Canada Day and the 4th of July marks the beginning of summer. At least it does for me. I love this time of year and as a matter of fact, I wish the summer weather could last all year round. I know, the changing seasons are nice and the fall is beautiful so-on and so-on. But I would give up the beauty of the leaves changing colour for not having to scrape ice off the car windshield, shovel the driveway or layer on clothing because you have to endure minus 30 degree weather. I would have no problem going to hockey games wearing shorts and flip flops. I’ve done it many times to watch the Lightning play in Tampa. Trust me, you could get used to it.
Alas, summer is short in Canada, and I think that’s why we will all try to pack in so much over these next few cherished months. From enduring traffic for hours to reach the cottage on a Friday night to the simple pleasure of sitting on a patio somewhere enjoying a few cold one’s with friends. Whatever your plans are for summer, enjoy and be safe. As for me? It’s work and pleasure, with a good measure of pleasure. Based on the first six months of the year, we could all use some pleasure and fun. Looking forward to the dog days of summer.
Until next time
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“Shareholders are rethinking their position in Facebook”
On some level we all believe that certain companies and brands are a sure thing. We think this way without doing any in depth financial analysis. What influences our thinking is our perception of these companies and brands. If companies have been around long enough, and they master the art of brand awareness through advertising, we naturally assume these companies and brands are money makers. We can all name three companies, without damaging any brain cells, that we believe are a sure thing, Apple, Coke-Cola and McDonald’s. No deep contemplation required, it’s right there at the tip of the tongue. The reality is these companies have a storied history, and in Apple’s case, a history of ineptitude or at the very least questionable business decision making. Hard to imagine today by there was a time when you could point to Apple as an example of what not to do as a business. Clearly that’s not the case today, and Apple today is one of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world.
In today’s world brand recognition and awareness does not guarantee a sure thing. There’s been two recent examples of companies who bought into their own brand appeal, and concluded that investors would over-pay for the right to have a piece of the action. I enter into evidence Facebook as exhibit “ A”, and Manchester United as exhibit “B’.
One of the most anticipated IPO’s in recent memory was Facebook. Investors were salivating at the opportunity but not nearly as much as the principles of Facebook. Investment bankers representing Facebook believed that the Facebook brand would lead investors to set aside sound investment principals. It was assumed that investors would pay a premium because it was the Facebook brand. Hubris? Hype? Greed? They all played a part in Facebook initial IPO and present day values. Facebook stock took a major hit last week, and shareholders are rethinking their position in Facebook. Goldman Sachs has a stake worth $900m in Facebook, and they along with Microsoft can sell their stake as of August 16th. What to do? Well, they’ll have to think about Facebook loosing $38.8 billion in market value since the IPO. It’s also estimated that over the next 9 months about 1.9 billion shares will become available as compared to the the fewer than 500 million shares available today. Does the strength of the brand trump supply and demand principals? You don’t have to be Warren Buffet to come up with the right answer.
Is there a sporting franchise with greater brand recognition than Manchester Untied? Soccer may not have the appeal in North America that it does on every other continent but there’s a good chance that even the uninitiated to the wonders of the beautiful game would recognize the name Manchester United. It’s been estimated that United is the most valuable franchise on the planet, get ready for this, worth an estimated $2.3 billion. As sure a thing as it gets. Almost. Manchester United debuted on the New York stock exchange on Friday, anticipating share value to range between $16 to $20. The market spoke and settled in at $14. A partly $100m less than what the owners anticipated, and they’ll have to settle on the $230m which was raised in the IPO. No one is going to shed any tears for the owners of Manchester United and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, the Glazer family. Other than the Glazer family maybe, a debt load of $661m for the soccer team alone is a big number to crack every month.
So what will we make of Facebook and Manchester United’s foray into the world of IPO’s? Well, the principals are worth a lot of money and so are their respective companies. However, it’s clear that investors are not willing to pay an inflated priced for chic alone.
Until next time,
Cheers.Read More Add a Comment
“Italy and Spain will be left with little choice but to plug its nose, open wide and except the bitter medicine. Both Italy and Spain are too big to fail.”
