Economy

Amazon’s Auschwitz?

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The Japanese Communist Party’s “Red Flag” newspaper wrote an article about the deaths of three Amazon Odawara warehouse workers. The article has been pulled down from the party homepage. The reality is that families of the dead never sued Amazon as the cause of death were deemed private matters. The Labor Safety Inspection Office never ordered remedial action to be taken after the deaths.

However the blogs about the warehouse are calling it “Auschwitz” because of low wages and long hours causing fatigue. In any event it seems that the Communist Party took it down on the basis that “Auschwitz” was deemed an inappropriate comparison to the plight of the factory workers at Amazon’s warehouse operations in Odawara.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has been going to great lengths to improve work-life balance (e.g. Premium Friday) and limiting overtime to 100hrs a month and 720 hours per year.

Perhaps the MHLW could move to enforcing a minimum 10 working days holiday for staff. It is not hard to find holiday packages to Europe or America for  4 nights only. Hardly the ideal way to wind down.

Yet we mustn’t forget that Japan is not capitalism with warts but communism with beauty spots. Often change has to be driven at a government level because businesses are too afraid to make even boldly common sense moves by themselves for fear of losing face. Take former PM Koizumi’s “Cool biz” programme that encouraged companies to allow workers to abandon neckties and jackets in summer to combat the heat combined with power restrictions. Corporations were too afraid to think outside the “box”. The state needed to rubber stamp it as a norm.

Tesla Q2 – Simple Minds

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When Simple Minds wrote the lyrics to Promised you a miracle, never could they have imagined Elon Musk could have used them to present his earnings release:
The original lyrics:
Promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As golden days break wondering
Chance as love takes a train
Summer breeze and brilliant light
Only love she sees
He controls on love
Love sails to a new life
Promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As golden days break wondering
Only love she sees
He controls on love
Life throws a curve
Everything is possible
With promises
Everything is possible
Oh
 
I promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As golden days break wondering
Chance reflects on them a while
Love screams so quietly
Slipping back on golden times
Breathing with sweet memories
I promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As golden days break wondering
Only love she sees

Perhaps Tesla’s Q2 lyrics may have gone:

 

Promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
Model 3 customers left wondering
Ever more cashflow down the drain
Suppliers freeze as they’re $3bn light
Only delayed payables do they see
Yet he controls the bluff
Profitabilty sails to a distant life
Promised you a miracle
Credibility is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As the golden payday keeps wandering
Only trust he pleas
He loses controls on Twitter
Life throws a curve
Sledging Thai rescuers is possible
With promises
Everything is possible
Oh
I promised you a miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As warranty provisions must take a hike
Investors reflect profits may take a while
Short sellers scream so quietly
Slipping back on golden times
Breathing with sweet memories
Banks were promised a profit miracle
Belief is a beauty thing
Promises promises
As targets keep fumbling
Only wait another quarter he says.
CM has said time again that Musk is a brilliant salesman. How he has managed to build a debt edifice worth more than GM, Ford & Fiat-Chrysler combined is a testament. Musk has continually missed delivery on so many promises that there is little stock in backing anything he says.
He championed $2bn in cash & equivalents but leaves out $5bn in accounts payble and accrued liabilities. The cash isn’t “net”
The company still reported $739mn negative free cash. While the rate may have slowed from Q1 it is shockingly high. Is it any wonder letters were sent to suppliers in an attempt to massage the figures to make the numbers look optically pretty.
Tesla wrote, “We aim to increase production to 10,000 Model 3s per week as fast as we can. We believe that the majority of Tesla’s production lines will be ready to produce at this rate by end of this year, but we will still have to increase capacity in certain places and we will need our suppliers to meet this as well. As a result, we expect to hit this rate sometime next year.
The problem with this statement shows the naivety of Musk’s lack of knowledge on mars production. Profitability isn’t sustained by cranking to 10k/week if demand won’t be there when it hits that milestone. There are already flip-a-Model 3 websites littered with early adopters hoping to cash in on the initial euphoria. Yet if new stock is coming out that fast, many are likely to cancel orders because there is no arbitrage opportunity.
Customer deposits fell $42mn on the quarter. Tesla noted non-reservation orders are outstripping reservation orders. If reservation orders are stagnating because or cancellations or deliveries that is not a bold claim worth much. The company suggests it is no longer taking reservations in US or Canada because current supply can meet it but deposits would still be required to hold a car at a showroom before final payment so the customer deposit line should reflect that.
Even when CM ran the most optimistic of scenarios for Tesla, valuations would be mere fractions of what the stock trades today. Yet investors overlook the tsunami of new product from competitors made by brands who have spent decades perfecting production and have access to far superior distribution networks.
More smoke and mirrors. Simple Minds are all that is needed to read through the lines. Nothing remotely impressive with these numbers.
In closing, when the company talks of the ability to power slide the Model 3 when it has faced so much criticism over deaths related to false beliefs in its autopilot system you wonder whether Musk ever listens to legal advice? Well If he can blame the families of crash death victims it is clear he thinks of customers and investors as nothing more than beta testers. Then again if he can promise them miracles he is ultimately the winner if they buy into golden days.

