Economy

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.

40 Maseratis for PNG shows commitment to combat climate change

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Last month Australia was beaten over the head for not helping the Pacific Islands cope with the dangers of climate change which is causing those countries to supposedly slip below the waves. What better way to use part of the $150mn in aid money from Australia to buy gas guzzling sports limousines from Italy.

Of all the 4-door cars least suited to the PNG climate, Maseratis would be top of the list. Pot holed roads, firm suspension  and 20inch alloy rims wouldn’t work so well neither would the high performance V6s help lower the CO2 content that is such a grave risk to their survival. Lord only knows why anyone would pick an Italian car to stand up to corrosion by the sea side?!? To the best of CM’s knowledge a Maserati Port Moresby dealership does not exist,

Yet we shouldn’t forget that as angry as we have every right to be in Australia, these islands know how strategically important we are to them for national security that we should count ourselves lucky they didn’t go for the 4.7 litre high performance V8s with the optional high performance pack.

China’s President Xi has visited these islands in the Pacific. Our Aussie PMs Turnbull and Morrison have just sent the Foreign Minister showing a lack of priority. We just take for granted that cutting cheques should be enough to curry favour.

Do we really believe the $12mn gift from China to install CCTV cameras in PNG is for the locals’ benefit? Beijing will happily monitor everything, including facially recognizing our politicians when they visit. Might as well bug the meeting rooms while they’re at it! All because we’re too daft to think just because we have history that gives us a leg up over China. Best think again.

At the very least signing FTAs with these island nations won’t even be a rounding error for China’s GDP but there is no question we are way behind on diplomatic negotiations.

So when they buy Maseratis with our taxes we should not bat an eyelid. It’s a pittance in terms of what places like PNG mean to our long term security.  In fact we might have been better off suggesting the PNG government buy Rolls-Royce Cullinans as  a more sensible alternative given its SUV abilities.

The scariest part of the IPCC’s 2030 forecast isn’t actually the science

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Before we read into the validity about how we’re doomed before 2030 if we do not strictly adhere to the preachings of the UNIPCC’s latest gloomy climate bible, this is far more compelling

The Delinquent Teenager, written by Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise chronicles how the IPCC participants are picked by governments, not for their scientific knowledge and expertise, but for their political connections and for “diversity.”

Other issues she uncovers go as far as to say that approximately 1/3rd of the sources for the IPCC come from magazines, press releases and unpublished scientific papers. It also tables corruption, scandals, and conflicts of interest. The Summary for Policy Makers (i.e. our leaders) is compiled by bureaucrats not scientists and often completed before the articles they actually summarise are made available.

She writes:

Richard Klein, now a Dutch geography professor, is a classic example. In 1992 Klein turned 23, completed a Masters degree, and worked as a Greenpeace campaigner. Two years later, at the tender age of 25, he found himself serving as an IPCC lead author. Klein’s online biography tells us that, since 1994, he has been a lead author for six IPCC reports. On three of those occasions, beginning in 1997, he served as a coordinating lead author. This means that Klein was promoted to the IPCC’s most senior author role at age 28 – six years prior to the 2003 completion of his PhD. Neither his youth nor his thin academic credentials prevented the IPCC from regarding him as one of the world’s top experts…

Or

Nor is he an isolated case. Laurens Bouwer is currently employed by an environmental studies institute at the VU University Amsterdam. In 1999-2000, he served as an IPCC lead author before earning his Masters in 2001. How can a young man without even a Masters degree become an IPCC lead author? Good question. Nor is it the only one. Bouwer’s expertise is in climate change and water resources. Yet the chapter for which he first served as a lead author was titled Insurance and Other Financial Services. It turns out that, during part of 2000, Bouwer was a trainee at Munich Reinsurance Company. This means the IPCC chose as a lead author someone who a) was a trainee, b) lacked a Masters degree, and c) was still a full decade away from receiving his 2010 PhD.

Or this

Sari Kovats, currently a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is an even more egregious example. She didn’t earn her PhD until 2010. Yet back in 1994 – 16 years prior to that event and three years before her first academic paper was published – Kovats was one of only 21 people in the entire world selected to work on the first IPCC chapter that examined how climate change might affect human health. In total, Kovats has been an IPCC lead author twice and a contributing author once – all long before she’d completed her PhD.

One of CM’s favourite passages though is when one of the expert reviewers noticed “in a particular section of the report, the IPCC was basing its arguments on two research papers that hadn’t yet been published. In itself, this should ring alarm bells. Since the wider scientific community had been given no opportunity to scrutinize them, it was surely premature to consider.”

So we are expected to fork over billions of dollars to defend this junk science?The biggest battle the scientific community faces is the damage done by the fraudulent data manipulation. The scandals are too numerous to mention. If a fInancial industry pundit missed 98% of the time they’d be fired.

