They simply do not have the capacity to do such large projects. There are these so-called agents running around approaching other contractors, looking for help.”

“When your margin is low, you will try to squeeze your suppliers. In the case of these elevated highways, they will try and get better prices from the precast [concrete] boys. But the precast boys have enough work to do, MRT (mass rapid transit) 2, LRT (light rail transit) 3 are keeping them busy. No need to take the risk and prop up these low-margin projects.”


Grab raises US$2.5b in latest fundraising

Grab said it has a market share of 95% in third-party taxi-hailing and 71% in private vehicle hailing in Southeast Asia, and that the company will continue to strengthen its already-leading market position and invest in its proprietary mobile payment solution — GrabPay.

“We are delighted to deepen our strategic partnership with Didi and SoftBank. We’re encouraged that these two visionary companies share our optimism for the future of Southeast Asia and its on-demand transportation and payments markets, and recognise that Grab is ideally positioned to capitalise on the massive market opportunities.”


Touch ’n Go in mobile wallet venture with Ant Financial

“The collaboration will introduce a world-class e-wallet for Malaysians, and we plan to bring differentiated products for local users.”

The JV seeks to leverage TnG’s existing market presence in Malaysia, with up to 17 million cards in circulation and six million average transactions per day across multiple services such as toll roads, vehicle parking, public transportations and retail outlets.

“As long as CIMB and TnG are concerned, this will primarily be a Malaysian business. We do not have any plans to do this in the region.”


Single authority for property market

“If you look at Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) rate, the real affordable house, it has to be in the region of RM200,000 and below. That is the level where a first-time housebuyer will be able to get 90% or close to 100% financing, but the supply is not there. You talk to the private sector, their affordable house is RM500,000.”

“Today, you look at all the high-end properties in Kuala Lumpur at night, you can see only 10% of the total units have their lights on. I think this is an unproductive investment of our money in the economy.”

Curated Insights 2017.07.23

The limitations of deep learning

…the only real success of deep learning so far has been the ability to map space X to space Y using a continuous geometric transform, given large amounts of human-annotated data. Doing this well is a game-changer for essentially every industry, but it is still a very long way from human-level AI.

To lift some of these limitations and start competing with human brains, we need to move away from straightforward input-to-output mappings, and on to reasoning and abstraction. A likely appropriate substrate for abstract modeling of various situations and concepts is that of computer programs.


Machines poised to take over 30% of work at banks, McKinsey says

Cognitive technologies — applications or machines that perform tasks once requiring human thought — are now cheap enough that banks can deploy them across operations facilitating trades or other capital-markets business. Automating tasks will “free up capacity” for staff to focus on higher-value work, such as research, generating new ideas or tending to clients.

Machine learning — which uses algorithms to identify patterns in large sets of data — can help sales and trading staffs understand positions faster and predict what flows will look like.

Natural language processing can perform legal and regulatory tasks by scanning through records, emails and recordings to translate them into structured data.

Cognitive agents can act as in-house personal assistants or service centers; think of help desks for trading staffs that have issues with their systems.

Robotic process automation — in which machines handle repetitive tasks — is particularly effective in banks’ middle offices, where it can help with end-of-day valuations and extract data.

Smart workflow tools — including document scanning and automated data entry — can speed the process of signing up new clients.

Netflix provided a new set of documentation, along with its customary earnings report, discussing how it accounts for its spending on content

Netflix surges 11%: sub adds crush estimates; discloses ‘content accounting’

“In continued success, we will deploy increased capital in content, particularly in owned originals, and, as we have said before, we expect to be FCF negative for many years. Since our FCF is driven by our content investment, particularly in self-produced originals, we wanted to provide some additional context on our content accounting at our investor relations website.”

Amazon Prime and other subscription businesses: How do you value a subscriber?

“[Understanding] the actual unit economics in the underlying business…requires analyzing the ‘true’ contribution margin of the business; not simply looking at gross or net revenue and the proper contra-revenue treatment, and not even looking just at gross margin as defined by the company. Many companies embed costs that are truly variable (for instance customer support, marketing, credit card processing) below the gross margin line. If you want to know if the business model truly hunts, you must pay careful attention. Otherwise, you may have simply found a company that is simply selling dollars for $0.85.”


