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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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November 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mosquito War: Voters Approve the Release of Genetically Modified Organisms

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

As Tuesday’s presidential votes were cast, Monroe County, part of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District also voted to use genetically modified mosquitoes to fight their Zika-carrying cousins. The engineered mosquitoes were courtesy of British biotech company Oxitec, and received approval for trials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last August.

Monroe County would be the first in the US to carry out these trials. Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry is optimistic, saying that the “ultimate goal of the trial is to prove what we say we can do, which is reduce the population significantly.” Previous reports indicate that these factory-made mosquitoes can effectively reduce Zika-carrying mosquito population by 90%.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

By some measures malaria has killed more people than any other disease in humanity’s history. It is one of the primary contributing factors to the enormous challenge of sustaining economic development in the tropics and humanity has struggled to overcome the challenge represented by malaria for millennia. It has taken a separate virus threatening the unborn children of first world parents to galvanise support for a campaign to deliberately target the offending parasite; certain genus’ of which have evolved specifically to target humans.



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November 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesco Bank Halts Web Trades as Money Taken From 20,000 Accounts

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

About 40,000 of the bank’s 136,000 checking account holders experienced suspicious transactions over the weekend, Tesco Bank Chief Executive Officer Benny Higgins told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. About half of those had money taken from their account, he said. The problem has only affected checking accounts, a representative for the bank said.

Some of the world’s biggest financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., HSBC Holdings Plc and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, have all been cyberjacked in some way in the past couple of years. In the second quarter of this year, there was a 50 percent jump in activity by cybercriminals injecting malware programs into financial companies worldwide from the same period in 2015, according to Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity company.

“Banking fraud is unfortunately very prevalent, and has been for a while,” said Tom Kirchmaier, researcher at the financial markets group at the London School of Economics. “The industry is not very forthcoming with sharing data with the police, and so we only hear about the worst cases, and Tesco’s can be considered one such instance.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Inventory shrinkage (shoplifting) costs the retail sector about 1.5% of revenue per annum. When businesses move online they have to account for other kinds of theft such as when a buyer claims the item did not arrive and demands a refund. Online retailers often fear negative reviews so they put up with this petty theft as a matter of course and rarely talk about it.  



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October 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chip Makers Cut Deals as Cars Get Smarter

This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Ford Motor Co.,  BMW AG and others have said they would have self-driving cars on the road in the next few years, while Tesla Motors has a semiautonomous system already on the road. Tesla last week began shipping vehicles that include hardware that could one day be empowered by software, which must be validated and approved by regulators, to operate in a fully autonomous mode. Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk aims to demonstrate fully autonomous cross-country drive by the end of next year.

Analog Devices Inc. cited auto applications as a key motivation in a deal announced in July to buy Linear Technology Corp. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $14.8 billion. NXP became the top auto chip supplier by striking a deal valued at nearly $12 billion last year to buy Freescale Semiconductor Inc.

But the market for years has been fragmented among many suppliers with different specialties competing on price. Where an iPhone has one central chip to power its computing functions, many parts of cars have long used separate chips—a situation that could become even more complex as car makers add more features for safety and other purposes.

“Those will all require more processing capability and likely will be supplied by different suppliers who are not exactly working together,” said Dave Sullivan, an automotive industry analyst at AutoPacific, in an interview.

The push toward autonomous driving is a countervailing force, requiring more powerful chips and software that can analyze feeds from cameras, radar and other sensors using technologies such as deep learning. Tesla Motors Inc. has moved toward a central computing system, announcing last week it had picked chip maker Nvidia Corp. as part of the self-driving hardware it has vowed to include in all its new vehicles.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is not going to be a single day when someone turns a switch and the global vehicle fleet becomes autonomous. Rather it is going to happen in a piecemeal fashion and regulators will hopefully pay attention to what is happening in other parts of the world to come up with an idea of best practice. 

If we set aside the timeline for when cars are likely to be fully autonomous for a moment, the big question for auto manufacturers is still how to make new cars attractive enough to encourage people to pay up but not so attractive that they will cannibalise next year’s sales. The answer would appear to offer more added extras in the form of electronics and connectivity regardless of whether cars are autonomous. 

 



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October 26 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla Earnings: The Moment of Truth

This article by Stephen Russolillo for The Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Using generally accepted accounting principles, Tesla is expected to log a loss of 59 cents a share. Since going public in 2010, Tesla only has reported one profitable quarter under this basis. That came in 2013, when the stock surged from the mid-$30s to nearly $200. It has been volatile ever since, currently still trading around $200 with a silly valuation.

Whether or not the quarter is profitable, investors will want to hear about future production, which they are counting on to justify Tesla’s share price. Earlier this month, Tesla reported third-quarter deliveries of its vehicles more than doubled from a year earlier to 24,500. It also reiterated its forecast earlier this month that it would produce 50,000 vehicles in the second half of 2016. And it maintains it will deliver 500,000 cars by 2018, thanks to the Model 3 mass-market sedan.

But Tesla has repeatedly overpromised and underdelivered. In the past five years, Tesla has failed to meet more than 20 of Mr. Musk’s projections, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is a big week for earnings with Apple yesterday, Tesla today, Alphabet tomorrow and Amazon on Friday. Tesla makes cars people aspire to own and want to be seen driving. That’s something not many car manufacturers can brag about. However there is nothing easy about starting a car company from scratch even if electrc cars have nearly two thirds fewer parts than conventional vehicles.



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October 26 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on virtual reality and augmented reality

The Gartner curve you posted indicates that Augmented Reality and VR are approaching or in 'payback' phase. If so this ETF could be a good investment vehicle. Purefunds Video Game Technology ETF (GAMR) Can you please add it to the Chart Library. Grateful thanks

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this suggestion and I agree that the video gaming sector is a growth engine quite apart from the evolution of virtual and augmented reality gaming. The question is no longer about whether people will play games, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity, but rather which will be the most effective platforms to deliver the media. Right now mobile apps are by far the most popular because everyone has a phone. 



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October 24 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

DDOS Attack Map: What Websites & Areas Are Affected?

This article from Heavy.com dated Friday and written as if in real time may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

A huge DDOS attack has been under way off and on since this morning, sending hundreds of popular websites offline. A third DDOS attack of the day was reported around 4:30 p.m. Eastern. The Distributed Denial of Service wasn’t against specific websites, but against Dyn, Inc., which provides Domain Name Server services. At the time of publication, Dyn was still investigating and mitigating attacks against their infrastructure. A number of outage and attack maps have been shared online, including the one above, which can give you a better idea of just how widespread the problem has been.

As of 4 p.m. Eastern, there were still numerous outages being reported. DownDetector shared a map of outages from Level3 Communications, which offers telecommunications services to business customers, on its website here. the map shows outages all across the United States.

A live outage map for Twitter shows the problems decreasing in the United States, but building in other parts of the world. Netflix, another company reporting problems, is showing similar results.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It took longer than usual to upload the audio on Friday because this denial of service attack was underway and service providers were struggling to combat the attack. You might have had difficulty accessing sites, not least this one, and will understand how aggravating the whole experience is from a customer’s perspective. The effect of course is magnified for companies that rely on the internet to conduct their business and is even more of a nuisance for those attempting to manage servers. 



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October 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

MIT EmTech Conference

Eoin Treacy's view -

I spent the last couple of days in Boston at the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference and some of my immediate takeaways are:

Artificial Intelligence might be a catchall phrase for machine learning, linguistic programing, advances in one shot learning and automated interpretation of optical data among others but all these strands are experiencing enhanced growth. The field of artificial intelligence has been gestating for decades but the evolution of large data sets gives many of the theoretical applications that have been confined to universities room to grow and reach commercial utility. 

 



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October 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Google and 3D Printing Buildings

This article by Katie Armstrong from 3D Printing Industry dated May 3rd may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

3D printed buildings are the way of the future! At least that’s what Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, says.

Imagine you could walk onto an empty block of land one day, and have a house built on it a few days later. Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? What if I told you it was already happening?
A recent conference in Los Angeles saw Schmidt predict the technologies that would be game changers. The Milken Institute’s Global Conference, which brings together leaders from diverse sectors and industries around the world, explores solutions to today’s most pressing challenges in financial markets, industry sectors, health, government and education. Schmidt talked about synthetic meat made from plants, VR, self-driving cars, and 3D printing for buildings.

Schmidt points out that constructing buildings, both residential and commercial, is time consuming, energy intensive, and costly. He said that construction represented 5% of the economy, but that homes and buildings built in an industrial environment could be cheaper, more efficient and built on 100% recyclable material.

This isn’t the first time Schmidt has sung the praises of 3D printing technology and its potential applications. Back in 2013 he predicted the rise in the use of 3D printing, and he wasn’t wrong.
The implications of 3D printed houses and infrastructure are incredible. Instead of a home taking months to build, it could take just days. A company in China claimed to have built 10 houses in under 24 hours in 2014, with all their materials coming from recycled waste materials.

With the UN estimating that three billion people will need housing by 2030, large scale 3D printers are being suggested as a solution to this. They could be the solution to cheap, reliable housing which would replace slums in developing countries.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It occurs to me that homebuilding is a sector ripe for disruption. It is totally reliant on individuals who specialise in one set of skills. Carpenters, roofers, block layers, masons, plumbers, and electricians are all needed on a building site and because of designated duties one cannot start until the other has finished. In addition each of these trades tends to have a negotiated pay rate which is rather generous and has no bearing on what work is being done. 



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October 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on medical innovation

Here's an intriguing finding - silkworms  can produce silk with graphene embedded, which gives material with electrical conductivity! With further development, materials with these properties moves us closer to the day when we may be wearing 'ordinary' clothing which gathers and transmits information in real time about our health. So all of us can then have a longitudinal personal health record assessed constantly by AI systems which feedback instantly any concerns being noted. No need to visit a doctor for diagnosis, AI will be much faster and much more accurate. Comparison of our personal health longitudinal record with the collected human database will give much more accurate diagnosis and prediction than is possible today. 

