On Monday, 25 June 2012 I penned "No Capital Controls In The EMU? Liar Liar Pants On Fire". Let me excerpt the first paragraph so as to bring those who have not read it up to speed before we jump into current events...

I have outlined the upcoming EU bank runs up to two years in advance (see the many links below). Whenever one expects a bank run, the first things TPTB do is institute capital controls to stem said bank run - which of course makes the bank run that much more necessary to get your capital out - wash, rinse, repeat! Remember, by treaty, no country in the EMU may use capital controls without automatically being removed from the union. Well, do you believe that to be fact that will last? Yeah, I don't either. Simply watch as the money bleeds from the banks and the bumbletrons attempt to staunch the flow using mechanisms that will simply exacerbate the flow. Even more incredible is the fact that even to this date, with the existence of publications such as BoomBustBlog, entire nations as well as their financial advisors, leaders, regulators and politictians STILL DO NOT EVEN COMPREHEND the nature of the modern bank run. You cannot stem the tide with capital controls, you can only exacerbate it. 

Now, As Predicted Last Year, The French and the Greeks Are In A Race For The Biggest Bank Run!

 On Saturday, 23 July 2011 I penned "The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs!" wherein I went through both the motive and the mechanism of a European bank run, focusing on Greece and France as impetus.

Okay, I'm writing this on 3/23/2013, referring to the events of yesterday. I apologize to my paying subscribers for being 9 months and a few miles/kilometers off, but as the more intellectually capacitive among you know, this stuff is not an exact science. Now, yesterday's headlines...

Cyprus passes laws for capital controls

Lawmakers in Cyprus passed legislation to impose capital controls on its banks and create a "solidarity fund" to pool state assets, according to media reports late Friday. The measures will help fulfill conditions for Cyprus to get a euro-zone bailout. With a Monday deadline, Cypriot lawmakers still need to vote on measures needed to restructure banks in Cyprus and possibly place levies on deposits.

I appeared on the Max Keiser show in London yesterday, and broke down the Cyprus issue as simply as could be done. In essence, "What is a bank???!!!"

In "The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs!" I detailed for my readers and subscribers the mechanics of the modern day bank run, particular as I see (saw) it occurring in Europe.

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You see, the problem with this bank holiday thing is that the real damaging bank run will not be staunced by the conventional bank holidays, et. al. because it is a counterparty run that will cause the damage, not depositors. TPTB in Europe don't have the chops to stem this one, at least not from what I've seen. As for how that institutional bank run thing works, we excerpt "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style":

 

The modern central banking system has proven resilient enough to fortify banks against depositor runs, as was recently exemplified in the recent depositor runs on UK, Irish, Portuguese and Greek banks – most of which received relatively little fanfare. Where the risk truly lies in today’s fiat/fractional reserve banking system is the run on counterparties. Today’s global fractional reserve bank get’s more financing from institutional counterparties than any other source save its short term depositors. In cases of the perception of extreme risk, these counterparties are prone to pull funding are request overcollateralization for said funding. This is what precipitated the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the pulling of liquidity by skittish counterparties, and the excessive capital/collateralization calls by other counterparties. Keep in mind that as some counterparties and/or depositors pull liquidity, covenants are tripped that often demand additional capital/collateral/ liquidity be put up by the remaining counterparties, thus daisy-chaining into a modern day run on the bank!

 

 

Make no mistake - modern day bank runs are now caused by institutions!

 

And Yes!!! The fodder for bank rungs are ALL OVER THE EUROPEAN SPACE!!!!

Those that follow me know that I have been warning on Europe and its banking system years before the sell side and mainstream financial media (reference the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis series). 

A reader has convinced me to consult with him on a specific situation, regarding overseas monies and the (lack of) safety of those funds, which prompted me to dig up the Sovereign Contagion Model that we developed in 2010. Long story short (if it's not already too late), my next extensive series of posts on this topic will likely spark bank runs throughout the periphery and the core of Europe, for much of the assets that depositors think are there are simply not, and I proffer ample proof for all to see. For the banks, it's too late to pull the evidence down from your various web sites, for I already have it safely stored and distributed. Keep in mind, once the fissures form in one section of the already weakeed EU, cracks widen in the other sections... 

Description: foreign claims of PIIGS

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Last month I opined on The Truth About Facebook That No Media Outlet Or Analyst Has Bothered To Notice. As its shares marched back up towards its ridiculous IPO price that I warned the entire year previous was basically a marketing/hype scam engineered to confiscate one's hard earned capital, sell side analysts and mainstream media types ignored basic yet blatant cracks in this media darlings armor yet again. For one, we know this high growth company is already experiencing negative growth in active users...