Amazon is buying products from some US retailers at full price to build global inventory

The new program, which follows a similar rollout in Europe, is the latest move by Jeff Bezos to build up a complete catalog, even if Amazon can’t make much money on the products in question. In some cases, Amazon is approaching these third-party merchants after the manufacturer has declined to distribute the products through Amazon.

“When items are unavailable in a particular geography, we provide customers with selection from another marketplace. This offers customers a wider selection of great brands and helps sellers increase sales.”


Vanguard, the Amazon of asset management

What Vanguard’s founder, Jack Bogle, and company do have going for them is a unique ownership structure. Fund investors double as the shareholders. This allows Vanguard to essentially operate at cost, spending incremental profit on lower fees.

Vanguard has benefitted from a killer combination in recent years—low cost and quality performance. This is because although the firm distributes ETFs and actively managed funds, they specialize in passive, index-based investing—a style which has surged in popularity amid widespread underperformance across the active manager community.

Investing is a game of probability. Why would anyone want to pay 6x more for a product with a 90% likelihood of being inferior? The average actively managed mutual fund fee is 0.72%—6x higher than Vanguard’s 0.12% annual fee. And roughly 90% of those funds are underperforming Vanguard’s ultra-cheap option.


In urban China, cash is rapidly becoming obsolete

Ant Financial and Tencent were set to surpass credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard in total global transactions per day in the coming year. The key is that both companies are able to provide payments on the cheap, partly by allowing smaller vendors to make use of a simple printout of a QR code or their phone, instead of an expensive card reader. A back-end system that stores a record of user accounts, instead of having to communicate with a bank, also keeps costs down.

As the country builds its entire consumer economy around two private smartphone payment platforms, it is slowly locking out people unable to get onto those networks, and locking itself into those companies.

Company Notes 2017.07.21

Pentamaster in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The three units will be injected into PIL for a collective RM86.78 million, which will be satisfied via the issuance of 999 PIL shares to Pentamaster.

“The internal reorganisation will facilitate a more efficient group structure by way of promoting a better segregation of business responsibilities and operations for Pentamaster’s existing automated solution business and its other smart control solution system business. This will in turn enable the management of the automated solution business and smart control solution system business to efficiently allocate resources and focus on their respective businesses. In addition, the internal reorganisation will also facilitate PIL to act as the listing entity for the proposed listing.”


Icapital.biz in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

With another rate hike expected in the coming months and the Federal Reserve’s plan to unwind its US$4.5 trillion balance sheet, this is confirming what I wrote in the said commentary – “With the US economic recovery remaining intact, one can expect the normalisation of her monetary policy to proceed at a pace faster than in 2015 and 2016.” Again, we hope that investors are prepared for this in a calm manner

…in a reflection of the uncertain global economic conditions created by the US-led 2008 global financial crisis, the Bank of Italy recently advertised for 30 junior positions with an annual salary of €28,000 and it received 85,000 applications – nearly 3,000 candidates for each post. With Italy’s youth unemployment close to 40% and the overall level at 11.3%, steady jobs are in huge demand. The trouble in Italy is that, once an employee is hired, it is hard for a company to get rid of them no matter how incompetent they might be. How Italy and other European nations got into such a devastating mess deserves deep research by the government and policymakers.


Capitaland Malaysia Mall Trust in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The decrease was mainly due to negative rental reversions from Sungei Wang Plaza as it continues to be temporarily affected by the ongoing Mass Rapid Transit works and the closure of BB Plaza. Lower gross revenue was recorded for The Mines mainly due to lower rental rates and occupancy whilst lower gross revenue in Tropicana City Property was mainly due to lower occupancy at the office tower. The decrease was mitigated by better performance from Gurney Plaza and East Coast Mall on the back of higher rental rates achieved.

As the competition in the market place heats up with the opening of new shopping malls – of which many are located in the Klang Valley – in the second half of this year (2H 2017), the Manager expects the operating environment to remain challenging. As CMMT’s malls are largely focused on day-to-day necessity shopping, they have proven resilient through economic cycles in the past and should continue to do so. The Manager also expects the recent commencement of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang Mass Rapid Transit line to benefit Sungei Wang Plaza in the long term.


