Tag Archives: Financial Times

Drop the Mike, Ashley!

Welcome to the issues on a man that I do not know. This is not the most straight-forward of starts, yet the man who has been valued more than once and that verdict is several thousand stacks of £1,000,000. The man who owns Newcastle United, which means he gets the swanky seat in the stadium. Now, we can understand that this man founded Sports Direct. When you get enthusiastic about sports, you can bet that it will be part of your life. There is no denying it and as it became a good success, I would state ‘good for him’. Yet, the focus on him started in an entirely different way. It started with him getting in on the videogame action by getting a near 26% stake in the franchise ‘Game‘. That brand did not go well here in Australia, yet I always found it to be a decent store and the people working there knew their games and consoles. I have seen them in the UK as well and a similar feeling remained on that experience. Here it did not go well as they were up against EB Games (who grew aggressively at that time) and JB Hifi that was an established chain of quality stores, so they had a murder competition, they did not make it (for the most). Yet all this is now in play when I read “Mike Ashley swoops on video games retailer after profit warning forced by shortage of Nintendo Switch consoles“, this is a weird issue. We get ‘profit warning‘ in regards to a situation of shortage. Basically the story becomes, we are short on revenue/profit because we can’t get any more consoles, they are sold out, and everyone wants one! Which at present is pretty much the truth of the desire of people and their need for the Nintendo Switch, it is actually THAT amazing.

The result was “Game shares rose by more than 15% to 28p on the news, and later traded at 26.5p (up 9.3%), giving it a market value of £47m“, apart from the 28p not sounding like that impressive, it is the end result of +9.3% that is staggering. You see, I have issues with the entire part where ‘profit warnings‘ are labelled in the way they were. You see, the entire mess (as reported) gives no clue on the actual situation (well, the one as I personally see it), I do not care how people quantify one way or the other; it is the addressing of profit warnings.

I offer in evidence the following pieces

Part 1, Sony (at http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2017/01/03/uk-2016-sales-chart-2016-game-sales-down-13-infinite-warfare-the-2-best-selling-game-of-the-year/) gives us ‘UK Sales Chart: 2016 Game Sales Down 13%, Infinite Warfare the #2 Best-Selling Game of the Year‘. In this we see: “The major titles of 2016 also disappointed when compared to 2015’s, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (the second biggest title of 2016) lagging 31.5% behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. In other comparisons, Watch Dogs 2 fell just short of the 500,000 copies Assassin’s Creed Syndicate sold in 2015, Steep performed worse than Rainbow Six Siege, Gears of War 4 couldn’t reach the heights of Halo 5, and Final Fantasy XV was outsold by Just Cause 3.” For those who do not talk games, let me boil it down to the first item is that overall less games were bought. In my personal view, the overall quality of games was not great. Even as Watchdogs 2 was a good step up from the previous game, yet many gamers felt too burned by the first game. I believe that the second game was good, it has online and offline options and people were not forced to go online here. Regarding the other title, I am not a fan of Call of Duty, I know many are. the fact that a game like that became ‘the’ game is not entirely on the fact on how good their Infinite Warfare was, it is more that the other games were way below the line. The fact that the last four larger releases this year alone could be bought for 50% down, including the special editions with figurines is also a changing trend. People are less willing to just shell out the cash for games, reviews are more competitive and even though there are really good reviewers, there are a lot more really bad reviewers and they tend to get plenty of exposure. Yet in the end, the games were for a larger extent not up to snuff. The reviewers ‘deserve’ extra attention as some are more and more about the larger players, whilst some of the true gems have been largely ignored by plenty of people. Nioh is perhaps one of the most visible ones. Like Infinite warfare it is a specific game. I actually like this game, but I loathe the challenge it contains at times (they are really hard games). Some saw that is was some Dark Souls games and plenty of people ran for the hills as this is a game for actual gamers, not for wannabe’s. In my view there are several similarities, yet the only thing that the game Nioh truly has in common with Dark Souls III was its graphical excellence.

So here we see two elements that would push any revenue down.

Part 2, Pushsquare. At http://www.pushsquare.com/news/2017/01/ps4_physical_game_sales_increase_as_uk_industry_suffers_blow, we see more confirmation: “Overall sales down 13.4 per cent“, the mere subtitle and the direct impact that matters, less sales overall, this is not entirely correct, but I will get to that in a moment. The next quote is, as I personally see it wrong, but still essential. With “Bethesda’s Dishonored 2, for example, couldn’t come close to matching the success of Fallout 4, while Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV somehow failed to outsell Just Cause 3.” My issue is that no matter how you slice it, Dishonored 2 is a little bit of a niche game, more intent for those who love stealth gaming (me being one), it is graphically superb, the game is a little steampunk in a very good way, but for the most, it is highly original and exquisite in quality. It is not fair to compare it to a game that has millions of followers and has been revered since its original release (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC) on 11/11/11, the date that some will carry with them for all time. An established success that was bought on the console be new players as well as nearly everyone who had the previous version. The game is good for months of gameplay, so a game that sells itself due to 5 years of raving reports. The second is equally unfair. I myself was never a FF fan, but I have always admired the originality and scope of the stories and the near perfection each game brought. Even I am surprised that Just Cause 3 outsold it, perhaps merely because of the over the top explosions and things you can do with the game? I cannot tell what the exact reason is, yet the second part implies that the gamers are diversifying in different directions, changing the gaming requirement. It is almost like there is a new generation taking over the baton of gaming and it has different tastes.

Yet he best is left for last, in part 3 we see Retail Week

The mention (at https://www.retail-week.com/sectors/entertainment/game-issues-profit-warning-as-uk-sales-falter/7022184.article), where we see “The specialist retailer, which posted a slump in its interim profits in March, said anticipated supply in the UK of the latest Nintendo console had failed to meet expectations, negatively impacting overall sales“, is a first issue. In this the mention ‘anticipated supply‘ beckons the question, so did you order enough or not? As the experts, you should have seen the impact it would make. The E3 and other events clearly showed that Nintendo was blowing both others out of the water. In addition we see “alongside ongoing poor sales of Xbox and PlayStation devices“, now we can argue about Xbox for several reasons, so let’s take this out of the equation, the PlayStation part gives the issue. Overall sales of the PS4 and PS4pro are still up by a decent amount, so it now becomes a shifting focus, but I will get to that soon.

For now I will end with the quote “The group continues to actively implement its UK action plan, encompassing improved supplier arrangements, enhancements to the customer experience, further operational progress including cost reduction programmes and disciplined cash management“, yet will not address it yet. Let’s take a look at three more elements.

The first is from the Business Insider which gives us “Sony sold 10 million PlayStation 4 consoles between early May 2016 and December 6, 2016. That puts sales in the neighbourhood of over 1 million sold every month, which keeps it locked in as the fastest-selling PlayStation console of all-time

The second is again from PlayStation Lifestyle with “Taking a deeper look at software last year in the UK, Games Industry points out that nearly 80% of all boxed games sold last year were either on PS4 or Xbox One (up from 66% in 2015)

The last is G24/7 where we see (at https://www.vg247.com/2016/11/14/ps4-console-sales-have-tripled-in-the-uk-following-the-launch-of-the-ps4-pro/) “Sony’s PS4 Pro launched at the end of last week and has had quite the impact on PS4 console sales. According to MCVUK, PS4 sales for the week ending Saturday, November 12, were up 204%. 65% of the total PS4 sales last week were for the PS4 Pro, while the final sales figure for all PS4 consoles was 44% higher than those for the Xbox One.

Now we put the whole together!

