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July 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bitcoin Soars as Upgrade Backers Hoist Beers to Armistice

This article by Yuji Nakamura and Lulu Yilun Chen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

SegWit2x is essentially a compromise between two main competing camps. One proposed a direct approach, seeking to increase the block size. The other, a group of developers known collectively as Core, pushed for a long-term solution by moving some data outside of the main network, a scheme called SegWit that had been resisted by miners because it also could diminish their influence. In the end, the miners agreed to adopt SegWit, but also increase the block size to 2 megabytes.

The upgrade isn’t final. The BIP91 lock-in has a grace period of about two days, during which miners will prepare to activate the software. It will then take about two weeks for SegWit to be fully adopted. Developers still warn about potential hacker attacks that could disrupt the process.

Then, three months from now, the community will face another challenge when some of the world’s biggest miners move to adopt the second phase of the proposal, the doubling of the block size. Still, many in the community agrees that the hard part is over, with prices seen stabilizing and strengthening.

“We do believe it will continue, now that we’ve gotten over this hump,” said Ryan Rabaglia, head trader at digital-trading company Octagon Strategy in Hong Kong.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

For a globally traded asset the inability to ever mint more than 21 million coins seems like an arbitrarily tight constraint. Among the factors that represented medium-term challenges for bitcoin include the fact more than 16 million have already minted. The difficulty of minting each new coin becomes progressively more difficult so the supply issue was an inhibiting factor growth. Alternative coins such as Ethereum already possess a built-in ability to expand supply in an orderly manner. All of these factors were putting pressure on the bitcoin community to react. Their response appears measured and looks like they will succeed in avoiding a hard fork event. 



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July 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times from Sunrun's CEO

I thought this letter by Lynn Jurich may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

“After Rapid Growth, Rooftop Solar Programs Dim Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists” (news article, July 9) got it right that traditional utilities are fighting to undercut competition and customer choice by targeting state solar policies, “particularly net metering, which credits solar customers for the electricity they generate but do not use and send back to the grid.”

Rooftop solar growth, however, is inevitable. More than one million consumers across the country are already powering their homes with rooftop solar. By 2022, residential solar capacity will more than triple, according to GTM Research estimates.

The utility lobby is intentionally distracting regulators from focusing on the real threat to affordable energy: billions of dollars of grid expansion proposals with virtually guaranteed profits and requests to subsidize nuclear plants. Rooftop solar competition forces utilities to control their costs.

Policy leaders who dig into the facts know that rooftop solar, plus home batteries for solar storage, will modernize our grid, provide more affordable clean power to everyone and create more American jobs.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The combative tone of this letter to the editors highlights the fact that the battle between utilities and solar companies is far from over. If we distil the arguments down to their core. Utilities have a vested interest in preserving their near monopoly on supply of electricity and the grid on which it travels. Solar companies want to create as large a market for their products as possible and rooftops are an important part of their growth strategy. To that end they have developed innovative pricing models and relied on sharing the grid so electricity can be sold. 



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July 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Here's Why Yellen's Fed Cares About America's Opioid Epidemic

This article by Jeanna Smialek for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

An estimated 2.7 million adults over the age of 26 were misusing painkillers as of 2015, while another 236,000 currently used heroin, based on test Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration data. While opioid abusers account for a tiny sliver in a workforce of 160 million, they probably make up a great share of the 7 million who are unemployed.

“Our district is the epicenter of this crisis,” said Kyle Fee, regional community development advisor at the Cleveland Fed, which hosted a policy conference in June that included a panel specifically dedicated to opioids. “It was a good way for us to dip our toe into this topic,” he said.

Most economic research on the effects of the opioid crisis comes from academia, rather than Fed researchers, and it shows a two-way relationship between the drugs and the U.S. economy.
Labor Opportunities

Poor labor market opportunities for America’s working and middle class seem to have helped fuel opioid addiction. In turn, pill and heroin use can worsen employment chances for addicts, and can lead to criminal records that dim applicants’ prospects for years to come.

“I do think it is related to declining labor force participation among prime-age workers,” Yellen told Senators last week, when asked about the crisis. “I don’t know if it’s causal or if it’s a symptom of long-running economic maladies that have affected these communities and particularly affected workers who have seen their job opportunities decline.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

This chart showing the diverging paths of male and female prime-age labour force participation should give just about everyone pause. It raises a much bigger question. What are people who are not academically predisposed supposed to do as the jobs they previously depended on are automated away?



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July 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on genetically modified foods

Hope you’re hale and hearty.

You will recall we had a brief chat on GMO foods at lunch during the recent Chart Seminar in Singapore. 

I recall you disagreed with my views on GMO science.

Here is a video on the subject. It is very much science based. Hope you can spare some time off your busy schedule to watch it. I think you will appreciate it.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email and I have been ruminating on that conversation since April. Few topics get people more riled up than politics, religion, abortion, climate change and genetically modified foods. There are strong beliefs held by protagonists on both sides of the argument and I reached out to David Brown who I thought might have a scientist’s perspective on the question: 



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July 17 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bitcoin Split Risks Increase

This article by Andrew Quentson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscriber subscribers. Here is a section:

As such, we are likely to have at least two bitcoins on August the 1st, but there may be even more. Bitcoiners, therefore, are strongly advised to not transact on that day until the situation becomes more clear.

Once the chain does split, BitcoinABC will probably be listed in at least one exchange, thus a period of high volatility and perhaps even trading frenzy should be expected as the market passes judgment on the value of the bitcoins.

Eventually, the dust will likely settle with one coin probably gaining some 80% or so of the current bitcoin value, while the minority coin can continue operating in their own network, free to follow their own roadmap and vision.

Which one will be which only the free market can tell us sometime next month as bitcoin finally makes a monumental and probably highly historical decision, at least for this space.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Bitcoin was set up so that no more than 21 million coins could ever be mined. More than 16 million have already been created, with the complexity of each successive block growing progressively more expensive to solve.  With bitcoins already priced out to 6 decimal places that limitation has asked legitimate questions about the sustainability of the global market when supply is so limited. That has led to a debate between monetary purists and miners who want to support the value by withholding supply and others who wish to see dynamic supply to allow the market to grow. 



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July 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trump's Drug-Pricing Move Isn't a Drug-Pricing Move

This article by Max Misen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Hospitals are likely to cry bloody murder over this proposal and argue it will lead to service cuts. You likely won't hear a peep from drugmakers, though. These are very low-margin sales, and pharma firms have complained for years about what they say is abuse of the program and the extension of 340B discounts to patients and hospitals they don't think should be eligible. If the CMS change means more sales go to higher-margin areas of the market, then pharma will profit. This move suggests any future 340B and CMS reforms may be pharma-friendly. And any approach that favors drugmakers over hospitals that serve the poor says a lot about the administration's priorities.  The president's last public attack on drug prices was months ago. Pricing has apparently faded as a policy priority since the campaign. His administration's actions make that even more clear. Changes to 340B were just one reported aspect of a draft executive order on drug pricing that reads more like a pharma wish list than a plan to restrain price growth. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The election campaign played havoc with emerging biotech stocks in particular as they were singled out by politicians for their high pricing. However, what was lost in the debate is that developing drugs for small numbers of patients is expensive. It is not quite the same thing as hiking prices for long established drugs that are designed to treat common ailments. 



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July 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on David's recovery and industrial automation:

I hope you are well and that David is recovering / progressing well.

I was just thinking about your theme of cheap local robotic manufacturing and our Brexit.

It another thing to our advantage as we will become less reliant on German and EU manufactured goods. Plus long term, it will effect Germany quite a bit, won't it?

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your well wishes on David’s behalf and this question which may be of interest to subscribers. 

I was in contact with David today and he is recovering following the heart related issues he needed to have ablation for last week. He picked up a secondary infection while in hospital which has put a dampener on his recovery but is home and looking forward to making a full recovery. He is less than impressed by what he calls the "factory farming" nature of the medical system but is otherwise is good spirits. 

 



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July 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pepsi Says It's Facing the Same Trends That Are Battering Retail

This article by Janet Freund for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Retail’s “shifting sands and macro headwinds will make near-term earnings beats challenging” for PepsiCo, Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said in a note to clients. Still, PepsiCo gets a large proportion of revenue from snacks, which are easier to sell online than beverages, she said. That means the company is better positioned to adapt than some of its peers.

PepsiCo’s comments were similar to those made by Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, who told Bloomberg in May that when shoppers skip trips to the local mall and shop online, they also forgo buying Coke at a vending machine or food court. Coca-Cola investors will be watching to see how that may hurt second-quarter results on July 26.

Nooyi’s remarks were “an acknowledgement to the intensifying competitive environment that will likely get more so with Amazon involved,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Ken Shea wrote in an email. Still, some consumer products companies will be more vulnerable than others to change, and PepsiCo’s “huge distribution reach and agility arguably make it less vulnerable” to changing shopper behavior than its peers, he said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amazon Prime Day was the firm’s highest grossing ever, with its discounted Echo speaker being the top seller yesterday. The company sells just about everything and is now offering try-before-you-buy on fashion, same day delivery and investigating how to sell pharmaceuticals and auto parts. It is logical that even companies which reside squarely in the consumer staples sector but also get part of their income from discretionary products would be affected by the demise of the shopping mall. 



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July 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lithium-rich countries risk missing the boat on electric batteries boom

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

As Tesla Motors begins to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Australia and other vehicle makers such as Volvo get on board the electric vehicles train, concerns are rising over the environmental footprint of mining that and other materials used in car batteries, as well as their eventual disposal.

According to analysts at UBS, by 2025 the market will need 12 times the battery capacity currently available. At the same time, only 5% of lithium-ion batteries get recycled, versus more than 90% of those used in conventional vehicles, reports Financial Times:

“One of the challenges of making battery recycling economically viable is the quantity of battery material that is needed to keep utilisation rates of recycling facilities sufficiently high,” say analysts at Morgan Stanley. “The risk, therefore, is there may not be the necessary infrastructure in place in time for the first significant wave of EV batteries to reach end of life.”

Demand for the commodity has been rising as of late, which in turn has caused prices to more than double in the past 18 months.

The need for the metal is expected to triple by 2025, but not all the countries rich in lithium are taking advantage of the boom. At the same time, new actors are emerging worldwide.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

This article carries a number of interesting graphics on which countries have the largest lithium reserves and which are the largest producers. With demand for the metal expected to multiply over the next decade a supply inelasticity meets rising demand growth model is in place at least until the necessary infrastructure to produce and recycle the metal has been built which could take another few years. 



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July 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Emerging Markets Face SATT Problem to Rival Nasdaq's FAANG Woes

This article by Eric Lam for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The Asian group is becoming more expensive, especially on a price-to-book-value basis, with a 77 percent premium to the wider index -- a 15-year high, Dennis said. That’s double the long-term average premium of 38 percent, he said.

Pictet Asset Management Ltd.’s Luca Paolini is also worried that a correction is coming after the MSCI Emerging Markets index’s surge. The gauge beat both the Nasdaq 100 and the MSCI All-World Index in the first half.

“If global equities do indeed witness a correction in the coming weeks, there are grounds to expect that emerging-market stocks’ outperformance will come to an end,” Paolini, London-based chief strategist with Pictet, wrote in a report.

Paolini downgraded Pictet’s view on technology stocks to single positive from double, as earnings momentum appeared to peak in May. He also suggested reducing holdings of emerging-market equities given the outsize technology exposure of the region relative to developed markets.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

With some of the heat coming out of high momentum trades, that have driven performance this year, the potential for traders to look for additional sources of mean reversion trades has increased. There Is no denying that a number of Asian technology shares have been more than keeping pace with their US counterparts so they are at equal risk of mean reversion. 



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July 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Clamps Down on Webcasting by Weibo and Other Media Firms

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

On Thursday night, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ordered services including Weibo to stop broadcasting what it said was negative commentary in violation of government regulations. While the regulator didn’t say in its one-line statement what precise actions should or would be taken, it was enough to send Weibo’s stock sliding 6.1 percent in New York on Thursday. Sina, which controls the company, slid almost 5 percent.

The regulatory ban, the latest in a series of attempts to curb content on the internet, could disrupt a revival for Weibo that’s now underway. The messaging service turned to video streaming over the past year to rejuvenate growth and has since reignited user interest, pushing its monthly audience to 340 million people -- surpassing Twitter’s -- and its market value above $16 billion. Chairman Charles Chao is now focused on expanding Weibo into areas including news aggregation and live video streaming.

Weibo, AcFun and Ifeng.com are “broadcasting large amounts of programming that don’t meet national standards and which propagate negative opinions on public affairs,” the national broadcasting regulator said in a statement posted on its website. “We’re taking measures to halt the programs and begin rectification.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

China’s “Great Firewall” is no laughing matter with VPNs, that previously allowed people to access outside content, being issued closure orders on an increasingly regular basis. Online streaming is very difficult to censor and as a result is being sanctioned not least because this is a politically volatile period ahead of the Party Congress in the autumn. 



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June 30 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Is About to Bury Elon Musk in Batteries

This article by Joe Ryan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Roughly 55 percent of global lithium-ion battery production is already based in China, compared with 10 percent in the U.S. By 2021, China’s share is forecast to grow to 65 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“This is about industrial policy. The Chinese government sees lithium-ion batteries as a hugely important industry in the 2020s and beyond,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Colin McKerracher said.

In all, global battery-making capacity is forecast to more than double by 2021 to 273 gigawatt-hours, up from about 103 gigawatt-hours today. That’s a huge opportunity, and China doesn’t want to miss it.

“The Gigafactory announced three years ago sparked a global battery arms race,” said Simon Moores, a managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. “China is making a big push.” 
But don’t count Tesla out. The company, based in Palo Alto, California, plans to announce locations for up to four new factories by the end of 2017. (It’s exploring at least one site in Shanghai.) And there are few, if any, individual Chinese battery companies that can match the scale of Tesla’s production toe to toe.   

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

China went from pretty much nowhere to become the dominant force in solar cell manufacturing in a relatively short time because of unwavering government support and could easily achieve the same feat in batteries. That is quite apart from similar objectives being pursued in South Korea and Japan. 



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June 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New Cyberattack Goes Global, Hits WPP, Rosneft, Maersk

This article by Giles Turner , Volodymyr Verbyany , and Stepan Kravchenko for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The hack quickly spread from Russia and the Ukraine, through Europe and into the U.S. A.P. Moller-Maersk, operator of the world’s largest container line, said its customers can’t use online booking tools and its internal systems are down. The attack is affecting multiple sites and units, which include a major port operator and an oil and gas producer, spokeswoman Concepcion Boo Arias said by phone.

APM Terminals, owned by Maersk, is experiencing system issues at multiple terminals, including the Port of New York and New Jersey, the largest port on the U.S. East Coast, and Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Europe’s largest harbor. APM Terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey will be closed for the rest of the day “due to the extent of the system impact,” the Port said.

Cie de Saint-Gobain, a French manufacturer, said its systems had also been infected, though a spokeswoman declined to elaborate, and the French national railway system, the SNCF, was also affected, according to Le Parisien. Mondelez International Inc. said it was also experiencing a global IT outage and was looking into the cause. Merck & Co. Inc., based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, reported that its computer network was compromised due to the hack.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Wannacry cyberattack occurred in May and hit a number of hospitals and transportation networks. The first conclusion we can draw from the new but similar Petya virus is that it has taken hackers less than a month to iron out the bugs with their first attempt. The next iteration of the attack will likely be even more sophisticated.  



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June 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fast, Precise, Cancer care is coming to a hospital near you

This article from Wired.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first next-generation-sequencing-based test, from Thermo Fisher Scientific, that can tell you how different drugs will work for you, based on the genetic makeup of each tumour. And it only takes four days to get back results. In many ways, it represents the leading edge of precision medicine’s maturation from a buzzword in grant applications and investor pitch decks to a real, workable product that can actually improve patient outcomes.

Getting the FDA’s approval took nearly two years and 220,000 pages of data. (That’s like reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s 6-book autobiographical memoir front to back 61 times in a row. Talk about My Struggle.) But the process has helped clarify the agency’s thinking about how to regulate personalized treatments going forward, opening up doors for tech that's still in the pipeline.

The panel, called Oncomine Dx Target Test, takes a tiny amount of tumor tissue and reports on alterations to 23 different genes. All that information is useful for physicians, but three in particular—ROS1, EGFR, and BRAF—are the most crucial. That’s because those mutations have drugs to match: Precision medicine chemotherapies from Pfizer, Novartis, and AstraZeneca. The test can be performed at any CLIA-certified lab, and it’s already being offered by two of the largest oncology-focused ones.

