Financial Markets

Musk to be investigated by SEC over tweets

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CM has always thought that Elon Musk is the ultimate salesman. CM has also wrote that the biggest risk to being a short seller was then”cult” status of the company. On any rational investment grounds the stock is ridiculously priced but as the old adage goes, “the market can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent!

Tesla is a car company that is worth more than GM, Ford & FiatChrysler combined. One that trades at 5x Daimler in valuation terms, a luxury competitor that is in the sweet spot of its product line up and rudely profitable.

Back in June, Musk bought $35mn worth of shares in Tesla. The whole idea that someone is willing to fork out $75bn on a whim seems somewhat implausible. Is it safe to assume that all of 100s of lawyers, bankers and brokers would need a little bit of time to prepare the necessary documentation to cement such a ridiculous sum? Or is money now just so free and easy that a billionaire deploys a vault full of cash loaded full of Zero Halliburtons into a private jet after a few phone calls?

SEC enforcement attorneys had already been gathering general information about Tesla’s public statements on manufacturing goals and sales targets. Now SEC attorneys are investigating whether his tweets about securing funding were factual.

CM is not accusing Musk of insider trading albeit as a matter of course the SEC should investigate when he knew about his mega financier. One wonders how it is that we know so little about the buyer, the term sheet, the question of shareholder approval and how “secure” it is? Taking it private will remove the lens of quarterly reporting but it doesn’t remove the fact of how dreadfully the company is run or how amateur production is. Even if public scrutiny is removed, the problems of profitability don’t disappear and the need for funds, credit ratings etc if he taps public markets for debt capital remain.

If Musk pulls it all off and the company becomes a roaring success then CM will gladly eat a whole humble pie and openly admit it was wrong.

As to the SEC investigation let’s hope it has learnt the lessons of its bumbling incompetency over Bernie Madoff and doesn’t miss anything that might be bleeding obvious.

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.

#boycottyourself next time you buy take-away coffee

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Poor old Coles. In an attempt to listen to its customers over plastic bag use, activists push for a boycott against the supermarket chain! Yet why aren’t these same activists openly protesting in front of department stores or retail chains who brazenly use plastic bags to help their customers carry often bulky items? Why aren’t take away food court vendors openly shouted at when handing over plastic cutlery? Why is Coles subject to social media thuggery when the plethora or other retail chains escape? Talk about double standards.

While we’re at it, do people realize that the majority of take away wax-lined coffee cups aren’t recycled even though you can feel good about yourself when disposing of it? How many people elect to have their brew poured into a ceramic cup? Look net time – hardly any! The cost to recycle the 500 billion (and rising) coffee cups consumed annually is so astronomical (it is hard to separate the wax that stops the cup disintegrating because of the energy intensity involved to do so) that over 90% end up in landfill. No one talks about that 300 million tons of virgin paper used to make these cups! How many of us give it one thought when we need a shot of caffeine? Right?! Although Starbucks is trialing a 5p latte levy for those that elect to use a paper cup.

A decade ago, Japanese retailer Fast Retailing publisher in its annual report:

Additionally, in December 2007 UNIQLO introduced polyethylene shopping bags using the “Nano Hybrid Capsule 2 (NHC2) additive.” These were researched and developed by Professor Masahiko Abe at the Science and Engineering Department of the Tokyo University of Science. NHC2 helps increase the strength of the bag and reduces its weight by roughly 20% and CO2 emitted during incineration by about 40%. This new shopping bag thus reduces about 60% of CO2 emitted altogether compared to the previous model.

Most supermarket shopping bags used in Australia before the self-imposed ban were biodegradable.

In 2006 the UK Environment Agency did a study on the effectiveness of alternative packaging solutions to HDPE (conventional plastic bags) in terms of lowering environmental impact. It said,

The paper, LDPE, non-woven PP and cotton bags should be reused at least 3, 4, 11 and 131 times respectively to ensure that they have lower [impact] than conventional HDPE carrier bags that are not reused.”

So if conventional shopping bags are used to throw out garbage that means 6, 8, 21 and 262 days.

So we can virtue signal all we like. No one wants to see irresponsible use of disposable plastics cause damage to the environment but this idea that some think government intervention is the answer is palpable. In Australia’s case, after examining the most ridiculously incompetent stewardship over power generation in a country endowed with cheap energy sources (we manage blackouts and $1200kWh surges in spot pricing) they have none of the prerequisites to manage disposable shopping bags.

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.

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.

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.