Curated Insights 2018.04.01

Amazon is already reshaping health care

All three of the biggest U.S. PBMs will be tied to three of the country’s biggest insurers. CVS, Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth process more than 70 percent of all U.S. prescriptions. Post-merger, three companies will insure more than 90 million people in some capacity, process more than 3.5 billion prescription claims, and generate more than $500 billion in revenue.

The merging companies have claimed huge cost savings will flow to consumers from these deals, but I’m skeptical. Research suggests costs can actually end up rising in some cases of health-care consolidation. Less competition means more pricing power for the companies that remain. Markets with more insurers have lower premiums, while prices rise when hospitals buy physician groups. Though these are vertical deals, they will add to the market power of major players in already heavily consolidated industries, which seems like a recipe for monopolistic behavior.

Regulation could protect Facebook, not punish it

If the government instituted new rules for tech platforms collecting persona information going forward, it could effectively lock in Facebook’s lead in the data race. If it becomes more cumbersome to gather this kind of data, no competitor might ever amass an index of psychographic profiles and social graphs able to rival Facebook’s.

We’ve already seen that first-time download rates aren’t plummeting for Facebook, its App Store ranking has actually increased since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, and blue chip advertisers aren’t bailing, according to BuzzFeed. But Facebook relies on the perception of its benevolent mission to recruit top talent in Silicon Valley and beyond.


Facebook knows literally everything about you

But my favorite thing is probably peer-to-peer payments. In some countries, you can pay back your friends using Messenger. It’s free! You just have to add your card to the app. It turns out that Facebook also buys data about your offline purchases. The next time you pay for a burrito with your credit card, Facebook will learn about this transaction and match this credit card number with the one you added in Messenger. In other words, Messenger is a great Trojan horse designed to learn everything about you.

There’s one last hope. And that hope is GDPR. Many of the misleading things that are currently happening at Facebook will have to change. You can’t force people to opt in like in Messenger. Data collection should be minimized to essential features. And Facebook will have to explain why it needs all this data to its users. If Facebook doesn’t comply, the company will have to pay up to 4 percent of its global annual turnover. But that doesn’t stop you from actively reclaiming your online privacy right now.


How Facebook helps shady advertisers pollute the internet

Those who were caught and banned found that this was only a minor setback—they just opened new Facebook accounts under different names. Some affiliates would buy clean profiles from “farmers,” spending as much as $1,000 per. Others would rent accounts from strangers or cut deals with underhanded advertising agencies to find other solutions.

Affiliates say Facebook has sent mixed signals over the years. Their accounts would get banned, but company salespeople would also come to their meetups and parties and encourage them to buy more ads. Two former Facebook employees who worked in the Toronto sales office said it was common knowledge there that some of their best clients were affiliates who used deception. Still, the sources said, salespeople were instructed to push them to spend more, and the rep who handled the dirtiest accounts had a quota of tens of millions of dollars per quarter.

How Alibaba and Tencent became Asia’s biggest dealmakers

The reach of Tencent and Alibaba in their home market dwarfs that of the big tech groups in the US. While the latter accounts for less than 5 per cent of all venture capital flows in their home market, Alibaba and Tencent account for 40-50 per cent of venture capital flows in mainland China, according to data from McKinsey.

The downside is that their new investors might have different agendas than simply the financial performance of the new companies. The risk is that Alibaba and Tencent might be willing to sacrifice their interests in the companies they back if their own goals shift.

But he worries that entrepreneurs might also be forced to prematurely choose sides in the rivalry between the competing ecosystems of one or the other internet giants in ways that can leave a young company exposed.


SoftBank Vision Fund CEO explains plan to build the biggest network of tech companies in the world

The fund aims to be the largest shareholder in 100 technology companies around the world after it has finished investing all of its money, he said. The goal is to create the biggest ecosystem of tech companies in the world.

Part of the strategy will include investments strategically moving operations beyond their home markets and into other countries, where they can be linked with other holdings in the fund, Misra said. The fund will actively push many of its investments to work with each other, creating a web of companies controlled, or heavily influenced, by SoftBank and its CEO Masayoshi Son, Misra said.

Dropbox and Box were never competitors

Vast majority of Dropbox’s combined business and consumer revenue of more than a $1 billion came from consumers. Dropbox has always offered an attractive consumer storage tool. “Dropbox is primarily a consumer company with 500 million users, [with] only about 300,000 teams using their business offering.” For now though, even with this business push, Pelz-Sharpe points out that most of Dropbox’s business customers are small teams of 3 or more people with a dash of larger implementations. “Nor are people building much on top of Dropbox in the way of business applications – it remains primarily a very efficient file sharing system,” he explained.

This in contrast to Box, which has been working primarily with large enterprise companies for years to solve much more complex problems around content. Aaron Levie from Box said he’s absolutely rooting for Dropbox, but they have always been going after different markets, since Box decide to go enterprise about two years into its existence. “We are fundamentally building two very different companies. Both are large markets. While there is no limit to the scale they could become, we have built a very different business around how do you serve [large companies] and deal with unstructured company data — and it’s a very different product set [from Dropbox],” Levie told TechCrunch.


Micron: You don’t know how big this memory stuff is, says Instinet

DRAM and NAND storage have become the choke point in system level performance across multiple applications; cloud vendors, for example, are boosting memory content to speed up performance. These cloud companies are very sophisticated about hardware architecture. Vendors are spending tremendous amounts of capital to reduce wait times in servers. This means maximizing the amount of memory around the processor and greater use of NAND flash.

Robots could replace surgeons in the battle against cancer

Moll says he focused on lung cancer for two reasons. It’s the deadliest cancer, killing 1.7 million people a year globally, according to the World Health Organization. (That’s double the next-highest total, for liver cancer.) And it’s the perfect proving ground, he says, for medical robots.

No medical regulator in the world has approved fully robotic surgery, so for now surgeons who sign up for Auris’s pilot program will drive the bot. The doctor guides the scope through the lung, starting in the trachea, with a video screen to help navigate. A camera view is on the screen’s left side, and a CT-scan-created map and turn-by-turn directions are on the right. Auris tracks the probe’s precise location, in part, by comparing data from the camera view to the 3D map, and by using an electromagnetic sensor that works a bit like a miniature GPS. The idea is to collect data after every surgery and feed it back into the navigation software, improving it over time.

Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now

We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge. From the ‘information age’, we are moving towards the ‘reputation age’, in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. Seen in this light, reputation has become a central pillar of collective intelligence today.

Curated Insights 2018.03.25

What’s next for humanity: Automation, new morality and a ‘global useless class’

“Time is accelerating,” Mr. Harari said. The long term may no longer be defined in centuries or millenniums — but in terms of 20 years. “It’s the first time in history when we’ll have no idea how human society will be like in a couple of decades,” he said.

“We’re in an unprecedented situation in history in the sense that nobody knows what the basics about how the world will look like in 20 or 30 years. Not just the basics of geopolitics but what the job market would look like, what kind of skills people will need, what family structures will look like, what gender relations will look like. This means that for the first time in history we have no idea what to teach in schools.”

Leaders and political parties are still stuck in the 20th century, in the ideological battles pitting the right against the left, capitalism versus socialism. They don’t even have realistic ideas of what the job market looks like in a mere two decades, Mr. Harari said, “because they can’t see.” “Instead of formulating meaningful visions for where humankind will be in 2050, they repackage nostalgic fantasies about the past,” he said.

Investing is hard

On April 1st 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple. Wayne drew the first Apple logo, wrote the three men’s original partnership agreement, and wrote the Apple 1 manual. Jobs and Wozniak each owned 45% and Wayne 10%. Two weeks later, he sold his 10% interest for $800. This 10% interest would be worth $90 billion today. He was closer than anyone to the visionaries of Apple, and he still sold.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in 3 paragraphs

In June 2014, a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan developed a personality-quiz app for Facebook. It was heavily influenced by a similar personality-quiz app made by the Psychometrics Centre, a Cambridge University laboratory where Kogan worked. About 270,000 people installed Kogan’s app on their Facebook account. But as with any Facebook developer at the time, Kogan could access data about those users or their friends. And when Kogan’s app asked for that data, it saved that information into a private database instead of immediately deleting it. Kogan provided that private database, containing information about 50 million Facebook users, to the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica used it to make 30 million “psychographic” profiles about voters.

Cambridge Analytica has significant ties to some of President Trump’s most prominent supporters and advisers. Rebekah Mercer, a Republican donor and a co-owner of Breitbart News, sits on the board of Cambridge Analytica. Her father, Robert Mercer, invested $15 million in Cambridge Analytica on the recommendation of his political adviser, Steve Bannon, according to the Times. On Monday, hidden-camera footage appeared to show Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, offering to bribe and blackmail public officials around the world. If Nix did so, it would violate U.K. law. Cambridge Analytica suspended Nix on Tuesday.

Cambridge Analytica also used its “psychographic” tools to make targeted online ad buys for the Brexit “Leave” campaign, the 2016 presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, and the 2016 Trump campaign. If any British Cambridge Analytica employees without a green card worked on those two U.S. campaigns, they did so in violation of federal law.


Facebook and the endless string of worst-case scenarios

“I have more fear in my life that we aren’t going to maximize the opportunity that we have than that we mess something up” Zuckerberg said at a Facebook’s Social Good Forum event in November. Perhaps it’s time for that fear to shift more towards ‘what could go wrong’, not just for Zuck, but the leaders of all of today’s tech titans.

Most recently, Facebook has found its trust in app developers misplaced. For years it offered an API that allowed app makers to pull robust profile data on their users and somewhat limited info about their friends to make personalized products. But Facebook lacked strong enforcement mechanisms for its policy that prevented developers from sharing or selling that data to others. It’s quite likely that other developers have violated Facebook’s flimsy policies against storing, selling, or sharing user data they’ve collected, and more reports of misuse will emerge.


The Facebook brand

This episode is a perfect example: an unintended casualty of this weekend’s firestorm is the idea of data portability: I have argued that social networks like Facebook should make it trivial to export your network; it seems far more likely that most social networks will respond to this Cambridge Analytica scandal by locking down data even further. That may be good for privacy, but it’s not so good for competition. Everything is a trade-off.


Inside Apple’s secret plan to develop and build its own screens

Controlling MicroLED technology would help Apple stand out in a maturing smartphone market and outgun rivals like Samsung that have been able to tout superior screens. Ray Soneira, who runs screen tester DisplayMate Technologies, says bringing the design in-house is a “golden opportunity” for Apple. “Everyone can buy an OLED or LCD screen,” he says. “But Apple could own MicroLED.”

Creating MicroLED screens is extraordinarily complex. Depending on screen size, they can contain millions of individual pixels. Each has three sub-pixels: red, green and blue LEDs. Each of these tiny LEDs must be individually created and calibrated. Each piece comes from what is known as a “donor wafer” and then are mass-transferred to the MicroLED screen. Early in the process, Apple bought these wafers from third-party manufacturers like Epistar Corp. and Osram Licht AG but has since begun “growing” its own LEDs to make in-house donor wafers. The growing process is done inside a clean room at the Santa Clara facility.

The secretive company that pours America’s coffee

Keurig is offering distribution services to an increasingly broad network of outside brands through its Dr Pepper Snapple deal. It will also be able to sell its coffee, part of an armada of 125 beverage brands, to new customers. Peet’s distribution system is a regional one that doesn’t cover certain retailers such as convenience stores, popular stops for consumers who don’t want to wait in line at larger stores. Dr Pepper’s larger fleet will enable Peet’s ready-to-drink beverages to get into more stores.

Drake and Fortnite create a “crossing the chasm” moment for gaming

While the gaming market is large, generating $100 billion in revenue globally, it reaches relatively few people compared to the music market. Interestingly, music touches almost everyone on earth but generates only $16 billion in revenue per year.

Twitch is the other beneficiary, of course. Twitch is cementing its position as a modern-day ESPN with 15 million daily viewers who spend on average almost two hours per day on the platform.


Oasis hedge fund boss bets on Japan’s professional gaming scene

Strict anti-gambling laws had prevented paid competitions for years, but the industry’s move this month to issue professional gamer licenses is allowing them to sidestep the regulations. Fischer says that lays the groundwork for publishers to grow audiences, sell more games and begin generating new revenue from broadcasting rights and advertising.

Worldwide esports revenue, including media rights, advertising, ticket sales and merchandising, will reach about $5 billion annually by 2020, almost as much as the world’s biggest soccer league today, according to market researcher Activate. The total audience for competitive gaming will grow to 557 million people by 2021 from 380 million this year, according to researcher Newzoo.


Why watch other people play video games? What you need to know about esports

Competitive video game playing, more commonly known as esports, drew 258 million unique viewers globally last year, according to research firm SuperData. For perspective, the National Football League said 204 million unique viewers tuned into the 2016 NFL regular season in the U.S., based on Nielsen data. Just like “real” sports, esports makes money off of investments, branding, advertising and media deals, raking in $1.5 billion in revenue last year, said SuperData. The firm expects the esports industry to hit 299 million viewers this year and top $2 billion in revenue by 2021.

The two things we look for in a management team

As the slide mentions, Verisk decides on buybacks or M&A depending on the available opportunities. Even if they don’t always make the correct assessment in hindsight, we like that there’s a process in place. We were further impressed that Verisk followed the above slide with IRR results from their capital allocation decisions. Again, this level of transparency is rare, but we welcome it and would like more companies to follow suit.

Samsonite wants to spend up on handbags

Parker said Samsonite isn’t actively approaching potential buyers, and the company will likely spend the next year or two consolidating after its $1.8 billion acquisition of luxury bag maker Tumi Holdings Inc. in 2016 and the $105 million purchase of online retailer eBags Inc. last year. The non-travel products market could be a potential space for deals in the future, he said in a separate interview with Bloomberg TV on Thursday.


How one investor turned a bet on the Swiss Central Bank into millions

Still, the root of the gains for Mr. Siegert and the SNB’s other 2,191 private investors is a bit of a mystery. The SNB isn’t like other stocks and pays a tiny dividend. It is governed under laws for both public and private institutions, and owned primarily by individual Swiss states, known as cantons, and cantonal banks. Public-sector bodies own almost 80% of voting shares.

Shareholders have no say in the SNB’s monetary policy or how it manages its massive 790 billion franc war chest of foreign-currency stocks and bonds, built up through years of interventions to weaken the franc.

On the plus side, the SNB is ultrasafe. It prints its own currency—and the franc is among the world’s strongest—which it uses to buy assets. When the SNB loses money, it can always print more. Recently, its profit has been on a tear, aided by rising global stock markets, low bond yields and a weaker franc. The SNB earned a record 54 billion francs in profit last year.


Tencent’s 60,000% runup leads to one of the biggest VC payoffs ever

The stake Naspers bought for just $32 million in 2001 — when Tencent was an obscure Web firm in a nation where few people used the Internet — is now worth $175 billion.

The sale of 190 million shares, worth $10.6 billion based on Tencent’s closing price in Hong Kong on Thursday, will cut the stake held by Naspers to 31.2 percent from 33.2 percent. It’s the first time Naspers has reduced its holdings in Tencent since investing in the company. Naspers won’t sell more shares in the company for at least three years, it said.

Has China overtaken the U.S. in terms of innovation?

In 1996, China invested 0.56 percent of its GDP in R&D, while the U.S. invested 2.44 percent of its GDP. In 2015, China invested 2.06 percent of its GDP, whereas the U.S. invested 2.79 percent. That is, the R&D intensity in China increased by 1.5 percentage points and in the U.S. by only 0.3 percentage points.


Harvard’s nutty idea: Cracking into the almond market

Around 80% of the world’s almonds are currently produced in California, whose almond plantations in its Central Valley have generated strong returns for investors for many years. Volatile weather in recent months, including frost and storms, have hurt estimates for the state’s almond harvest this summer, helping to push wholesale export prices for U.S. almonds to near a two-year high of $6,807 a metric ton.

Consumption of almonds grew 15% from 2012 to 2017, according to estimates from Euromonitor International, which forecasts 4% annual growth through 2021.

In Australia, nuts generate gross revenue of 8,097 to 12,146 Australian dollars (US$6,314 to US$9,471) per acre, roughly 40 times that of grains for the same area, according to the Australian Nut Industry Council. At current wholesale prices of about US$7 per kilogram in Australia, almonds offer a gross margin of around 45% before overhead costs and other expenses, according to Tim McGavin, chief executive of Laguna Bay Pastoral Co., an agricultural asset manager in Brisbane.


Elderly in U.S. are projected to outnumber children for first time

The Census Bureau projects the country would grow to 355 million by 2030, five million fewer than it had estimated three years ago. That is an annual average growth rate of just 0.7%, in line with recent rates but well below historical levels.

Lower population growth could drag on economic growth. This year’s prime-age workforce—ages 25 to 54—is about 630,000 smaller than the Census Bureau projected it would be just three years ago. The bureau projects the prime-age workforce will grow 0.5% a year through 2030, down from a 2014 projected annual rate of 0.58% for the same period.

The share of Americans who are foreign-born, now about 13%, is expected to reach a record 14.9% by 2028, topping a mark set in 1890. That share would rise to 17.2% by 2060.

Does indexing threaten the market?

But from the above results and others, it does not appear that the current level of indexing is a significant problem. This assumes the 24.9% figure for index equity mutual funds and indexed ETFs as a fraction of all U.S. equity mutual funds. As mentioned above, there are no firm figures for institutional indexing or international markets, but it seems unlikely that overall indexed investments exceed the level of roughly 25%.

Along this line, we remain concerned about the fact that many new index ETFs might not be truly independent of the creation of the index, as mentioned above. Even more importantly, given that many of these ETFs and indices are designed via a process of computer exploration of many different component weightings, these ETFs are highly vulnerable to backtest overfitting. As mentioned above, a 2012 Vanguard report found that while 87% of newly published indexes outperformed the broad U.S. stock market over the time period used for the backtest, only 51% outperformed the broad market after inception of the ETF tied to the index.


“I hope for Goldman Sachs’ bankruptcy”: Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Skin in the Game

Our conversation concludes on an optimistic note: “We’ve survived 200,000 years as humans,” says Taleb. “Don’t you think there’s a reason why we survived? We’re good at risk management. And what’s our risk management? Paranoia. Optimism is not a good thing.” Is the paradox, I ask, that human pessimism offers grounds for optimism? “Exactly,” Taleb replies. “Provided psychologists don’t fuck with it.”


What your fund management job will look like in a decade

Asset managers are being squeezed as increased regulation drives up costs and investors shift more money into lower-cost investment products. The solution? The greater use of technology and data-mining to defend margins, reduce expenses and win more client business.

While alternatives still only account for about a tenth of assets, they contribute about 30 percent of revenue, and Oliver Wyman sees that growing to about 40 percent by 2025. That trend will continue to benefit the bigger players able to offer a wider range of investment strategies.

Asset managers that analyze their customer relationship information in conjunction with the asset allocation preferences of both existing and potential customers will gain an advantage. The bigger the firm, the more data it will have available and the more resources it can throw at improving its analytic capabilities.


NASA study: Astronaut’s DNA no longer identical to his identical twin’s after year in space

Though most of Kelly’s biological changes returned to baseline levels after returning to Earth, seven percent of his genes point to possible long-term changes, according to the study. NASA’s preliminary findings were validated this week, according to Space.com. “The Twins Study has benefited NASA by providing the first application of genomics to evaluate potential risks to the human body in space,” according to a release from the agency.

Curated Insights 2017.12.31

Google Maps’s Moat

In other words, Google’s buildings are byproducts of its Satellite/Aerial imagery. And some of Google’s places are byproducts of its Street View imagery…so this makes AOIs a byproduct of byproducts. Google is creating data out of data.