Getting the FDA to approve that amalgam of tests wasn’t easy. “Putting multiple genes and multiple drugs on the same test; all of these are firsts,” says Joydeep Goswami, Thermo Fisher’s president of clinical next generation sequencing. “That put the technology under extraordinary scrutiny.” The FDA usually approves one diagnostic for one product or drug—that’s it. But the whole point of precision medicine is to tailor treatments for patients based on their genes, and a bunch of one-off genetic tests aren’t going to deliver on that promise. So a multi-gene, multi-drug panel is kind of a big deal.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I have written previously about the rotation into biotechnology shares because of the overextensions present in other sectors and the potential for base formation completion in the healthcare sector. However the above story represents an additional bullish catalyst for the sector. 



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June 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Cometh to Grocery What Does it Mean?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest. Here is a section:

2) Removing Consumers’ Online Grocery Pain Points…to Better Attack the$780bn US Grocery Market: The addition of WFM materially improves AMZN’s grocery user proposition and its ability to penetrate the ~$780bn US grocery market (See Exhibit 6). Grocery eCommerce penetration is still low (estimated 3% see Exhibit 7) in part because (per our AlphaWise survey data) consumers enjoy selecting their own food, value the in-store experience as well as the certainty that the food is correct (See Exhibit 5). The addition of WFM and its 465+ stores (across 3 countries and 42 US states) solves these points of friction. Bigger picture, this speaks to the importance of brick and mortar in certain e-commerce categories as AMZN (through WFM) and BABA (though Intime) continue to expand their attack on consumers’ wallets

3) WFM + Prime Now = A 1-2 Hour Prime Personal Shopper: The combination of WFM’s store footprint and grocery inventory with Prime Now will enable AMZN to improve the Prime Now product…as Prime Now will be able to offer consumers grocery delivery in 1-2 hours. AMZN will also be able to leverage the store footprint to house other inventory, to expand its Prime Now selection. Prime Now just became a 1-2 hour personal shopper.

4) Changing Consumer Behavior Again as 1-2 Hour Delivery Could Replace 2- Day Delivery Expectations: In our view, AMZN’s core business is behaviour modification, and a stronger 1-2 hour offering has the potential to further increase consumers’ expectations for e-commerce shipping times. Just as AMZN pushed expectations from a week delivery time (13 years ago) to 2 days (with Prime, introduced in 2005), a more robust Prime Now could further move the goal-posts to 2 hours. This will only further AMZN's competitive offering vs other retailers.

5) A further driver of Prime Subscriber growth. Our Alphawise data show that ~62% of Whole Food Shoppers are Prime Members (See Exhibit 2). Amazon's ability to convert more Whole Foods shoppers into its Prime membership has the potential to lead to faster long term growth and wallet share growth. Bigger picture, 2 hour delivery could also drive faster Prime sub growth. In the words of Jeff Bezos on April 2016 "We want Prime to be such a good value, you’d be irresponsible not to be a member". 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

There has been a great deal of media coverage of Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar grocery stores, albeit at the high end side of the market. Kroger and Target extended downtrends on the news amid widespread speculation that the middle of the market is being hollowed out and that is an argument I have sympathy with as German discounters Aldi and Lidl expand in the US. 



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June 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on companies benefitting from cryptocurrency mining:

Re. your companies associated with Crypto mining - would Softbank come into this after purchasing ARM last year - or were their chip designs of a different application?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question. I’ve done quite a bit of digging and I can’t find ARM listed as a manufacturer of chips that can be used to mine cryptocurrencies.  

While the number of cryptocurrencies is proliferating it is important to highlight that not all use the same kind of technology. For example bitcoin mining is largely confined to ASIC machines manufactured in China and sold on Amazon for example. This article contains quite a bit of detail of which are the best machines. 

 



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June 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Clovis's ovarian cancer drug set for label expansion, shares soar

This article by Natalie Grover for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Clovis's late-stage trial was designed to move its drug, Rubraca, up to a second-line treatment and later, a maintenance treatment. Maintenance therapy immediately follows initial treatment to keep patients cancer-free if they go into remission.

Rubraca, like Tesaro Inc's Zejula and AstraZeneca Plc's Lynparza, belongs to a closely watched class of new medicines called PARP inhibitors, which blocks enzymes that repair damaged DNA, helping kill cancer cells in the process.

Rubraca was granted accelerated approval in December by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients whose cancer tested positive for defective BRCA genes, and whose disease had advanced despite two or more rounds of chemotherapy.

BRCA gene mutations are known to raise the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Clovis's latest study included 564 patients and tested Rubraca against a placebo in patients with various gene mutations who had undergone initial platinum-based chemotherapy.

When given Rubraca, women with recurrent ovarian cancer lived a median 10.8 months without their disease worsening, compared with 5.4 months for women on a placebo, Clovis said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Immuno-oncology represents an exciting evolving subsector within the much broader biotechnology theme. It represents the cutting edge of customised medicine where an increasing number of therapies are being developed for very specific attack vectors to target cancers even in late stage patients as detailed above. Considering the fact that tools to measure the immune system’s response to infections didn’t really exist until at least the 1950s, immunology and its many iterations from rheumatism to cancer represent significant growth themes. 



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June 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Many Rivers to Cross Decarbonization breakthroughs and challenges

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from J.P. Morgan Private Bank which may be or interest. Here is a section: 

New York. This is more of a theoretical exercise, since in NY, wind/solar comprise only 3% of electricity generation. But in principle, NY could also reduce CO2 emissions to 90 MT per GWh in exchange for a ~15% increase in system costs. One difference vs California is that NY’s build-out would start from a much lower base. The other difference is that storage is less optimal given lower NY solar capacity factors. Instead, a more cost-effective approach to reaching the deeper 60% emissions reduction target would be to build more wind/solar and discard (“curtail”) the unused amount, and not build any storage.

Conclusions. Scale and innovation are creating cost-benefit tradeoffs for decarbonizing the grid that are more favorable than they were just a few years ago, even when including backup thermal power costs. However, this is likely to be a gradual process rather than an immediate one. Bottlenecks of the past were primarily related to the high capital cost of wind, solar and storage equipment. The next phase of the renewable electricity journey involves bottlenecks of the future: public policy and the construction/cost of transmission are two of the larger ones7. As is usually the case with renewables, there’s a lot of hyperbole out there. The likely trajectory: renewables meet around one third of US electricity demand in 2040, with fossil fuels still providing almost twice that amount

Eoin Treacy's view -

Energy storage solutions have been evolving for a long time but the advances in battery technology has potential to revolutionise the sector. However he cost of those batteries still needs to come down a lot for them to truly have a transformational impact on the cost of generating and storing energy. What is clear from the above report is that the continued build out of renewable energy solutions, with or without storage, represents an additional cost for consumers over the lengthy medium term without a major advancement in battery technology.  



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June 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

June 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ADAS - who has the credentials to succeed?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsche Bank focusing on auto parts suppliers focusing on autonomous driving. Here is a section: 

Three key drivers of wider ADAS adoption in China
Although there are no regulatory requirements for ADAS adoption, the inclusion of ADAS features will boost scores in China’s official safety rating (C-NCAP) starting 2018. Moreover, we note that local brand OEMs have been adding ADAS features in their new models, probably as a means to compete with similarly priced JV products, which lack those features. Last but not least, in China’s “Made in 2025” master plan, the government highlights new auto technologies as a focus for the country’s technology advancement, along with target ADAS penetration levels for local brands by 2020 and 2025. This gives China a more visible path for ADAS adoption growth than other countries.

We envision a long-term ADAS market of USD24bn
We have performed a proprietary ADAS market size analysis, mainly based on target ADAS levels and penetration across different timeframes. We use the sensor segment as an anchor to derive an overall ADAS demand forecast given the segment’s higher transparency vs. other fragmented ADAS component segments. In summary, we estimate that the Chinese sensor market could reach USD6bn in 2020 (2025E: USD12bn) and the total ADAS market could be worth up to USD12bn (2025E: USD24bn).

A few Chinese companies expected to outshine many others
Currently, major global part suppliers dominate the ADAS market. We can identify at least c.30 Chinese suppliers involved in the space. However, most of these local companies still have too limited an exposure for ADAS to make a difference to their profit and outlook. In this report, we identify six companies that we believe can become meaningful players in various ADAS markets. We value them using forward P/E vs. their growth prospects. Our top Buys are Nexteer and Joyson considering their advanced ADAS knowhow, which can rival global peers’. Sector upside risks include faster-than-expected ADAS adoption and positive scale effects. Downside risks include a slow pick-up in ADAS sales and local players’ inability to compete with foreign suppliers.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Traditional auto parts manufacturers are facing an existential challenge because the rise of electric vehicles means demand growth for their products is evaporating. That leaves open potential for wide disparities in performance between companies within the sector with the delineating factor being how well leveraged they are to supplying the kinds of sensors, cameras and motors new technologies require. 



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June 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Copper demand from electric vehicles to be nine times higher by 2027

This piece from the International Copper Association may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Electric vehicles use a substantial amount of copper in their batteries, and in the windings and copper rotors used in electric motors. A single car can have up to six kilometers of copper wiring. The metal is also required for busbars, used to connect modules and cells in battery packs, and in charging infrastructure.

Whilst most cars use internal combustion engines that require up to 23 kg of copper, the IDTechEX research found that a hybrid electric vehicle uses 40 kg of copper, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle uses 60 kg, a battery electric vehicle 83 kg, and a hybrid electric bus 89 kg. A battery-powered electric bus can use 224–369 kg of copper, depending on the size of battery used.

“Copper has the highest conductivity of any non-precious metal, and plays an important role in all energy production, but it is particularly important for future sustainable technology applications such as electric vehicles,” said Colin Bennett, Market Analysis and Outreach, ICA. “Copper increases the efficiency and reliability of these vehicles and is itself a sustainable material, as it is 100% recyclable without loss of properties.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The automotive sector is betting big on electric vehicles while also attempting to figure out how autonomy will function and what that means for ownership and miles driven assumptions. With battery technology improving all the time and with considerable investment flowing into the sector the potential for the electric vehicle market to grow from its current relatively modest footprint is considerable. 



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June 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Just Five Stocks Account for Nearly 75% of the Nasdaq's Plunge

This article by Julie Verhage for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

When it comes to the ongoing technology beat-down in the stock market, it appears not all shares are created equal.

Indeed, just five names account for nearly 75 percent of the drop in the Nasdaq Composite Index, which has fallen more than 2.1 percent since June 7. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index are roughly unchanged over the same time frame.

Much of this dynamic is due to giants like Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Goggle parent Alphabet Inc. falling as much as 6.5 percent. Those companies account for nearly 30 percent of the index’s weighting, and their outsize impact has driven the gauge lower even though the bulk of the stocks are doing fine.

This selloff was “way overdue given the extreme out- performance and positioning in technology shares,” Morgan Stanley analyst Michael Wilson wrote in a note to clients Monday, Shares of Apple, for instance, are still up 25 percent this year, giving them room to fall.

But while Wilson expects the drubbing to continue in the short-term, he doesn’t think the market has seen a peak in tech shares.

“We would be surprised if this is the end for technology stocks given the very strong earnings growth we are witnessing,” he wrote.

Analysts now believe performance in technology will depend on the economic outlook. And if conditions change, finance will be the likely beneficiary.

“If the current economic ‘Goldilocks’ environment persists, technology and other growth stocks should continue to outperform, despite today’s price declines,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts led by David Kostin wrote in a note to clients late Friday. “However, if investors recalibrate expectations for inflation and Fed policy to match the growth optimism suggested by the S&P 500 level, higher rates should lead to financial sector outperformance.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Mega-cap technology shares dominate the Nasdaq-100 and accounted for much of the Index’s outperformance over the last few months so it stands to reason they represent a headwind as a potential reversionary process unfolds.



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June 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

SoftBank Agrees to Buy Robot Maker Boston Dynamics From Google Parent Alphabet

This article by Pavel Alpeyev  and Mark Bergen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

This would be Son’s second venture into robotics. In 2012, SoftBank acquired French company Aldebaran Robotics SA and two years later unveiled Pepper, a $1,600 humanoid promoted as the world’s first robot endowed with emotions. Son envisioned building an ecosystem of apps that would let Pepper man storefronts as well as entertain people at home. But culture clashes between the Japan parent and French engineers as well as challenges of creating artificial intelligence capable of understanding natural language has left Pepper underwhelming and with lackluster adoption limited to Japan.

“SoftBank may not have struggled as much if they bought a better robotics company” instead of Aldebaran, Takahashi said.

The shares of SoftBank rose 7.4 percent in Tokyo, buoyed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s 13 percent jump in the U.S. that boosted the value of SoftBank’s stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant to $105.6 billion.

“Typically, when Son makes a big acquisition, the markets are worried,” said Tomoaki Kawasaki, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities Co. “If this deal goes through the Vision Fund, no one will fret about the impact on SoftBank’s balance sheet.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are two reasons Google decided to sell Boston Dynamics as far as I can see. The first is that the agile robots the company produces are the equivalent of scaled up versions of remote control cars, lacking any artificial intelligence to speak of. The second is that the most obvious route to commerciality is through the military and that runs counter to Google’s culture. 



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June 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wall Street analysts keep one-upping each other to be biggest bull on red hot Nvidia

This article from CNBC highlights some interesting psychological activity evident in the market right now. Here is a section:

 

Wall Street is falling over itself to have the most bullish call on Nvidia, the market's best performing stock in the past year. 

Right after Citi Research raised its Nvidia price target to a street high of $180 Thursday morning, another analyst decided to one-up its peer with a higher price target for the semiconductor company.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Vivek Arya told investors to buy the Nvidia shares, citing the large opportunity in the artificial intelligence market Thursday evening:

"NVDA is trading at a premium multiple, but the momentum could persist given: (1) Only 17% ownership by large-cap active US managers (vs. large-cap semi comps 25%-39% ownership; (2) Potential expanding ownership by Softbank vision fund, per media reports; and (3) Scarcity value as the only proven way to gain exposure to nascent AI/machine learning trend which could be a 10-20x growth opportunity. This weekend's E3 gaming show typically marks start of 2H seasonal strength."

SoftBank Group bought a $4 billion stake in Nvidia, according to a Bloomberg News report last month.

Arya raised his price target for Nvidia to $185 from $155, representing 16 percent upside from Thursday's close. He now has the highest price target on the company out of 34 analysts, according to FactSet.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Nvidia shares have been going up quickly which means analysts have been playing catch-up with their estimates for how high it will rise. In an effort to get ahead of the curve they begin to get more ambitious. That means they start projecting future growth rates rather than historic growth rates. Since all analysts are in the same situation they start competing for who can come up with the rosiest picture of the future. 



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June 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Renault plans foray into energy market with mega battery

This article by Christoph Steitz and Edward Taylor for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Large batteries can help stabilize the primary reserve electricity market, which is responsible for ensuring the grid has at least 50 Hertz. Carmakers can also earn money competing with conventional power stations to guarantee the provision of electricity during periods of high demand or volatility.

"We forecast the combined market for electric passenger vehicles, electric buses and battery storage to increase eight-fold to over $200 billion by 2020, a five-year compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent," Berenberg analysts said.

With about 4 million electric cars expected to be on the roads by 2020, vehicle manufacturers looking at ways to recycle batteries, including Tesla, which already sells everything from solar panels to batteries and electric cars.

Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen and China's BYD Co Ltd are also exploring so-called second-life storage projects with batteries.

That includes partnerships such as the recent collaboration between BMW and Vattenfall, in which the luxury automaker will deliver up to 1,000 lithium-ion batteries to the Swedish utility for storage projects this year.

"What will end up happening is that BMW and Daimler will ... become utilities themselves," said Gerard Reid, founder of Alexa Capital LLP, a corporate advisor in the energy, power infrastructure and technology sectors.

"They use Vattenfall now because they need to learn but I think the amount of batteries coming back will be so big that I think they'll end up engaging directly with the end customer themselves. And they've got the brand name to do that."  

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The diesel scandal took a heavy toll on the growth ambitions of a number of auto manufacturers. There are now scrambling to come up with a way of ensuring their next clean energy gambit is successful. Since the batteries going into electric vehicles are a lot like bigger versions of those in phones we know that they lose capacity after a few hundred recharges. That means finding new uses for old batteries is a major field of endeavour if the price is to be kept under control. 



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June 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Won't Change Efforts to Cut Emissions Post-Paris: Tillerson

This note by Katia Dmitrieva for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. won’t change “ongoing efforts" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future, despite pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

U.S. “has a terrific record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions It’s something I think we can be proud of and that was done in the absence of a Paris agreement," he tells reporters before meeting at State Dept with Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The revolution in unconventional supply has contributed more to the USA’s ability to combat emissions than any form of renewable energy because it has made coal uncompetitive. The evolving argument for the development of fracking techniques to develop geothermal energy sources is another reason why the USA is likely to meet its emissions targets without being party to an international agreement. The energy intensity of the countries like China and India is still in its major growth phase and the question of global emissions rests on their ability to innovate. 



