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This is part two of a multi-part series on how I plan to profit from the impending Burst of the Education Bubble in the US.  If you are easily offended, mired in academia, closed minded, or simply bad at simple math and critical thinking, this is not the article for you. There, I've proffered fair warning ahead of time. Thus far, we've covered the precursor to the series,  How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery, and part 1 - How To Profit From The Impending Bursting Of The Education Bubble, pt 1 - A Bubble Bigger Than Subprime & More Dangerous Than Sovereign Debt!
I urge all to review those articles for the verbose nature of this topic lends to rampant cross referencing. 

A Basic Illustration Of How The Blind Pursuit Of A Debt Funded Diploma Can Lead To Personal & Intellectual Insolvency

In the previous installment of this series, I walked through the math that basically invalidates the pursuit of a 4 year degree for nearly everyone that needed to finance it through school loans at 6% or higher. The basis of this invalidation was the poor quality of the asset backing the loan, the degree itself. This installment will walk through the logic that dictates the quality of said asset, but before I delve into said diatribe, I want to illustrate for the non-finance types the relationship between assets and liabilities and the path to insolvency that ensues when you use debt to purchase inferior and/or depreciating assets - basically the crux behind the Asset securitization (subprime mortgage) and Pan-European sovereign debt crises.
In the article How Greece Killed Its Own Banks!, I illustrated the danger and folly of Greece forcing its banks to use leverage to purchase rapidly depreciating assets with fictitious (allegedly "risk free") value. 

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The same hypothetical leveraged positions expressed as a percentage gain or loss...

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Many do not think of their education as an actual investment, but if you put time (opportunity costs) and capital (actual tuition) into the pursuit of a diploma, it is a pure investment, plain and simple. As you can see from the charts above, the losses taken on investments that use leverage to purchase assets that depreciate in price can be severe. Yes, the student loan/education crisis has many similarities to the current maladies facing Greece and the EU. It is not just balance sheet insolvency I'm referring too, either. Greece has a severely impaired ability to service its debt which is why this purveyor of cash "know how" insisted that Greece would default 3 years ago as the "know that" community openly declared other wise: Greek Crisis Is Over, Region Safe”, Prodi Says – I say Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! and The Ugly Truth About The Greek Situation That'sToo Difficult Broadcast Through Mainstream Media. As a matter of fact, I even went so far as to predict that Greece would default again before finishing defaulting the first time around, This Time Is Different As Icarus Blows Up & Burns The Birds Along The Way - Greece Is About To Default AGAIN! The reason why is the exact same malady that afflicts those who use leverage to pursue "knowledge that" (see term descriptions and definitions below).

Despite extensive, self-defeating, harsh and punitive austerity measures that have combined with a lack of true economic stimulus, Greece has (to date) failed to achieve Primary Balance. For the non-economists in the audience, primary balance is the elimination of a primary deficit, yet the absence of a primary surplus, ex. the midpoint between deficit and surplus before taking into consideration interest payments.

Greece_Primary_balance

The primary balance looks at the structural issues a country may have. Government expenditures have outstripped revenues ever since 2007 and have gotten worse nearly every year since, despite 3 bailouts a restructuring, austerity and a default!

Greece_Primary_deficit_copy

Part 1 of this series illustrated exactly how those who pursue levered "know that" can and likely will fall into the exact same structural insolvency by having their fixed expenses born from the pursuit of the diploma on a leveraged basis outstrip their income. Reference this excerpt from How To Profit From The Impending Bursting Of The Education Bubble, pt 1:

...assume a $40k per year tuition for a 4 year business management degree, purchased with money borrowed at 6% (from our dear government guaranteed lenders (SLM, et. al.), deferred for and average of 2 years. An oversimplified straight calculation puts you roughly $178,000 in debt upon graduation for a piece of paper that would fetch you roughly $43,000 per year. Reference ehow.com:

In July 2009, people who hold a bachelor's of science (BS) in business management averaged $39,551 during their first year of employment and $43,022 for the first one to four years. A professional with a BS in business management typically averaged $78,669 once they reached 20 years of employment.
Read more: Average Salaries for a Bachelor's Business Degree | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_5240719_average-salaries-bachelor_s-business-degree.html#ixzz2Gw6sriN5

Real wages have likely dropped since then, but even using the nominal assumptions above you would have been driven into the hole when factoring in real life expenses of:

  • Taxes: Yes, you'd have to subtract local, state and federal taxes from said monies... At roughly 35% (bound to go up after we finish this cliff nonsense), we're now talking $27,964 average over four years. That puts you in the hole to the tune of roughly $12,035 per year you spent on that degree.
  • Living expenses: Food, shelter (rent), clothing, transportation. In a NYC, even assuming the much less expensive outer boroughs,

Combined, we're talking roughly $3,000 per month or so, assuming you won't take in roommates. If you do, you can drop that figure to about $2,500 per month. Using the lower bound of this assumption, you are underwater (structural deficit) to the tune of about $2,000 per year. Please keep in mind that primary balance calculations and structural deficits don't take into consideration interest payments (for the sake of comparison). The underwater comment does not take into consideration the actual paying back of your loan yet, either. 

So, on the fifth year following your freshman orientation, assuming you studied well, you would have laid out $176,000 facing annual debt service of about $12,000 or so - offset by a net income stream of roughly $28,000 to cover roughly $30,000 of living expenses. The negative $2,000 per year cash flow would result in a chart that is very, very similar to the Greek charts featured above.

So, why do these numbers look so bad? Well, the answer to that question lies in the value of the asset that knowledge seekers encumber themselves to acquire. The levered purchase of depreciating assets or assets with fictitiously high values is bound to lead to insolvency. Enter... 

The Topic Of Knowledge

Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something. That familiarity can include facts, information, descriptions, or skills acquired through education, which also includes experience. Knowledge refers to both the theoretical and practical understanding of a subject. Knowledge can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject). I am here to sell implicit knowledge, better known to the old school as know how, or more formerly known as "Knowledge How"....

Knowledge that vs Knowledge How

In academia, the kind of knowledge usually proffered is propositional knowledge, more colloquially described as "knowledge that." "Knowledge that" or "know that" is distinct and should be discerned from "knowledge how" (know how). The best way to describe this concept is to use simple real life examples. In mathematics, it is commonly known that (hence knowledge that, or know that) 1 +1 = 2, but there is also knowing how to add the numbers one plus one together and understanding what their sum (two) is. 
In physics, we can take this concept even farther. It has been argued to by college age students of knowledge that (who are currently mired in academia) that a physics engineer cannot approach know how without being first well versed in know that. This is a mindset that is the result of today's modern academic group think.
This concept is also easily enough disproved by using a common example known to most of us, and that is riding a bicycle. The theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining a state of balance on a bicycle (knowledge that, or know that) cannot substitute for the practical knowledge of how to ride (knowledge how, or know how). The importance of understanding how to ride a bike is obvious, established and grounded - at least to those interested in bike riding. There is absolutely no prerequisite of having the theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining the state of balance of the bicycle to learn to ride the bicycle, nor to ride it proficiently, nor to pass this knowledge on to others. Thus, it is obvious and clear that an engineer does not need to be versed in "know that" to move on to "know how". Any failure to acknowledge the distinction between knowledge that and knowledge how can lead to vicious regresses.
 
 
In philosophy, an infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of proposition P2, the truth of proposition P2 requires the support of proposition P3, ... , and the truth of proposition Pn-1 requires the support of proposition Pn and n approaches infinity. This is more commonly known as the circular argument, as explained in Greece Reports: "Circular Reasoning Works Because Circular Reasoning Works" - Or - Here Comes That Default!!!
 
A distinction must be made between infinite regresses that are truly "vicious" and those that are comparatively benign. A truly vicious regress is an attempt to solve a problem that by and large re-introduced the initial problem in the (or as the) proposed solution. Examples of this can be found in today's global Ponzi scheme of using more debt to solve the debt dilemma of Greece, thus the ease of my predicting serial re-default. This is not truly a practical (or doable) solution, and as one continues along these lines, the initial problem will recur infinitely and will never be solved. Not all regresses are vicious, however the truly circular argument is. This is the crux behind the article, "How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery" and the reason why the Pan-European sovereign debt crisis is nowhere near being solved (again reference  Greece Reports: "Circular Reasoning Works Because Circular Reasoning Works" - Or - Here Comes That Default!!!). Remember, failure to acknowledge the distinction between "know that" and "know how" leads to vicious regresses. With academia being a bastion of "know that" rooted in the rote memorization of facts and information bits, those well versed in know how can literally run circles around those immersed in said schools of thought once it comes to problems solving, value creation and getting things done (or undone) in the real world. 
 
It is the reason why the legion's of ivy league academics failed to foresee following while I clearly articulated the risks and consequences well beforehand: 
I have a rich history in seeing and benefiting from the things that the "know that" crowd cannot perceive. Reference Who is Reggie Middleton? for more about me.

What Is This Really About?