Canada wasn’t the only nation that celebrated this weekend. The Austerity Bowl, better known as Euro 2012 soccer final was played this weekend. The finals were a nice distraction for those of Spanish and Italian decent – that was before the game started. The final wasn’t much of a game because Spain destroyed the Italians on the field. Soccer purists could marvel at Spain’s dominance and breath taking skills. But if it was an exciting game you were looking for, you would have been better off channel surfing. If you missed it the final score it was Spain 4 Italy 0. Ouch!
Prior to Sunday’s final game you couldn’t help but notice the flags of European countries being proudly displayed by motorists. If it’s like this in Toronto and other Canadian cities can you imagine what it must have been like in Spain and Italy leading up to the game?! These two countries could sure use a distraction. Both countries are in dire straits when it comes to their respective economies. Both Spain and Italy’s have had to look for handouts from their European ruler, Germany and the IMF. The only thing missing for the Italian and Spanish President is a piece of cardboard that reads, can you spare a trillion? Spain’s unemployment rate has now reached a shocking 25%, and they can only envy Italy’s 10.2% unemployment rate. Investors view Italy as being much safer than Spain, but that’s like picking your poison. Home sales in Italy have dropped by 20% in 2012, and they cannot service their $2 trillion debt. That being said home prices have remained steady in Italy, and their banks are not nearly exposed as Spanish banks. But Italy’s irresponsible government spending in the last twenty years has given them very little leverage to negotiate favorable loan terms. Italy and Spain will be left with little choice but to plug its nose, open wide and except the bitter medicine. Both Italy and Spain are too big to fail. They are the 8th and 12th largest economies in the world, their neighbor, Germany, cannot afford to let that happen. Greece? A throw away. The two aforementioned countries? Not a chance. Germany will figure out a solution and Italy and Spain will have to accept the terms; Like maybe having Angela Merkel’s picture on all their currency, including coins.
If the fine people of Italy and Spain derived any kind of pleasure prior to the final, good for them. A distraction doesn’t make the problems go away but being able to put aside everyday problems for a brief moment must have been such a relief for them. I suspect that good number of people in Italy and Spain must be envious of us here in Canada. Sure, we have our issues but when compared to other countries around the world they would gladly trade their problems for ours. How fortunate that those of Italian and Spanish nationality get to live in such great countries like Canada. That applies to individuals of every nationality that lives in Canada. Maybe one day everyone will remember to celebrate Canada during international sporting events; something simple, like displaying the Canadian Flag along with your country of origins flag when driving around the city. No one can use the excuse “I didn’t think of that”. The final was played on Canada Day.
Until next time
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Ah, but this time it’s not about casting a vote in a federal, provincial or municipal campaign. We here in Ontario will exercise our democratic right in early October, the pre-set date for the Provincial election in Ontario, the election I’m referring to is the upcoming CAAMP Board election. As someone who has campaigned twice I can assure you the process of getting elected is as political as any other election. It takes organization and a commitment of time and resources to get elected. To all the individuals that have put their names forward to run this year, I commend them for their courage and willingness to volunteer their time for the greater good. (more…)Read More Add a Comment
No…my apologies…it could still be a train. Just when we start to believe that maybe, just maybe, we can get through a couple of days without some pending crisis, BAM, there’s more talk of a double dip recession. I know the press subscribes to the adage, “if it bleeds it leads”‘. The truth is the global economy has taken more bullets than James Caan did in that famous scene in The Godfather, when Sonny was gunned down at a toll booth in New Jersey. Unlike Sonny in the Godfather, the global economy keeps getting up for more.
Here in Canada we got the news that housing starts are down. Job creation has been flat now for two consecutive months. Our unemployment rate inched up to 7.3%. The uptick was ever so slight, but the fractional increase represents real people without jobs. Furthermore, CMHC reported that refinances were down by 40% since the new rules came into effect. When I visit a mortgage broker I always ask them what percentage of their business is refinance versus purchase. One individual stated it was at least a 50/50 split. If that was reflective of all broker business we would be trending to a 20% decrease on year over basis. The picture will become clearer when the Q3 numbers are released, but suffice to say no one should be expecting increase on a year over year basis. As a matter of fact, being flat year over year means you’re gaining share. The BOC stated, the overnight lending rate would remain at 1% until the middle of 2012. Some analysts are suggesting there be no changes until 2013. That’s a clear sign of how fragile our economy is. When rates increase it will be a clear signal that our GDP numbers are headed in the right direction, more Canadian’s are being employed and the markets have stabilized.