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May 31 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch May 30th 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ report which has a number of particularly interesting items this week. Here is a section on the pace of technology adoption: 

When the pace of adoption of technologies is examined, there are a number of interesting questions that bear on the projections of how quickly EVs and AEVs, as well as on-demand ride services, will be accepted. Are they going to be adopted as consumer technology items or truly revolutionary technologies and labor-saving devices? As shown in Exhibit 10, proponents of rapid technology adoption point to the cellphone, which took about a decade to go from zero to 60% penetration. That was about the same time span as the internet, but maybe only slightly longer than the VCR. On the other hand, the telephone needed nearly 50 years, while electricity needed only about 25 years, to reach the 60% penetration level. However, maybe we should look at these vehicle technologies as akin to those that brought significant lifestyle changes such as the stove, the clothes washer and the dishwasher, which needed between 35 and 50 years to reach 60% of American homes.

Our best guess is that the adoption rate will be somewhere between the cellphone and electricity, 10 to 25 years, but with a bias toward the longer timeframe. Why do we say that? It is important to understand that vehicles play an important role in family evolutions, something that hasn’t changed over generations. The hyped concern about millennials not getting married, starting families and buying homes, which was very popular during the years immediately following the global financial crisis of 2008, is disappearing. We now see millennials coming out of their parents’ basements, getting married, starting families and buying homes – although maybe not of the same size or in the same locations as their parents. These millennials are, however, continuing the generational pattern of societal evolution, although they are taking longer than previous generations to take some of the steps down that road. Given the pace of this phenomenon’s development, it is important to remember that automobiles remain the second largest purchase after homes for families. These purchases are not made frequently, they usually require significant research and time to reach a decision, and the decisions are often based on economic considerations involving all aspects of families’ lives and not just social concerns, such as climate change.

Given the factors involved in new car purchases, those forecasting the demise of petroleum must explain how those with limited incomes and wealth will voluntarily give up their perfectly functioning fossil fuel vehicle for an expensive EV, which because of battery technology may not get anywhere close to the advertised performance due to the climate where they reside. Their lives will become more complex until electric charging stations are as ubiquitous as gasoline stations, since they may not be able to afford the wait for battery recharges nor the cost of an installed charger in their home, if that option even exists for them.

There is also the question of what happens to the economics of EVs versus ICE cars when the values of used ICE cars go essentially to zero? In that case, unless gasoline and diesel fuels are banned, which may be the next target of environmental activists, it will be much cheaper to own and operate ICE cars than EVs.

There is also the question of how quickly the fleet of American vehicles can be converted to EVs or AEVs. For the past several years, Americans have purchased 17 million or slightly more new vehicles each year. At that pace, it will take 15 1/3 years to completely replace the approximately 260 million vehicles currently on America’s roads. To reach the magic 60% penetration rate, Americans must buy 17 million new EVs every year for more than nine years. Despite the high number of EVs in the fleet, it still leaves 104 million ICE vehicles on the roads burning fossil fuels.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Something that has always been at the back of my mind when reading comparisons about the pace of adoption of technologies is whether it is appropriate to compare adoption rates over more than a century. The pace of life has accelerated considerably in only the last decade so that we find it hard to imagine how anyone lived without the benefit of wifi or indeed indoor plumbing more than a century ago. My kids for example can’t imagine a world without iPhones, iPads and YouTube.



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May 30 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China's social habits

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from the South China Morning Post which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Chen said what seems like disruptive technology today eventually will be diffused into society and become an element of normal life tomorrow.

“The younger generation in China will grow up in a world full of two-dimensional barcodes,” he said. “They may develop a new understanding of money.”

“Maybe, in their eyes, money [will be seen as] not just a means to purchase commodities and services, but also socialise.”

Mobile payments began to grow in China as people increasingly used social media platforms such as WeChat to distribute the red money envelopes known as hongbao in Mandarin, or lai see in Cantonese, to friends and relatives in the traditional Spring Festival. Last year, the average WeChat user sent out 28 packets of hongbao every month, according to the platform. Much of the money was used to compliment a well-taken photo or well-written post.

Such behavioural changes are poised to profoundly affect the Chinese economy, according to Chen.

“When the credit card emerged, consumers were found to spend more than when they used cash. The QR code is even more convenient than the credit card, so we have good reason to expect it will increase consumption,” he said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the reasons QR codes have not taken off in the West is because of the security concerns they represent. Any link can be embedded in a QR code so the potential for malicious codes to be used alongside commercial ones represents a significant security risk. Nevertheless the evolution of digital wallet solutions is undeniable and cash is increasingly looked on as an inconvenience. 



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May 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

VW's Diesel Defeat Devices Finally Located, Cracked Wide Open

This article by Joel Hruska for EmtremeTech may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But making those rules public does have a downside: It means companies know precisely how to cheat. Here’s how the Jacobs School describes the situation:

During emissions standards tests, cars are placed on a chassis equipped with a dynamometer, which measures the power output of the engine. The vehicle follows a precisely defined speed profile that tries to mimic real driving on an urban route with frequent stops. The conditions of the test are both standardized and public. This essentially makes it possible for manufacturers to intentionally alter the behavior of their vehicles during the test cycle. The code found in Volkswagen vehicles checks for a number of conditions associated with a driving test, such as distance, speed and even the position of the wheel. If the conditions are met, the code directs the onboard computer to activate emissions curbing mechanism when those conditions were met.

But VW didn’t stop there. The researchers who examined Volkswagen’s work pulled 964 separate versions of the Engine Control Unit (ECU)’s code from various makes and models of Volkswagens. In 400 of those cases, the ECU was programmed with defeat devices.

Now, you might be thinking that a single code model couldn’t possibly compare all the variables in play between various test facilities, and that some cars should have shown a fault simply due to random chance. But VW was aware of that possibility and took steps to prevent it. Their defeat device had ten separate profiles to allow it to detect various permutations in test scenarios.

Not all the defeat devices were sophisticated. The Fiat 500X (not manufactured by VW) has a much simpler defeat device. The vehicle’s emission control system runs for 26 minutes and 40 seconds after you first start the car, period. That’s long enough to pass most emission tests, and it doesn’t try to detect if the vehicle is being tested. But VW’s work was extremely sophisticated, it evolved over time, and the company’s claims that this was all instituted by a few rogue engineers are more farcical than ever.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The fact that it has taken this long to figure out just how the diesel defeat mechanisms function highlights the fact that Volkswagen and Bosch have not been entirely forthcoming with investigators. The emerging reality is that defeating emissions testing was a long-term highly orchestrated endeavour that must have required the efforts of teams of engineers and years of work to achieve such impressive results. 



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May 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Kik App Debuts Digital Currency Amid Bitcoin Boom

This article by Gerrit De Vynck for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Kik, based in Waterloo, Canada, unveiled plans for an “initial coin offering,” a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called “Kin”, will rise in value.

Interest in coin offerings is high, thanks to surging prices of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Called ICOs, they give a wide range of people the chance to invest in a company or any other endeavor early on. While unregulated, they have proved popular, with investors spending around $330 million on tokens over the past year, according to data compiled by cryptocurrency blog The Control. Earlier this month, cloud-storage startup Storj raised almost $30 million in five days via an ICO.

Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process.

“Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world,” Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. “Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tech startups have cottoned onto the fact that cryptocurrencies are based on reasonably easily repeatable strings of code so they can create their own. Monero, Dash, NeosCoin, MaidSafeCoin, SysCoin, SIBCoin, Couterparty, ShadowCash, Storjcoin X, Nexus, Potcoin, Synereo, NAV Coin and Stellar Lumens, to name a few, have all been created in the last two years and that’s leaving out the large ones like Ethereum and Ripple.  



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May 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Pilita Clark for the FT which may be of interest. Here is a section: 

“I have been early twice in financing the low carbon energy transition,” says Bruce Huber, cofounder of the Alexa Capital advisory group. “But we feel it’s third time lucky.”

One reason for his optimism is what he calls the “tectonic plateshifting” in the car industry that is driving down the cost of energy storage. Storing clean power has long been a holy green grail but prohibitive costs have put it out of reach. This has begun to change as battery production has ramped up to meet an expected boom in electric cars.

Lithium ion battery prices have halved since 2014, and many analysts think prices will fall further as a slew of large battery factories are built.

The best known is Tesla and Panasonic’s huge Nevada “gigafactory”. Tesla claims that once it reaches full capacity next year, it will produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were made worldwide in 2013.

It is only one of at least 14 megafactories being built or planned, says Benchmark Minerals, a research group. Nine are in China, where the government is backing electric cars with the zeal it has directed at the solar industry.

Could this lead to a China-led glut like the one that helped drive solar industry writeoffs and crashing prices after the global financial crisis?

“It’s something to watch,” says Francesco Starace, chief executive of Italy’s Enel, Europe’s largest power company.

The thirst for electric cars, not least in China, means “the dynamics of demand are completely different” for batteries than for solar panels, he adds.

Still, Enel’s internal forecasts show battery costs falling by about 30 per cent between 2018 and 2021 and it is among the companies already pairing batteries with solar panels to produce electricity after dark in sunny places where power is expensive, such as the Chilean desert.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The main objections to renewable energy are focused on intermittency and their reliance on subsidies. However economies of scale and the application of technology represent reasons for why we should be optimistic these can be overcome over the medium term. That represents a significant challenge for both the established energy and utility sectors. 

Right now we are talking about a time when solar and wind will be able to compete without subsidies on an increasing number of projects. However if we continue on that path there is potential for the sector to be a victim of its own success because the lower prices go and the more fixed prices are abandoned the greater the potential for volatility in energy pricing. 



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May 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Global cyberattack 'highly likely' linked to North Korea group

This article by Sherisse Pham for CNN may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But here's the puzzling thing -- Symantec says that despite the links to Lazarus, "the WannaCry attacks do not bear the hallmarks of a nation-state campaign."

Cyberattacks backed by governments "are usually impeccable, they don't make rookie mistakes," said Thakur. "In the case of WannaCry, we saw some of those mistakes."

For example, early versions of WannaCry had a bug in the code that prevented victims from paying the ransom.

While it's possible Lazarus thought they could make a lot of money with WannaCry, "they totally botched it up and got almost nothing," Thakur said.

The ransomware has so far collected about $108,000 in ransom. Security researchers and government agencies advised businesses not to pay the ransom.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The latest global ransomware attack might have been botched but that didn’t stop it from causing a great deal of inconvenience for consumers not least in the UK where trains didn’t run and hospital appointments were cancelled. The problem of course is that even if this attempt was not as successful as the originators hoped if will act as inspiration for ambitious criminal organisations to get it right next time. 



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May 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

If you bought $100 of bitcoin 7 years ago, you'd be sitting on $75 million now

This article from CNBC highlights the current spate of excitement about bitcoin. Here is a section:

On May 22, 2010, Hanyecz asked a fellow enthusiast on a bitcoin forum to accept 10,000 bitcoin for two Papa John's Pizzas. At the time, Hanyecz believed that the coins he had "mined" on his computer were worth around 0.003 cents each.

Bitcoin mining involves solving a complex mathematical solution with the miner being rewarded in bitcoin. This is how Hanyecz got his initial coins.

The cryptocurrency has many doubters as it continues to be associated with criminal activity, but it has still seen a stunning rally. Here are two facts, on Bitcoin Pizza Day, however, that highlight this:

While being worth $30 at the time, Hanyecz pizzas would now cost $22.5 million at current bitcoin prices.

If you bought $100 of bitcoin at the 0.003 cent price on May 22, 2010, you'd now be sitting on around $75 million.

A number of factors have been driving the rally:

Recently passed legislation in Japan that allows retailers to start accepting bitcoin as a legal currency has boosted trading in yen, which now accounts for over 40 percent of all bitcoin trade

Political uncertainty globally has driven demand for bitcoin as a safe haven asset

A debate within the bitcoin community about the future of the underlying technology behind bitcoin known as the blockchain has been taking place. There was fear at one point this could lead to the creation of two separate cryptocurrencies but those worries have largely subsided with an alternative, more palatable option now being put forward. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

At the Tech Symposium I spoke at in London last week Charlie Morris made a number of important points about bitcoin which I found very educative. The most important of these was his point relating to the fact that bitcoin is a digital asset rather than a currency so it is a misnomer to describe it as a cryptocurrency. The best way to value bitcoin is in the strength of the network supporting it and therefore it is a barometer for the prevalence and acceptance of blockchain. 



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May 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Makes Major Push Into Furniture

This article by Brian Baskin and  Laura Stevens for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The online retail giant is making a major push into furniture and appliances, including building at least four massive warehouses focused on fulfilling and delivering bulky items, according to people familiar with Amazon’s plans.

With that move, the Seattle-based retailer is taking on the two companies that dominate online furniture sales— Wayfair Inc. W -5.95% and Pottery Barn owner Williams-Sonoma Inc. Furniture is one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. online retail, growing 18% in 2015, second only to groceries, according to Barclays. About 15% of the $70 billion U.S. furniture market has moved online, researcher IBISWorld says.

But even the biggest players in online furniture are struggling to get the market right. Unlike established categories such as books and music or even apparel, retailers are still hammering out basic concepts like how much variety to offer on their sites and the most efficient ways to deliver couches and dining sets to customers’ homes.

While Amazon has been selling furniture for years, it has lately decided to tackle the sector more forcefully.

“Furniture is one of the fastest-growing retail categories here at Amazon,” said Veenu Taneja, furniture general manager at Amazon, in a statement. He said the company is expanding its selection of products, with offerings including Ashley Furniture sofas and Jonathan Adler home décor, and it is adding custom-furniture design services. Amazon is also speeding up delivery to one or two days in some cities, he adde

Eoin Treacy's view -

Free returns and secure transactions make online shopping risk free and painless from the perspective of consumers. Amazon is employing that strategy in an increasing number of sectors but most particularly in furniture and fashion. The number of brands Amazon now carries as well as sporting its own designs represent not only a direct threat to Williams Sonoma but to departments stores generally. 



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May 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Stocks Still Adored Abroad as Losses Mount for Locals

This article by Sofia Horta e Costa for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Mainland markets have struggled under the government’s campaign to trim risk in the financial sector, making stocks the least linked to the offshore index since 2006. With history showing sentiment can flip quarter to quarter, international traders are riding on a bet that solid corporate and economic data will continue to support the divergence.

“These investors don’t believe that any of this will lead to a crisis,” said Caroline Yu Maurer, the Hong Kong-based head of Greater China equities at BNP Paribas Investment Partners.
“For stocks, people are buying earnings growth rather than macro stories. The market is quite resilient as long as that holds.”

For a gauge that is rarely this expensive relative to the rest of the world, improving earnings are emerging as a key line of defense against worsening sentiment. While profit estimates are being upgraded at the fastest pace since 2010, they’re failing to keep pace with the index’s rally, which has pushed valuations toward the highest levels since 2015. The gauge gained another 0.4 percent on Wednesday, while the Shanghai Composite slumped 0.9 percent to its lowest level since October.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The mainland Shanghai Composite is heavily weighted by state owned enterprises like banks and infrastructure companies which are the primary focus of the clamp down on the shadow banking sector and financial leverage in “private lending clubs”. Privately owned companies, many of which are listed in Hong Kong or the USA continue to perform not least because they are not overly impacted by the financial sector tightening currently underway.



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May 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biotechnology Sector update

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Oppenheimer dated in April which may be of interest. Here is a section:  

Industry’s sales/earnings growth and margin structure are enviable, M&A on-tap
1. With increases in sales and earnings power and improving product approval rates, large-cap biotech has stuck to its knitting, i.e., developing products for smaller, more focused disease areas with high unmet needs.
2. 2015 was a banner year for worldwide biopharma M&A. After downturns, such as seen in 2016, M&A typically picks up as valuations become realistic.
3. Drug pricing, recent slowdown in large-cap sales/earnings momentum, many companies between product cycles and some clinical disappointments, are all still overhangs.

And 

1. Sales/earnings growth deceleration following peak sales/earnings in 2014 for the large-cap companies.
2. Has led to generalist and momentum money reducing exposure/abandoning the sector.
3. This deceleration in sales/earnings growth to trough in 2017, then rapidly start accelerating again.
4. Currently GILD is the laggard in its peer group for expected sales/earnings growth over the next three years.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

R&D is expensive, riddled with uncertainty and big bureaucracies tend to stifle the creativity necessary for the kind of out of the box thinking which leads to breakthroughs. The result is that large pharmaceuticals companies often buy promising biotechnology companies, usually at a premium, rather than invest in the uncertainty of in-house development. 