We know that sales were massive end of year 2016, especially with a new console and Christmas coming up, all that makes sense. We can also clearly see that overall, the consoles represent the bulk of all game sales. This partially makes sense because that is what we see as flagships in pretty much any gaming store, PC owners have a lot more options to buy in other places and at times a lot cheaper and there is Steam to consider, so that part remains an unknown and as such a much lesser impact to these stores (apart from the selling of steam credit). The fact that the PS4 is surpassing the previous consoles, is debatable (PS2 sold over three times the amount in its life time), yet the overall market trend is that games should be on par and were up by a fair bit last year. So when we go back to the initial start with “Video game retailers have been particularly badly affected by the broader shift away from the high street in recent years, with developers moving to increase their own profit margins selling games as direct downloads“, which we get from the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/172c3ba1-e880-35e8-9273-957e325cd7f4?mhq5j=e3).

In this there is debate, yet he part no one touches on is how the expectations were set, what they were weighed on and on the given image that sales were down, which had been an upcoming known for close to 2 quarters of a year. The part that the Financial Times gives us is that direct downloads are playing more of a role nowadays. It actually impacts the industry in 2 ways. Apart from buying directly, the additional issue is that consoles have a premium service; most gamers take that because of online gaming and the fact that both systems offer at least 2 free games a month. Microsoft was initially really bad with that (lousy games or games everyone had), they are still not great, yet this month it includes Lego pirates of the Caribbean, which is actually a nice and decent game (and not a large download in console terms). Sony beats Microsoft here hands down with titles like Until Dawn and Life is Strange. In all this both offer decent free games, with a bonus for Sony people as their account will also enable them to get free games for their Vita handheld, all that for around £50 per year, the premium service sells itself to both consoles without any difficulty. All elements that shows the impact of a bad year of games, not consoles, the overall quality of games gives rise to people deciding to just download an average game instead. The interesting part that even as Ubisoft lagged in a few ways, the one game what was awesome in many ways, ‘For Honor’ actually did not do that well, which is a mixed signal that multiplayer games are wanted, yet without a strong one player side, it tends to not make the cut in a top 10, which would be unfairly devastating on the makers I think. All elements that the analysts in this case should have known and realised and as such, when we see ‘would not meet expectations‘, my question becomes: “the expectations of whom and on what foundations?” Now we get to the part I skipped.

With “The group continues to actively implement its UK action plan, encompassing improved supplier arrangements, enhancements to the customer experience, further operational progress including cost reduction programmes and disciplined cash management” I wonder what we are being served.

  • Did they call short because they did not keep an eye on running costs, what arrangements would be needed with suppliers? Were they not up to scrap?
  • Even more customer experience? Were the current settings and anticipations of the competitor not up to scrap?
  • Disciplined cash management? Is cash not managed correctly?

The feedback we got from Game, directly below the image of a sort of smiley ‘Game CEO Martyn Gibbs on the merits of in-store gaming arenas‘ is one that leaves us with the thoughts that Game is going down because they are not on the ball of the game, and the game is passing them by? So in all this Mike Ashley merely flying in to pick up a bargain? In this he better realise fast that Game has an issue and more than one potential issue in play, he also needs to realise that the Games market is a shifty one and in the years before the publishers see clear to push a bigger load to online sales in the next 5 years (depending on where you live), we better consider that top games is a market in motion and it is likely to see a shift that Microsoft and Adobe made some time ago on PC’s, it is not a change that gamers are currently happy with, but it is one that the next generations of consoles will likely face, the game shop is seen as the middle man and they are trying to cut it out to maximise it for their own need to please whatever stakeholders they report on. It is early days now, but in 5 years it won’t be.

In the aftermath we actually need to look where I normally do not go. It is the Telegraph, in this case the business section, where (at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/06/30/game-warns-profits-will-substantially-expectations/) we see the generic parts like “following its third profit warning“, we know that Christmas was weak (to some extent), yet in equality when you consider the previous information, the issue is not entirely just ‘weak Christmas‘, it is merely a much stronger competition to some extent and the fact that the cost of living in metropolitan UK seems to be ignored by analysts and those who speculate on how it would (read: should) be. The issue that is stronger is “The shares nosedived to just 21p on the back of the profit warning, valuing the business at £35.6m only two years after it was floated at 200p a share by US hedge fund Elliott Advisors” as well as “Elliott cashed in £101m at the time of Game’s stock market listing by selling a stake and made a further £59m by dumping a further 10pc of its stake just three months afterwards, despite agreeing to a lock-up period of six months” which now also implies that Game got played and not in such a nice way. Yet the bulk of all the sources do not give any clarity of the part that Elliott Advisors was playing, even the Financial Times steered clear of that part. In this, I am now also questioning the setting as given to Game and its senior management. Even as CNBC is giving the notion that Paul Singer, CEO of Elliott Management is just the best invention since Frozen Yoghurt (if we are to believe places like Forbes, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal), I wonder what price we can see the UK pay for getting played to the extent it is getting by the US Hedge market, in that regard should we allow for any US company coming in under false pretences and flood the market so that they can drain the profit quickly and walk away? It seems to me that they tried that in the Netherlands with Akzo Nobel, which had the great benefit of Elliott Management failing (for now), but it shows the extent that as a shareholder Elliott Management will go to get their profit, it seems to me that Game was not nearly as lucky and the fact that the different levels of publications left that side seemingly in the dark corners of ‘them not printing that part‘ is also upsetting (to me even more upsetting is the part that the Telegraph actually did get that info out). The fact that Game has been seemingly under exploitative attack does not diminish the issues as given by some of the publishers by the quotes, Game got caught out, which under the current size and the possible level of possible losses is a dangerous place to be in.

In all this, I am aware of things, but not as much as a person like Mike Ashley would be, so is this his triumph with Game, should we see this as a mere quick victory to see if he can get more out of this than Paul Singer’s place did, or is it an actual rescue and grow attempt? I am not implying one or the other, but as you see the presented evidence, there are a few issues with Game and I believe as such they were set up as the weak runt in the market, whether this will happen twice in a row is something I have no way of telling and I am not implying anything wrong, immoral or illegal. The entire mess is not completely shown by some players and that is what seems to be the actual issue. I remain in an attempt to be protective of the places that feed my need for gaming and there is a positive in having a diverse and competitive market. It guarantees to some degree I get the best games at the sharpest price, which is what every gamer wants, there is no exceptions to that rule.

 

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About that glass of water

As we see Brexit make the cover pages again, the Guardian gives us ‘UK caves in to EU demand to agree divorce bill before trade talks‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/19/uk-caves-in-to-eu-demand-to-agree-divorce-bill-before-trade-talks). There are a few issues here and it is not on what is decided on. You see “capitulated to key European demands for a phased approach to Brexit talks, agreeing to park discussions on free trade until they have thrashed out the cost of the multibillion-euro UK divorce settlement” is fair enough. It can be debated in several ways, yet in honesty, as we see the issues that the ECB have pushed upon the UK and the payments the UK have made, it can be clearly stated that the 60,000,000,000 Euro a month that Mario Draghi has been dishing out every month will go to the Euro nations MINUS the United Kingdom. If there is a divorce settlement, the impossibility of the ECB petulant child is a spending tantrum the United Kingdom should be set away from, for the mere reason that it is up to the other parents to contain the credit spending spree engaging youngster.

So as the article makes reference to that half-filled glass, let’s take another look at the options.

The optimist is stating that Brexit will only have used 50% of the opportunities. This is debated as we see that not just governments, but banks and financial institutions are all about keeping the EU inclusive and forever growing so that it can be milked more efficiently.

To support this view, from last year (Nov 2016) we got this part: “Rome has argued that the tight fiscal measures are stifling some economies and should be loosened to allow EU members to invest more money in order to boost growth. This stance has set Italy, Greece and other southern European countries on a collision course with Germany and other northern European member states, who have warned that increasing public spending and subsequently, public debt, is a risky proposition for a bloc still suffering the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis“, so as we have seen, these investments have for the most not made any impact. Italy showed a deficit of 2.4% ($45B), France -3.4% ($84B), Spain -4.5% ($55B), Poland -2.4% ($11B), Belgium -2.6% ($12B), Denmark -.9% ($2B), these are merely the annual 2016 numbers. The list goes on and apart form 1-2 none can keep a correct budget, and they have not been able to do so for well over a decade. In addition there is the 60 billion a month EU spending spree. It seems that the opportunities will be limited to banks.