This vision is one of the reasons I noted in an email a few days ago that healthcare will generate the biggest of big data, and why we need blockchain technology to secure it. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this interesting article highlighting the success of a Chinese team in improving the conductivity of silk. Wearable technology is advancing in leaps and bounds so within the decade it is entirely possible that we have 24/7 monitoring of our vital signs available from a host of different products.

In addition the number of metrics examined will also increase as our collective understanding of body chemistry and interactions improves. In fact as the quantity of data and the number of metrics that need to be assessed, both in isolation and in unison, increases it will be impossible for any human to keep track of it all, so artificial intelligence will be a necessity rather than a luxury.

 



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October 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the influence of mega-caps on the performance of the S&P 500:

Given that (apparently) the FANGS account for about 50% of the total gains in the S&P500 over the last 2 years, it would be interesting to see what a chart of the S&P500 minus the FANGS would look like. Does such a chart exist?

My gut feel is that the chart would look more like the Dow Jones Industrial Index

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for raising this important question. I don’t have a chart that removes Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook from the performance of the overall index but I did create this spreadsheet ranking the constituents of the Index by market cap. 



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October 12 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Baidu is bringing AI chatbots to healthcare

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

The Chinese search engine launched "Melody" on Tuesday, a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to help doctors care for patients over text.

Baidu (BIDU, Tech30) aims to make medical consults more accessible and help patients determine whether or not they should see a doctor in person.

For instance, if you tell Melody your child is sick, it might ask whether she has a fever or is jaundiced and follow up with additional questions.

Melody integrates with the Baidu Doctor app, which already lets patients ask doctors questions, make appointments and search for health information. Melody asks the patient preliminary questions and pulls data from digitized textbooks, research papers, online forums and other healthcare sources.

The app produces a hypothesis regarding treatment options that a human doctor edits and sends to the patient. The self-learning bot will continue to sponge up information and improve conversation as time goes on.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Ray Kurzweil made clear in his talk at the ExMed conference earlier this week that “life begins at a billion impressions” when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI). In other words if you want to teach a computer how to recognise an image you need to feed it a billion examples before it can make the leap to recognition. 



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October 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Illumina Dives as Quarterly Revenue Falls Short of Forecast

This article by Doni Bloomfield Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

llumina Inc. plunged as much as 28 percent, the most in five years, after saying third-quarter sales were lower than it previously anticipated because of declining demand for its high-speed genetic sequencers.

Sales were about $607 million last quarter, the company said Monday in a statement after the markets closed. That’s below Illumina’s July forecast of $625 million to $630 million, and the $628 million average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“We are clearly disappointed by the preliminary revenue result,” Chief Executive Officer Francis DeSouza said Monday in a short call with investors. Revenue from sequencing instruments declined 26 percent year-over-year, a bigger drop than anticipated at the start of the quarter, he said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

From what I learned by talking to people at the ExMed conference over the last four days has been that there is enormous disruption emerging in the sequencing of DNA. The method used over the last 50 years is being superseded by new technology and that represents a challenge for Illumina because it is the leader in providing the machines used today to sequence DNA. 



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October 10 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Exmed Conference 2016

Eoin Treacy's view -

It was a pleasure to spend the weekend and much of today at the ExMed conference in Coronado San Diego not least because there are so many people in attendance both as speakers and attendees who are at the forefront of their respective sectors.

It’s been something of a data overload so it will take some time to process the information and I will need to do some background research to check out the credibility of some of the claims made and what the possible investment implications are.

Here are some of the themes that are evolving:



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October 10 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on blockchain and healthcare

Thanks for sharing this article and I look forward to reading your comments after attending the healthcare-focused conference in San Diego. 

Regarding blockchain, I was surprised by this statement in the article quoted:
...' an elegant but costly technology in search of real world relevance beyond the initial application of digital cash exchange.'

I am deeply involved in the hi-tech healthcare sector in the UK. Blockchain is beginning to impact the sector. By chance, the CEO of a startup in Cambridge UK sent this information to me today:
"At ***** we are developing a platform for storing and sharing genomic data based on Blockchain technology. Our platform exploits the power of a distributed ledger enabling the secure storing of genomic data and also, thanks to a series of smart contracts, enables sharing of specific parts of a genome with doctors, family members and researchers around the world without compromising the entire genomic information and therefore respecting the privacy of the owner."

I gave a presentation last October at a Big Data in Healthcare conference in Luxembourg at which I made the case that the scale of data requirements in healthcare will exceed all other sectors. Security of that data will be essential and I believe blockchain may be an essential piece of the puzzle.

And

I posted a comment under your article about blockchain. In it I mentioned a presentation I gave in October 2015 at a conference on Big Data in Healthcare. It was about the best conference I ever attended. I have attached the slides I presented. If you want to share these with subscribers please feel free to do so. They make the case for the scale of healthcare data on-line being absolutely massive.  With the inevitable security implications, blockchain may become very important in the healthcare sector and startups here in the UK are beginning to focus on the opportunity as I mentioned in my comment.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for the  comment added to the article I posted on Friday as well as the above email and PowerPoint presentation you attached to the above email.

In order for blockchain to represent the kind of financial innovation required to truly represent a transformative effect on the financial sector I believe its link to bitcoin has to be completely unwound. 



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October 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Follow Your Nose

Thanks to a subscriber for this interesting report from Deutsche Bank. Here is a section:

Key Themes to Drive Industry Shift
Minimally Invasive Treatment is Large and Underpenetrated: Balloon sinus dilation (BSD) is a minimally invasive alternative to functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). The procedure was introduced in 2005, but remains underpenetrated (we estimate 20% today). We view penetration increasing to 26% in 2021 lead primarily by continued economic and clinical data.

From the Operating Room to the Physician’s Office: We believe an increasing number of chronic sinusitis procedures will shift from the operating room to the physician’s office setting moving forward. This shift provides benefits to all: patients, physicians, and payors.

DB Survey Supports View of Market Growth and Penetration
We conducted a survey of 30 US based, board certified otolaryngologists. We asked our survey respondents to comment on volume expectations, procedure settings, and market share trends. Our results indicate increased volume across procedure types, a move toward office based procedures, and further penetration of minimally invasive treatment options.

Opportunities for Technologies that Lower Costs and Improve Outcomes
New technologies that further enable minimally invasive procedures and the shift to physician’s office based care are also garnering more attention. Medical supplies and devices companies have taken note with recent launches of more compact navigation systems, steroid eluting stents, and more compact surgical tools and technologies.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Technology is evolving at a pace that is difficult for many people to keep up. That is the challenge of living in a time where exponential growth in understanding innovation, technology and science are competing and complimenting one another. I’m heading to San Diego this afternoon for Singularity University’s ExMed conference where the primary topic of conversation will be what the future holds for the healthcare sector. I look forward to sharing any insights I gain with you when I get back. 



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October 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch October 4th 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

What we found surprising in the EIA’s forecast was the lack of penetration by EVs into the vehicle fleet. Based on the bars shown in Exhibit 8 (prior page) for plug-in and all-electric vehicles, the EIA’s sales total is less than one million units in 2040. To be honest, we find that acceptance rate to be extremely low given what the automobile industry is planning, at least based on their rhetoric. As a result, we are not sure what to make of the EIA’s outlook for gasoline consumption, which is shown in Exhibit 9. 

We will be working in the future to improve our forecasting model, but the conclusion we derive from our work is that the growth of the EV segment of the vehicle fleet will have an impact on gasoline consumption. The question is how much that impact will be. By 2025, according to our forecast, the impact may be anywhere from 500,000 barrels a day (b/d) to 1.0 million barrels a day (mmb/d) of reduced gasoline consumption. That is the equivalent of one to two huge refineries in this country. Moreover, the destruction of gasoline demand in later years becomes even more meaningful – nearly 2.5 mmb/d to 4.6 mmb/d - a huge impact on the refining industry let alone overall oil consumption in America. If we extrapolate the U.S. experience to the rest of the world, there will be a noticeable impact in transportation fuel markets. Regardless of whether our forecasts are right or not, the issue of EVs, and the associated issue of self-driving cars, will have an impact on oil demand, forcing the oil producing and refining sectors to have to re-examine their long-term strategies. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

I’ve been thinking recently about the manner in which people buy their cars and how this could influence their decisions on whether to buy electric vehicles. This article from Bloomberg carries some important statistics on leases. Here is a section: 

Leases accounted for 28 percent of new-car sales in September, up from 20 percent in 2012, according to car-sales tracker Edmunds.com. GM, Ford and Fiat all have reported strong sales in the latest quarter. As the chart above shows, they and Toyota have all ramped up their leasing in recent years.



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September 29 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

D-Wave Systems previews 2000-qubit quantum processor

This press release from D-Wave Systems may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“As the only company to have developed and commercialized a scalable quantum computer, we’re continuing our record of rapid increases in the power of our systems, now up to 2000 qubits.  Our growing user base provides real world experience that helps us design features and capabilities that provide quantifiable benefits,” said Jeremy Hilton, senior vice president, Systems at D-Wave. “A good example of this is giving users the ability to tune the quantum algorithm to improve application performance."

“Our focus is on delivering quantum technology for customers in the real world,” said Vern Brownell, D-Wave’s CEO. “As we scale our processors, we’re adding features and capabilities that give users new ways to solve problems. These new features can enable machine learning applications that we believe are not available on classical systems. We are also developing software tools and training the first generation of quantum programmers, which will push forward the development of practical commercial applications for quantum systems.

Eoin Treacy's view -

D-Wave Systems has received investment from companies like Google and Lockheed Martin as well as NASA but its press releases have tended to trend towards exaggeration. There is considerable debate about the efficacy of the solutions they propose and if one is keeping up with the news there is obviously a chasm between the size of the computers D-Wave claims to be producing and those created by other more conservative companies. 