With “Areas of Interest”, Google has a feature that Apple doesn’t have. But it’s unclear if Apple could add this feature to its map in the near future. The challenge for Apple is that AOIs aren’t collected—they’re created. And Apple appears to be missing the ingredients to create AOIs at the same quality, coverage, and scale as Google.

And as we saw with AOIs, Google has gathered so much data, in so many areas, that it’s now crunching it together and creating features that Apple can’t make—surrounding Google Maps with a moat of time.

Google likely knows what’s inside all of the buildings it has extracted. And as Google gets closer and closer to capturing every building in the world, it’s likely that Google will start highlighting / lighting up buildings related to queries and search results.

Apple to hit $1 trillion in market value in 2018

Today, Apple has an estimated 900 million customers. Many are buying services that include music streaming, movie rentals, applications, online storage, extended warranties, and digital payments. Apple’s recent purchase of Shazam, a service for identifying music clips, shows how Apple can add features to subscription services like Apple Music. Growing 23% in the past fiscal year, services account for 13% of Apple sales—and an estimated 20% of gross profit.

IPhone generates 60% of Apple’s revenue; there are an estimated 800 million active devices that provide a vast and growing base for services. A recent UBS survey of smartphone users in five key countries shows that retention rates have been climbing and stand at 85% for iPhone, versus 71% for Samsung and 78% for phones that use Android software. In other words, switching services isn’t common, but when it occurs, Apple generally wins.

Another upside source got less theoretical this past week with the passage of a sweeping corporate tax cut. Apple sits on more than $250 billion in cash and investments held overseas as a tax dodge, about a fifth of the total for all U.S. companies doing likewise. To bring that money home for dividends or stock buybacks, it would have had to pay the top corporate tax rate of 35%. The new law cuts the top rate to 21%; imposes a mandatory, one-time 15.5% tax on overseas cash and equivalents; and switches to a territorial tax system to reduce offshore avoidance.

For shareholders, the cake is the tax savings; the icing is that Apple loses its incentive to hold cash overseas. The second helping of cake with icing is that Apple has already booked enough to cover anticipated tax charges. Epoch’s Pearl reckons Apple could get a mid-single digit boost to ongoing earnings from the lower tax rate, and as much as a 7% increase from bringing home cash and buying back stock.

 

The near future of electric cars: Many models, few buyers

Electric cars—which today comprise only 1 percent of auto sales worldwide, and even less in the U.S.—will account for just 2.4 percent of U.S. demand and less than 10 percent globally by 2025, according to researcher LMC Automotive. But while consumer appetite slogs along, carmakers are still planning a tidal wave of battery-powered models that may find interested buyers few and far between.

Magna International Inc., for example, the largest auto supplier in North America, is having vigorous debates over whether to add capacity to tool up for electric cars when its executives don’t see much demand for them over the next eight years. The company predicts EVs will only grow to between 3 percent and 6 percent of global auto sales by 2025, said Jim Tobin, chief marketing officer at the Canadian company.

Industry executives convinced drivers will abruptly exit their internal combustion engine vehicles in favor of electrics may find themselves too overzealous, with LMC forecasting gasoline-powered engines will still make up about 85 percent of U.S. new car sales in 2025. But that shift could accelerate as electrified vehicles reach price parity with gasoline-powered cars, which Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts will happen by 2029 or sooner for most models.


Riders in Alphabet’s driverless car will be insured by startup Trov

So-called usage-based insurance, which changes in response to the customer’s needs or actions, has become popular among both traditional insurers and startups like Trov. A common example is car insurers’ use of devices to track a driver’s behavior and then offer discounts for good driving.

Trov CEO Scott Walchek said what appealed to Waymo was Trov’s ability to measure risk in what it calls “micro-durations.” The company asked if Trov’s technology for only assessing risk during periods when its users swiped on their coverage could be repurposed to cover passengers for the length of a ride in a Waymo vehicle. Trov developed a solution, Mr. Walchek said.


Kuka plans for robot domination in China and your garage

China is the world’s largest and fastest-growing automation market. Sales of robots in China, which amount to about one-third of the global demand, grew by 27 percent last year, compared to just 12 percent in Europe and 8 percent in the Americas, according to the International Federation of Robotics. With 68 robots per 10,000 Chinese manufacturing workers, far fewer than the 189 in the U.S. and 631 in South Korea, there’s room for growth and rising factory wages are powering more automation. “We want to become number one in China,” says the Kuka executive, noting that their market share for robots last year was around 14 percent (that puts it among the top three suppliers).

Along with its push into non-auto industrial robots, Kuka aims to leverage Midea’s sales networks and company connections to start producing consumer-focused robots too. The companies are jointly building a large industrial park near Guangzhou that will have R&D, technology development, a robotics training center, and critically, a production facility. “We are increasing capacity. That is the first step,” says Reuter. “For Kuka, the park will be a very, very important step towards becoming number one.”

Driver shortage sends truck haulage rates higher

The shortage of drivers comes as the industry looks to a future with self-driving, autonomous trucks. There are currently more than 3m truck drivers on the road in the US, with the job offering one of the highest levels of pay for non-college graduates. Last year, the median salary for drivers with three years’ experience tipped $57,000, according to the National Transportation Institute.

However, Mr Leathers warned that buzz around the technology could discourage people from working as drivers. “The last thing I can afford, and we can afford, is for our rhetoric on driver-assist or autonomous to get out in front of reality and [for us to] start seeing enrolments and interest in the field drop before the technology is ready to really engage,” he said.

Which nation does the world trust most? (Hint: Follow the Dollar)

America’s current 24 percent share looks much diminished compared with 30 percent in 2000 but about the same as the 26 percent share in 1980. It’s simple to cherry-pick a start date that makes American decline look bad, but the reality is that China is gaining global economic share at the expense mainly of Europe and Japan. America is a tested economic superpower, having survived 21 recessions and a Great Depression since 1900. China remains untested, having suffered not one outright recession since its modern renaissance began around 1980. It has yet to be seen just how well China will weather such a test, which is inevitable for any large economy.

Nearly 90 percent of bank-financed international transactions are conducted in dollars, a share that is close to all-time highs. When individuals and companies borrow from lenders in another country, they increasingly borrow in dollars, which now account for 75 percent of these global flows, up from 60 percent just before the global financial crisis in 2008.

In a dollar world, most countries are happiest when the dominant currency is cheap and plentiful. A strong dollar raises the cost of borrowing, which slows global economic growth and has often triggered debt crises in the emerging world. A weak dollar has the opposite effect, which is why the weakening of the dollar this year offers more evidence of its dominance: Partly as a result, the world is enjoying an unusually broad recovery encompassing every major economy.

Instead, the renminbi has gained no ground as a reserve currency and probably won’t as long as China’s financial markets remain largely closed, underdeveloped and subject to government meddling. History also suggests that economic size alone will not be enough to propel China to financial superpower status. From 1450 through the late 1700s, the leading reserve currency was held by smaller countries — first Portugal, followed by Spain, the Netherlands and France. These nations were all major trading and military powers with credible financial systems, but not one was the world’s largest economy. Throughout those centuries, the leading economy was primarily China. It never gained the advantages of having the leading reserve currency because, then as now, its financial system lacked credibility.


China’s $100 billion smartphone maker

Oppo makes $14 of operating profit apiece, Vivo $13 and Xiaomi a mere $2, Counterpoint reckons. That is of course minimal compared with the $151 per device they estimate Apple Inc. made, and $31 at Samsung Electronics Co.

Oppo and Vivo appear to be much more pure-play hardware businesses. This is risky, because customer loyalty is fickle and any margins they make leave them open to price competition. But at least they’re banking profits today instead of hoping for some future “economies of ecosystem” that may never come.


Chinese populism lives in a video app

According to one analysis, 70 percent of Kuaishou’s users earn less than $460 per month, 88 percent haven’t attended university, and a majority live in less developed parts of China. Kuaishou has managed to attract them by forgoing celebrity videos and promoted content in favor of algorithms that recommend items that other users like. It’s an approach that leaves users with the impression (if not the reality) that their videos have a fighting chance to be viewed. And that attracts users who know they’d be wasting their time posting content to sites focused on fashion, luxury and city life.

Indeed, even as other video platforms see their growth stunted by Chinese government oversight and brutal competition, Kuaishou expands. Today it’s the fourth largest social-media platform in China, behind WeChat, QQ and Sina Weibo. That’s why it’s a smart bet for investors like Tencent Holdings Ltd, which pumped in $350 million in March 2017. China’s smaller cities already produce 59 percent of China’s gross domestic product and retain significant commercial and cultural pull, both for those who still live in them and for the hundreds of millions who’ve migrated away.


Chinese consumers now rule the world. Get used to it

As China’s expansion increasingly depends on consumption, its growth will be not only more internally driven, but also less resource- and credit-intensive. Imports of premium goods and services will increase. This market will be more and more attractive to multinational firms and investors.

One significant byproduct: China’s politically-sensitive trade surplus will continue to shrink and the current account surplus, the broadest measure of capital flows, might contract even more. This, in turn, may exert downward pressure on the yuan.

China to overtake U.S. economy by 2032 as Asian might builds

The report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research in London sees India leapfrogging the U.K. and France next year to become the world’s fifth-biggest economy in dollar terms. It will advance to third place by 2027, moving ahead of Germany.

In 2032, three of the four largest economies will be Asian — China, India and Japan — and, by that time, China will also have overtaken the U.S. to hold the No. 1 spot. India’s advance won’t stop there, according to the CEBR, which sees it taking the top place in the second half of the century.

Also by 2032, South Korea and Indonesia will have entered the top 10, supplanting the Group of Seven nations of Italy and Canada.

Curated Insights 2017.12.24

Why Tesla wants a piece of the commercial trucking industry

But above all, it’s business opportunity—and trucking is the physical embodiment of a thriving economy. Trucks moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated $676 billion in revenue in 2016, according to the American Trucking Associations. Some 33.8 million trucks were registered for business purposes in 2016. Almost 4 million of them were categorized Class 8, denoting the largest freight trucks.

Other autonomous trucking startups are in hot pursuit. TuSimple, a company that has operations in China and San Diego and is backed by Nvidia and Sina Corp., plans to test fleets on two routes: one 120-mile stretch between Tucson and Phoenix and another segment in Shanghai. Meanwhile Nikola Motor is designing and building its own driverless, hydrogen fuel cell–powered Class 8 truck—“the iPhone of trucking,” says CEO Trevor Milton. “In the next eight years, you’re going to see a complete transformation of trucking,” he adds.


In China, a three-digit score could dictate tour place in society

In 2015 Ant Financial was one of eight tech companies granted approval from the People’s Bank of China to develop their own private credit scoring platforms. Zhima Credit appeared in the Alipay app shortly after that. The service tracks your behavior on the app to arrive at a score between 350 and 950, and offers perks and rewards to those with good scores. Zhima Credit’s algorithm considers not only whether you repay your bills but also what you buy, what degrees you hold, and the scores of your friends. Like Fair and Isaac decades earlier, Ant Financial executives talked publicly about how a data-driven approach would open up the financial system to people who had been locked out, like students and rural Chinese. For the more than 200 million Alipay users who have opted in to Zhima Credit, the sell is clear: Your data will magically open doors for you.

Zhima Credit is dedicated to creating trust in a commercial setting and independent of any government-initiated social credit system. Zhima Credit does not share user scores or underlying data with any third party including the government without the user’s prior consent.”

The State Council has signaled that under the national social credit system people will be penalized for the crime of spreading online rumors, among other offenses, and that those deemed “seriously untrustworthy” can expect to receive substandard services. Ant Financial appears to be aiming for a society divided along moral lines as well. As Lucy Peng, the company’s chief executive, was quoted as saying in Ant Financial, Zhima Credit “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.”

For those with good behavior, Zhima Credit offers perks through cooperation agreements that Ant Financial has signed with hundreds of companies and institutions. Shenzhou Zuche, a car rental company, allows people with credit scores over 650 to rent a car without a deposit. In exchange for this vetting, Shenzhou Zuche shares data, so that if a Zhima Credit user crashes one of the rental company’s cars and refuses to pay up, that detail is fed back into his or her credit score. For a while people with scores over 750 could even skip the security check line at Beijing Capital Airport.


Tencent and Alibaba go abroad to push for growth and know-how

“[Tencent] are willing to look at anything they think will help them to export what they know in China to other countries,” he says, describing the company’s efforts as a China-inspired “third way” of doing M&A. “The deals they are doing tend to be very strategic, and the size of the deals is typically hundreds of millions of dollars or single-digit billions, whereas those by Anbang, HNA and the rest are tens of billions of dollars and unrelated with nothing strategic about it,” says one banker.

Meituan-Dianping, the biggest company in food delivery, ticketing and other services that was valued at $30bn in its latest fundraising, gives Tencent access to swaths of merchants and customers in physical restaurants and stores. “This capability is not something Tencent has in-house, but it’s something that will be beneficial to help it grow its ecosystem. We can push Tencent payments, and small merchants to work with Tencent platforms. And Tencent can bring their traffic to us, provide infrastructure, mapping, cloud services. So this is very complementary.”


Facebook: The bear case will only gain momentum, says Moffett Nathanson

Bull case is predicated on its massive scale […] 2.1 billion monthly users and 1.4 billion daily active users, representing 58% and 39% of the globe’s Internet users […] the level of scale, reach and gigantic trove of data that comes with it clearly has immense value for targeted marketers […] still growing MAUs at respectable rates […] growth is even more impressive in the developing regions [….] 17% CAGR in the Rest of World over the past three years has and has sourced more than a third of its growth from here over that period […] immense base of advertisers […] staggering 6 million advertisers in November of 2017 […] this diversification is a huge asset […] very different than traditional media where, in areas like Network TV, the top 100 clients generally represent 2/3 of ad dollars […] still has a huge opportunity in international and messaging […] in every country except France, Canada, China, the U.S., and the U.K., WhatsApp is the dominant IM platform with more than 60%+ penetration […] We think that if it can get the formula right, it already has a significant user foothold and runway for ramping revenue quickly […] Street estimates look too conservative [for 2018] Street’s conservatism in forecasting despite years of outperformance is a result of Facebook’s aggressive expectation management […] It’s still really cheap! Facebook currently trades at 19x 2018 EV/Ebitda […] By comparison, Priceline (PCLN) is trading at 18X.

Facebook’s video strategy remains a mystery [….] It hosts this content in its standalone Watch Tab […] We don’t think it has been terribly successful here, and wonder how many users even realize or opt to click the Watch Tab when on Facebook […] Facebook hasn’t been aggressive in approaching studios or smaller video creators for content. It appears that Facebook is slowly trying to tiptoe […] Facebook has really frustrated producers by continually changing what it is looking for […] Engagement amongst younger demos has been waning […] Facebook’s video push is more than simply nice to have, it’s now a must have if it wants to stave off further engagement declines […] Facebook has apparently hit the upper bound of its ad load on core Facebook […] The story has moved from a largely volume driven one to a largely pricing driven one […] businesses that have years of significant double digit volume growth ahead of them certainly look more appealing and greenfield other things being equal than those that have moved into the pricing growth phase of their lifecycle […] Despite the significant traction for Messenger and WhatsApp globally, Facebook’s ability to meaningfully monetize them still remains a major question mark […] [Congressional investigations into Russian advertising, etc.] are just the beginning of a bigger regulatory review of Facebook’s influence on our society and political process. As a result, it could spell years’ worth of incremental investment to help police the problem […] With 82%+ of analysts with a Buy rating on Facebook for the last 3.5 years […] any hiccups in growth or profitability could lead to a downside reaction that is amplified.


Amazon hasn’t figured out drugstores yet. But it will have to

Even so, many shoppers prefer get their medications from a store, which offers peace of mind that their order is correct and the opportunity to speak with a pharmacist. Mail-order prescriptions fell 23 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to Adam Fein, CEO of the Drug Channels Institute, with mail pharmacies dispensing only 10 percent of all 30-day equivalent prescriptions in 2016. And the cash generic-drug market for the uninsured — once eyed by Wal-Mart — is considerably smaller thanks to Medicare Part D and Obamacare. The cash market makes up about 7 percent to 8 percent of all prescriptions, and has been declining slowly along with the number of uninsured people, according to Fein. Revenues from cash-paid prescriptions are about $25 billion a year, he said.The most promising window for Amazon may be the rising out-of-pocket costs shouldered by those with prescription-insurance plans. About half of all insurance plans had deductibles on prescription drugs in 2016, up from 23 percent in 2012, according to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. If insured drug-takers become more cost-conscious, Amazon could attempt to bring convenient online price transparency to a complex industry that makes it difficult for customers to shop around. Amazon could be encouraged to push through the complexities to increase the value of Prime membership. Two-thirds of Prime members would fill prescriptions through Amazon if the company offered them, according to research by Cowen Inc.

The loopholes drug companies use to keep prices high

The expiration date for the main Revlimid patent will be 2019. But Celgene’s business tactics, also used by other drugmakers, could allow the company to put off unrestricted competition from generics until 2026. That would cost Americans an extra $45 billion just for Revlimid, according to I-MAK, a consumer advocate.

Among the shenanigans: Securing new patents that extend old ones. Keeping brand-name drugs under wraps so generic makers can’t copy them. Filing so-called citizen petitions that gum up the FDA approval process for rivals. Negotiating restrictive deals with drug plans that crowd out less expensive drugs.

Citizen petitions are another way brand-name drug companies delay approval of competitors’ products. The petitions were designed to elicit public concerns about the drugs. The FDA is required to divert resources to address each one. From 2011 to 2015, brand-name drugmakers filed 108 citizen petitions during the approval process for cheaper versions, and 91 percent were denied, according to a paper by Rutgers University Law Professor Michael Carrier. The petitions “can play a crucial role in delaying generic entry,” he wrote. The introduction of cheaper generics can be delayed even after a brand-name patent has been invalidated in court.


A hospital giant discovers that collecting debt pays better than curing ills

The amount of past-due medical debt in the U.S. is about $75 billion, spread among 43 million people, according to estimates from economists at MIT, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

As Tenet and other hospital companies struggle to make money providing medical care, they are turning to the profitable and growing business of collecting debt. Most hospitals have finance departments or outside companies that try to ensure they get paid by insurers and patients. But Tenet has gone a step further than most, turning its operation into a separate business line called Conifer and contracting its services to other medical providers.

Collecting payment has become more important as hospitals’ traditional revenue streams come under pressure. Looming cuts to Medicare reimbursements may make as many as 60 percent of U.S. hospitals unprofitable, compared with about 25 percent currently, according to a 2016 Congressional Budget Office analysis.


Blow to Uber in Europe as top court rules it’s a transport service

The judgement means Uber must comply with individual Member States’ transportation regulations, and cannot claim its p2p ride-hailing services are only governed by less restrictive EU-wide ecommerce rules.

In its ruling the court writes that Uber’s “intermediation service… must be regarded as being inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as ‘a service in the field of transport’ within the meaning of EU law. Consequently, such a service must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce. It follows that, as EU law currently stands, it is for the Member States to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided.”


Asimov: Engineering biology

Not only do such biological circuit design automation tools give bioengineers the ability to debug biological circuits much like we debug software — with complete detail of what the simulated circuit is doing — but Asimov engineers have also developed modular biological circuit components that don’t have adverse reactions to other parts of the cell. Why does this matter? It’s akin to a computer programmer designing code that is then injected into a running program or existing operating system. These biological building blocks can be easily used downstream by circuit designers — the bio advance in turn facilitates the computer science advance, namely the accurate simulation of biological circuits.

