The Sound of silence

Hello accountant, my dark fate
your books are bloated as of late
the need for bonus loudly creeping
to be deposited so fleeting
and the greedy that are filling
their domain, they always gain
it is the need for money

The P W C accounting firm
will gain support, another turn
you see the press is staying quiet
we wonder now who got them hired
see the news is remaining just the same, it’s such a shame
and they should all be fired

You might think why this rewritten song of Simon and Garfunkel? You see, it has been almost 50 years exactly that Simon and Garfunkel took this to paper, 50 years later we would see quite the different ballad, one that would see repercussions in ways never seen before, yet both instances unique. That part was made clear today when we see ‘Tesco posts record loss: what the experts say‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/22/tesco-posts-record-loss-what-the-experts-say). So when we see “Tesco reports record £6.4bn loss” and when we see ‘these experts’, you and me alike should ask a series of questions the press is not asking. It has not been asking them for 2 quarters now (well an absolute minimum).

Consider the following quote: “Soon after his arrival, Lewis unveiled a £263m accounting scandal caused by overoptimistic recording of payments made to Tesco by suppliers. Tesco is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the supermarket regulator over the affair“, this is what got it all started, what the publishing pussies refer to as ‘overoptimistic recording of payments‘ turned out to be nothing less than a systematic issue as we saw some of the news from DeLoitte. It is shown in my ‘adjusted lyrics’:

Will gain support, another turn
you see the press is staying quiet
we wonder now who got them hired

You see, there is the Sound of Silence, an actual silence. Try finding anything regarding Tesco in 2015 regarding PricewaterhouseCoopers. You will find very very little, pretty much the absolute minimum. Perhaps you remember the wild allegations on the ‘MH370 suicide flight‘, in addition, all those claims regarding the World Cup soccer in Qatar 2022. Yet, in regards to PwC the Murdoch machine stays very quiet. I regard that this makes Rupert Murdoch the biggest pussy in newspaper publication since the newspaper concept started in the 17th century.

It took just less than two hours to realise that PwC needed investigation, the papers made close to zero mention on it, there were some casual mentions regarding ‘asking questions’, but it was as low key as technologically possible. In December 2014 it pretty much stops, feel free to try and Google it for yourself. You will find articles on how Sainsbury switches from PwC to Ernst and Young (January 16th 2015), but for the rest there is too much nothing. Not just the Murdoch groups, but in equal measure, you will find little to nothing regarding PricewaterhouseCoopers. Is that not strange? Especially as we now see how £263m inflation, caused a £6.4bn deflation. A result 24:1, it became such an interesting long term bet to make, especially by those involved. Yet many of those players are shrouded in silence.

You see another matter suddenly dawned on me. I reckon you all remember Julian Assange, from all those cables regarding the Afghan war. 5 days ago, they decided to also go public on all those Sony hacked cables. We see the quote: “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geopolitical conflict. It belongs in the public domain“. No Mr Assange! You decided to play god with stolen data and you decided the fate of this corporation by hanging out the laundry, in addition, you handed the power they wielded and threw it up in the air to be taken over by any competitor who can grow in directions they never bothered to look, because they could not be bothered taking the effort.

And as we are talking into the public domain Julian, what happened to your ‘bravery’ when you made the quote “In November, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Forbes the site has a ‘mega leak’ on an unnamed major US bank exposing an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ that will be released early this year?” I am pretty sure that this never went public. I searched high and low and your WikiLeaks page shows nothing there either. It seems to me that many parties are too scared when it comes to banks and financial institutions.

The question should be Did Julian Assange have anything ever regarding his claims on an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ in regards to a US bank. Should I not ask that question? You see, when the press at large ignores the PwC issue, many should ask questions, especially as both Tesco and Greece fill pages of text in the Guardian and several other newspapers, yet the hunt for information regarding PwC is not moving forward.

In the first article mentioned, where we see the dubious term ‘what the experts say’, NO MENTION AT ALL on PricewaterhouseCoopers (or PwC), is that not strange? The question how 10 million in costs (which I converted to 199 full time accountants working on Tesco for a full year alone) did not reveal anything in time, so how could such a managed event stay hidden? In several articles we see a similar quote as I am adding here, a quote that in many cases was the very first paragraph of articles late October 2013. “DELOITTE has completed its review of Tesco’s overstated half-yearly results and confirmed that its black hole is even bigger than the £250m previously declared and goes back even further than the supermarket group had originally stated“, which means that these auditors ‘missed’ it for a longer period of time. A thought I had in the first few hours, was confirmed a month later (which is fair enough, they hard to check many numbers before stating anything), yet I saw and reported on this (as well as my thoughts), having no economic degree, just me as an analyst saw what the press has been ignoring ever since.