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September 27 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Iger's Legacy at Stake in Possible Disney Deal for Twitter

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

The 65-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of Walt Disney Co. is scheduled to retire in June 2018. He’s already achieved a number of milestones, including Disney’s revival of the “Star Wars” film series and the opening in June of the company’s $5.5 billion Shanghai resort. But one issue bedevils him and most other media executives: how to transition to a world where mobile devices, not TV screens, dominate news and entertainment.

The question underscores Disney’s interest in Twitter Inc. The Burbank, California-based company has hired an investment bank to advise on a possible Twitter merger, Bloomberg News reported Monday. A deal would unite the world’s largest entertainment company, the home of ABC, ESPN and Mickey Mouse, with the technology pioneer that created the 140-character tweet. It could let Iger leave knowing he’s given Disney a big presence in digital media and advertising.

“That would be his final stamp on Disney,” said Tim Galpin, a professor of management at Colorado State University and co- author of “The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions.” “If he could get that behind him, he could walk off with a final major success story.”

Twitter, whose co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey sits on the Disney board, has already been dipping his toes in live sports, airing National Football League’s night games. That’s a business that Disney, the parent of the leading sports TV network ESPN, knows well and that clearly intrigues Iger

Eoin Treacy's view -

The acquisition and successful reboot of Star Wars coupled with the opening of the Shanghai resort were major successes for Disney. However that does not obscure the fact that the company’s broadcasting and cable divisions represent almost half of revenues and face challenges from interlopers like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. These challenges have yet to be addressed. 



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September 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Self-driving vehicles in China, Europe, Japan, Korea, and the United States

This report by Darrell M. West for the Brookings Institute may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Vehicles equipped with sensors and cameras navigate the streets of Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; Kirkland, Washington; Dearborn, Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Beijing, China; Wuhu, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Suzu, Japan; Fujisawa, Japan; and Seoul, South Korea, among other places. Sophisticated on-board software integrates data from dozens of sources, analyzes this information in real-time, and automatically guides the car using high definition maps around possible dangers. 

People are used to thinking about vehicles from a transportation standpoint, but increasingly they have become large mobile devices with tremendous processing power.2 Experts estimate that “more than 100,000 data points” are generated by technology in a contemporary automobile.3 Advances in artificial intelligence (software that applies advanced computing to problem-solving) and deep learning (software analytics that learn from past experience) allow on-board computers connected to cloud processing platforms to integrate data instantly and proceed to desired destinations. With the emergence of 5G networks and the Internet of Things, these trends will harbor a new era of vehicle development.

Between now and 2021, driverless cars will move into the marketplace and usher in a novel period.4 The World Economic Forum estimates that the digital transformation of the automotive industry will generate $67 billion in value for that sector and $3.1 trillion in societal benefits.5 That includes improvements from autonomous vehicles, connected travelers, and the transportation enterprise ecosystem as a whole.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

There are two very big questions when it comes to the viability of self- driving cars. The first is whether it is technologically feasible to let a fleet of autonomous vehicles loose on the roads where the actions of unpredictable pedestrians, animals and weather will test an artificial intelligence to the limit. The second is the extent to which governments will successfully regulate for these vehicles so that insurance considerations can be ameliorated. 



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September 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 20 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla Wins Massive Contract to Help Power the California Grid

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

Tesla Motors Inc. will supply 20 megawatts (80 megawatt-hours) of energy storage to Southern California Edison as part of a wider effort to prevent blackouts by replacing fossil-fuel electricity generation with lithium-ion batteries. Tesla's contribution is enough to power about 2,500 homes for a full day, the company said in a blog post on Thursday. But the real significance of the deal is the speed with which lithium-ion battery packs are being deployed. 

"The storage is being procured in a record time frame," months instead of years, said Yayoi Sekine, a battery analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It highlights the maturity of advanced technologies like energy storage to be contracted as a reliable resource in an emergency situation."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla is essentially a battery company which also happens to produce electric cars. It has been my argument for quite some time that the only way solar can achieve grid parity is if it is used in conjunction with batteries. As long as solar power is subject to intermittency which forces utilities to maintain excess capacity it will not be taken seriously as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. 



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September 19 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Taiwan Stocks Jump Most in a Year as Apple Suppliers Lead Surge

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

Taiwanese shares jumped the most in a year amid speculation Apple Inc.’s latest iPhone model will prove popular, boosting earnings for the island’s suppliers.

The Taiex index advanced 2.8 percent at the close, its biggest gain since September 2015. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., a major Apple supplier, posted its biggest gain in a year, while Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the main assembler of iPhones, added 3.9 percent. Apple has jumped 6.5 percent since Taiwan’s markets last traded on Wednesday amid holidays. The island’s dollar strengthened by the most since Aug. 1 against the greenback.

“It’s the Apple story again,” said Michael On, president of Beyond Asset Management in Taipei. “There’s a revived optimism that Apple will increase orders for Taiwanese suppliers after better-than-expected sales of the iPhone 7.”

T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. said they’d received almost four times as many orders for the iPhone 7 as previous models, fueling speculation that the new product is off to a faster start than usual. Expectations for the iPhone 7 line had been muted before it was unveiled in San Francisco this month amid slowing growth in global smartphone sales.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

As the world’s largest company Apple outsources all of its manufacturing which means it has a vast ecosystem of suppliers that are responding favourably to the release of the company’s new products as well as to the relative difficulties being experienced by Samsung. 



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September 15 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Stocks Rise on Apple Rally as Oil Advances; Bonds Mixed

This article by Oliver Renick and Jeremy Herron for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

U.S. stocks rose from a two-month low as Apple Inc. extended a rally, while a rebound in crude boosted shares of energy producers. The selloff in longer-dated bonds eased amid data showing the American economy is on uneven footing.

The S&P 500 Index jumped as Apple pushed its four-day gain past 11 percent. The index slipped toward its 100-day moving average before pushing higher as the level held for a fourth day. Industrial production contracted more than forecast and retail sales unexpectedly slid, sending the odds for a rate increase next week below 20 percent. The dollar was little changed after initially turning lower on the sales data.

Sterling slid after the Bank of England said another rate cut this year is possible. Oil erased gains to fall back below $44 a barrel. 

Equities continued to whipsaw investors after Friday’s rout jolted markets from a two-month torpor and wiped almost $2 trillion in value from stocks amid concern that central banks would deliver smaller doses of stimulus even as the global economy sputters along. Apple’s advance has buttressed U.S. equity indexes, as consumers snapped up the new iPhone model.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Apple still has the world’s largest market cap at $620 billion so its underperformance over the last year has represented a drag on the wider market. In fact the drag has been compounded by the impact Apple’s decline in sales growth has had on its suppliers. 



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September 15 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bugs on Screen

This article by Ekaterina Pesheva for the Harvard Medical School may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Over two weeks, a camera mounted on the ceiling above the dish took periodic snapshots that the researchers spliced into a time-lapsed montage. The result? A powerful, unvarnished visualization of bacterial movement, death and survival; evolution at work, visible to the naked eye.

The device, dubbed the Microbial Evolution and Growth Arena (MEGA) plate, represents a simple, and more realistic, platform to explore the interplay between space and evolutionary challenges that force organisms to change and adapt or die, the researchers said.

“We know quite a bit about the internal defense mechanisms bacteria use to evade antibiotics but we don’t really know much about their physical movements across space as they adapt to survive in different environments,” said study first author Michael Baym, a research fellow in systems biology at HMS.

The researchers caution that their giant petri dish is not intended to perfectly mirror how bacteria adapt and thrive in the real world and in hospital settings, but it does mimic more closely the real-world environments bacteria encounter than traditional lab cultures. This is because, the researchers say, in bacterial evolution, space, size and geography matter. Moving across environments with varying antibiotic strengths poses a different challenge for organisms than they face in traditional lab experiments that involve tiny plates with homogeneously mixed doses of drugs.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are encouraging advances occurring in the development of antibacterial medicines using new kinds of antibiotics, phages and genetics. Considering the rates at which bacteria can mutate we are going to need them all. 

 



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September 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

GW Pharmaceuticals Jumps on Report It May Be Acquisition Target

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

GW Pharmaceuticals Plc jumped after Reuters reported that the company had hired Morgan Stanley as an adviser after being approached by several drugmakers interested in an acquisition.

GW gained 20 percent to $101.47 at 3:31 p.m. in New York trading, its biggest intraday gain since March. Reuters cited people familiar with the matter in its report.

The U.K. company, with a market value of $2.56 billion, develops drugs derived from cannabis. Its leading asset is an experimental treatment for epilepsy, and it’s also working on candidates for cancer, type 2 diabetes and schizophrenia. GW has one approved drug, Sativex, which is used to control involuntary muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis.

Insys Therapeutics Inc., which develops drugs based on synthetic cannabis, rose 5 percent to $15.67.

GW, based in Cambridge, England, isn’t currently interested in a sale, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. A representative for GW declined to comment.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Cannabis is increasingly being recognised for its uses as a pain reliever and mood stabiliser; confirming what millions of users in the illicit market have testified to for decades. With the tide of public opinion turning there is a race on to secure interests in the sector as companies bet on the potential for further legalisation to be approved in the USA, not least during the November ballot. 



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September 01 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

IBM's Watson supercomputer creates a movie trailer

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

But perhaps the most beguiling, and subversive, aspect of Watson's trailer was how much it de-emphasised the monstrous nature of the human/nanotech hybrid. The irony of this entire project is that we have a film where a form of AI turns violent and kills humans, but the AI tasked with making the film's trailer ends up playing down that entire facet of the narrative.

Aside from being a fun experiment in computer-generated creativity, this project also proposes a speedy alternative to a generally costly and time-consuming process. The construction of a film trailer is usually an intensive practice taking several weeks to produce, but this trailer took only 24 hours to construct, from Watson "watching" the film to a human editor delivering the final product.

