Tag Archives: Mike Ashley

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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The orchestration has engaged

It is nice when the world falls apart, when you look at the abyss in front of you softly stating: ‘It cannot get any worse!’, then you feel a foot pressing against the lower spine of your back as you lose your balance and fall down. The last thing you hear is ‘Guess again!’

This is how certain news events felt the last few days. I am not referring to the McCain family, who states that the press has not learned anything, post-Leveson. Was anyone surprised?

My issue is with Andy Street at the John Lewis department store (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/03/john-lewis-boss-andy-street-says-france-finished). In light of Tesco, I wonder what drives this person. Yes, we all know that John Lewis is upper class shopping, yet is that reason for whatever you think? Apart from your freedom of speech, which I will not hinder, my question becomes, in light of your remark “He told the gathering of entrepreneurs that the award was “made of plastic and is frankly revolting”“, so not only are you a snob, the element grace is just not within you. Fair enough! Yet, consider that as you got recognised with an award, you should consider the 3 G’s, “Be Gracious, Be grateful, Get off!” (Thanks Paul Hogan for that jewel!)

I am all for freedom of speech, but I am also in favour of accountability. So when I read this: “Street advised his audience: “If you’ve got investments in French businesses, get them out quickly.” The eurozone’s second largest economy is struggling for growth under President François Hollande and the country’s finance minister admitted last month that it will overshoot the EU’s 3% budget deficit target this year. The French economy has been hampered by low growth and poor tax receipts in recent years“, I wonder how often Mr Street got hit with the silly stick in the hours before he spoke these words.

The second issue I see is also from the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/02/warren-buffet-tesco-huge-mistake), this is an entirely different matter. We all make mistakes, so when a billionaire admits to this with the headline ‘Warren Buffett: ‘Tesco was a huge mistake’‘, it is not that big a deal initially, but then I went to think it through. Why is there such a massive overreaction in regards to Tesco? Yes, the profit was overstated; however, Tesco made over ONE BILLION! Can we please wake up now? In a year where most nations are doing worse than zero per cent, in a time when the straps are on so that we recheck every dime we spend. Tesco made over a Billion. Yes, I saw the statements ‘too big to fail‘, but in this instance I do not agree. In the case of the Dutch SNS Reaal, that place LOST a Billion, Tesco MADE a billion, so can we please wake up and not overreact?

So, when the response comes, ‘Well Lawrence, you seem to be overreacting here a little above average’, my response would be ‘darn right!’

You see, the initial events, of Blackrock moving out, whilst this is a drop on a plate, is what I personally see as a form of orchestration, a few big wigs who seem to be hoping on massive write offs for Tesco. There is something so darkly unethical about such actions, that these greed driven profiteers would endanger the incomes of tens of thousands just to get a nice dividend. This is what it looks like, am I right?

That remains to be seen, but overall the fight is not done yet. Tesco is not sitting still and the new Tablet as it launched just now could be another incentive, especially if we consider where Tesco could also be active. If this is the budget option, with Tesco Mobile in the Netherlands, This gem could find many happy homes during the Dutch Sain Nicholas feast (which is on December 5th), in additional to the Christmas celebrations, as many Dutch do both instances. Tesco is not done by a long shot and the activities that we see give me the impression that several actions do not seem to be about ‘cutting losses’, but as stated on many occasions that I am not an economist.

So, when I see this article http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/billionaire-mike-ashley-bets-on-tesco-bounce-back-30616710.html, where Mike Ashley, who owns Newcastle United takes a 43 million pound share believing that Tesco Shares will bounce back, I say “well done Mate!”, two thumbs up for this man. Now, let’s be honest, as this man seems to be a millionaire a thousand times over, 43 million will not seem like a big dent in his wallet, but the fact that this man is willing to enter more cash then I will ever make (even if I grow to the ripe old age of 14645), the entered amount will boggle my mind for some time to come.

This is one of the two parts where disbelieve is still on the front of my mind. Let’s be clear, I get the entire write off, loss of share value, yet the actual occurrence, especially with a billion in profits is too strong to be just a jittery action from the market. The fact that Blackrock moved out to this extent is still an issue. It left me with two options, either they know something Dave Lewis has not been told yet, or they wanted a curve so that they can make a sweet deal down the track. Let’s not forget that the value write off is just on paper, it is like a virtual event. Blackrock did not hand over these billions in gold or actual cash; we are seeing the fallout of virtual value (as I see it). And this all gets me to the final quote, which was also in the Warren Buffet article and had been mentioned in earlier articles. “UK fund manager Neil Woodford – who decided to sell his stake in Tesco in 2012 after its first profit warning – said last week it could be a long time before any of the British supermarkets became good investment prospects again“. Why?

You see, if he sold his shares earlier, fair enough. Yes, we see that Sainsbury is lowering expectations and shares have fallen there too. I think that all supermarkets will have to change their entire approach. We see that places like Aldi and Lidl are growing, especially in Australia where Aldi is now more and more a common sight, yet over here Woolworths and Coles remain. The same applies to England, in the end people need food, so these places will remain locations where food is bought and yes, as Tesco mobile remains competitive, people will come for that options too. All that is a given, so why such a massive overreaction?

This is at the heart of my foundation for suspected orchestration. If you are in the UK, then take a look at the papers and the degree that they are looking at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. They did the auditing for Tesco, so why is not every reporter looking at PwC and seeing what links might be there, which is not an accusation, but consider all the redigesting we see on several papers, they all mention PwC in a casual way, when they have been auditing Tesco for some time. Only the Times (at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/banking/article4214689.ece) had done so, yet the full article is not available to me as I am not a subscriber (one of the reasons why I stick to the Guardian).

There are two more quotes the first is “Shorting Tesco has been a profitable bet” and “Traders gamble on falling share prices by borrowing equities from other investors and selling them in the hope of later buying them back cheaper – known as shorting” The latter quote comes from http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2772107/Dont-shred-thing-new-Tesco-chief-warns-staff.html, so it is a way to make money, even though it seems unethical, the act is not, but one could call it questionable. This is the one moment where I need to ask the one question in regards to the given scenario. Let me first add the following quote “Lewis’s ‘no shredding’ order will be seen as a sign that he is determined to get to the bottom of the problem.  It also indicates that the group fears the errors – whether or not deliberate – may extend deep into the company“, as well as “Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Mike Dennis said: ‘A discrepancy of this size suggests this is not just the behaviour of a few individuals, but behaviour instilled by the senior management team“, which is where I was all along. Is this the case and if that part was known to 1-2 insiders, could this be the reason for certain action? What if Blackrock dumped its part to cause a stronger downfall, so that they can buy it again later with a much more interesting profit curve, which makes up for a lot more than the small loss they had, what happens then?

All valid questions, I just wonder if those who have actual answers are willing to give them, because it looks like a slippery slope of massive proportions. As this happens to the one place that feeds a nation, how will the people react should evidence of intentional tampering ever be shown?

Then how angry will the people get?


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