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We also know that Google has essentially caught up to Facebook as a social media platform, reference I Don't Think Facebook Investors Will "Like" This!!! Google Has Already Caught Up In Terms Of Active Users. Despite these pertinent (and quite negative) facts, FB shares have been on the rise, although recently have last some of their froth. Why did the shares pop? Irrational exuberance! The sell side marketing analysis has it that Facebook is perfecting the marketing and mobile business model, and as a result is able to monetize its massive, yet shrinking user base. 

The counter to this argument is basically that it's not true. For one, the shrinking user base is real. The school age youth, once a mainstay of Facebook, is moving on. Simply ask the one's that you know. More importantly, it's ad model is basically a Sham! Any sell side analyst who attempted to value this company based on ad revenues without actually trying out its ad system is not worth postage used to send his bonus check. I tried the ad system out. While the click through rates were actually about 2/3rds that of Google's comparable ad model, the actual sales from the ads were less than abysmal - and this is for a rather interesting product. Even worse, the delivery of the ads proved to be highly intrusive, causing a significant and material amount of negative feedback from the Facebook community. Here are some examples of the feedback received from the so-called Facebook 'ads" that I paid for...

  • "Hey, I don't like this post. Please remove it."
  • "Please remove me from your list"
  • "I am getting unsubscribed advertisements and friend request that say I approved them"

There's actually a lot more than that, this just what was sitting in my inbox before it was deleted. Here's a screenshot of a conversation I had with on of the recipients of the so-called Facebook ads which are essentially paid for placements on somebody's wall...

Facebook ad failure

"I am getting... friend request that say I approved them"??? Does that sound like a sustainable business model to you? This is simply Grouponzi 2.0, just on a much larger scale!

The updated valuation for Facebook (which has actually has an increase in terms of value now that we have more information to deal with) is available to download for all paying subscribers (FB Q4-2012 Analysis & Valuation Note - update with per share valuation). I'm available to discuss this with professional and institutional subscribers via phone or Google+. Click here to subscribe or upgrade.

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picsay-1363698572Following yesterday's highly analytical rant on Cypriotic bank nonsense, I present an interesting analysis on the value of the gas assets pledged to those who's bank accounts may be clipped by the Cypriotic government/ECB. For those who don't know, the proposal was to compensate those who were subject to the tax/levy on their bank accounts with bonds linked to the output of Cyprus natural gas mines. Of course, the first question anyone should ask is "Why not simply pledge the gas assets directly to the ECB vs stealing from the bank depositors?" I think we can all ascertain the answer to that question. I was tweeted an analyst by wherein he delved into the fundamental value of the exchange. I would like to reproduce a portion of it here. The balance can be found on his site.

Cyprus Bank Deposit Levy and Natural Gas Bonds

Cyprus' president has pledged to cover the value of its imminent savings deposit levy with an equivalent value of natural gas bonds. It's hard to say whether Cypriot savers should take this promise seriously without some analysis of its viability.
Let's use the European bailout sum for Cyprus of US$13B as a proxy for the amount of savings about to be confiscated from Cyprus' resident depositors.  I need a proxy because I have no idea how much the government of Cyprus will actually collect from this levy.  The natural gas revenue needed to back the bonds that would make savers whole would likely come from the Aphrodite field.  Title to this field is unclear; Turkey has made a competing claim for the sovereign right to control drilling.
This is the likely answer to the quetion above. If the ownership and rights to the mine are in question, then it is essentially an encumbered asset. As such, how is it Cyprus's to pledge to anybody? May I add that Turkey actually has a functional military, and Cyprus has???
There is currently no pipeline from Cyprus to either Turkey or Crete which could deliver the gas to market; that would cost US$1B to build and Cyprus has no money.  Building a $10B LNG terminal is ten times as unlikely, because Cyprus is still broke.  The energy supermajor that ends up building it will get the lion's share of the revenue from the gas field as compensation for its costs and will have to deal with the likelihood of being shut out of other projects in Turkey. 
Again, exactly how will this gas asset be monetized? I have not verified the facts and calculations behind this article, but if they ring true, then it appears that Cyprus is pledging the option of future development to a gas asset that it MIGHT own in exchange for actual cash in terms of what is being offered to bank depositors. So, the most valuable asset possible (actual cash denominated in a major currency) is being exchanged for an option on an undeveloped asset whose ownership and right to pledge/transfer is undetermined. Does this sound like a good deal to you? And we haven't even started to glean the actual fundamental value yet?
The lack of drilling and delivery infrastructure means that no Aphrodite gas will go to Europe until 2018 at the earliest.  A lot can happen with the price of natural gas in five years.  The wide availability of shale gas in the U.S. will keep the price down in North America.  Europe's need for gas is met mainly by Russia, and Gazprom can adjust its rates at will to pressure Russia's neighbors. 
And such pressure is guaranteed if Russian citizens are to lose the 2 billion or so euros to the Cyprus bailout levy that is being bandied around.
There is more to Mr. Alfidi's analysis, and I urge you to visit his site to read it. In the meantime, keep this chart from yesterday's post on Cypriotic bank nonsense in mind...