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May 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Can Wal-Mart's Expensive New E-Commerce Operation Compete With Amazon?

This article by Brad Stone and Matthew Boyle for Bloomberg caught my attention. Here is a section:

The video worked exceedingly well. In August, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would acquire Jet.com for $3.3 billion in cash and stock. It was an extraordinary sum for a 15-month-old, purple-hued website that was struggling to retain customers and is still far from making a profit. Even more astonishing, Lore and his management team in Hoboken, N.J., were put in charge of Wal-Mart’s entire domestic e-commerce operation, overseeing more than 15,000 employees in Silicon Valley, Boston, Omaha, and its home office in Arkansas. They were assigned perhaps the most urgent rescue mission in business today: Repurpose Wal-Mart’s historically underachieving internet operation to compete in the age of Amazon. “Amazon has run away with it, and Wal-Mart has not executed well,” says Scot Wingo, chief executive officer of Channel Advisor Corp., which advises brands and merchants on how to sell online. “That’s what Marc Lore has inherited.”

Lore’s ascendancy at Wal-Mart adds bitter personal drama that wouldn’t seem out of place on Real Housewives of New Jersey to a battle between two of the most disruptive forces in the history of retail. In 2010, Wal-Mart tried to buy Lore’s first online retail company, Quidsi Inc., which operated websites such as Diapers.com for parents and Wag.com for pet owners. But it moved too slowly and lost out to a higher bid from Amazon.com Inc. Lore then toiled at Amazon for over two years before quitting, in part out of disappointment with its refusal to invest more in Quidsi and to integrate his team into the company, according to two people close to him.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

You get a lot with your Amazon Prime membership from free 2-day shipping to photo storage and Amazon TV but you do not get the cheapest price on the majority of goods and Prime is not free. It costs $99 a year so you really need to shop, archive and watch Amazon to get your money’s worth and for many people that works out since it has built its subscriber base to 80 million people from 40. 



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May 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Seeking a policy response to the robot takeover

This article by Alice M. Rivlin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

If driverless deliveries prove faster, cheaper, safer, and more accurate, they would likely be adopted quickly and affect all parts of the country. Truck driving is much less concentrated in particular areas than, say, coal mining or steel making.

In 2016, there were 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, with a median annual wage of $43,590; 859 hundred thousand light-truck and delivery workers, who earned $34,700; and 426 hundred thousand driver/sales workers, who earned $28,449. So a rough estimate would be that driverless deliveries would put at least 2.5 million drivers out of work, not counting drivers’ helpers and a substantial number of workers in truck stops and roadside services patronized by truckers. Truck drivers drink a lot of coffee.

Like many lost manufacturing jobs, truck driving requires skill, some special training, hard work, and fortitude, but not much formal education. If you did not go beyond high school, but are a reliable, safe driver—especially if you are willing to work the demanding schedules of long-haul truckers—you can support a family and have decent benefits by driving a truck.

The transition to driverless deliveries would also create some new jobs, many of them technical jobs involving software development and programming that would command relatively high wages. Vehicle maintenance jobs would still be necessary, and would likely require enhanced electronic skills with higher pay than current truck maintenance jobs. Expanded demand for the cheaper delivered products would likely create additional jobs in the transportation sector. It is impossible to predict the ultimate effects of any major technological change, but in the short run it is a good bet that a lot of former drivers would be looking for work and finding their skills and experience ill-suited to available jobs at comparable wages.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The one question I get wherever I go to talk is what am I going to do when the robots take my job? It’s a big question but over the last year it has really moved into the public consciousness. The prospect of machines driving down our roads with no human behind the wheel has lent a sense of reality to the debate that was not present in years past. 



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May 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch May 2nd 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section:

As automobiles transition from being completely under the control of a human driver to being totally controlled by machines and computers, several things can happen. If cars can operate without having accidents, highway speeds can be increased, which could reduce vehicle fuel-efficiency, boosting fuel consumption. Fully-autonomous driving will also enable classes of the population currently unable to utilize vehicles, adding more vehicle miles traveled to the nation’s transportation system and increasing fuel consumption. Those classes of people include non-drivers, along with the elderly, disabled and young people. A study by Carnegie Mellon University estimates that this expansion of the driving population could increase vehicle miles traveled by 14%, or adding 295 billion miles of driving annually. That will mean more fuel consumed, regardless of how fuel-efficient the vehicles are that these classes of people utilize. A rough calculation based on vehicles with 30 miles per gallon ratings, means about 675,000 barrels a day of additional gasoline, or approximately a 7% increase on today’s gasoline consumption. Fully-autonomous driving suggests more vehicle use, more miles driven and more fuel consumed. The offset is if fully-autonomous vehicles dominate the growing car/ride-sharing segment of the transportation sector, which could act to reduce fuel consumption. 

Whether the vehicles of the future are ICE-powered or derive their power from some other fuel source will be influenced by the outcomes of the other two broad trends. For example, if we become a nation of car-sharers, there will be fewer vehicles needed, vehicle miles traveled might decline, although they just as easily could increase. A fully-autonomous vehicle provides the possibility of having a greater impact on fuel consumption than human-driven vehicles. First, cars that don’t have accidents can be made from lighter materials that facilitates more EVs since greater battery weight will be offset by lighter vehicle bodies and frames. That could help EVs overcome some of the range-anxiety challenges for many potential buyers. It could help accelerate the electrification of the automobile fleet, which would have a significant negative impact on vehicle fuel consumption. On the other hand, if ICE powered vehicles remain the popular option, fuel consumption might not be as impacted as in an EV-favored scenario. With fully-autonomous vehicles offering the potential for increased vehicle use, fuel consumption is likely to increase. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The Jevons Paradox suggests that if the price of a vital commodity falls use will increase so that the greater efficiency achieved through advancing technology is absorbed by demand growth. In fact the only commodity I can think of that has been completely obviated from popular use is whale oil. In every other case uses might have changed and costs might collapse but we end up using more of it. 



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May 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Market Leaders to Benefit from Industry Consolidation

Thanks to subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Acceleration in market share gains: Our AlphaWise survey indicated that the low price course strategy is highly effective for leading players to gain market share, thanks to their strong brand name, well established systems, standardized teaching procedures, and strong teaching curriculum development capabilities. We expect the promotional environment in China's K-12 after-school tutoring market will become a new norm, and the low user stickiness in the market will benefit the leading players like TAL and New Oriental, as they're considered top providers for potential switchers. We believe New Oriental's roll out of its low price strategy to over 30 cities and TAL's acceleration in capacity expansion will accelerate their market shares in the coming quarters. Although this may bring some short-term uncertainty to revenue growth and margins when the summer course revenues are booked, we believe this strategy is value accretive to the leading players given they can manage to achieve high retention rate.

Market demand remains robust amid macro slowdown: According to our AlphaWise survey results, K-12 after school tutoring expenses are the last item to cut among major household expenses during weak financial conditions. Moreover, 24% of respondents intend to increase their spending on tutoring classes in the next 12 months. This shows that education is not only resilient during macro downturns, but also remains a structurally growing sector in China. 

Good potential for online education: The survey results also show that the acceptance level of online education is very high and 43% of respondents thought online education was as good as offline, but more convenient. We believe this bodes well for future demand for the leading players' online and O2O initiatives, which could bring in incremental revenue opportunities with better operating leverage.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

For most families education is the surest and in many cases only way to climb out of poverty. Despite the fact there is a great deal of debate about the best way to impart knowledge and indeed what should be prioritised in the West, Chinese parents are under no illusion, their child has to perform well in the state exam. Competition is such that the only way to ensure your child is getting the grades they need when you do not have knowledge/time yourself is to employ a tutor. 



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April 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ford Sharpening Sales Pitch as Driverless Car Wager Underwhelms

This article by Keith Naughton for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Fields has struggled to generate enthusiasm for plans to pour billions into new technologies and take on upstarts like Uber Technologies Inc. and Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving spinoff. The CEO has said earnings will rebound next year as new models including the redesigned Lincoln Navigator are expected to start paying off. Until then, earnings will continue to be pinched in a U.S. market that’s also seeing auto demand roll back following a seven-year growth spurt.

“This will be the toughest quarter,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told reporters at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. “The balance of the year, in the aggregate, will be flat to better.”

Profit excluding some items was 39 cents a share during the first three months of the year, beating the 34-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg as well as the company’s own projection given in March. Net income on that basis fell to $2.22 billion.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The key to any business is succeeding in giving people what they want. Recreational horseback riding is fun but horses as a mode of transport leave a lot to be desired. For many people recreational driving is fun but the slog of commuting on congested roads leaves a lot to be desired. The gap between the reality of driving and the idea of driving is just too wide. Incumbent companies have no choice than to invest in electrification and automation because the latter in particular gives everyone a chauffeur, which is something until now only the wealthiest individuals could afford. 



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April 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Leveraging Platform Synergies to Break Adoption Barriers

Thanks to a subscriber for this heavyweight report from Deutsche Bank focusing on payments. Here is a section:

Although initial mobile payment developments were geared toward driving adoption and acceptance, focus has shifted to improving monetization. We believe Pay with Venmo remains a significant opportunity and conservatively estimate potential contribution to revenue growth in FY20 of ~3.5pts and given the higher transaction margins driven by cheaper funding sources (ACH, Balance), estimate potential EPS contribution of $0.28 in FY20. In addition, working capital loans to merchants and/or installment plans provided by PayPal, Square, and Alipay leveraging Big data offer high margin revenue opportunities. Providers are also emphasizing efforts on channels where adoption is easier as well as use cases which offer differentiated value propositions. Accordingly, we believe in-app and inbrowser will dominate mobile payments while in-store mobile payments will be predominantly focused on differentiated value propositions such as omni-channel support, order ahead, and offer/coupon redemption. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

One of the big questions for every online business is how to make it easier to take people’s money. Impatience, number of clicks, creating urgency, ensuring security and insuring purchases represent important considerations that have in many respects been solved by the various providers, with software and encryption getting better all the time. 



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April 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Arizona trial thrusts autonomous Waymo cars into everyday life

This article by Scott Collie from Atlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Waymo will be purchasing an additional 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans to support the 100 already doing the rounds.

The push to slot self-driving cars into the everyday reality of average Arizona families represents another significant step in autonomous driving development. Waymo has covered more than 3 million miles since its inception in 2009, and the benefits of that experience are beginning to show.

According to reports submitted to the Californian DMV earlier this year, Waymo cars covered 635,868 miles (1,023,330 km) last year, and human drivers only needed to intervene 124 times. That's a huge improvement over 2015, where self-driving systems disengaged 341 times in just 424,331 mi (682,895 km) of testing.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rapid pace of technological innovation is transforming our world, economy and financial markets faster than is easily comprehendible. I find it to be a useful thought experiment to identify the most promising technologies and then to think about what they are going to displace. For example the evolution of electric vehicles is not great news for automotive parts suppliers since EVs have far fewer parts. 



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April 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Inside China's Plans for World Robot Domination

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Under a sweeping proposal called “Made in China 2025,” as well as a five-year robot plan launched last April, Beijing plans to focus on automating key sectors of the economy including car manufacturing, electronics, home appliances, logistics, and food production. At the same time, the government wants to increase the share of indigenous-branded robots in China to more than 50 percent of total sales volume by 2020 from 31 percent last year.

Robot makers and the companies that automate will be eligible for subsidies, low-interest loans, tax waivers, and rent-free land. “Fair or unfair, you can expect Chinese companies will get a lot of preferential treatment and funding,” said Rose with Boston Consulting. “They actually have a comprehensive plan to get there. And their track record isn’t terrible either.”

Industrial automation is crucial for China, home to an aging population and shrinking labor force. Manufacturing wages have more than doubled in the last decade. Also, younger Chinese workers, “don’t want to do repetitive work,” said James Li, President of ABB Robotics China, the local unit of Switzerland’s ABB Ltd. and one of the first robot companies to set up in China. It supplies machines that spray paint cars and man electronics assembly lines. “Robotics is hot,” said Li, who notes that local governments are investing heavily in industrial parks to develop the technology.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The big question for robot manufacturers is will China do for their sector what it did for the solar sector? My sense of the challenges involved is that Chinese dominance of the robotics sector is a medium-term rather than short-term possibility. The companies involved have a lot of progress than needs to be made in developing software, optics and interfaces to truly challenge incumbents. However we can be reasonably assured they will be get better every year.  



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April 07 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Winners and losers of the Industrial Internet

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsche Bank which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Industrial end-markets are still at the beginning of their digitalization journey
The Industrial Internet is about optimizing entire manufacturing systems, including products, processes, supply chains and business models. We estimate digitized solutions could generate c.15% annual opex savings in industrial markets by making assets more efficient. This could reduce the addressable market size for traditional manufacturers of big iron machines. However, this should translate in a market opportunity of c.$200bn for IIoT suppliers in areas like predictive maintenance or operation optimization.

IIoT strategies are as much defensive as they are offensive 
Industrial companies will have to be good at software to remain successful as an increasing share of the manufacturing value chain could shift to providers of sensors, data analytics and industrial cloud architectures. For example, a key risk for the manufacturers of large pieces of equipment requiring maintenance/retrofit is that software companies specializing in analytics or 3D printing might take a growing share of the lucrative service business pie.

3 building blocks for success: Siemens and Schneider well placed
We believe successful companies in an IIoT world will combine an integrated platform of digital solutions; deep domain know-how to give context to data analytics and automation/control activities to in real-time the insights from data analysis on manufacturing processes. Siemens stands out for its comprehensive portfolio of automation and software tools but, the group faces significant digital disruption risks on servicing of its installed base. We rank Schneider and ABB highly. Both have relatively similar IIoT competencies but in different end-markets. We also estimate Schneider is running 5 years ahead of ABB in implementation of its group-wide digital platform and strategy.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subcsriber's Area.

China’s labour costs have been on an upward trajectory for some time and they have already lost many low cost manufacturing jobs to even cheaper locales. With more than a billion people they have an interest in enhancing productivity to ensure they retain the moniker of “workshop of the world”. 



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April 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bezos is selling $1 billion of Amazon stock a year to fund rocket venture

This article by Irene Klotz for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“My business model right now … for Blue Origin is I sell about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year and I use it to invest in Blue Origin," said Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and also the owner of The Washington Post newspaper.

Ultimately, the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long-term goal to cut the cost of space flight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth, Bezos said.

Bezos is Amazon's largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. At Wednesday's closing share price of $909.28, Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling $1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Bezos' total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 percent stake in the company, are worth $73.54 billion at Wednesday's closing price.

For now, Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin is working toward far shorter hops - 11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amazon is a behemoth which has benefitted enormously from Bezos’ stewardship over the last two decades. However it must raise the eyebrows of investors when they hear he is willing to dispense with a $1 billion in stock per annum to fund what is an interesting, potentially worthwhile but ultimately an expensive vanity project. 



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April 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Cheap Indian engineers now have no place in Donald Trump's America

This article from Quartz may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), a trade group that represents the Indian IT industry, played down the possible impact of the new USCIS memo. “The clarifying guidance should have little impact on NASSCOM members as this has been the adjudicatory practice for years and also, as several of our member executives have noted recently, they are applying for visas for higher-level professionals this year,” the association said in an emailed statement.

The Indian IT sector has been preparing for this sort of tightening for some time now. For instance, TCS, India’s largest IT services company, has sharply reduced the number of US visa applications: In 2016, it filed only 4,000 compared to 14,000 the year before. In 2015, the company also began tweaking its business model to effectively operate in “a visa-constraint regime,” former TCS CEO N Chandrasekaran explained in January.

Late last year, Infosys, the second-largest in the sector, too, signalled that it would look to hire local talent more aggressively in the US, a far cry from the turn of the decade when such companies were infamously called out for “body shopping“—i.e, hiring Indian software professionals to use them on short-term projects elsewhere.

Despite all such evasive action, though, the US clampdown will hurt the sector. “It’ll be a short-term jolt,” said Sanjoy Sen, a former Deloitte partner and doctoral researcher at UK’s Aston Business School, although the exact magnitude of the impact will depend on the size of the companies and their levels of preparation. Smaller firms with a headcount in the hundreds, in particular, may be harder hit, Sen said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Indian outsourcing sector is one of the country’s primary foreign revenue generators  and the ability to send workers to the US for medium-term project work has been an important support for that business model. The new US administration is already changing how the foreign worker program function and that represents a challenge for outsourcing companies. However if time differences could be overcome the evolution of cloud computing and distributed work environments mean that the absolute requirement to have programmers based in Silicon valley could be reduced. 