Maxis in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…added 41k new subscriptions, achieving the highest net additions following the revamp of the flagship MaxisONE plan. The Power of ONE campaign which enabled subscribers to own a wide range of devices for RM1 continued to attract high ARPU customers. As a result, the Group has grown its MOP subscription base to 1.9 million with monthly ARPU of RM120, which is higher than the blended ARPU of RM102.

Prepaid ARPU was stable at RM42 per month supported by continuous growth in mobile Internet revenue…Hotlink FAST base has now surpassed 1.8 million subscriptions with monthly ARPU of RM44.

Customer demand for data continues to grow strongly, supported by the rising consumption of social media, increasing availability of TV and video on mobile devices and better user experience on mobile network.

Blended smart-phone penetration stood at 79% against 70% in the same period last year. Blended data usage grew more than double in the last 12 months and is now at 5.0GB/month. The Group’s expanded 4G LTE network, with a nationwide population coverage of 89% on a comparable peer basis, continued to be an important differentiator for customers to enjoy high speed unmatched digital experience.


Westports in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Due to the ongoing changes in the container shipping industry, we expect our container throughput to be lower when compared to the previous year by between seven percent and twelve percent.

The second phase of Container Terminal 8, consisting of a 300-metre wharf and supporting terminal operating equipment and facilities, have just been completed and are expected to be commissioned into service soon. The total terminal handling capacity would then be increased to 12.5 million TEUs.

Construction work continues at the first phase of Container Terminal 9, consisting of a 600-metre wharf, and is expected to be completed by December 2017.


Syarikat Takaful Malaysia in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

For the year 2017, Takaful Malaysia will continue to emphasize the four core areas of customer reach, operational agility, cost competitiveness and stakeholder confidence to increase its overall market shares and continuously improving shareholders’ value… promote its unique proposition of rewarding a 15% Cash Back to its General Takaful customers for no claims during coverage period.


British American Tobacco (Malaysia) in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Illegal cigarettes incidence for the same period has increased by about 16% from 50.0% in the first half of 2016 to 57.9% in May 2017. This was driven by the price gap between legal and illegal cigarettes and current macroeconomic factors that are impacting consumer spending power…in line with volume decline and the cessation of contract manufacturing for exports as of 31st December 2016.


TAS Offshore in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Indonesia is expected to export about 30 million metric tons of bauxite alone in 2017 as a consequence of the easing on export ban of unprocessed mineral ores by the Indonesian government. This may call for the demand for vessels required for such activities.


WZ Satu in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

For civil engineering and construction segment, the Group not only accumulated an order book to last for the next two to three years but also the Group is confident that its order book will grow beyond the run-off rate. The current order book of RM1.0 billion will ensure the Group is kept busy for the coming financial year and beyond.

WZS Misi Setia Sdn Bhd’s (“MISI”) investment in the Automated Pipe Spooling fabrication plant has kicked-off well and has led to successfully securing contracts in The Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (“RAPID”) project. Since the previous reporting, MISI has secured additional works on top of existing contracts for RAPID projects. The above investment has come on stream and has been successfully translated into meaningful results as reflected and registered in the current quarter oil and gas segment result.


Saudee Group in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…new products going to markets both locally and abroad. The Group has started collaboration with a few strategic partners to produce new halal food product to cater to the local and exports market. The product, manufactured under a patented technology, has a significant untapped market both locally and overseas.


Cycle & Carriage Bintang in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The Mercedes-Benz trading operations recorded a loss primarily due to increased competitive intensity resulting in lower
unit sales, reduced margins and to a lesser extent higher operating expenses.

…with the model mix moving away from S-Class to the lower margin GLC-Class and E-Class. Margins suffered further due to strong competition in the premium car market.

Furniture exports keep growing

“The ban on rubberwood export would ensure sustainable supply to the furniture industry to achieve Natip’s RM16 billion target.”

“If we are allowed to employ five foreign workers for one local employee (5:1), we can expand faster but the home ministry wants to stick to the 3:1 ratio.”