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I'm currently preparing the release of a report that will make the Cyprus affair look like peanuts as this contagion reinfects the core and I produce so much evidence of apparent fraud as to make your nose bleed. Stay tuned, and follow me:

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Reading a Bloomberg article on the topic of ass-backwards EU area government moves this morning caused me to query, "What is the extent of the fear the European (and US) governments have of the financiers?" In Cyprus, we have a case of a government that would actually rape the depositors of a bank rather than the investors who voluntarily, directly and explicitly accepted the risk of bank failure through speculative investment (ex., the bondholders). 

The bank tax was the alternative to imposing losses on investors in a so-called bail-in, a step opposed by the Cypriot government, the European Commission and the ECB, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on ARD television last night.

So, you will bend the mom and pop depositors over, but leave the monies of the institutional guys who should have known better sacrosanct?

“It’s up to them to explain it to the Cypriot people,” Schaeuble said. “Clearly, the taxpayer should not be asked” to rescue banks from insolvency, he said, adding that Cyprus faced a “very difficult time” unless it accepts the tax.

Bullocks! The taxpayer should be hit before the depositor to maintain the confidence in the banking system, but they should all stand behind the bondholders who accepted the investment risk in the first place. Yes, I'm aware that the banking system of Cyprus is about 9 times the size of its real economy, but that's pretty much the case with much, if not all of the EU, as clearly delineated 3 years ago in Ovebanked, Underfunded, and Overly Optimistic: The New Face of Sovereign Europe:

I will attempt to illustrate the "Overbanked" argument and its ramifications for the mid-tier sovereign nations in detail below and over a series of additional posts.

Sovereign Risk Alpha: The Banks Are Bigger Than Many of the Sovereigns

image015.pngimage015.pngimage015.png

This is just a sampling of individual banks whose assets dwarf the GDP of the nations in which they're domiciled. To make matters even worse, leverage is rampant in Europe, even after the debacle which we are trying to get through has shown the risks of such an approach. A sudden deleveraging can wreak havoc upon these economies. Keep in mind that on an aggregate basis, these banks are even more of a force to be reckoned with. I have identified Greek banks with adjusted leverage of nearly 90x whose assets are nearly 30% of the Greek GDP, and that is without factoring the inevitable run on the bank that they are probably experiencing. Throw in the hidden NPAs that I cannot discern from my desk in NY, and you have a bank that has problems, levered into a country that has even more problems.

image009.pngimage009.pngimage009.png

Of course, this boneheaded move will backfire tremendously because it appears as if the members of the Cyprus government are not aware of the true financing structure of the banking system. DEPOSITORS SHOULD REMAIN SACROSACNT! They are the most important source of funding, not to mention the most liquid (as in potential for capital flight) in the entire banking ecosystem! I reviewed this structure and the inevitability of European bank runs two years ago in The Anatomey of a European Bank Run!

image012image012

Using this European bank as a proxy for Bear Stearns in January of 2008, the tall stalk represents the liabilities behind Bear's illiquid level 2 and level 3 assets (including the ill fated mortgage products). Equity is destroyed as the assets leveraged through the use of these liabilities are nearly halved in value, leaving mostly liabilities. The maroon stalk represents the extreme risk displayed in the first chart in this missive, and that is the excessive reliance on very short term liabilities to fund very long term and illiquid assets that have depreciated in price. Wait, there's more!

The green represents the unseen canary in the coal mine, and the reason why Bear Stearns and Lehman ultimately collapsed. As excerpted from "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style":

The modern central banking system has proven resilient enough to fortify banks against depositor runs, as was recently exemplified in the recent depositor runs on UK, Irish, Portuguese and Greek banks – most of which received relatively little fanfare. Where the risk truly lies in today’s fiat/fractional reserve banking system is the run on counterparties. Today’s global fractional reserve bank get’s more financing from institutional counterparties than any other source save its short term depositors.  In cases of the perception of extreme risk, these counterparties are prone to pull funding are request overcollateralization for said funding. This is what precipitated the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the pulling of liquidity by skittish counterparties, and the excessive capital/collateralization calls by other counterparties. Keep in mind that as some counterparties and/or depositors pull liquidity, covenants are tripped that often demand additional capital/collateral/ liquidity be put up by the remaining counterparties, thus daisy-chaining into a modern day run on the bank!