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April 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What does the evolution of Tesla mean for everyone else?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla broke out to new highs yesterday. The share’s stratospheric advance stopped three years ago when it announced it was going to build a battery “gigafactory” which would cost billions of Dollars it didn’t have. That investment is now over and the company is ramping up production. That’s great news for Tesla’s long suffering investors but what does it say about all the other car companies. 



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March 31 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Mad Rush to Undo Online Privacy Rules

This article by Siva Vaidhyanathan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Republicans in Senate and then House did the opposite this past week, voting along party lines to reverse the consumer protections. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and other companies have long wished to leverage personal data, seeing Google and Facebook making billions from it through customized advertising revenue. Most web sites, including Bloomberg.com, track Web use in order to deliver relevant advertisements to users.

The ISP’s could not win a policy argument before the FCC, but Congress was willing to act quickly amid the flurry of big issues confronting the public in the first 100 days of the new administration.

Once President Trump signs this bill into law, as he has pledged to do as part of his assault on Obama-era regulation regardless of their value, these telecommunication companies will be able to monitor all sorts of data use and cross-reference it with a user’s location, the time of day, and even the concentration of other service users. As more commerce occurs through phones, these companies could launch payment applications that muscle out similar services from Apple or Google. That kind of consumer data is especially valuable. Then, telecommunication companies could sell ads on the locked or home screen of a phone -- something even Google and Facebook can’t do.

Beyond that, Congress is also removing regulations that made telecommunication companies responsible for the leads of valuable -- and possibly dangerous -- private information through security breaches.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I can imagine that many US citizens are not particularly happy with the move to allow internet service providers to sell our household’s browsing history. Nevertheless, if this does in fact pass into law it will afford a number of, what are otherwise considered rather staid, companies the opportunity to compete for ad revenue with the likes of Google and Facebook. 



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March 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on hydrogen versus electric vehicles

I hope you are well. I was wondering what you thought of this article (Japan gambles on Toyota’s hydrogen powered car) about Toyota’s lack of faith in electric vehicles because 'a battery breakthrough is not in prospect'

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email raising an important issue regarding energy density. Here is a section from the article:

Fuel cell vehicles, by contrast, need all the manufacturing skills of a car company. “From the industrial strategy point of view, fuel cell technology is extremely difficult, it’s in the world of chemistry not machinery,” says Hiroshi Katayama at the advanced energy systems and structure division of the ministry of economy, trade and industry (METI). If auto technology goes down the hydrogen path, Japan will be well placed. But if it doesn’t, Tokyo will have made a major miscalculation.

Toyota’s faith in hydrogen is best understood by looking at a car it never made: a pure electric vehicle. For the 20 years since it invented the Prius hybrid, Toyota has been the carmaker best-placed to launch a fully electric vehicle. It had the batteries, the motors and the power electronics but chose not to deploy them because of concerns about range limits, refuelling time and the risk of batteries degrading as they age.

It has announced plans for its own electric vehicle to exploit the demand from the premium segment opened up by Tesla and to meet emissions standards in the US and China. Yet Toyota’s fundamental doubts about battery-powered vehicles have not gone away.

The long dreamt-of Sakichi battery would store energy at the same density as the chemical bonds in petrol: roughly 10,000 watt-hours per litre — enough to power a family car for hundreds of kilometres on a single tank. The low energy density of the best batteries, about one-twentieth that of petrol, is why today’s electric cars have limited range.



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March 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Growing International Opportunity for Drug Development

Thanks a subscriber for this report from Oppenheimer which may be of interest. Here is a section:

We believe estimated prevalence is the best measure of the overall cancer market’s size. We have estimated future prevalence for 2014-2018 (Tables 3, 6, 9). To arrive at these estimates, we used the 2012 or 2013 estimate and added estimated incidence (Tables 1, 4, 7) and subtracted estimated deaths (Tables 2, 5, 8) for each year. Exceptions included cancers that did not have prevalence data for 2012 or 2013. In cases where 2013 prevalence was not available for US patients, we used the 2009 prevalence estimate for 2013 or the incidence estimate. For these same exceptions outside the United States, we estimated 2012 or 2013 prevalence as a ratio to incidence that was consistent with US data.

Based on prevalence, we estimate the overall market for cancer therapies in the United States is slightly over 14 million patients growing at 7% per year. In Europe, we estimate the overall market is composed of 8 million patients and is growing at 16% per year. In Japan, we estimate the market is nearly 2 million patients and is growing 13% per year. We believe incidence is the best measure of front-line (newly treated) cancer market’s size (Tables 1, 4, 7). Therefore, we conclude the market for front-line therapies in the US is currently 2 million patients and is decreasing at 8% per year. In Europe, we estimate the market for front-line therapies is approximately 3.1 million patients and is growing at 4.5% per year. In Japan, we estimate the market for front-line therapies is currently 680,000 patients and is growing at 2% per year.

We believe the best measure of the market size for second-line and greater (relapsed/refractory) therapies is prevalence less incidence, which should account for all living patients who are not newly diagnosed. Therefore, we conclude the market for relapsed therapies in the US is currently 15 million patients and is growing at 10% per year. In Europe, we estimate the market for relapsed therapies is approximately 10.8 million patients and is growing at 11% per year. In Japan, we estimate the market for relapsed therapies is currently 2.1 million patients and is growing at 8% per year. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Cancer is a blight on humanity. Because it is based on what is in many respects a random mutation of genes, it avoids notice by the body’s immune system. The net result is that there are many different types of cancer but even within individual groups no two are the same. That represents an acute challenge for drug therapies because while the total market is large, individual therapies are required to treat every patient. Therefore personalised medicine is likely to emerge first in cancer treatment which means oncology represents an important market to monitor. 



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March 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Dow's Merck Swipes Immuno-Oncology Share From Heavyweight Rivals

This article from investors.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Four immuno-oncology drugs from Merck, Bristol-Myers and Roche brought in $464 million in February, declining 4% from $483 million in January, Leerink analyst Seamus Fernandez said, citing data from tracker Symphony Health.

But February was a shorter month, which could be partly responsible for the decrease, Fernandez said in a research report. Despite the slowdown, Merck's Keytruda sales grew 2% in February vs. the prior month.

Meanwhile, Bristol-Myers' drugs Opdivo and Yervoy held on to a collective 69% market share, falling 1% vs. January. Merck's Keytruda now has 24% of the market, up from 23% the prior month. Roche's Tecentriq was flat at 7% share.

Immuno-oncology drugs fight cancer by teaching the body's immune system to identify cancer cells hiding behind specific proteins. Those proteins are called checkpoints.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing is quickly revolutionising the genetics sector by reducing the cost and increasing the speed of innovation. That is particularly good news for cancer treatments because there are so many different mutations and each needs a tailored approach. In fact the end point of research and another area receiving a great deal of interest is the synthetic biology sector where custom viruses can be written to attack a patient’s personal cancer. 



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March 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch March 21st 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section comparing the efficiency of a Tesla to a BMW 7 Series:

“Liberals frequently care more about feelings than facts, and your smug Tesla-owning frenemy will never admit it, but in day to day usage, the big BMW is actually 18% more efficient, and 18% kinder to the planet. (Don’t get too cocky, Mr. 7 Series: at a US average 12 cents per KwH, the electricity cost to the Tesla owner for 1000 miles works out in total to about $81, as opposed to $98 for the gasoline. The reason the Tesla is less efficient, but still cheaper to run, is that the power company pays a lot less for fuel than the automobile driver does. But when the issue is green impact, not greenbacks, the BMW wins handily.)

And

“Of course, no self-respecting Green Weenie would settle for powering his car by the sun, but his house by Con Edison. And with the average efficient house using 1 KwH per hour, i.e., 24 KwH per day, the house needs 4.8 KwH capacity, and considering efficiency losses and reserve requirements, that means 6.9 KwH for the house. So to power both the Tesla and the house, Green Man needs at least 1,443 square feet of power production, at a cost of $115,000. But even using a Tesla-only setup, $60k would buy 25,641 gallons of gasoline (at the current US average price of $2.34 per gallon). The Big BMW could travel, on that much fuel, 24,000 x 24 MPG = 615,384 miles. Game, set and match – Munich and Detroit. Sad!” 

While we didn’t do the analysis, all of Mr. Karo’s numbers were sourced, which was not a surprise, given that he is a Philadelphia lawyer, and the math works. Although Mr. Karo expresses disdain for braggadocios Tesla owners, presumably because of his experiences with some owners he has encountered, the economics in this analysis suggest that gasoline-powered vehicles will have a longer future than EV-proponents suggest, or would like to see happen. Tesla owners will not be swayed by Mr. Karo’s analysis. Instead, they will declare that with falling battery and solar panel costs coupled with their improving efficiencies, the cost advantage will soon swing in favor of EVs. However, the inability of EVs to be swapped for gasoline-powered vehicles in a one-to-one exchange for all applications means there is an extensive convincing period ahead before the public fully embraces them. Just how long that convincing period will be is anyone’s guess. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

There are four major themes in transportation at the present time. These are electric vehicles, automation, connectivity and sharing. Let’s for a moment take the environmental question out of the argument for electric vehicles. Many people buy them because they are cheaper to run and have fewer moving parts so they tend to be reasonably reliable. 



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March 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Google Might Run the Power Grid More Efficiently

This article by Diego Marquina and Jahn Olsen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The best way to send the right economic signals that reflect constraints is through locational marginal pricing – having different power prices in different parts of the grid.

This is a politically unpopular mechanism, as it would see prices go up in zones of large demand – potentially industrial areas.

The alternative is grid investment. But the costs are huge, as is the case for the bottleneck between Scottish wind farms and English demand centers. The 2.2 gigawatt HVDC cable currently being built there has an estimated cost of 1 billion pounds. Yet National Grid estimates as much as 8GW of additional transmission capacity could be required by 2030, on that particular border alone.

Less human involvement might be part of the solution. Google’s DeepMind recently announced they are exploring opportunities to collaborate with National Grid. It has been successful elsewhere -- DeepMind demonstrated its immense potential by reducing cooling costs in an already human- optimized datacenter by 40 percent.

Setting it loose on the extremely complex and quite probably over-engineered National Grid, with its many overlapping services and mechanisms, its rules of thumb and its safety margins, could provide novel ways to ensure system reliability cheaply and efficiently. DeepMind’s CEO conservatively hinted that it might be able to save up to 10 percent of the U.K.’s energy usage without any new infrastructure. Step aside, humans.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly finding its way into systems which had previously always been managed by humans. You might have heard of the Google Deep Mind team’s victory against the Go world champion. It represented a landmark not so much because it overcame a human; we’ve seen that in chess before. It was the manner in which the victory was achieved that is so important. 



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March 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on vapes and e-cigarettes

Hope you are keeping well.

We are getting loads of orders for Vape labels at the moment and talking to other guys in our industry they are all getting the same - we are talking millions of labels. The industry is seriously expanding, at this time it appears to be multi small to medium players but there must be some serious money to be made somewhere!

The label, bottle, liquid etc. can't come to more than £1.50 so potential profit is there.
I know you've probably already had a look but thought I'd mention it!

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this insightful email. The market for e-cigarettes has been somewhat overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding the evolution of the cannabis industry in the USA. Part of the reason for this is because there has been considerable controversy about the safety of the chemicals used in the vapourising process and the fact that some of the flavours such as bubble gum appear to be directly aimed at children. That resulted in related shares initially surging but subsequently collapsing because the cost of getting new products approved by regulatory authorities surged. 



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March 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Intel to Acquire Mobileye

This press release may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“As cars progress from assisted driving to fully autonomous, they are increasingly becoming data centers on wheels. Intel expects that by 2020, autonomous vehicles will generate 4,000 GB of data per day, which plays to Intel’s strengths in high-performance computing and network connectivity. The complexity and computing power of highly and fully autonomous cars creates large-scale opportunities for high-end Intel® Xeon® processors and high-performance EyeQ®4 and EyeQ®5 SoCs, high-performance FPGAs, memory, high-bandwidth connectivity, and computer vision technology.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Intel missed a trick when mobile phones took off. It had simply ignored the market for years, preferring instead to concentrate on desktops where it has a strong lead in what is a declining market. When mobile phone demand exploded in popularity companies like ARM Holdings and Qualcomm took the initiative and the bulk of the profits. Since the market for desktop computers is shrinking Intel can’t afford to miss out on the evolution of autonomous vehicles since it is likely to become a major destination for both chips and sensors over the next decades. 



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March 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New Infrastructure Themes and Top Ideas

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsche Bank highlighting the growth potential in new technology infrastructure. Here is a section:

A core insight in our theme report is the meaningful shift in spending priorities that our primary research notes at Hyperscale Clouds, Enterprises, and Service Providers. In particular, we highlight +50% Y/Y capex intensity at major Clouds for Terabit Scale Optical Interconnects; required for running Web Scale Applications such as Google Maps, Azure Cloud, AWS, GCP, etc.

A corollary insight is the accelerating IT demand for Software and SaaS based tools for Network and Application Analytics, AI and Machine Learning, and Automation tools – for “structurally lowering” the costs of running complex IT infrastructures at Hyperscale Clouds, Large Enterprises, and Carriers.

A case in point is CSCO “doubling down” on Security, Analytics, AI/ML, and Automation Software capabilities (Meraki, AppDynamics, Jasper, Tetration, etc) to drive incremental Top Line and EPS growth through a “recurring revenue” model – laddering upon CSCO’s +250B networking installed base.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

There is a lot of tech-speak in this report but the three main themes it is promulgating are the growth and increasing sophistication of cloud computing, the growth of fibre optics where Terabit speeds are potentially possible and the rollout of 5G mobile networks. 

Most of what has made headlines in the technology sector over the last decade has been software related. In fact the pinnacle of this reliance on other company’s infrastructure might be Snap’s IPO. The company runs none of its own infrastructure, at least so far, and has instead chosen to outsource everything from managing the backend to client acquisition to third parties like Google and Amazon. However software relies on hardware and infrastructure to grow and if the aspirations of companies that depend on it like Netflix and Facebook are going to be realised then major connectivity investment needs to take place. 

 



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March 08 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New Research Could Turn Water Into the Fuel of Tomorrow

This article from Futurism.com caught my attention and I thought it may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“What is particularly significant about this study, which combines experiment and theory, is that in addition to identifying several new compounds for solar fuel applications, we were also able to learn something new about the underlying electronic structure of the materials themselves,” Neaton said in a Caltech press release.

To discover these new photoanodes, the team combined computational and experimental approaches. A Materials Project database was mined for potentially useful compounds. Hundreds of theoretical calculations were performed using computational resources at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), together with software and expertise from the Molecular Foundry. Once the best candidates for photoanode activity were identified, it was time to test those materials in the laboratory.

The materials were simultaneously tested for anode activity under different conditions using high-throughput experimentation. This was the first time these kinds of experiments had been run this way, according to Gregoire.

“The key advance made by the team was to combine the best capabilities enabled by theory and supercomputers with novel high throughput experiments to generate scientific knowledge at an unprecedented rate,” Gregoire said in the press release.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There has been great deal of commentary in the media about the advances in artificial intelligence and how it is represents a threat to employment across a number of fields. A broader perspective to the easy application of massive computing power is the scale that can be brought to experiments through computer simulation and data analysis. Artificial intelligence represents a major facilitator for technological innovation. Coupled with rapid prototyping and CRISPR the potential for unprecedented change in a range of sectors, stretching from materials to healthcare, is looking increasingly like the base case.  



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March 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

IBM thinks it's ready to turn quantum computing into an actual business

This article by Mike Murphy for Quartz may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

As it stands, IBM’s largest quantum computer has five qubits. By contrast the average laptop has hundreds of millions of bits in its processors, although the two types of computers are not directly comparable. IBM hopes, however, to continue its research with the aim of building quantum computers with roughly 50 qubits. For comparison, an IBM spokesperson told Quartz, you can simulate the computational power of a 25-qubit quantum computer on a regular laptop. At about 45 qubits, you’d need the world’s fastest supercomputers, and above 50, “you couldn’t build large enough classical computing systems to simulate that size of a quantum system.”

In IBM’s vision of the future, quantum computers could be used for discovering new drugs, securing the internet, modeling the economy, or potentially even building far more powerful artificial intelligence systems—all sorts of exceedingly complicated tasks. One area the company is looking at right now is in chemistry, attempting to simulate what’s going on in a molecule. “Even for simple molecules like caffeine, the number of quantum states in the molecule can be astoundingly large,” the spokesperson said, “so large that all the conventional computing memory and processing power scientists could ever build could not handle the problem.”