“Malaysia wants to have a balanced policy by keeping the upstream players including the rubberwood sawn timber mills happy instead of helping the downstream value-added furniture industry. But Malaysia can export a quota of 100,000 cubic metres of rubberwood which would generate a total revenue of RM200 million to RM300 million. However, we hope the government would consider reducing the quota to 40,000 cubic metres.”

“Some manufacturers are thinking of Vietnam where there is sufficient labour and raw materials like acacia wood for use in our furniture. If the environment is not good, with unfriendly policies that impede growth, we might think of moving out of Malaysia.”


Mobile healthcare app to revive Palette’s earnings

The demand for mobile healthcare in Malaysia is not as good as in China at the moment, but we are targeting the locations that have higher tourism numbers such as Penang, Melaka, and Kuala Lumpur. We expect the whole mobile healthcare business segment to contribute about RM3 million to RM5 million in revenue…”

…it plans to diversify into traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to expand its earnings base by acquiring a 51% stake in TCM, food and herbal supplements trader Genopharma Sdn Bhd (GSB) for RM1.53 million.


Prestariang sees strong growth from SKIN

“It is a government-led initiative, as the current system needs to be refreshed and rebranded because some of the technologies used are old and things have changed. It is considered as zero risk for the government through the build, operate, maintain and transfer method under the public-private partnership.”

Payment to Prestariang will commence upon full commissioning of SKIN, with an average annual payment of RM294.7 million for 12 years (from the fourth to the 15th year) during the maintenance and technical operations period.


Foreign insurers are said to plan US$2 bil of Malaysia deals

A sale of a 30% stake in Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) Bhd could raise about RM5 billion (US$1.2 billion), while the disposal of a similar stake in Prudential Malaysia Assurance Bhd would fetch at least RM3 billion.

Foreign insurers have until end of June 2018 to reduce their holdings in local firms to 70% at most. The country’s central bank has been weighing tougher enforcement of a cap on foreign ownership as it seeks to boost local participation in the industry.


Bank Negara: Housing loan criteria review won’t resolve affordable housing issue

“Housing affordability has not improved significantly where average national house prices remained at 4.4 times of median income (affordable range is 3.0 and below), with lower affordability recorded for some major states and urban cities. Housing developers, working together with authorities and relevant stakeholders, should therefore intensify efforts to reduce costs and accelerate supply.”


RAM: Malaysian ports throughput growth to “remain at low single digit”

“Malaysia’s throughput remained resilient in 2016, with container throughput recording a 10-year CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 6% while that of cargo throughput came in at 5%. At the same time, Malaysia handled more than 25% of the containers passing through the Asean-5 nations, in other words Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines and accounted for 3% of world container traffic.”

“On that note, regional port expansion is under way in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, adding at least 100 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) of new container-handling capacity over the next 20 years, with most of this planned along the Straits of Malacca. Although the new capacity will provide opportunities in terms of scale, there is a possibility of running into a supply glut and an ultra-competitive situation if trade growth does not keep pace.”


Don’t get ‘punch-drunk’ over Belt and Road, Munir urges Malaysia

“We must not be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Belt and Road and think that good things are going to happen automatically. We must look at which part of it will work for Malaysia, and inevitably for Asean.”

…China’s investments in Malaysia’s planned port and railway projects over the next two decades could be as much as RM400 billion or 32% of the country’s expected gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.

Data from Malaysia Investment Development Authority (Mida) showed that China is currently the largest foreign investor in the country. In 2016, Mida approved a total of 33 China-led projects valued at RM4.8 billion, almost double 2015’s tally of 17 projects worth RM1.9 billion.


Nazir urges govt to scrutinise benefits of Chinese-led deals

“What are the lessons that we have learnt across the 60 countries that have experiences in negotiating with the public and private China. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Asian financial crisis. What caused it? It is the infrastructure debt. Isn’t there a risk? This (Obor) is going to create huge infrastructure debts in the 60 countries. Nobody will not dare not to repay China. Therefore, the risk will eventually end up in sovereign balance sheet and then we have a problem. If this happens in many countries, then we have an Asian problem. That is one caution that we need to bring to the table.”

