Entrepreneur

Musk’s $20mn fine covered if Tesla shares jump 59 cents

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$20mn sounds like a lot. It is a lot. The SEC has struck a deal with Tesla’s Elon Musk which demands he steps down as chairman and hires two independent directors. Musk owns 33.7mn shares. Technically he would only require a 59c share price rise to cover his fine. Make it a dollar to cover taxes and transaction costs plus legal fees. In any event the fine is peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

To be honest, Tesla disciples will breathe a sigh of relief that their king still remains in the company and more importantly as the figure head. The question remains is whether a new chairman (from outside?) will see to it that the company is not just a one man band which has been painfully obvious with so many senior level defections. Too often the board has seemed to be an onerous burden for Musk in that his intergalactic brilliance shouldn’t require checks and balances.

Will a new chairman demand a thorough audit into business practices to date? It is likely that the SEC will expect a new chairman to lift the standards of the board to make sure that shareholders interests are properly decided with all directors heard. An independent audit should be viewed as the bare minimum. What would that unearth?

Tesla shares should bounce on this news and in aftermarket trading it is up. The question is how a new structure changes dynamics which reveal the short cuts and internal processes which have created so many reporting inconsistencies.

Google’s gaffe only proves the massive opportunity for others

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The publishing of Google’s internal post-election debrief video shouldn’t surprise anyone in the slightest. All the outer appeals to the group’s impartiality were smashed by this leaked video. In a sense Google was the victim of the half-life nature of the very digital media feeds it seeks to control. Even worse it was all the fromage-grande senior management talking about what really goes on. Sunlight is truly the best disinfectant.

Putting the need to respect the “confidential’ nature of the meeting  (it seems employees aren’t all following those protocols) to one side, this video totally backs up the CM piece which spoke of the opportunity to plug the gaping hole in social media.

We shouldn’t forget what this episode makes blatantly clear – how toxic the work environment must be for staff who don’t share the political views of the politburo.

Mark Zuckerberg openly admitted that Silicon Valley is dominated by the far left. Stands to reason only conservatives get blocked, suspended of banned. Poor old #WalkAway activist Brendan Straka was the latest victim. The articulate openly gay hairdresser was suspended for 30 days for highlighting he’d appear on the recently banned InfoWars. Not posting the video.  Just that he’d appear. Talk about the mixed emotions of the Facebook censor who probably required counseling for having to choose partisan politics over LGBT rights?

None of us need a technical overlord determining what they see as fit for us to consume. If it is Icelandic pig racing in winter or dwarf tossing into a mud pool, should demand for it exist and it is legal then who is Google to censor it outside of respecting government mandated maturity ratings??

If Google had half a brain it would publish the “raw” data of trends. Not its selective manipulated subjective view of what it wants to see but what might be driving populism in Europe or the 2016 Trump election victory? If Google had properly recognized the trends it’d have seen for itself the raw power of understanding motivations rather than cast aspersions and skew feeds to support its own narratives. Truth be told it isn’t working. Every person banned (and the hurdle gets lower every time) highlights the agenda based nature of these social media houses. Search impartiality and no social media house should pop up toward the top of the list.

The beauty of social media is that we are free to choose. Switching costs are effectively free. Yet we use Google because it’s the best search engine and there is little in the way of competing product.

Which stands to reason if a social media proposition with more conservative values which didn’t cut off those who didn’t agree with internal biases was built, the servers would probably crash due to the stampede to join it.

Growing numbers of people have become fed up with what they can’t say (even when completely appropriate) on social media. Not bleedingly obvious profanity and senseless racism but reasoned argument. People are also fed up with learning their data has been used without permission to profile them with ads. In all fairness if one openly publishes his/her/xir data on a social platform then there is an expectation that it’s “at risk”.

Still CM has all “location services” switched off yet a social media service asked to rate a Bavarian beer hall CM visited  the very next day. When a help yourself drinks counter in a reception area of a corporate office provided whiskey the ensuing discussion with a fellow delegate brought up his preferred brand – Johnny Walker Blue. The next day were banner ads on that brand on top of unrelated searches. Presumably the mic is being accessed. Or is it a purely freakish coincidence?!?

The market for free speech is being eroded before our very eyes. The big organizations controlling much of our social media are constantly being outed for their double standards. More consumers are not blind to it yet all the while no real alternative exists the social media giants hold all of the aces.

Therein lies the opportunity.  The demand is there. The day a comparable service is offered without big brother controlled censorship the door will be beaten down. Even if we wish to call the actions of Google et al into question we can choose not to use them at any time.

Let Google, FB and Twitter  treat us as mugs.  Let them exercise their questionable moral value sets on us. The more they do, the more they draw the ire of a growing number of  users. An alternative will come and their behaviour will backfire big time. Live by the sword, die by the sword. CM won’t have the slightest sympathy.

The attitude driven by these divine franchises can be felled very quickly. Bring on the alternative ASAP. Then Google execs will really start crying. #biasbackfire

 

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…

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.

Indian Motorcycles upbeat on 2018 outlook at 2Q stage

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Indian Motorcycles – owned by Polaris Industries –  saw a mid single digit bump in unit sales in 2Q18. Gross profit was up 17% in the m/cycles segment although some funnies in the like for likes with the wind down of the Victory brand. Slingshot soft. Polaris Off Road Vehicles strong. Group 2Q ahead of market expectations, even factoring in the buyback and retirement of around 2.2% of outstanding shares in 2Q.

Exciting new launches like the Indian FTR1200 flat tracker next year will keep the registers ticking over. Scout series continues to do well. Heavier Indians finding it tougher going which is in line with market trends. Doing well with limited editions.

Polaris see the Indian brand performing strongly in international markets and expect momentum to improve over the year. Indian market share growing in domestic (at the expense of H-D) and international markets including Europe. Expect a $40mn impact from tariffs across all Polaris lines.

Share Buyback Activity: During the second quarter of 2018, Polaris repurchased and retired 1,429,000 shares of its common stock for $177 million. Year-to-date through June 30, 2018, it has repurchased and retired 1,562,000 shares of its common stock for $192 million. As of June 30, 2018, the company has authorization from its Board of Directors to repurchase up to an additional 4.9 million shares of Polaris common stock equivalent to c.10% of outstanding.

Indian had a contrasting set of results vs Harley. Both complaining of sluggish domestic market in big bikes but Indian remaining the more agile of the two with innovation. FTR1200 will hit it out of the park.

Billy helps corporate kids survive in the sandpit

Yet more ingenuity out of Israel. Fintech that deals with bouncing or delayed cheques. Billy Inc allows lenders from around the world bid anonymously to finance your invoice. Billy allows SMEs to choose the best credit bids from many financial institutions, for specific unpaid invoices and transactions are closed live and online via web or mobile application. The system  rings a bit like Accretive in Japan which allows suppliers to megastore Don Quijote and other businesses to sell their accounts receivable at a discount to the company to help smooth cash flows  instead of waiting 90 days for payment.

Jan 2008 again?

3mthTB

Back to Jan 2008 10yr Treasury – 3mth Treasury Bill spread levels of 0.84% overnight. Shaded areas are previous recessions. I’m sure it is nothing. The friend who sent me the link also sent a Barron’s article last week which interviewed Kiss legend Gene Simmons who believes the Dow is poised for 30,000. He may well be proved right, although I wonder just whether algo trading is linked to Twitter followers. Maybe if Katy Perry starts jawboning about Dow 40,000 we should shut up and buy the trend. More useful than some Goldman Sachs nerd with a PhD in nuclear fission to read the runes…

10-3mthTB