Financial Markets

Sports Illustrated defines our woke age

You have to hand it to society nowadays. So desperate are people to appear virtuous they will go above and beyond to prove themselves worthy. Sports awards tend to be a mix of on-field performance and off-field service to promote the game for the greater good.

Megan Rapinoe has won the Sports Illustrated 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. Yes, the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) has won the Soccer World Cup back to back. It is an admirable achievement even though the USWNT were defeated 5-2 by a bunch of 14yo boys from Dallas.

260m watched the Women’s Soccer World Cup final in 2019. The 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia saw 1.12bn tune in for the final. 4.3x the audience. Sponsors are well aware of this and tailor advertising dollars accordingly. If the women’s teams garnered more eyeballs, we can be guaranteed women would be paid more.

Unfortunately, Rapinoe is such a dreadful role model for children even though she ticks the diversity and LGBT boxes. Her profanity-laden victory parade speech (in front of kids) after the World Cup win (from 6:30 in the video) was all class. All about identity politics and screaming for “equal pay” even though the stats reveal the USWNT gets more funding than the men’s team (USMNT). The USMNT generates more revenues, despite the poorer results.

Yet Rapinoe defines the age. All about equal pay regardless of revenue generated. Perhaps every soccer player in the world should be benchmarked against Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus. Perhaps his 81mn Twitter followers and talent allow him to charge a premium for his services which the market is willing to bear i.e. $108mn in 2019. Neymar should be up in arms for the pithy $90m at Real Madrid! Surely those on the bench should be protesting the fact they aren’t on an even playing field! Equal Pay, Equal Pay!

If Sports Illustrated truly wanted to brand a female success story in sports against the odds and shove it in the face of the white patriarchy, they could have championed the brilliance of 21yo Spanish rider Ana Carrasco, who became the first-ever woman to win a world motorcycle racing championship competing alongside men. She won the World Supersport 300s crown. If there was ever a better display of rising to a challenge in a sport dominated by males, this was it! She beat them all! More than that she embodies great sportsmanship.

CM wrote in January about her first-ever race win last year on equal machines with the boys. Shows that grit, determination and skill can make the difference without this recent desire to throw handicaps to even it out. Great job indeed to win on identical bikes.

Rapinoe is a talent in her own right. No one can dispute that. It is just a shame that it comes with all unnecessary identity politics based bluster.

Perhaps Sports Illustrated should heap lashings of praise on the Football Federation of Australia’s (FFA) kneeling at the altar of political correctness by carrying through with equal pay. Little does the FFA realise that pandering to social justice does nothing to win over fans. Because if the right talent isn’t paid accordingly, an overseas league will quickly bid the best players away and hollow out the local market. Attendance will drop and the revenues and sponsorship dollars will dry up with it. Doesn’t require rocket science.

The Aussie women’s Matildas achieved a peak crowd attendance of 16,829. The men’s Socceroo team saw 77,060 supporters at ANZ Stadium on 15 November 2018. 4.6x more fans watched the men’s national team over the women’s. It is nothing to do with gender. Fans prefer watching the men’s game, including women. Because of that, sponsors are willing to pay for greater exposure.

That isn’t casting aspersions on the female players per se. It is just that sports will always be driven by the sponsorship dollar. In certain fields, men get paid more than women. Perhaps male supermodels should take umbrage that Kate Moss gets paid multiples more for the same job.

If Mitsubishi studied pigs and aviation closer

In 2007, CM suggested that the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) was doomed to failure at the concept stage.

All the tea leaves were there to be read. A simple study of the widely available Boeing & Airbus 20-yr commercial market forecasts at the time revealed how the regional jet market was set to shrink 40% in favour of larger jets.

Yet the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp (MAC) pushed on ahead regardless hoping for a 20% share of a collapsing market. What would possess a company to target a dying segment with a product that wasn’t a game changer? A plane that promised to use composites to reduce weight yet was forced back to conventional alloys and to resize because customers had no demand for the original design.

With 90% of the regional market occupied by Bombardier and Embraer, airlines get great efficiencies by sticking to the same brands during upgrade cycles – minimal marginal costs required to train ground staff and pilots. For airlines to pursue a brand new aircraft that offered little in terms of superior economics nor extensive after sales services, it was always going to be the Achilles’ heel for MAC.

Airlines would not only take on extra costs to train existing staff, but would run huge financial risks with leased MRJ’s (now called the Spacejet to rebrand the failure) if they needed to downsize fleets because there would be next to no other airlines to sell or release them to unlike Bombardier & Embraer. Pilots who chose to be certified to fly the Spacejet also risked limited career options if an airline collapsed.

So it is refreshing to read this great summary on Wolf Street of how terribly the aircraft program is (not) progressing in 2019.

It would make a great Harvard Business Review study on how not to crack into a market.

Rugby Australia chokes on its own incompetence

IZZY.png

After exchanging a politically correct, vomit-inducing and nose-bleedingly insincere prepared statement drafted by professional media consultants -not lost on anyone – the fact remains that Rugby Australia (RA) is the loser in the Israel Folau saga. We can forget the original source of the dismissal and the rights and wrongs of it. If RA thought it had a proper case, the legal fees (which it claimed were worth saving and settling out of court) would have been way less than the $10m payout he was demanding. So much for supporting the very communities the RA plasters all over its website.

The outcome was the result of management incompetence in thinking that appearing woke trumped legal due process. In full knowledge that Folau had a $1.6mn war chest (courtesy of Christians, free speech advocates and rugby fans alike) to take up the case against his former employer, the board was forced to buckle and issue an apology to the former rugby star, which would never have been necessary if it had a smidgen of judgment in the beginning.