Twitter Snacks 2017.07.19






Curated Insights 2017.07.16

Tom Russo on shareholder value creation and global brands

Competition is both global and local. The fight is typically fair, but not always. In India, for instance, Nestlé suffered a below-the-belt punch with its famous Maggi instant soup business. It suffered a massive goodwill assault by local forces that alleged the product would kill young children because of ingredients that were toxic. There is absolutely no hard science to support the claim. Yet, it ran across all 250 newspapers in India, and Nestlé’s brand preference score for the Maggi product dropped from 98% to 8%.

The century of biology

When engineering, biology, and computer science come together it elevates bio to a “read/write” paradigm. That is, you don’t just read the code of biology but you can also write, or design, with it.

…when you looked at a cell type that was normal, and you looked at its related diseased counterpart, you could see changes in the differential set of genes that were being expressed in one cell type vs. another (the cell program). Sometimes there’s not a mutated gene that’s causing the disease — it’s not just a bug or “bad gene” in the code (genomics) — it’s the cell running the wrong program, which is where epigenomics comes in again. The gene doesn’t just turn on and off like a light switch to cause disease, it can be more like a dimmer, going higher or lower (too much or too little of a gene). What causes a healthy cell to shift in to a diseased state, whether it’s cells multiplying uncontrollably in cancer or dormant immune cells suddenly getting activated in autoimmune disease? The ability to understand how the genome is being deployed or regulated within a cell — is it the wrong dosage or level for a particular set of genes? — becomes a very interesting new avenue to help us get to the right drug, for the right patient, at the right dose, and at the right time.

This leads us to the second derivatives of read/write, which is to enable insight/design. We’re not just generating data on the read side, we’re also fundamentally understanding it deeply in ways that we couldn’t before, especially with multiple data streams and machine learning to help make sense of it all. And on the write side, we’re not just editing, we’re also designing with biology. In the future, biology can become its own creative medium of sorts.

…our ability to read/write biology will disrupt a wide range of industries. In addition to its obvious impact across health, we’re increasingly using biology for manufacturing. Eventually it’s going to impact areas people don’t typically think about as “biological” — like textiles, architecture, and many more areas — in ways we can’t even conceive of yet.


Scientists can use CRISPR to store images and movies in bacteria

CRISPR was invented billions of years ago, as a way for bacteria to defend themselves against viruses. The bacteria grab the DNA of invading viruses, incorporating it into their own genomes. That viral DNA always gets inserted in the same place, and new sequences get added after old ones, as if the bacteria were stacking books on a shelf. They use these archives to guide an enzyme called Cas9, which cuts and disables any viral DNA that matches the stored sequences.

So, first and foremost, CRISPR is a kind of genetic memory—a system for storing information. And that information doesn’t have to be the DNA of viruses. Scientists can now encode any digital file in the form of DNA, by converting the ones and zeroes of binary code into As, Cs, Gs, and Ts of the double helix.

Recording information in DNA isn’t new: That’s effectively what living things have been doing since the dawn of life itself. More recently, scientists have realized that DNA makes the perfect storage medium. It takes up so little space that you could fit all the world’s data in the back of a truck. It’s durable, provided it’s kept cold, dry, and dark. And it is immune to obsolescence: DVDs and Blu-Rays will eventually go the way of cassettes and laser discs, but humans will always have the desire and means to read DNA.​


In China, shoppers buy bad loans online with their groceries

For 4.15 million yuan ($610,000), customers on the site can bid for the debt of a steelmaker from Zhejiang. The company has failed to pay back a 9.95 million-yuan loan, including interest, so a distressed asset manager is auctioning it off to the highest online bidder.

“Financial technology and e-commerce in China has reached a high level of sophistication. Online platforms are leveling the playing field in the distressed debt market as it means everybody gets access to the same information.”

“Conducting NPL auctions online has increasingly become a trend. More investors are using Taobao as a platform because of the simplicity, transparency and confidentiality of the bidders’ identity.”

But bad-loan investing isn’t like trading equities or even ordinary debt, which raises questions over the opening up of the market to rank-and-file investors.