When Quartz visited IBM’s quantum computing lab in Yorktown Heights in 2015, the work being done was viewed as fundamental—research for the sake of research—rather than anything tied to specific business goals. But then again, so was the research that has since led to the creation of Watson. Originally conceived of to take on the question-as-answers gameshow of Jeopardy!, which researchers saw as a “unique and compelling AI question,” Watson has become a set of machine-learning and AI services that IBM sells, and intends to invest $1 billion into.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

IBM is still in the throes of a major transition from physical hardware manufacturing to an almost total focus on knowledge based services. Artificial intelligence (Watson), and the tools to leverage that technology (massive & fast processing power) represent the key areas of focus in what is a new era for the company. 



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March 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Patent Decision on Crispr Gene Editing Favors MIT

This article from Wired.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Someone is going to make a lot of money licensing Crispr. And someone is going to make lot of money on therapies based on Crispr. That’s why, the day before the decision, the National Academy of Sciences released a long document laying out what kind of Crispr-based human therapies were kosher—so no one goes the full Gattaca.

In fact, the moneymaking part has already begun. Startups are getting funding based on Crispr-based business plans. Editas Medicine, which licenses the Broad patents to work on treatments for genetic disorders in human beings, had a 30 percent stock bump on word of the patent decision. “It certainly caused some concerns, because depending on how the courts were going to rule on the two claims, if you went with one, you could lose, right?” says Edison Liu, CEO of the Jackson Laboratory, a major source of genetically modified mice used in research. Jackson Labs has licenses from both sides, and since it aims at academic uses, gets better terms than a Silicon Valley biotech startup might.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The acrimonious patent battle over exactly who controls the intellectual property relating to CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing has been dragging on for a year. Since the three main protagonists are well funded there is ample scope for additional suits and counter suits since the potential rewards are so large. 



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March 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the rollout of 5G

I would very much appreciate your thoughts about Sierra Wireless (NASDAQ:SWIR) who are also involved in this space.

I continue to be a big fan of your service and your daily video commentary is a welcome addition.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Internet connectivity is as essential to the modern economy as electricity and water and bandwidth needs to increase in order to cater to the number of additional connected devices coming on stream. 

If you think about how many devices in your home connect to your modem and compare that to how many used it a decade ago you’ll likely notice a big change. My children barely watch TV. When they want to see something they go on YouTube or Netflix both of which are streaming services. 

 



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February 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Super-smart robots will outnumber humans by FOUR BILLION within three decades, Softbank CEO says

This article appeared on the Daily Mail’s site today and may be of interest. Here is a section:

Mr Son said the growing number of microchip 'brain cells' opens up a huge opportunity for smart and connected objects.

'This is why I spent $32 billion (£26 billion) to acquire ARM,' Mr Son said, explaining his 30-year-vision of a world where the artificial computer brain will have 10,000 intelligence quotient (IQ) capabilities compared with 100 for the average human.

Jennifer Belissent, an analyst at Forrester Research who attended Son's keynote speech, said the numbers he mentioned were very dramatic.

'The greater connectivity and new artificial IQ capabilities offer so much potential. It sets the scene for a Marvel movie,' she said.
'Now, the key question is how to make that new technology available to everyone.

'It's not the number of new devices that is relevant but what you make out of it in terms of analytical capabilities.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Connectivity remains a secular theme. 4G has just been rolled out in India, enabling the economy to jump several stages of web development and Verizon is now introducing 5G in the USA. As the speed with which we can access the internet increases the range of potential applications for web-enabled functions multiplies.  The Internet of Things is a logical iteration of that evolution and suggests the number of connected devices is only going to increase as the relative cost of connectivity trends lower. 



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February 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The second stage of disruption

This article by Alex Pollak for Loftus Peak appeared in Australia’s Livewire letter and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But it’s what inside that counts. Autos and components are a significant part of consumer discretionary, as are media, retail and staples including food. A major component of Industrials is transport – road, rail, marine, airline, construction material and heavy trucks.

Virtually all the automakers have electric and self-driving models in the works. But, as we have noted before, the more successful they are with these, the more the potential for write-offs in their internal combustion engine business – which is basically the whole business.

Banking disruption has started but hasn’t hit the mainstream – yet.

But fund managers typically invest looking to the existing make-up of the global economy, through the GIC’s sectors, which are composed of the companies in those industries. So the fund manager will have investment in oil, automakers, energy and transport, at time when those sectors are heading for massive disruption. In essence, the fund manager is investing by looking backwards!
This is a poor long-term strategy, and one which has already begun to cause drag in portfolios which are underweight ‘technology’ shares (because they form a small part of the index, at the expense of sectors like basic materials and utilities, which are large now but are de-weighting as disruption takes hold.)

We are at a particular point in the economic history where disruptive companies are moving into industries which were previously considered inviolable, companies which couldn’t be damaged because demand for the underlying physical good was thought to stretch out to the horizon. In fact, the demand may still be there, but the way it is delivered, because of technological change, is affecting virtually all industries.

It's why we invest in disruption, and the reason our returns have been solid.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Technological innovation is accelerating at an exponential rate and it is having a transformative effect on just about everything. That is why we concentrate so heavily on the sector. Technology is deflationary in many respects but it is perhaps better to think about that influence in terms of lower costs contributing to better margins. That gives a clear advantage to the originators of disruptive technology as well as early adopters. 



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February 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

NVidia to fall nearly 20% on increasing competition from AMD, high valuation, analyst says

This article by Tae Kim for CNBC may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Instinet lowered its rating on NVidia to reduce from buy, saying the company's earnings will come in below expectations this year due to a more difficult gaming graphics market.

"We believe consensus is underappreciating a slowdown in gaming and the potential negative impact to the multiple," analyst Romit Shah wrote in a note to clients Wednesday. "We recommend investors take profits."

NVidia shares are up 251 percent in the past 12 months due to better-than-expected sales results from its graphics card segment.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Acceleration is a trend ending and NVidia definitely accelerated last year so reversion towards the mean, at least, is a distinct possibility. 



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February 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Big Batteries Coming of Age Prompt Bankers to Place Bets

This article by Joe Ryan and Brian Eckhouse for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“Having big money come in is the first step to widespread deployment,” Brad Meikle, a San Francisco-based analyst for Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, said in an interview.

That’s a shift from many of the storage projects we’ve seen to date as expensive components and unproven revenue potential made commercial lenders leery. Developers typically have financed systems from their own balance sheets, cobbling together revenue from short-term utility contracts or wholesale electricity markets.

“We see an opportunity in the space,” Ralph Cho, Investec’s co-head of power for North America in New York, said in an interview. “We’re attempting to be a first mover.”

Storage contracts to date in the U.S. and Canada rarely exceeded three years, said Bryan Urban, head of North American operations for the Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland-based storage developer Leclanche SA. Now utilities are signing agreements for three to seven years, and sometimes as long at 10 years, he said. And in the U.K., National Grid Plc is signing four-year contracts for storage services

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the most popular statistics quoted is that solar cells are rapidly approaching competitiveness even with coal. However that does not solve the intermittency problem. A better question is when will batteries be competitive with the cost of maintaining coal fired backup supply for inevitable demand surges? That is a question we should be able to answer soon as the number of utility scale batteries in operation increases. 



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February 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Mark Zuckerberg Manifesto Is a Blueprint for Destroying Journalism

This article by Adrienne Lafrance for The Atlantic may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In other words, Facebook is building a global newsroom run by robot editors and its own readers.

This strategy may be right for Facebook, which has a strong track record of predicting what its users want. You certainly don’t rake in nearly $9 billion a quarter by building something people aren’t interested in. But if journalism is an indispensable component of the global community Zuckerberg is trying to build, he must also realize that what he’s building is a grave threat to journalism.

“A strong news industry is also critical to building an informed community,” Zuckerberg wrote in his manifesto. “There is more we must do to support the news industry to make sure this vital social function is sustainable—from growing local news, to developing formats best suited to mobile devices, to improving the range of business models news organizations rely on.”

There is more Facebook must do. But what? Lip service to the crucial function of the Fourth Estate is not enough to sustain it. All of this is the news industry’s problem; not Zuckerberg’s. But it’s also a problem for anyone who believes in and relies on quality journalism to make sense of the world.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I’ve been ruminating over the last couple of weeks on the role of journalism in modern society. This bell curve of where news organisations fall on the political spectrum is a testament to the tendency of journalists to write for well-defined demographics in service to the maxim “Give the people what they want”, or at least some of the people. 



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February 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the cost of gold mining

Thank you for another very well done Friday audio. Your comments on gold were very interesting for me. I wonder if you or the collective have an idea about the possibility of technological innovation that might make gold production cheaper, the way oil production has become cheaper.. Thanks in advance

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and I am delighted you are enjoying the new format of videos and audios. Anglogold Ashanti have been pioneering a number of new technologies not least reef boring and thermal spawning. Both are designed to economically extract gold from previously uneconomic regions such as very thin reefs or the supporting walls of old mines. As with any new technology, development takes time but the company is hopeful about the prospects for future production. This informative section from Anglogold Ashanti’s site may also be of interest. 



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February 17 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biotechnology rotation

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index is going through a significant rotation. Some of the biggest companies that led on the breakout from the long-term base in 2012 are now trending lower. Gilead Sciences is representative. It was among the best performers on the breakout but peaked in 2015 and has continued to trend lower while many of the other major constituents have spent a year ranging. 

The focus thrown on drug pricing during the US Presidential Election has long lasting repercussions because it has highlighted the practice of raising prices for legacy drugs. That is the exact opposite of what we see in other sectors where competition forces prices lower over time. The Trump administration is now talking about bringing down drug prices and enhancing the ability of Medicare to negotiate bulk prices and allow consumers to buy drugs overseas. These issues represents a significant issue for legacy pharmaceutical companies and established biotech companies without the compensating factor of a promising drug pipeline. It also means demand for M&A is likely to continue to increase. 

 



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February 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Silicon will blow lithium batteries out of water, says Adelaide firm

Thanks for a subscriber for this article by Benn Potter for the Australian Financial Review. Here is a section:

Chairman Kevin Moriarty says 1414 Degrees' process can store 500 kilowatt hours of energy in a 70-centimetre cube of molten silicon – about 36 times as much energy as Tesla's 14KWh Powerwall 2 lithium ion home storage battery in about the same space.

Put another way, he says the company can build a 10MWh storage device for about $700,000. The 714 Tesla Powerwall 2s that would be needed to store the same amount of energy would cost $7 million before volume discounts.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A race is underway to develop new types of batteries and, for the foreseeable future, there is room for a number of competing technologies. The reason for this is the pace of innovation is slower than in other sectors but also because energy storage is required for widely differing sectors. Batteries need to be small and light for handheld devices, big and have almost infinite recharging capabilities for utilities and need highly efficient power to weight ratios for transportation. That suggests there is ample potential for a number of different technologies to play roles in all of these sectors. 
 

 



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February 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch February 7th 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Prior to OPEC’s Vienna Agreement last November, putting oil in storage because of its higher future value was a strong motivation for growing storage volumes. Now the curve is much flatter, and for oil priced three years in the future, that price is lower than the current one, providing a strong disincentive for putting oil in storage. Backwardation plays a significant role in oil producers’ decisions to hedge their production since they risk the potential of the price moving higher if the more traditional contango environment returns. As Rob Thummel, a managing director and portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors LLC put it, "What happens to the curve does depend on how the OPEC cuts will be carried out. The oil futures curve is indicating that the current OPEC cuts are here to stay for a while." U.S. oil producers will be very happy if that proves to be the case. While history would suggest otherwise, the pending (early 2018) initial public offering for Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, an important component of its domestic economic restructuring effort, might force the country to hold its output down much longer than it has indicated. The reality may be that hundreds of small U.S. oil producers may screw up Saudi Arabia’s grand plan while hurting speculating oil traders with their record bullish oil price bet. A lower future oil price after a record bullish oil futures bet would be consistent with our recent history.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

BP and Exxon Mobil spend a great deal of time and effort producing annual reports on energy use and issue predictions on how it will evolve over the time. That helps keep investors informed on how the companies plan to mobilise capital to take best advantage of how they see events unfolding. Saudi Arabia, as the world’s largest low cost producer, does not issue public annual reports. However its plans to IPO the company tell us more than any report ever could about the conclusions the Saudi Arabian administration has reached about the future of the oil market.



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February 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Machines Can Replace Millions of Bureaucrats

This article by Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In some countries, some of the people in these jobs -- such as postal employees -- are public sector workers. But government clerks who do predictable, rule-based, often mechanical work also are in danger of displacement by machines. In a recent collaboration with Deloitte U.K., Profs. Osborne and Frey estimated that about a quarter of public sector workers are employed in administrative and operative roles which have a high probability of automation. In the U.K., they estimated some 861,000 such jobs could be eliminated by 2030, creating 17 billion pounds ($21.4 billion) in savings for the taxpayer.

These would include people like underground train operators -- but mainly local government paper pushers.

This week, Reform, the London-based think tank dedicated to improving public service efficiency, published a paper on automating the public sector. It applied methodology developed by Osborne and Frey to the U.K.'s central government departments and calculated that almost 132,000 workers could be replaced by machines in the next 10 to 15 years, using currently known automation methods. Only 20 percent of government employees do strategic, cognitive work that requires human thinking -- at least for now, while artificial intelligence is as imperfect as it is. Most of the rest are what the Reform report calls the "frozen middle" -- levels of hierarchy where bureaucrats won't budge without approval from above.

Almost all British government departments have 10 employee grades or more. The department for environment, food and rural affairs has 13. Most of the middle-level tasks are routine and rigidly regulated and motivation is low: Only 38 percent of middle-level bureaucrats say they feel good about what they do.

In the U.K., the average civil servant takes 8 sick days a year, while a private sector worker takes 5. In the last two decades public sector spending rose by an average 3.1 percent a year, about 16 times faster than productivity.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The majority of commentary is focusing on the how, what and when of Brexit but there also needs to be some thought for how the UK is going to enhance its competitive position in a post EU world. Tax structures, trade deals and deregulation all need to be high on the agenda but so does limiting needless spending in government. 



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February 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Why Hollywood As We Know It Is Already Over

This article from Vanity Fair may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

When Netflix started creating its own content, in 2013, it shook the industry. The scariest part for entertainment executives wasn’t simply that Netflix was shooting and bankrolling TV and film projects, essentially rendering irrelevant the line between the two. (Indeed, what’s a movie without a theater? Or a show that comes available in a set of a dozen episodes?) The real threat was that Netflix was doing it all with the power of computing. Soon after House of Cards’ remarkable debut, the late David Carr presciently noted in the Times, “The spooky part . . . ? Executives at the company knew it would be a hit before anyone shouted ‘action.’ Big bets are now being informed by Big Data.”

Carr’s point underscores a larger, more significant trend. Netflix is competing not so much with the established Hollywood infrastructure as with its real nemeses: Facebook, Apple, Google (the parent company of YouTube), and others. There was a time not long ago when technology companies appeared to stay in their lanes, so to speak: Apple made computers; Google engineered search; Microsoft focused on office software. It was all genial enough that the C.E.O. of one tech giant could sit on the board of another, as Google’s Eric Schmidt did at Apple.

These days, however, all the major tech companies are competing viciously for the same thing: your attention. Four years after the debut of House of Cards, Netflix, which earned an astounding 54 Emmy nominations in 2016, is spending $6 billion a year on original content. Amazon isn’t far behind. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are all experimenting with original content of their own. Microsoft owns one of the most profitable products in your living room, the Xbox, a gaming platform that is also a hub for TV, film, and social media. As The Hollywood Reporter noted this year, traditional TV executives are petrified that Netflix and its ilk will continue to pour money into original shows and films and continue to lap up the small puddle of creative talent in the industry. In July, at a meeting of the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills, FX Networks’ president, John Landgraf, said, “I think it would be bad for storytellers in general if one company was able to seize a 40, 50, 60 percent share in storytelling.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The march of technology enabled content creation is undeniable and irreversible. The simple reason from a business perspective is that relying on human beings to be individually creative is fraught with uncertainty, ambiguity and time management issues. Computers on the other hand excel at getting the job done on time and within budget. The challenge has always been to try and teach computers how to be creative. 



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February 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The latest "nightmare inducing" Boston Dynamics robots

This YouTube video highlights a presentation from Boston Dynamics at a recent Singularity University event. The newest robot is previewed 3:53 minutes into the video. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Boston Dynamics was an aspiring defence contractor when it was acquired by Google. Since Google’s long held mantra is to do no evil that pretty much precluded the company from selling robots that might one day be designed to kill people. The problem is that it’s hard to design robots to displace manual labour outside of strictly controlled environments. The company is making rapid strides in that field but the primary growth avenue is in places where humans would be in danger, not least from other humans. That is at least part of the reason Alphabet is looking for a buyer for the company.   