There is a very important and distinct difference between "knowing that" and "knowing how," with the crux of the distinction being the difference between this initiative and that vast swath of modern academia. "Know that" is a function of rote memorization of static information, passed down from the Prussian method of education implemented over 200 years ago and still common use today and "know how" is basically understanding of how to get things done...
"Know how" is what has separated the labor intensive low margin industries of the far east from the Intellectual Property rich industries found in the US, at least until now. After decades of toiling in an antiquated teaching system producing a legions of leveraged "know that" recipients who then seek "know how" in the work force (basically asking employers to pay to learn on the job what they should have learned from school) to pay off or compensate for hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuition bills and debt, the US is finally paying the piper for its lackadaisical approach to real education. Asian companies such as Samsung are actually outperforming their sterling US counterparts such as Apple in both product capability, product quality and even market share. In order to stem this tide, true "know[ledge] how" must become - once again - the aim, goal and accomplishment of the education system, similar to the apprenticeships of old.
 
The basis of doing things and solving real world problems by thinking through them and value creation (making things) by applying a real, true skill. Academia is primarily interested in the first, Reggie Middleton is deeply ensconced in the latter.
 
The next installment will focus on a sampling of individual schools that peddle and push leveraged "know that" to the masses, ranging from the gleaming ivy league towers to the workshop tutoring courses down the street. This pandering of leveraged "know that" is to the dismay of all who relied on the so-called scholars from said schools to actually know what they were talking about in predicting crises, managing assets and conducting policy through said crises, and coming up with solutions for the same. I have already laid my "know[ledge] how" track record for all to see (reference Who is Reggie Middleton?) and it would be interesting to perform an apples to apples comparison to those purveyors of "leveraged know that" to see if this blogger cum entrepreneurial investor is on to something or not. I don't possess a masters degree, not to mention one from the ivy league, yet I feel I have run circles around many, if not the vast majority of those that have. You can view the data and judge for yourself - Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best? It's not necessarily the raw intelligence, that has enabled this, but the ensconced approach to learning. 
 
I currently have my analysts working on explicit ROIs for degrees (both cash and levered) from the following schools: Harvard, Yale, Wharton, Princeton, NYU, Capella, University of Pheonix, DeVry, CUNY, SUNY with explicit comparisons to investing borrowed funds in the NASADAQ and S&P 500 over the same time period(s) and interning for free at various institutions who hire from said schools. This installment will also review the business models of said schools and the following installment will illustrate my answer to this mess.

In the mean time and in between time, subscribers can glean my view of one of the big private post secondary educators who is  having a problem with volatile earnings that are probably going to get worse.

file iconEducation Co. 1-3-2013

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What makes this truly ironic is that anyone who truly received a real business admin, management or finance education would be able to run these rudimentary calculations and thought processes themselves which would result in the invalidation of the actual degree to which they are seeking...

One of the most popular (although I feel not popular enough, considering the importance of the subject matter) articles of BoomBustBlog 2012 was my pieces on the near uselessness of the US education system - How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery. The accompanying graphic easily encapsulates a material portion of the piece, basically illustrating how the public school system serves as a mass indoctrination machine which has close to nothing in common with true education, knowledge dissemination, creativity or value creation. 

The post secondary and private school systems are simply continuations of the same, but worse yet, charge exorbitant fees for said injustice. Many poor victim either saves up a half lifetime of savings or worse yet goes into insolvency skirting debt to purchase a so-called education (which as described above is nothing of the sort) that is represented buy a piece of paper known as a diploma that is literally not worth the paper it is written on. 

For those who think that I'm exaggerating, assume a $40k per year tuition for a 4 year business management degree, purchased with money borrowed at 6% (from our dear government guaranteed lenders (SLM, et. al.), deferred for and average of 2 years. An oversimplified straight calculation puts you roughly $178,000 in debt upon graduation for a piece of paper that would fetch you roughly $43,000 per year. Reference ehow.com:

In July 2009, people who hold a bachelor's of science (BS) in business management averaged $39,551 during their first year of employment and $43,022 for the first one to four years. A professional with a BS in business management typically averaged $78,669 once they reached 20 years of employment.
Read more: Average Salaries for a Bachelor's Business Degree | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_5240719_average-salaries-bachelor_s-business-degree.html#ixzz2Gw6sriN5

If I'm not mistaken, wages have dropped on a inflation adjusted basis since then, but I digress. Using the figures above you would have just about broken even over an 8 year period, save a few common sense facts.

  • Taxes: Yes, you'd have to subtract local, state and federal taxes from said monies... At roughly 35% (bound to go up after we finish this cliff nonsense), we're now talking $27,964 average over four years. That puts you in the hole to the tune of roughly $12,035 per year you spent on that degree.
  • Debt service: Oh, yeah! Since you borrowed the money you'd probably would have to pay it back, but since you also have to work and pay rent (you can forget a mortgage at these income levels) you'd be paying back the minimum levels and scraping to do so. You'd better hope and pray you don't live in Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn too!
  • Oppurtunity costs: Yes, you could have used those four years and $176,000 to do something else maybe a tad bit more productive.

So, on the fifth year following your freshman orientation, assuming you studies well, you would have laid out $176,000 facing annual debt service of about $12,000 or so - offset by a net income stream of roughly $28,000. The $16,000 per year positive cash flow (assuming you didn't need food, shelter, clothing, transportation or anything else) would give you about 12 years or so to pay off the debt and break even. I'm not even goint to run the math on the ROI, so let's just pick something outrageously generous like 8% (remember, this is over a 16 year period).

To wit, let's compare some other basic investments  - that is assuming someone besides your school and your lender actually consider your academic mis-education an actual investment.

The NASDAQ composite returned 98% over the last for years. Dumping the money in the NAZ comp would have brought you close to doubling it - although you would not have had access to all of the funds at once for a lump sum investment, a roughly 50% gain looks likely. Now, you would have gained 4 years of simplistic (as in index watching) experience as compared to your competitor's fancy schmancy 4 year degree, yet you would had nearly a quarter million in cash, as well as roughly $70,000 in equity while he would have had $173,000 in debt, interest payments due immediately and the hope of finding a job with which his trusty diploma would surely help him, right? If you had a small financial business, who would you hire? The fool or the entrepreneurial investor???

Suppose you Interned for free with Apple, Google or Facebook while simply leaving the monies in the bank at .25% interest? You would have had a superior education and only been in the hole for $16,000, as well as having $160,000 in cash to play with. How about starting your own business? Invested in commercial real estae? Scalping Greek bonds post bailout? You see, there are so very few who compare getting a diploma or getting a loan for a diploma with other investments because they are brainwashed to believe this is the way to get ahead in life. It is not! It's the way to get educator entities and banks ahead in life, as you become a debt slave. 

What makes this truly ironic is that anyone who truly received a real business admin, management or finance education would be able to run these rudimentary calculations and thought processes themselves which would result in the invalidation of the actual degree to which they are seeking, alas... I digress...

Why the student loan bubble is worse than the subprime bubble 

Zerohedge has run an interesting series of the student loan bubble in the recent past, hence I will not rehash what has already been done in such exquisite detail. For those who have not been following, this is the case in a nutshell...

Student loan delinquencies break the 20% mark as total student debt tops a trillion dollars, rivaling and likely surpassing the subprime debt debacle.

This is how the Fed described this "anomaly": 

Outstanding student loan debt now stands at $956 billion, an increase of $42 billion since last quarter.  However, of the $42 billion, $23 billion is new debt while the remaining $19 billion is attributed to previously defaulted student loans that have been updated on credit reports this quarter. As a result, the percent of student loan balances 90+ days delinquent increased to 11 percent this quarter.

oh and this from footnote 2: 

As explained in a Liberty Street Economics blog post, these delinquency rates for student loans are likely to understate actual delinquency rates because almost half of these loans are currently in deferment, in grace periods or in forbearance and therefore temporarily not in the repayment cycle. This implies that among loans in the repayment cycle delinquency rates are roughly twice as high.

And more from ZH:Over $120B in student loans currently in default. For private private  institutions lead the way with a 22% default rate.

Today's public school system diploma, post secondary diploma, and for the most part, many if not most graduate degrees and PhDs are a waste of good ink and (relatively) valuable paper. This paper is quite similar to the MBS and sovereign debt paper which I have written so presciently and accurately on over the last 6 years (see Asset securitization crisis and Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis). The crises from these essentially depreciating assets stemmed from the piling of excessive debt on top of assets with fictional value. Trust me, I can see these things clearly, as can anyone who takes an objective view. When have we had instances similar to this Student Loan Bubble (or Stubble)? When I made a small fortune shorting...

I can go on for a while (particularly on RE and sovereign debt), but I feel you've got the point. The pattern is inevitable. There is a  true business opportunity here, for many college graduates couldn't earn their way out of a wet paper bag, and many of those that could are squandered by toiling away in a system of derivatives of derivatives based upon synthetic products (think of mortgage CDO cubed traders) which are merely shadows of social constructs, versus the inception, design, production and sales of real, value creating, tangible (as well as intangible) assets, products and services.