 

image006image006

 

I'm sure many of you may be asking yourselves, "Well, how likely is this counterparty run to happen today? You know, with the full, unbridled printing press power of the ECB, and all..." Well, don't bet the farm on overconfidence.

I'm currently preparing the release of a report that will make the Cyprus affair look like peanuts as this contagion reinfects the core and I produce so much evidence of apparent fraud as to make your nose bleed. Stay tuned, and follow me:

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As I State Previously, Apple Is Done, Samsung Sets the Bar, and Hardware Still Looks To Be A Razor Margin Business In a Few Years If Not Less. The HTC ONE and the Galaxy S4 are the most feature packed portable devices available today. They are (presumably with the Galaxy) being offered at the same nominal prices as their predecessors were last year, yet offering dramatic upshift in technology. Can this be sustained? The tech capability ramp up has been on a tear over the last 4 years! Within a couple of years, the Chinese/SEA OEMs armed with Google's open sourced Android OS will force margins so close to zero as to have the mobile handset business make the traditional PC business look like Apple.  Until then, we get to enjoy the feature enriching, price compressing battle between vendors to gain maximum market share - benefiting consumers to the utmost. As I read the many reviews of the just announced Samsung Galaxy SIV, I still see rampant comparisons to the Apple iPhone 5 and upcoming 5S. Apple is done (What Sell Side Wall Street Doesn't Understand About Apple - It's Not The Leader Of The Post PC World!!!), unless it dramatically ups its game in terms of technical prowess, features and marketing - all activities which will compress margins, as I've been asserting for two years and running.

Following up on Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever, I am offering subscribers an updated valuation of Apple now that it has fallen to EXACTLY where I warned subscribers in October (the week of its all-time high of about $707 it would fall) to. After playing with the iPhone 5 for about a week, I told subscribers to expect the stock to bounce up against the pessimistic band of our valuation analysis. Apple last traded at $420, this is how I put it 5 months ago...

image124

Blackberry's new Z line has been used as a comparison as will. Although I haven't tried the device, I hear very good things about it. That's good on a device-specific level, but I'm doubtful that Blackeberry can compete in this margin compression race, putting out revolutionary products every year for less and less money. In addition, marketshare/mindshare has been more than decimated. With the advent of the Z10, et. al. Blackberry has shown it still has the chops to compete short term, its medium to long term that concerns me. Since I doubt I'm the only one that feels this way, this makes Blackberry an interesting target for a thin margin, enterprise specialist OEM that doesn't have a strong handset presence in the US. Someone like Lenovo, Asus or Acer. Lenovo and Asus would be more interesting, and an Asus acquisition of Blackberry could pose risks to competitors who are not paying attention. 

Even an enterprise software company can do damage, particularly one who's aggressive and has not ties to Android (unlike the hardware OEMs Lenovo and Asus). Aggressive + enterprise + software = Oracle! OF course, Microsoft should have bought Blackberry(RIMM) 10 years ago, but that's a different story. 

For those who don't understand why this space is so competitive and why margins are destined to dive toward zero (actually, they already are for ALL operators in this space, profits are increasing due to revenue expansion in an expanding market, margins are going in the opposite direction, even for Samsung - the market leader, see Samsung Will Be Ready To Do That Fruit Thing, Just Like Blackberry & Apple - Courtesy Of Google, #MarginCompression!)....

HTC 's One phone is also compared, and HTC has often produced competent, if not superior, hardware. The problem is they don't promote and market heavily enough, so they achieve (at best) one hit wonder status. The company has also made many errors attempting to buy brand status vs building brand status organically. In essence, they're still acting as contract manufacturers versus acting like a successful standalone OEM and marketing concern. If only....

The wild card in this space is also the company that started this competitive melee in the first place and the company that stands to benefit the most - Google. 

I also laid clear the path to Google's prominence as far back as 2010, when there was not a peep from the sell side, see Google's Q4, 2012: This Looks To Be The Leader Of The New Distributed Information Paradigm .

Now, Samsung seems to be the most innovative of the handset vendors to date, but if I'm right, they will end up having to innovate in a commodity space just like the traditional PC manufacturers (Dell, HP, etc.) have to do now. Why?  Because of point number Three...

The new PC is not even a PC anymore, its a multi-tiered, multi-function, distributed cluster of interactive, location aware, multimedia applications sharing your social activities and data through a network of servers - in short, it's the cloud!