With Asimov’s approach, high-accuracy simulation, and circuit building-blocks, we can greatly speed the development of biological circuits — decreasing their cost, and greatly increasing their sophistication and complexity.

Because biology is everywhere, living cells have applications in everything from food and materials to agriculture to healthcare. In fact, 7 of the top 10 drugs today are biologics, i.e., proteins that have therapeutic properties. These proteins are manufactured in cells at the cost of billions of dollars. Asimov’s technology could drive a dramatic reduction in cost to patients — enabling these drugs to be in the hands of more and more people.

Auctions & power

This results in decaying economics to the advertisers, as more advertisers join the auction to bid on keywords and clicks become more expensive. Google hides behind the overall statistic that its cost-per-click has been routinely getting cheaper on the aggregate even though this is a direct result of the mix shifting from desktop to mobile, where clicks are nearly ⅔ lower than on desktop.

Since Google is effectively a toll road on the internet, capturing over 90% of the searches performed in nearly every country it touches, advertisers are forced to play ball. But they’re not happy. Not many bidders to an auction come away saying, “wow, we got such a great deal.” In fact, the entire online travel industry is starting to find television advertising an equally compelling offer for their businesses over time. Even in real estate transactions, even if there are just two parties bidding on the property, the auction is designed to capture the highest value from the buyers.

The worst case scorched-earth scenario is far worse for Priceline. It’s a particularly bad time for booking.com to open up space for hotels to be bidding on clicks in TripAdvisor’s auctions. At the same time, ctrip.com is getting more aggressive in western markets and third party OTA supply on TripAdvisor has been building, with >80% of listings having a third, fourth or fifth OTA option. Because booking.com charges considerably higher commissions than TripAdvisor, hotels are highly incentivized to divert traffic away from Priceline’s channels.


China’s $189 billion giant of finance reveals a huge bet on tech

In the first nine months of 2017, Ping An got more than 70 percent of its earnings from insurance, with banking and asset management each contributing about 15 percent. Profit from its fintech units amounted to 1 percent of the group’s total, a proportion that Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Steven Lam estimates could increase to 3 percent to 5 percent in five years.

One risk for Ping An is that China’s tech companies are building their own financial services ecosystems. Alibaba and Tencent already dominate the online payments industry and are expanding rapidly into areas including asset management, lending and insurance. Ping An’s Tan argues that the company’s massive cache of financial data (it has nine petabytes of the stuff), combined with its offline resources, make the company’s products “fairly difficult” to replicate.


Beijing’s electric-car push could produce a world-class Chinese auto brand

China already leads globally in EV sales, passing the U.S. in 2015. Sales of new-energy vehicles, or NEVs (EVs, plug-in hybrids, and fuel-cell vehicles), may top 700,000 units in 2017 and 1 million in 2018, says Xu Haidong, assistant secretary-general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Almost all those cars are Chinese brands. The government has set a target of 7 million vehicles by 2025. To reach that goal, it’s doling out subsidies and tightening regulations around fossil-fuel cars.

“With electric cars, the cards are being reshuffled,” says Wolfgang Bernhart, a senior partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants in Munich. “We’ll see significantly more competition.” That could happen far from the mainland. “It’s obvious that Chinese carmakers want to sell their cars abroad,” says Klaus Rosenfeld, chief executive officer of German parts maker Schaeffler AG. “China’s manufacturers know that it will be tough for them to compete on combustion engines in our home market. But the shift to more and more electric cars may become an opportunity for them.”


China is building some of the world’s biggest packaged food companies

Having American brands gives WH Group a way to reach upscale consumers in the country that eats about half of the world’s pork, said Kenneth Sullivan, chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods and an executive director of Hong Kong-listed WH Group.

Chinese per-capita consumption is 39.4 kilograms (87 pounds) a year, and domestic hog farms can’t keep up with demand. U.S. pork exports to China and Hong Kong totaled 545,000 metric tons last year, a 61 percent increase from 2015, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Smithfield can’t export sausage, ham and bacon from its U.S. factories because China prohibits imports of processed meat. So WH Group opened an 800 million-yuan ($116 million) factory in Zhengzhou that will produce 30,000 metric tons of those meats when it reaches full capacity next year.

Truth from zero?

The achievements in Go and Shogi—the Japanese game whose higher depth in relation to Western chess we discussed three years ago—strike us as greater than AlphaZero’s score of 28 wins, 72 draws, and no losses against the champion Stockfish chess program. One measure of greatness comes from the difference in Elo ratings between the machine and the best human players. AlphaGo Zero’s measured rating of 5185 is over 1,500 points higher than the best human players on the scale used in Go. In Shogi, the paper shows AlphaZero zooming toward 4500 whereas the top human rating shown here as of 11/26/17 is 2703, again a difference over 1,500. In chess, however, as shown in the graphs atop page 4 of the paper, AlphaZero stays under 3500, which is less than 700 ahead of human players.

Although AlphaZero’s 64-36 margin over Stockfish looks like a shellacking, it amounts to only 100 points difference on the Elo scale. The scale was built around the idea that a 200-point difference corresponds to about 75% expectation for the stronger player—and this applies to all games. Higher gains become multiplicatively harder to achieve and maintain. This makes the huge margins in Go and Shogi all the more remarkable.

Bitcoin billionaires may have found a way to cash out

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected the use of the Gemini exchange to determine bitcoin prices — which Cboe is using for the daily settlement of bitcoin futures — and has expressed doubts about using an index of exchanges — which CME is using. This creates the possibility that a few million dollars of actual bitcoin transactions, assembled in untested ways, will drive hundreds of millions of dollars of derivative settlement payments, which in turn could set the price for potentially tens of billions of dollars of ETFs.

If, say, 1 percent of all bitcoin were taken off the market and held as option collateral, 4 and financial investors put up cash in one-year derivatives, that could do a lot to stabilize the market. That means both reducing price volatility and giving confidence that market prices represent true trading prices for institutional quantities of bitcoin. This, in turn, could make Cboe and CME cash-settled futures more attractive, and thereby represent a solid base for bitcoin ETFs.

On the other hand, if bitcoin billionaires stay out of the market, institutional investment in bitcoin will remain problematic. Individuals will be able to trade small amounts in a fragmented market of loosely regulated exchanges, but futures and ETFs will not be securely backed by physical bitcoin — their prices will be pushed around by betting sentiment of people who own no bitcoin.

What Is Ethereum?

Note that because every single operation on the EVM is executed by every node, computing on the EVM is expensive. Therefore — and according to Ethereum’s development tutorial — the best current use-cases for Ethereum are for running business logic: “if this, then that.” Other use cases might be prohibitively expensive. Due to current issues around scalability and the size of Ethereum’s blockchain, more computationally-intensive programs will find it difficult and expensive to operate on the EVM.

Here’s another way to think about it: where Bitcoin could help users avoid banks, Ethereum could help users bypass platforms like Facebook, Amazon, or any number of more complex middlemen. Once upon a time, developers of a game or a collectible like CryptoKitties might have launched a Farmville-style game on Facebook, or a physical product on Amazon. Today, instead of doing that or building their own blockchains from scratch, developers can use the EVM to create their own decentralized applications – like Cryptokitties.

Can this man build a better bitcoin?

Vitalik Buterin grasped the significance immediately. Prior to creating Ethereum, Buterin covered the San Jose Bitcoin conference as a correspondent for Bitcoin Magazine, a publication he cofounded. The wunderkind programmer interviewed Ben-Sasson about his breakthroughs, and it left an indelible impression. “Personally, I think zk-SNARKs are a hugely important, absolutely game-changing technology,” Buterin tells Fortune. “They are the single most under-hyped thing in cryptography right now.”

In January 2009, Wilcox became perhaps the first person ever to blog about Bitcoin in a post titled “Decentralized Money” on his personal blog, Zooko’s Hack Log. Satoshi Nakamoto returned the favor several weeks later, linking to Wilcox’s write-up in an addendum to a preliminary release of the Bitcoin software on Bitcoin.org, the newly created project’s home page. Wilcox was one of only three people to receive an honorable mention in the “related links” section. (The others were Nick Szabo, inventor of “bit gold,” and Wei Dai, creator of “b-money.”)

Curated Insights 2017.12.03

A dynamic knowledge tool to understand the issues and forces driving transformational change across economies, industries, global issues and the Forum’s system initiatives.

How to tame Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple

The problem with price regulation is that Google doesn’t charge high prices—at least not to consumers, the traditional victims in monopoly cases. The company initially helped wipe out the profitability of newspapers and magazines, in part, by undercutting the price of print advertising. These days, however, Google can charge hefty prices to advertisers because it controls so much inventory and user data. Advertisers can feel they have no choice but to pay up, while consumers pay precisely zero to do searches or send emails.

Amazon is a “cheetelephant,” said one analyst: an elephant that runs as fast as a cheetah. It’s considerably faster than the regulators and lawmakers who have been caught flat-footed and are now wondering what, if anything, to do about its increasing market power, from books to groceries to moviemaking.

“If you look at the business models of these firms, none of these is a predatory pricing model. These firms are making a lot of money doing what they’re currently doing,” said Penn’s Hovenkamp. Besides, he said, “there are constantly new entrants” that would prevent a company from earning monopolistic profits. For antitrust enforcers, the problem is that by the time you know for sure whether a company predatorily drove rivals out of business, it’s too late to prevent it.

Facebook, in other words, is damned if it does censor and damned if it doesn’t. How is this likely to evolve? One possibility is that Facebook will tire of taking the heat and voluntarily submit to government regulation. A regulated Facebook would still have to employ people and algorithms to scour its website of forbidden materials, as it does today, but at least it could point the finger at lawmakers and regulators if questioned about its choices. The same would go for Google and some companies not covered here, such as Twitter.

It’s a good bet that there will be more such orders in coming years. Governments want money, and the four tech giants have a lot of it. In the meantime, while trying to come up with a better tax system, Europe is toying with the idea of taxing the tech companies’ revenue rather than their profits. The reasoning is that revenue is harder to manipulate. But revenue is a crude measure of a company’s ability to pay taxes. Revenue-based taxation would be too hard on companies with lots of revenue but little profit, and too easy on companies with little revenue but lots of profit.

Under an apportionment system, each country is still permitted to set its corporate tax rate however it chooses. But it will be able to charge its rate only on its little slice of the company’s global profit—a slice that’s determined by an agreed-upon formula. A country can no longer grab a bigger piece of a shrinking corporate-tax pie by cutting its rate below other countries’. In one stroke, the race to the bottom in tax rates is cut short.

Getting low-tax countries to go along with an apportionment system would be tough, though. No country wants to give up what makes it special. So something like the current tax system, albeit with fewer loopholes, is likely to persist for at least awhile. Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon will keep finding ways to pit countries against one another.


Why Tencent Could Become an Advertising Powerhouse Like Facebook

Tencent’s ad revenue could more than double to $11.4 billion by 2019, according to researcher eMarketer. The company is estimated to increase its market share in China’s digital ad space to 15 percent from about 9 percent, eMarketer said.

Social advertising, which relies on information from a user’s network, is still a nascent business in China. The model that drives Facebook only accounts for about 10 percent of mainland digital marketing with e-commerce and search ads still taking the lion’s share. Lau expects that to change. “Social advertising can play a larger role,” said Lau. “In China, we are kind of pioneering the categories” of that.

So Tencent’s chosen to exercise restraint, usually showing just one ad per day on WeChat’s “Moments”, a function similar to Facebook’s news feed, capping inventory by intention. That’s why it earns just $2.10 per daily active user on WeChat, versus Facebook’s $30.10, Morgan Stanley estimates.

To do that, it’s enlisted an army of more than 250 computer scientists to expand in artificial intelligence, focusing on natural language processing, image recognition and user behavior prediction. That investment is showing up in some areas: Tencent worked with BMW to target high-end users based on their friends and location logs, sending them WeChat ads through which they could book test drives. The end game is converting ads into purchases, which is why the company’s exploring also hotels, dining and property, Lau said.


How Tencent could help Snapchat

Integrating gaming into Snapchat might be a good idea – not just because it creates more ways to generate revenue, but also because it can enhance user engagement. Globally, more people watch gaming videos and streams than HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu combined. As Snapchat strives to add users globally, it would be smart to tap into the millions of gamers worldwide who are already spending hours each day playing games, many of which Tencent has invested in.

“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term. We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”


Amazon focuses on machine learning to beat cloud rivals

The industry has turned into a race to provide customers tools and functions to use that data in new ways. Those tools are helping speed the transition to the cloud, since companies that don’t have access to them will be at a competitive disadvantage, Jassy said. “We are in a transition stage right now. Relatively few companies will own their own data centers, and those who do will have significantly smaller footprints. That means all of that data is moving to the cloud.”

The cloud computing market will grow to $89 billion in 2021, up from $35 billion today, according to technology research firm Gartner Inc.


Amazon AWS: Is that what the second headquarters is about? Asks Goldman

“While Amazon has never discussed any plans for a spin or any HQ2 plans relative to AWS, it is possible that the location of the new headquarters could provide some insight into the way management is thinking about the positioning of AWS.”

Terry’s curiosity is piqued by the fact that Amazon increasingly competes in the same industries that are customers for AWS, including gaming, healthcare and life sciences. Presumably, a separation of AWS might lessen the conflict there. Terry sees AWS being worth $430 billion, on a sum-of-the-parts basis, equaling 60% of Amazon’s enterprise value.


Broadcom could bid as much as $100 for Qualcomm and still see a payoff, says Canaccord

We assume Qualcomm settles its licensing dispute with Apple with Apple paying roughly half of what it previously paid Qualcomm for iPhone royalties. We also assume Qualcomm settles its dispute with Huawei or the other large OEM currently not paying Qualcomm royalties. We believe Broadcom management has solutions for Qualcomm’s disputes as part of its reasoning to make a bid for Qualcomm, but we have used these assumptions based on our Qualcomm scenario analysis used for our Qualcomm price target in our last published Qualcomm note. We also assume $500M in synergies achieved between Qualcomm and NXP in our scenario analysis including NXP. Further, we assume a 4% interest rate on combined debt for an acquisition with NXP and 3.5% for an acquisition without NXP given larger debt levels needed if the acquisition includes NXP. We also assume $1.5B in F2019 synergies between Broadcom in Qualcomm and a combined company tax rate of 15%.


Beyond Tesla’s semi truck: The future of trucking and transportation

We are currently entering a period of a rapid change in our transportation systems. And as I see it, it’s the innovator’s dilemma playing out in the wild: Incumbents like General Motors are moving too slowly to adapt to an all-electric future—wasting billions of dollars on stock buybacks—while upstarts like Tesla, unencumbered by legacy business models, are forging a path into a clean, fully-electric, fully-autonomous future. (GM has spent almost $17 billion in the last several years buying back its stock, three times what Tesla has spent building Gigafactories.)

One is that the cost of trucking falls by at least 50%, if not more. No driver, double the passive productivity, and in essence, you eliminate most of the safety problems. And by the way, if you apply this [autonomous] technology, many of the concerns we have from a safety standpoint about large trucks go away and you can make the trucks bigger. So, the costs fall at least in half. Transit time falls at half too, because you’re not waiting.

Let’s look at it from a technical standpoint. There are two competencies that keep trucking firms alive. The first one is their ability to match demand and supply; which is very important, and the second is their ability to manage drivers. There’s a modest competency with respect to equipment, but it’s not that important. Well, in the first place, if you if you eliminate the drivers, you eliminate half of the value-added that the trucker provides. And second, if you go to integrated big data, the business of matching capacity to demand becomes much easier. So, what it does is it either eliminates, or dramatically changes the principal competencies of whatever we call this entity which we now call “trucker” provides to the marketplace. So it’s big, big changes.


Why Tesla’s fuel efficiency advantage won’t last

At the early part of the 2000’s trucks getting 5 mpg were common. Today’s fleet is more like 7 mpg. That two miles per gallon increase means diesel used falls from 20,000 gallons a year down to under 15,000 gallons. Best-in-class trucks today might approach 9-10 miles per gallon. That three mpg increase versus fleet average (presumably what Tesla used in its cost calculator) is another 30% drop in fuel use, down to 10,000 gallons. The SuperTruck programs that get 12 or more mpg, (using many of the same aero techniques that Tesla’s Semi uses) would use around 8,000 gallons of fuel. In other words the opportunity to lower the Tesla cost of ownership with fuel savings is currently 15,000 diesel gallons a year, but will soon enough be only half that, using current line-of-sight technologies. At current fleet average diesel costs the savings opportunity on 100,000 miles per year is $37,500 per truck. At current best-in-class the available pool of offset-able fuel cost is $25,000. On future trucks, perhaps not too far distant from Tesla’s launch, is only $20,000 per year. All this assumes you can run a truck 100,000 miles a year in 300 to 500 mile increments.

The future difference between Tesla’s astonishing 19 mpg equivalent and the SuperTruck 12 mpg is only 3,000 gallons a year of diesel equivalent. Compared with the 7,000 gallons per truck per year already in the diesel improvement pipeline, that 3,000 gallons doesn’t look as compelling.


Inside the revolution at Etsy

Inside Etsy, Mr. Silverman’s reorganization has upended parts of the company once considered sacrosanct. Last month, Etsy changed its mission statement. Gone was a verbose commitment “to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.” Instead, the mission was reduced to just three words, “Keep commerce human,” accompanied by a spreadsheet outlining its goals for economic, social and ecological impact. And because remaining a B Corp would require the company to change its legal standing in Delaware, where it is incorporated, Etsy will let that certification lapse.


Paytm aims to become largest full-service digital bank

“Digital payments was our entry point, we want to become a vertically-integrated financial services company.”

Payments banks can accept deposits and remittances but cannot lend. Paytm is one of less than a dozen entities that got permits to start payments banks to bring financial services within easy reach of about a fifth of India’s 1.3 billion people who do not have access to organized financial services.

Paytm Payments Bank is majority-owned by Sharma. One97 Communications, which is backed by Alibaba Group Holding, Ant Financial Services and others, holds the remaining 49 percent. The payments bank morphed out of Paytm’s digital wallet which got a huge boost and amassed over a hundred million customers after India took its high currency bills, totaling nearly 90 percent of the value of cash, out of circulation last November.

Sharma may have found a way around the regulatory hurdles that bar lending. One97 Communications will introduce a charge card and offer monthly installment-based loans, he said. “We will launch share trading and insurance products very soon,” said Sharma. “We want to become an Internet-age financial services company.”

Business lessons from Ben Thompson of Stratechery

“Zero distribution costs. Zero marginal costs. Zero transactions. This is what the Internet enables, and it is completely transforming not just technology companies but companies in every single industry.” “Aggregation Theory is a completely new way to understand business in the Internet age.”

“instead of some companies serving the high end of a market with a superior experience while others serve the low-end with a “good-enough” offering, one company can serve everyone…. it makes sense to start at the high-end with customers who have a greater willingness-to-pay, and from there scale downwards, decreasing your price along with the decrease in your per-customer cost base (because of scale) as you go (and again, without accruing material marginal costs). Many of the most important new companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb and more are winning not by giving good-enough solutions to over-served low-end customers, but rather by delivering a superior experience that begins at the top of a market and works its way down…”

“Apple and Amazon do have businesses that qualify as aggregators, at least to a degree: for Apple, it is the App Store (as well as the Google Play Store). Apple owns the user relationship, incurs zero marginal costs in serving that user, and has a network of App Developers continually improving supply in response to demand. Amazon, meanwhile, has Amazon Merchant Services, which is a two-sided network where Amazon owns the end user and passes all marginal costs to merchants (i.e. suppliers).”