My next article on this topic will show how I am positioning myself and others to capitalize on this education bubble burst on both the short side and the long side. In the mean time and in between time, subscribers can glean my view of one of the big private post secondary educators who is  having a problem with volatile earnings that are probably going to get worse.

file iconEducation Co. 1-3-2013

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In May Of 2010, I published a series of reader contributions on the cruise line industry as well some proprietary research on a particular company in said industry - Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The consistent, globally synchronized flood of money totally distorted market pricing and risk in public equities - thus often distorted practically applicability of hard core fundamental and forensic research. Long story short, 2+2 equalled 4 arithmetically, but as a speculator in the globally liquidity slush bowl that was the playground of the coordinated international central banking cartel, the sum was more like 8. Of course, this meta-math is quite unsustainable. Quite frankly, it was a wonder that it has lasted this long, but sooner or later, math tends to subvert magic, which at the end of the day, is really nothing short of psychological prestidigitation, smoke and mirrors. We have revisited this industry after finding a tad bit more optimism for one of the leading companies than we feel is warranted. That report will be posted for subscribers tomorrow, but for now let's look at how we came to this conclusion through 2 and a half years of observation.

The following is a summary compilation of contributions from readers and some rough spreadsheet work from our analytical team regarding RCL. It has not been put in formal report form, but we feel the contents are worth perusing. The entire document is available to subscribers here: RCL_050910_Reader Contribution. The proprietary research on this company is available to subscribers here: RCL 050510 Release Candidate 05/06/2010. And now, on to a brief of the analytical view of recent history...

Existing qualities for an optimal short candidate:

  • ROIC < WACC and decreasing, for many years
  • Huge leverage and debt maturities currently with low coupons
  • Altman Z score <1
  • Industry requires enormous capital to grow the business
  • Industry has excess capacity and is adding more anyway
  • Huge exposure to the Euro and US consumer and vulnerable to weak macro
  • High cost producer
  • Weak competitive position with competitors who are lower cost with better balance sheets
  • Bullish investor sentiment and valuation above long term averages
  • Insiders dumping their stock
  • And a catalyst to help investors revaluate their bullish stance

Only thing I’m missing on this short is identifiable fraud and accounting shenanigans

RCL Summary: “Slow Motion Train wreck”

Market cap: $7B

Ev: $15.1B

Target holding period> 1.5 years

One must remain cognizant that the holding period suggested was not that of a momentum, nor a day trader.

Current Valuation: EV/EBITDA of 11.6 street estimates, 18 P/E on 2010 EPS.

Shares already sold short: 27M shares

Total float: 130M shares

Stock Downside: real possibility the equity goes to $0 over next 2 years based on Altman Z score and potential that CCL decreases prices to push on RCL’s stressed balance sheet.  Consider the impact sovereign defaults would have on RCL if credit markets froze up in response while RCL attempts to fund $2.6B in debt maturities and $4.4B in ship building commitments over the next 3 years with a vulnerable balance sheet and minimal/zero fcf.

While this has proven to be historically pessimistic, and frankly even a tad bit pessimistic at the outset, the logic behind the funding issues was (and still is sound). The sovereign debt issue is a credit/currency crisis that has been postponed by central bank prestidigitation, with a literal cornucopia of stop gap measures that have prevented currency collapse and postponed several serial defaults but at the price of compounding the over-indebted problem by piling indebted countries with even more debt while crippling revenue production through austerity measures - thus at the same time not only failing to provide a lasting solution but further exacerbating the problem while simultaneously extending it. Reference 

Stock Upside .: A 20% premium on 10 year average EV/EBITDA multiple gets 11.4x.  Then using 10% higher than the already optimistic 2011 street estimates of EBITDA of $1.5B, so RCL generates $1.65 in EBITDA in 2011.  This would imply an ev of ~$18.8B, subtract ~$9B of net debt at that time and get market cap of $9.8B vs. current $7B market cap. Or potential upside of 40% if they blow away optimistic estimates, issue no equity and earn a 20% premium to historical valuation multiples.  Limited takeout risk given industry fundamentals.

Risk/Reward: 2.5x   (100%gain/40%loss)

“90 second Summary” on short RCL equity

A short of RCL equity as a way to express an opinion of a long term shift in US and EU discretionary spending patterns and increasing savings rates.  RCL equity has further downside from being over leveraged coming into a competitive pricing environment in a business with tremendous fixed costs. 

Due to long lead times on ship orders, I believe the cruise operators are portraying an unrealistic future in order to secure future capital.  Nearly every other leisure industry from gaming, theme parks and airlines are all postponing capex and pushing out orders are much as possible yet the cruise line industry (primarily CCL and RCL) are both increasing capacity steadily in 2010 and 2011 after dramatic capacity increases in the past.  Street estimates call for increases in prices and net yields while capacity is added to an industry with decreasing demand.

I prefer shorting RCL to CCL due to a very stressed balance sheet, weak market position, poor relative profitability and increasing likelihood of price competition with largest and dominant competitor. 

Timing: 

Insider sales have been accelerating with a recent flood of open market sales by a wide range of company insiders including the CEO

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Fundamentals and Catalyst

Recently CCL and RCL equity has moved sharply up on talks of price increases.  Given huge inherent leverage in an industry with large fixed costs this is tremendously bullish for the stocks.  Recent talk of price increases but could be marketing just to incent people to book ahead of time since lead times decreased dramatically in 2008-2009.  Not expecting prices to get back to 2008 levels. 

Position Strategy

One could go long CCL to hedge out risk of industry wide rebound and use CCL div to pay RCL short cost.  Could also use put options on WTI to hedge out risk of oil declining.  Short oil not a bad trade in its own right.  One can sell otm puts to help pay for short and help buffer risk. 


5 key points why shorting RCL and the cruise liner industry is attractive

Excess Capacity and aggressively adding more

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Very low asset turnover.

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Simply not generating enough sales on their assets.

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1% change in net yield is .24 for RCL

Over last 10 years capacity has roughly doubled by growing at 8.5% CAGR.  Ended 2008 with over 370k berths on ~300 ships.  Between 2009 and 2012 capacity will increase by another 25% to over 460k berths.  Expecting US gross capacity to grow 3-4% 2009-2012 with Europe gross adds in the 8-9% vs. historical CAGR of 10% over past 10 years.

Cruise lines international association says that global cruise passenger traffic only grew 7.3% CAGR between 1990-2007 and by 5.1% to 13.2M passengers in 2008.  This huge increase in capacity over the last 10 years has been the cause of falling ROIC and decreasing profit margins as supply > demand.  Instead of pulling back on capacity they are adding more!

Increase in global capacity?  8.6% in 2010, 5% in 2011 and 3.6% in 2012, but installed base has increased 50%+ higher than that which existed before the last fleet expansion in 2003. 

Between 2009-2012 CCL expected to spend $9B on 17 new ships, 11 for EU and 6 for NA.  RCL though has 6 ships at a cost of $5B and adding 28% to their capacity.  The 5400 berth Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will both be the largest cruise ships in the world.  Average cost for both is $225k per berth. 

 In 2010 CCL is growing capacity in 2010 by 8% and 6% in 2011.  RCL by 12.7% in 2010 and 9% in 2011.

The bullish news is that RCL only is going to add 2/3 of a ship per year after 2013?! This industry should be adding NO new ships starting NOW.

Bull case is that new boats will have higher margins and drive more revenue, but it seems logical to me that given the large influx of new boats coming online that the older boats will become less preferable for customers and likely need further discounting  (since discount to get occupancy up to 100%).

More efficient vessels increasing margins while capacity increasing revenue?? Not unless consumer spending rebounds dramatically.

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Weaker US and European consumer

  1. Don’t need to tell you that the US and European consumer is facing serious leverage and income issues.  Worth noting that shorter notice of trip planning require more working capital also.
  2. This change in spending patterns though would be the last draw as more capacity chases decreasing demand now, pricing will certainly come under pressure.  In this situation the competitor with lower costs and a stronger balance sheet will emerge the victor.

Huge fixed costs creates enormous operating leverage, if pricing decreases, this devastates cash flow and earnings.

  1. Cruise liners have tremendous leverage as over 40% of costs are fixed with the rest semi fixed (ie personnel).  20% of revenue from onboard spending, with nearly 100% fixed costs. 
  2. RCL and CCl are 75% of the market.  And cruises are priced so they always sail at least 100% occupancy so regardless of pricing they will ensure they fill the boats.   

So, after reviewing this I'm sure many are wondering what went wrong with such a well through out thesis. I will revisit what went wrong and more importantly whether or not the entire thesis is wrong in the next two to three articles.

Published in BoomBustBlog

In June 2010, I claimed that There Is Another Paradigm Shift Coming in Technology and Media: Apple, Microsoft and Google Know its Winner Takes All. In said piece, I asserted that Google was well positioned to knock Apple off of its perch, but more importantly that Google was also best positioned to be the leader of the new paradigm - the intersection of computing, telecommunications and media.

It's now incontrovertible that I was correct on the first assertion, see Cost Shifting Your Way To Prominence Using The Network Effect, Or Google Wins - Apple, RIM & Microsoft Have ALREADY LOST! - and from an investment perspective, Right On Time, My Prediction Of Apple Margin Compression 8 Quarters From My CNBC Warning Landed Right On The Money! Now, ample evidence of the second assertion is coming to the forefront...

