Let’s find something that’s unglamorous. Let’s find something that’s substantial and vertically specific. Let’s find an area where really quality software engineering can create deep definitive economic value. That led us more or less like a beeline straight to property and casualty insurance. It’s about a $2 trillion industry in terms of total revenues and they pay out about 60 or 70% of that every year in claims. That’s what they do. They intermediate risk and then they pay out to claimants. There’s an asymmetry between the fact that the average claims worker is paid maybe $40,000 a year, but is writing out checks for $2 or $3 million a year and doing it in 1980s COBOL mainframe systems and buried in paper with all kinds of manual processes, et cetera. Our thesis was that these individuals, as hardworking as they may be, were making systematic errors that were causing dead weight economic loss. It’s not just the better software would make their lives more ergonomic and productive, that they would actually prevent errors that were dead weight lost to their own companies. That there would be a very compelling economic value proposition there.
He says, “When I was in college, there was a guy who managed somehow to date every beautiful woman who went to our school, and he was very ordinary looking and very average in every sense. When I asked him what his secret was, he said, I’m just the guy that asks the most. I’m going to be the guy that asked the most, and I have no problem being rejected.” He says, “I’m going to be that guy and we’re going to be that company. We’re going to be the company that asks the most.”
There are other businesses that people don’t imagine that have enormous economic value to them, but they’re standing behind a huge barrier to entry. There’s nothing particularly technologically innovative of what we’re doing, but we’re going to climb this huge barrier to entry and get to the other side. The reason that you don’t see other companies doing this is because that barrier is so high. If you believe in competitive markets, there’s no such thing as a fantastic market with no competitors. The reason that this market is not populated with others is that this barrier to entry is so damn high and we’re going to be climbing it for a long while and we’re 10% up the mountain.” Some version of that message was what we used. That’s also how we comforted ourselves when it felt like we had no shot.
Nevertheless the numbers are undisputed: to get the deal approved by regulators and then to manage debt, AB InBev has sold off parts of SABMiller worth nearly one-third of the target’s one-time enterprise value of $122.5bn. In doing so, AB InBev lost just under half of the $7.1bn in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation that it acquired through the SABMiller, according to Jefferies analyst Ed Mundy. The average multiple fetched by the disposals was 10.2 times ebitda, against the 17.3 times that AB InBev paid for the brewer.
One bright spot from SABMiller is that AB InBev is now among the top four brewers in Africa, where the population is largely young and expected to drink more beer as economic growth gathers pace. It acquired a 20 per cent stake in the Africa business of privately held Castel, which is widely seen as a potential takeover target if the 92-year-old French billionaire owner ever wants to sell. In Colombia, it commands a near monopoly position.
The beauty of Visa’s business model is that they get paid every time one of their cards are used—a flat fee of $.07, plus 0.11% of the transaction amount (and more for international transactions). So the more dollars that flow through Visa’s network, and the more transactions that they process, the more money they make. Visa makes money three ways: service fees, data processing fees, and—if the transaction involves banks in two different countries—cross-border fees.