The pessimist states that Brexit comes with 50% additional fees. Part of that was raised by little old me through the overspending of Mario Draghi. The EU has a debt that is now surpassing 12 trillion Euro, which is including the 1.7 trillion of the UK at present, so the UK, one of the 4 large EU economies is merely 14% of that. The other three (Germany, France and Italy) each have a debt almost 50% larger than the UK. These 4 represent 80% of the EU debt. There is no containing this level of irresponsibility, and getting out was from my point of view the best option. The benefit is that the UK could end its austerity in 5-10 years if proper steps are taken. The EU will be in deep debt for a very long time after that and the smaller nations are realising this and that is why they were complaining so loudly (as I personally see it).

The opportunist drank the Brexit cocktail. This is seen in the growing partnerships, the Netherlands has kicked it off by sharing ‘UK and Netherlands sign defence cooperation agreement‘, it increases defence and security when we consider the Ferry services between the two nations, in addition, the countries will also share personnel and work towards a UK-Netherlands Amphibious Force. This should also bring additional opportunities to the Dutch as the have the most modern navy in the world, a military branch an Island like the UK could benefit from. In addition, the overall high levels of technology in the Netherlands would give additional benefits to cyber security operations. GCHQ has skills that the Dutch AIVD would love to get a better grip on, an option that should become available in this defence cooperation (source: http://www.army-technology.com).

The practical politician does not see that Brexit is half good or half bad, he or she puts them together and both are true. Yes, that is one way of looking at it. The issue is not the political view, it is that the view that they offer is on a sliding scale of change, and it always change towards the need of the politician, which is at times nowhere near the recorded metrics. Sean Whelan, the economics correspondent for RTE gives us “The good news is that almost a third of Irish exports to the UK would face no tariff whatsoever. The bad news is those products (and this report is all about products) are almost entirely produced by the foreign multinational sector – in particular, the pharmaceutical industry“, leave that situation to politicians to evolve into personal ‘opportunity’, is in not interesting that we haven’t seen this element before? All the scaremongering and the ‘one benefit’ will be for the large corporations. Is it not weird that only they seem to have a leg up on the benefit range?

So when we talk about the Brexit glass, we get more and more views and more and more pointed news that gives us a scary story. The reality is that in all this, I stumbled on 2 positive developments, directions I pleaded for as early as late 2015. So as we now see the evolution of nations working together, we might get additional proof on the economy.

That part was initially given by City AM, where we see “UK economy will grow by 1.7 per cent this year, faster than the previously forecast expansion of 1.6 per cent, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW)“, which sounds good, yet the UK is not out of the fire. When we also read “Michael Izza, ICAEW chief executive, said: “I would like to see the new government put business and the economy at the top of its agenda, doing more to create a climate of optimism and certainty which will help build confidence“. This is more of the banter we have seen too often, that is given by me in such a statement as the UK has no coffers to invest with. This has been the issue all along, as the previous labour government went all out on spending, we are in a stage of culling these debts, so as we see ‘need for investment’, we better realise that Labour wasted £11.2 billion that went straight down the drain. It will take some time to overcome this in addition to the deficit and the debts. It’s not rocket science and relying on the forecasts as they have been wrong by too much all over Europe, we need to consider which sources to trust. A mere reality of what came before and also a reality as Brexit will have an impact; there was never any denying that. It is just that from my point of view, the UK recovery would be faster outside of, than within the EU. That part has already been shown to some degree, to some mind you, not to the full extent. We can only speculate on that part until Brexit is final.

So no matter how we relate this to a glass, how it is seen. The glass merely is. It is the consequence of long term European injustice. Their convoluted presentation, where big business gets a free pass again and again, not tax accountability of any kind. By allowing the EC gravy trains to be running smooth they also sunk their own options of long term survival.

Yet, the gravy train is ignored. So when I refer to the Times (at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/kinnocks-on-the-brussels-gravy-train-xcxbdkx6r) with reference to June 2016, here we see: “The former Labour leader was responsible for transport and then became a vice-president with responsibility for administrative reform. By the time he left in 2004 Lord Kinnock was earning £163,453 a year alongside a housing allowance and an entertainment budget. He received a payment of nearly £273,000 on leaving office. He has an EU pension thought to be worth more than £60,000 per year alongside the pension he receives for…” and we have not looked at the other 750 members! Still think that I lost my marbles, or are you seeing a spending spree above the 60 billion Euro a month that is too ludicrous to consider?

By trivializing this I am not making it any better, talking about glasses and water, but it aids you to consider that within the European community, the consideration of water can be whatever they want it to be, which means that transparency is pretty much gone. Is that not the first requirement of the European Community? Is Brexit still such a bad idea? This is supported by the Financial Times as they published in May 2017 (at https://www.ft.com/content/7d1eea08-3be8-11e7-ac89-b01cc67cfeec), the article ‘Call for transparency on ECB corporate bond buying‘, now it is important to consider that nothing wrong was done (as far as we can tell), yet when we see ‘MEPs want to dispel any concerns of benefits to small group of favoured companies‘, the question becomes, why was this not done from day 1? The quote “So far, about €75bn of corporate bonds has been bought as part of QE, a small part of the €1.8tn that the ECB has spent overall. Most is spent on bonds issued by Eurozone governments” gives view that it is not a massive amount compared to the complete spending spree, yet €75B is massive, 0.001% of that could secure my financial future, settle my bills have a decent house to live in, so it adds up to a lot, fast! Still the article shows a concern and that is why I went there. The quote “While the actual amounts are not disclosed, the ECB has explained that it buys proportionally to outstanding issues, and market capitalisation provides a weighting.“, yet weighting depends on factors, which factors and how are they applied? Invariable, weighting is done to either ‘regress to the centre’, as a means to present it as an accepted part (by whom is still the question), or to obscure the view of the amount of outliers in the balance of the matter, neither of these is a good thing. In addition, the request “disclose greater detail on this programme’s operating guidelines, in order to explain to citizens how the corporate bonds are being selected“, is a worry as there could be a unbalanced support to corporations with bonds and in addition, the mention “Another request from the MEPs is that other central banks follow the lead of Germany’s Bundesbank in publishing the names of companies with bonds, rather than just the ISIN number, a code used to identify them on the financial markets” gives out that hiding behind an ISIN number gives weight to other issues too. Part of this is in the attached PDF ‘a proceeding under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 54 of the EEA Agreementattached here, where several issues are shown, the quote ‘by requiring European financial firms and data vendors to pay licensing fees for their use‘. So not only is the EC hiding behind these numbers, but there is an additional fee? Well, apparently that was negated to some extent and that agreement ended in 2016, so are there fee’s now, all issues of non-transparency. All these issues chipping away the assumed ‘premise’ towards the ‘validity of existence’ of the EC and even the ECB.

So when we talk about the glass it is not just the size, not about the water that is in it, but the fact that the glass is too opaque in many instances, the fact that some members have known the lack of transparency and in this we see a system that seems to have been intentionally hiding behind non-transparency. If there is one part that proves it, than it is the existence of Grexit and Brexit and more over the time it took for these politicians to give clarity on how proceedings were supposed to go and how the media left the people in the dark on the actual issues. All that, with the confusion we see as the EC seems to be in the dark on how to deal with an exiting nation gives more worries than confidence, because the actions and threats shown is not that of some economic alliance, it is the foundation of some tyranny where the freedom of choice becomes the burden of blackmail, threats and intentional miscommunication.

I’ll let you decide on how much you enjoy being blackmailed and threatened and where the freedom of choice remains in all of that.