The most important moat

“A Bezos Moat is premised on the idea that the customer is willingly and is frequently entering into a commercial transaction with the company because the customer is deriving more value from the transaction than he or she is paying for.

“A Buffett Moat attempts to identify companies that will be the only one (or one of a few) available in a commercial landscape, so that the customer is, in effect, forced to transact with these companies (i.e. only bridge, only newspaper, only soft drink option).”

Company Notes 2017.07.14

Lonpac Insurance in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The Malaysian general insurance industry registered a reduction of 2.7% in gross written premium for the first quarter of 2017. With the implementation of Phase 2 of the Liberalisation Framework effective 1st July 2017, whereby motor insurance for comprehensive cover and third party fire and theft will be detariffed, we expect Lonpac to face stiffer competition in the second half of the year as insurers operating in the new liberalised environment scramble to build
their respective market share.

 

Malaysia Airports in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

1H17 passenger traffic registered 9.5% growth with 61.7million passengers. International traffic grew by 13.0% while domestic grew by 6.8%.

Malaysia passenger traffic grew by 13.5% in June 2017. International traffic grew by 17.2% while domestic traffic grew by 10.0%.

KLIA Main Terminal and klia2 both registered double digit growth with 11.0% and 19.1% respectively over June 2016 passenger numbers.

 

Postpaid + Prepaid
Cost Management

Digi.com in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…our 4G LTE and LTE-A network coverage reached 86% and 45% of the population nationwide, supported by 9,000 LTE sites and 8,000 km of fiber network.

Our data traffic delivery continued to show healthy 1.4 times growth year-on-year as 4G subscribers surged to 66% of total smartphone subscribers from 43% a year ago.

We will further capitalise on Digi’s robust 4G Plus network, now enhanced with LTE 900Mhz, VoLTE and VoWiFi capabilities to strengthen our products and services offering and to drive new opportunities from enterprise business and solutions.


Zhulian in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

We also look forward to improving the contribution from the MLM segments especially from our Thailand and Myanmar markets in order to drive growth momentum for overall Indochina market once we materialise our plan to enter Cambodia and Laos market. The Group will continue to adopt rationalisation in our business operations.

Top-brass change part of revamp — Malaysia Smelting

“The process of relocation is a major decision and will take much planning and time. The Butterworth smelter has been operational for over 100 years and a technology upgrade in our overall smelting process would be beneficial for the business. The Port Klang plant which was acquired last year will be retrofitted into a world-class tin-smelting facility, before we commence the licence application process [for the plant].”

“So far, tin prices have remained strong in 2017 at an average market price of approximately US$20,000 per tonne, from average tin prices of US$17,900 per tonne in 2016 and US$16,000 per tonne in 2015. Rising tin prices will have a more direct impact [on] the profitability of our tin mining division and a lesser impact on the profitability of our tin smelting division.”

“A key initiative to achieve this would be to upgrade our furnaces to that of the latest Top Submerged Lance (TSL) type which is a much more efficient process, in terms of costs and environmental care. The new TSL furnace will enable us to have an even more comprehensive and efficient smelting process and may also be expanded to handle a larger volume of feed materials, using oxygen enrichment.”


Takeover offers for KUB and Wang-Zheng ‘not fair and not reasonable’

“Based on the sum-of-parts valuation method, we have derived the estimated fair value for the entire equity interest in KUB of RM885.11 million or a fair value per KUB share of RM1.59.”

“The offer price of RM1.14 per share is not fair, taking into account that it is lower than our estimated range of value of between RM1.16 and RM1.39 per Wang-Zheng share…also represents a discount of 25.49% to the last traded price as at the latest practicable date (LPD).”

…taking into account that both KUB and Wang-Zheng shares are relatively liquid and will remain traded on the Main Market of Bursa, shareholders will have the opportunity to realise their investments in the open market after the closing date (though there is no assurance the shares will continue to trade at current price and volume levels after the closing date).


Lotte Chemical Titan dips below IPO price

“At this moment, the spread from the conversion of polyolefin into feedstock naphtha is still at US$700 per tonne. This is a very comfortable [level] for us.

