Business

Makes sense

Transferwise has consolidated its status as one of Britain’s biggest private technology start-ups with a $5 billion valuation.

It’s good at what it does. Anyone working in more than one currency should at the very least check it out.

If you haven’t then do so here.

Yes, there is a referral fee if people start to use it. But it is a good product – I use it extensively. And Bloke in Spain sings the praises too.

Not entirely so, no.

Unemployment claims in the US have risen for the first time in nearly four months in the clearest sign yet that the new surge in coronavirus cases is stalling America’s economic recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased to 1.42 million for the week to July 18 from 1.31 million the week before,

On the other hand:

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 1,370,947 in the week ending July 18, a decrease of 141,816 (or -9.4 percent) from the previous week.

The difference is with – for the first numbers – or without seasonal adjustment. Which to use is a matter of personal taste but both are entirely correct…..

Don’t bother with Marshall’s new book

Warren Buffett would not get a job with a hedge fund today, according to Sir Paul Marshall, co-founder of Marshall Wace, one of the most successful alternative investment powerhouses.

Sir Paul, 60, is musing on what makes a good fund manager, and the Sage of Omaha, who is lauded by many as the greatest stockpicker of all time, does not quite make the grade.

His Sharpe ratio is only about 0.7. “Well, 0.7 wouldn’t get you into Marshall Wace or any of the top hedge funds.”

The Sharpe ratio is a measure of a fund manager’s returns adjusted for the amount of risk they are taking. Most of Sir Paul’s team at Marshall Wace are on 1.5 or better.

He admires Mr Buffett, he says, but not that much, and says that his success is largely down to two factors: always backing Wall Street and using the float in his insurance company investments to leverage his investments.

Tsk, this was explained 7 years ago at Forbes.

That’s one form of leverage that Buffett has used. The other is that he went and bought an insurance company or three in the first place. He made good money as an investor first, yes, he very much did. Which he then used to purchase his way into the insurance business. He then applied his investment technique, as the Economist describes it, to the much larger investment funds that the insurance company controlled. Those funds being a good multiple of the funds that it had cost to purchase the company.

Imagine, just as a made up numerical example, that Buffett outperformed the market every single year by 1%. Another made up number, he started with $1 million. He’s going to, over the decades, make himself a very rich man that way. But look at it this way: if he uses the $1 million to purchase control of an insurance company with $10 million to invest, then he gets that 1% outperformance on that $10 million, then he’s going to be making himself richer ten times faster than by not leveraging up by buying the insurance company. For of course the outperformance in the investments flows to those who own the insurance company.

Argle Bargle

Dr Rosemary Hiscock, the study’s lead, said: “For many years, the tobacco industry had used packaging to signal the difference between premium and cheap cigarette brands, with smokers often willing to pay markedly more for premium brands.

“This allowed the tobacco industry to make enough profit on premium brands to subsidise its cheap brands, keeping them cheap enough for young people to afford to start smoking and to prevent price conscious smokers from being incentivised to quit.”

Eh?

Nonsense

The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, it’s data.

It’s a catchy phrase alright but it’s nowhere near true.

Facebook, for example, might sell some data – anonymised and all that – but it’s a trivial portion of revenues. What Facebook actually sells is the ability to advertise to people. Thus all that revenue is part of the advertising industry, not the data one. Same with Google. And so on – to the point that the value of data is some rounding error when compared to the oil industry.

It’s one of these things that everyone knows, that data is the new oil, which is also a collective delusion.

Movers and shakers

Mary Trump was unimpressed: “Considering that Charles (Kushner) had been convicted of hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, taping their illicit encounter, and then sending the recording to his sister at his nephew’s engagement party, I found his condescension a bit out of line.”

Trump seems the relatively sane one in the world of New York property developers.