One of the more revealing articles was in the Financial Times named ‘UK accountancy watchdog hits PwC with two separate probes‘ (at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/98e02452-89c8-11e4-9dbf-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Y3cymr54), which was in late December 2014, after that the news and the hunt for the Priced and watered Coopers stops on nearly all media fronts. I wonder how they pulled that one of. The fact that there is almost no visibility on the two probes is only more cause for concern, but those experts all have ‘something’ to say in this matter. Isn’t it nice that they did not have anything to say, or did not say it out loud before the calamity was seen. All those Tesco projects, ready to roll, not one came with the considerations ‘Tesco is spreading itself too thin‘, which is nice before the fact, but pointless, bordering on clueless after the fact. I especially liked the quote from Mike Dennis from Cantor Fitzgerald, you know, one of those after the facts proclaimers. “We believe Tesco should consider closing 200 underperforming supermarkets/superstores and focus on growing the more profitable remaining 700 stores (excluding Express); in addition, this should also allow for £40m of cost-savings from the closure of a distribution centre“, you see, my issue is twofold.

The first is where the ‘under’ performing line lies. Is underperforming, working at a loss, or at a minimal profit? The reality remains that people need groceries, so if an ‘underperforming’ shop is closed another will open with a different label and now that lost revenue will go somewhere else. My second issue is that 40 million in savings. You see, if those 200 shops are spread all over, that distribution centre will still be needed, even if the amount of stores decreases, someone will need to open a grocery store and this distribution centre could service independent supermarkets to some degree, meaning a small additional revenue. Then we get the second set of debatable solutions “Matt Davies, Tesco’s UK CEO as of 1 June, should consider a further reduction in staff and a significant simplification of central functions and category management. Aldi UK today generates twice the sales per full-time employee compared to Tesco UK and is expected to report higher trading profits“, reduction on staff? Where? You see, it is nice to ‘opt’ for simplification, but in my experience in 100% of the cases, simplification was not a bad thing, but it came at some expense, what is that expense and will it hurt down the line? The biggest fun can be seen when you read the part of Philip Benton. It all reads nice, but the issue I have is at the end in this case. “The retailer is in the midst of a huge restructuring after selling off much of its portfolio including Blinkbox and Tesco Broadband as well as the forthcoming sale of market research unit Dunnhumby and undergoing a complete overhaul of its leadership“, my issue is the possible ‘inflated’ that Dunnhumby represents. You see, it could be regarded as inflated as its value is determined by what the buyers will offer. In the end Dunnhumby represents well over 140 million a year and it also represents undocumented savings. You see, if a lot of the marketing and visibility research is done at market value, Tesco will face that they either deal with additional costs (not small ones) or not do the research. Both are bad ideas. None of these ‘experts’ are looking into the amalgamation of services that Dunnhumby could offer via Tesco and/or for Tesco. Dunnhumby is a massive data warehouse and it should have loads of options. Moreover offering these additional services (in the trend that Google has done with ‘Gmail for work’ could open up new capital gaining opportunities. Now, as the economy is slowly starting over the next 3 years, those who grow could need data insight that is currently available via Dunnhumby. This means financial and revenue growth that shows a healthy future, giving that away in some sale to recoup 2 billion, from a 6 billion loss that was all based upon degraded value seems like a very bad idea to me. Even if most of that 2 billion is recovered, the invoices that follow will put pressure for a larger part on Tesco.

Consider that the interest on 2 billion is 70,000,000, now consider that not only are them making 100 million plus, they are also the centre of data, a place Tesco will desperately need in the coming 2-5 years. Not having it could imply more costings for Tesco. No one seemed to be considering that part of the equation at all.