For right now, GOOGLE IS THE CLOUD! See my video descriptions of Google's business models above.

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Tuesday, 12 March 2013 09:14

Art, China and RBS

I am working a very, very big research piece and story that will be released in a few days. It will be of Lehman Brother's proportions. Those of you who have followed me since 2007 know that I mean it when I say it (I called Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns out months before the fact). Due to the complexity of this undertaking and the time constraints to get it out before the statute of limitations runs its course, posting will be sparse for a day or two.

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I will leave this for my readers and subscribers to chew on though. The Chinese have challenged international art auction leaders Christies and Sotheby's in an attempt to take advantage of the boom in faux wealth emanating from the Chinese region. Of course, this is happening as reality catches up with China. As excerpted from the subscriber only report File Icon Sotheby's Intelligence Note (click here to subscribe):

ArtTactic

“Confidence in the Chinese contemporary art market looks increasingly fragile as the ArtTactic Chinese Art Market Confidence Indicator drops 35% from May 2012. The overall Confidence Indicator is now standing at 49, down from 76.

This is the first time the Confidence Indicator has fallen into negative territory since the launch in February 2009. A reading of 49 (Indicator level below 50), means that the current sentiment in the Chinese contemporary art market is now split evenly between experts that remain positive about the market and those that feel increasingly pessimistic about the current market situation.”

ArtTrak Tribal Art

“ArtTactic released a new report on the Chinese art market that contains signs of a significant slowdown in auction sales. China’s four highest-selling auction houses have experienced a 43 percent drop since the same time in 2011

Auction results from 2011 confirmed the Chinese art market as the largest in the world, yet results from spring 2012 sales exhibit signs of a slowing market. The total auction sales (all categories) this spring from the Big Four (Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Christie’s Hong Kong, China Guardian, and Poly Auction) have dropped 32 percent from USD2.2 billion in autumn 2011 to USD1.5 billion this spring. The overall result is 43 percent lower than the peak of the Chinese art market in spring 2011”

The question du jour, "Can the Chinese leverage nationalistic pride to an extent that they can dent the auction powerhouses?" Or better yet, will they get a chance to do it before we continue the 2009 correction (yes, it ain't over)?
Now, many may wonder what this has to do with RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland)? Read BoomBustBlog for the rest of the week to find out.

 

 

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The updated valuation numbers for Apple are available for all paying subscribers, accessible at the bottom of this article. The question Du Jour is, "Has Apple fallen enough to truly qualify as a value play or is its future still murky and dismal enough to warrant further downward price action. Those who have not followed my Apple analysis should witness our short call research here.

Apple Value Drivers

 

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Subscribers, reference the updated Apple Valuation numbers and forensic snapshot of the company as of 3/6/2013. Click here to subscribe. The professional version of the document has full DCF and comparable calculations for the pessimistic scenario so more advanced users can determine where we are coming from.

Related reading:

Published in BoomBustBlog

applecutsabreandriod3d

Two and a half years ago I declared in my mobile computing wars series that Google would commoditize the mobile computing space. Four months ago, I reiterated that assertion in Smartphone Hardware Manufacturers Are Dead and did so yet again the following month in Computer Hardware Vendors Are Dead, Part Deux! These premonitions cover not only the obvious also rans and marginal companies who's management complained about losing the forest due to tree bark obstruction, but the very darlings of the industry as well. This includes the "used to be" market darling Apple (What Sell Side Wall Street Doesn't Understand About Apple - It's Not The Leader Of The Post PC World!!!) and even the current reigning champion, Samsung. That's right, I said it! Samsung! Hey, I'll say it again just to drive the point home, Samsung! How and why is that, you ask? Well, the same Google Android generated, creative destruction pathogen that brings us such great technology at such a rapid pace at such quickly diminishing prices that has wiped out those companies that I have warned of so extravagantly doesn't just disappear when your current market darling get's knocked off its perch. Let's recap & excerpt the link above so we can clearly isolate the common thread...

So, you ask, "How is it that hardware is dead?" Well....

