Celebrities

Sayonara Japan

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Today CM leaves Japan after 20 years. This was the first time I’d actively seen passport control beg me to keep my permanent residency. For 5 minutes she painstakingly asked her senior colleagues and tried to reason with me. My comment to her was “don’t worry, I’m not drunk” after repeatedly checking whether I was sure about the decision. She asked what were the reasons. “Where do I start?”

First of all I want to thank the Japanese for their custom, politeness and privilege to stay in their country. It has been truly amazing and life changing.

Sure the honest service drives one batty with its inflexibility but to those who whine about it can always choose to live somewhere else. Respecting a culture is true of any land one visits. Note to Western civilizations. It’s up to others to fit in with the host, not the other way around. Japan has this nailed.

What was the lasting memory of Japan? Simple really. The earthquake, nuke explosion  and tsunami of 2011. What it allowed was a clear cut look at a society that is so well bonded. People didn’t loot. Nor did they greedily hoard essentials. People just took what they needed. Had this been HK or anywhere else it would have been pandemonium. Keep calm and carry on typified Japan.

The lasting photo memory was during a motorcycle trip to MinamiSanriku. This image of a tsunami darkened Minnie Mouse sent chills down my spine. Staring up at the trees on the hillside, the leaves had turned purple because of the sea water which had risen almost 20 metres high. Car wrecks ragdolled in the rip. Windows smashed out of all levels of a 5 storey apartment block. Mother Nature was angry.

When my kids begged to go to Hawaii, they protested about my suggestion to see the devastation first hand. To see with their own eyes. Video and pictures do no justice, I told them. It turns out they appreciated the experience. I gave my younger daughter – then 7 years old – my camera because I wanted to capture images through her eyes. Amazing results.

There is too much to write about with 20 years under the belt.

As the sun sets in the land of the rising sun for me personally journey it shines brightly 9,000km south.

The next stage was a no brainer. So much for dealing with alpha types in finance, many of who’d sell their grandmother given half a chance. I’m overwhelmed with excitement about the prospects of saving the lives of people who know sacrifice and have protected our freedoms. The small team I will work with are as dedicated, hungry and inspired as I am.

My life needed a reboot. Sometimes there is a touch of Tom Cruise in Risky Business in our lives where we must make hard decisions and simply say, “what the f”

Writing this novel about my grandfather’s experiences in WW2 has inspired me to think of living life to the full. How most of us have got it so easy even though some pretend we’ve never had it so bad.

I will always have a soft spot for Japan. Handing back a permanent residency might seem mad in the overall scheme of things but it was the right decision. You can’t make a new start holding onto the past.

Sayonara Japan.

Musk channels the Black Knight?

It has become apparent that the SEC & Musk had a deal which would see him removed from Tesla yet his lawyers have rejected it at the last minute because he’d rather fight the charges. One could argue in favour of his bravery to appeal against what looks to be a very open and shut case about breaching probably the most basic of errors in standard reporting to the exchange to ensure fairness.

Maybe he feels that he is only going to get a slap on the wrist? In the 63 odd charges laid out against individuals by the SEC for reporting violations in 2018, the average fine has been $75,000. Hardly a ripple to Musk’s net worth.

The bigger risk for Tesla shareholders if Musk loses in court against the SEC and is forced out (to be honest his board should demand it) will be losing a figurehead who at the very least has managed to make a company with no profits, monster debts and questionable actions worth more than Ford, FCA & GM combined. Betting against Musk has been a dangerous game. He may well be teflon coated but it remains questionable whether he can strap himself to his reusable rockets and escape the fraud charges.

Actions speak louder than laughs

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While the mainstream media has blown much hot air about the UN GA audience laughing at POTUS during his speech, where was the very same audience backing the poster boy of virtue signaling and globalist politics? Here is a picture of Canadian PM Trudeau addressing the UN General Assembly during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on Sep 24th. Worse, a whole section of them are on their mobile phones. As impolite as deleting/sending emails during the speech of any world leader (or anyone for that matter) is, at least being laughed at suggests the audience was paying attention to the content, as ridiculous as anyone may have made it out to be. As much as Trump’s boasting and glass jaw were on full display, it was standing room only, because love or hate him, his words have global ramifications.

While French President Macron might have sounded sensible castigating Trump’s America First view as fanning the flames of nationalism around the world, perhaps he might have reflected on the shift toward populist parties across Europe occurring well before either took office. Macron should remind himself that anti-EU leader of the far right Front National, Marine Le Pen, achieved twice the vote ever achieved by her party. 35%.