Making a good film trailer is a delicate balance between art and commerce. If anything this experiment still goes to show that a strong human hand is necessary even when producing what many would determine to be a disposable advertisement. Still, I wouldn't mind getting Watson's perspective on a few sci-fi films that vilify artificial intelligence. Maybe there is a Terminator trailer on the cards that sympathizes with Skynet or a view on 2001: A Space Odyssey where HAL 9000 is the film's hero?

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

IBM is in the midst of redeploying its knowhow from a company that delivered hardware to one almost entirely focused on software/computing as a service and Watson represents a big part of that. Meanwhile IBM is also advancing the development of quantum computers where it already has a 5-qubit prototype that it hopes to offer third party access too shortly. 



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August 31 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

SWIFT discloses more cyber thefts, pressures banks on security

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

A SWIFT spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the recently uncovered incidents or the security issues detailed in the letter, saying the firm does not discuss affairs of specific customers.
All the victims shared one thing in common: Weaknesses in local security that attackers exploited to compromise local networks and send fraudulent messages requesting money transfers, according to the letter.

Accounts of the attack on Bangladesh Bank suggest that weak security procedures there made it easier to hack into computers used to send SWIFT messages requesting large money transfers. The bank lacked a firewall and used second-hand, $10 electronic switches to network those computers, according to the Bangladesh police.

SWIFT has repeatedly pushed banks to implement new security measures rolled out after the Bangladesh heist, including stronger systems for authenticating users and updates to its software for sending and receiving messages. But it has been difficult for SWIFT to force banks to comply because the nonprofit cooperative lacks regulatory authority over its members.

SWIFT told banks Tuesday that it might report them to regulators and banking partners if they failed to meet a November 19 deadline for installing the latest version of its software, which includes new security features designed to thwart the type of attacks described in its letter.

The security features include technology for verifying credentials of people accessing a bank's SWIFT system; stronger rules for password management; and better tools for identifying attempts to hack the software. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The vulnerability of central banks and financial institutions to cybercrime is truly worrying and the fact the Bangladesh central bank didn’t have so much as a firewall exemplifies just how big the problem is. Swift is a global network with huge vulnerabilities. The problem is the penalty for laxity is so low that governments have been slow to act. It is questionable whether anyone will even lose their job because of the Bangladesh scandal. 



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August 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How the European Commission calculated 13bn tax bill

This article by Suzanne Lynch for the Irish Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Ms Vestager said on Tuesday that the commission had concluded that the splitting of Apple’s profits between the two parts of the AOE and ASI companies “did not have any factual or economic justification.”

In short, the commission has concluded that Ireland gave illegal state aid to Apple, in breach of EU law.

It will now fall to lawyers for the accused to contest this.

The refrain from Government circles has long been that the EU may not have liked the tax structures that were in place at the time when the Apple deal was struck but that does not mean that they were illegal.

It may be some years before a definitive answer on this question will be reached.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The European Commission has raised important issues for Ireland not least because without its sovereign ability to set taxation there is very little reason for such a large number of Silicon Valley’s best and brightest companies to choose the little island in the North Atlantic as their favoured destination for European headquarters. 



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August 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ports, a Sign of Altered Supply Chains

This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“The running joke going around is that flat is the new growth,” said Jett McCandless, chief executive of transportation-technology startup project44.

Freight volumes are stagnating despite strong consumer spending, which rose for a fourth-straight month in July. The problem for traditional retailers: More of those dollars are being spent online, or on entertainment and services such as health care.

Many retailers are stuck with large amounts of unsold goods as a result, reducing their need to import more merchandise. Even after a year of attempting to slim down inventories, retailers’ ratio of inventories to sales, a measure of excess stocks, touched 1.5 in June, close to a seven-year high, according to the Census Bureau. In their most recent earnings reports, Target and Lowe’s reported inventories up more than 4% over the same period last year.

J.C. Penney is placing “slightly smaller orders…or holding back quite a bit” to reduce inventories, Mike Robbins, J.C. Penney’s executive vice president for supply chain, told investors in June. The company has reduced the size of some orders at the beginning of major shopping seasons by as much as 70%.

The focus on reducing inventories is proving to be a drag on growth because it signals that businesses are spending less, and might be pessimistic about future demand. Inventory drawdowns cut second-quarter growth by 1.26 percentage points, to just 1.1%.

Shipping lines are struggling to plan their routes as order volumes become more difficult to predict, said Niels Erich, spokesman for a group of 15 major shipping lines known as the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement. In the past, carriers could count on the peak summer months to make up for slower winter trade.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no doubt that the disintermediation which characterises online retail has a deflationary impact on how economic growth is measured because it inhibits the velocity of money. I do not view it as a coincidence that the Velocity of M2 has been contracting since 1997 when the internet began to have an impact on the retail sector. 



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August 26 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mylan CEO Blamed Obamacare for EpiPen Sticker Shock

This article by Jen Wieczner for Fortune.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Now Mylan appears to be learning the same hard lesson this week that Martin Shkreli and Valeant  VRX -0.51%  learned last year: Investors love when pharmaceutical companies raise drug prices—until everybody else gets really upset about it. Shares of Mylan  MYL 1.66%  have dropped more than 11% this week, down more than 5% on Wednesday alone.

And the EpiPen controversy is drawing comments from some high-profile figures, including Hillary Clinton and Martin Shkreli himself, who tweeted that he thought the EpiPen’s price should even be higher. On Wednesday, Clinton said there was no justification for the price hikes. Her comments came shortly after the Senate Committee on Aging asked Mylan to provide information on the reasoning behind what it called the “drastic” price increase of EpiPen, and the American Medical Association “urge[d]” Mylan to “rein in these exorbitant costs.”

The pricing scandal is happening at the worst possible time for Mylan. This is typically the company’s biggest season, driven by EpiPen sales, which peak during back-to-school shopping as parents and schools equip for the coming year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Biotechnology companies justify the high price of new drugs with the argument that it is the only way to recoup the cost of developing them. Without high prices there would be no incentive to invest in the uncertainty of R&D and lengthy clinical trials. 



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August 24 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Delphi, Mobileye Join Forces to Develop Self-Drive System

This article by Mike Colias for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

We’re able to pool the investment as well as the technology and execution risk in one place so it doesn’t have to be duplicated by multiple [auto makers] over and over again,” Mr. Clark said.
The pair will jointly invest “several hundred million dollars” in the effort, but a spokesman declined to provide other details.

In January, Delphi and Mobileye expect to demonstrate a system that can navigate tough road conditions, such as entering a roundabout, merging into highway traffic, or making left turns across multiple traffic lanes.

Both companies have deep relationships with car makers, but their system won’t be ready until 2019. Integrating their tech in future vehicles could take as much as two years, the companies concede, making it unlikely to hit the market until 2021 or 2022.

Mobileye Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Amnon Shashua said the pair hope to overcome any timing hurdles by offering “a new level of driving intelligence,” mimicking a driver’s decision making behind the wheel in complex situations. “If we don’t want to clog a city with robotic systems that get stuck in busy traffic, you must endow these systems with intelligence.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Automotive manufacturers have an incentive to deliver on autonomous vehicles because they believe it would have the same effect on car ownership as the introduction of smart phones did for hand held mobile devices. Prior to the introduction of the iPhone most people already had a mobile phone yet they felt compelled to upgrade when the additional benefits of a smartphone were revealed, For companies trying to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market autonomous vehicles represent a compelling vision for the future. 



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August 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Alibaba's revenue beats estimates; mobile revenue soars

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

Alibaba's total revenue rose to 32.15 billion yuan, or $4.84 billion, in the quarter ended June 30 from 20.25 billion yuan a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected revenue of 30.17 billion yuan, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Mobile revenue from the company's China commerce retail business increased 119.3 percent to 17.51 billion yuan, while monthly mobile active users increased 39 percent.

"We passed an important milestone this quarter in achieving higher monetization of mobile users than non-mobile users for the first time," Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu said.

The company said its gross merchandise volume (GMV) - the value of transactions carried out by third-party sellers on the company's platforms - rose 24.4 percent to 837 billion yuan.

Alibaba said in June it would in the future only release GMV figures on an annual basis. The change followed the disclosure that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was looking into the company's accounting practices. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Mobile is quickly becoming the dominant force in internet search, retail and advertising not least because of the heavy focus users of social media have on their handheld devices. That trend is even more pronounced in emerging markets; where many consumers first experience of the internet is via their mobile device. That represents a significant growth trajectory for companies that have dominant positions in the respective social media and mobile advertising markets. 



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August 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on cybersecurity threats

This article in the Guardian, on line, clearly demonstrates the sense in your focus over many articles and audios, on cyber security and why we need to pay attention to it - both for our own security and for the potential of a growth market.

If the cyber experts and hacker communities are worried, maybe we should very very scared - most of us are only suspicious, wary of ghosts in the cupboard because we are not really sure - these guys should know - and they are worried!

Take heed, and, maybe take profit! - following your advice from several comments in the last months at the very least.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this interesting article but there is not a great deal that is new in its content. Ransomware is a growing global threat and the number of small businesses being targeted is expanding exponentially. The criminals concerned have a particular penchant for targeting hospitals and police departments because they have access to public cash and can’t function without their databases not least because lives are literally on the line. However they are also going after smaller targets. 



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August 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bristol-Myers Plummets as Drug Misses Key Lung-Cancer Goal

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

“This is a major surprise -- possibly the biggest clinical surprise of my career,” Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum, who recommends holding Bristol-Myers stock, wrote in a note. “Investors had high expectations for this trial.”

The results reflected a risky but potentially lucrative bet by Bristol-Myers, highlighting a difference in strategy with Merck. By designing its study to include patients with lower levels of a key biomarker thought to predict response to the drug, Bristol-Myers was aiming at a far larger market for Opdivo. Merck’s Keytruda trial, meanwhile, focused on a smaller subset with high levels of the biomarker, called PD-L1 -- fewer patients, but a better chance of success.