Just a little note about that digital economy

For those who don’t know:

Daily Mirror publisher Reach to cut 550 jobs
Print revenue tumbled by 29.5pc during the second quarter, while digital turnover also fell by 14.8pc

Online traffic soared during lockdown. There were therefore many more ad spots in inventory. Ad purchasing rather dropped – why advertise during lockdown? At least, why advertise some things during it.

The combination meant that ad rates plummeted. This is as true of the majors like those above as it is of entirely trivial operations like Worstall Megaindustries Blogs Inc. Not wholly and entirely but the digits have remained the same, the units not so. Shift the decimal point one place the wrong way perhaps.

I did hear of one little amusement. A place I used to be at paid on a performance basis. They didn’t change their per unit (ie, per reader visit) payout to writers as volume soared and corporate revenue slumped. They thus had handfuls of writers (tens and twenties of them) on $20,000 a month and up using the old payment standards while revenues had sadly – most sadly – slumped well below that for that traffic. Entirely middle of the road writers were seeing their personal traffic go from 400k a month to 4 million sorta thing.

Pity I wasn’t still there of course as I’d have made an absolute killing in such circumstances for I always was right up in the top small handful of their payout tables. Buy a house amounts over the several months they made the mistake. But it is still nice that they made such a mistake, the bastards.

Well of course they are

‘They’re all passing the buck’: UK travel firms flout the law on holiday refunds
Thousands of UK travellers face long struggle to get their money back for trips cancelled because of pandemic

They’ve spent the money already. Block booked hotels, sorted out the transfers from the airport, paid the advance on the allthesangriayouc’ndrink’n’vomitwelcomeparty and all that. They haven’t got the money they’ve been paid so of course they’re being resistant in paying it back.

It’s a fair and useful and not entirely true statement to say that all and every travel firm – including near all airlines – is bust. If they have to pay all the bookings back they are that is. If they can switch them into vouchers for future trips, or blame someone else, then perhaps they’re not. Sorry ‘n’ all that but that’s reality.

Cool

The gaming industry is particularly conducive to a culture of misogyny and sexual harassment, Ms. Gordon said, because straight white men have “created the identity of the gamer as this exclusive property.” When women, people of color or L.G.B.T.Q. people try to break into the industry, she said, the “toxic geek masculinity” pushes back in ways that often lead to sexual abuse and bullying.

Gaming studios are often reluctant to defy those fans, Ms. Gordon said, but recently it has become clear that there is a demand for a variety of video games that appeal to all types of people, which requires more diversity among game designers and could necessitate changes in the industry.

So all the people who are not cis white males should band together to write games for all the people who want games written by non-cis-non-white-non-males.

After all, there’s a market for it, it’ll fly off the shelves, right?

Capital won’t be a problem either as all investors will see the market to be addressed as well.

What fun

One of the things people have been muttering about concerning Wirecard is that the real, underlying, business was processing dodgy payments. Porn, gambling sites, things which weren’t necessarily legal in the markets they were paid for in. And further, payment streams that the more conventional payment processors weren’t happy dealing with.

Senior Wirecard employees were linked to an opaque network of British companies associated with alleged money laundering.

Staff from the scandal-hit German payment processor were shareholders in a company creation operation in the northeast of England that was shut down after a government investigation.

Hundreds of little companies all set up in Consett. Well, OK. But then Wirecard execs as directors and or shareholders i them…..

There’s a business here

Giant US retailer Walmart is set to discontinue sales of “All Lives Matter” merchandise on their website, after a social media backlash.

The company, which is the biggest retailer in the US, caused controversy online earlier this week when it was revealed that a third-party brand, Old Glory, was selling a number of $20 T-shirts via the Walmart website, including “Blue Lives Matter”, “Irish Lives Matter”, “Homeless Lives Matter”, “Police Lives Matter”, “Drunk Lives Matter” as well as “All Lives Matter”.

The anger on social media began when Twitter user Kate Udle posted a screen grab of an “All Lives Matter T-shirt” with the comment “Are you kidding me @walmartcanada??? Disgusting. Do better.” Other Twitter users expressed their dismay, with one asking: “Why make it easier for the racists to get their clothing?”