People may not have noticed but Sweden’s newly appointed PM Stefan Lofven has lost a no confidence motion yesterday. The right leaning Sweden Democrats achieved the fastest growth in the Sep 9 election, taking almost 18% of the vote from 12.9%, holding the balance of power despite the establishment is reluctant to wed . All the while,  3 weeks have passed and a no confidence motion has occurred.

Italy is now run by an anti-EU M5S & anti-immigrant League coalition. Austria voted in a EU-skeptic party led by a 32yo Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The Brits voted for Brexit. The Dutch awarded the fastest growing share to platinum haired Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. The Hungarians and Polish have openly told Juncker where to stick his views on forced migration. Even Chancellor Merkel had the worst showing of her party in 70 years as the anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland took 13% of the vote, achieving 94 seats in the Bundestag mostly at the expense of Merkel’s CDU & former European Parliament President Schulz’s SPD.

Poor old Justin Trudeau had a member of his own party, Leona Alleslev, defect to the Conservatives stating she was ‘concerned about the government’s handling of the economy.’ It is one thing for the opposition to berate the government for poor stewardship but it is deeply embarrassing to lose people from one’s own party due to a lack of confidence.

So yes, we can collectively laugh at Trump for his bluster, chest beating and itchy Twitter fingers, but one would hope the mockers at the UNGA would glance in the mirror and realise that their constituents are becoming ever more disillusioned with the establishment they represent. These are the same people that bashed the president for calling out their lack of commitment to NATO, with 23 nations well behind promises made of their own volition 12 years prior. Could it be that for however abhorrent they might find the current leader of the US, he is calling many out on their failure to hold up their end of the bargain?

At the end of the day, no matter what one’s personal feelings for Trump may be, we have to live with his decisions. He is far from perfect. Yet instead of the predictable constant drone of noise following his speech, perhaps countries would be better off putting aside personal differences. Rather than crossing fingers in hope he maybe impeached so they can go back to the status quo and live the very lies he has exposed in his almost 2 years in office. Now that type of hypocrisy is truly laughable. Indeed the very fact that out of touch politicians can mock in such a manner shows just how badly they stink at relaying the very messages they think resonate with the public.

Will financial planners bring out a Naomi Osaka ETF?

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Japanese investors can get star-struck with investments. In 2015, popular pop-idol band AKB-48 saw the stocks of companies it was sponsored by surge 136% relative to the market. Aggregate sales of those companies surged 46% and 30% over the following two years. Such is the ‘hayari‘ (boom) culture in Japan. Corporates know this.

Since the US Open win by tennis star Naomi Osaka, sponsors are lining up to sign her. Prior to the win, Nissin Foods, WOWOW & Yonex were already sponsors. Nissan has just signed her. Since the win, the Topix has risen a tad over 6% while Nissan, Nissan & WOWOW have risen 7.5% in aggregate. Yonex has jumped 12.2% Early days to be sure, but the likelihood is that if she is sponsored by some smaller less liquid stock names these stocks could well fly.

Forget fancy models and esoteric investment strategies. Find whatever Osaka will be sponsored by in Japan and outperform through popularity over underlying earnings performance.

Any financial firm that launched a Naomi Osaka basket would likely see massive inflows and be able to charge higher fees on the back of it. Will the marketing departments wake up?

Emmys – baloney without cajones

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When the content is so predictable it stands to reason that ratings drop. Neilsen noted the 2018 Emmys awards show pulled in 10.172 million viewers (-4%) and a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49, it’s lowest ever. The 2000 Emmys drew in 21.8mn by comparison. Some may talk to modern day luxuries of streaming which would boost these dreadful numbers but the reality is Hollywood’s obsession with shaming is the more likely culprit. The Oscars are down 40% on five years ago. It’s no surprise.

In recent years, self absorbed celebrities think the formula is hypocritically chastising their audiences. Whether the topic is climate change, #MeToo, white privilege, Republicans, Trump and now Christianity, the event is less about self appraised back slapping but almost entirely about identity based political grandstanding.

Such was the high level of comedy that one of the MCs stated, “The only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads.”  Here’s a challenge to Hollywood – would they dare say “The only black people that thank Mohammed are Democrats and ex-crackheads”? After all it’s just comedy, right? Of course they wouldn’t dare. They are the very racists they condemn.

At another event Anne Hathaway made her psychobabble statement about white privilege,  how transgender doesn’t circle around cisgender and other races don’t circle around whites to rapturous applause.

The irony is that behind all of the public self loathing, the same actors and actresses who cheered  happily collect their millions, live behind gates mansions with armed body guards, protest the NRA, turn a blind eye to sexual harassment but protest on the red carpet by wearing three fabric postage stamps held together with dental floss and tell us how out of touch we are. Really?