Opdivo didn’t meet its primary goal of lengthening progression-free survival in patients with previously untreated advanced non-small cell lung cancer, compared with chemotherapy, Bristol-Myers said in a statement. The New York-based company is working on completing an evaluation of the late-stage trial’s results.

Bristol-Myers Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Caforio said the company is now focused on combination therapies, which could potentially create a better outcome for the group of patients that don’t get results on drugs like Opdivo alone.

“We have a very broad development program in lung cancer and we are answering a number of very important questions,”

Caforio said in a phone interview Friday. “The role of monotherapy might be limited to a very small subset of patients in the first-line setting, which makes our program now ideally suited to address the next question, which is: ‘What is the role of combination therapy?”’ That will come from a study that analysts said would likely read out in 2018.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

As a major Biotechnology company Bristol Myers Squibb benefitted enormously from being in a position to acquire promising research in the aftermath of the TMT bubble in the 1990s. That has led it to develop a broad spectrum product range that is cash flow positive and has allowed the share to hold a progression of higher reaction lows despite the turmoil that has affected the biotech sector from last year. 



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August 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

This Time, 3D Printer Makers Think They Found a Sweet Spot

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

HP’s technology may usher in a new era for the industry. Production applications for 3D printing could eventually grab at least 5 percent of the worldwide manufacturing economy, and translate into $640 billion in annual sales, according to Wohlers Associates, which has tracked the 3D printing market for 28 years.

Evolving Business
“It’s one of our anchor businesses we’ll divert money on,” HP Chief Technology Officer Shane Wall said in an interview. “It’s a very high strategic value for us.”

3D Systems Chief Executive Officer Vyomesh Joshi, who joined the Rock Hill, South Carolina-based company in April after more than three decades at HP, said on a conference call Wednesday that his business is evolving from prototyping to “light production.” The shares rallied 18 percent after the company posted second-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates and said its profit margin increased from a year earlier partly as it shifted away from consumer products.

A few years ago, the industry had banked on putting a 3D printer in every home -- yet that market never materialized as consumers found the devices fragile, expensive and snail slow. That bet proved torturous to 3D Systems and Stratasys, both of whose shares plunged about 85 percent since the beginning of 2014. More recently, the stocks have been under pressure by a slowdown in sales for prototyping applications as customers delay purchases to evaluate new products from companies like HP, said Robert Burleson, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

3-D Systems and Stratasys went on a buying spree between 2012 and 2014 that saw them become the dominant players in the sector. It also left them with the problem of how to integrate all the competing pieces of technology into a cohesive product offering. At same time rapid demand growth for their products from the retail segment has not evolved as quickly as anticipated and their shares collapsed. The entry of much larger companies like HP and Autodesk represent additional threats.  



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August 03 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bitcoin worth $72 million stolen from Bitfinex exchange in Hong Kong

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

"The bitcoin was stolen from users' segregated wallets," he said.

The company said it had reported the theft to law enforcement and was cooperating with top blockchain analytic companies to track the stolen coins.

Last year, Bitfinex announced a tie-up with Palo Alto-based BitGo, which uses multiple-signature security to store user deposits online, allowing for faster withdrawals.

"Our investigation has found no evidence of a breach to any BitGo servers," BitGo said in a Tweet.
"With users' funds secured using multi-signature technology in partnership with BitGo, a lot more is at stake for the backbone of the bitcoin industry, with its stalwarts and prided tech under fire," said Charles Hayter, chief executive and founder of digital currency website CryptoCompare.

The security breach comes two months after Bitfinex was ordered to pay a $75,000 fine by the U.S. Commodity and Futures Trading Commission in part for offering illegal off-exchange financed commodity transactions in bitcoin and other digital currencies. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Even the biggest lock in the world can be opened if you have the key. What’s inside is not influenced by that simple fact and neither is the supply of whatever it is. At over $500 per bitcoin the cryptocurrency has value and the blockchain equation solving process which mints bitcoins has real world applications because it is so difficult to tamper with. However the warehouses people use to trade in bitcoins do not appear to have solved the problem of securing client accounts and access keys. With such rich pickings they are targets for criminals, which represent a problem for investors seeking to participate directly in the market. 



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August 01 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Takes on Alibaba With Japan Portal for Chinese Shoppers

This article by Grace Huang and Reed Stevenson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“The opportunity is huge,” said Jasper Cheung, president of Amazon Japan. “We have already increased the selection that we can export by the millions over the last several weeks.”

Chinese shoppers are looking for authentic Made-in-Japan products, spooked by tainted baby milk and fake merchandise proffered on web stores in China. While that’s helping to drive an influx of shoppers to Japan -- 3.08 million Chinese tourists have visited the archipelago so far this year, up 41 percent -- it’s also boosting demand for Amazon.co.jp, Wandou and other web outlets featuring Japanese goods.

Rakuten Inc., the Japanese online store, also lets people shop for stuff from Japan in Chinese, as well as in Korean and English. Amazon’s Japan website has been available in English for years.

The new iteration of Amazon Japan’s shopping portal, in simplified Chinese, offers millions of products with more coming, the company said. Consumers in Asia’s biggest economy are demanding access to authentic brands and quality, from clothing and cosmetics to baby products and health goods. That’s why Costco Wholesale Corp. has a shop on Alibaba’s Tmall.com, while Macy’s Inc. and other U.S. retailers are tapping into China’s dominant online-payments system by accepting Alipay on their sites.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

For billions of new consumers entering the middle classes their first taste of consumerism is likely to be via their mobile phones where they are aggressively marketed to via Wechat, Facebook, Instagram and a host of other social media sites. That puts dominant online marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba, Ebay and Rakuten in a favourable position to compete for their business and China represents a major battleground. Uber’s experience in China highlights the difficulty of doing business in that country where one is competing with a domestic copycat operation. Amazon’s strategy of building out its Japanese operation may act as a hedge to domestic Chinese operations where it competes directly with JD.com and Alibaba.  



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July 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biotechnology

Eoin Treacy's view -

This sector was the darling of the investment community until about a year ago when Biogen had a disappointing quarter, Valeant’s business model blew  up shortly afterwards and despite the fact it is not a biotech company, the sector was hit by the same selling pressure. When politicians took aim at the high charges of drugs and new treatments, it contributed to additional selling pressure. 



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July 27 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Security Landscape Continues to Evolve

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Level 3 Communications which may be of interest. Here is a section:

431 million new malware variants seen in 2015, an increase of 36% Source: Symantec Internet Security Report, April 2016

The mean number of days to resolve cyber-attacks is 46, with an average cost of $21,155/day (global, standardized into U.S. dollars) Source: Ponemon 2015 Global Cost of Cyber Crime Study, October 2015

9 breaches in 2015 with more than 10 million identities exposed: a total of 429 million exposed Source: Symantec Internet Security Report, April 2016

The mean annualized cost of cybercrime to global organizations is $7.7 million/year (standardized into U.S. dollars) Source: Ponemon 2015 Global Cost of Cyber Crime Study, October 2015

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The growth of cybercrime is nothing short of exponential not least because it is comparatively cheap to develop, it is global in nature, prosecution rates are woefully low and the rewards are highly attractive. Combatting the threat requires a war footing to be adopted by corporations and outside of the high tech sector many companies have proven ill-equipped to deal with the challenge. 



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July 26 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

US to create nationwide network of EV charging stations

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

The US government has announced "an unprecedented set of actions" to pump up the country's plug-in electric vehicle market, including US$4.5 billion in loan guarantees to create a nationwide network of commercial scale and fast charging stations. The initiative to push for greater electric car adoption calls for a collaboration between federal and state agencies, utilities, major automakers and other groups.

The initiative will identify zero emission and alternative fuel corridors across the country, to determine the best locations to put in fast charging stations, as part of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

As part of a partnership between the US departments of energy and transportation, a 2020 vision for a national fast charging network will be developed, with potential longer-term innovations that include up to 350 kW of direct current fast charging. According to the administration, a 350 kW DC system could charge a 200-mile-range battery in less than 10 minutes. For comparison, Tesla just boosted some of its Superchargers' power capacity to 145 kW, which is claimed the fastest currently available.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Governments are getting behind the need for a jump in the efficiency of batteries. If electric vehicle range anxiety is truly to be overcome batteries that can power a car all day, with the air conditioning on, while charging my phone and iPad as I listen to the radio are required. Many people feel they need a workhorse that can fulfil just about any task rather than just commuting. Continued high demand for light trucks is testament to that which is probably why Elon Musk gave a nod to heavier vehicles when announcing his latest growth plan last week. 



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July 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Apple Watch Sales Fall 55% in Second Quarter, IDC Report Says

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

Apple Inc. sold 1.6 million watches in the second quarter of this year, down from 3.6 million units a year earlier, IDC said. Global smartwatch sales fell 32 percent to 3.5 million units.

While Apple held on to its position as the industry leader, with 47 percent of the market, it was the only company in the top five to see a decline. Samsung Electronics Co. saw its market share more than double to 16 percent.

“Consumers have held off on smartwatch purchases since early 2016 in anticipation of a hardware refresh, and improvements in WatchOS are not expected until later this year, effectively stalling existing Apple Watch sales," IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani wrote in the report. “Apple still maintains a significant lead in the market and unfortunately a decline for Apple leads to a decline in the entire market.”

Apple Watch is the company’s first new hardware product since the iPad’s 2010 debut and is a key part of Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s strategy to find new areas of growth as sales of the iPhone slow. Apple is expected to introduce an updated operating system and an Apple Watch 2 this fall, promising new features and better performance.

IDC said despite Apple’s sharp drop it expects growth in 2017, as continued development appeals to a broader market.