Coles comes to its senses that the consumer is always right

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What rubbish! Literally! The plastic bag ban in supermarkets in Australia was only ever a sop to green madness based on spurious science. Coles and Woolworths didn’t consult customers as much as they claim they did. If they did, why has Coles started to provide them for free again? Could it be a consumer backlash? Let’s see how much more business Coles does as a result!

The idea of a spontaneous shop on the way home from work. Perhaps the sick wife has asked her husband to buy milk, bread, a sack of oranges and ice cream. People want convenience. That doesn’t absolve them of being responsible stewards in their disposal. CM reuses the bags for disposing rubbish. Why should CM be punished for the laziness of others?

In a nutshell it is further evidence of the true colors of the majority of consumers with respect to environmentalism. Just like people that buy SUVs and fly overseas on holidays. Most want others to do the “save the planet” thing on their behalf. Just ask Leo DiCaprio or Cate Blanchett. They’ll preach about our need to do our bit but are the first to board a private jet to go to the next film festival.

This Coles news made it to the Japanese press. Supermarket chain ‘OK Store’ charges ¥6 for a plastic bag or you can make a box from all of the packing the food arrives in which costs nothing. After packing your box you can recycle the cardboard in the paper bin. Simple.

Yet what is this constant penchant to boycott everything. A sort of collectivist pitchfork movement.  Why not just let consumers express their free choice? If Coles see consumers reject the restoration of plastic bags they’ll take them away just as quickly. Tired husbands forced to do an emergency shop for a sick wife don’t require social justice warriors to give evil glances on the bus.

For CM, the next shop WILL be at Coles.

 

Fair facts about Fairfax

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Freedom of the press. A beautiful thing. By all means, the 177-yo Sydney Morning Hearld (SMH) executed full autonomy over what it published. In the end, the public didn’t buy it. For the staff to seek the union to block the Nine Network’s takeover of Fairfax Media smacks of the identical numb-skulled action that has brought them to this predicament. If the paper decided to listen to what the audience wanted to read (the mood) as opposed to telling them they “don’t get it” it might have retained its independence. Take a look at the pictograph above – 20 anti Trump articles in one day. Overkill?

Last year the SMH had to take two massive rounds of lay-offs inside of 12 months because the product wasn’t reaching. The SMH staff took a vote to strike because their evil overlords put profit ahead of people. Welcome to the free market. When one journalist at the SMH became a scab (because he admitted the paper’s journalism was the  problem) he was vilified by his fellow workers. Instead of opening their minds that they maybe the root cause, they protested. Finger on the pulse?

It certainly makes a strong case for how the diminishing readership base (i.e. the free market) viewed the content. Not very highly. It is why The Guardian now asks its readers for charity so it can stay alive? Could it be that media jobs don’t exist to serve the journalists needs but that of their audience? The Fairfax scribes might reflect on the fact that the taxpayer funded ABC – which produces identical product – was not the friendly ally it believed it was but the mortal enemy who ended it. As an audience, if we’re not offered a differentiated product where the same content  is free to consume, who would pay for the one that costs?