Commission decision COMP39.592

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Saturation in Denial

Last week the Guardian published one of the weirder stories. It’s from Lisa O’Carroll and Gwyn Topham with the title ‘Ryanair ‘will have to suspend UK flights’ without early Brexit aviation deal‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/06/ryanair-uk-flights-brexit-deal-wto), why do we care?

The subtitle is a little more interesting, but for very different reasons, so when you see ‘Falling back on WTO rules without a bilateral arrangement would be ‘disastrous’, says airline’s finance chief‘, you need to look beyond the claim given.

Why is this funny?

When you see the quote “Ryanair has warned it will have to halt flights from the UK for “weeks or months” if Theresa May does not seal an early bilateral Brexit deal on international aviation“, we need not worry, we can howl with laughter at the implied push for stress, both Lisa O’Carroll and Gwyn Topham should know better! You see, when you go to www.skyscanner.com.au, and I seek a flight from London to Amsterdam, I get flight offered from $198, for a return. Now, the issue is not the price, the issue is that between the 9th and 10th of April, I get offered 1295 results, stretching 130 pages of flights over a period of 24 hours. Now, we can agree that this does not apply for all locations. For example flights to Munich will only give 934 results and Stockholm gives me 981 options. So basically, there are more options to get from London to either Amsterdam, Munich or Stockholm, than there are trains from London to Birmingham! Now, it is a fair call that this place is filled with Ashton Villa fans, so why would you want to go there, but the direct issue is given. When we see the quote “Ryanair’s UK flights were only 2% of its business, said Sorahan“, so why on earth are we wasting time on a non-issue? Especially when the quote “He said: “We could still operate within that 1960s bilateral agreement” which established mutual flying rights between the Netherlands the UK” is found down the line. It is actually Pieter Elbers, the chief executive of Dutch national carrier KLM, who gives us value with: “It’s a worry. The instability and uncertainty is not good for business. However, it’s premature to go into this will or won’t happen“, which is actually right on course. Any action now is just premature for now and this visibility for Michael O’Leary whilst this is 2% of a saturated business is a bit out of whack on the best of days. A small outdated statistic is: “On a typical July day there are around 30,000 flights across European airspace“, 30,000 flights! Now we can agree that in July plenty of people get on a plane for an annual vacation, yet consider that we are talking about 8-12 million people per day (a wild guess in action). So when we consider Ryanair giving us grief over his 2% fleet, he should perhaps take a gander towards other shores?

This all follows with two more quotes “Brexit has already forced other airlines such as EasyJet into moving aircraft to enable continuity of business” and “Sorahan said Ryanair had planned to grow by about 15% in the UK last year but had instead posted growth of about 6%” The first part gives strength to the statement by KLM executive Pieter Elbers, ‘it’s premature‘ which gives us that some executives like those in EasyJet have a bigger grasp on their continuity of a bonus, than a sound approach towards a saturated market. The second one gives us that Ryanair missed its forecast by nearly 10%, so is this really about some Brexit deal, or is this about an airline that missed its target by 10%, from a 2% group. I am even amazed that this is on the radar of Neil Sorahan. When we consider the Financial Times last year, we see (at https://www.ft.com/content/f337fb7f-b4ba-3ad8-b50b-c698dd7a2adb), where we see “Revenue was €6.54bn, up 16 per cent on the year and only a nudge below analysts’s forecasts of €6.55bn” as well as “Ryanair said it expected net income in the current financial year to increase 13 per cent to between €1.38bn and €1.43bn“, which was off by 50%, so as Brexit was not in the referendum at that point, we get a slightly different view. There is no doubt that there will be a few issues in the post-Brexit era, yet to immediately go into ‘panic mode‘ by halting flights seems like an overreaction, especially as there are 1294 alternatives.

Saturation, when you can no longer absorb or dissolve!

Market saturation is a weird point. I remember meetings in the 90’s where I was part of a group of Americans and they were unable to fathom the term ‘market saturation‘, they regarded it as some fictional state of mind. The question becomes, are the airlines in a state of saturation? Now, consider the question how many of the 30,000 flights are actually an issue, especially with the fact that Ryanair has a mere 2% vested in the UK flights? Now we get that we have to look at it from the other side of the table. 10% of its fleet operates from one of 19 UK airports, so we get that there is a possible issue in the future. Now consider that Ryanair is a commercial operation that requires to have profit, which means it needs to keep its cost as low as possible. Which is a fair goal to have and when you are working a low cost range, you are definitely worried on what Brexit will bring, yet at present, it remains a premature act. Still the underlying score remains a valid one, what does a company do in a saturated market? Well, apparently they whine against journalists. OK, that is not really fair! I admit that, but jumping the shark at this point as politicians are still trying to get their bearings in a place where the facilitation of profit is the major taco to content towards, against whatever natural confrontational issue gets in the way.

That was a mouthful, so let me take a moment to set that in its right perspective. The EEC, EU, or EC; whatever name you want to give that bunny, it seems that the bulk of all European governments are focussed on profit in a place that has a stagnating economy. The problem from my point of view is that profit in a stagnating economy tends to limit those pursuing it to a spreadsheet life merely focussing on next quarter. In this economy the essential need will be to set an agenda towards the next 10 years, not the next quarter. The stock market, the speculators and forecasters state. They are setting the tone for panic modes and sour feelings, even as Ryanair is still moving forward. So, even as Ryanair is trying to get a stronger handle on its ‘Always Getting Better‘ programme, it needs to remain flexible to stay afloat (or flying). In this, they will soon feel a pressure going towards dashboards and short term reporting instead of growing a big data collective where they will enable themselves to get ahead of their main competitors. For that they need visionaries, not reactionists. In that Brexit will fuel the need for reactionists in panic mode, whilst the larger players need to do the exact opposite, take the possible hits they might get and after that move forward stronger, because if Brexit is any indication, the European mainland side will be hitting a recession shelf that is not unlike the 2008 events, but will take longer to overcome. In this several parties have been trying to postpose these events, yet the more postponing we see, the larger the effect will be when it hits and the longer it will last.

Again in this side we will see another emerging wave. The wave of saturation will reflect onto corporations and they will give us new waves of redundancies, where the groups of less significance will collapse opening up options for the flexible larger players, when that happens, those who do not have the data collections in place will lose out on several percentage points of margin in their commercial options. The size and scope cannot be predicted, anyone who claims to do so will not be worthy of your time in this. The fact that these systems have been delayed by a large amount of players will set them back and whilst they start fighting to get ‘something’ in place in the 11th hour does not mean that they remain a player, it merely means that they have invested in a system too late. In this I do believe that if we see a serious approach to their ‘Always Getting Better‘ programme, they could have some benefits, yet that can only be stated with any certainty if we compare what their main competitors offer against what is currently in place. Brexit has nothing to do with that, it is optionally pushing some players to up their game, we must accept that there is a reality that some industries will feel the impact of Brexit, the extent cannot be stated and should not be speculated on, the best solution is to be vigilant and see what improvements can be installed to increase the value of their company and the services that they provide. Big data is only one element and it is not a prophet on a pedestal, it is a tool that allows options if the company has certain levels of flexibility, whether that market is saturated or not, focussing on an event that the people want is not productive.