So, reality now, will stores be closed? That seems unavoidable, yet closing stores also means no more revenue, dumping the location at a loss and a few other items linked to this. Tesco needs to grow again, but the method remains debatable. I would have thought that moving more towards an Aldi/Lidl margin might make a difference, will it be enough? Whatever move it will make, it will need data to support and test the foundations with, so I personally feel that this requires the non-sale of Dunnhumby (for now). You see, I still see the centre with Dunnhumby for another reason. When you look at their site, you see a list of the large corporations, that is all good (and it brings home the bacon), but they are also sitting on loads of Tesco data as well. What if aggregated parts could be linked to small firms, smaller firms who end up with a dashboard solution, where their limited data is linked to that massive Tesco Data Warehouse, where these smaller companies, for a small fee get a dashboard uniting their data with Tesco demographics. Now we have a whole new clientele in a business setting, so before those supermarkets get closed, they should see if a small corner of it could be an added business venture. Likely those prospective clients will be in larger area’s where Tesco remains operational, but we now have an added service and Dunnhumby has an optional new suite (based on for example SAP dashboard) that opens up new ventures and even added consultancy and training. In these times the innovators will cause growth to evolve, selling off things only makes for lost market share (even though some non-profit ventures should always be considered for scrapping).

Are my ideas so outlandish? You must always consider that part, for the simple reason that the sceptical approach causes no harm and the proof that follows will only create futures. The following quote is as old as the hills, so it should not be a surprise to anyone in this field: “Sales will blame Marketing for the lack of quality leads with repetitive precision, whilst Marketing will blame Sales for not acting on the leads on time, or at all. When nobody has any reliable stats to back up their ‘verdict’, the arguments go on forever and nothing gets done”. Now, consider all these new firms, those new start-ups, or just one man companies like for example Electricians, Plumbers and Painters. They have no Sales or Marketing at all in most cases, would it not be nice if they had a simple dashboard based option that can help them focus on where possible opportunities lie? Not to mention usual retail like family bookshops and leagues of small pharmacy places that could do better. The solution I suggested could help them focus on where to look next. The great thing is that for the most, the same basic solution will work for all, they would only need a set of very specific filters in addition to the demographical ones. A solution that could be automated to the larger extent. One simple market, there for the taking. Did anyone consider that?

And as we look into these possibilities, we get back to the beginning, how could all the financial data be so opaque that it escaped the view of PwC, when we look at all these claims by experts, how did none of the warning lights light up, especially when we consider the words of Deloitte “these auditors ‘missed’ it for a longer period of time“, now I have brought you from the premise, past the innuendo to the basic view on how data can be new business too. Finally, when we consider the following quote that was in the Guardian “Further positives include that Tesco did in fact make a bigger trading profit than the market believed was possible (£1.4bn v. £760.86m consensus)“, this reads, they did twice as good, this means that Tesco is getting back on its feet. Yes, I did read that it is less than it was, but still, they got one dot four billion in, which is a lot better than Greece and most traders want them to get 7 billion regardless, so I think we should consider that many are willing to dump 7 billion on a location of non-cooperation, whilst they will drown a corporation fight to achieve and collect ACTUAL revenue. What a double standard we live by!

If we go by the simplest stats (not an accurate one), then we see that Tesco exceeded by £700M, which is 23% of the £3 billion loss, Greece cannot even raise 10% of what is due shortly, so it is time to look at what is real and look at why the press seems to be ‘avoiding’ (read not actively digging) into Pricewaterhouse Cooper either. But I will leave that to what I would currently regard to be the ‘Pussy’ family (Witherow, Rusbridger, Murdoch et al). Should you consider the path I walked here to be ‘inappropriate’ then Google ‘Tesco+scandal+2015‘ (837.000) and Google ‘PwC+scandal+2015‘ (271.000), now look at the amount of Newspaper links we find in the second one (almost none and many of these links are 2014). I think I made my case here, I just wonder what scared the press to this extent away from a story.

So as we see the quotes “Over the full year, the profit margin in the UK was 1.1%, a far cry from the impossible 5.2% that Lewis’s predecessor, Philip Clarke, ridiculously attempted to defend” and “Lewis must show that the ‘early encouraging signs from what we have done so far’ will produce a discernible improvement in profits“, yet no mention on the previous directors, regarding ‘cooking’ the books and still no mention of the Auditor either. It seems that everyone knows that the dice are loaded but no one is willing to say it out loud.

What else is not reported on regarding the 24:1 loss?

 

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