“Once an aggregator has gained some number of end users, suppliers will come onto the aggregator’s platform on the aggregator’s terms, effectively commoditizing and modularizing themselves. Those additional suppliers then make the aggregator more attractive to more users, which in turn draws more suppliers, in a virtuous cycle. This means that for aggregators, customer acquisition costs decrease over time; marginal customers are attracted to the platform by virtue of the increasing number of suppliers.”

“Breaking up a formerly integrated system — commoditizing and modularizing it — destroys incumbent value while simultaneously allowing a new entrant to integrate a different part of the value chain and thus capture new value.”


Active vs. passive vs. Amazon et al.

“Sectors such as finance, information technology, media, and pharmaceuticals — which have the highest margins — are developing a winner-take-all dynamic, with a wide gap between the most profitable companies and everyone else.”

“I have long described Amazon as a Field of Dreams company, one that goes for higher revenues first and then thinks about ways of converting those revenues into profits; if you build it, they will come. In coining this description, I am not being derisive but arguing that the market’s willingness to be patient with the company is largely a result of the consistency with [which] Jeff Bezos has told the same story for the company, since 1997, and acted in accordance with it.”

“These models have an in-built structure where they are going to tip into winner-take-all areas. The cost of adding a new user gets smaller and smaller the bigger you get. [This starts] creating a competitive advantage that gets harder and harder to bridge.”

It’s not unusual for a few stocks to drive broader market performance in a given year, but we would be foolish to ignore that it has been the same several stocks quite frequently in recent years. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google are responsible for roughly 20% of the S&P 500’s performance this year, and generated more than the entire return of the index in 2015.


The secret to tech’s next big breakthroughs? Stacking chips

The advantage is simple physics: When electrons have to travel long distances through copper wires, it takes more power, produces heat and reduces bandwidth. Stacked chips are more efficient, run cooler and communicate across much shorter interconnections at lightning speed.

Chip stacking enables totally new capabilities too. Some phone cameras stack an image sensor directly on top of the chip that processes the image. The extra speed means they can grab multiple exposures of an image and fuse them together, capturing more light for dim scenes.

But Mr. Dixon-Warren says the spread of 3-D chips is rapid and their takeover inevitable. A decade ago, this technology was limited almost exclusively to university labs; five or six years ago, it was still hard to find commercial examples. But now it’s popping up all over, in applications like networking and high-performance computing and in high-end wearables like the Apple Watch.


How does Costco sell 18-year-old single malt Scotch for $38?

“Costco has a volume deal with [spirits] companies including Edrington and Diageo. They agree to buy a certain amount of product at a certain price, which is far lower than everyone else is paying. For products like Johnnie Walker Blue or Macallan, it’s virtually impossible to beat Costco on price.”

“If Costco can control the importation of the whisky, get someone to distribute it to them at cost (or at very slim single-digit margins due to high volume) and then sell it at very low margins, then they’re golden.”

Finally, one reason rarely considered for why Costco might be able to offer better pricing is proof. Typically, whisky connoisseurs would want that 25-year-old Scotch to have some decent heft after all those years of concentrating in barrel. Alcohol is a conduit for flavor, after all. But all Kirkland Signature Scotches are sold at 80 proof, meaning that these whiskies are watered down to the absolute lowest legal limit and, thus, Costco is able to empty barrels into way more bottles.


Big oil and auto makers throw a lifeline to the combustion engine

The new lubricants are meant to help auto makers build smaller, turbocharged engines that are still quite powerful, resulting in efficiency gains close to 15% compared with older models. Optimizing internal combustion engines could boost efficiency by an additional 25%—a calculation that might tempt auto makers from spending more on electric-vehicle technology. Other efforts to enhance performance include adding gears to transmissions and making vehicles more aerodynamic.

The gains from engine oil alone are limited, however. Industry experts say the latest lubricants typically boost fuel economy by less than 1%, primarily by reducing the amount of energy needed to pump a piston. Even so, it is a highly cost-effective solution that adds up when spread across millions of vehicles.


‘It’s beautiful’: This Toronto startup is investors’ secret weapon to beating the market

Legal experts say investors may be risking more than their capital when using such alternative data since case law hasn’t yet determined what crosses the line into privacy violations or insider trading, but it’s a risk a growing number of financial institutions are willing to take, especially since in Apache’s case, and many others, it has paid off.

“That is the original alpha source, knowing something the market doesn’t know. It’s beautiful,” he said. “If you can come to them with a genuine information advantage, where they can know something their peers in the market do not know that’s tradable, that’s hugely valuable.”

Quandl is particularly interested in companies that produce what it calls “exhaust” data, or data collected as part of a company’s normal operations without intending to turn it into a revenue source. For example, insurance companies keep records of how many new car insurance policies they sell, as well as which vehicle manufacturer’s model is being insured, which happens to be a great predictor of new car sales before the automakers release the data themselves.

But Quandl faces a dilemma after convincing suppliers to sell their data: the more clients the company sells the data to, the less of an investing edge it provides, making it less valuable. To solve that problem, Quandl uses the data to build a predictive model to make an educated guess about how much money could be invested before the data loses its advantage and then sells it to a limited number of clients accordingly.


About 11% of land in Japan is unclaimed

That’s about 41,000 square kilometers (16,000 square miles), which is equivalent to the size of Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, or almost as large as Denmark. By 2040, land equivalent to Japan’s second-largest island of Hokkaido will be unclaimed or abandoned, according to a panel of experts and government representatives. This will cost the nation roughly 6 trillion yen ($54 billion) over the period 2017-2040, including lost development opportunities and uncollected taxes, the panel says.

“Land prices are falling in the depopulating regions,” Yamanome said. “Not only is it impossible to make money by owning some land, but also you can’t get rid of it because regional real estate markets are stale.”


Great products vs. great businesses

A product is something that solves someone’s problem. A business is a product that works so well that people will pay more than it costs to produce.

But losses come in different flavors. There is a difference between a company that loses money because it’s investing in the infrastructure needed to become a profitable company, and a company that loses money because it can’t charge customers a price that reflects what it costs to run the business. But we often conflate the two, treating all loss-making startups with a sense of, “It’s OK, they’re growing.”

Companies are staying private longer than they used to. So venture investors that specialize in the early phase of big-losses-because-we’re-investing-in-what-it-takes-to-build-a-profitable-business have found themselves holding mature companies that in a different era would have been passed onto investors who demanded a sustainable business model with profits. In any other era, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, and others all would have been public companies by now. And public markets almost certainly wouldn’t let losses pile up for as long as they have. We’ve seen this with Blue Apron and Snap, whose shares have fallen between 50% and 70% since going public just months ago. Both make amazing products that attracted armies of users, which VC investors oogled over. But public investors took one look at their business models and said, “What the hell is this?!” Who knows what that means for their future as standalone companies.


Pricing power: Delighting customers vs mortgaging your moat

The problem with this source of pricing power is that it comes with an off balance sheet liability. A sort of “negative goodwill” that grows every time you increase prices. While the profits might roll in for awhile, one day the customers will revolt. At the very least, the perceived excessive pricing of the well water will create a huge incentive for customers to try any new competitor that comes to town. While the high pricing makes it look like the company has a competitive advantage, in fact the excess returns are being created by a process that increases the likelihood of a successful competitive assault sometime in the future.


Lessons from a legendary short seller

“Because I never wanted to get up in the morning hoping that things would be getting worse. All intellectuals I think — and I don’t use that as a particularly flattering term — but all intellectuals tend to have a pessimistic streak.”

“I would forget the shorting. I think it’s over. It’s over for one simple reason: If shorts start working, that is, stocks go down for any sustained period of time, a great many people who are not now shorting will start shorting. There is a limited supply of stocks to borrow to sell short. Those stocks that are good shorts tend to be very obvious. As I’ve often said, I can predict with confidence that you’ll die. I cannot predict that you’ll be born, and so failure is analytically obvious and everybody piles into the same short. . . . I do believe if shorting really becomes profitable again, it’s going to become so crowded that most people won’t be able to borrow stock.”

Pulling iron from brain may offer hope in Alzheimer’s fight

The familiar metal is key to numerous brain functions, but too much of it is toxic. Researchers in Melbourne showed two years ago that iron levels in the brain can predict when people will get Alzheimer’s disease. Now, the team aims to show how removing excessive amounts with a drug called deferiprone can stave off the memory-robbing disorder.


Laptops are great. But not during a lecture or a meeting.

Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces.


Company Notes 2017.11.24

APM Automotive Q3 FY2017 Results

APM believes that innovation is one of the keys to success and has not allowed the current challenging economic climate to be a deterrent in its pursuit of the same. In this respect, APM has invested in and established a fully functional research and development centre that houses more than 80 engineers. This centre is equipped with some of the latest cutting edge technologies and a central testing laboratory. APM’s engineers have been carefully selected and are capable of handling a range of tasks, including product design and development as well as manufacturing process and technology improvement.

Having the credentials that include over 30 years of manufacturing experience have enabled APM to remain competitive over the years but APM is aware that it cannot rest on its laurels and rely on past successes to drive it forward. APM aims to further improve on its competitiveness and market share through the gradual introduction of automation into its manufacturing processes, the continued adoption of forward transactions based on actual commitments rather than leveraging on derivatives and speculative hedging to curb losses associated with currency fluctuation and the increased focus on the export market for its products.


GD Express Carrier Q1 FY2018 Results

The decline in performance for the current quarter under review was mainly due to higher operating expenses incurred for expansion of network and infrastructure to cater for the higher demand of express delivery by e-commerce business.


Star Media Group Q3 FY2017 Results

On 12 July 2017, the Company announced the completion on the disposal of Cityneon Holdings Limited by Laviani Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary company. Accordingly, Cityneon Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries have ceased to be the indirect subsidiary companies of the Company.

With the sale of the two radio stations (Capital FM and Red FM) which were loss making in the last financial year, Radio segment is expected to contribute positively to the Group.

Star is actively searching for new investment opportunities especially in the digital sector to further complement and enhance its existing assets. The fast evolving media landscape into all things digital and the ever changing consumer preferences make it a priority for Star to maintain its engagement with its audiences via the latest technologies.


Daibochi Plastic and Packaging Industry Q3 FY2017 Results

The Group has marked good progress in its Myanmar plant. Daibochi Myanmar achieved, in a short period, the ISO 9001:2015 and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point food safety management system (HACCP FSMS) certifications in October 2017. With these certifications, Daibochi Myanmar is now equipped and ready to supply flexible packaging to global food and beverage (F&B) and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands.

At the same time, Daibochi Myanmar is extending its existing business footprint by pursuing new contracts from the FMCG sector in Myanmar. The positive feedback from the sales team after three months of visiting customers in Myanmar, coupled with Daibochi Myanmar’s technical capabilities and product quality, makes the Group confident of entering the qualification process for various companies and new product lines of existing customers in the fourth quarter of 2017.


Boon Koon Group Q2 FY2018 Results

The Group expects the automotive market to remain challenging due to stiffening competition for the rebuilt commercial vehicles as a result of the influx of more China commercial vehicles. However, the company will continue looking for option available to undertake new dealership for commercial vehicle and to progressively expand the number of distributors and marketing arms around Malaysia, particularly in Johor and Kuala Lumpur. The demand for the rebuilt and brand new commercial vehicles is continuously growing in these states in view of various ongoing and new mega infrastructure construction projects which are currently being implemented.


Supermax Q1 FY2018 Results

The Group is making good progress in developing its contact lens business. Not only has it successfully set up its production operations over the last few years, but it is also seeing its intensive efforts to procure the necessary certifications and approvals to produce and bring its products to market bear fruit.

The certifications and approvals obtained to date include the US FDA 510K, the CE Mark and the Brazilian Anvisa license for the overseas markets; and the Medical Device Authority license for the Malaysian market. It is currently pursuing the approvals required to gain access to the Japanese market, the 2nd largest contact lens market after the USA. The Group will continue launching its products in the various overseas markets after obtaining the necessary approvals.


Heineken Malaysia Q3 FY2017 Results

Group revenue in the quarter also received a boost in the cider category following the successful launch of HEINEKEN Malaysia’s new mainstream cider brand Apple Fox in August 2017 and the commencement of sale of locally brewed Strongbow Apple Ciders.


FoundPac Group Q1 FY2018 Results

Demand for our stiffeners and accessories for stiffeners are expected to remain steady. For medium to long term, we will put more effort and concentrate on the products of test socket, hand lids and accessories for test sockets to gain more market segment.


Rhone Ma Holdings Q3 FY2017 Results

The Group’s future plans and strategies will focus on the expansion of our manufacturing activities by constructing and operating a new GMP-compliant plant in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus which will increase our production capacity by approximately four (4) times of the existing maximum production capacity. As at to-date, we have obtained the planning approval and are awaiting approval for the commencement of earthworks from the relevant authority. The construction of the plant is estimated to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2018.

We have commenced work on our new warehouse situated in Kapar, Selangor Darul Ehsan in July 2017. The new warehouse, which will be used as our main distribution centre to cater to our increasing storage needs for both animal health products and food ingredients, is estimated to be completed by the third quarter of 2018.


Techfast Holdings Q3 FY2017 Results

Preparations for the military and aerospace project are still underway as the machines are still being commissioned. The broaching machine and materials for this project from the USA are expected to arrive in December 2017.

Cape is currently working with one of the biggest semi-conductor companies in China, which is assessing the standard and the quality of our products. Sales to Taiwan had seen some volume increase in this current quarter. The management team expects that the standard and quality of our products would be accepted in a matter of time, as already evidenced by some increase in sales volume to Taiwan thus far

Oriem is working on a high end LED and epoxy projects with two reputable international original equipment manufacturers (“OEM”) in Penang. Oriem is already an approved vendor which meets the standards and requirements of their supply chain. The evaluation of our company’s new products is still in progress.


Serba Dinamik Holdings Q3 FY2017 Results

Recent announcement for the establishment of a chlor-alkali plant in Tanzania would mark as our first step into Africa and the Company expect to further grow the business in the region. It also re-affirms our plan to grow our asset ownership business model which would lead to further enhance our EPCC & O&M capabilities.


Tune Protect Group Q3 FY2017 Results

The innovative initiatives put in place are gaining traction in favour of the global Travel reinsurance business, notably in product bundling with our key airline partner. In its early stages of implementation, dynamic pricing and other targeted marketing initiatives also aim to elevate sales and overall customer experience. Continued collaboration with our airline partners and new personalized travel products in the pipeline, including Family, Migrant and Annual travel plans, is expected to further strengthen our recovery.


Focus Lumber Q3 FY2017 Results

The logs supply issue has been temporarily resolved since early August but the costing of our products had increased significantly due to the higher logs price paid in order to secure logs supply. Although the selling price of plywood has been an increasing trend recently, we expect that it will not help much on our profit margin recovery due to the current cost structure of our inventory as well as the higher logs price. Other than local suppliers, we are also looking to purchase veneer sheets from overseas when there is a shortage in logs supply in future.


Dagangan NeXchange Q3 FY2017 Results

The Group’s Information Technology business continues to firm up its e-services by broadening its product range in business-to-business segment to complement the Group’s position in delivering business-to-government services. The new recurring income from operation and maintenance of the VEP&RC System, eWork Permits, and the 1Trade, a Web-based one-stop portal for total cargo and trade management and related services have further open up a new revenue stream to the Group.


Telekom Malaysia Q3 FY2017 Results

Our main broadband service offering continues to grow with unifi reaching 2.70 million households nationwide to date, and our mobile offering achieving 8.0% mobile penetration.

In supporting the Government’s initiative, we successfully completed Sistem Kabel Rakyat 1Malaysia (SKR1M). SKR1M is the result of a successful Public-Private Partnership (PPP) collaboration between TM and the Government through Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) which has achieved the project completion as scheduled and is now commercially launched. The new submarine cable system spans over 3,800 km lands at six (6) landings in Kuantan, Mersing, Kuching, Bintulu, Miri and Kota Kinabalu.


N2N Connect Q3 FY2017 Results

Following the successful acquisition of AFE, the enhanced coverage in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, the United States, Hong Kong, Macau, and Vietnam has positioned N2N to become one of the largest Asian-based platform providers. As Merger and Acquisition is one of the key expansion strategies, N2N is continuously seeking several other suitable acquisitions that are synergistic to its business.

These prospects include information service terminal, trading platform, data center hosting, network infrastructure and the acceptance of our latest back office settlement system by several brokers in Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines.


Petron Malaysia Refining & Marketing Q3 FY2017 Results

With all sectors posting positive growth, total sales volume reached 9.0 million barrels, a 15% improvement from 7.8 million barrels last year.

Dated Brent averaged US$52 per barrel during the quarter compared to US$46 per barrel in the same period in 2016. Brent crude reached US$56/bbl in September this year, up by almost US$10/bbl or 20% from the June level compared to the range-bound movement during the same period in 2016. As oil prices rose, the price differentials between finished products and crude also widened which further improved the Company’s margin.

The Company continues to pursue its network upgrade and expansion program amidst the more challenging market and business environment.


Lii Hen Industries Q3 FY2017 Results

The cost increases in raw materials, labour and subcontractors charges continue to affect the Group’s gross profit margin by 2% compared to the immediate preceding quarter.

The fire outbreak occurred on 27 October 2017 at one of the finishing plants have the operational impact on the bedroom sets, however the effect was mitigated by working extra shift/hours at main premises. The production was resumed on 14 November 2017.


Salutica Q1 FY2018 Results

Leveraging on the Group’s experience and expertise in Bluetooth technology and R&D capabilities, we had begun developing Bluetooth-enabled personal healthcare related products under our in-house brand FOBO. Currently, we are at the proof of concept stage base on engineering prototypes.

The Group is continuing with the manufacturing of a USB-powered device that adds touchscreen functionality to a non-touch laptop screen. The touch enabling functionality may be incorporated into applications for various industry segments, such as automotive and electronic appliances, subject to expected gestation period for product certification or homologation.

FOBO Tag, the World’s 1st patented Bluetooth 5 tracker was launched on 31 August 2017 on a crowd funding platform. The Group will start shipping FOBO Tag product in early December 2017.


Chin Well Holdings Q1 FY2018 Results

In order to cushion the stress from the safeguard duty which imposed by the Malaysian government towards the end of the financial year ended 30 June 2017 on the wire rod imported from China, the Group had sourced its raw material from other alternative countries such as the Middle East and Vietnam which are duty exempted and without compromising the quality of our products. Application to the authorities for the exemption of the duty is in the progress with the hope to obtain the approval in the next few months.

The Group expects its DIY segment will continue to contribute positively to the Group’s performance through the increase of its distribution network in the European and US markets. While for the Wire division, with the expansion in the production of new product lines such as welded fencing, gabion and poultry mesh, it is expected to further enhance the division’s result in this financial year with its high value added margin.


Heveaboard Q3 FY2017 Results

The decrease in revenue for the reporting quarter was due to the planned annual preventive maintenance at the particleboard sector and also the shortage of foreign workers at the RTA sector which had resulted in higher operational costs as optimum production capacity could not be achieved.


PPB Group Q3 FY2017 Results

Although the flour markets in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam remain competitive, Grains and agribusiness segment is expected to perform satisfactorily. Performance of the Consumer products segment is expected to remain stable. The business of Film exhibition and distribution segment will continue to be driven by the newly-opened cinemas in Malaysia and Vietnam; and the movie title releases for the rest of the year. Environmental engineering and utility segment will continue to focus on timely completion of its on-going projects and participate in tendering for prospective projects. The launching of the mixed development project in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya in November 2017 is expected to contribute positively in the coming financial year.