 

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Prospecting black gold

There has been news all over the world, some news is good, some less so and at times we cannot see whether news is good, bad or irrelevant. To see the dangers, or perhaps the opportunity of what is what we need to look back to 2014, and start that issue with a quote from the Marvel Movie: Age of Ultron. The quote originally from Tony Stark was: “As I always say, keep your friends rich, and your enemies rich, and then find out which is which“, it is a reference to the arms industry and the benefit of mutual escalation. Keep this in mind when you consider the article in the Independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/royal-mail-float-scandal-how-hedge-funds-cleaned-up-9303674.html), the title gives us the immediate threat with ‘Royal Mail float scandal: how hedge funds cleaned up‘, and “Speculators were allowed to buy £150m of shares despite Vince Cable’s pledge to favour long-term investors“, I omitted the claim that it was all due to the postman. That person usually rings twice, especially when Jessica Lange is around. Yet the heart of the matter, like in the movie, is not in the ‘boner’ or the ‘bonee’, it is the aftermath that matters. You see, the gem is seen in the local prosecutor and his ploy to get to the truth by going after one side, yet it is Cora’s Lawyer Katz who stops the evidence to get to the prosecutor, which nullifies whatever was attempted. So consider the part we see in the Independent: “around 20 per cent of the shares it had allocated to 16 preferred investors had gone to hedge funds and other short-term investors. This would equate to around £150m of Royal Mail shares – 13 per cent of the entire stock sold by the Government. The companies bought in at the float price of 330p a share. The shares shot up within seconds of trading, eventually peaking within weeks at more than 600p, allowing the hedge funds to bank vast profits at the taxpayers’ expense“, now consider also that this is a reflection of ‘£150m of Royal Mail shares‘. A system that has issues and allows for ‘deal sweeteners‘, now when you see this, and knowing that the bulk of hedge funds managers seem to get away with murder, consider the arrival of Aramco, better stated, the Financial Times headline ‘The $2tn Saudi Aramco question‘, which is now squarely an issue of titanic proportions (intentional pun towards the sinking dinghy). First things first, you see, this is not a fuel vendor like Shell, or a social media company like Facebook, this is the Privatised Saudi oil company that is larger than the sum of Shell, Facebook, Apple and Google. It is a 2 trillion dollar company, now consider the danger of the floating dangers of something like that, hedge funds managers can clean up and those who do will be set for a decadent life, for the rest of their lives. The dangers of something this big is pretty astounding and the fact that it could happen is not that small. You see, the dangers increases as we consider certain facts. NASDAQ gives us: “OPEC agreed in November last year to curb its output by about 1.2 million barrels per day between January and June“, that is because the stocks are a little higher than expected. This happens, oil will always fluctuate, now consider in the US alone there are 32 oil fired power plants. Production is down (for now) and the moment the first heatwave gets to the US, we see a massive spike in power requirements and 32 of those power makers require fossil fuel. In this I am only mentioning the USA, there has been power issues on a global scale, which is always going to be the case, but one of the largest providers towards the demand is going public and that is what speculators really like, because if the supply & demand need is not properly managed, we see an increase option towards fluctuation. Those speculators only need to get lucky once and the mess would be unrepairable.

The Financial Times gives us some of the goods with: “Privatising Aramco is the first step in rebalancing the economy. By disentangling the company, which accounts for more than two-thirds of government revenues, from the state, Prince Mohammed hopes to make Riyadh less oil-reliant, while providing capital for investment in new industries, ranging from technology, where it is pumping $45bn into the SoftBank Vision Fund, to mining. The privatisation of its national champion is crucial to this process” (at https://www.ft.com/content/7ed59bee-163b-11e7-b0c1-37e417ee6c76), but the heart is seen in: “That is even without looking at the question of how much oil actually lies beneath the desert kingdom’s sands“, when we consider that the oil gains in the North sea is slowing down and this is a signal seen in several places, the fact that at some point (in past, present or future) that something similar will happen to the Aramco goods is a certain fact, it is the when that cannot be anticipated. In addition, going public means that you need to be commercial, when it is government no one really cares, but in the public sector the trend must forever be upwards, so when will we see a similar float in Aramco when the numbers are not as great? It has been an utter certainty that nearly all companies go through, some did it calculated knowing they would kill the numbers within a quarter, some hoping they would kill the numbers and some did it whilst they were desperate for a miracle. Yet floating they went. How much of a $2 trillion dollar company in stock value will tumble when that happens?

And these are the circumstances where the acts were valid and not criminal at all (see UK Mail), I am not making any Tesco assumptions here, because the damage in that case will be devastating to the London Stock Exchange. One firm representing close to 70% of its entire market, there would be no London Stock Exchange after such a disaster. Bloomberg gives us the second tier of risks and dangers with ‘Saudi Aramco Cuts Oil Pricing for Europe Where Russia Dominates‘ (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-05/saudi-aramco-lowers-some-crude-pricing-for-asia-raises-for-u-s), a market that Russia already dominates. What would happen if let’s say 3 days after going public, Russia decides to slash their prices for a short time? How would the market react? Not just to Aramco having to follow, but the forecasted annual numbers then take a dive, at who’s expense? Consider that the European market is ‘ruled’ by Russia and Norway, together they make up for 50% of that market and the Saudi part is smaller than Norway and 80% of that 50% market is just Russia. So they can influence the market a fair bit. You see, Bloomberg gives us “There is a risk price wars may resume in Europe, raising the possibility the output cut agreement won’t be extended to the second half of this year“, meaning that in the second half Russia could flood the markets and the streets with black gold. That impact would be felt all over the stock market. There is one part that I am uncertain on. You see, it reads like a small and insignificant part. The quote: “Aramco will tweak the benchmark it uses in the region to make it easier for crude buyers to hedge their purchases” seems small, but consider that hedging is done by a few hundred buyers for up to 25,000 barrels. It seems like nothing, but with 179 buyers it is almost a week worth of crude oil, now the ‘stock is full‘ issue becomes a larger one, because this is a level of fluctuation on stock levels that would impact on the stock prices, the mere stock is full a few weeks ago had a $3 impact (or 4.6%), that becomes a little more than insignificant. Now, I could be wrong here as I am not in the oil, yet you see that this is a concern when it impacts a $2T invested interest by more than just hedge funds managers.

The last part comes from the Guardian. In Jan 2016 they stated “Saudi Aramco is likely to be worth well over $1tn (£685bn)“, this is important as we do not see 1.2 or 1.5 trillion, so this given number implies that in a year Saudi Aramco grow by more than 40%, the exact number cannot be determined. Other media stated that Aramco had grown to 2 trillion last year, but none have given enough evidence to state which number is the reliable one. That too impacts this new market, especially the initial dangers of floating a stock. Yesterday (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/05/theresa-may-lse-saudi-aramco-uk-london-stock-exchange-oil) we see: ‘May and LSE chief woo Saudi ministers for $2tn Aramco listing‘, here we see: “Xavier Rolet, has launched a charm offensive in Riyadh to woo Saudi ministers with the prospect of London hosting the upcoming flotation of Saudi state oil company Aramco, which is likely to be the largest of all time“, the word ‘flotation‘ is given and the danger is now out and about, in clear view of all. So as the UK government is trying to appease Khalid Al-Falih, energy minister of Saudi Arabia (and CEO of Aramco), as well as Yasir al-Rumayyan, the director of the Saudi public investment fund – a sovereign wealth fund, I have to wonder where the Rothschild’s are, because there is no way in heaven or hell that the Rothschild family would be absent of a 5% of a $2T company option and not be a player in something with the ROI of billions, especially after the losses they had with Kurdistan and Africa. They have skin in the game now, and they need a victory in this field, their ego demands it from themselves!

In all this the final part given in the Guardian must not be overlooked, because the quote “Downing Street announced on Monday it had drawn up plans with Riyadh to boost support for Saudi’s much-vaunted Vision 2030 strategic plan for diversifying the Saudi economy to decrease its over-reliance on oil, spearheaded by the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who met May on Tuesday“, as this now offers the level of revenue to fund the ability to become the largest 5G player in the middle east, with options to diversify into Europe, the far East and America. It is perhaps the first time in history that a public company would shoot to a top position in mobile communication, ready to set the market and their values in a few ways on a global scale. For the simple reason that moving into technology and not go for the new tech that will determine the fate of the large mobile and telecom players between 2019 and 2027 seems extremely short-sighted.