It is Google's Android OS that has enabled this rapid advancement in tech, and it's Google's cut throat open source business model that has provided the impetus for the rapid drop in hardware prices that accompanies the steep spike in functionality.

Judging the tepid take-up of the new Windows 8/phone platform, and the current decline in Apple cache as well as relative market share - the Windows PC platform can now read its own obituary as Android becomes the new computing standard. At the rate things are going, my other prognostications in the space will come to fore rather prematurely...

Smartphone Hardware Manufacturers Are Dead, Long Live The Google-like Solution Providers

Computer Hardware Vendors Are Dead, Part Deux!

All paying subscribers should download the Google Q1-2012 Valuation Summary, wherein we have updated the valuation numbers for Google using a variety of metrics. Click here to subscribe or upgrade

Google still exhibits the likelihood that they will control mobile computing for the balance of the decade.

file iconGoogle Q1-2012 Valuation Summmary 04/20/2012

file iconGoogle Final Report 10/08/2010

A couple of bits from our archives...


There are currently 7 Google reports available. Select the "Google Final Report" and click the "Download" button. You will receive a 63 page analysis that looks like this on the cover...

The table of contents outlines how we have broken Google down into distinct businesses and identified both the individual business models and the potential revenue streams, as well as  valuation for each business line.

Page 57 of the analysis shows a sensitivity table which outlines the various scenarios that can come into play and how it will change our outlook and valuation opinion.

Professional/institutional subscribers can actually access a subset of the model that we used to create the sensitivity analysis above to plug in their own assumptions in case they somehow disagree with our assumptions or view points. Click here for the model: Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional). Click here to subscribe or upgrade.

Published in BoomBustBlog

Reggie Middleton at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi

 Last spring I took a trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on a fact findng mission. It was interesting, as the luxury centers in those cities are arguably unmatched  in terms of opulence bling. On the topic of bling, there were several vending machines of interest, one of which in particular caught my eye.

When I was there (March '12), the gold was priced above spot (or at least above what I was able to get it for), but the ability to buy ingots retail, relatively anonymously for cash did intrigue me. The UAE is a cash town, so this should not be a surprise. Now, the question remains, is gold still a worthwhile pursuit considering its run up and subsequent recent correction? Will it really provide practical hedge against the inflation that so many see coming down the pike? Well, let's dabble in the BoomBustBlog archives for some insight...

As excerpted from Deflation, Inflation or Stagflation - You Be the Judge!

In continuing the rant on the possibility of the US entering a stagflationary environment, as was hinted by Alcoa's quarterly report (see "Is My Warning of the Risks of a Stagflationary Environment Coming to Fore?"), I have decided to graphically illustrate the historically most successful inflation hedges. Click graphic below to enlarge.

inflation_correlation.png


As you can see from the excerpt above, unless gold breaks its historical correlation with inflation vs other assets, it stands to be outdone as an inflation hedge. Then again, there are many moving parts to this puzzle. We explored an interesting, in depth (although admittedly self serving) perspective on this topic in Trading Physical Gold: Is Gold In A Bubble? - BoomBustBlog

Related reading:

Trading Physical Gold As Easily As You Trade Stocks: Is Gold Becoming A Tradable Currency After All?

Trading Physical Gold vs Investing In A Physical Gold Trust: Which Is Better?

Reggie Middleton Interviews GBI: Gold Bullion International part 3 of 5

Reggie Middleton's Take on Investing for Inflation, pt. 1

Economic contractions AND rising prices, dare Reggie utter the "I" word - Enter a global phenomenon

Global Recession - an economic reality

 

Published in BoomBustBlog

Bloomberg reports Jobless Claims in U.S. Rise for First Time in Five Weeks, as I ponder how all of those heretofore unemployed MBS traders that Bernanke tried to assist benefit the jobless claims number. As I explained last quarter, Bernanke's squandering of US resources for the benefit of the banking elite will have to be paid for by those who actually seek jobs in this country. The Bloomberg article is excerpted as follows:

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments rose for the first time in five weeks, a sign further improvement in the labor market depends on faster economic growth.

Applications for jobless benefits increased by 17,000 to 361,000 in the week ended Dec. 15, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 360,000 claims, according to the Bloomberg survey median. 

The figures signal the expansion probably needs to proceed more quickly to encourage companies to hold the line on headcounts and step up hiring while Congress debates the nation’s budget and tax rates. The Federal Reserve said last week it intends to keep policy accommodative to invigorate the economy and help sustain a decline in joblessness.

“This number gets us back into the range we’ve been in really since the spring,” said Omair Sharif, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in StamfordConnecticut, who forecast claims would rise to 360,000. “We’re not waiting to see much more improvement on the layoff side. We’re just waiting for the hiring side to get going.”

 ZeroHedge adds in as follows:

This week's data remains below the year's average, though not by much, and the trend of claims falling appears to have almost entirely stalled this year from the hope-driven moves of the previous two years.

 

  

Now, if you remember, Benjamin Bernanke was supposed to have aided unemployment by buying hundreds of billions of dollars of MBS securities, right? Yeah, I know.. WTF!!! Let's take a look at how that has worked out histoically...

 thumb image002 copy copy copy copy copy

Not only has it not worked out well historically, but the unemployment numbers spiked as soon as Bernanke admitted the buying as can be referenced in the ZeroHedge chart above, and have not truly showed a trend of abatement since, but then again, one shouldn't expect such looking at the historical trend in my chart above. If you want to see a positive trend, look at the industry that was saddled with bullshit MBS to begin with...

image005 copy copy

And there you have it, MBS purchases by the hundreds of billions that likely drive bank shares through the roof as they are unsaddled of the bullshit which they schemed so hard to peddle in the first place as unemployment restarts its upward climb, devoid of the resources that Bernanke directed towards the banks. For those who don't remember how my rant on Bernanke selling out the working class for the banking class went down, reference the video on the topic below...

And on that note, here's a group of companies (yes, another group) that we expect to get banged by this not-so-stealth bank bailout. Chief among this group is an overpriced gem that is suffering spiking expenses, flat revenue and a sad macro outlooke, for subscribers only (click here to subscribe)... File Icon Specialty Note (Consumer Retail)

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There will be several more reports to subscribers before the new year. Stay tuned...

Published in BoomBustBlog

One of the inevitable results of cost shifting (see the video below) is not just the compression of margins, but the rapid advancement of adoption by the masses. This rapid adoption causes users producers, and in the tech space - programmers and hardware OEMs to dump significant amounts of resources into the product in the race for revenue and proftis. The end result? A materially superior product, even if that product started off inferior to the competition. This was the case with Windows back in the 80's and 90's, where Windows 2.0 was trash, and by the time you got to Windows 95, the application space was ubiquitous.

Well, the new millenium digital master of cost shifting, has taken its less than free product and imbued it with technology from both a hardware and software perspective that is totally unmatched by ALL of its competiion. reference this article from Bloomberg: HTC Said to Halt Larger Windows Phone on Display Resolution

 HTC Corp. (2498) scrapped plans to produce a large-screen smartphone using Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s operating system because the screen would have had lower resolution than competing models, a person familiar with the project said. The Windows software doesn’t support resolutions as high as that on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android platform, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

It should be noted that Apple's iOS can't support anything near the 1080p resolution as well. Microsoft does have the Windows RT and Pro OS lines. I'm typing this on a Windows 8 convertible tablet/notbeook (the Lenovo Yoga 13, a truly wonderful device that should make Apple iPad purchases seem daft in retrospect), but I feel it may be too little to late to make any inroads into the mobile space that will truly dent Google's prominence.

Chief Executive Officer Peter Chou’s decision to halt the project using Windows Phone 8 software leaves HTC with only Android for phones measuring larger than 5 inches diagonally, dealing a blow to Microsoft in its efforts to win share from Google and Apple Inc. (AAPL) Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC had planned to introduce the device next year to claw back share from Samsung Electronics Co., which offers Galaxy Note devices with larger screens using Android. Android snared 72 percent of the market in the third quarter, while Apple’s iOS software had 14 percent, according to Gartner Inc.

Microsoft isn't the only casualty here, for Bloomberg reports: First China Mobile, Now Russia's MTS Drops iPhone. Basically, the largest of the foreign carriers are either dropping Apple are demanding larger concessions from the company before they decide to carry the phone. This results in two things, unrestricted reign for Google's Android to proliferate (first indicated by BoomBustBlog nearly three years ago, Math and the Pace of Smart Phone Innovation May Take a Byte Out of Apple’s (Short-lived?) Dominance), and margn compression in Apple - a thesis presented nearly three years ago again - Android Now Outselling iOS? Explaining the Game of Chess That Google Plays in the Smart Phone Space, and perfected within a week or two of Apple's all time high and consequent fall from grace:  (see Right On Time, My Deconstructing The Most Hated Trade Of The Decade, The 375% BoomBustBlog Apple Call!! I went into detail with Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever Made - Share Price, Market Share, Strategy and All). 