Yet the sale of Fairfax was obvious. Digging a bit deeper into the stats of the ABC reveals its biased left leaning journalism has dwindling popularity. Comparing 2016/17 and 2015/16 it is clear that TV audience reach for metro fell from 55.2% to 52.5% and regional slumped from 60.3% to 57.3%. If we go back to 2007/8 the figures were 60.1% and 62.4% respectively. For the 2017/18 period, the ABC targets a 50% reach. Good to see taxpayer dollars openly championed with enhanced levels of mediocrity. Yet the ABC screams for more funding.

Throwing more money won’t fix the problems. The ABC’s wage bill is 50% of revenue while its multicultural sister station SBS runs on 31% of revenue for salaries. Why hasn’t the ABC got superior economies of scale? On a global basis, the UK’s BBC spends 22.7% of its revenues on salaries. How can Nine Network survive on advertising revenues? Could it be audience numbers allow advertisers to make rational decisions to tap them?

Criticise Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian for right wing media bias but at the very least he serves a market who is willing to pay for the content. Simple. It is no difference overseas. Fox has more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined. Don’t belt Fox viewers for following “Faux News” but question what is it about their offering that they’re missing? At what point do the likes of Fairfax or Time Warner realize the problem lies within.

In Fairfax’s case we have the answer – market forces.

Juncker deserves a stiff drink after that

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President Trump strode into the Rose Garden with EC President Jean-Claude Juncker where, together, they announced the elimination of tariffs on industrialized goods.

No stranger to slapping people in the head, Juncker understood that when the leader of the strongest nation in the world slaps you back it is often worth paying attention to. There is much left to be desired about the unorthodox methods used to achieve such outcomes but if such deals are achieved that should be hailed as a success.

On top of that, Trump received commitments from Juncker to increase purchases of soybeans from American farms and to purchase large amounts of LNG, something likely to upset the puppet-meister.

So NATO members have promised to get their act together on honouting commitments to spending to display their new bonafides and the EU has seen that they are no longer dealing with a pushover.

Undoubtedly the mainstream media will overlook this and devote coverage to a tape recording instead of acknowledging that sometimes bluster works when the counterparts are truly pushovers in the end. Theresa May, are you listening?

Harley-Davidson Shinjuku declares bankruptcy after revenues fall 85%. Changes ownership.

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Yahoo Japan reports Harley-Davidson Shinjuku, a central Tokyo dealer for the motorcycle brand has gone out of business after almost 70 years in the trade.  Established in August 1953 before Harley Davidson Japan became the domestic agency, it ran a parallel imports business of the iconic brand. In the fiscal year ended July 1992, the annual turnover was estimated to be about 2,426 million yen. However, as the motorcycle market contracted, annual sales in the fiscal year ended July 2017 fell 85% to about 376 million yen. Even after closing the Yokohama, Hachioji stores, losses continued every year.

Debt is approximately 146 million yen as of the end of July 2017. “Harley Davidson Shinjuku” was closed on July 11.

It has since reopened under new ownership. Customers of the dealership have been informed of the ownership change according to HD Japan. Harley had peak sales of 16,000 units in Japan and is likely to do around 9,500 units in 2018.

Pension blackhole widens

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CM has been saying for quite some time that the US public pension system is a runaway train running out of track. It seems Zerohedge today confirms many of those same trends. The ratcheting down of return targets by ridiculously small amounts because to actuarially mark-to-market to reality is too scary to contemplate.

To quote the article,

CalSTRS is making the bold move to drop its future goal to… 7%…And CalPERS is ratcheting down its return goals in steps to… wait for it, 7% by 2021.

with interest rates near their lowest levels in human history, it’s been difficult for these pensions to generate a suitable return without taking on more and more risk.

And that’s another big problem with pensions – their investment returns are totally unrealistic.

Most pension funds require a minimum annual return of about 8% a year to cover their future liabilities.

But that 8% is really difficult to generate today, especially if you’re buying bonds (which is the largest asset for most pensions). So pensions are allocating more capital to riskier assets like stocks and private equity.”