“Every vendor faces similar challenges related to fashion and functionality, and though we expect improvements next year, growth in the remainder of 2016 will likely be muted,” said Ubrani.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Smart watches can measure steps, constantly record heart rate, display text messages, alert us to incoming calls and act as payment mechanisms when we don’t have our wallets. While each of these functions might have been the preserve of a single company when they were debuted most providers now offer some variation on all of them. That suggests the premium price point commanded by Apple Watch isn’t justified not least as a widely expected reboot of the product is expected later this year. That is likely to at least include enhancements to battery life that might allow for some of the more ambitious health related apps to be introduced.



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July 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Chinese international acquisitions

Have a look at this deal:    

My son is COO of this business.  Keith is 35 years of age with a PhD in Molecular Biology plus a number of years at Merrill Lynch.

I understand the sale price was very sweet. Seems to be yet another example of many eager buyers when "money has no cost". I am told the Chinese are eager to access Genesis IP. The buyers are also discussing ambitious new business targets for Genesis going forward.  I understand these new business opportunities have already been identified.    

This deal is not one of our Prime Minister's new sexy IT business opportunities.  A message our PM incessantly preaches to the electorate. Perhaps our PM should stop trying to pick winners. There are many areas of the local economy where Australia demonstrates very competitive global business skills.  This includes but is not exclusive to medical services. Sadly this message from our business leaders has been repeatedly and firmly ignored by both the Canberra bureaucracy and our nation's political elite.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email and congratulations to your son on playing a pivotal role in such a successful company. I agree we would likely all be better off if politicians left running companies to the companies themselves rather than assuming they have specialist knowledge in areas they have no experience of. 



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July 20 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

TerraForm Global Rises amid Talks with SunEdison to Sell Stake

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

TerraForm Global and SunEdison are in talks regarding “a jointly managed sales process and accompanying protocol for managing the marketing process,” according to a presentation posted on TerraForm Global’s website Tuesday. SunEdison is currently involved in the biggest ever sale of clean energy assets after filing for bankruptcy protection in April with $16.1 billion in liabilities. It has not announced a process for selling its controlling stake in TerraForm Global or its sister yieldco TerraForm Power Inc.

TerraForm Global, a yield company formed by SunEdison to buy clean power plants built by SunEdison outside of the U.S., owns 917 megawatts of solar and wind energy plants, mostly in southeast Asia and South America. The company had revenue of as much as $52 million in the first quarter, according to the presentation.

It also reported preliminary losses of as much as $350 million for the second half of last year, and a preliminary loss of as much as $8 million for the first quarter of this year.

TerraForm Global has not filed results since the third quarter because it relies on SunEdison for some accounting systems, and the parent company’s results are also delinquent.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Financial engineering contributed to SunEdison’s demise because it divested itself of income producing assets while holding onto liabilities. That worked fine while oil prices were high, demand for solar plants was surging and credit was easy to come by. The decline in oil, natural gas and particularly coal prices questioned the profitability of solar plants and the share collapsed. 



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July 19 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Poorer than their parents? A new perspective on income inequality

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Richard Dobbs and colleagues at McKinsey. Here is a section:

The economic and social impact is potentially corrosive. A survey we conducted as part of our research found that a significant number of those whose incomes have not been advancing are losing faith in aspects of the global economic system. Nearly one-third of those who are not advancing said they think their children will also advance more slowly in the future, and they expressed negative opinions about free trade and immigration.

If the low economic growth of the past decade continues, the proportion of households in income segments with flat or falling incomes could rise as high as 70 to 80 percent over the next decade. Even if economic growth accelerates, the issue will not go away: the proportion of households affected would decrease, to between about 10 and 20 percent—but that share could double if the growth is accompanied by a rapid uptake of workplace automation.

The encouraging news is that it is possible to reduce the number of people not advancing. Labor-market practices can make a difference, as can government taxes and transfers—although the latter may not be sustainable at a time when many governments have high debt levels. For example, in Sweden, where the government intervened to preserve jobs during the global downturn, market incomes fell or were flat for only 20 percent of households, while disposable income advanced for almost everyone. In the United States, lower tax rates and higher transfers turned a decline in market incomes for four-fifths of income segments into an increase in disposable income for nearly all households. Efforts such as these—along with additional measures such as encouraging business leaders to adopt long-term thinking—can make a real difference. The trend of flat and falling real incomes merits bold measures on the part of government and business alike.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

With so many voters, internationally, expressing dissatisfaction with the economy and their role within it, there is already evidence this is going to become an election issue in almost all upcoming elections whether in the USA or Europe. 

The populist answer to inequality is to support protectionism and there are already signs of electorate unease with additional international trade harmonisation. However despite likely support for protectionism the march of automation means these types of policies are unlikely to result in significant additional jobs in developed economies. It is no exaggeration that China and other Asian counties are engaged in the equivalent of an arms race to boost automation in order to make sure the jobs that moved there in search of lower labour costs stay there as wages rise. 

 



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July 15 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Samsung in Talks With BYD to Buy Stake in Electric-Car Maker

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

BYD said Samsung has been actively pushing forward talks about buying its shares in a private placement. Talks are still underway, the Chinese company said, denying a report by the Korea Economic Daily that an agreement was reached to acquire a 4 percent stake.

Samsung is pursuing the investment after its affiliate was among foreign battery makers left off a list of suppliers approved by China, where sales of electric vehicles are surging and the government has sped up construction of charging points.

The talks with BYD also add to the global trend of technology companies and automakers collaborating as car buyers increasingly demand more advanced powertrains and features that improve connectivity and safety.

“It puts Samsung into the electric-vehicle subsystem supply chain for a key Chinese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer,” said Bill Russo, a Shanghai-based managing director at Gao Feng Advisory Co. “BYD gets a technology innovation pipeline partner with a reputable brand.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

China is the world’s largest car market. With a concerted government backed push into electric vehicles any company seeking to ride the wave to emerging automotive technology cannot afford to lose access to the market. Therefore BYD represents an attractive avenue for foreign investors. While in the USA Tesla sets the pace for what other companies are expected to provide, China’s state mandated vision for zero emissions represents an even more important influence on the market. Car companies have to try and build products for a global audience in order to keep costs under control. Therefore any company seeking to compete globally needs to have a foothold in China. 



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July 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nest's new outdoor camera is smarter at spotting people

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

Talking and listening functions are built-in, too, so you can chat with the postman or listen to the pitch of a door-to-door salesman without leaving your chair.

At the same time, Nest is upgrading its Nest Aware service, the cloud subscription plan available as an optional extra if you buy one of the company's indoor or outdoor cameras. While the free Nest app lets you tune into a camera at any time and get basic motion and sound alerts, Nest Aware (starting at US$10/month) enables you to also look back through several days of recorded footage saved to the cloud, and set up "zones" in the camera's field of view.

If you do decide to subscribe to Nest Aware, you'll be able to take advantage of the new Person Alerts feature. Nest says it uses advanced, cloud-based algorithms (presumably borrowed from parent company Alphabet/Google) to more accurately tell the difference between actual people and everything else (like dogs or a cars).

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Intelligent home security and monitoring functionality is a big business. Anyone who has ever had a quote for a home security system to be installed will be familiar with how the agent can ramp up costs depending on how much they believe you have available to spend. It was eye opening for me when we had quotes ranging from $300 to $1500 for installation with an embedded commitment to a monthly subscription for monitoring.



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July 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Google Plans to Train 2 Million Indian Developers on Android

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

Google launched a program to train 2 million developers in India for its Android platform as its fires up a race with Apple Inc. for the country’s developers to create innovative mobile apps.

The Android Skilling program will be introduced for free across hundreds of public and private universities and training schools through a specially designed, in-person program this year. The program would also be available through the government’s National Skills Development Corporation of India, the company said in a statement.

India is expected to have the largest developer population with 4 million people by 2018, overtaking the U.S., but only a quarter are building for mobile, said Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management at Google.

“We believe India is uniquely placed to innovate and shape the internet experience of billions of users who are and will come online on the mobile platform,” he said in the statement.

Google plans to make the curriculum accessible to millions for free to help make India a global leader in mobile development.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Silicon Valley technology companies have been vocal in their desire to see more people take up coding as a profession and most particularly with a focus on their own operating systems. Google’s decision to facilitate more people learning how to code apps in Android is a direct attempt to challenge Apple’s dominance of the App market. Considering how much each of us use apps on a daily basis, and the insights they offer into the various facets of our lives, growth among operating system developers like Google, Apple and Microsoft is likely predicated on continued dominance of their niche within the wider technology sector and the high barrier to entry it offers.   



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July 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nvidia's GTX 1060 is VR-ready and affordable

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

The GTX 1060 is also fully VR-ready, meaning you can expect a smooth experience using it with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. The card is also a lot more energy efficient for VR gaming, consuming just 120 watts of power during use.

Perhaps the biggest news is the price point of the GTX 1060, which is set at US$249 – less than half the $549 launch price of the performance-comparable GTX 980.

Alongside rival AMD's just-launched RX 480 GPU, the cost of building a VR-ready PC is significantly lower than it was at the launch of the Rift and Vive, dropping from roughly $950 to around $800 or less. That's still a hefty sum, but it'll likely make VR more appealing for PC gamers who have been holding off until now.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Virtual reality applications require major upgrades in both graphics cards and processing power. Gaining access to the enhanced sensory experiences on offer therefore means spending on new phones for a basic version or new computers and other hardware for the best in class. 



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June 23 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

IBM to deliver 200-petaflop supercomputer by early 2018

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

More supercomputer news this week: The US is responding to China’s new Sunway TiahuLight system that was announced Monday, and fast. First, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory is expected to take delivery of a new IBM system, named Summit, in early 2018 that will now be capable of 200 peak petaflops, Computerworld reports. That would make it almost twice as fast as TaihuLight if the claim proves true. (We had originally reported in 2014 that both Summit and Sierra would achieve roughly 150 petaflops.)