The call to short Research in Motion two years ago () was born from the same logic. We all know how that story turned out - BoomBustBlog Research Performs a RIM Job! and Another RIMM Job? It's Amazing How Many Institutions Don't Read ... Margin will not be available to companies using last millenium's software model, and fat margined hardware is dead. The hardware is quickly becoming a commodity, see Smartphone Hardware Manufacturers Are Dead, Long Live The Google-like Solution Providers and Computer Hardware Vendors Are Dead, Part 2). ALL of the hardware vendors need to do what the (use to be) pre-eminent software vendor is doing now, reference Microsoft Is Doing What The "Has Been Giants Of Yesteryear" Were Afraid To Do, Make A Radical Change BEFORE ITS TOO LATE! All of these "emergencies" are borne from Google and thier extremely dangerous cost shifting business model.

Google's cost shifting business model, explained...

Google's last three mobile phone software incarnations (Android 4.0, 4.11/2, & 4.2) are so materially superior to all of the competition in nearly everyway as to be nearly incomparable. Now, thanks to massive adoption by hundreds of OEMs around the world and the extreme rate of R&D expansion into this space, the hardware pushing the software is incomparable as well, with 8 core CPU chips and full 1080p unbreakable screens breaking the horizon next quarter, all with battery lives that can pierce the 36 hour mark. This is fascinating for smart phone shipments now handily outpace traditional PC shipments (I say traditional because smartphones are essentially ultra mobile PCs now). The company that controls the smartphone platform becomes the new age Microsoft of the last millenium. It amazing, since the old age Microsoft was the one best suited (at least it appeared) to be the new age Microsoft, but big company mentality, mixed with hubris and execution errors allowed Google to reinvent the software business model.

Could anyone have seen this coming? Of course they could have, at least they could have if they read BoomBustBlog...

Two and a half years ago, on Thursday, 05 August 2010 I penned: Android Now Outselling iOS? Explaining the Game of Chess That Google Plays in the Smart Phone Space. Let's traipse through it to see how accurate these near three year predictions in this volatile space have been:

Many commenters are lamenting on the fact that Google is not making money on Android sales since the OS is given away for close to free while Apple is making $250 per handset sold. Those who are looking at it from this perspective are missing the forest due to that big fat tree that is in their way! Yes, Apple is making a killing on its iPhone sales, and it would be difficult to attempt to catch them with a fat margined product. They have managed to produce both margin and volume and have wrapped it up with extreme customer loyalty. What the armchair pundits are missing is the power of reach. Google is developing massive reach, and developing it ridiculously quickly. A byproduct of this reach is the commoditization of the smart phone platform which will probably cut the fat margined business model off at its knees. That is not to say that Apple will be cut off at the knees, but they will have to alter their business model for the competitor-less margin that they enjoyed for the last three years will no longer be a given. It also means that anyone else reaching for the crown (including Apple) will have to spend more upfront to gain less per unit sold. This actually benefits Google, for they are not in the hardware race, yet they benefit from each and every handset, tablet, desktop and automotive unit sold. Google is trying to become the new Microsoft!

As clearly anticipated, Apple's margins have dropped, and are expected to drop even more and at a faster rate. Bingo! Right On Time, My Prediction Of Apple Margin Compression 8 Quarters From My CNBC Warning Landed Right On The Money!

In the meantime, Google ramps up the potential to push software as a cloud service, downloadable software and interactive, activity/context sensitive rich media ads and services to hundreds of millions of new users. This opens up a phenomenal opportunity for Google, and it appears as if many are missing the point because Google (wisely) decided not monetize it immediately, but to let it gestate and grow. Do you remember 15 years ago when many felt the same about search and the fact that Google wasn’t making any money providing search (pre-advertising)? Now this is not to say that Google is going to win the Smart Phone Wars, although at this point Google looks like the number one contender (IMO, Apple, Google and Microsoft are the ones to look out for). Apple has a very different and unique approach that is executing quite well from a profit and market share approach. Google has very strong momentum, and Microsoft has, by far, the strongest infrastructure. The only definite that I see is that this is a very exciting time to be a consumer of these products, for the competition is forcing everybody to push out the best that they have to offer – very much unlike the time when MSFT ran everything and which produced Windows Vista. Don’t believe me? Well, if you haven’t had a chance to yet, check out the features packed into the new Windows Mobile 7 OS - After Getting a Glimpse of the New Windows Phone 7 Functionality, RIMM is Looking More Like a Short Play.

Other perks from the Smart Phone Wars competition:

    • You can bet your left ass cheek that the iPhone 5 will have an Evo-sized screen with resolution to match today’s LCD flat screens, accompanied by the opening up of the iPhone to standards-based peripherals, ex. HDMI plugs and USB. The screen size increase is a definite, but peripherals is a maybe. Die hard Apple fans won’t mind that they have to jump through hoops to connect their device, but the rest of the world will lean towards an Android device if they can’t easily use their phone/tablet with existing hardware. Apple sees this as well as I do. I’m sure they’ll find a way to gimp the standard somewhat, but more open is better than less open.

The iPhone 5 did come out with a larger screen, albeit just now quiet large enough. For power users and those who are on their phone a lot  or consume significant multi-media, this is a deal breaker. Apple also went deeper into the proprietary field versus more standards based. This will give a temporary blip upwards in profits and lock-in, then ultimately cause #FAIL as Android ubiquity seeps in. This was a major error on the part of management.

    • You will probably see Nokia adopt Android or Windows Mobile on some of its devices, or you will see continued market share decline. Nokia makes some kick-ass hardware, and will challenge HTC if they had the OS to go along with it.

 As predicted, Nokia did adopt the Windows platform, and it did so en masse - reference The Nokia/Microsoft Alliance & Android's Commoditization Of the Mobile OS Platform. While many believe this to have been a foolish move on the part of Nokia, I believe it was their better bet. Now, they need to work on pushing the hardware boundaries like Samsung, HTC, et. al. This is not to say they will win, but it makes losing marginally less likely.

    • Microsoft is guaranteed to extend their hegemony on the desktop and enterprise server space to the handset, as well as their reach into the consumer living room via the Xbox. The result? More functionality, more usability, and better overall products.

Another accurate prediction as Microsoft goes full tilt into the hardware business (not peripherals, but actual computers with their Surface intiative). This was a very risky move on Microsoft's part, but something had to be done and the move is applauded by this author, as is the switch to the Windows 8 touch paradigm. Again, reference reference Microsoft Is Doing What The "Has Been Giants Of Yesteryear" Were Afraid To Do, Make A Radical Change BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!

Roughly 3 years ago in my "mobile computing wars" series, I foretold of The Creatively Destructive Pace of Technology Innovation and the Paradigm Shift known as the Mobile Computing Wars! In particular, I warned of the benefits to the consumer and pitfalls to the potential losers of the battle between Apple, Microsoft and Google, reference There Is Another Paradigm Shift Coming in Technology and Media: Apple, Microsoft and Google Know its Winner Takes All. By the way, by Q1 2010, it was already evident to BoomBustBloggers that Research In Motion was a goner - ). While the bulk of my opinion and analysis was directed between the upcoming heated battle between Apple and Google (The Mobile Computing and Content Wars: Part 2, the Google Response to the Paradigm Shift and An Introduction to How Apple Apple Will Compete With the Google/Android Onslaught) which was accurately called, I also appeared to be the lone gunman in warning that Microsoft is not even close to being out of the race just yet - . This was early 2010. Well, nearly 3 years later, we have MSFT doing what IBM, LOTUS, HP, DELL, and a wide variety of other tech companies simply didn't have the balls to do. What is that, you ask? They risked cannibalizing their cash cow revenues and kicking their lazy, unmotivated (despite declining margins and market share, via ass whoopin's from Google and Apple) OEM's in the nuts, forcing either an exponential growth via a pheonix-like rebirth style wake-up call or a collapse from atrophy. Either way, Microsoft is attempting to position itself to benefit. The previous world tech rulers simply got too comfortable in their make money by doing nothing, cash cow, monopolistic business lines and sat around while more innovative and nimble competitors literally ate their lunch then came bombarding in demanding dinner as well (say Apple).

    • The Android clan (which is nearly everybody who is not RIM, Apple and MSFT, and maybe Nokia) will try their best to pump their R&D departments to their limits, and you will be getting bleeding edge products pushed to your door step on a quarterly basis until a clear winner is selected - which will probably be sometime from now.


Again, another very prescient call, as can be referenced through the public release of our latest report on Apple, :

Like the Galaxy Note 2 clearly makes the iPhone appear to be a toy rather than a useful device, the Surface does the same to the iPad.

Apple -Competition and Cost Structure - unlocked Page 09

Currently, the best phone on the market (feature-wise) also happens to be the cheapest phone on the market, and also happens to be a Chinese phone... Sold by a Chinese Company.

The-OPPO-Finders-Different-Views

This phone is one of the thinnest phones ever sold at 6.99 millimeters thick.

It has a 5 inch, FULL HD 1080p screen resolution with 441dpi density. This is approaching twice the resolution of the iPhone 5 and a full 1/3 greater pixels more than the "retina' screen.

The phone has the fastest chip on the market, the new quad-core Snapdgragon, materially faster than the chip inside the iPhone, and not just spec-wise but actual real world performance as well.