Maybe the trick is to make regulations that will lead to fines, jail sentences and stripping of credentials (such as the finance industry) should scientists be caught fiddling the books. Afterall isn’t inappropriately wasting taxpayers money through junk research just as bad as  torching investors’ hard earned cash via insider trading?

Were such laws passed we would soon see alarmism paint a far less hysterical position.  As it stands the UN shows once again why it needs defunding. Afterall they thought Robert Mugabe would make a good ambassador for WHO. With judgement like that who’d doubt their credibility?

If we’re so keen to stick to Paris should we feel guilty about nuclear power?

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Australia seems keen to stick to the Paris Accord. Despite knowing whatever we do on saving the planet through following the politics of Paris will result in no palpable change in world temperatures at considerable economic cost to overstretched taxpayers. If we seem so keen to do our bit for tokenism, why not copy so many signatories and build nuclear plants? After all if we don’t want to be censured for abandoning the accord should we feel any sense of guilt if we adopt the very same CO2 limiting measures of others? Safety in numbers – literally.

CM was privy to a meeting with a former US Navy officer who was speaking about how negative PR can create false narratives. Nuclear power was one of them. He argued that the US & Japan were losing the PR war hence technological leadership on civilian nuclear power. The likes of Toshiba-Westinghouse are now shrinking minnows whose dwindling order book looks like the victim of a sunset industry when in reality it has been terrible program management. However why should it?

Nuclear power is set to be 14% of global electricity generation by 2040 from 11% today. Emerging Asia get the practicalities of nuclear power. Affordable and sustainable baseload with virtually no emissions.

Of course the horrible outcomes of poorly managed nuclear plants has come at great financial cost as experienced most recently  with Fukushima but the safety record of nuclear power is astonishingly good. Quantum levels more people die in coal mine accidents every year than the combined deaths from radiation from Chernobyl or Fukushima meltdowns since either occurred.

The misplaced fear of Fukushima was so high at the time that Americans across the Pacific were stocking up on radiation masks and Geiger counters in preparation of impending irradiation. It seemed the further one got away from the reactor the more hysteric people became. Deaths in the US as a result of the Fukushima meltdown? Zero!

As it stands, the US has two nuclear plants under construction at present which are saddled with delays and costly overruns based on incompetent execution. The Chinese have twenty in the build phase. India 7. Korea and the UAE 4 each. Russia 3. Even Bangladesh & Pakistan have two in the pipeline using technologies outside of the US/Japan.

There are about 150 power reactors with a total gross capacity of about 160GWe on order with about 300 more proposed. Where are the former world leaders in power technology? Next to nowhere. Cowering in a corner and allowing themselves to be beaten up senseless over false statistics. Where is the PR reporting reality? It’s as if they’ve given up. Where is the media lambasting China, India and other nations for putting our lives at risk? That’s right – nowhere.

What probably escapes many people is that for all the negative news cycle around nuclear power and the thirst for renewable alternatives, many Americans are already surrounded by active nuclear plants. While they visit a zoo or the beach they are blissfully unaware that at all the naval ports dotted around the mainland (e.g. California, Connecticut, NY, Florida, DC, Texas, South Carolina etc) and islands (e.g. Hawaii, Japan) there are 100s of nuclear reactors sitting safely in close proximity to millions of civilians. Yet where is the outrage? Not a peep.

Shout from the hilltops at the efficiency of renewables all you want. Then explain why those with higher levels of renewables as baseload power end up with the highest incidents of blackouts and steepest prices.

South Australia is the case in point. Australia is home to the cheapest materials (gas, coal and uranium) to make affordable electricity but we have caved to the green madness and saddled ourselves with punitive power prices to meet goals based on unproven and often whistle blown manipulated science. If climate scientists were subject to the same punitive damages that players in the financial industry are then it is likely the “targets” leading to our ecological disaster would be pared back to such a degree we’d just keep calm and carry on. Yet because there is no risk of jail sentences the tax dollars get misappropriated, funding an industry whose survival and growth depends on fear. Talk about a lack of ethics.

Even worse we want to double down on this inefficient renewable technology (where claims are often made on 100% capacity rather than the 20% they truly operate on) despite having empirical evidence of its all too obvious shortcomings. Virtue signaling actions such as blowing up old coal fired power stations has ironically proven the stupidest of moves in that all the while demand hasn’t changed reductions in reliable baseload supply makes us vulnerable.

Throw on the desire to electrify the automobile  and we already know that existing base load won’t cope with the increased demands. Take a look at Britain as an example. Apart from the risks of losing massive fuel tax levies (around 5% of total government revenue) the power industry’s current projections of new electricity generation additions can’t meet the expected demand if we all plug our EV in overnight.

So Australia should quit worrying about what others think and act in its own best interests. Maybe Canberra needs a PR agency more than the nuclear industry does. High time to look at real data and sustainability.

 

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?

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…