“Oil prices [have] traded between US$30 and US$60 per barrel over the last three years. We believe that there will be no sudden spike in the pricing in the next two years, and we are comfortable with anything below US$60 per barrel.”

“We believe the market can absorb [the supply] of polyolefin products, and independent market researchers share a similar view.”


Lotte’s chemical reaction

Back when Lotte took the unit private, the global economic recovery was driving strong demand for the raw materials used to make plastic and synthetic fibers used in everything from appliances to automobiles. But as the years went on, Lotte Chemical did almost nothing to expand capacity — unlike its global competitors — despite having ample cash.

In the absence of investment, revenue growth slowed. Lower prices for inputs such as oil have helped prop up profit but as the sales outlook for products like cars weakens, demand for Lotte’s offerings has waned. Meanwhile, raw material prices have declined and overcapacity in China is further pressuring the industry.


Alliance says it can go it alone

“As far as we know, nobody is courting us [or] said anything about wanting to come in [and] takeover. Nothing is in the pipeline as far as we know, but we don’t know what the shareholders are doing. They could have something at their level but we have no clue.”

“Like every other bank, [the group will make] a one-time adjustment in FY18 but we don’t anticipate this adjustment to be very large as we already have a 1.2% [of total loans] regulatory reserve that has been booked to buffer the impact.”

…the adoption of MFRS 9, which will change the provisioning methodologies from incurred loss to expected loss, is expected to lead to higher credit costs for banks as they will have to make provisions for new loans upon adoption.


Tencent’s WeChat Pay seeks licence for local payment services in Malaysia

If approved, users in Malaysia will be able to link their local bank accounts to WeChat Pay and pay for goods and services in ringgit.

At present, WeChat Pay can be used at over 130,000 shops in 13 foreign markets — including in the United States, Europe and Japan — and supports 10 currencies.

“The short-term target is still Chinese tourists. The priority is nearby countries most frequented by them, such as those in Southeast Asia.”


Najib announces four more services to be GST zero-rated

1. Pescribed services performed in connection with goods for export where the service is supplied to overseas customers.

2. Prescribed services supplied in the Free Zones, including Licenced Manufacturing Warehouses (LMW), to overseas customers.

3. Research and development services provided for overseas customers.

4. Non-recurring expenditures incurred as engineering expenses including tools and machinery used in the manufacturing process of goods.


BNM maintains OPR at 3%

“The Malaysian economy performed better than expected in the first quarter of 2017. Growth was lifted by stronger domestic demand, with additional impetus from exports.”

“Banking system liquidity remains sufficient with financial institutions continuing to operate with strong capital and liquidity buffers. The growth of financing to the private sector has improved, consistent with the pace of economic activity.”

Twitter Snacks 2017.07.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curated Insights 2017.07.09

Massive Chinese Brainpower Is the Next Really Big Thing

The large scale and low cost of Chinese brainpower is another game changer. Suddenly thousands of engineers can be ramped up in a matter of days. And this phenomenon is starting to ripple through industry after industry. What is the impact on the pharmaceutical industry if companies can now access tens of thousands of scientists cheaply? If your competitor is opening a research and development center in China with 10,000 technical specialists, how big of a problem is that for you? Chinese brainpower is starting to impact many industries – often in unexpected ways.”


Could India become the best-performing stock market of the next ten years?

India’s estimated domestic consumption growth of 12 percent y-o-y through 2025 is forecast at more than double the global average of 5 percent — poised to triple to $4 trillion by 2025.

India will have the largest middle class globally by 2027. Currently, only 5% (27 million) of the 519 million strong workforce is classified as “urban middle,” earning more than $11,000 per year.

A structural shift of household savings into equities is helping propel Indian stock markets. A Morgan Stanley analysis concludes that domestic equity savings are on-track to rise by $525 billion over the next decade. The government is also taking steps to increase public-equity exposure.


We are still waiting for the robot revolution

Our chief economic problem right now isn’t that the robots are taking our jobs, it’s that the robots are slacking off. We suffer from slow productivity growth; the symptoms are not lay-offs but slow-growing economies and stagnant wages.

…Imagine an economy that was the exact opposite of one where the robots took over, and it would look very much like ours.