It has a 2.1 mega-pixel front facing camera that can do full HD video conferencing and a 12 mega-pixel rear facing camera with dual xenon flash (one of the highest resolutions in the market).

This cell phone will outrun and outperform a Macbook air laptop in many instances!

It is not a cheap Chinese knock-off. If anything, the iPhone 5 is a cheap American designed, Chinese made knock-off. Try doing this with your iPhone 5....

Oh yeah! A two year old already tried it, not with a grown man via hammer and nails, but just with her mommy's keys (may I add that iFixit is a well respected outfit):

Long story short, if anything, the iPhone 5 is the cheap knock off in terms of speed, durabilty or functionality!

This phone retails, unsubsidized and fully unlocked for just over $500 USD, as compared to the iPhone 5 which starts at $649. As I have been saying for quite some time, Apple is WAAAAYYYY behind the curve in terms of functionality, specs and quality and the only way they can catch up to the Android clan (that is if they even can catch up) is through share price destroying #MarginCompression, as told throughout this blog's Apple research history (see, again, Right On Time, My Prediction Of Apple Margin Compression 8 Quarters From My CNBC Warning Landed Right On The Money).

Must read Smart Phone Wars commentary from 3 years ago becomes true in real time:

    1. There Is Another Paradigm Shift Coming in Technology and Media: Apple, Microsoft and Google Know its Winner Takes All
    2. The Mobile Computing and Content Wars: Part 2, the Google Response to the Paradigm Shift
    3. An Introduction to How Apple Apple Will Compete With the Google/Android Onslaught
Google's "less than free" business model has successfully put it on track to becoming the next Microsoft. Once it has 90+% market share in mobile OSs (it's currently knocking on 89%'s door), it will have the door opened to lead as the de facto provider of cloud services, basically acting as the Windows operating system (remember the importance of this OS in the 1990s) of the Web. We're not even broaching the topic of Google being the shepherd of global data and information throughout the web and the Internet connected world!

I have lamented several times before the anti-Apple rhetoric hit the MSM, Which Is The More Sustainable Business Model - Selling The World's Information or Selling Shiny New Things??? as Apple Bias In The Media Has Simply Gone Too Far, Potentially Hoodwinking Investors Into Believing Apple Has Not Reached Its Zenith!

Related BoomBustBlog Subscription-only Research:

Apple 4Q2012 update professional & institutional

Apple 4Q2012 update - retail

 

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All paying subscribers should download the Google Q1-2012 Valuation Summary, wherein we have updated the valuation numbers for Google using a variety of metrics. Click here to subscribe or upgrade

Google still exhibits the likelihood that they will control mobile computing for the balance of the decade.

file iconGoogle Q1-2012 Valuation Summmary 04/20/2012

file iconGoogle Final Report 10/08/2010

A couple of bits from our archives...


There are currently 7 Google reports available. Select the "Google Final Report" and click the "Download" button. You will receive a 63 page analysis that looks like this on the cover...

The table of contents outlines how we have broken Google down into distinct businesses and identified both the individual business models and the potential revenue streams, as well as  valuation for each business line.

Page 57 of the analysis shows a sensitivity table which outlines the various scenarios that can come into play and how it will change our outlook and valuation opinion.

Professional/institutional subscribers can actually access a subset of the model that we used to create the sensitivity analysis above to plug in their own assumptions in case they somehow disagree with our assumptions or view points. Click here for the model: Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional). Click here to subscribe or upgrade.

Published in BoomBustBlog

The iPad mini appears to be on track to actually outsell the iPad 4 according to a news report by Cnet:iPad Mini set to eclipse Retina iPad. This further corroborates my theory of margin compression at Apple. Apple released the iPad mini in response to the success of 7 inch form factor tablets running Google's Android, namely the Nexus 7, Barnes and Noble Nook HD and Amazon Kindle HD - all of which are considerably cheaper and much lower margin than the Apple iPad.

Our extremely profitable Apple research clearly outlined this pattern many months ago, Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever Made - Share Price, Market Share, Strategy and All. this research accurately predicted the supply crunch involving LG, the price war involving Android, the refresh cycle compression and supremacy of Android and most notably the marigin compression Apple would suffer in attempting to rectify these ills:

Apple -Competition and Cost Structure - unlocked Page 03 

Apple -Competition and Cost Structure - unlocked Page 04 copy 

Apple -Competition and Cost Structure - unlocked Page 05 

Apple -Competition and Cost Structure - unlocked Page 08 

Published in BoomBustBlog

Isn't it amazing that you can get more notoriety for showing your ass and a pretty smile than you can get for outing the scam of the decade through intellectual analysis? More money was lost through the Facebook scam IPO at $38 than Bernie Madoff could ever have pulled off. Notice that Bernie went to jail for his relative pennies, while the bankers selling and snake oil in the form of overpriced Facebook shares got paid record bonuses on the back of taxpayer bailouts!!!Often times people can see a blatant fact, a seemingly undeniable truth, and totally ignore it as if it doesn't exist. In the US, the Wall Street banks are masters of this marketing derived form of prestidigitation. Wall Street banks pay humongous bonuses (from your tax dollars) based on the dispensing of bogus advice, despite the fact that it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are many other entities that have advised better, considerably more accurately and have done so consistently (Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best?). Go figure...

Media celebrities are also adept at garnering significant mind share, although it's a bit more understandable why this is so. Some are beautiful, some sound good, others act well on stage - basically, they are capable of doing more than simply muppetizing clients (Goldman Sachs Executive Director Corroborates Reggie Middleton's Stance: Business Model Designed To Walk Over Clients). This article looks to counter that magic that allows those who consistently under perform to continuously be looked upon as masters of the universe, while those who have performed consistently are thought of as "alternative" or "fringe", simply because they don't garner the mindshare of the sexy celebrity or the "Masters of the Intellectual Universe Investment Bank". Well, there's a new sheriff in town! Here comes that new, "Intellectual Celebrity". One should consider me the Kim Khardashian of global finance and investment. Instead of big ass and a pretty face, I offer a massively analytical perspective, a damn near offensive intellectual honesty and an unyielding penchant for spitting the facts that few want to hear. So, it's not Jay-Z! It's Reg-G!. Here we go...

Reggie_Middleton_hunting_the_Squid_Known_As_Goldman_Sachs_GSThere's a new celebrity in town. He sports acute intellectual capacity instead of ass, is much more aggressive and aims to make the masses aware, despite who he may offend. Yes, I know... It may take some getting used to!

This article is segmented, and those who have followed me can skip my history with Facebook valuation vs the Wall Street banks and move forward to the Google+ Communities vs Facebook Groups comparison...

How the Facebook story got started...

Facebook started its institutional investment life as a very popular, very well known company. Goldman took this story (private) stock and went bananas with it, as meticulously illustrated in the following blog posts:

  1. Facebook Registers The WHOLE WORLD! Or At Least They Would Have To In Order To Justify Goldman’s Pricing: Here’s What $2 Billion Or So Worth Of Goldman HNW Clients Probably Wish They Read This Time Last Week!
  2. Facebook Becomes One Of The Most Highly Valued Media Companies In The World Thanks To Goldman, & Its Still Private!
  3. Here’s A Look At What The Goldman FaceBook Fund Will Look Like As It Ignores The SEC & Peddles Private Shares To The Public Without Full Disclosure
  4. The Anatomy Of The Record Bonus Pool As The Foregone Conclusion: We Plug The Numbers From Goldman’s Facebook Fund Marketing Brochure Into Our Models
  5. Did Goldman Just Rip Its HNW and Institutional Clients Once Again? Facebook Growth Slows Pre-IPO, Just As We Warned!

I issued private research to my subscribers while publicly warning that Facebook at, or anywhere near, its IPO price was a blatant bald faced SCAM & RIPOFF!!!

  1. The World's First Phenomenally Forensic Facebook Analysis - This Is What You Need Before You Invest, Pt 1
  2. The Final Facebook Forensic IPO Analysis: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

As the actual IPO arrived, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, etc. piled on the Bullshit, basically espousing how great an investment this was at $38, screaming that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Basically, they took the opposite stance of yours truly. And how did that worked out??? BoomBustBlog Challenges Face Ripping Facebook Share Peddlers That Left Muppets Faceless And Nearly 50% Poorer After IPO.

The stock debuted at $38, went up to about $44 that day, then hasn't seen the high or IPO price since, dropping to $17 or so and now trading around $27 on additional analyst upgrades (because the Muppets didn't get bent over hard enough the first time around).

All should still be aware of the primary factor in this "growth company" stock's story....

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These facts should not have been a surprise, and blog subscribers were made aware nearly a 2 years ago, as excerpted from our 2nd most recent forensic analysis.