    1. The open source OS paradigm calls for rapidly improving hardware specs at ever lower prices. I have pointed to evidence of this above, as these Asian OEMs produce ever better product at ever lower prices - just like the old school PC industry. This drives Google's info-centric business model which is why Google pushes free Android.
    2. After years of outsourcing manufacturing tech and IP integration to low cost labor Asian countries, those countries have found a way to produce trinkets of their own. Of limited quality and value so you say? Well, remember the iPhone is a Chinese phone, through and through -at least Chinese built. So now you argue, it's American designed, just Chinese made! Please peruse the Oppo Finder 5, a phone that's drastically superior to the iPhone 5 in practically every single way, retailing for $100 less than the cheapest iPhone 5 made. Low cost, low margin products combined with Google's free OS will drive the price of hardware down to near zero, if not negative. Google even has its own hardware arm now (Motorola) to facilitate this downward march in margins and prices. Suppose Google decides to create best of breed Nexus devices and give them away just below cost? Imagine the best smartphone available in the world, unlocked, without a contract, for the cost of a single monthly wireless phone payment??? Google's Nexus program is acting as a training ground to teach Google's Motorola division to build best of breed! Google's biggest and most successful partner - Samsung, is an Asian company. Samsung Electronics of South Korea reported today that its quarterly profit  jumped 76%, as its Galaxy smartphones beat rival Apple's iPhone in each quarter of 2012. What many seem to have missed is that EBITDA, Operating and Gross margins all slipped QonQ though. A sign of things to come??? Remember, Google benefits most when the barriers to access information are least. Reference "Cost Shifting Your Way To Prominence Using The Network Effect, Or Google Wins - Apple, RIM & Microsoft Have ALREADY LOST!" as well as my videos below...

Samsung is also currently Google's biggest threat. This (soon to be combative) symbiotic relationship is akin to the relationship that Samsung had with Apple. Competitors, yet symbiotic partner/clients. Samsung and Google are poised to have a slugfest. Their relationship is similar to that of Samsung and Apple, with Samsung being the Apple in this case. Apple is highly reliant upon Samsung for memory and processor chips, and screens. Although Apple is the biggest Samsung client, it's by far not the only one and the Chinese manufacturers are up and coming. 
Since Samsung is highly reliant on Google's Android but Google has significant diversification when it comes to its reliance on Samsung, Samsung's role is reversed here. You do see who's winning the Samsung/Apple battle, don't you? Expect the same conflict with similar results when Samsung butts heads with Google, unless some significant changes come into play - Which is quite possible in this rapidly morphing landscape.
Despite this, I'm sticking with Google on this for now. You see, despite Samsung's meteoric growth and triumphs over Apple, even its margins are sliding Q on Q, but most miss this because of the massive jump in earnings. Yes! Margin compression! Remember, RIMM and AAPL (and Nokia too) both exhibited this massive jump in earnings before commoditization born from the Android less than free model struck home. Many were caught with their pants down who didn't read BoomBustBlog.
I warned in plenty of time to both avoid loss and profit on the short side for each company:
rotten blackberries

Research in Motion in early 2010:

Rotten plus GreenApple

Apple from 2010 till the ultimate short call in October just past: Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever Made - Share Price, Market Share, Strategy and All

andriod-vs-apple

I also laid clear the path to Google's prominence as far back as 2010, when there was not a peep from the sell side, see Google's Q4, 2012: This Looks To Be The Leader Of The New Distributed Information Paradigm .

Now, Samsung seems to be the most innovative of the handset vendors to date, but if I'm right, they will end up having to innovate in a commodity space just like the traditional PC manufacturers (Dell, HP, etc.) have to do now. Why?  Because of point number Three...

The new PC is not even a PC anymore, its a multi-tiered, multi-function, distributed cluster of interactive, location aware, multimedia applications sharing your social activities and data through a network of servers - in short, it's the cloud!

For right now, GOOGLE IS THE CLOUD! See my video descriptions of Google's business models above.

What's the purpose of going through said lengthy exercise? 

My regular readers should know an "I told 'ya so" is coming, in the form of an analysis of Samsung's latest quarter results. I was simply going to link to this Business Insider article by Jay Yarrow, but to be honest (and with all due respect, I think these guys work hard) the assumptions and conclusions drawn in it are erroneous and faulty. Thus let's recreate the argument from scratch the BoomBustBlog way.
The article starts off well, by stating that Samsung will fall the way Apple has through margin compression, but the accuracy ends there. The analyst quoted assumes Apple's problems stemmed from the market for high end handsets being saturated, thus the demand bulge moving downstream. This was the justification given for the relatively weak uptake and acceptance of the iPhone 5. This actually the OPPOSITE of the truth. The demand for high end handsets has actually never been higher, which is why so many OEMs are pushing out flagship after flagship. Samsung's best selling device, by far, is its GS3 device (not withstanding the true flagship is the Note 2, but that is more of a specialty device, whose uptake is actually increasing as well). The author of the article and the analyst from which he quotes have succumbed to the Apple RDF (Reality Distortion Field) again.