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January 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Woman dies from antibiotic-resistant bacteria when no antibiotics worked

This article from Kurzweil AI may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The death of a hospitalized patient in Reno Nevada for whom no available antibiotics worked highlights what World Health Organization and other public-health experts have been warning: antibiotic resistance is a serious threat and has gone global.

The patient — a female in her 70s — was admitted in for an infection and died in September 2016 from septic shock the CDC announced on Jan. 13. The patient had been treated for multiple infections in India before traveling to the United States. The infection that led to her hospitalization in Reno was caused by a strain of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)* bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae. Although not all strains of Klebsiella pneumonia are CRE, the strain that infected this patient was resistant to all available antibiotics, according to the CDC. (Carbapeneum is a “drug of last resort.”)

In a paper in The Lancet in October, researchers reported that more than a third of blood infections in newborn babies involving Klebsiella pneumoniae and similar bacteria were resistant to multiple drugs to the point they were virtually untreatable and “threaten the return of a pre-antibiotic era in Indian neonatal intensive care units,” the study’s authors warned.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Antibiotic resistance is a vital topic of conversation because it affects all of us and represents perhaps the single biggest risk to general health we can fathom. The pace of technological innovation is perhaps the greatest hope we have of finding a solution that does not rely on fighting a losing war against an enemy capable of changing tactics to overcome conventional responses. This article from NewAtlas highlights one such solution. Here is a section: 

The study combined the new PPMO with meropenem, a type of carbapenem antibiotic that's effective against a broad range of bugs, and pitted it against three different types of bacteria that make use of NDM-1. In all cases, the PPMO restored meropenem's ability to kill the bacteria in vitro, and also managed to kill off an NDM-1-expressing strain of E. coli in tests in mice.

"We're targeting a resistance mechanism that's shared by a whole bunch of pathogens," says Geller. "It's the same gene in different types of bacteria, so you only have to have one PPMO that's effective for all of them, which is different than other PPMOs that are genus specific." Geller says the new drug should be ready for human testing in about three years.


There is every reason for optimism that this problem can be overcome but it requires constant vigilance and technology represents our best chance to overcome it. It is not a problem that will just go away.  

 



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January 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Tech Bubble Year 5+

This very well-illustrated presentation by Anand Sanwal from CBInsights for the benefit of attendees at the CanTech Conference in Toronto may be of interest to subscribers. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full presentation is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The pace of technological innovation is graphically illustrated in this report. What becomes very clear is how start-ups view the all-in-one businesses of companies like Starwood, Proctor & Gamble and the car manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies as ripe for disruption. They could be right and there is certainly a great deal of venture capital money willing to make that bet. However we should not expect established companies to go down without a fight.



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January 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

FANG was so 2015

Eoin Treacy's view -

Remember 2015 when the F.A.N.G, stocks were all the rage and media pundits were falling over themselves to tell us how you had to own them if you were to have any chance of outperforming the major indices. 2016 was predictably a tamer year for those shares with some spending much of their time consolidating 2015’s powerful gain. However with Netflix making headlines today on successfully boosting subscribers, following an international expansion, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit this acronym. 



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January 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the secular bull market in bonds

Enjoy watching the video presentations. Thought you may be interested in the following interview of Gary Shilling

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for you kind words and this interesting interview which may be of interest to subscribers. 

Gary Shilling’s view that technological innovation is inherently deflationary is very much in tune with our view. The increasing commercial applications of biotechnology, automation, artificial intelligence, the internet and mobile technology are all likely to enhance productivity and could very well represent a deflationary influence. On the other hand, the increasing calls for free money (universal social payments) lower taxes, more spending and deregulation have the capacity to stoke inflation.

 



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January 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on MOOCs

On your piece about MOOCs I couldn't help but observe that you did not mention FutureLearn

This service is UK based and is an offshoot of the Open University.

It claims to be the largest MOOC. See below. I've used it and it's very good. I particularly like the fact that many courses are short - 6 weeks and typically 2 - 3 hrs per week.  
All the best

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for highlighting FutureLearn.com which, as you point out, is another major centre of online learning and builds on Open University’s long history of distance learning. This article from May last year highlights how a number of universities will allow students to earn as many as 30 credits towards a degree using FutureLearn’s portal. That’s a powerful method to help reduce the cost of earning a primary degree and enhances even further our ability to enjoy learning throughout our lives.



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January 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on reshoring and automation

This is indeed well under way and generally government-supported trend globally, with Germany (as always) at the forefront, but also the US and the rest of Europe promoting and facilitating the process.

The article below is interesting I think

It gives an idea of how easily these processes are implemented (2 weeks to start production) and the advantages offered to producers (design innovation + shorter time to market + customisation). €2 million investment for being able to produce a total of 200k pieces every year seems very low.

Shima Seiki (6222) - that provided the machinery to Benetton - is a company worth looking into, and the recent rally in share price confirms what you mentioned re the growth potential from clothing manufacturers in Asia.

This is also confirmed on their IR page
 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this above article expounding upon the seamless garment manufacturing being pioneered by Shima Seiki. Seamless garment manufacture has been around in the hosiery business for a long time but finishing was always required to sew the legs on the gusset. Introducing seamless manufacture to outer wear is a major innovation and as you point represents an additional sign of increasing interest in automation in the garment industry. 



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January 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Samsung Proves Its Business Remains Sound Despite Note 7 Fiasco

This article by Jungah Lee for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Samsung is emerging from its biggest corporate crisis, when reports of incendiary Note 7s forced the Korean company to kill its most profitable gadget. It still hasn’t revealed the results of a subsequent investigation into an episode that cost Samsung more than $6 billion and assured Apple Inc. of the lead in premium devices over the holidays. It’s now counting on its next marquee phone to repair its reputation.

“Despite the Note 7’s vacuum, Samsung acquitted itself well on the back of sound S7 sales,” said Lee Seung-woo, an analyst with IBK Securities Co. in Seoul. “After a softer landing in the first quarter, Samsung is on track for record June quarter profit with the new S8 coming to market.”

Operating income rose to 9.2 trillion won ($7.8 billion) in the quarter ended December, its biggest profit in three years, the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in preliminary results Friday. That compares with the 8.29 trillion-won average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg in the past four weeks.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The heir to Samsung’s empire is being accused of taking part in a bribery scandal yet the share continues to outperform suggesting this news was already priced in. Perhaps more important is the fact Samsung was awarded more US patents last year than any other company. That suggests it at least has the potential to improve on its product line even after the Note 7 debacle. 



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January 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Illumina Introduces the NovaSeq Series a New Architecture Designed to Usher in the $100 Genome

This is an important press release. Here is a section:

The introduction of NovaSeq marks one of the most important inflection points of innovation in Illumina’s history. In the same way that HiSeq X enabled the $1,000 genome with the HiSeq® architecture first announced in 2010, we believe that future systems derived from the NovaSeq architecture we are launching today one day will enable the $100 genome and propel discoveries that will enable a deeper understanding and better treatments for complex disease,” said Francis deSouza, President and CEO of Illumina. “The NovaSeq Systems enable the study of genetic links between health and disease at an unprecedented scale by making it possible to sequence more samples at greater depth and take on projects that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. By accelerating the trajectory of genomics with these systems, Illumina is making it possible to envision a future in which all people can benefit from precision medicine.”

The NovaSeq Series includes the NovaSeq 5000 and 6000 Systems. These instruments offer ease of use features similar to those found in Illumina’s desktop sequencing portfolio, including automated onboard cluster generation, cartridge-based reagents, and streamlined workflows. With scalable throughput, users will have the flexibility to perform sequencing applications requiring different levels of output by simultaneously running one or two flow cells from up to four different flow cell types.

The NovaSeq 5000 and 6000 Systems are priced at $850,000 and $985,000 respectively. Compared with other Illumina sequencing systems, both have lower per sample consumable costs for most sequencing applications. They provide laboratories that cannot afford the capital cost of a HiSeq X Five or HiSeq X Ten System with a roadmap to completing human whole-genome sequencing projects at a cost of $1,000 per genome.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It will be a few years before we have a $100 genome sequencer but the announcement that it is a possible iteration of the new architecture is a major development. 

Falling from $100 million in 2001 to $1000 last year and $100 within the next few years represents an exponential decline which will have ground breaking repercussions for the genetics industry. 

 



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January 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ariad Enters into Definitive Agreement to Be Acquired by Takeda for $5.2 Billion

This press release from Ariad Pharmaceuticals may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Dr. Denner continued, “The transaction also underscores the tremendous value that shareholder activism can create for shareholders, patients and society. While ARIAD’s stock price was collapsing and many investors were abandoning the company, Sarissa Capital saw a company with important drugs and innovation and stepped in to become one of ARIAD’s largest shareholders. However, many things needed to be fixed before the value could be realized. With a new board and management team, ARIAD was able to focus on optimal capital allocation and operational excellence. As a result, the company created meaningful shareholder value and advance the options for those suffering from rare cancers.”

“The acquisition of ARIAD is a unique opportunity that will enable us to positively impact the lives of more patients worldwide, advance our strategic priorities and generate attractive returns for our shareholders,” said Christophe Weber, president and chief executive officer of Takeda. “This is a very exciting time for Takeda as we will broaden our hematology portfolio and transform our global solid tumor franchise through the addition of two innovative targeted therapies. Opportunities to acquire such high-quality, complementary targeted therapies do not come often, and we are very excited about the potential for this transaction to benefit patients, our shareholders and other stakeholders.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Developing new drugs is prohibitively expensive. With no guarantee of success large pharmaceutical companies have in many respects outsourced the bulk of R&D to small biotech companies. The result is that these smaller companies spend a great deal of time and effort developing new drugs and become takeover candidates when they develop high probability solutions. Considering the fact that the cost of developing new drugs continues to increase the biotech ecosystem is likely to remain in this condition for the foreseeable future. 



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January 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Ugly Unethical Underside of Silicon Valley

This article by Erin Griffith for Fortune may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

No industry is immune to fraud, and the hotter the business, the more hucksters flock to it. But Silicon Valley has always seen itself as the virtuous outlier, a place where altruistic nerds tolerate capitalism in order to make the world a better place. Suddenly the Valley looks as crooked and greedy as the rest of the business world. And the growing roster of scandal-tainted startups share a theme. Faking it, from marketing exaggerations to outright fraud, feels more prevalent than ever—so much so that it’s time to ask whether startup culture itself is becoming a problem.

Fraud is not new in tech, of course. Longtime investors remember when MiniScribe shipped actual bricks inside its hard-disk boxes in an inventory accounting scam in the 1980s. The ’90s and early aughts brought WorldCom, Enron, and the dot-bombs. But today more money is sloshing around ($73 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups in 2016, compared with $45 billion at the peak of the dotcom boom, according to PitchBook), there’s less transparency as companies stay private longer (174 private companies are each worth $1 billion or more), and there’s an endless supply of legal gray areas to exploit as technology invades every sector, from fintech and med-tech to auto-tech and ed-tech.

The drama has some investors predicting more disasters. “What if Theranos is the canary in the coal mine?” says Roger McNamee, a 40-year VC veteran and managing director at Elevation Partners. “Everyone is looking at Theranos as an outlier. We may discover it’s not an outlier at all.” That would be bad news, because without trust, the tech industry’s intertwined ecosystem of money, products, and people can’t function. Investors may find the full version of the old proverb is more accurate: “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Fraud isn’t generally identified immediately because it takes time for such contrivances to be discovered. The impetus for investigation doesn’t generally arise until someone goes looking for the money that was invested, when the expected return does not materialise. It took the credit crisis to reveal problems with Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, yet it had functioned unperturbed by regulators for years before that event. The above article does an excellent job of identifying the frauds which have occurred in Silicon Valley as well as the culture that promotes exaggeration.



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January 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China to become net importer of some rare earths

This article by Frik Els for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

According to the Adamas outlook for rare earth demand from 2016 through 2025 over the past five years upwards of 30,000 tonnes of annual rare earth oxide demand were lost due end-users’ growing concerns over supply security. On top of that more than 20,000 tonnes were lost as a result of the ongoing phase out of several mature technologies, such as fluorescent lamps, NiMH batteries, and hard disk drives used in PCs.

According to the authors following the lengthy and painful adjustment, the REE market will return to strong global demand growth for a number of rare earth elements including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and lanthanum. The resulting rise in price will help "sustain the profitability and growth of today’s dominant producers, and incentivize continued investment in exploration and resource development globally":

REE demand will boom from 2020 onwards as growth rates of top end-use categories including electric vehicles, wind turbines and other hi-tech applications accelerate.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Rare earth miners went through a crushing bear market and it is arguable whether it has ended. The growth of new sources of demand is a potential medium-term bullish catalyst. However it is unlikely China will surrender its dominance of the global supply chain not least because it wishes to attract and support advanced manufacturing companies. 



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December 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Solar Panels Now So Cheap Manufacturers Probably Selling at Loss

This article by Christopher Martin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Certainly it would be a challenge for anyone to make money at that price,” Osborne said in an e-mail. “The blended cost for most last quarter was about 36 cents to 38 cents.”

The current price is also lower than cost estimates from Trina. The biggest supplier of 2015 expected to reduce costs to about 40 cents a watt by the end of the year, from 45 cents in the second quarter, Chief Financial Officer Merry Xu said in an August conference call. The Changzhou, China-based company’s shareholders on Dec. 16 agreed to a $1.1 billion deal to take the company private. A spokesman declined to comment Friday.

Some companies’ cost structures remain competitive, even with prices this low. Canadian Solar Inc., the second-biggest supplier, reported costs of 37 cents in the third quarter, down from 39 cents in the second quarter. The company has said its costs are among the lowest in the industry, and it expects to reach 29 cents a watt by the fourth quarter of 2017. Many of its competitors expect costs in the low 30s by then, Osborne said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Producing solar cells in an environment where prices are falling and likely to continue to fall as new technologies are integrated into the manufacturing process is a highly competitive business. Companies unable to compete will go bankrupt and even the most successful face the threat of obsolescence. Consumers are the primary beneficiaries. 



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December 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pharma's Pricing Troubles Will Get Worse in 2017

This article by Max Nisen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

A structural decline in U.S. pricing power is ominous for every pharmaceutical company -- particularly if it extends to brand-new drugs, or to areas, such as cancer, that traditionally have strong pricing power. Highly effective new cholesterol-lowering drugs from Amgen and Sanofi/Regeneron have had notably sluggish launches since being approved in 2015, as a result of cost-driven roadblocks to patient access. Meanwhile, the market for expensive, immune-boosting cancer drugs -- dominated by Merck & Co. Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. when 2016 began -- gained a new entrant this year in Roche Holding AG. Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca PLC may join next year. Having five similar drugs on the market would make pricing pressure all but inevitable. These trends quietly gathered strength in 2016, and 2017 will give us more of a sense of just how far they will go. This, regardless of what Donald Trump decides to do, could well be the defining biopharma story of the year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The pharmaceutical industry has led a charmed existence for a long time because it has been able to increase prices for legacy drugs because of little to no competition. It is the antithesis of what we see in the consumer electronics sector where price pressure is enormous and demand for constant improvements and ever lower costs is the norm. 



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December 29 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch December 28th 2016

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section:

With the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president, there are signs environmental restrictions on fossil fuels will be loosened and more room will be made for fossil fuels. That will be a significant shift in the recent trends for environmental and energy regulation. Whether it significantly alters the current trajectory for the dirtiest of our fossil fuels – coal – remains to be seen. Clearly, short of an outright ban on renewable energy plants, the current backlog of new, cleaner power plants will not change, so our near-term energy mix will continue to shift toward more renewable fuels. The issue for the energy industry is whether the economic trends in place boosting renewable fuels are altered and slow down the pace of additions of new renewable fuel plants. That will partially depend on whether current renewable fuel mandates and subsidies are renewed once they reach their expiration dates, or even if they are outright cancelled early.

At the present time, businessmen, energy executives and consumers are struggling to understand the true economics of electricity. Analysts have strived to produce cost estimates for electricity produced by different fuels in such a way that they can be analyzed on the same basis. Standardized cost estimates provide a means to assess the impact on different fuel sources of various environmental policies. The process is called levelized cost of electricity. This tool enables direct comparison of electricity costs from power plants fueled by either fossil fuels or renewables. One drawback from this tool is that it assumes every kilowatt of power generated has the same value to consumers regardless of when during the day it is produced. It ignores the reality that during summer days in the southern regions of the United States, electricity to power air conditioners in the afternoon when temperature reach their highest levels is of greater value to consumers than during the middle of the night when temperatures drop.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Electricity pricing is a moving target for both energy companies and environmentalists alike. The challenge is to deliver energy when it is most required rather than when it is easiest to produce and the only way of solving that issue for renewables is with storage or back-up conventional capacity. 