 

FB IPO Analysis  Valuation Note Page 04

I want to focus on the Google+ effect mentioned in the research page above. JC Kendall of SocialMedia Today posed the question "Google+ Communities: The Last Nail In The Facebook Coffin?". Basically, he ponders whether or not the release of the Google's recent answer to Facebook's Groups product will drive Facebook the way of MySpace. I will excerpt the parts pertinent to this discussion, but I urge you to visit the full article and also keep in mind that Mr. Kendall is a socail media professional, hence may have a different perspective than that of the casual user. Here's some very interesting highlights of what he had to say:

  • Back in March of 2012, Facebook reported that on average only 16% of Facebook Brand Page posts were read on average by the fans of those pages.  For all the money spent on Facebook advertisements, they resulted in a CRT (click-through-rate) of 0.051%.
  • In May of 2012, Facebook began allowing business to “Promote their Posts” after killing off the previous “Reach Generator”, a program that GUARANTEED at launch that it would reach 75% of Facebook users that had liked a Brand Page, but only produced an average of 16% reach. 
  • In June 2012, fed up with what he concluded as Facebook blocking his ability to reach his huge audience of Facebook fans, George Takei of [Lieutenant Sulu] Star Trek fame contacted Facebook about his concerns, and was told “buy more promoted posts.”  Takei watched his reach dwindle while the number of his posts remained the same, and decided it was due to EdgeRank, the Facebook algorithm that determines who gets to see a user’s updates. ....Facebook determines who sees users posts, not the users and you get to pay for this!   In June, George Takei established a profile on Google+, where 100% of his messages would be available to his friends at zero cost.  
  • {In} Google+, all posts, no matter how large the audience, are free of charge to 100% of your followers. 

When I talk to businesses about why, in the face of such dismal advertising returns, they are still concentrating their Social Media efforts on Facebook, the answer is the same, about 90% of the time:  Facebook Groups.  

Google+ Communities is less than a week old, and its growing like a weed!

  • ... all those things you did from your Facebook Groups to develop a relevant and interested audience for your business, could be done easier, smarter, more effectively, and free of charge? Google+ Communities, because of the added services available to Google+ Users and integration with all the other benefits of the Google infrastructure, simply blows Facebook Groups out of the water. 
  • ...Here is the kicker:  All of the content from a Public Google+ Community is indexed, and discoverable through Search on both Google and Google+. This is something that Public Google+ Community Moderators need to consider when creating their destinations.
  • ... to maintain a level of real privacy, there are two options for Private Communities as well. Private Communities can be restricted to its invited members only, but remaining discoverable by search.  Or, a fully private Community can be created, similar to a private YouTube channel, where it can be found only by knowing the specific URL of the Community. 
  • Any organization can create a Google+ Community that is open and available to anyone without an invitation necessary.  To get the word out, all the moderator needs to do on Google, is share their Community to the Public Stream, which will inform not only 100% their circled followers,  but the announcement is now part of the worldwide Google Index, and available through a keyword search, along with the content of every post, every image, every video. 
  • Contrast this with Facebook, where after a Facebook Group is created, the moderator now has to determine whether or not they wish to pay.  The price is determined by the number of Facebook friends who might see it, in order to reach 100% of their audience.  Consider that this is true not only to announce the Group, but the organization must also pay for EVERY update (promoted post) they make during the lifecycle of the Group’s initiative. For any Business or Organization with their eyes on the bottom line, the choice is clear. You can spend your  budget on managing and performing your daily activities from a Google+ Community,  with its various ways to allow users to either see you or find you, or you can devote a chunk of your resources to paying Facebook for the right to let all of your friends know what you are doing, with no guarantee of a decent CTR result. 
  • If I were a decision maker for an organization migrating from Facebook to Google+,  I may pay to send a single promoted post to my Facebook friends and followers, to let them know that my charity drive now and for the future can be found  now be found on Google+.  But, if my Facebook friends have any problem finding my Community Based Charitable initiative, not to worry, because they can (duh) GOOGLE IT. 
  • It is not as though someone cannot be a member of both Google+ and Facebook at the same time, so why would an Organization of any kind, pay more for much less on Facebook?  In addition, the SEO (search engine optimization) advantages of Google+ Communities cannot be overstated, along with the Google Authorship potential for preventing fraudulent association or duplication with your Google+ Community.

Google Hangout is a group video conferencing and video broadcast platform within Google+. It's very handy for multi-media publishing and has no match anywhere near its price - of free!

  • Google+ Hangouts can be scheduled by event and run from within a Google+ Community, with Hangout invitations sent to all members automatically.  Members of communities do not have to be within their community to share comments and information; they can post directly to their Communities from their public streams. 
  • On Google+, users can share files from Google drive both inside and outside their Google+ Communities. Users can both link to and distribute documents of all kinds, and even HOST A WEB SITE from their Google Drive with JavaScript support built in.  Pow! 
  • Suppose two (or up to ten) persons within a Google+ Community share an interest and want to speak RIGHT NOW to each other? They have the option of starting a video Hangout together, or should one of the two not have a web cam, use Google’s Voice services to place a free international call to the other person from within the hangout itself!  Did I mention FREE, and no limit to amount of usage?
  • Google, with the introduction of Google+ communities, has essentially matched or surpassed every level of functionality available on Facebook for a Business to develop its brand, and attract a growing number of followers to its audience. The additional features of SEO, Authority, and Trust associated with a Google+ presence is a difficult thing to pass up, and I predict that the steady stream of Businesses building a Brand Presence on Google+ will soon, with the addition of Google+ Communities will soon become a flood. 

  • Because Facebook has no public search engine, all content is confined within its forums. Facebook will not be able anytime soon to emulate what Google has done with SEO, Authorship or even Hangouts.  You see, the video performance of Hangouts cannot be duplicated without an associated fiber-network between datacenters like those Google has built. 
  • Google+ users connect through this network, away from all of the latency adding routers, switches, repeaters that connect together the rest of the internet. Creating desktop video conferencing for up to 10, or (15 users with a paid Google Apps account) is basically impossible given today’s video compression standards.  Google has promised HD Hangouts in the not too distant future.  I would expect to see those first along Google’s Fiber rollout for users in Kansas City, MO. 

Whew! That's a lot of info to digest. I apologize for excerpting so much of JC's content, but he had so much of relevance to contribute I had to. This is not all of it, by a long shot, so I again urge you to read the original SocialMedia Today article. The obvious question is, "Does he actually make a valid point?" BoomBustBloggers as well as FB and Google investors really need to know. Even though Facebook Does The Reverse Gravity Thing, Defies Logic, I still had to quip  - Hey Muppets, Only Another 100% Climb In Share Price To Go Before You Break Even With MS/GS/FB Investment Advice. Let's turn to my site's stats to reveal some actual facts and stats.

 image017

As you can see from the chart above, the social network to beat for actual site referrals is Twitter. I believe that is due in large part to the nature of my site (financial analysis, which has a penchant towards real time information seekers). It is also due in part to a social media push that I have started, in which Twitter has the richest 3rd party publishing tools - something that I feel the other participants in the chart have erred in not directing significant resources. Time will tell if I'm correct.

Google search has always been a large contributor to site traffic, and when combined with Google Plus and Google.com referrals, is still number one despite the aggregate social media push. Google has integrated Google Plus into practically all of it properties, which makes the use of almost any Google product an indirect use of Google Plus. A wise move, one that (at least at this time) benefits the end user, and a move that significantly disadvantages its competitors - primarily Facebook! My Facebook account has been active for a couple of years, yet I just started a Facebook Company page last year, and it has been mostly inactive. I recently started adding content to it, along with a Google Plus page and LinkedIn Page (used to be active, then I stopped adding content and recently started again). Twitter has been active for about a year. At this point all of the major social media platforms get the same content posted simultaneously, and you can see the results. The content is formatted for Twitter, which may give Twitter an edge in this comparison.

What makes this comparison even more interesting is the fact that Google Plus is less than a year old while all of the other competitors are several years old. That makes Google Plus's competitiveness and growth appear outstanding. It is a true, clear, and credible threat to Facebook (as well as the others, and that's without considering the tech advancements) and I feel that FB investors are hardly giving this the attentition that it deserves. Google is out-Facebooking Facebook at an incredibly alarming rate!

 image019

The site stats mirror my description of the newness of my social media push. The new visits come mostly from my push onto new social media platforms. Of interest is the fact that Google Plus has a very high bounce rate, which denotes a lower quality of traffic, but the small amount of sample data being used is not conclusive. In addition, since the content is being formatted for Twitter's short form input rules, it fails to take full advantage of Facebook's and Google Plus's rich media capabilities. I will experiment with this theory by hosting a Google Plus Hangout Group Video session on my Facebook and Google research and opinion to see if this materially changes the stats. I believe it will, for the interaction in the content that I've posted on Google Plus, when there is interaction, is much greater than the other platforms - Twitter included!

 image016

The pages per visit metric is another measure of the quality of traffic. Here you see the Google search properties reign supreme, primarily because that traffic is pushed onto my site (the people are actively looking for me) as opposed to being pulled onto the site (I'm pushing content to them to entice them to come in). By effectively combining search with social media (which Google is doing) Google can convert Plus into a push versus pull scenario. Now for the most important point: Google Plus has just been launched, and it is now just launching new aspects of the platform. All of these platform aspects from Google are absolutely free. If you factor in the cost of paid advertising on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and cost per page visit, Google Plus shoots way up to the top. WAAAAYYYYYYY UPPPP!!!! Try ti for yourself. Divide the cost of advertising on these platforms plus the cost of content creation and management by the net visitor or engagment session or purchase (or however you measure success) and you will find Google Plus to end up at the top of the list - and that is despite its highly nascent state! Imagine what happens once Google actually gets the ball rolling!!!