Kossan Rubber Industries Q3 FY2017 Results

The demand for gloves remains robust, with the Group’s production plants running at full capacity. The Group’s latest Plant 16 located along Jalan Meru, was initially expected to be completed in July 2017. However, there was a slight delay due to machine installation and water supply issues. Two of the eight production lines were completed in October which are now under production-trial, with the rest six lines going to be completed by Dec. We expect contributions from this plant for this year to be minimal, with full contributions to start from Jan 2018 onwards. Plant 16 which has an installed capacity of 3 billion pieces per annum, will focus on the Group’s patented Low Derma Technology gloves. This latest state-of-the-art plant incorporates many of the latest technologies, including highspeed dipping technology with a high-degree of automation to reduce the dependence on manpower. Construction works for Plant 17 and 18, also along Jalan Meru have commenced and expected to be completed by 2018. These 2 new plants would be capable of producing up to 4.5 billion pieces (1.5 and 3.0 billion pieces respectively) of nitrile
gloves per annum once completed.

Research & development remains one of the cornerstones of Kossan’s success. The construction of the Group’s integrated Research and Development cum Training Centre (“RDTC”) is completed in the 4th quarter of 2017. The RDTC will house the Group’s world class research, lab and testing facilities for new innovations and quality improvements. It will also serve as the nerve centre for research into engineering and robotic implementations as well as automation systems for existing and new manufacturing plants.


Thong Guan Industries Q3 FY2017 Results

For the third quarter ended 30 September 2017, the Group has continued its double digit growth trend in its sales. The group commissioned its second nano layer stretch film line and its 8th PVC food wrap line during the current quarter. With the additional capacity coming on stream in the final quarter of 2017, the Group is optimistic to continue its upward trend in sales volume and profitability.


Karex Q1 FY2018 Results

Result from operating activities was lower due to pressure on tender prices and rising production costs coupled with higher distribution and administrative expenses. Distribution and administrative expenses pertaining to efforts to build Own Brands through advertisement, hiring of human capital and expansion of our distribution network continued to impact profitability.

Distribution expenses had increased due to higher freight costs for shipments to Africa and Asia as well as the marketing cost for the launch of the MyOne range of condoms in US via an ecommerce platform.


Chemical Company of Malaysia Q3 FY2017 Results

The growth in profit before tax is primarily due to higher sales and margin as a result of higher average selling prices of its chlor-alkali products, higher volume sold during the period under review and positive impact on operational efficiency initiatives.


Malaysia Airports Holdings Q3 FY2017 Results

MAHB’s network of airports (including Istanbul SGIA) recorded 95.3 million passengers in YTD September 2017, representing a growth of 8.7% over YTD September 2016. International traffic improved by 13.3% while domestic passengers traffic increased by 4.9%. Correspondingly, aircraft movements improved by 3.1% with international and domestic aircraft movements increasing by 6.8% and 1.0% respectively


Eng Kah Q3 FY2017 Results

Going forward, the Group will further strengthen its presence in overseas markets and joint venture business. Atika Beauty Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd. (“Atika”) has completed its factory renovation and relevant machinery has been installed. The manufacturing operations if Atika has commenced in the third quarter of 2017. The Group’s research and development team has also developed a new range of unique and impressive souvenir products that are able to capture the beautiful scenery and memorable moments of customers’ choice with 3D printing effect on the glass bottle.


BCM Alliance Q3 FY2017 Results

The Group has successfully obtained an appointment from KLS Martin SE Asia Sdn Bhd as the non-exclusive distributor on 10 February 2017 to distribute OT lights and accessories, pendants and modular OR. This create the new brand for medical devices during the financial period ended 30 June 2017 and the new appointment is valid until 5th December 2021 which had been approved by MDA.


Chin Hin Group Q3 FY2017 Results

Lately, we have set up another new subsidiary, Metex Modular Sdn Bhd to venture broadly into Industrialised Modular Building System (IMBS). Application of IMBS in the commercial and industrial construction is not only fast and environmental friendly, this method of construction is scoring the highest IBS points, achieving higher assessment rating over the other IBS method. With appropriate design and construction practice, modular building can ever be a prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction solution system (PPVC System) for big scaled residential and commercial estate within 6 to 12 months period. Chin Hin will capitalise on its internal resources i.e. ready-mixed concrete, wall panel, wire mesh and C-Purlin to maximise its return on the modular business and target to be recognised as one of the most reliable IMBS manufacturer in the market.

Maybank initiates rent-to-own scheme

“The scheme will provide the transparency that customers need and certainty of their monthly rental commitments throughout the chosen tenure. It will also give them the opportunity to earn capital appreciation on their property via the cash-out option,” he added, noting that that “best of all, there is the option to buy the property at a later stage but at a predetermined price.”

To be eligible for the scheme, Maybank said applicants must have a household income of at least RM5,000 per month and committed to a minimum rental tenure of five years. Customers will be subjected to a flat rental payment for the first five years, and they will also be able to purchase the property at a locked-in rate, continue rental tenure with 2% annual rental step-up or terminate the agreement with no further obligations.

“In Malaysia, only 24% of households rent. The society has to correct this social stigma that renting is not the last resort, it is simply a choice.”


Chin Well plans regional expansion

“We have enquiries from customers for more of our new fasteners that are made in Vietnam. We will add more production lines in Vietnam to cater to the rising demand. We aim to have at least a DIY customer in each European country by 2019. We are targeting for the DIY segment to generate about 25% of the group’s revenue in 2019, compared to 15% now.”

“There is now a shortage of graphite, an essential ingredient used for stabilising the temperature in the furnace used for producing steel-based products. This is on top of the problem in China, where the government is closing down all the cottage industries using archaic technology to produce steel in a nationwide effort to curb pollution. We are well stocked on cold-rolled coils which were obtained on competitive prices due to the large amount we order. We have adjusted the pricing of our fasteners accordingly to the hike in raw material prices.”


Jaycorp expects great potential in Sabah’s construction sector

“We are looking at the potential of acquiring additional furniture factories with good management already in place. Our policy for investment is that the partner we look for must be well-known in the industry and the management must know its job. Come the right one, we will say yes.”

Currently, all of Jaycorp’s furniture products are catered for exports, transacted in US dollars. The Chinese market accounts for 40% of the group’s furniture division’s top line, followed by the US at just below 30%, with the remaining made up of several countries including Australia and European nations.

Jaycorp’s factories are running at an average utilisation rate of 80%. The group has three plants for its core business — furniture production, two for wood processing, one for carton box packaging, and one for renewable energy. The rubberwood furniture maker has no stress from cost or shortage of raw materials such as rubberwood — as it has an option to source supply from its subsidiary operating in Medan, Indonesia, which does pressure treatment and kiln-drying of rubberwood.


Tencent mulls e-payment launch in Malaysia next year

Tencent has made a “breakthrough” in gaining an e-payment license in Malaysia for local transactions, and plans a launch early next year, senior vice president S.Y. Lau said in an interview. “Malaysia is actually quite large in the sense that we have 20 million WeChat users, huge potential, and the market is quite warm towards internet products from China,” Lau said.


Top palm oil growers go on defensive against EU curb threat

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top palm oil producers, accounting for 85 percent of supply. The European Parliament’s non-binding resolution urged the bloc’s executive arm to step up efforts to prevent deforestation as a result of palm oil production. The expansion of plantations in the two countries has seen farmers accused of illegally using slash-and-burn methods to clear land, destroying rainforests and habitats for animals, and causing a severe haze that can blanket parts of Asia. Indonesia has said it is ready to retaliate against further attempts to curb palm oil exports.

The European Union is Malaysia’s biggest export destination, accounting for about 13 percent of shipments of palm oil and palm-based products last year, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board. About 90 percent of Malaysia’s biodiesel exports also go to Europe, Mah said.


Malaysian palm oil prices seen dropping further on India import duty

India lifted the import tax on crude palm oil to 30 percent from 15 percent, and increased import tax duty on refined palm oil imports to 40 percent from 25 percent. Indian oilseed crushers had been struggling to compete with cheaper imports from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil and Argentina, reducing demand for local rapeseed and soybeans which have been trading below government-set prices in the physical market and angering farmers.

Property imbalance growing wider

Bank Negara says the bulk or 83% of the total unsold units were in the above RM250,000 price category. The central bank revealed that 61% of total unsold units were high-rise properties, out of which 89% were priced above RM250,000. Johor has the largest share of unsold residential units (27% of total unsold properties in Malaysia), followed by Selangor (21%), Kuala Lumpur (14%) and Penang (8%). Over the period 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, only 21% of new launches were for houses priced below RM250,000. This is insufficient to match the income affordability profile of about 35% of households in Malaysia. Secondly, the mismatch was exacerbated by the slower increase in median household incomes (compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) 2012 to 2016: 9.6%) relative to median house prices (15.6%).

Since the first quarter of 2015, the office vacancy rate in the Klang Valley has increased steadily from 20.9% to 23.6% in the first quarter of 2017. This is higher than the national average of 18.1%, and more than three times the regional average of 6.6%. The office vacancy rate is projected to reach an all-time high of 32% by 2021, far surpassing levels recorded during the Asian Financial Crisis. In other words, if current supply-demand dynamics persist, one-in-three offices in Klang Valley could be vacant in 2021.

In 2016, Penang had the highest retail space per capita in the country (10.5 sq ft per person), followed by Klang Valley (8.2 sq ft) and Johor (5.1 sq ft). In higher-income regional cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, prime retail space per capita is only 3.6 sq ft and 1.5 sq ft respectively. The incoming supply of 140 new shopping complexes by 2021 across the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor is expected to worsen the oversupply going forward. While Penang currently has the highest prime retail space per capita, it will be overtaken by Johor by 2018. The large incoming supply of 15.8 million sq ft of retail space in Johor will be 1.5 times the existing supply.


Developers are responsible for the market overhang, says PEPS

In a statement today, the association blames the developers’ indiscriminate building of properties, a lack of market studies and financial feasibility studies being carried out prior to building and no coordination on planning among local authorities and indiscriminate approvals for the market overhang. Other causes include the delay in gazetting of local plans that leads to uncontrolled development and higher cost as well as artificial demand created by members of the public for fear of losing out on choice properties.

“The property industry has linkages to more than 120 industries and collectively account for 10% of gross domestic product. Therefore, any severe property market imbalances and overbuilding will affect the stability of the financial system,” said PEPS, adding that it concurs with Bank Negara Malaysia’s view that “severe property market imbalances can pose risk to macro economics and financial stability”.


Digital economy to contribute 5% to 10% more to GST revenue — Deloitte

“I anticipate that Malaysia will come on board in the next one year or two years. With the digital economy, companies can basically be based everywhere and anywhere, and the customs can move everywhere. We want to tax where the consumption occurs, where the customers are, because that’s where they’re receiving the service.”

“What I and many investors hope to see is a comprehensive tax incentive framework to attract the foreign investors and local SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to come in and make use of the platform to sell their products abroad. Especially for the SMEs, the government needs to offer some incentives in the form of funding made available for them to develop their e-commerce platform infrastructure so they can play a meaningful role in this space and be competitive.”


Online publishers sign MoU to form Malaysian Premium Publishers Marketplace

The current trend of programmatic digital advertising used by marketers is designed to automate how and where ads are placed online, promising wide reach and return on investments. However, this is done at the risk of advertisers losing control of where their ads are placed. In some cases, this has lead to the placement of ads in undesirable, irrelevant or even fake websites. MPPM therefore gathers some of Malaysia’s top media companies to effectively deal with the common digital advertising challenges such as ad fraud and brand misplacement and to provide an extensive solution to further expand brands’ reach to the local market. MPPM member publishers will also be able to improve their revenue, while offering advertisers quality inventory at a reasonable price.

Household savings growth ‘not promising’

Household savings accounted for a meagre 0.9% or RM6 billion of the overall household income, which stood at RM638.8 billion in 2014.

Pioneered by the World Bank since the early 1960s, the SAM is a comprehensive economic snapshot attempting to model the income distribution flow for households, and spending pattern for institutions.

Curated Insights 2017.11.19

Winners and losers In the patent wars between Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft

Google: The full stack AI company

A startup might achieve a breakthrough in an AI vertical, but reaching hundreds of millions of users could take years. The same breakthrough in Google’s hands could be “turned on” for a billion users overnight. Users benefit immediately, while Google’s products become sticker and more valuable.

Google is already seeing a similar benefit. While competitors are using off the shelf processors for deep learning, Google’s TPU provides higher throughout, reduced latency and, perhaps most importantly, reduced power consumption. Because data center construction is Google’s largest capital spending line item and power its highest operating cost, the TPU meaningfully reduces both Google’s capex and opex.

Google’s AI efforts have built a fully integrated company that spans algorithms, data, hardware, and cloud services. This approach helps funnel the world-class AI of Google’s consumer products to its enterprise offerings, providing Google Cloud with a competitive edge. Bringing chip design in-house increases Google’s AI moat by improving performance, lowering latency, and reducing cost. Perhaps most critically, vertical integration enhances its organizational agility: Google can steer all parts of its organization to bring a new product or service to market. Consequently, Google’s AI will be at the forefront of the innovation for years to come.


How Facebook figures out everyone you’ve ever met

Shadow contact information has been a known feature of Facebook for a few years now. But most users remain unaware of its reach and power. Because shadow-profile connections happen inside Facebook’s algorithmic black box, people can’t see how deep the data-mining of their lives truly is, until an uncanny recommendation pops up.

Facebook doesn’t like, and doesn’t use, the term “shadow profiles.” It doesn’t like the term because it sounds like Facebook creates hidden profiles for people who haven’t joined the network, which Facebook says it doesn’t do. The existence of shadow contact information came to light in 2013 after Facebook admitted it had discovered and fixed “a bug.” The bug was that when a user downloaded their Facebook file, it included not just their friends’ visible contact information, but also their friends’ shadow contact information.

It’s what the sociologist danah boyd calls “networked privacy”: All the people who know you and who choose to share their contacts with Facebook are making it easier for Facebook to make connections you may not want it to make. Shadow profile data powers Facebook’s effort to connect as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible. The company’s ability to perceive the threads connecting its billion-plus users around the globe led it to announce last year that it’s not six degrees that separate one person from another—it’s just three and a half.

“Mobile phone numbers are even better than social security numbers for identifying people,” said security technologist Bruce Schneier by email. “People give them out all the time, and they’re strongly linked to identity.”


Will Amazon disrupt healthcare?

Amazon is exceptional at developing formulas to increase efficiency and decrease waste — two vital elements sorely lacking in the current healthcare paradigm.

Baby boomers may be tethered to their in-person interactions with physicians and pharmacists, but millennials are not. They are Amazon’s target audience.

Amazon has several key advantages in a world of personalized medicine — loads of storage space because of its AWS business, sophisticated predictive algorithms, and long-standing, data-rich relationships with millions of “patients”.


How Netflix works: the (hugely simplified) complex stuff that happens every time you hit Play

Netflix estimates that it uses around 700 microservices to control each of the many parts of what makes up the entire Netflix service…And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Netflix engineers can make changes to any part of the application and can introduce new changes rapidly while ensuring that nothing else in the entire service breaks down.

Turns out that Netflix and Amazon’s partnership turned out to be a huge win-win situation for both companies. Netflix turned out to be AWS’s most advanced customers, pushing all of their capabilities to the maximum and constantly innovating upon how they can use the different servers AWS provided for various purposes — to run microservices, to store movies, to handle internet traffic — to their own leverage. AWS in turn improved their systems to allow Netflix to take massive loads on their servers, as well as make their use of different AWS products more flexible, and used the expertise gained to serve the needs of thousands of other corporate customers. AWS proudly touts Netflix as it’s top customer, and Netflix can rapidly improve their services and yet keep it stable because of AWS.


People watch Netflix unabashedly at work (and in public toilets, too)

About 67% of people now watch movies and TV shows in public, according to an online survey it commissioned of 37,000 adults around the world. The most popular public places to stream are on planes, buses, or commuting, the survey found. But 26% of respondents also said they’ve binged shows and movies at work. People in the US were more likely to stream from the office, while users around the world were more likely to stream during their commutes.

For Netflix, mobile still makes up a small chunk of overall viewing. Netflix said it was about 10% as of 2016. But the company also said half of its users stream from a smartphone during any given month. Its audience is now around 110 million subscribers worldwide.


Will traditional auto makers steal the future from Tesla?

Even if electric cars take off in the early to mid-2020s when their cost is likely to be comparable to gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, Garschina thinks the major global auto makers will still dominate the business. Credit Suisse auto analyst Daniel Schwarz recently wrote that auto makers would emerge as winners from simpler, less capital-intensive production of electric vehicles over the next 10 years.

Investors might not be giving the auto industry credit for manufacturing skills honed over decades. As Tesla has found, mass-producing automobiles isn’t easy; the company continues to lose money and grapple with production woes. “The more we learn about new technologies, the clearer it becomes that the key auto makers won’t be disrupted overnight,” says Arndt Ellinghorst, a European auto analyst with Evercore ISI.

Morgan Stanley has estimated that it could take $2.7 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2040 to support a global electric fleet, including 473 million home chargers and seven million super-charging stations. It’s unclear where all that money will come from. The additional need for electricity would be equivalent to current U.S. demand.


These hot restaurants aren’t on maps, only in apps

Virtual restaurants, with their low overhead, are allowing restaurateurs to shift away from the capital-intensive model that kills 60% of new restaurants in their first five years toward something decidedly more techy.

By far the biggest company in the app-driven food-on-demand space is Grubhub. It is so invested in virtual restaurants that two years ago it lent one of its own customers, Green Summit Group, $1 million to expand. Green Summit, which launched in 2013, has kitchens throughout New York City, Todd Millman, its co-founder, says. There might be up to 10 different “restaurants” In a single kitchen. Though they appear on Grubhub as separate establishments, each with a distinct cuisine, all the food might be prepared in the same kitchen by the same staff.

In San Jose, Grubhub competitor DoorDash has built out its own kitchen space. There is one tenant so far, a pizzeria called the Star. (More are on the way, DoorDash says.) To save on rent, DoorDash built the facility in a disused portion of the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. One month in, the Star’s savings have been notable, says Ben Seabury, chief operating officer of the 1100 Group, which owns the virtual restaurant. Typically, 30 cents of every dollar that comes into one of his restaurants goes to labor, says Mr. Seabury. But without waiters, bartenders and dishwashers, that cost is just 10 cents on the dollar—and even less when demand is high.

Virtual restaurants tap into a larger trend: Americans’ increasing aversion to cooking for themselves. For the first time ever in 2016, Americans spent more at eating and drinking establishments than on groceries, according to U.S. Census data. The food-delivery market is a small slice of that sector: It is only $30 billion in 2017, but Morgan Stanley estimates it could balloon to $220 billion within a few years.

 

Digitizing cash transactions could become quite profitable

Turning financial data into an asset is an early stage opportunity. On a global basis, more than 80% of transactions still occur in cash. Indeed, companies and, at some point, consumers have yet to digitize more than 1.4 trillion transactions per year, roughly equivalent to the number of Google searches per year. Our research indicates that the information associated with digital cash transactions could generate approximately $100 billion of revenue per year.

While we believe that disrupting and digitizing cash transactions represents a large “fintech” opportunity, the benefits are unlikely to accrue to the traditional financial services industry, as it lacks the requisite innovation agility, cost structure, and technical abilities to access and exploit it. Instead, innovative technology companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Tencent that already are transforming big data into big revenue, probably will capitalize on this opportunity.