 

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Dangerous levels of extinction

Bloomberg reported Yesterday that Nicola ‘Sturgeon Sticks with Timing for Scottish Independence Referendum‘ (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-01/sturgeon-sticks-with-timing-for-scottish-independence-referendum), which is a little odd after the previous one not so long ago. As I stated in earlier blogs, I am not against Scottish independence, I think that at the earliest point, Scotland should seek independence. Yet at this point it is not a good idea. The situation has not changed for Scotland, at present their budget is already 11% short and that is with the inclusion of decreasing oil revenues. This means that within 10 years there will be additional problems for Scotland. And this is only the start of their troubles. You see RTE reported only 12 hours ago ‘Spain would not ‘initially’ block Scotland from joining the EU after Brexit‘, the catchword is ‘initially‘, we see the quote “any part of the United Kingdom that becomes a state and wants to join the EU will have to apply. And follow the steps that are stipulated“, this is the part that matters. Basically until Scotland is truly independent there is every chance that Spain would object, and that is just one of the 27 nations. After that when Scotland is independent, the initiation into the EU would start, which could take up another 5 years, perhaps even more. That is the part Scotland faces, so Scotland is facing the consequence of independence, growing a ‘national‘ debt and after that we see the issue that Scotland would be debt driven and getting into the EU, a triple banking issue (debt, interest and inflation levels), all levels that Scotland would need to overcome.

For example, try googling Scotland and economy and see what you get. What economic achievements did Scotland have gained in the last two years? The Financial Times gives us a part I actually do not agree with (at https://www.ft.com/content/7c6f8ca8-0807-11e7-97d1-5e720a26771b) ‘The economic case for an independent Scotland rests on the EU‘, to that the Scottish response should be: ‘the dog’s bollocks they are!‘ In this Scotland needs to grow an economy, so far, as long as Nicola Sturgeon has been in power, not too much has been gained in that department. I am certain that there are options, I even mentioned one in April 2015, (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2015/04/05/the-labour-manifesto/) where I write “I am still reasonably certain that Indian generic medication could grow all over Europe if they have a foothold in Scotland, which allows easy access to places all over Europe“, so which Scottish politician had actually made any headway into looking beyond the EU, its ECB with big debt credit cards? Because when the credit card stops, Scotland will be in levels of hardship they have not seen before for the longest of times. At that point, who will the Prime Minister be when that happens and where will that person lay the blame?

In the end that is a Scotland that has no chance to build any future at all. How is that a good idea?

So as we see that Scotland is focusing on the USA with the added quote from Bloomberg “She also noted her political differences with President Donald Trump, who owns golf resorts in Scotland. During the election campaign, the Scottish government stripped Trump of his role as business ambassador for the country“, which sounds nice, but how did she fare with Corporate America? Scotland might be open for business, but where is the interest in Scotland? How about the Far East? How could Scotland become a hub for places like Indonesia, India, Pakistan and China? With Beef as an export, why not benefit by creating a European Halal Trade centre in Scotland? With ferries leading to Norway and a growing Muslim population, there are options, it only requires the right politician to open certain doors. I am not saying this is a solution, I am merely showing that options are there, the right people only need to look into the right direction. Because, as I see it, relying on the USA and ECB grants will not work, not whilst Europe is in the state it currently is. With Italy set to grow no more than 0.9%, its position is weaker than France and its youth unemployment still stands at 38%, implying that Italy’s infrastructure will remain under harsh levels of duress for several more years. The quote “Italy’s chronically low growth, low inflation and gigantic public debt burden (133% of GDP) make a potentially deadly trio” gives us even more to worry about (source: the economist), with the UK having triggered Article 50, France elections still having the consequence of a Frexit signal and Italy under the duress it is in, the European Union will only have Germany to be the large positive impact player on its economy and that one is not faring too well either. So this is the moment Nicola Sturgeon want to enter the EU whilst going independent? It is not just a bad plan, with a non-closing budget she will be drowning Scotland into debt and this debt will grow and grow leaving Scotland with no options for any future at all.

Yet we could go with the definition of Sturgeon that she is honouring. I cannot state whether this is the same for both Prime Ministers and fish, yet the International Union for Conservation of Nature gave us: “According to the IUCN, over 85% of sturgeon species are classified as at ‘risk of extinction’“, which is a large group that Nicola Sturgeon seems to be happy to join, the sad part is that she would like the whole of Scotland to join her in this, which is really not a good idea, or fair on the population of Scotland.

 

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Banking France

The last few days have seen a serious change in multiple directions in Countries all over the place (in that rugged area known as Europe). One part is not a surprise, the news that the ‘Pound jumps against euro‘, it is the second part ‘as Germany’s inflation data shocks markets‘ that is cause for concern. We should not be that surprised, because it had been known that Germany was facing a slowdown, which in light of so many events in Europe makes perfect sense. It is the by-line “as German inflation fell short of expectations to give a big setback for the European Central Bank (ECB) programme to support the Eurozone economy” which is the actual story. You see, last week I mentioned Mario Draghi and the dangers he represents, we now see the first chunk of worry that came from ‘Decoupling Draghi is hard to do‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/03/28/decoupling-draghi-is-hard-to-do/). The mention of Reuters and how big funds are having concerns is now more than a fact. The quote “This assessment had raised hopes the ECB could perhaps cut short the money-printing programme, which injects billions of euros into the economy each month. But the fall in German inflation will be seen as a sign that money-printing will not be reined in any time soon“, implying more and longer printing of money to do something that never worked the first time around and will in equal measure fail the second time too. It is a side that the papers are not touching, not by a mile, yet it is also the reality that we face in the upcoming reality of Frexit. This is seen in two parts.

The first are the big 4 powers in the EEC Economy. France, Germany, Italy and UK. With UK triggering article 50, the stability of the Euro is now gone. Whether we have Frexit or not, the reality is that the Euro has relied on the German economy for a decade and now that there is an issue, that whilst The French economy has been stagnating since at least 2015 (actually longer than that), now with the German economy taking a dive towards no-growth, the issue changes dramatically, because the Italian lack of growth had been an issue for some time. With the German setback, the dangers of printing money becomes a lot more visible and the acts of the ECB needs to be questioned by several governments, who are actually not doing that. In equal measure the media at large seems to steer clear from the entire ECB debacle, which is a worry on another level. All this is now part of another shadow that is covering the ECB. Reuters has given view to the following quote “The documents show repeated violations of the ECB’s own rules by its executive board, chaired by Mario Draghi, and come amid staff complaints of favouritism at one of Europe’s most powerful institutions” as well as “Staff representatives complained last year to the European Parliament, which oversees the ECB, that dissent was discouraged at the bank, potentially hobbling its ability to spot the next financial crisis” an issue that should be very much on the minds of every European government, as the ECB is costing them a fair amount of money. Another Jewel from Reuters is seen in the quote “Recent comments from the ECB were misinterpreted, according to a Reuters report citing ECB officials, after President Mario Draghi dropped some of the more dovish central bank language and did not replace its bank lending facility at its latest policy meeting on March 9” as well as “adding to the slightly hawkish feeling, ECB policymaker Ewald Nowotny said a week later that the central bank would decide in the future if it would raise interest rates before ending its quantitative easing program, a comment that took market participants by surprise“. Whilst we can argue on the value of “The core inflation rate is currently running at 0.9%, not close enough to the ECB’s stated aim of ‘near to 2%’ to cause President Draghi to change anything, even rhetoric, at the next ECB meeting on April 27“, the reality is that we are facing a quarter of feigned misinformation due to what I would see a as an unacceptable level of ‘miscommunication‘ (read: misinterpretation). Especially when we consider that quote ‘comments from the ECB were misinterpreted‘, misinterpreted by whom? By the economic governmental powers, the banks, the traders? Is a major factor of the ECB not ‘clarity‘? Should clear communication not be seen as a way to thwart ‘misinterpretation‘?