Apple's iPhone 5 failed in resuming rapid adoption not because high end devices are nearing saturation, but because it's not a high end device yet tried to compete with said devices!!! It may be marketed as a high end device, but it can do relatively little that the Android high end devices can, ex. NFC, Full HD screen, >430 ppi screen density, 5 inch screen, quad core processing (yes, this makes a difference, the new androids smoke the iPhone 5), LTE high speed connectivity, etc. That's a pretty long list off of the top of my head. I saw this feature disparity coming in 2010 as Apple relied more on marketing and less on tech to sell its technology products more as life style fads instead of telecomm/computing/media consumption devices. Reference BoomBustBlog paid research  Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever Made - Share Price, Market Share, Strategy and All. The result of Apple continuing along these lines is simply more of the same. Reference Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever Pt 2. So what will be the cause of Samsung's margin compression if they are doing "high end" it right? See the two videos above. Samsung will be forced to put more tech in each device at ever lowering price points because that is the business model of the Open Sourced OS that they have succeeded in using - Android. It's the cost of admission into this high growth club. Now, Samsung has two big advantages that Apple doesn't and one advantage that Apple did. To wit:

  1. Samsung makes many of its own critical parts (screens, processors, memory chips). Apple actually has to buy these from its Android competitors (Samsung, Sony, LG), thus exposing it further to margin compression.
  2. Samsung has a much more diversified product mix. Apple was overexposed, big time. It garnered 72% of its operating profit from one single, product that had more than half the mobile tech space gunning for it. What do you think was going to happen?
  3. Apple, more so than Samsung, has enough brand cache to take the onus off of the underlying tech and move it to the brand, per se. People are buying (or were buying) iPhones, not iOS products. People are now starting to recognize the Samsung & Galaxy brand, giving Samsung some leverage over Android.

Expect an Android fork, or the Tizen OS to play a greater role in Samsung's love/hate relationship with Google.

Despite these advantages, as Google pushes hardware and data access prices to near zero, margins in these spaces will collapse along with it. You can't stop this collapse without slowing the progression in the tech space (for that's what the consumer has been trained to expect) or successfully cost shifting - as Google has.

You know, it's amazing how far an awareness of cognitive biases and a mastery of second grade math can get you on Wall Street. It can actually bring you tomorrows news yesterday!

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Published in BoomBustBlog

Following up on Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever, I am offering subscribers an updated valuation of Apple now that it has fallen to EXACTLY where I warned subscribers in October (the week of its all-time high of about $707 it would fall) to. After playing with the iPhone 5 for about a week, I told subscribers to expect the stock to bounce up against the pessimistic band of our valuation analysis. Apple last traded at $420, this is how I put it 5 months ago...

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This report is still available for download to paying subscribers:

With this report and Apple's subsequent ~40% or so drop, we have profited from Apple on both the long and short sides (After My Contrarian Calling Apple's 3rd Miss Accurately, I Release My Apple Research Track Record For 2 1/2 Years)

Now it's time to discuss where the stock will go from here. Valuation and specifics are the purview of paying subscribers only. All subscribers may email me for my valuation numbers (a quick summary only) and professional/institutional subscribers may contact me for a 5 minute discussion on this topic. I will have an updated valuation report out with 48 hours, likely by tomorrow midday. In the meantime I'll share a smattering of metrics, facts and trends that the sell side is still refusing to face. Let's dance, shall we?

Apple Is In Trouble – Plain & Simple!

Apple has successfully transformed itself from a portable and desktop computer company to a mobile device company, and managed to do so right at the crux of the mobile computing boom. As such, it has benefited mightily, briefly becoming the largest and most respected company in the world. Alas, what goes up must eventually come down. The largess revenues and margins gleaned by Apple brought massive competition, and in the case of Google’s Android, business models specialized in gutting the fat margins which caused Apple to prosper. As a result, margin compression ensued, but very few actually saw signs of it until it was too late (reference Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever).

Take note of the chart below which show Apple’s expenses at the corporate level spike.

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The spiking of expenses is corroborated by nearly all fundamental profitability metrics. Before delving into these metrics, let’s review how they margin compression is actually being leveraged. You see, Apple’s margin problem is not emanating from just aggressive competition with smart business models, ubiquitous cloud services (Google) and low cost means of production (Samsung). Apple is now paying the piper for its shift into mobile by having its pipeline effectively saturated with mobile products, thus nullifying the margin expansion that the move into mobile products have brought on. Mobile products had higher margins than their desktop/laptop counterparts. The chart below shows Apple as a nearly completely mobile products company.

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Now, one may say, “but even if they have turned completely into a mobile products company, margins should stabilize, not compress!”. How true, young grasshopper, except for the fact that as Apple has nearly completed its transformation, Google has started compressing margins in the mobile space, which has in turn started to put pressure on the margins of this nearly completely transformed company. Look at the progression of the revenue/product mix over time.