Companies with the ability to develop deep and dynamic insights into consumer purchasing behavior will be in the best position to capitalize on this $100 billion revenue opportunity. Square, Tencent, Facebook, Amazon, and Alibaba are building the most precise consumer profiles, enabling them to offer value added services like capital loans and insurance either now or in the not-to-distant future. We believe these companies are building significant moats, or barriers to entry, with “value loops” generating more data from their consumers and building products that take increasing share in the marketplace.


Hasbro sets its sights on Mattel

Hasbro has held up relatively well. Chief Executive Brian Goldner has forged close ties to Hollywood, where the company is producing movies and is a favored partner for creating toys tied to films. In recent years, Hasbro won the coveted license for Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Princess characters and has long made toys tied to the media company’s “Star Wars” franchise. Hasbro is also more advanced in telling stories and creating content around its large brands, including a string of feature-length films for its Transformers franchise and more-recent launches like a My Little Pony movie.

Both Hasbro and Mattel were stung by the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy, which threw a major sales channel into turmoil and prompted them to stall deliveries to the retailer, but Mattel’s problems run deeper. The new regime laid out a plan that would keep the company in turnaround mode for a few more years as it tries to fix problems that it blamed on past management. Those included a proliferation of new toys with little staying power that heaped additional costs and complexity onto Mattel’s supply network.

A bigger concern was that a tie-up could trigger change-of-control clauses in the numerous licensing agreements with the likes of Disney, Nickelodeon and others.

Free games fuel $370 billion stock rally – and fears of a crash

In free-to-play games, 2% of players typically generate around 50% of revenue, according to consultancy Yokozuna Data. High-rollers often spend at least $500 per month. Today, the industry generates $100 billion in revenue with about 70 percent coming from in-game goods and services, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The industry is exploring dark territory. Last month, an Activision Blizzard Inc. patent surfaced which described how machine learning could be used to entice players to spend more. For example, a player could be paired with a teammate who owns a special paid item, and then encourage the player to buy it too.


It’s amazingly cheap to acquire a fleet of Airbus jets

Bill Franke’s airlines are generally fast-growing and profitable, in part because of low expenses and using the latest fuel-efficient jets. All three have exclusively adopted the A320 jet family for cost reasons too, as it makes it easy to swap flight crews and maintenance is less complicated.

Instead of buying jets outright, Frontier, Wizz and Volaris use sale-and-leasebacks. This makes financial sense. One industry observer says the cost of lease finance might be half that of funding an aircraft with equity because of the flood of cheap capital, much of it Chinese. By avoiding ownership, airlines also sidestep residual value risk. If a plane’s value falls, that’s the leasing company’s problem, not Franke’s.


Bob Lutz: Everyone will have 5 years to get their car off the road or sell it for scrap

We don’t need public acceptance of autonomous vehicles at first. All we need is acceptance by the big fleets: Uber, Lyft, FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, utility companies, delivery services. Amazon will probably buy a slew of them. These fleet owners will account for several million vehicles a year. Every few months they will order 100,000 low-end modules, 100,000 medium and 100,000 high-end. The low-cost provider that delivers the specification will get the business.

These transportation companies will be able to order modules of various sizes — short ones, medium ones, long ones, even pickup modules. But the performance will be the same for all because nobody will be passing anybody else on the highway. That is the death knell for companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. That kind of performance is not going to count anymore.

Car dealers will continue to exist as a fringe business for people who want personalized modules or who buy reproduction vintage Ferraris or reproduction Formula 3 cars. Automotive sport — using the cars for fun — will survive, just not on public highways. And like racehorse breeders, there will be manufacturers of race cars and sports cars and off-road vehicles. But it will be a cottage industry. The era of the human-driven automobile, its repair facilities, its dealerships, the media surrounding it — all will be gone in 20 years.


Sean Stannard-Stockton interview: Shifting competitive landscapes

Today, if you log-on to Amazon and type in what you’re looking for – not a brand name, but a type of product – the #1 ranked item, regardless of brand, is likely to have thousands of reviews. If those reviews are say 4 or 4 ½ stars or better – with reviews from thousands of people, most consumers will happily purchase the item, no matter what the brand is. In this case, Amazon has effectively not just become a logistics provider, not just made shipping easy, not just benefitted from network effects, but it has inserted its own brand into the purchasing behavior – and so the consumer says, ”I trust Amazon and Amazon’s reviews so much that I don’t need to spend time searching or depending on a brand name, I can simply purchase the product no matter what its brand is.”

 

U.S. to dominate oil markets after biggest boom in world history

By 2025, the growth in American oil production will equal that achieved by Saudi Arabia at the height of its expansion, and increases in natural gas will surpass those of the former Soviet Union, the agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook. The boom will turn the U.S., still among the biggest oil importers, into a net exporter of fossil fuels.

Reflecting the expected flood of supply, the agency cut its forecasts for oil prices to $83 a barrel for 2025 from $101 previously, and to $111 for 2040 from $125 before.

 

I always used that as a metaphor for businesses. The customers pour in the Tender Vittles and in the U.S., when you had a union, they would fight and spill the whole bowl of Tender Vittles. In the end, no one could eat anymore. I looked at U.A.W. “It’s insane, they’re going to kill their company.” Sure enough, they damn near did. General Motors was almost bankrupt. In Germany, the unions have representatives on the board of the company. Yes, they say, “The first thing” — that this bowl of Tender Vittles — “we have to make sure that the bowl is there. We can fight all we want, but don’t spill the bowl.” You don’t destroy your company. That was not the attitude of Anglo-Saxon unions, either in England or the U.S.


Countries with the most farmland

The USDA now estimates that there is 15%-20% more farmland on earth than we expected. That’s 250 to 350 million more hectacres! With this addition, the USDA estimates there’s 1.87 Billion acres of farmland on earth.

In terms of total net cropland, this new study declares India as number 1.

 

 

Electric cars’ green image blackens beneath the bonnet

The Earth’s ozone hole is shrinking and is the smallest it has been since 1988

Warmer-than-usual weather conditions in the stratosphere are to thank for the shrinkage since 2016, as the warmer air helped fend off chemicals like chlorine and bromine that eat away at the ozone layer, scientists said. But the hole’s overall reduction can be traced to global efforts since the mid-1980s to ban the emission of ozone-depleting chemicals.

In June, scientists identified a possible threat to the recovery, believing dichloromethane — an industrial chemical with the power to destroy ozone — doubled in the atmosphere over the past 10 years. If its concentrations keep growing, it could delay the Antarctic ozone layer’s return to normal by up to 30 years, according to the study published in the journal Nature Communications.


How much is the Great Barrier Reef worth? Economists just figured it out

It came up with a value of A$56 billion ($43 billion) based on an asset supporting tens of thousands of jobs and which contributes A$6.4 billion to the economy. “Valuing nature in monetary terms can effectively inform policy settings and help industry, government, the scientific community and the wider public understand the contribution of the environment, or in this case the Great Barrier Reef, to the economy and society,’’ the Deloitte report said. “The tight and unforgiving deadline the Great Barrier Reef is up against necessitates an understanding of its true value to know what kind of policy action is required in response.’’


Why do we love pets? An expert explains.

In his latest book, Bradshaw argues that our fascination with pets is not because they’re useful, nor even because they’re cute, and certainly not because they’ll make us live longer. Instead, he writes, pet-keeping is an intrinsic part of human nature, one rooted deeply in our own species’ evolution.

People with animals, or as simply described as having a friendly dog with them, instantly become more trustworthy in the eyes of the person who’s encountering that person or having that person described to them.

The idea that simply getting a pet is going to make you happy and de-stress you is not going to work if you don’t do the homework about what the animal needs.

Both dogs and cats are carnivores — the cat is a very strict carnivore. The idea that we can continue to essentially farm the world in a way that provides enough meat for dogs and cats to eat, let alone humans, is probably not sustainable. Whether it will be possible for people to continue to keep these animals, or what kinds of substitutes they find if it does become impossible, I think is going to be fascinating, if somewhat painful for the people involved.

 

Why $450 Million for this painting isn’t crazy

Would 7.5 million people a year pay an average of 9 euros to visit the Louvre if La Gioconda, as the painting is sometimes called, weren’t there? If just a million of them passed on it, the museum would lose the entire amount paid for “Salvator Mundi” over 50 years.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone hoping to make much of a profit on a resale after paying such an outrageous price. But building a museum’s pitch for visitors around it could be a way to make economic sense out of the deal.

Curated Insights 2017.10.22

Tesla’s new car smell

As I watched Tesla’s messy, hiccuping line, with workers dashing in to fix faulty parts in place, my mind travelled back to the Honda plant I had visited years ago in Marysville, Ohio. Clean, calm, everything moved smoothly. I was so shocked by the contrast that I imprudently voiced my concern. That didn’t go over well with my fellow Tesla owners. I was a killjoy, I was calling their choice into question.

“Unknown to analysts, investors and the hundreds of thousands of customers who signed up to buy it, as recently as early September major portions of the Model 3 were still being banged out by hand, away from the automated production line, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Moving from fewer than 100K cars a year to 500K and up isn’t “more of the same”, it can’t be achieved through clever, conventional-wisdom-defying improvisation. That sort of growth is a bold jump in scale that requires a smooth, well-oiled and well-understood manufacturing process.


Millennials are helping Jack Ma’s financing firm become a debt giant

Securitized products that bundle such obligations are meant to spread the risks among different investors. The tech companies can’t take deposits like banks, so the ABS, which are generally sold in private placements to institutional investors, give them a way to raise funds. The latest ABS from Ant Financial that’s backed by loans through its Jiebei service pays a 5.5 percent coupon for the senior tranche, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“In the short term, default risks for consumer loan ABS are very low because the underlying assets are composed of a number of loans in small sizes,” said Zuo Fei, an executive director and head of the ABS group in the investment banking division of China Merchants Securities Co. in Shenzhen. “These ABS products will be safe, unless systemic risks emerge in the economy and cause widespread defaults in consumer loans.”

Shell buys NewMotion charging network in first electric vehicle deal

Demand for electric vehicles is expected to rise significantly in coming decades and Morgan Stanley estimates that 1-3 million public charging points could be needed in Western Europe by 2030. Currently, there are fewer than 100,000. Shell expects around a quarter of the world’s car fleet to be electric by 2040.

Oil companies are growing increasingly aware of the potential threat to parts of their downstream business from the electrification of transport.


Solar wants to help fix a power-grid problem it helped create

Solar panels have proliferated in the Golden State, flooding the grid with power supplies in the middle of the day when the sun’s out — and then quickly vanishing after sunset. This has created a sharp curve in California’s net-power demand that’s shaped like a duck. And the so-called duck curve is getting steeper every year, sending wholesale electricity prices plunging into negative territory, forcing generators offline and making it increasingly difficult to maintain the reliability of California’s transmission lines.

…change the way solar farms are paid. If the state’s utilities compensate them for shutting generation when the grid doesn’t need it and providing power later when it does, he said, farms could use increasingly sophisticated inverters and software controls to adjust.


How Amazon’s $13.7B purchase of Whole Foods is a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Instacart

“When Amazon bought Whole Foods, what they did was they sent the signal to the entire grocery/retail landscape that Amazon was coming,” Mehta said. “Now, for every single grocery retailer at this point in time, whether they believed it or not before, now they needed an e-commerce strategy. They needed to have same day delivery. The reality was, for the last five years, that’s what we have done. We have brought hundreds of grocery retailers online, and so we had the track record of being able to do this successfully.”

Instacart has been growing faster than expected this year, and it has expanded to 149, up from only 30 at the beginning of the year. Mehta said the company can now reach 63 million households as potential customers, up from about 11 million a year ago.


This little-known startup just hit a valuation of $30 billion

Travel is becoming the latest competitive ground. With the recent fundraising, Meituan plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three to five years to become a leading travel booking site. It’s also exploring opportunities to collaborate with Priceline as part of the investment. That may present a challenge to China’s biggest online travel site, Ctrip.com International Ltd., which is backed by Baidu. Ctrip shares fell 8.2 percent in U.S. trading.

China’s internet crackdown isn’t going anywhere

“Xi Jinping has definitely been a turning point in terms of the degree of censorship that is happening in China,” said Charlie Smith, who founded Greatfire.org, an organization that finds ways around government restrictions. “He is the first Chinese leader to truly understand the power of the internet and hence, we are seeing an unprecedented crackdown on dissenting information,” said Smith, who uses a pseudonym for fear of government reprisals

In June, Weibo Corp., the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, was one of three firms fined and banned by regulators from broadcasting certain types of content without a license. In an August earnings call, its chief financial officer said current rules made it legally impossible to acquire a license without becoming “wholly state-owned or state-controlled”.

The tightening presents unique challenges to foreign firms navigating the legal landscape. Services that rely on free-flowing information, such as Google and Facebook, would struggle to exist in such a regime, though they remain intent on finding a way in given the size of the potential market.


Who has the world’s No. 1 economy? Not the U.S.

Gross domestic product is supposed to measure the amount of real stuff — cars, phones, financial services, back massages, etc. — that a country produces. If the same phone costs $400 in the U.S. but only $200 in China, China’s GDP is getting undercounted by 50 percent when we measure at market exchange rates. In general, less developed countries have lower prices, which means their GDP gets systematically undercounted.

Economists try to correct for this with an adjustment called purchasing power parity (PPP), which controls for relative prices. It’s not perfect, since it has to account for things like product quality, which can be hard to measure. But it probably gives a more accurate picture of how much a country really produces. And here, China has already surpassed the U.S.

China’s modest per-person income simply means that the country has plenty of room to grow. Whereas developed countries can only get richer by inventing new things or making their economies more efficient, poor countries can cheaply copy foreign technology or imitate foreign organizational practices. That doesn’t always happen, of course — many poor countries find themselves trapped by dysfunctional institutions, lack of human capital or other barriers to development.

In other words, not only is China already the world’s largest economy, the gap between it and the U.S. can be expected to grow even wider. This continues to be borne out in the growth statistics — though China has slowed in recent years, its economy continues to expand at a rate of more than 6 percent, while the U.S. is at just over 2 percent. If that disparity persists, China’s economy will be double that of the U.S. in less than two decades.


China to build giant facial recognition database to identify any citizen within seconds

The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project.

Commercial application using information sourced from the database will not be allowed under current regulations. [But] a policy can change due to the development of the economy and increasing demand from society.”

“To download the whole data set is as difficult as launching a missile with a nuclear warhead. It requires several high-ranking officials to insert and turn their keys at the same time,” the vendor said.

The 1.3 billion-person facial recognition system is being developed by Isvision, a security company based in Shanghai.

They found that the accuracy of the photo that most closely matched the face being searched for was below 60 per cent. With the top 20 matches the accuracy rate remained below 70 per cent, Fan and collaborators reported in a paper published in the domestic journal Electronic Science and Technology in May. “It cannot solve problems with real-life applications,” they added.

The researcher warned that the cost of the convenience facial recognition could bring to everyday life was “sacrificing security”.


Warning signs are mounting for Sweden’s once-hot housing market

SEB AB’s monthly housing-price indicator shows households are becoming less optimistic about the market. The gauge, which measures the difference between those who see rising housing prices and those who believe in a decline, has dropped to its lowest level since August 2016. While 66 percent of Swedes still expect prices to rise, and only 16 percent believe in a decline, the indicator has dropped for four consecutive months.

Regulators have been tightening regulations to cool debt growth. Swedes are now subject to a mortgage cap, limiting loans to 85 percent of a property’s value, and an amortization requirement, which forces borrowers pay off the part of their new loans that exceeds 50 percent of the property’s value. The regulator now wants to introduce an additional amortization requirement for the most indebted households, and has also floated the idea of a cap on loans in relation to incomes.

Developers are taking action to prepare for a slowdown. Wallenstam AB said this month it would convert 90 apartments in a development in the Stockholm neighborhood of Solberga to rentals rather than trying to sell them. The situation is “a bit uncertain,” with the market for ownership apartments having “cooled down,” Wallenstam said on Oct. 9.


Indonesia set for trillion-dollar economy in bittersweet triumph

Size isn’t everything. Even after eight rate cuts since the beginning of last year, the economy is struggling to fire up: loan growth remains muted, while the central bank expects low inflation to linger for some time. The picture is made more complex by a wide divergence in growth across the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, with rates ranging from negative to more than 7 percent.

Jokowi is ramping up spending on roads, rail and seaports as he targets economic growth of 5.4 percent in 2018, the fastest rate in five years. But a massive infrastructure deficit — estimated by the World Bank at $1.5 trillion — is frustrating his efforts. The global lender says another $500 billion in infrastructure spending is needed over the next five years.

Indonesia’s tax revenue as a portion of GDP remains one of the lowest in the region with the OECD estimating it at around 12 percent two years ago. It has since fallen to 10.3 percent, which Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati in July described as “low and unacceptable.” She’s aiming to boost that ratio to 16 percent by 2019.


Like Bali? Indonesia wants to create 10 of them to draw Chinese tourists

Jokowi’s plan, according to Yahya, will see the contribution of tourism to the economy climb to 7.5 percent by 2019 from 4.5 percent last year. Tourism receipts are forecast to grow more than 60 percent to $20.7 billion over the same period, with the number of jobs seen rising to 13 million from 11.8 million.

Even with that kind of growth, Indonesia is far behind neighboring countries in developing tourism and targeting Chinese visitors. Thailand’s industry makes up about 18 percent of gross domestic product, with the country’s famed beaches and nightlife attracting 26 million foreign visitors so far this year, 28 percent of them coming from China. Indonesia also trails Singapore and Malaysia in number of tourists.

Funding Jokowi’s 10 New Balis plan will be a big challenge. Yahya estimates the industry needs $20 billion of investment over five years, of which about $10 billion will come from the government. Given its vast infrastructure needs in everything from ports to roads, and a budget deficit cap of 3 percent of GDP, authorities are seeking more private-sector funds.


Silicon Valley Vs. Wall Street: Can the new Long-Term Stock Exchange disrupt capitalism?

If the LTSE succeeds, it could offer a new incentive for privately held tech giants such as Airbnb Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. to go public, at a time when many market veterans and regulators fear the process of going public has lost its luster. But skeptics wonder whether the LTSE is just another way for tech founders and elite Silicon Valley investors to maintain control at the expense of other shareholders.

For instance, executives’ bonuses couldn’t be tied to financial-performance targets over periods of less than one year. If the executives are paid in company stock, the shares couldn’t fully vest for at least five years. LTSE-listed firms would still publish quarterly results—an SEC requirement—but they would be barred from releasing quarterly earnings guidance, a practice that some critics say fosters short-term thinking. Meanwhile, tenure voting would be available to any shareholder of an LTSE-listed company. If an investor opted into the system, the voting power of his or her shares would grow over time, capped at 10 times the power of ordinary common stock after a decade. If the shares were sold, the voting power would be reset for the new owner.

Mr. Ries disputes the idea that the LTSE is good for founders and bad for everyone else. In his view, tenure voting is better than the solution favored by some Silicon Valley firms: severely limiting the voting power of ordinary shareholders through two or more share classes.

Curated Insights 2017.09.24

Ferrari bets racetrack wins will lead to showroom sales

Ferrari’s financial success over the past 15 years has “been achieved on the back of Formula One,” the CEO said in March, adding that the company couldn’t afford many more losing seasons without suffering financially.

But there is little empirical evidence that winning races translates into increased sales. AllianceBernstein, a wealth manager, argues Ferrari doesn’t need Formula One. “There can’t be a soul on earth who doesn’t know that Ferrari makes fast red cars, with excellent technology and that it has a motor sport heritage,” AllianceBernstein wrote in a report last month, adding that Lamborghini, Porsche and other high-end brands have no trouble selling cars despite being absent from Formula One for many years.