The fact that the ECB is not just showing favour in the wrong places, but a level of non-clarity gives a second failing by the ECB, that whilst they are still printing billions of euro’s on a daily level. Not the place where you want to be anything less than crystal clear. It is that factor that is enabling Marine Le Pen and giving more and more concern towards Emmanuel Macron. There is a second sight to all this. You see, part of the entire election is set on what some agree ‘what is good for France’, yet who decides that? When we consider “The major candidates for the French presidential election Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon all present their economic programmes to the Medef employer’s federation today. All will be hoping the influential group will give them the “business-friendly” imprimatur” (source: Reuters), It is in that light that I refer to the Saxo Group, who has an interesting article (at https://www.tradingfloor.com/posts/europe-divided-the-front-nationals-absurd-economics-saxostrats-8577141), there are too many quotes to just pick from and in the end, my version might come across warped. What does matter is the question that follows:

If we agree that the New Franc is not immune to speculation, how come that a national currency is (as claimed) so susceptible to speculative attack?

There is no clear answer, yet it is an important one, one that Marine Le Pen needs to answer. In addition, the article implies that Medef needs the ECB and that there is a link, as such we get two parts, the first is that Marine Le Pen is getting discriminated out of two economic groups, making the French elections no longer fair. The second is that the ECB has been setting up links and connections giving them unelected national powers in nearly every European nation, how is that in any way acceptable, especially when it gives them the influence over elections?

So why is it an issue?

For me, not that much, yet when we consider the actions since Brexit intent, and now that Brexit has started, we suddenly see the same panic driven media mob with headlines like ‘Study: Frexit chaos would be ‘worse than collapse of Lehman Brothers’‘, where we see the label ‘doom-mongering‘ with the quote “the population at large is in favour of the single currency and that there is little to suggest any economic benefit to doing so“, this whilst we know that leaving the Euro is almost the singular reason that Front Nationale with Marine Le Pen is this popular. Then we get ‘Why ‘Frexit’ not Brexit should top bond investors’ fears‘, with the mild claim “‘A more pressing concern [than Brexit] is ‘Frexit’,’ he said. ‘Le Pen is polling well in the run-up to April’s presidential election and looks likely to win the first round. She has pledged to lead France out of the single currency“, which is given AFTER Article 50 was delivered to the processing parties. What remains unstated is that with 2 of the 4 large players remaining, the Euro cannot survive. They are mellowing it down with ‘the Front National is unlikely to win sufficient National Assembly seats to enact her policies and such a decision would probably be subject to a referendum’, yet as I see it, when the French realise that Macron in conjunction with Manuel Valls is gaining momentum, the French are angry (according to several sources), in addition Fillon is losing ground too fast. There is no doubt that it will be between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, even as at least three elements have decided to discriminate against Front National, her numbers are still stable. This should be a worrying factor to many as this implies that her vote will be carried by just the French voters, no tainting by Medef or pressure through foreign European leaders.

No matter who wins, there will be a powerful backlash. Even if Macron wins, France needs to realise that changes are essential to survive what comes after. Italy is up next and there the mood is also heavy. The Financial times was ‘timid’ with ‘Italy is falling out of love with Europe‘, it is however not that easy and it is getting harder in Italy on several fronts. Here is largely a blame game in session and the truth is that Europe, the ECB and others are not that guilty in the hardships that Italy faces. Its debt is far worse than Greece and the Italian banks have no way to deal with this problem. So there is a chance (not a very realistic one) that the next in power will start the Italeave signal. Even if that happens, the chance that France and Germany can keep the Euro afloat is much more realistic, but it comes with a two decade burden that any hardship or any recession (read: some kind of economic crash) would be disastrous to both the two nations and the Euro, a risk that the ECB, IMF and Wall Street are very willing to take as it gives them time to find other solutions to not get killed in the process.

So in the end, we are now 36 days away from learning whether the Euro will be dead or only near death, yet still dying.

 

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The finality of French freedom

Even as the world is looking at the Dutch elections, we see initially that the biggest fear in the Netherlands is gone. Geert Wilders is still number 2, yet the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) did not lose as many seats as initially expected. This is good for the current Prime Minister, yet not as good for Geert Wilders as other parties had vowed not to work with him, no matter how many seats they got. Well, the initial numbers are out and now we see that the Netherlands will have some tough times. To get the next Cabinet to work they will need 4 parties, which becomes a small issue. The easiest alliance would be involving the CU (Christian Union), yet any medical ethical issue would cause concern on a few levels (the usual suspects like the pill, abortion, prolife issues). The second option is with the Green Left party (GroenLinks), which is predominantly youth driven, here the VVD will have some issues and there seems to be a level of unwillingness to work together. Now, the first option gives only one seat in majority, the second option gives a little more space to breath, but neither is a great match, both are decent matches. The Dutch labour party has been decimated. It went from 38 seats to 9 seats (Source: Volkskrant). They will need a serious amount of time to lick their wounds. No matter how this all fares. If Geert Wilders can keep his cool, he would keep a few options down the track. Here it is anyone’s guess what will happen next. I predicted that there would be no going around the PVV, yet I was proven wrong. Green Left grew a lot stronger and the VVD kept a few more seats than most predicted, so there is that too. Yet, with this situation, Nexit has basically become a non-issue, it is off the board for the Netherlands, so as that certainty becomes a reality we see that Mario Draghi wasted not even a second to give the French people his demands and ultimatum. In  the Express (at http://www.express.co.uk/finance/city/777170/Euro-irrevocable-ECB-draghi-Le-Pen-Frexit-vote-warning), we see the headline “‘The Euro is IRREVOCABLE’ Euro Bank chief fires warning at Le Pen over Frexit vote promise“, so if we would be a lot less diplomatic than we ought to be, we would state ‘Mr Looney Tunes has decided to be a slamming tactical in his claims‘. The two published facts given are “The ECB chief insisted the Front National leader was not a threat to the euro’s future, which he said was a measure of solidarity among members. His comments come after Ms Le Pen’s promise to call a vote over France’s membership of the monetary union if she wins the election in May“, You see, with smaller members pushing pressure Draghi had no chance at all, now, he has a few more options by trying to persuade the system players with “a measure of solidarity among members“, which I can counter with ‘perhaps spending the trillion you did not have was perhaps not the best idea?’ In that we can agree, we can disagree, but we all know that no matter the direction, it was a pretty dangerous step to take. It is the next two parts that are the cause of issues: “Market worries over the presidential race have increased as polls charted the rising popularity of the right-wing candidate, with France’s borrowing costs jumping, while the euro suffers sell-offs. In an apparent shot at the right-wing candidate, Mr Draghi today dismissed fears of the breakdown of the currency as ‘unrealistic’“.

Is that so? If that actually was the case, he would not have needed to reinforce it, didn’t he?

So the two parts are ‘with France’s borrowing costs jumping, while the euro suffers sell-offs‘ and ‘the breakdown of the currency as “unrealistic”‘, no, it is only unrealistic as only Brexit is coming and until now, we have seen levels of misrepresentation and downright corporate ‘blackmail’ to anyone not singing the false tune Mario Draghi is giving us. Last week there was some economic recovery, but the sharp sell-off that had been visible is still a factor, that whilst the Dutch Nexit was never a true reality, we all knew that. France is another matter, the French has not seen decent economic days, for at least two administrations, which is why France is a big deal, that whilst they represent one of four anchors keeping the Euro in place. With the British anchor removed, the stress on the three is intense, the Euro cannot continue with the remaining two anchors that is the desperate game Draghi is facing now. Weakness and non-decisions from 2012 onwards have caused this mess, and of course he is not done yet. As we see in Reuters, last Monday he stated “If non-high-tech companies adopt more innovative technology, that would provide a boost for European productivity“, speaking as the European Central Bank President last Monday, it that so? With what funds? Innovations requires money, such steps have a cost. To get into deeper debt without the true prospect of revenue and incomes is too dangerous a game to play for too many companies. Many who think in such short-sighted ways will not survive the next fiscal year. In all this, it all hangs on how the elections are going in France. Mario Draghi might be voicing ‘a measure of solidarity among members‘ but the people behind the French member have been in a bad place for too long. In this there is even more pressure growing from Italy. Bloomberg gives us ‘production declines after rising for three straight months‘ as well as ‘Unemployment unexpectedly rose to 11.9% in fourth quarter‘, more important, the production loss is the biggest one in 5 years and pretty much nullifies the last two months of growth. That whilst we see a growth in unemployment. It is in this light that France should consider its options. That is, in equal light should reflect on whom they need to support in an election that will have a massive impact on the course that France will take into the future seas of turmoil. Steering towards the new elected President. What is equally disturbing is that the French political lines are changing, to a much larger degree than ever before, for reasons that are actually slightly unsettling.