This is going to be a problem for all of those social media sites whose business models are predicated on ad revenue. How can you charge for something when your competitor gives the same thing away (arguably on a better platform) for free? This is the question of doom that proved to be the death of the classifieds industry, soon the news industry as we know it, and the smartphone OS industry (ask RIMM if I know what I'm taking about BoomBustBlog Research Performs a RIM Job!, or even Apple Deconstructing The Most Hated Trade Of The Decade, The w 375% BoomBustBlog Apple Call!! and Deconstructing The Most Accurate Apple Analysis Ever Made - Share Price, Market Share, Strategy and All).

Google is able to disintermediate these industries through a process known as cost shifting - basically offering a competitors cash cow product for free to the end user by shifting the cost of making and delivering said product to a natural producer who must incur said costs anyway, thereby totaly disrupting the business models and crushing the margins of the established status quo. With the newness of Facebook et. al., it may be hard for old timers to consider them status quo, but in Internet Time, Facebook is old school and faces disintermediation through cost shifting if they don't figure something out, and figure it out fast! 

Here I break down Google Cost Shifting on the Max Keiser (who, after being broadcast on China TV, may very well be the most seen independent newscaster in the world) Show

So, why aren't you hearing this from those big Wall Street banks that were clamoring to sell you those Facebook shares at $38?

Well, I've Told You Before, And I'll Tell You Again - Goldman Sachs Investment Advice Sucks!!! I thought everyone would be asking the question Is It Now Common Knowledge ThatGoldman's Investment Advice Sucks?, but since they aren't I'm here to fan the flames. The reason why you don't here this from those banks is because their business model is predicated upon your ignorance. Independent investors and analysts (say BoomBustBlog) are to the extant, big Wall Street bank as Google Plus is to Facebook, a source of pending disintermediation and margin compression. As excerpted from BoomBustBlog Challenges Face Ripping Facebook Share Peddlers That Left Muppets Faceless And Nearly 50% Poorer After IPO:

I made it clear that those who lost roughly half of their capital at or near the IPO price simply forfeited those funds from not reading BoomBustBlog, and this situation was virtually guaranteed. I felt so strongly about it that I made much of my opinion available for free this time.

Here's where I broke it down on Capital Account

I also happened to do the same on the Max Kesier show...

I discussed Facebook on the Peter Schiff radio show, the Facebook excerpt is below...

Additional Facebook analysis, valuation and commentary.

On Max Keiser, go to the 13:55 marker for more on Facebook...

Double your money by shorting the Street's advice! Once Again!

Here is a full year of free blog posts and paid research material warning that ANYBODY following the lead of Goldman, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan on the Facebook offering would get their Face(book)s RIPPED!!! Could you imagine me on a reality TV show based on this stuff??? Well, it's coming...

  1. Facebook Registers The WHOLE WORLD! Or At Least They Would Have To In Order To Justify Goldman’s Pricing: Here’s What $2 Billion Or So Worth Of Goldman HNW Clients Probably Wish They Read This Time Last Week!
  2. Facebook Becomes One Of The Most Highly Valued Media Companies In The World Thanks To Goldman, & Its Still Private!
  3. Here’s A Look At What The Goldman FaceBook Fund Will Look Like As It Ignores The SEC & Peddles Private Shares To The Public Without Full Disclosure
  4. The Anatomy Of The Record Bonus Pool As The Foregone Conclusion: We Plug The Numbers From Goldman’s Facebook Fund Marketing Brochure Into Our Models
  5. Did Goldman Just Rip Its HNW and Institutional Clients Once Again? Facebook Growth Slows Pre-IPO, Just As We Warned!
  6. The World's First Phenomenally Forensic Facebook Analysis - This Is What You Need Before You Invest, Pt 1
  7. The Final Facebook Forensic IPO Analysis: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly
  8. On Top Of The 2x-10x Return Had Off Of BoomBustBlog Facebook Research, Our Models Show How Much More Is Available...
  9. Is Time For Facebook Investors To Literally Face the Book (Value)?
  10. Facebook Bubble Blowing Justification Exercises Commence Today
  11. Facebook Options Are Now Trading, Or At Least The PUTS Are!
  12. Reggie Middleton breaks down "Muppetology," Face Ripping IPO's, and the Chinese Wall!
  13. Facebooking The Chinese Wall: How A Blog Has Outperformed Wall Street For 5 Yrs
  14. Why Shouldn't Practitioners Of Muppetology Get Swallowed In A Facebook IPO Class Action Suit?
  15. Shorting Federal Facebook Notes Are Not Allowed Today ?
  16. As I Promised Last Year, Facebook Is Being Proven To Be Overhyped and Overpriced!

It would seem that Facebook Finally Faces The Fact Of BoomBustBlog AnalysisProfessional and institutional BoomBustBlog subscribers have access to a simplified unlocked version of the valuation model used for this report, available for immediate download - Facebook Valuation Model 08Feb2012. I just nominally input some very generous numbers and the best case scenario chart (see the chart tab after your own individual inputs) is quite revealing, indeed! The full forensic opinion is available to all subscribers here FaceBook IPO & Valuation Note Update, and the latest iteration can be found here FB IPO Analysis & Valuation Note - update with per share valuation 05/21/2012. It is recommended that subscribers (click here to subscribe) also review the original analyses (file iconFB note final 01/11/2011).

 

Industry Leading, Subscription Based Google Research

All paying subscribers should download the Google Q1-2012 Valuation Summary, wherein we have updated the valuation numbers for Google using a variety of metrics. Click here to subscribe or upgrade

Google still exhibits the likelihood that they will control mobile computing for the balance of the decade.

Subscription research:

file iconGoogle Final Report 10/08/2010

A couple of bits from our archives...


There are currently 7 Google reports available. Select the "Google Final Report" and click the "Download" button. You will receive a 63 page analysis that looks like this on the cover...

The table of contents outlines how we have broken Google down into distinct businesses and identified both the individual business models and the potential revenue streams, as well as  valuation for each business line.

Page 57 of the analysis shows a sensitivity table which outlines the various scenarios that can come into play and how it will change our outlook and valuation opinion.

Professional/institutional subscribers can actually access a subset of the model that we used to create the sensitivity analysis above to plug in their own assumptions in case they somehow disagree with our assumptions or view points. Click here for the model: Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional). Click here to subscribe or upgrade.

Published in BoomBustBlog

Last week I told the world that hardware vendors are DEAD! At least the fat margin business model hardware vendors (like those whose name rhymes with Snapple). The post Smartphone Hardware Manufacturers Are Dead, Long Live The Google-like Solution Providers, pretty much says it all - or does it. You see, this is about mobile computing, not smartphones (reference The mobile computing wars from 3 yrs ago). Google has just launched a major salvo into the bastion of those companies who dare apsire to sell notebook computer/software bundles for over 22% margin!

Google offering $99 Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks to public shool teachers and students

If you reference the Google press release, you'll see that this offer includes a special, discounted price of $99 including hardware, management and support! Now that's CHEAP! An equivalent Macbook Air with the same package would run more than 10x the prices, that's right, well over $!,000! Margin compression here we come! 

Google ascendance, here we come! For those who don't know how the Google biz model works and why they actually want the cost of hardware to go down to zero, watch this piece that I did on the Max Keiser show...

Google's "less than free" business model has successfully put it on track to becoming the next Microsoft. Once it has 90+% market share in mobile OSs (it's currently knocking on 89%'s door), it will have the door opened to lead as the de facto provider of cloud services, basically acting as the Windows operating system (remember the importance of this OS in the 1990s) of the Web. We're not even broaching the topic of Google being the shepherd of global data and information throughout the web and the Internet connected world!

Related BoomBustBlog Subscription-only Research:

Apple 4Q2012 update professional & institutional

Apple 4Q2012 update - retail

All paying subscribers should download the Google Q1-2012 Valuation Summary, wherein we have updated the valuation numbers for Google using a variety of metrics. Click here to subscribe or upgrade

Google still exhibits the likelihood that they will control mobile computing for the balance of the decade.

file iconGoogle Q1-2012 Valuation Summmary 04/20/2012

file iconGoogle Final Report 10/08/2010

A couple of bits from our archives...


There are currently 7 Google reports available. Select the "Google Final Report" and click the "Download" button. You will receive a 63 page analysis that looks like this on the cover...

The table of contents outlines how we have broken Google down into distinct businesses and identified both the individual business models and the potential revenue streams, as well as  valuation for each business line.

Page 57 of the analysis shows a sensitivity table which outlines the various scenarios that can come into play and how it will change our outlook and valuation opinion.

Professional/institutional subscribers can actually access a subset of the model that we used to create the sensitivity analysis above to plug in their own assumptions in case they somehow disagree with our assumptions or view points. Click here for the model: Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional). Click here to subscribe or upgrade.

Published in BoomBustBlog