While Ferrari doesn’t reveal its estimates for the financial and promotional benefits it derives from Formula One, Mercedes said that in 2016 it got the equivalent of $3 billion in advertising value from the team.

For years, the company limited its sales to no more than 7,000 cars annually to stoke demand. Now, Mr. Marchionne plans to raise that limit to 10,000 in the coming years, while also moving Ferrari into new areas such as home furnishings and technology products.


Liu Qiangdong, the ‘Jeff Bezos of China’, on making billions with JD.com

It was just three years ago that China overtook the US as the largest e-commerce market — but last year China’s total online retail transactions hit an estimated $750bn, nearly double the figure in the US. Most analysts predict China’s online retail market will more than double again by 2020, by which time Chinese online purchases are expected to exceed those of the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan combined.

The contradiction between Alibaba’s much larger market share and profits but smaller revenues is explained by the rivals’ different business models. Like Amazon, JD.com controls most of the supply chain and delivers goods from its own warehouses directly to customers, so it counts online sales as revenues. Alibaba, by contrast, is essentially an internet platform and payment system for other companies and individuals selling to consumers online and earns the bulk of its revenue from advertising.

“I was the first and only stall in that market to put price labels on everything and give official receipts; from day one I never sold any counterfeits and I soon had the best reputation,” he says. “A lot of rich people in China cannot sleep well because they did too many wrong things but I never made any dirty money ever so I can sleep very well.”

What’s the true TAM of search?

To truly appreciate the nature of information distribution, we need to think in a broader context and challenge some assumptions: what if “online advertising”, or even “advertising” is not the right way to measure the TAM (total addressable market) for the search engine business?

If we correctly define the role of search engines, we can see that what they are really designed to address is actually something much broader – “search cost”. Search cost is the biggest component of what economists label as “friction cost” in an economy and it can exist and be addressed in many different forms.

All of that excess rent is a form of marketing that brands and retailers pay to address “search cost”. In a purely online environment, the physical location is disintermediated and what companies would otherwise pay in excess rent in an offline setting would presumably get re-allocated in the form of Amazon commissions or Google keyword ads.

Actually, most of the time, new technological developments have a tendency to shrink the TAM as technology is usually deflationary (the search engine being an exception), so be careful when you see IR slides of tech companies where management takes an estimate of the market size today and declares that number as their company’s financial destiny – it most likely overstates the actual TAM.


Google Travel is worth $100 billion — even more than Priceline

Our estimate of $11.2 billion in Google travel revenue in 2016 would mean that travel accounted for 13 percent of Google’s total Google Segment revenue and 12 percent of the company total (includes the so-called other bets part of the business). Google’s total Google segment operating margin is in the low 30s, but the core AdWords business is likely much higher (meta would likely be in the 25 percent range).

Given a margin profile that is likely above Priceline and digital ad spend growing more than 20 percent per year, the value of the travel business would warrant a similar price-to-sales multiple as Priceline; off of 2016 results, Priceline trades at over 8x revenue. As mentioned earlier, using a 7x multiple on our estimated 2017 numbers for Google, the Google travel business could be worth as much as $100 billion or 15 percent of Google’s $650 billion market cap.

Online travel companies would like to diversify away from Google, but no other digital marketing tool offers the same commercial intent of a Google search.


Gaming sector primer

The gaming sector is the most attractive industry I see today due to: relative low price point and inelasticity; highly addictive products; cyclical defensive; ability for some to capture consumer surplus; consistent high margins and ROE. The downsides are: difficulty in developing new IP; high rate of reinvestment.

Imagine being able to sell $5 worth of coca cola to someone and $5000 worth to someone else, suddenly the need to build a massive horizontal distribution platform is terribly wasteful and your efforts are better spent capturing a smaller share of premium clients, which is made possible by the internet and ubiquitous mobile phones.

Today the gaming sector in China is dominated by mobile due to the ubiquitous nature of phones compared to the lack of platform penetration of console and to a lesser extent PC games. As a result, the two Chinese companies which dominate the gaming space, Tencent and Netease, which together control arond 80% market share, were able to leapfrog the traditional console/pc game market and focus largely on mobile and are in my opinion global leaders at the art of capturing consumer surpluses.


The death of (many) brands

Companies with a trusted brand could earn excess economic returns so long as the cost of building the brand costs less than the premium consumers were willing to pay for a product due to the brand. Because brands have historically be very durable (notice the global brands that were built in the 1950 are still dominate today), they created an economic moat that caused these companies to generate outstanding returns for shareholders.

Costco leverages their scale to identify high quality, good value products and deliver them to consumers. This process reduces the value of brands and allows Costco customers to confidently buy non-brand products or products with limited brand recognition. In this way, Costco has managed to earn excess economic returns, even while selling the products in their stores at close to cost.

Now, however, the era of search cost brands is coming to an end. The moats are being breached. Over the long term, we do not believe that these types of brands will provide a significant competitive advantage to their owners and the companies will be forced to compete directly on quality and value instead of earning a return for selling reduced search costs.


China’s electric car push lures global auto giants, despite risks

From high-speed trains to wind turbines, China has long prodded American, European and Japanese companies to hand over their know-how in exchange for access to its exciting new market. Then Chinese companies have used that knowledge and lavish government support to take on foreign rivals. China wants the big players to share their electric car knowledge, too. The foreign automakers face new Chinese regulations that put heavy legal pressure on them to transfer electric-car technology to their local partners.

The joint ventures alone may not make China a leader in electric cars. G.M., Volkswagen and other major automakers have made regular cars with Chinese partners for decades, and China had hoped its automakers would learn how to make their own worldbeating brands. Instead, Chinese automakers grew comfortable making Chevrolets and Volkswagens for local drivers. Only recently have foreign automakers begun exporting Chinese-made cars to buyers back home.

More broadly, global automakers feel that they must grow in a country that has become the world’s largest car market, one almost as big as the American and European markets combined.


Materialize.X is using machine learning to disrupt the $300B engineered wood industry

A lot of engineered wood is created using an adhesive called urea-formaldehyde, which has recently been labeled by the FDA as a toxic carcinogen…The startup has created a patented non-toxic adhesive to serve as an alternative to urea-formaldehyde. Materialize.X plans to license to chemical companies, or engineered-wood manufacturers so they can make the adhesive on site, the method for making this adhesive.

…created software that uses machine learning to take in all those variables and make slight changes to the manufacturing process that can greatly improve the quality of the final product. Examples of these changes are adjusting the amount of adhesive used or increasing the pressure in the bonding process depending on the variables listed above.


The new Texas gold rush: Buying sand for fracking

Texas energy producers have typically bought the millions of pounds of sand that each well requires from mines located far from their drilling fields. After oil prices collapsed in late 2014, though, cost-conscious drillers reconsidered their well designs and recipes for the slurries they blast underground to unleash fuel from shale formations. Many West Texas drillers discovered that they could replace sand they had been shipping from mines 1,300 miles away in Wisconsin with finer grades found in dunes nearby. Doing so eliminates rail costs that sometimes are equal to or more than the sand itself.

The prospect of tens of millions of tons of Permian sand coming to market could drive down sand prices that have been rising nationally, Mr. Handler said. Analysts say that prices rose to as much as $45 a ton earlier in the year, from as little as $15 a ton last year.

Hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb is among those betting that sand stocks will fall further. In an April letter to his Third Point LLC investors, Mr. Loeb cited the “important shift” from special sand mined in the Midwest to abundant sand within drilling basins, including West Texas.

Superpower India to replace China as growth engine

The number of people aged 65 and over in Asia will climb from 365 million today to more than half a billion in 2027, accounting for 60 percent of that age group globally by 2030, Deloitte said in a report Monday. In contrast, India will drive the third great wave of Asia’s growth – following Japan and China — with a potential workforce set to climb from 885 million to 1.08 billion people in the next 20 years and hold above that for half a century.

“India will account for more than half of the increase in Asia’s workforce in the coming decade, but this isn’t just a story of more workers: these new workers will be much better trained and educated than the existing Indian workforce,” said Anis Chakravarty, economist at Deloitte India. “There will be rising economic potential coming alongside that, thanks to an increased share of women in the workforce, as well as an increased ability and interest in working for longer. The consequences for businesses are huge.”


Why machine learning funds fail

The complexities involved in developing a true investment strategy are overwhelming. Even if the firm provides you with shared services in those areas, you are like a worker at a BMW factory who has been asked to build the entire car alone, by using all the workshops around you. It takes almost as much effort to produce one true investment strategy as to produce a hundred. Every successful quantitative firm I am aware of applies the meta-strategy paradigm. Your firm must set up a research factory where tasks of the assembly line are clearly divided into subtasks, where quality is independently measured and monitored for each subtask, where the role of each quant is to specialize in a particular subtask, to become the best there is at it, while having a holistic view of the entire process.


The case for & against cryptocurrencies (for those tired of all the noise)

The strongest cases for the existence of cryptocurrencies in my mind include: (1) allowing for a decentralized Internet in which value is accrued to infrastructure, protocols and applications that serve market needs; (2) allowing electronic trade across actors who may not know or trust each other without middlemen who take a heavy toll / tax on the transaction; (3) allowing for (the potential of) a more stable currency than one’s own government for citizens who may live under despotic or irresponsible regimes.

The simple case against cryptocurrencies includes three completely related factors: (1) powerful governments who won’t tolerate the loss of monetary control or illegal activities; (2) societal pressure to regulate cryptocurrency will increase as more people are duped, as more fraud is discovered, as more hacks occur and as more market participants collaborate to manipulate the value of the currencies themselves; (3) erosion of trust as first-time cryptocurrency participants get duped, lose money and develop skepticism for the asset.

There is a fascinating story in “The Ascent of Money” by Niall Ferguson in which Ferguson describes how the modern corporation emerged. About 400 years ago merchants from the Netherlands were sending ships to Asia in search of spices widely desired in Europe. More than 50% of all ships that sailed wouldn’t return so groups of people banded together and formed the Dutch East India Company to share the risks and the rewards of their conquests.

This is amongst the first examples of the modern corporation. The company brought back spices and reaped profits that went back into building more ships and sailing back to Asia. The company didn’t distribute the profits to individual shareholders who instead were issued the modern form of a share certificate for their ownership. Because they couldn’t monetize this ownership they started selling shares of their ownership to others, thus perhaps the first stock market and transaction dating back to the early 1600s.

No sooner did people start selling shares in these companies than market speculators started spreading false stories about merchant ships being sunk or about large spice conquests to drive up or down the price of these stocks through false information and manipulation. So oversight became necessary to establish trust in the value of these assets.


What Jamie Dimon got wrong about bitcoin and tulips

Mackay confused two distinct eras. He reports stories from around 1610 about high prices paid for individual bulbs. What he failed to realize is that people were not paying for single flowers, but for the entire breeding stock — or a significant portion of it — of popular new tulip varieties. People have continued to pay higher inflation-adjusted prices for new tulip and lily bulbs to this day.

A quarter century later, a futures market grew up around fractional interests in low-priced, ordinary tulip bulbs. In premodern Europe investment returns were very high, 20 percent or 30 percent per year on low risk investments, but laws and customs prevented anyone not in the merchant class from taking advantage.

Holland accidentally created a loophole by allowing contracts for fractional interests in tulip bulbs for the convenience of the industry. These were needed because the price of popular new bulbs was higher than even rich individuals could afford. In the early 1630s ordinary people discovered that these contracts could serve as money to support business and investment. These contracts then became “monetized,” as happens to all assets used as bases for monetary activity. That means their value decoupled from the use value of the underlying asset and became determined by demand for money services.

By 1637, contracts for fractional interests of low-priced tulip bulbs had risen to 20 times the price of the actual bulbs, reflecting the explosion of economic activity they stimulated. In February 1637, the market collapsed; six weeks later it was outlawed.


What Jamie Dimon is missing about Bitcoin

It’s no secret that Bitcoin and other digital currencies may dramatically fall in value at any time. How can an asset whose value jumps by 20 percent some days, and which no one can accurately value, plausibly not also suffer huge declines? But that’s a long way from Bitcoin being a worthless fraud.

Of course, fiat currencies like the dollar have the backing of a sovereign nation. Digital currencies are obviously far more speculative, have been around for only a few years, and don’t have a government’s underlying support. But almost all currencies today are conjured up from nothing — the euro didn’t even exist 20 years ago — and their value is largely dependent on trust.

His firm conjured up its own currency: Chase Ultimate Reward points, its credit card loyalty program. Millions of customers have accumulated billions of points, trusting in Chase’s promise that this currency can be converted into cash or used for travel and other delights. And they hope that Chase won’t unilaterally choose to devalue them…

But new use cases for digital currencies are just starting to take shape. They are now being used to create value in the way that Silicon Valley has traditionally done so: regulatory arbitrage. Ride-hailing got its start avoiding onerous taxi medallion costs; Airbnb avoided hotel taxes and regulations; and YouTube played fast and loose with copyright rules.

Earnings Call Digest 2017.08

Apple (Q3 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Services revenue hit an all-time quarterly record of $7.3 billion representing 22% growth over last year. We continue to see great performance all around the world with double digit growth in each of our geographic segments. Over the last 12 months, our services business has become the size of a Fortune 100 company, a milestone we’ve reached even sooner than we had expected.

Sales of Apple Watch were up more than 50% in the June quarter and it’s the number one selling smartwatch in the world by a very wide margin.

We’re also seeing incredible enthusiasm for AirPods with 98% customer satisfaction based on Creative Strategy’s survey. We had increased production capacity for AirPods and are working very hard to get them to customers as quickly as we can, but we are still not able to meet the strong level of demand.

We are very focused on autonomous systems from a core technology point of view. We do have a large project going and are making a big investment in this. From our point of view, autonomy is the mother of all AI projects. And the autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways and a vehicle is only one.

The App Store was a major driver of this performance. And according to App Annie’s latest report, it continues to be by a wide margin the preferred destination for customer purchases, generating nearly twice the revenue of Google Play. Revenue from our Apple Music streaming service and from iCloud storage also grew very strongly. And across all of our Services offerings, the number of paid subscriptions reached over 185 million, an increase of almost 20 million in the last 90 days alone.


Square (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

One of the drivers of our results is our work on automation, which I mentioned is an area of increased focus for us this year. Automation has always been a core differentiator for us. We’ve used machine learning and data science to manage risk since the beginning of Square. We’re constantly looking for ways to make our services more automated and more self-serve and machine learning is perfect for that.

First, automation allows us to give more people access to the financial system. More than 90% of sellers are automatically approved and self-onboard to process payments, and we’re able to onboard individuals to Square Cash with just a zip code and an e-mail address or phone number. We’ve extended this approach to risk management in Square Capital to provide financing to the underserved.

Second, automation helps us scale as we grow. For example, we currently automate risk assessment for more than 99.95% of transactions. We’re also able to make improvements to our manual handling; our fraud models have already allowed us to resolve 40% more cases every week, compared to beginning of the year.

And third, automation allows us to help our sellers grow. You can see this in our unique suite of CRM tools. We leverage our deep understanding of the customer to build marketing and loyalty programs that are easy to use, measurable and effective. Our loyalty programs are tracked and managed by Square point-of-sale and our technology automatically recommends programs optimized for the seller’s particular business.

Subscription and services-based revenue nearly doubled on a year-over-year basis as Instant Deposits, Caviar and Square Capital all benefited from stronger adoption, both within our installed-based and for bringing new customers to the Square ecosystem.


Tesla (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

What we have ahead of us, of course, is an incredibly difficult production ramp. Nonetheless, I think we’ve got a great team, and I’m very confident that we will be able to reach a production rate of 10,000 vehicles per week towards the end of next year. And we remain – we believe on track to achieve a 5,000 unit week by the end of this year.

So, if you can sort of see where we came from, the Roadster – we were making only 600 units a week where the non-powertrain portion of the car was made by Lotus. And we did the powertrain and final assembly of the car, and then we went from that to 20,000 units a year of the Model S, a far more complex car, where we did the whole thing. And then with Model 3, we are more vertically integrated. I think people should really not have any concerns that we will reach that outcome from a production rate.

…We’re also thinking hard about, where do we put Gigafactorys three, four, five and six? We expect to keep the majority of our production in the U.S., but it’s, obviously, going to make sense to establish a Gigafactory in China and Europe to serve the markets there, because it’s not to build cars in California and truck them halfway around the world, particularly when you’re trying to make things as affordable as possible – that really hurts. We really want to make our cars as affordable as possible. And so that does require some amount of local market production, particularly for the mass market vehicles in order to make it as accessible as possible.

Model Y, or our compact SUV – it’s called Model Y. It may or may not be – would be a totally new architecture. Upon the council of my executive team – thank you. Thanks, guys – who reeled me back from the cliffs of insanity – much appreciated – the Model Y will in fact be using a substantial carryover from Model 3 in order to bring its market faster. Yes. So that will really accelerate our ability to get to Model Y to market faster, because fundamentally people prefer a sedan, people prefer an SUV. And in fact, the SUV market is larger. It’s the biggest single product I believe in the world.


Tableau Software (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

With subscription, our customers get the full power and simplicity of Tableau but with lower risk and a lower initial investment. And the move to subscription also creates recurring revenue streams, generates more predictable results over the long-term and expands the overall market.

For example, this quarter TransUnion, a credit reporting and global risk information provider that serves over 45,000 companies and more than 500 million customers, standardized their analytics on Tableau across multiple areas from credit reporting to health care and auto lending, amongst many others. By signing a subscription agreement, TransUnion will be able to flexibly scale their deployment as they grow and build out their analytic solutions…We continue to believe that subscription is the right long-term decision for all of our stakeholders and will only help us to sharpen our commitment to our customers on a daily basis.

Our passionate customer base is not just a U.S. phenomenon; it’s global. And it’s been incredible to see our community thrive around the world, across various user groups, training groups and conferences. For example, in the UK, Jet2.com, a leading British leisure airline and package holiday specialist, recently chose Tableau to visualize complex data that was difficult to analyze and access within Excel. With Tableau, Jet2 is now able to better analyze a range of data to attain faster speed to insight.

And in APAC, Mercedes-Benz expanded their self-service analytics capabilities with Tableau in their China Financial Services Group. Now the company, including the most senior management has real-time visibility on the organization’s auto financing, leasing and insurance performance and now makes daily strategic business decisions from a single source of truth through Tableau.

Turning now to customer momentum in the cloud, we’re seeing strong demand from customers who want to be able to run their analytics in the cloud. And with Tableau, customers can deploy on their choice of cloud, whether it be AWS, Azure or Google or a fully managed SaaS solution via Tableau Online. That flexibility and choice has already attracted thousands of customers running on Tableau Online and thousands more running Tableau on the public cloud. In fact, over one-third of our Tableau server trials today are deployed in the public cloud.

Turning now to product, I want to focus on two important areas: giving our customers choice with how they connect to their data and enriching our smart analytics offering via machine learning recommendations. Tableau now has over 65 native data connectors from on-premises databases like Oracle and SAP, Hadoop systems like Cloudera and Hortonworks, and cloud databases like Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery.


IAC/InterActiveCorp (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

…it is a very – the SVOD market is very crowded and cost were skyrocketing.

In terms of new M&A, the thing that worked well for us are this concept of product – the scale improved the product, not just the price. That is the way – the way we think about network businesses or marketplace businesses and that’s what we’re looking for.

…there is again a natural tailwind today are in terms of the online migration, in terms of video being more relevant in a lot more places than it used to be, to a lot of businesses than it used to be, to lot more individuals than it used to be.