TaihuLight (pictured below) now sits at number one on the twice-yearly TOP500 list of the fastest supercomputers in the world, with a Linpack benchmark score of 93 petaflops and a claimed peak of 124.5 petaflops. The latest TOP500 announcement Monday caused a bit of a stir. Not only is TaihuLight roughly three times faster than China’s Tianhe-2, the prior champion, but it also uses no US-sourced parts at all for the first time, as it’s powered by Sunway 260-core SW26010 processors that are roughly on par with Intel Xeon Phi, as well as custom proprietary interconnect.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Supercomputers might be a somewhat esoteric topic but the fact China has developed the fastest computer in the world without requiring US sourced components is a major testament to the technological competence it has achieved. In turn that should help Chinese researchers to further develop artificial intelligence and big data projects. 



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June 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Robots on Track to Bump Humans From Call-Center Jobs

This article by Trefor Moss for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Industry insiders say the outlook depends on whether the incoming government of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte can help develop enough of the tailored education programs needed to produce skilled for a more sophisticated range of tasks.

Climbing the value ladder won’t be easy. TaskUs, a U.S.-based outsourcing with operations here, is among those that are trying. Innovation is the key to survival, said Bryce Maddock, chief executive of the company, which provides a range of back-office functions for tech startups, including the mobile dating site Tinder and the message service Whisper.

“We’re trying to ‘un-call center’ the call center,” said Mr. Maddock, who tries to battle the endemic turnover in industry hotspots like Manila by offering a modern workspace modeled on the casual vibe of Silicon Valley.

He says just a tenth of the company’s 5,000 employees are actually answering phones. Most are managing content on websites or handling customer relations via online chat.

The shift reflects an industrywide trend. TaskUS reflects an industrywide trend. A decade ago, nearly all Philippine outsourcing work was phone-based. Now, it’s just 60%, a figure that’s bound to keep declining, outsourcing executives say, even as the industry as a whole continues to expand.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It takes a village to run a successful ecommerce site so while automated systems are increasingly taking over the phone lines we still need humans to conduct search engine optimisation (SEO) and manage website content. These tasks are still heavily labour dependent so demand for call centre operatives is likely to remain on an upward trajectory but the sophistication of the work is likely to increase. 



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June 20 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Gasoline Demand Is Likely to Slide

This article by Lynn Cook for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Even the low end of the forecast by Wood Mackenzie, which provides in-depth analysis for a wide range of clients including large oil companies, utilities and banks, is a more bullish outlook for electric-car adoption than many oil-and-gas companies have espoused.

Spencer Dale, the chief economist of energy company BP PLC, said last week in Houston that while he expects electric cars to start gaining traction, the internal-combustion engine still has significant advantages over electric alternatives and widespread adoption won’t happen in the next two decades.

“It will still take some time,” Mr. Dale said. “Electric vehicles will happen. It is a sort of when, not if, story.”

The electrification of the automobile has evolved more slowly than some expected, in part thanks to low fuel prices and limited battery life that meant drivers had to recharge every 100 miles. But more capable cars are coming to market as tightening air-pollution regulations in places such as Europe and China force auto makers to engineer better electric vehicles.

The U.S. market today remains tiny, with pure electric cars amounting to less than 1% of total sales so far this year. But Tesla’s decision to build cars with sizable batteries that can run for more than 200 miles before recharging has led a number of competitors to double down on their own electric-car designs.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla remains the standard bearer for electric cars because, more than any other company, it has succeeded in marketing a car people aspire to own. However it is not the only, or even the biggest company manufacturing electric vehicles. In fact Tesla’s success ensures it will deal with a lot more competition as incumbent manufacturers release their own models. 



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June 17 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BASF Joins Chemical Deal Rush in $3.2 Billion Albemarle Deal

This article by Andrew Marc Noel and Phil Serafino for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For Albemarle, the deal is a means to pay down debt from its acquisition of Rockwood Holdings Inc. for $6 billion in 2015. It bought Rockwood’s lithium business to take advantage of demand for the lightweight metal used in rechargeable batteries in smartphones and electric cars.

"The sale of Chemetall reflects Albemarle’s continued commitment to maximizing shareholder value by investing in the future growth of our high priority businesses, reducing leverage and returning capital to shareholders,” Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam said in the statement.

The transaction value may be reduced for underfunded and unfunded pension obligations and other reasons, Albemarle said. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is advising Albemarle while Shearman & Sterling LLP is legal adviser. BASF worked with Citigroup, with legal help from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

BASF will gain an important foothold in North America through this acquisition but the price it is paying would appear to be rather expensive and is a further testament to the asset price inflation ultra-low interest rates have contributed to. 



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June 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Microsoft to Buy LinkedIn in Deal Valued at $26.2 Billion

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

The deal is the largest under the tenure of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has been reshaping Microsoft since taking over in 2014 to appeal more to business customers with cloud-based services and productivity tools. LinkedIn isn’t an obvious fit in the ongoing restructuring, but gives Microsoft the biggest global social network for professional that’s used by job seekers, recruiters and human resources teams. In a statement, Nadella said the acquisition could drive growth for LinkedIn as well as Microsoft’s Office 365 and Dynamics services.

“Just as we have changed the way the world connects to opportunity, this relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn’s network, now gives us a chance to also change the way the world works,” Weiner said in the statement.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is very questionable whether Microsoft will get their money back following such a large outlay on a company like LinkedIn and the valuations on the sector generally are not exactly cheap. With the notable exception of Facebook social media/new economy services companies have been underperforming for quite some time. Today’s announcement of a major takeover in the sector has the potential to revitalise perceptions subject to sound fundamentals. 



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June 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Batteries Storing Power Seen as Big as Rooftop Solar in 12 Years

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

The spread of electric cars is driving up demand for lithium-ion batteries, the main technology for storage devices that are attached to utility grids and rooftop solar units.

That’s allowing manufactures to scale up production and slash costs. BNEF expects the technology to cost $120 a kilowatt-hour by 2030 compared with more than $300 now and $1,000 in 2010.
That would help grid managers solve the intermittency problem that comes with renewables -- wind and solar plants don’t work in calm weather or at night, creating a need for baseload supplies to fill the gaps. Today, that’s done by natural gas and coal plants, but the role could eventually be passed
to power-storage units.

The researcher estimates 35 percent of all light vehicles sold will be electric in 2040, equivalent to 41 million cars.

That’s about 90 times the figure in 2015. Investment in renewables is expected to rise to $7.8 trillion by then, compared with $2.1 trillion going into fossil-fuel generation.

“The battery industry today is driven by consumer products like computers and mobile phones,” said Claire Curry, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York. “Electric vehicles will be the driver of battery technology change, and that will drive down costs significantly.”

The industry still has a long way to go. About 95 percent of the world’s grid-connected energy storage today is still pumped hydro, according to the U.S. Energy Department. That’s when surplus energy is used to shift large amounts of water uphill to a reservoir so it can be used to produce electricity later at a hydropower plant. The technology only works in areas with specific topographies.

There are several larger-scale battery projects in the works, according to S&P Global. They include a 90-megawatt system in Germany being built by Essen-based STEAG Energy Services GmbH and Edison International’s 100-megawatt facility in Long Beach, California.

“Utility-scale storage is the new emerging market for batteries, kind of where electric vehicles were five years ago,” said Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a battery researcher based in London. “EVs are now coming of age.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Innovation in the chemistry that supports batteries has been a lot more difficult to achieve than the Moore’s law related enhancements that have been commonplace in chip manufacturing and increasingly in solar technologies. Nevertheless as the requirement for storage grows increasingly urgent, the capital expended on R&D is expanding and innovations are being achieved. In the meantime economies of scale through larger manufacturing plants are helping to drive efficiencies. 



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June 10 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Energy in 2015: A year of plenty

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of BP’s annual report by Spencer Dale which may be of interest. Here is a section:

The increasing importance of renewable energy continued to be led by wind power (17.4%, 125 TWh). But solar power is catching up fast, expanding by almost a third in 2015 (32.6%, 62 TWh), with China overtaking Germany and the US as the largest generator of solar power.

The older stalwarts of non-fossil fuels – hydro and nuclear energy – grew more modestly. Global hydro power increased by just 1.0% (38 TWh), held back by drought conditions in parts of the Americas and Central Europe. Nuclear energy increased by 1.3% (34 TWh), as rapid expansion in China offset secular declines within mainland Europe. This gradual shift of nuclear energy away from the traditional centres of North America and Europe towards Asia, particularly China, looks set to continue over the next 10-20 years.

And

The key lesson from history is that it takes considerable time for new types of energy to penetrate the global market. Starting the clock at the point at which new fuels reached 1% share of primary energy, it took more than 40 years for oil to expand to 10% of primary energy; and even after 50 years, natural gas had reached a share of only 8%.

Some of that slow rate of penetration reflects the time it takes for resources and funding to be devoted in scale to new energy sources. But equally important, the highly capital intensive nature of the energy eco-system, with many long-lived assets, provides a natural brake on the pace at which new energies can gain ground.

The growth rates achieved by renewable energy over the past 8 or 9 years have been broadly comparable to those recorded by other energies at the same early stage of development. Indeed, thus far, renewable energy has followed a similar path to nuclear energy.

The penetration of nuclear energy plateaued relatively quickly, however, as the pace of learning slowed and unit costs stopped falling. In contrast, in BP’s Energy Outlook, we assume that the costs of both wind and solar power will continue to fall as they move down their learning curve, underpinning continued robust growth in renewable energy.

Indeed, the path of renewable energy in the base case of the Energy Outlook implies a quicker pace of penetration than any other fuel source in modern history. But even in that case, renewable power within primary energy barely reaches 8% in 20 years’ time.

The simple message from history is that it takes a long time – numbering several decades – for new energies to gain a substantial foothold within global energy.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The evolution of renewable energy technology represents a major paradigm shift for the energy sector not least because the cost of production continues to decrease independently of the oil price and environmental concerns result in a compelling case for adoption. In tandem with wind and solar, the rollout of electric vehicles is a related but separate development which is likely to represent a continued headwind for demand growth.