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December 23 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The bizarre business of intentional product failure: planned obsolescence

This article from reportsfromearth.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Today built-in obsolescence is used in many different products. There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer intentionally make the product obsolete faster. Such consumers might turn to an alternative producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative. In other words, this nasty strategy is not available for small companies who would only lose customers.

Given today’s tremendous increase of international corporate power and severely reduced competition, planned obsolescence has become an attractive possibility for products than ever in human history.

Built-in obsolescence was already used in the 1920s and 1930s when global mass production became possible and rigorously optimized. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I have to have my car smog tested soon and coincidentally the check engine light came on just ahead of when the test was due. In talks with the chaps at the dealership and with other customers while I was waiting the scale of obsolescence by design is quite astounding. 

For example, one of the technicians recounted how he bought a manufacturer’s original part for his Audi Q7 on eBay. He thought he had gotten a wonderful deal only to find that Audi’s computers will not code any part that is more than three years old; even if it is unused, one of their own and appropriate for the car in the question. 

 



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December 23 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on back pain, lifestyle and emotional reserves:

I had lots of back problems as I was a dancer until I had my operation. 1 fusion and 1 plastic disc that give a little movement. One interesting thing was that they put in synthetic bone of some description for the fusion, and within 6 months, it would all be replaced by growth bone and the synthetic would have disappeared! Yes, key hole if it's just a disc snip!

And 

I’ve had the same myself – also see if you can get Bowen Therapy over there. I tried this 3 years ago and I haven’t had a problem since (touch wood). I wish Lily a very speedy recovery. 

And 

Add swimming to your wife's list of options for a longterm solution. It is medically recognized as a very effective remedial method and it helped me combat lower back pain (brought on by muscle spasm, not a herniated disc) some years ago. A caveat: avoid breast stroke as it arches the back. Do the crawl or back stroke, instead. Incidentally, even walking lengths of the pool is beneficial.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you all for these informative emails. Lifestyle, diet and exercise all contribute to wellbeing and help restore the emotion reserve we require to participate in markets. I have made a conscious decision over the last couple of weeks to avoid trading because of the multiple tasks I am focusing on at home but as the situation calms down I look forward to exploiting developing opportunities not least as there a considerable number of oversold and overbought conditions evident in a large number of markets. I intend to spend most of next week identifying these charts and sharing them with subscribers. 



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December 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Apple's Search for Better iPhone Screens Leads to Japan's Rice Fields

This article by Pavel Alpeyev  and Takashi Amano for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

That push has also put a spotlight on suppliers of previously obscure technologies, testing their capacity to satisfy demand that drives sales of more than 200 million iPhones each year. A couple of years ago, Apple sought to use strong sapphire glass for iPhones, only to abandon the effort when a manufacturer couldn't deliver enough of acceptable quality and went bankrupt. The scratch-resistant material is now featured on the Apple Watch.

Now OLED is the big goal. The technology has been included on top-end smartphones for years, including almost all of Samsung Electronics Co.'s high-end phones. While LCDs rely on a backlight panel, OLED pixels can glow on their own, resulting in thinner displays, better battery life and improved contrast. OLED screens can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety of shapes and applications.

"OLEDs aren't just for flat areas, but can be used on edges, so smartphone makers will challenge themselves by building displays with new shapes," Tsugami said. "These qualities in OLED will give it an advantage."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Delivering advances in technology to the masses has a long lead time considering how long it takes to build new factories and indeed the machines to fill them. The story of how long it takes to build a single OLED production line is a testament both to impressive innovation and precision engineering as well as the ability of companies to survive until their products hit the big time. 



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December 19 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Welcome to Uberville

This article from The Verge by Spencer Woodman may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

These companies are arriving at an opportune time for cities, many of which are struggling just to fund existing transit service, much less expand it to meet the needs of growing numbers of urban commuters. Both Uber and Lyft tell The Verge that the past year has seen a surge in public officials interested in giving the companies taxpayer dollars for public transit contracts. For the companies, it’s an appealing new way to establish themselves as vital infrastructure, especially in low-density communities like Altamonte where running traditional mass transit can be expensive. Given the pace at which these partnerships are coming together, it’s possible to imagine ride-hail companies taking on the role of all-encompassing, smartphone-driven public transit providers, one town at a time.

But for some transit advocates, the embrace of Uber and its competitors risks undermining civic ideals of accessibility and transparency. In Altamonte, there are already signs that these concerns could be warranted. The pilot program is unusable for people without a smartphone or credit card, and the company attempted to have the city sign an unusually far-reaching nondisclosure agreement.

Ultimately, critics worry that if these programs succeed, they could pluck the affluent commuters who wield real political influence off trains and busses, leading to a crisis of declining ridership and decreasing clout for traditional public transportation.

Uber has so far been pitching itself as a supplement to existing transit programs rather than a replacement. But in June of last year, for the company’s five-year anniversary, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick envisioned a future where increasing efficiency would make Uber cost-competitive not just with owning a car, but with traditional mass transit. When drivers drop off a customer only to pick up another, chained together in a "perpetual trip," Kalanick said, "not only is it much less expensive than taking a cab or owning a car, it has the potential to be as affordable as taking a subway, or a bus, or other means of transportation. And that’s what we believe is the real game-changer. Those are the things we’ll be working on in years to come."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Uber and to a much lesser extent Lyft are increasingly ubiquitous. More than a few people I know make use of Uber for their teenagers’ school run rather than buy them a car. Many airports allow pickups and many business travellers no longer rent cars. Ride sharing/hailing apps are comparatively cheap, quick and easy to use provided of course you have a smartphone and a credit card. 



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December 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch December 13th 2016

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB which may be of interest. Here is a section:

From GM’s viewpoint, it needs to generate sufficient ZEV credits to avoid sharp fines or being shut out of the California market entirely. One analysis went as follows: In 2015, GM sold 219,962 vehicles in California. To avoid fines, it needs state-awarded ZEV credits equal to 14% of the units sold, or 30,794. That can be achieved by selling 7,698 Bolts that earn GM four credits each, or 10,082 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids, or a combination of the two. What GM understands is that ZEVs are compliance vehicles, so pricing the Bolt to both achieve its ZEV credit needs and take market share from other auto manufacturers can be a smart strategy, even if they are losing so much money per unit. If GM can earn more ZEV credits than it needs, those can be sold to other manufacturers who are falling behind their ZEV credit goals. This is all part of the clean air gambit in which companies that are “doing more than they need to” in meeting certain thresholds find that they hold pieces of paper that increase in value over time and can be successfully monetized. Selling $139 million of excess ZEV credits was what enabled Tesla Motors (TSLA-Nasdaq) to achieve third quarter profits on a GAAP basis. 

But what are the economics of electric vehicles for buyers? The Associated Press’ automobile writer recently test drove the GM Bolt and interviewed the executive in charge of marketing it. Virtually everyone acknowledges that the car lacks outstanding design, but the word the GM exec uses to describe the Bolt is “practical.” For tech-savvy Millennials that sounds more like their grandma’s car. However, the Bolt is the first electric vehicle to get over 200 miles per charge (238 miles, exactly). It does have lots of interior space, a near-silent ride and emits no tailpipe emissions. Moreover, the Bolt can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds, out-muscling some muscle cars. Even more important, the Bolt is now at showrooms in California and Oregon, while its prime competitor – the Tesla Model 3 – will not be available until the end of 2017.

The problem for the Bolt is its cost. The list price is $37,495 including shipping. After the federal tax credit of $7,500, the purchase price drops to $29,995, to which you need to add roughly $1,200 for a 240-volt home charging station, bringing your out of pocket expense to own a Bolt to $31,195. For comparison, a comparably equipped, gasoline-powered Chevy Cruze compact hatchback with automatic transmission costs $23,670 with shipping, a difference of $7,525. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

For a car GM is losing $9000 on, the price of $37,500 is still steep even if someone is dedicated to the ideal of an emission free future. That cost is going to have to come down if predictions of widespread uptake are to prove credible. The pace at which the energy density of batteries is doubling (around 5 years) is too slow to suggest the cost is going to come down quickly through technology alone. That is part of the reason Tesla is investing so heavily in economies of scale when building its battery manufacturing capacity. 



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December 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese-Korean group to build $2 billion lithium batteries plant in Chile

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Lithium, frequently referred to as "white petroleum," drives much of the modern world, as it has become an irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries used in high tech devices.

The market, while still relatively small — worth about $1bn a year — is expected to triple in size by 2015, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs

That should be great news for Chile, as the country contains half of the world’s most “economically extractable” reserves of the metal, according to the US Geographical Survey (USGS). It is also the world’s lowest-cost producer, thanks to an efficient process that makes the most of the country’s climate.

Chile is essentially “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” according to Marcelo A. Awad, executive director of the Chilean brand of Wealth Minerals, Canadian company that also has interests in Mexico and Peru.

The country, he noted in a recent interview, is perfectly positioned, with ports across the Pacific from the world’s largest car market, China, which is expected to increase electric vehicles production in years to come. There, lithium is also used to manufacture rechargeable ­batteries that power hundreds of millions of smartphones, digital cameras and laptops.

The challenge for foreign investors, particularly the Asian conglomerate, is to persuade Chilean authorities of making the leap from exporting the white metal to producing lithium batteries at the point of extraction.

Estimates from the group’s advisors believe opening the proposed plant would make the value of the product 35 times higher than what it could be obtained by just selling it as lithium carbonate

Eoin Treacy's view -

Elon Musk might be one of the world’s great promotors but there is no denying that he has upended the automotive sector with just about every major auto manufacturer planning to release a range of electric vehicles within the next few years. 



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December 06 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Parkinson's May Actually Originate From Microbes in the Gut

This article from Futurism.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Mice bred to develop Parkinson’s were put in cages that were either sterile or non-sterile. The mice in the germ-free cages manifested less motor degeneration, and their brains had reduced tangling of the protein a-synuclein. They had “almost normal performance” in motor tasks. The researchers injected gut bacteria from human Parkinson’s patients into these mice, and they deteriorated quickly. This effect did not occur with bacteria taken from healthy humans.

The mice in the normal, non-sterile cages developed the expected symptoms of Parkinson’s. When treated with antibiotics, their symptoms were reduced, suggesting effectiveness in a microbial approach to the disease.

Gut bacteria taken from healthy people didn’t have the same effect.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are more nerve endings in your gut than your brain so in one sense you gut is smarter than you think. That makes intuitive sense considering the work that goes into breaking down everything we put into our mouths into useable fuel and waste. The microbiome living in each of our gut’s has an inordinate effect on both health and mood. With advances in genetics it represents a rapidly evolving field of study we are sure to hear more about in 2017. The more I read about the subject the better my diet has become, you really are what you eat. 



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December 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New efficiency record for large perovskite solar cell

This article by Eric Mack for Gizmag may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

"Perovskites came out of nowhere in 2009, with an efficiency rating of 3.8 percent, and have since grown in leaps and bounds," said Anita Ho-Baillie, a Senior Research Fellow at the UNSW's Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics. "I think we can get to 24 percent within a year or so."

The solar cells are made from crystals grown into a particular structure called perovskite. Smooth layers of perovskite with large crystal grain sizes allow the cells to absorb more light. The technology has been advancing fast and attracting plenty of attention thanks to its ease of production and low cost compared to silicon cells.

"The diversity of chemical compositions also allows cells be transparent, or made of different colors," said Ho-Baillie. "Imagine being able to cover every surface of buildings, devices and cars with solar cells."

Perovskite cells do have downsides like much less durability, something Ho-Baillie and her team say they're confident they can improve, while also shooting for higher levels of efficiency.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Perovskite is a development stage technology that is likely to play an important role in the future of solar cells but it could be a decade before it reaches commercial utility. The primary argument supporting perovskite is the relative cost of producing the crystals versus the panels used today. That enhances the technology’s competitiveness so that cells do not need to be as efficient because they are so much cheaper. However what do need to be overcome are the issues described above regarding durability which are non-trivial.



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December 01 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

OPEC Meeting Review

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from DNB which may be of interest. Here is a section: 

OPEC has just decided a headline cut of 1.2 million b/d

We calculate that compared with October secondary sources in the OPEC report, the net OPEC cut from the 11 participating countries in the deal is 0.982 million b/d

Angola was allowed to use September output as the base instead of October

The cartel will use secondary sources to monitor output reductions
Indonesia, Libya and Nigeria is not part of the deal

Since the cartel has distributed quotas to the different countries, have organized a monitoring committee and are using secondary sources, the deal is very bullish to the oil price

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subcsriber's Area.

Brent crude oil hit a new recovery high today and upside follow through tomorrow would confirm a return to demand dominance beyond what has been an impressive two-day rally. Considering the fact that the price has been rangebound for the last six months the potential for a breakout that is outsized relative to the amplitude of the congestion area cannot be discounted. 



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December 01 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on technology shares underperforming

Any idea why NASDAQ 100 dropped 50+ points yesterday?

Eoin Treacy's view -

This has been a spectacular year for some technology shares, with companies like Nvidia performing beyond the expectations of even the most ardent bulls. However the prospect of rising interest rates is potentially an issue for companies that are reliant of cheap financing to fund growth. 



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November 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on electric cars and overall pollution

With regard to electric cars decreasing the world's need for fossil fuels, how is the electricity going to be generated? I have heard the Netherlands, who are one of the world leaders in using electric cars, have had to build three new generating plants already to meet the demand and these are coal fired. It is true that electric cars will laudably reduce urban pollution, where 85% of CO2 generation is created. But CO2 production will simply be transferred to rural areas, where electricity generating plants are normally situated. Energy consumption not be reduced and, since the energy production will be a two-step procedure instead of a single stage, it may well be increased.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which raises important questions and highlights that the energy sector is not suitable for a one size fits all solution. I agree that an electric vehicle is, on aggregate, only as clean as the fuel used to generate its power. This graphic from shrinkthatfootprint.com is a useful barometer for how successful countries are in that regard. 



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November 17 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Is the EV finally coming of age?

This article by Scott Collie for Gizmag may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

One important breakthrough will be increasing the energy density of the battery through being able to cram more cells into the same volume of battery packs. The battery density doubled between 2009 and 2016, and this is definitely not the end. Just like with the technological development of the personal computer, there is something similar to a 'Moore's Law' in the battery development: currently, we recognize an annual improvement rate of 14 percent, which is quite immense."

Although 14 percent is significant, it's only just a start when it comes to battery technology. At the moment, electric cars make use of lithium-ion batteries, the type pioneered by the Tesla Roadster back in the mid-2000s. Schenk says there's plenty of improvement to come in lithium-ion tech, but greater leaps forward are in the pipe.

"New technologies, and especially those aimed at material-related improvements, plus ever-increasing production volumes leading to further price decreases, will determine the development stages of the next few years," Schenk says. "Within the next decade a major technological leap is expected with lithium-sulphur systems, and these are set to revolutionize costs and operating range as extraordinarily relevant buying criteria for electric vehicles."

Already, improvements to battery chemistry are starting to pay off, and people are starting to buy electric vehicles in greater numbers. Renault, one of the largest players in the European electric game, sold 23,087 electric cars in 2015 - a 49 percent increase on its 2014 numbers.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Advances in battery technology have been slower to manifest than in microprocessors because of limitations in chemistry but perhaps more importantly because there has just not been enough incentive for companies to spend money on innovation. 



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November 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Siemens boosts software business with $4.5 billion deal

This article by Maria Sheahan for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Mentor sells software and hardware used to design electronics for the semiconductor, automotive and transportation industries. The company reported a loss of $10 million in the six months ended July 31, compared with profit of $21 million in the same period last year, according to an Aug. 18 regulatory filing. The company forecast revenue of $1.22 billion for the 12 months through January.

Under Kaeser, Siemens has pushed deeper into software applications that are crucial to run its industrial equipment.

At the same time, Siemens is simplifying its sprawling portfolio, and the company announced last week that it wants to list its health-care subsidiary, among the biggest makers in the world of diagnostics and imaging equipment.

Eoin Treacy's view -

In the industrial automation sector there has been a wide gap in performance between the purveyors of hardware and software. A robot is really only a hunk of junk unless it is powered by intelligent software. Perhaps more importantly software and particularly optics companies have been innovating much faster than hardware companies not least because the relative of cost of development is so much smaller. By purchasing Mentor Graphics Siemens is aiming to provide a more holistic solution and therefore harness more of the revenue potential from industrial automation. 



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