Buy a t-shirt stamping (??) machine. Contract with a Bangladeshi factory for supplies of plans at 50 cents a piece. Scan the news for whatever is pissing the Woken SS off at any one time. Advertise and print.

Anyone got any cash?

A charity that employs 112 people

Well, actually, one that could only, possibly, max out at 112 employees.

Alarge part of Ianne Fields Stewart’s advocacy is centered on universalizing experiences that are often thought of as a luxury, thus making them accessible to members of marginalized communities. That’s one of the reasons Stewart — a queer, trans, non-binary activist — founded The Okra Project, a New York-based nonprofit that employes Black trans chefs to visit the homes of Black trans people who are experiencing food insecurity to cook them meals.

That’s really pretty specific. Chefs are 139,000 of the population. Blacks are 13.4%. Trans are 0.6% – arguable but that’s what Google says. There are therefore 112 people max who could work for these guys. Nationwide.

That’s really pretty specific.

The Guardian says this like it’s a bad thing

As Chesapeake was expanding at breakneck speed, natural gas prices were near $20 per million British thermal units, the benchmark for natural gas trading. But frackers like Chesapeake flooded the market with cheap natural gas, sending prices to well under $2.

The capitalists lose out, the consumer wins, cheap energy as well. Well, suppose they’ve got to think it a bad thing for it certainly goes against everything they believe about markets and capitalism, doesn’t it?

This might not be true

The CPPIB is confident there will be enough investor appetite to allow it to recover the £250m it lent against the Trafford Centre, which is valued at £1.7bn on Intu’s books. In addition to the CPPIB debt, £690m worth of mortgage-backed securities is secured against the centre.

Adding the two debts together – I have no idea which is senior – that’s £950 million. Is that formerly £1.7 billion asset now worth £950 million in a fire sale?

I would be very much less than certain of that……

This might not work you know

The Government should pay graduates to undertake internships at businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, leading universities say….

Some wet behind the ears graduate – this is before we consider grievance studies etc – is a cost to a business, not an asset. For the first 6 to 18 months at least.

So, why do you want to add to the costs of a struggling business?

These people are insane

Investors appeared to welcome signs of progress in efforts to investigate Wirecard the shares rose by €2.72, or almost 19 per cent, to €17.16 yesterday.

It isn’t that someone nicked the money. It’s that it never existed. The company has been – well, so is my opinion for all that’s worth – lying all along. The trade, the traffic, the margins and the profits never existed. In order to make it seem like they did there has to be a balancing item – you know, where the hell is this cash? Which is what the €1.9 billion was.

There is therefore no value in the company. Not because the cash has gone but because it was never there.

Oopsie!

Markus Braun’s almost two decades as Wirecard AG’s chief executive officer ended after accusations about the company’s accounting culminated in a shock disclosure that it was was unable to locate 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion).

….

Braun’s exit comes after a catastrophic few days for Wirecard, which suffered a share price collapse after the two Asian banks that were alleged to be holding the missing cash denied any business relationship with the company.

No relationship at all? Blimey

Wirecard claimed on Thursday that auditor Ernst & Young couldn’t confirm the location of the missing cash that was supposed to be held at two Asian banks and reported that “spurious balance confirmations” had been provided.

The confusion deepened on Friday when BDO Unibank Inc., the Philippines’ largest bank by assets, and the Bank of the Philippine Islands, said on Friday that Wirecard isn’t a client.

“It was a rogue employee who falsified documents and forged the signatures of our officers,” BDO Unibank CEO Nestor Tan said in a mobile phone message. “Wirecard is not even a depositor — we have no relationship with them”.

And guess what?

Its 900 million euros of convertible bonds are now indicated at less than 10 cents on the euro.

Softbank bought those…..

This is giggle a minute stuff.

Early last year BaFin took the unprecedented step of temporarily banning short sales of Wirecard shares following reports of suspicious accounting practices.

Snigger