…productivity growth stalled before the financial crisis, not afterwards: the promised benefits of the IT revolution petered out by around 2006.


Could Amazon Spur a CapEx Boom Rather Than Disinflation?

Younger investors haven’t yet seen a Capital Expenditure bubble. What went in the mid-aught’s was a debt and real estate bubble and what’s going on now is a buyback bubble. (Yes, everything is a bubble).

But in the mid- to late 1990’s, we had the CapEx bubble to end all CapEx bubbles (involving computers and wireless telephony), and it was good for the economy (for awhile). The 1950’s featured an infrastructure CapEx bubble (the Interstate Highway System), the 1960’s had its “Space Age” CapEx bubble and the late 1800’s enjoyed a railroad CapEx bubble.

These spending sprees were unlike the debt bubble of the 2003-2007 period in that, when the dust settled, at the very least they had left something useful behind (roads, rails, fiber optics, jets and rocket technologies). The last bubble we had only left behind unpaid loans and financial losses.


Watch Out, Intel. New Types of Chips Are Gaining Ground

“If I look at the latest generation of microprocessors, this year, performance only went up by 3%.”

While Intel’s microprocessor is broadly useful, running everything from scientific computing to spreadsheets, the TPU focuses on a specific problem such as speech recognition so it has power where it counts. It has 3.5 times as much memory as a comparable Intel part in a chip half the size. “We threw out a lot of stuff that was not needed. Instead of the Honda for everyone, we are making these Formula One race cars for some things.”

…the TPU went from sketch to finished chip in just 15 months whereas the latest Intel processors take years to develop. “We are at a paradigm shift in computing architecture. This is a big revolution in terms of the technology approach. Intel is working for two years to squeeze out 10% improvements in performance, and this can get you 10 times the performance, while being less expensive than Intel’s most complex parts.”


Tencent Dominates in China. Next Challenge Is Rest of the World

…the company was also learning how to cut its losses and play to its strengths. In 2013, Tencent gave up on its floundering search business, turned it over to a competitor, Sogou Inc., and invested $448 million in Sogou instead. The following year it sold its equally unsuccessful e-commerce initiative to JD.com Inc. and invested $214 million in JD for a 15 percent stake. Before these deals, Tencent “was involved in everything.” After the deals, “it only focused on what it did best and entrusted other sectors to partners.” Zhang gives much of the credit for these moves to Lau. “Martin is first and foremost a great business analyst. He knows what wars to fight.”

“It’s a little bit like the Godfather Don Corleone saying, ‘I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.’ If you don’t take their money, and they invest in a competitor, it can be deadly.”

Beyond Bitcoin: How Blockchain Is Changing Banking

The government, for its part, hasn’t even settled on what Bitcoin is. The Internal Revenue Service considers it an asset; the Commodity Futures Trading Commission says it’s a commodity; and Treasury Department regulators have described it as a “virtual currency.” Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said the agency has no authority to oversee Bitcoin, but has encouraged central bankers to study it.

“…half of the people in the group are looking for a solution; the other half are there uniquely to obstruct progress.”

Moats & Knights, Part Deux

1. Has management been forthcoming about competitive challenges or do they downplay the threat of new entrants?

2. Does management have the right financial incentives in place or has the board set up low hurdles to make sure large bonuses are realized, regardless of performance?

3. Does management know what the company’s advantages are and have plans in place to extend and strengthen those advantages?

4. Does management have meaningful personal ownership in the business (and thus have skin in the game) or are they akin to mercenaries? 

5. Does management have a track record of sacrificing short-term results for long-term results or do they seem to play the quarterly earnings game?


What I Believe Most

Incentives are the strongest force in the world. They cause otherwise good people to do awful things, and vice versa. They’re also the most misunderstood and counterintuitive force in business. Brent Beshore: “I want to know what motivates people. The problem is not that they won’t tell me, because they will. The problem is that none of us know the truth, even about ourselves. The only thing to do is watch someone over a very long period of time and try to piece it together.”

There are five sources of edge: 1) Learn faster than your competition, 2) empathize with stakeholders more than your competition, 3) communicate more effectively than your competition, 4) be willing to fail more than your competition, and 5) wait longer than your competition.