The promised example

In light of all the outsourcing we saw yesterday, it is time to show you just how lucrative it can be to set the outsourcing stage. In this example I will go with a software example, as I have seen this myself. You see, sometimes a place is profitable for the mother company no matter how you slice it and with this example we see this in action.

Let’s take a software vendor, selling some software solution. Normally that entire path will set you back $7,000. The software, training, installation and personalising the solution. At this point you might think, well, it is all tax deductible for the company, so what gives?

Well, some of these players still have budgets to adhere to (unless you are in Italy), and when we look at that the procurement department will state that it is too expensive. So, the sales team has an idea. They say: ‘You know what! We can (if you take all three) the entire as a package for $5250, and that is a nice discount‘. So the company takes all this and accepts the deal. So the software is bought, there was a trainer on the spot educating the staff for 2 days and they set up whatever needed to be set up and the entire delivery is complete.

It all seems straight forward. Yet, it is not to be. You see that outsourcers often have a main office outside of that country and they want their franchise fee, which could be 70% of the software, yet they will always get FULL PRICE. So they will get 70% of $3,000, no matter what the discounted invoice was. Now that company has to make due with $3,150 for training, training materials, travel expenses, training hardware and staff. And for every deal they make the cost remain high, yet the revenue has been siphoned off and the cream went somewhere else. Now we get the stage where there was still a profit, yet the staff members are still costing thousands of dollars, as is the office and all other goods. There is not taxation as the revenue was too low and this is where we see the problems for a lot of these companies. They are now in debt, governments having to make deals and I cannot vouch for Interserve, Carillion, Serco Group Plc and Capita Plc, because where I know it was happening was not one of these. Yet I feel certain that others have been playing similar games and it has been going on for over 20 years that I am aware of that tactic.

So does the entire Interserve part now make sense? A debt of well over half a billion and its board members are still up for millions in bonus? I cannot tell what the reason is for the entire Interserve issue, yet what I have seen in the past, we should take a long hard look at what some consider to be debt and what some consider to be an optional approach to deferred invoicing.

We might see partial support when we see the article in the Morningstar (at http://www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/news/AN_1542962437936788100/interserve-expects-higher-operating-profit-despite-construction-loss.aspx). Here we see: “Interserve posted a pre-tax loss of GBP244.4 million on revenue of GBP3.25 billion in 2017. It then recorded a pre-tax loss of GBP6.0 million on GBP1.67 billion in revenue in the first half of 2018“, others sources had a similar setting, yet here we also see the headline ‘News Interserve Expects Higher Operating Profit Despite Construction Loss‘, now we see operating profits versus construction loss? Does it now seem more and more that we are given a half a billion birdie, whilst some are showing to be receiving massive bonus payments? How is this not tackled? How come that for 20 years we have seen the impact of creative bookkeeping, whilst the European governments have been unable to fix anything?

When we see the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/b2c9fdd2-eeed-11e8-8180-9cf212677a57) giving us: “Interserve employs 80,000 people worldwide — 25,000 in the UK — in jobs that range from cleaning the London Underground to maintaining army bases and building a shopping centre in Dubai.” Giving me the speculative thought ‘How long until we see the Dubai part sold off (including equipment) at roughly 5 pennies to the pound? How would that screw over the 25,000 staff in the UK when Interserve folds? We will not know until the Interserve lawyers and accountants finalise they optimised plan in 2019, but I fear that the impact of outsourcing is going to be felt on a very large area. You see, outsourcing growth is through the roof and it is growing in a sphere of influence that has not been seen before. Fintech, Meditech, Pharmaceutics. It seems like the golden calf, yet it is a treacherous field. It might be a temporary field at best. I think that the construction companies have good weather now, yet the crash of the 80’s is still with them, Communications is all about outsourcing, yet when those outsourcers do not finance the training of staff, their usefulness will decline in 3-4 years as the companies are focussing on 5G. In that same light, we see a pharmaceutical growth, yet the setting is that many patents will fall over in the next 5 years. At that point these companies outsourcing can discontinue the renewal of contracts and the staff issue will not be their problem, it will be the problem of the outsourced company and that is starting to push a wave to a much larger degree than we have seen before.

So as we return to the Financial Times article we get “Interserve said profit growth for the year so far had been as expected, and it anticipated “a significant operating profit improvement” for the full year. The group, which swung to a loss in the half-year, did not provide figures“, we knew that, many sources had it. Yet we also get “It has revenues of £3.25bn but is valued by the stock market at just £75m and is already under close watch by the British government in case of collapse“, when a 3 billion revenue company is merely valued at merely 2% of that, there is a lot more going on than mere sneaky keeping of books and that needs to be seen as well. So when we consider: “Interserve’s update attempted to “sugar coat” the increase in net debt and “to deflect from the news” that the Cabinet Office is making sure it has alternative suppliers to take the place of Interserve should it fail. “The operational developments are not good reading either,” he added“, a part given to us by the independent analyst Stephen Rawlinson, we need to look deeper. You see, if the UK does get confronted with: “alternative suppliers“, we need to accept that for a chunk of those 25,000 British workers it will not spell good news, even more so, there is every chance that it gives a larger level of turmoil to those people whilst some board members end up going home with a payout that is between £380K and £2.25M, making sure that they can live in a sea of porn and Netflix for the longest of times, possibly even until the day they die.

Is it that bad?

Well, that is not certain, yet the issue that the UK accounting watchdog had to quit over criticism regarding Carillion (source: the Guardian), they give us the quote: “Stephen Haddrill will depart after nine years in charge of the Financial Reporting Council, which is subject to multiple inquiries into its effectiveness and independence” we get one thought, yet in light of “a committee of MPs described the FRC as “chronically passive” in an excoriating report into the construction group’s failure, condemning the regulator as “too timid to make effective use of the powers they have”” we should consider that there is every chance that Interserve might have been on that same side of the page making the issue larger and more critical. Is it not interesting that too often we see terms like ‘too timid‘ when it comes to dealing with the rich? The entire Sir Philip Green’s £1 sale of BHS is a nice example to keep in mind. The setting where the people behind BHS are apparently not in prison in a stage where “the settlement will not fully restore the retirement income they had been promised by BHS” (source: Financial Times). One of many failings where we see the creativity of applied accountancy and the improper use of non-committal prison sentences to those employing these fast and loose solutions. At present there is a speculative chance that Interserve might be on a similar track, but that is pure speculation, we will not know until the solution is offered, which according to the papers will not happen until somewhere in 2019, until that point arrives thousands of employees at Interserve will likely be in a state of stress. It is one hell of a way to approach Christmas.

Humbug!

 

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