President O-Blah-ma was at his oratory best when he spoke to Congress about the new “Jobs Bill”. It was reminiscent of the speeches he gave on the campaign trail, you remember, “Yes We Can!”. I think we’ve all come to the realization that means, Yes We Can…talk a lot…and do very little. The President introduced a “Jobs Bill”, with an omission, how will it be funded? He’s going to get back to Congress on that in a couple of weeks. No rush, all the time in the world. I see there was a $44 billion trade surplus in the U.S. last month. A lower valued U.S. Dollar helps their exports, but when investors look for a safe haven they still flock to the U.S. Dollar. This makes it tough for the U.S. to manipulate their currency (not that they would ever do that). According to the American’s it’s only the Chinese who do that. Bottom line is the U.S. will remain in a quagmire until they fix their housing crisis. It’s a drag on their entire economy.
Some good news is that some austerity measures are taking hold in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. They still have plenty of work to do but at least those countries are taking some positives steps. Greece? It appears that representatives of the Greek Government are still more concerned about holding onto power, rather than introduce real austerity measures which could put them back on the right course. It’s going to get a lot worse in Europe before it gets better.
Finding silver linings today is a bit of a challenge. But every once in a while we find that nugget. Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary made the top 10 cities in the world to live in. From where I sit Canada is THE best country in the world to live in. I wouldn’t trade our problems for any other countries problems. We’ll do our part, but damn it, they got to do theirs.
Until next time
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I think it’s safe to say that summer has finally arrived. I hear the snow melted yesterday in Calgary, and in Vancouver they’re calling for two days of sunshine, in a row. So summer must be around the corner. But you’ll really know when summer is here when Peter Mansbridge begins the National with the following intro; “Greece is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy….the war in Afghanistan rages on … US unemployment rate hits a staggering 14%…But first our top story…Heat Wave Hits Toronto”. And this is the reason why the rest of Canada hates all things Toronto.
Firstly, as Canadian’s we’re fixated on the weather. Have you ever noticed how much time we spend talking about the weather. Yet for some reason the press elevates the weather situation in Toronto. Look, 33 degrees is hot, but when it’s about Toronto, the humidex factor is always added. It’s not enough to say it’s 33 degrees, the reporter has to say “it feels like 46 degrees”. It’s like some kind of bragging right. Here in Toronto we’re equal opportunists. In the winter it’s all about the windchill. When it’s reported that with the windchill it feels like -28 in Toronto, people in Edmonton and Winnipeg roll their eyes and say “bleeping wimps”. When it comes to the weather, Toronto measures itself by how cold or hot it is. The long range forecast for Toronto, I know this because I’m Canadian, calls for a hot and dry summer. So for everyone living outside of Toronto, don’t be surprised if you hear on The National that the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, has called out the military to help us cope with the heat. The military will walk the streets of Toronto with umbrellas to shade us from the sun.
The summer is a great time of the year, but it can pose challenges for business. Firstly, don’t buy into conventional wisdom that business will slow down because it’s summer. Last time I checked bank’s weren’t boarding up branch windows, with a sign posted on the plywood that say’s…”We’ll be back in September”. It’s difficult but you have to remind your staff, and yourself, that it’s business as usual. Secondly, make a commitment to outwork the competition. Most of your competition will check out, mentally or physically. The majority of people will be lured by the distractions that summer brings. When your competition is playing, you have a great opportunity to eat their lunch. Thirdly, accept the fact that your staff wants to enjoy the summer months, but it doesn’t necessarily mean lost productivity. Flexible hours are an option, and you may decide to knock off early on Friday’s. That’s fine as long as everyone is focused throughout the week. The bills got to be paid.
Until next time.
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