Activision Blizzard (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We invest in creative and commercial excellence in order to expand reach, deepen engagement and provide more opportunity for player investment which then allows for reinvestment in creative and commercial excellence and for the growth cycle to continue.

Let’s start with audience reach, which was 407 million monthly active users this quarter. Blizzard did not have any new full game releases this quarter, yet a strong stream of content updates across Blizzard franchises drove an all-time MAU record of 46 million, up 38% from last year and up 12% from the last quarter. Blizzard’s community has now more than doubled in MAUs since early 2015, underscoring the ability to grow audience reach across the portfolio of platforms, regions, genres and business models.

As illustrated by the frequency with which players reengage each month, it remains at an all-time high. To put this in perspective, the time spent per player per day inside King franchises is 35 minutes, higher than that of Instagram or Snapchat.


Workiva (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

A large regional bank is using Wdesk for its call reports which are quarterly filings required by the FDIC. A large sporting-goods company is now using Wdesk for corporate performance management. The company will use Wdesk to consolidate spreadsheets into a linked workbook, thereby reducing manual data entry. The treasury department of a private electrical products manufacturer is using Wdesk for debt compliance reporting.

We remain focused on our leadership in the SEC compliance market. We continue to add new customers at both large and small public companies, because we believe that Wdesk is widely regarded as the best practice for SEC reporting and XBRL. In the first quarter of 2017, Wdesk was used to file 53% of all XBRL facts with the SEC. So as you can see, we have room to grow in this market. Customer press releases this quarter reported that a multinational agri business is achieving an ROI of 266% and reaping more than $677,000 in total savings and benefits over 3 years by using Wdesk to streamline its management reporting.

We finished Q2 with 2908 customers, a net increase of 286 customers from Q2 2016 and a net increase of 83 customers from Q1 2017. Our subscription and support revenue retention rate, excluding add-ons, was 96.1% for the month of June 2017 compared with 95.1% in both March 2017 and June 2016. Customers being acquired or ceasing to file SEC reports accounted for a majority of revenue attrition, consistent with our experience to date. With add-ons, our subscription and support revenue retention rate was 106% for the month of June 2017 compared with 106.6% in March 2017 and 110.2% in June 2016. Increased subscription revenue on non-SEC use cases from existing customers continues to be the primary driver of our add-on revenue retention rate.


Etsy (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

There has been much speculation about the size of the market for handmade. But handmade is not a purchase occasion nor is it representative of all of our 45 million listings. Etsy is about so much more than handmade. Buyers come to us when they want something special. And being the destination for something special is powerful because special can’t be commoditized.

But how big is the market for special? We believe the market for special is huge. Etsy shines specifically in three types of purchase occasions. Celebrations, gifting and style. If you think about it, these types of occasions happen regularly throughout the year. These occasions drive purchases across six primary categories, clothing and accessories, home and living, jewelry, craft supplies, art and collectibles, and paper and party supplies. Not surprisingly, these are also Etsy’s top six categories based on GMS.

First, we are building trust and reliability throughout the buyer experience. Trust is essential for any marketplace but is even more so for one that’s both on original and unbranded goods. Our goal is to bolster trust not just in the item and the seller, but in the Etsy brand.


NVIDIA (Q2 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Data center is a very large market, as you know, and the reason for that is because the vast majority of the world’s future computing will be largely done in data centers. And there’s a very well accepted notion now that GPU acceleration of servers delivers extraordinary value proposition. If you have a data-intensive application, and the vast majority of the future applications in data centers will be data intensive, a GPU could reduce the number of servers you require or increase the amount of throughput pretty substantially. Just adding one GPU to a server could reduce several hundred thousand dollars of reduction in number of servers. And so the value proposition and the cost savings of using GPUs is quite extraordinary.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain is here to stay. The market need for it is going to grow, and over time it will become quite large. It is very clear that new currencies will come to market, and it’s very clear that the GPU is just fantastic at cryptography. And as these new algorithms are being developed, the GPU is really quite ideal for it. And so this is a market that is not likely to go away anytime soon, and the only thing that we can probably expect is that there will be more currencies to come. It will come in a whole lot of different nations. It will emerge from time to time, and the GPU is really quite great for it.

Volta was a giant leap. It’s got 120 teraflops. Another way to think about that is eight of them in one node is essentially one petaflops, which puts it among the top 20 fastest supercomputers on the planet. And the entire world’s top 500 supercomputers are only 700 petaflops. And with eight Voltas in one box, we’re doing artificial intelligence that represents one of them. So Volta is just a gigantic leap for deep learning and it’s such a gigantic leap for processing that – and we announced it at GTC, if you recall, which is practically right at the beginning of the quarter.

A neural net in terms of complexity is approximately – not quite, but approximately doubling every year. And this is one of the exciting things about artificial intelligence. In no time in my history of looking at computers in the last 35 years have we ever seen a double exponential where the GPU computing model, our GPUs are essentially increasing in performance by approximately three times each year. In order to be 100 times in just four years, we have to increase overall system performance by a factor of three, by over a factor of three every year.

And yet on the other hand, on top of it, the neural network architecture and the algorithms that are being developed are improving in accuracy by about twice each year. And so object recognition accuracy is improving by twice each year, or the error rate is decreasing by half each year. And speech recognition is improving by a factor of two each year. And so you’ve got these two exponentials that are happening, and it’s pretty exciting. That’s one of the reasons why AI is moving so fast.

The second major component is our self-driving car platforms, and a lot of it still is infotainment systems. Our infotainment system is going to evolve into an AI cockpit product line. We initially started with autonomous driving. But you probably heard me say at GTC that our future infotainment systems will basically turn your cockpit or turn your car into an AI. So your whole car will become an AI. It will talk to you. It will know where you are. It knows who’s in the cabin. And if there are potential things to be concerned about around the car, it might even just tell you in natural language. And so the entire car will become an AI.

The next revolution of AI will be at the edge, and the most visible impactful evidence will be the autonomous vehicle. Our strategy is to build a ground-up deep learning platform for self-driving cars, and that has put us in pole position to lead the charge.


The Walt Disney (Q3 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

It’s been clear to us for a while with the future of this industry will be forged by direct relationships between content creators and consumers. Given our incomparable collection of strong brands that are recognized and respected the world over, no one is better positioned to lead the industry into this dynamic new era, and we’re accelerating our strategy to be at the forefront of this transformation.

With this strategic shift, we’ll end our distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases beginning with the 2019 calendar-year theatrical slate. These announcements marked the beginning of what will be an entirely new growth strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the opportunities the changing media and technology industries provide us to leverage the strength of our great brands.

But we’ve already begun the development process at the Disney Channel and at the Studio to create original TV series and original movies for this service. So if the Studio makes, let’s call it, roughly 10 films a year or distributes 10 films a year – that includes Marvel and Pixar and Star Wars and Disney-branded and Disney Animation. We’ve commissioned them to make, to produce more films with the incremental films being produced very, very specifically and very exclusively for this service. So this will represent a larger investment in Disney-branded intellectual property, both TV and movies.

I think there are forces, whether they’re technological in nature or sociological or economic in nature, out there that are changing the way media is consumed in general, and I don’t think this is either going to hasten them or exacerbate things in any way. What it does do, though, is a couple of things. First of all, it gives us the ability to leverage the strength of our brands, which a lot of our peers and competitors do not have. Secondly, it gives us what we’d call optionality. It’s a word I’ve not used very much in my life, but it gives us the flexibility, really, to move our product to the consumer in many new ways, ways that we’ve not been able to do before, because of just how strong this platform is that we bought control of.


TripAdvisor (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We have large app penetration and a great ability to offer attractions to our users, so marketing efficiency, but then just operational efficiency as well. So initially, a lot of manpower going into both site development as well as supply expansion and we’re now reaping some of the leverage benefits from that going forward. So you are right, we are managing the business not for profitability. We’re managing it for growth. There’s just tremendous opportunity in terms of the TAM of this – particularly the attractions market space. We feel we have an early lead and we continue to invest aggressively to capitalize on that advantage. So, we’re not seeking margin expansion, and going forward, we will continue to emphasize revenue growth. But the way the business has evolved has allowed us to see some margin expansion this year.

In terms of the monetization, there’s likely to be always a delta between monetization on desktop and on the phone. It is just more plausible that you book a larger trip, a multi-day, multi-destination trip on your desktop in the comfort, obviously, on your big screen and more detailed photos and skew the more immediate purchases to the phone.

As we are working on our conversion improvements, they’re all aligned with matching our advertising campaign and matching our value proposition that delivering to travelers of helping them save money on this trip. We’re so well known for reviews, which is wonderful, incredible differentiator. It’s hard to imagine anyone could ever make a serious inroad to us in terms of being a competitor in that space. But as we move the product, the display, the visibility and the impression of TripAdvisor on the part of our travelers, to view us as that review site, that review site that actually saved me a ton of money because it offered me a great value hotel that I wouldn’t have otherwise find with a better price or it helped me find the best place to actually reserve a room at this hotel that I want to go at, and that’s kind of a new piece and so part of the site redesign was clarity. Part of the site redesign was easier shopping experience, but one of the things that we love the most from our testing that we’ve achieved in this redesign is that we are educating our users, our travelers that we’re helping to save them money, that we’re finding them great prices. And we see that come through in our surveys, we see that come through in those anecdotes in the stories, and that matches, of course, the big message in our brand campaigns.


MakeMyTrip (Q1 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The latest estimates from IAMAI, the Internet and Mobile Association of India, indicates that India now has roughly 420 million mobile Internet users and this base is expected to keep growing rapidly.

Large opportunities for new user growth will likely come from the non-urban parts of the country where penetration levels are estimated at 16%. Affordable smartphones and data plans are easily available via the recent disruptive offers from the telecom players led by Reliance Jio.

Additionally, a significant government initiative which can facilitate online penetration is the unified payments interface app called BHIM, which creates a common nationwide payments platform for simple and quick transfer of money.

Indian carriers collectively have already placed more than 1,300 new orders, with 250 planes expected to be put into service over the next two to three years. Furthermore, demand for air travel is expected to increase with the launch of the government’s regional air connectivity program called Udan by operationalizing up to 100 regional airports out of a total 400 unserved or underserved domestic regional airports by fiscal year 2019.


DISH Network (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

I think each carriers offer a little bit different strategy today. I mean, obviously AT&T is getting more heavily into the content side of the business. Verizon’s got more of a small cell strategy and T-Mobile is just taking away a lot of the pain points that are out there. So each have strategies that those guys are a lot more knowledgeable about the wireless business than I am, so each of the – there’s no reason that each of those strategies can’t work.

So, all those things are going to happen. The only thing I know for sure is that if you’re born today in the United States, you’re probably not going to have one second of your life you’re not connected. And you’re going to use a lot of data during your lifetime. And there’s going to be – and that’s just people. And every microprocessor and every light and every other thing is going to have a sensor that’s going to be connected. And that’s just – it’s going to make us more productive. And it’s going to save companies money. And so there’s going to be very large companies coming out of the connectivity business on a big scale, and we hope to play a part in that.

You can’t have all the profits going to three or four companies and have the guys that are – the companies that are providing them the raw material to make that money, not get wake up one day and get a little smarter. That’d be my guess, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But at some point, all the money going one direction, a lot of people are enabling that. They’re going to wake up and say maybe they should get – I’ve been through this business long enough to know that the money ebbs and flows between distribution and content. It’s probably going to continue to do that today. And a lot of the content companies, probably the distribution guys, probably are going to be in position to get a more of it. Then it may go the other direction.

The average smartphone probably consumes, I don’t know, 5 gigs a month. Use cases that are being discussed around 5G that will start to materialize in the early 2020s, they’re going to dwarf that in terms of the amount of data consumed whether that be drone network or autonomous vehicles or healthcare or massive connectivity. So to look at the marketplace in terms of today’s four big competitors and the new entrants, I think you have to really think about how the market will get redefined in the next five years to seven years to ten years.


The Home Depot (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We’ve had obviously a protracted recovery here, and it has been clearly driven from housing which has been a steady but slow recovery in the market. You know we continually look at months of supply, there is 4.3 months of supply in the market of housing availability against a historical norm of six, that clearly is helping to drive improvement in home value appreciation, but housing starts haven’t returned to their norm yet either. The only thing that’s kind of run on an historical averages is housing turnover. So, we see this housing favorability continuing as we look forward. And I think the watch out for us is, you wouldn’t want to see affordability become an issue, but that at this point doesn’t seem to be a concern for us at all.

Right. As we look at the affordability index, it stands at 153%, so long ways to go before that would be a watch out for us. And recovery is a difficult thing to put your arms around. But if you look at simply PFRI dollars they’ve only recovered 70% of the loss. The other thing that’s really interesting to us is the age of the housing stock. We’ve talked to you a lot about 66% of the housing stock being older than 30 years. Did you know that 51% of the house stock is older than 40 years and as houses age, well, they need more of repair.


TJX Companies (Q2 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Our key pillars for growth remain driving comp sales and customer traffic and our global store expansion. Our consistently strong performance tells us that our strategies to drive customer traffic and comp sales are working. Further, we see enormous global store growth potential for TJX. We have plenty of white space or markets to fill in throughout our current countries. Long-term, we see the opportunity to open 5,600 stores with just our current banners and that’s about 1,700 more stores than we have today. We continue to see store openings as an attractive investment and a very good use of capital. We are convinced that these growth drivers will allow us to continue to capture additional market share both in the U.S. and internationally.

We see our treasure hunt shopping experience as an advantage. As today shopper spends more on personal experiences, particularly millennials they constructed dollars further in our stores in both our apparel and non-apparel categories. We are very pleased that across our major divisions we continue to capture a broad age demographic with new shoppers skewing towards younger customers. We see this as a great indicator for our future.

In closing I would like to emphasize that the key advantages that I have discussed today are all built on our 40 years plus of experience in building, developing and refining our off-price retail model. While we were trying to keep our business simple and focused, the ability to operate and highly integrate international – to operate a highly integrated international off-price retail business doesn’t happen overnight and we believe would be extremely difficult to replicate. We have decades of experience to build international teams and infrastructures that we see as key advantages. We believe our buying organization of more than 1,000 associates is best-in-class. We have great longevity among our buyers which we attribute to our very strong corporate culture. Our worldwide vendor universe also took us decades to build. We see ourselves as a global sourcing machine. Our processes, systems and logistics are all built to support our off-price opportunistic buying. Further, we have been operating internationally for well over two decades and are the only major international off-price apparel and home fashions retailer.


Tencent Holdings (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We have been investing heavily in AI but relatively quietly, as we view AI as an essential capability that enhances user experience and empowers us to capture the new exciting opportunities to grow our businesses for the future. We’re confident that our existing strength in computing power, data, engineering, technologies as well as use cases coupled with our proactive build-up of AI content — talent will give us a favorable position in this strategic initiative. Especially a wide and diversified business scope creates a variety of use cases for AI research and application across a range of AI fundamental research areas, such as machine learning, computer vision, speech recognition and natural language processing. We will be persistent but patient with our AI investment, because we believe it is a long-term initiative, and we do not necessarily require a research to generate revenue directly in the short-term. On the other hand, AI will significantly benefit all of our existing products, services and businesses in many ways.

There is a lot of usage, more and more people are watching online video at longer and longer time, on a daily basis. But at the same time — and at the same time, advertising revenue has been increasing, and there is also an increasing willingness from consumers to pay. So, the subscription number as well as revenue has been increasing quite rapidly. On the other hand, the flip side of this is the cost of content has been increasing, even faster. So, what we see is that over time, we believe the content will continue to increase, but the rates would probably be lower. And the subscription, as we continue to increase, would deliver higher revenue per active user. So, we will get closer to a more equilibrium between cost and revenue at some point in time. But I think unfortunately at this point in time, the net loss of the business is still increasing.

It’s a little bit tough to make advertising revenue from that because we usually — these video are relatively short; and depending on how aggressive you are in terms of balancing user experience and monetization, I think if you really care about user experience and the trends of putting advertising on these short videos are more limited.

In terms of the advertising, I think most of the growth has actually been from the click-through rates as well as the improvement in targeting technology. As a result, the pricing achieved has been higher. There is some help from the other two factors, which is slight increase in terms of the inventory and an increase in terms of the general traffic. But, I think from the inventory angle, we have achieved a second ad for some cities, but within a 24-hour period, not everybody is seeing two ads. So, compared to our international peers, I think the amount of inventory is relatively small. And at the same time, the traffic increase has been most significant around Moments. Then, if you look at our performance ads, it’s across pretty large number of different properties. So, the traffic growth in the other areas might not be as great as the Moments traffic increase.

At this point, my guess is that the big advertisers have a certain budget for television and then for online video and then they have a separate budget for social and a separate budget for search and so forth. And then, the migration between those buckets happens relatively slowly, typically at the beginning of each year rather than happening on a month-by-month basis.

In terms of providing AI-as-a-service, I think this is definitely a one direction that we are going into in our cloud business already and we are seeing a lot of demand on that. And we have been able to sign up a lot of customers because of our ability to offer them AI capability. And that’s just the beginning. Over time, I think we will do much more on that.

In terms of games and targeting, if you look at games playing globally, particularly on the personal computer, it’s moved from being media driven to being increasingly community driven. 20 years ago, people discovered new games on the PC in the U.S. and Europe through computer magazines; now, they’re discovering them through reddit, through Twitch, through those kinds of more communal venues. And some of the same trends are underway in China. And what we’re trying to do is working with the game developers to make sure that we target their games to the users who are likely to be most receptive.


Alibaba Group (Q1 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The macro way of looking at the landscape is e-commerce accounts for 15% of total retail in China. The retail segment in China is about $5 trillion economy in value. 15% of e-commerce still leads, 85% of retail that is offline.

In this new world of consumption expectations, the distinction between online and offline would disappear.

Mobile Taobao is the Chinese consumers’ leading destination for online shopping and the total MAU for mobile apps with access to our China retail marketplaces has grown to 529 million. No other commerce app in the world compares to mobile Taobao’s consumer engagement and user stickiness. Our user stickiness measured by the DAU divided by MAU ratio continues to remain above 40% due to our relentless focus on more content and community-driven engagement on the approximately, allowing consumers to enjoy the fun of discovery and exploration. We not only satisfy existing user needs but more importantly we’re able to stimulate new demand as user experiences have become more content-driven by community of consumption-related content generators, such as influencers and key opinion leaders have emerged alongside buyers and sellers in the ecosystem.

What unifies the businesses in the Alibaba economy is our mission, to make it easy to do business anywhere. We believe the path to value creation becomes extremely clear when we focus on a single mission. In the next 5, 10, 15 years, you will see an unfolding of how we execute the new retail strategy as it becomes an integral part of the Alibaba economy. Shareholder value will follow when we create value for our customers. So, understanding this is important to understanding a long view of Alibaba.

Our cloud computing business continues to enjoy high growth at scale with annualized revenue growth well exceeding $1 billion, while paying customers surpassed 1 million. An important milestone in a landscape where every industry is seeking to migrate to the cloud, we believe 1 million is merely a starting point.

Regarding 30-minute delivery, as an example of where new retail can be very disruptive to existing ecommerce. Consumer demand is generated from an in-store experience and then that consumer says, well, I am going to a movie, so I don’t want to a carry bag with me, so I am going to have it delivered to my home within a very short period of time. That’s where logistics — your traditional e-commerce logistics infrastructure can be disruptive because you’ll need to fulfill out of that retail location as opposed to out of a warehouse that is not even in the city center. So, the expectation becomes 30 minutes and not overnight or 24 hours. So, that’s going to be very, very disruptive to existing infrastructure and investments that have been made.