Their audience figures should tell them they are indeed the out of touch ones.

Cinema attendance in the domestic US market is back at 1993 levels. In the 1990s Hollywood made 400-500 films annually. It now pumps out more than 700. The average revenue per film continues to head south.

It is interesting that $100m box offices were a cert for an Oscar Best Picture award til 2004 after which it has been hit and miss since. 9 films in the last 13 Best Pictures have failed to breach $75mn. The 4 that didn’t miss were all about real life stories – Titanic, The King’s Speech, Argo and A Beautiful Mind. Funny that.

Instead of realizing that their interpretation of identity driven art isn’t sinking in with the public, Hollywood is now prepared to blot the history books – such as deleting the flag planting on the moon scene in ‘First Man’ – to destroy the very formula that seems to resonate with audiences.

No, in the fight for equality we must disparage innocent, hard working citizens by questioning their faith and mocking their intelligence. Hollywood can keep up the performances at these awards ceremonies. Doubling, tripling or quadrupling down on a formula that continues to fail only shows where the lack of insight lies. Too much time in rehab?

By all means many may be willing to listen to celebrities if they practiced what they preached. Say, where are all those celebrities that threatened to leave the country if Trump became president? That’s right 99% are still here. Let’s not forget Leo DiCaprio flying his eyebrow stylist half way around the world on a private jet whilst telling us climate change is the most pressing issue of our day. Actions not words. In today’s society virtue signaling on social media is deemed enough.

 

More love for Naomi Osaka

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20yo Naomi Osaka deserves every success she gets. She is without doubt the hottest marketing prospect globally. There is no media spin or polish with her on any level. She is authentic in the extreme. No prima donna antics or bragging. If anything her press conferences since returning have defined her as ‘what you see is what you get.’ Humility and grace. Pray we get more millennials like her. She shows one doesn’t have to beat their chest in ridiculous ways to get attention.

No wonder Adidas want to throw $11.9m per year to sponsor her. As a Nissan ambassador, despite her media appearance in front of the Leaf electric vehicle, when asked Naomi just let her inner petrol head scream her favorite car – the GT-R. Lucky for her she will get one in white.

The world of tennis couldn’t have a better ambassador for the game. Let’s hope that the media don’t pry too deeply into her private life (good luck with that) and her sports manager doesn’t put her on a multi-year roadshow from hell to please sponsors which would put any star to the test.

Is Musk losing it?

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Is Tesla CEO Elon Musk losing it? More senior resignations from accounting and HR this week  reveal more cracks in the automaker. He emailed a journalist, calling him a “mother f*cker”. He went further to say he hoped the cave rescuer he called a “”pedo” sued him because a UK man who is single and spent so much time in Thailand must be a child rapist.

He rattled off he had “secured” funding of $420/share to go private and then all of a sudden he didn’t, prompting the SEC to investigate. He was then on radio with comedian Joe Rogan toking what is reportedly a mixture of tobacco and marijuana. Are these the actions of a man running a $50bn market cap company?

Clearly his board can’t control him.  With the shares collapsing and bond prices falling, refinancing will become problematic. Chief  Accounting Officer Dave Morton quit the company after revealing his concerns about the various obstacles Tesla faces.

Tesla’s Chief People Officer, Gabrielle Toledano, took leave in August and said she wouldn’t be returning to Tesla.

Musk has been a genius and visionary to get Tesla where it is today. Yet he is a direct victim of his own hubris. Sleeping under boxes with Tesla bankrupt written on them to living on the factory roof to rattling off about production hell while accusing families of drivers dead due to over reliance in a system he aggressively promoted.Tesla was technically asking for suppliers to refund a portion of the monies they were paid since 2016 to the EV maker so it could post a profit which is borderline accounting manipulation in an attempt to give the impression of an ongoing concern.

He also complained at the lack of support in the media despite being called out on this nonsense.

Musk’s compensation is also linked to a $650bn market cap, which is effectively saying to the market that his company will be worth more than Daimler, BMW, VW, GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Renault, Fiat-Chrysler, Ferrari and Porsche combined. Just read that last sentence again. Do investors honestly believe that Tesla which consistently misses and is going up against companies that have been in the game for decades, seen brutal cycles, invest multiples more in technology and forgotten more than they remembered will somehow all become slaves to a company which has no technological advantages whatsoever?

The Tesla story is on the ropes. Expect more mega-releases on new products to try to keep the dream alive and the disciples faithful. I guess ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ worked for The Beatles…