A small note for John Kay

ICI’s decision was prescient, but slow to pay off: the pharmaceutical division lost money for 20 years. Markets today would not tolerate unrewarding and risky investment on this scale.



This is secretive fuel cell company Bloom Energy’s big week. Tonight 60 Minutes aired an exclusive look inside the Bloom Box, and on Wednesday the company is officially launching, after operating for 8 years and having reportedly raised around $400 million from investors like Kleiner Perkins.

The Bloom Box may or may not work and the company is certainly still many years from profit.

Looks like markets are entirely tolerant of large scale risky and possibly unrewarding investment.

5 thoughts on “A small note for John Kay”

  1. on the basis of one example, you are able to reach such a bombastic conclusion. Murphy is getting to you…

  2. If you’re ICI, the markets expect you to be a safe, boring investment that turns out moderate profits and pays them out as dividends (well, right up until they flog you to the Dutch for a big cash payout…)

    That’s precisely why they spun off Zeneca as an independent unit – investors in drug companies *do* expect billions of dollars to be spent on long-period-payback R&D. As do investors in joke alternative-bubble companies with a Magical Woo Machine, although they’re probably being a bit optimistic about the “payback” bit.

  3. I recall reading some years ago that United Fruit Co. spent over 20 years (and paid wages to employees) trying to grow bananas commercially before they succeeded. (The key to success, apparently, was irrigation.)

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