The question becomes why?

You see, French Senator Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne is now endorsing Emmanuel Macron, we knew that François Fillon is pretty much on his way out and François Hollande never had a chance; so is this an act to enforce any party that is not Front National? Consider that question, it is now no longer for some to support the net best candidate and the best winner. No, there are now signs that certain power players will unite in backing whomever is most likely to stop Marine Le Pen. Certain plays have become this dangerous, not for what she is, who she is and what she stands for. No, certain members seem to fear and not embrace economic change. The Status Quo is everything. In equal measure, Macron has won the endorsements of those abandoning Benoit Hamon. Some press have even resorted to headlines like: ‘Hamon plans radical departure from EU ‘blabla’, some parties are now extremely worried, especially as the Status Quo groups could lose their Billion Euro gravy train. This is almost a unique situation where we witness the change of approach towards the need of individual economic momentum, which now trumps the electing the need for the good of France (I am not stating or implying which politician represents that).

My evidence?

There are several pieces in the more respectable news carriers. In this case a first is the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/cbf9a59c-04a1-11e7-aa5b-6bb07f5c8e12), who gives us: “Fifteen years on, however, the anti-far right “republican front” to stop the FN appears to be crumbling“, which is only an indication. The chart that they present in that article gives a very nice indication of the splitting of votes. The strong push from Fillon and Hamon towards Macron is almost unheard of. The abstention group is however still large enough to make an impact, yet the shift from 24.5% to 60.5% is also a little more than amazing. Such landslide victories are so rare, that seeing it twice in a row is no longer a mere coincidence. In this Mario Draghi could actually end up being the contributor to the success of Marine Le Pen. As he proclaims the quotes I used earlier, the large group that currently represents the younger voter that currently seems to be set in Emmanuel Macron camp at present, could realise between now and voting day that the words of Mario Draghi are hollow at best and that his ‘proclamation’ will be replaced hours after the election by apologies and words of hardship whilst claims of better economic times cannot be fortified or made into any level of reality on any way shape or form.

In that light, is it not weird that an investment banker who has never been elected to political office, is at present not a projected frontrunner, is forecasted to carry an optional 60% for round two? That isn’t just unheard of, it is a statistical anomaly and in the political field, such landslide levels are a no-no to say the least, especially twice in a row. Someone is buttering the electoral sandwiches in new unheard ways. Now, France or not, we can agree that extreme vote options like Marine Le Pen tends to sway a decent amount of people to go towards ‘anyone but this one‘, yet the numbers at which this is happening at is just too weird. In this we see that both Bloomberg and Citigroup are playing their own little game, especially as the collapse of the Euro would be devastating to those involved. At https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-15/le-pen-win-would-wipe-out-25-from-french-bank-shares-citi-says, we see ‘Le Pen Win Would Wipe Out 25% From French Bank Shares, Citi Says‘, which is really intense and I wonder what evidence they can present, especially after these players got it so massively wrong after the Brexit vote. So the first quote “A victory for Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections would cripple the country’s banking stocks, says Citigroup Inc” is one that cannot be countered easily, yet when we see the graphics on that page, we also get: “The analysts predict declines of 30 percent and 34 percent for Credit Agricole SA and Natixis SA, respectively“, there it is, everyone’s favourite French government banker (Natixis) would lose 34% value, which would send anyone reeling, but in this case as the information as I presented them in my blog articles over the last two years, this drop would be impacting long term plans and Natixis does have a decent amount of fingers in all sorts of government pies. And the quote “Even though Le Pen’s policy plans threaten to shake up the country’s banking system, financial institutions including Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and Axa SA have avoided contact with her team“, which is also really weird, would you not try to talk to a candidate and even if they are all in the mindset that her approach is wrong, the veritable truth is actually in a direction on a path that is 180 degrees from shown. A dialogue trying to understand her path and showing the evidence to other directions and perhaps even alternative ways for both to get what they want.

Yet as we have seen, certain players are in the Segregation, Isolation and Assassination mode. Which is me stating that some shady solutions which are usually limited to HVT’s are now optionally tactics in which the larger corporations will engage to keep their status quo, this is nothing new, but it has never been this outspokenly clear before, there is that much at stake for them. Even if it is merely political assassination, Fillon is already crying those words and the setting towards the investment banker Emmanuel Macron is now clearly visible. I reckon that in this regard, the switch by French Senator Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne came slightly too soon, too soon as an increasing amount of voters are now wondering why the change, because such a shift would not have been needed until after the first round. As I personally see it, French Senator Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne used himself to create a momentum towards Emmanuel Macron, an act that will only create more momentum over time. This I see as the second piece of evidence that this time, the elections are about something a little more unsettling. I wonder if the French people see it in the same light.

In the Bloomberg article we see the included wrong vision too. As you see “losing the May 7 runoff against more business-friendly leaders such as Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron” gives us the ‘implied‘ fairness of two candidates, yet at present, two days after this, we see that Fillon got gutted, not surviving on his present 19.5% setting (3rd place), he gets to be the chance for Macron to solidify the pole position.

Citi is currently doing to France what several UK players did to anyone supporting Brexit, the question becomes: ‘Will the French voter realise this in time?

More important for Marine Le Pen will be whether this would realign those who are now predicted to go the Macron way. Time will tell and when we start seeing accusations in 2018, 2019 on how big business is influencing French votes, you better realise now that the warning signs have been all over the place and the non-intervention seems to be relying on the press and a select group of financial power players. By the way, it does not stop there, it goes on in several direction. Now, I do not feel inclined to prove them all wrong, it would make this merely a ‘he said-she said’ debate, what you should consider is the final part that Bloomberg gives us, “the analysts predict” is in the middle. You see, predictions require models, they require data and a few more little titbits that make up for the forecasting models. This model has to deal with two elements it cannot correct for as it has never happened before. First is the fact that President Hollande is currently the least favourite French president in modern history, and soon to be the only one term President in French modern history, so one of the data outliers is based on a premise that had never happened before, the second part is the ‘forecast’ that an politician, never elected in public office before becomes the person growing to over 60% in one round, as I see it, another prediction that is not a given. Are you getting the image? Whatever forecast we are introduced to will be a lot less accurate as several elements in play have never seen the light of day ever before. As such, there are serious questions in play on any prediction given in this election, no matter in which direction it goes.

I personally believe that Marine Le Pen is not the given loser (with 60% opposition), there are a few elements in play, but in equal measure I do not believe that Emmanuel Macron will be the given winner to the degree forecasted either. In the end, we will leave it to the French People to decide who will go to the Élysée Palace, not the banks, not the lenders and not any collection of ‘storage and media clowns’. All these proclaimers are for the most, all on the gravy train of globalisation (the Macron side), a term that has been filling the French with disgust for the longest time and the last 10 years have not been kind on any positive feeling of globalisation. Still, in the end the French will need to remain a little pragmatic, which does not mean surrendering to Globalisation, yet in equal measure there is uncertainty on how France will deal with Frexit, unlike the UK, they are directly tied to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain, so there are a few more practical considerations for France. I believe it can be done, but it is up to the French to select the referendum to leave the EEC and the Euro. We can forecast all we like, but if there is one thing the Dutch election have taught us, is that these matters are not black and white and that the outcome is currently getting bounced on the waves of identity and economy, two elements that never worked well together.

 

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