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June 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Are the Robots Taking Over? The Emergence of Automated Digital Wealth Management Solutions

The heavyweight report from Financial Technology partners may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

With the advent of Automated Digital Wealth Management solutions (aka robo advisors), the traditional wealth management industry is facing perhaps its most disruptive threat since low-cost online stock trading emerged in the mid 1990’s

The combination of highly credible digital wealth management solutions, the Millennial generation’s predisposition to “do-it-yourself-through-an-app” and the pending transfer of trillions of dollars of wealth to and eventually from Baby Boomers is forcing participants across the wealth management industry to reevaluate their product and distribution strategies

Already suffering from the relative shift in appetite towards ETFs and other passive investment vehicles, the mutual fund industry in particular appears further threatened by digital wealth management solutions since most of the solution providers utilize ETFs as their underlying investment vehicles; this movement may force firms that have traditionally only focused on providing financial services products to focus on providing scalable advice as well – the new Department of Labor rules around fiduciary duty for retirement service provides will likely exacerbate this trend

At a minimum, all wealth managers should be highly focused on “digitizing” their businesses as consumers of all ages and demographics will increasingly expect an “Amazon and Uber-like” experience from all of their financial service providers

Similar to the online trading playbook, new consumer brands are emerging in the digital wealth management industry (such as Betterment, Wealthfront and Personal Capital) while traditional firms are striking back by either offering their own in-house solutions (such as Charles Schwab and Vanguard) or partnering or acquiring to speed time to market

Recent M&A includes BlackRock’s acquisition of FutureAdvisor, Invesco’s acquisition of Jemstep and Northwestern Mutual’s acquisition of LearnVest

A handful of different business models have materialized in the digital wealth management space including 1) new direct-to-consumer brands with limited advisor assistance, 2) new direct-to-consumer brands with heavier advisor assistance, 3) traditional firms with in-house digital wealth management solutions, 4) business-to-business and white label providers enabling others to offer their own digital wealth management solutions and 5) retirement specific providers including both direct-to-consumer and business-to business providers

Similar to other recent FinTech innovations, digital wealth solution providers are quickly emerging around the globe – in fact, we have identified more international direct-to-consumer players than in the U.S.

As capital continues to flow into the digital wealth management space and traditional investment management firms evaluate their strategies, we expect to see a notable increase in partnership and M&A activity in the space
over the next 12-18 months

A number of newer firms are likely to be acquired by larger organizations that are looking to add or deepen their digital wealth management capabilities while only a relatively small number of new consumer brands are likely to achieve the level of scale (and funding) they need to survive on their own over the long-ter

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The risk of litigation for financial advisors means the majority of investors are presented with what might be described as a plain vanilla 60/40 bonds to equities blend for their portfolios. Depending on whether the investor is categorised as conservative or risk tolerant that basic formula might be altered somewhat but the long-term nature of the strategy means the majority of clients will be invested in the model portfolio. 



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June 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on viruses representing a greater risk than bacteria

I remain interested in your commentary on health issues, in part because that is the area in which I work. I do not share your fear that antibiotic resistance will be a black swan event, capable of disrupting markets. Bacterial pathogens are nowhere near as transmissible as respiratory viruses; transformation of viral pathogenicity is a far greater concern than bacterial multi drug resistance as a game changer, mainly because of the rate of spread of viral infection such as influenza, Ebola etc. Witness the influenza pandemic of 1919 which killed more people than WW1. We have had multidrug resistant TB in countries such as Indonesia for many years, yet no markets have collapsed. There is less risk of catching the latter for one. MDR bacteria are more a risk to patients in hospital; yet when there are outbreaks, they are usually contained by better contact precautions. From a QI perspective we should not be complacent about bacterial antibiotic resistance, yet in contrast with AB therapy for many bacterial infections, we have very few effective antiviral agents, a situation that has changed little for ages. One bright light though is nanotechnology (seems to be a catchier name than molecular biology). Nanoviricides is one company in that space. Their product line is preclinical trial but getting close. Are you aware of any others with similar potential?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative email and I agree that a new virus would have an instant effect relative to the slowly developing problem of antibiotic resistance. The threat from the latter is not that we have a pandemic like influenza in 1919 but rather that bacteria become a future threat that saps growth potential because people stay sicker for longer or die because the drugs to treat them do not exist. In that scenario it could be a slow burn crisis that would drag on economic potential and is a particular risk to high population emerging markets. 



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June 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on antibiotic resistance

I agree totally Eoin. Which is why (apart from my investing activities) trying to solve the problem takes much of my time. Two years ago we founded a charity (non-profit) named Antibiotic Research UK. (www.antibioticresearch.org.uk) to bring together national experts to find solutions. Just as we have the well-known charity Cancer Research UK, we now have Antibiotic Research UK. Why? Well, the predictions from the UK Government's AMR Review indicate that bacteria will soon be killing more people than cancer. The AMR review papers are worth reading at http://amr-review.org/ Lord Jim O'Neill was of course ex Chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and he was able to call on all global experts when compiling his review conclusions. If his review is even half correct, the horrible truth is that a good percentage of readers of these words are likely to die eventually from bacterial infection.

I am a founding Trustee of Antibiotic Research UK and also chair of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee. You can see the other members on the website. It is a highly expert group. Some of my ideas on how to beat the resistance problem were published last year by the leading science publisher Nature (Antibiotic resistance breakers: can repurposed drugs fill the antibiotic discovery void? URL http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v14/n12/full/nrd4675.html. On request, I can send a pdf to any reader interested). We have raised a bit of money from donations from the public, and are now just beginning the experimental work to test the ideas. Initial results should be available by end 2016. 

Fingers crossed, as we need to save our antibiotics. This was brought home to me the hard way in March this year when my father died from antibiotic-resistant MRSA infection. 5 antibiotics failed to save him. Frankly, even with my expertise, if I had caught MRSA from him I could not be sure which antibiotics to choose to treat myself. The situation is getting serious very quickly. 

I am speaking at Markets Now on July 11, and I will use my hour for investment discussions, but if anyone wants to discuss antibiotic resistance in the bar afterwards I will be there. And if anyone has any good ideas, I will gladly buy them a drink!

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for sharing your expertise and please accept both my and the Collective’s condolences on the death of your father. Your presentations are always well received at the Markets Now events and I suspect more than a few will take you up on your offer to chat in the bar afterwards. 



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June 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New antimicrobial material joins fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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

"Our unique material can kill bacteria rapidly and inhibit the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," says IBN Group Leader, Dr Yugen Zhang. "Computational chemistry studies supported our experimental findings that the chain-like compound works by attacking the cell membrane. This material is also safe for use because it carries a positive charge that targets the more negatively charged bacteria, without destroying red blood cells."

The team's compound was developed as an alternative to triclosan, a common ingredient in hygiene products like soap and toothpaste which has been shown to aid antibiotic resistance. The team says the new material, which takes the form of a water-soluble white powder, could be a viable replacement in these applications and could be used in alcoholic sprays used for sterilization in homes and hospitals.

"The global threat of drug-resistant bacteria has given rise to the urgent need for new materials that can kill and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria," says IBN Executive Director, Professor Jackie Y. Ying. "Our new antimicrobial material could be used in consumer and personal care products to support good personal hygiene practices and prevent the spread of infectious diseases."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

If you had to name one black swan event that could derail the trajectory of global growth it is antibiotic resistance. It’s not a challenge to growth right now but there is an inevitability to the problem which gives urgency to the search for a solution. I’m an optimist so I believe a solution will be found but I tend to read every article I see on the subject because the stakes are high and the potential rewards for both companies and society are very large. 



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June 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Sushi Robots and Vending-Machine Pizza Will Reinvent the Automat

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

“I get it. But this is not a vending machine, it’s an automated restaurant,” he said. “There are real humans making the burritos. Everything is handmade.”

No, those humans are not super-small and no, they don’t toil in the machines. The burritos are made in kitchens that also supply restaurants, sometimes flash-frozen, and then shipped to the boxes. They’re defrosted before going into the machines. An employee checks the boxes once a day to make sure there’s fresh inventory.

The vending machines harken back to the Automat, a 20th- century fast-food restaurant that featured cubbyholes with food items behind glass doors. Put coins in a slot and the door would open for a gratuity-free snack or meal.

The bright orange Burritoboxes are higher tech. They have a touch screen, mobile-phone charging station and live-chat customer service in case there’s an issue. It takes about 90 seconds to heat a complete meal, including Cinnabon-brand gooey bites for dessert. Customers can watch music videos on the touch screen while waiting.

Unlike Burritoboxes, the pizza machines are unbranded so local pizzerias and packaged-food companies can label and fill the machines with their own pies. Pizzerias in Sarasota, Florida, and Chicago are experimenting with them. Each one holds 108 slices and reheats them in a conveyor oven in about one minute and 40 seconds.

Lynnie Cook, 65, the founder of 24/7 Pizza Box, said he has orders for more than 100 of the $29,920 machines. He expects to sell 2,500 in 2017.

“Our time is getting more precious,” Cook said. “You’re going to have people bringing food to where the businesspeople are working, or just making it more convenient.”

Robotics have made their way into the back of restaurants.

Sushi Station, a conveyor-belt-style sushi restaurant in Elgin, Illinois, has two sushi-roll makers from manufacturer Autec. Add rice paper, press a button, add a filling, and voila. The robot costs $19,000. There’s also a machine that makes perfectly shaped rice for nigiri. The robotics help the restaurant supply the roughly 1,000 rolls it sells each day.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

On Star Trek everybody just went to the hole in the wall to order whatever they wished from the replicator. Vending machines defrosting burritos and pizzas isn’t quite on that level but the convenience of obtaining snack foods without having to spend time inside the restaurant will have appeal for a broad swathe of the population. 



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