As can be seen from the chart below, Apple is not a phone/tablet company…

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From margin perspective, one may see an extra hit to margins as Apple has actually had a relative increase in Mac sales, whose margins are materially lower than iPad and iPhones. This will be compounded by iPhone 5 and iPad mini sales, both of which have lower margins than the products they replaced or are cannibalizing.

Now, follow the trend in entity level margin compression (below) while cross referencing the (the product mix revenue above) and you will see that there is a near saturation of mobile products, with lesser margin tablets and even lower margin notebooks creeping in over the last three quarters…

As a matter of fact, this has been the largest drop in margin (in terms of %) since I’ve followed the company.

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Oh, and BTW, you can have shrinking margins AND shrinking market share, re: 4:58 in this CNBC video below (watch the whole clip if you haven't seen it before).


So, exactly how did this all come to be?

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 Stay tuned. Tradable numbers will be forthcoming to subscribers (click here to subscribe) within 48 hours. To all retail investors (pros should know better) who do not subscribe, please do not attempt to read into what's in the subscription material by guessing from my public posts. All of the opinion and analysis that I make public has been of extremely high quality and quite accurate in aggregate, but it was not intended to be used as investment advice. That is what you pay for.

 

Published in BoomBustBlog

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It all started in June of 2011, many months before the IPO of one of the biggest scams to cross the US equity exchanges (and that's saying a lot in and of itself). I posted a forensic analysis of Groupon “What Does Groupon and the Matrix Have In Common?". I warned, I valued, the company went public, and... Nov 12, 2012 Multiple Muppet Mashing Leaves Groupon Shareholders Holding The Bag After 89% Off IPO Coupon. In that particular post, I actually offered the full Groupon research to download for free. It's amazing how this obvious Ponzi scheme got so much analyst and investor attention. Any and all BoomBustBlog subscribers saw it for exactly what it was, and hopefully shorted accordingly!

Earlier, I got on the Ponzi Exposure Express once again... Sep 26, 2011 I Suggest Groupon Offer Coupons To It's IPO Investors, They're Going To Need Them. And previous to that, once again...

Here's an abstract from our June subscriber-only analysis - Groupon Forensic Analysis & Valuation (923.04 kB 2011-06-16 10:34:36):

“Groupon’s revenue consists of the gross amount paid by customers for purchased Groupon while gross profit is the amount that the company retains after paying its merchants an agreed upon percentage of the purchase price to the featured merchant. So the comparable number for price-to-sales to use for Groupon is gross profit, or the fees it collects from merchants, which the management has correctly stated as the best proxy for the value created by the company. To put things into perspective, if eBay used the same math as Groupon does, it would have reported revenues of $61bn instead of $9bn. The company reported gross profit of $530m over last 12 months. At $25bn valuation that would put the valuation at 42x “comparable sales”. To put things in perspective, Google trades at Price-to-sales of 5.8x, Apple at 4.7x, Microsoft at 3.3x, Amazon at 2.6x and Yahoo at 3.4x.“

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In the latest S-1 registration statement, the company has revised its revenue figures by more than half. The company has restated its 2010 revenues from $713m to $313m while Q1-11 revenues were restated to $296m from $645m previously. The company has restated its financial results “to correct for an error” in the way it reported revenue. The revenue accounting change is Groupon’s second since it filed to go public. The company has also changed the presentation of certain expenses to be consistent with reporting revenue. Clearly, such errors and frequent change in the accounting policies clearly puts strain on the credibility of management – and that’s putting it lightly, especially for a company that is contemplating an IPO, not to mention that such changes are top line numbers such as revenues. In another blow to Groupon, the company’s COO Margo Georgiadis is leaving the firm to join back Google.

How about... Muppets Get MASHED Once Again - Groupon Half-off (Share price) Sale, Aug 14, 2012 – CNBC reports that Groupon [GRPN 5.815 -1.735 (-22.98%)] plunged more than 20 percent...

I can go on, but why bother? This company was pumped, dumped and marketed by several big name analysts and banks. One would think independent analyst shops would be one of the biggest shops in all of Wall Street, no?

I have commented ad nauseum on the percieved need to do business with name brands, those who do God's work, and those who simply cannot trade - muppet masters and all - as I clearly articulated on the Max Keiser show.
... and on previous shows. 

Now, all of you Goldman, Morgan Stanley, et. al. lovers, don't get your muppetware in a bunch, you know that I know that you know that It Is Now Common Knowledge That Goldman’s Investment Advice Sucks???, as excerpted:

Published in BoomBustBlog