RA CEO Raelene Castle can laugh off “wildly inaccurate” speculation on the $8mn rumoured settlement but the fact is the board knows the exact amount. Israel and Maria Folau wouldn’t have been grinning like Cheshire cats were he to have signed away for less than his rescinded contract. It will be fascinating to see the composition of the 2019/20 reported figures that will be published in due course. Expect some accounting trickery to fudge it into the numbers.

Castle said a few months back that the franchise could weather paying out Izzy Folau’s $10m claim. Although CM is not sure that paying out $10m + costs – which would wipe out almost 2/3rds of the $18mn in cash on the balance sheet – is something a CEO should think is worth boasting about. What she has long needed to focus on is arresting the declining operating performance. Yet she stated emphatically that the RA won’t have to make changes to the budget. Maybe her lawyers pieced together a multi-year drawdown of the sum to be paid to smooth out the ultimate impact. 

The RA franchise is the laughing stock of the rugby world. So transparent is the lack of accountability, woeful internal coordination and deteriorating financial results that it requires nothing more than a drastic overhaul if the entity is to thrive.

Former coach Michael Cheika let loose that it was no secret he had no relationship with the CEO and a very poor one with Chairman Cameron Clyne. This coming from the very individual running by far the biggest RA franchise. Despite possessing by far the worst performance record of any Wallabies coach, management persevered with a man who didn’t have a leg to stand on but cast aspersions on the executive team.

Therein lies the problem. RA can push all of the woke causes (e.g. LGBTQI+, gender equality) it likes, but if the ultimate end customer derives no value from it, it is a fruitless exercise which can’t escape the scrutiny of the free market come time to pay bills.

Castle may believe that this was a commercial decision for the sake of providing certainty. Had she done the right thing from the start she could have avoided getting embroiled in a scandal that has exposed the poor governance within.

Isn’t it odd that the LGBT activists are now attacking the very institution that set out to promote them – RA. CM has never thought much of his tweets but the reaction to them has been so over the top. The faux outrage mob finds oppression in everything.

Castle should resign and if she won’t the board should fire her despite her defiance against the bleeding obvious – she is in over her head. Fans won’t return with the status quo.

Get woke, go broke.

EU climate emergency vote is way worse than you think

What took the group thinking EU so long? What better way to justify more taxation and wealth redistribution than to declare a “climate emergency”? What you are about to read is a perfect explanation of how little credibility exists in the European Parliament (EuroParl).

In black and white, EuroParl noted,

EU countries should at least double their contributions to the international Green Climate Fund, Parliament says. EU member states are the largest providers of public climate finance and the EU’s budget should fully comply with its international commitments. They also note that pledges by developed countries do not meet the collective goal of 100 billion USD per year as of 2020…Finally, they urgently call on all EU countries to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2020.

Now, this is where it gets curious. Take a look at this file (from page 8) and ask yourself, how many amendments to resolutions within the “climate emergency” conversation were rejected supporting the overall declaration passing 429 in favour, 215 against, 19 abstaining?

Here is one amendment that was rejected 95, 563, 9 by MEPs (you can’t make this stuff up),

Recalls that climate change is one of the many challenges facing humanity and that
all states and stakeholders worldwide must do their utmost to measure it
scientifically so that policy, and especially spending, is based on observable facts and not on apocalyptic fearmongering or unreliable models; emphasises that there is
no scientific consensus on what percentage of climate change is anthropogenic and
what percentage is natural

Seems fair enough! Basing decisions affecting 550 million constituents on real hard data is the right thing to do, no? Clearly not. Shut up and follow the religious cult and demand followers cough up twice as much into the collections pot. The lobbyists must be well pleased.

Or,

“Text as a whole without the words: ‘urgently’, ‘and implement’ and ‘to net-zero
emissions by 2050″ defeated 101, 555, 15.

Isn’t it striking that the majority of MEPs won’t even consciously vote in favour of making sure funds are spent appropriately? Nope, bow down and shut up. Otherwise face being cut off as we get to observe from the EuroParl documents below.

This is what an MEP from Northern Ireland, Claire Fox, had to say,

Madam President, I voted against the climate and environmental emergency motion because I’m really concerned at the hyped-up anti-science scaremongering that’s terrifying young people, telling them that billions will die, that there’ll be a collapse of civilisation, a lot of the rhetoric coming out of Extinction Rebellion and echoed in the debate over the last few days. I think that the fact that we voted against an amendment today that said that we should be committed to bringing the environmental subject back to rational discussion, and we rejected it, admits that actually, we’re having an irrational discussion. This becomes advocacy and propaganda, rather than science. There’s no scientific evidence from the IPCC or anyone else about the extinction of humanity, and we should be very careful about claiming that anthropological climate changes cause floods and droughts, which we have been doing quite casually during the last few days. In fact, the IPCC says that such issues are probably caused by socio-economic conditions, and we forget socio-economic conditions too much and demand, in fact, as this Parliament has done, decarbonisation, which will lead to eco-austerity, massive price hikes in energy, and ordinary working people paying the cost for scaremongering and...

(The President cut off the speaker)

or another Northern Irish MEP Robert Rowland,

Madam President, I’d just like to reiterate what my colleague said. I also rejected the COP24 resolution. I may not be an Economics Professor, but I do profess to understand economics. They also call it the dismal science, but when it comes to the climate emergency, I would describe the apocalyptic forecasts as nothing but science fiction. The adoption of these policies today, and the aim of carbon neutrality by 2050 is nothing short of reckless and the most extreme example of economic illiteracy I’ve ever seen. The fact that amendments were rejected demanding a full impact assessment shows rank indifference to the cost and practicality of aggressive climate policies.

One thing I can say for certain is that the impact of net-zero makes the consequence of any form of Brexit look puny by comparison. Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy and Economics at Oxford University, was right when he said: ‘We should be honest that it is a huge industrial undertaking, and it will have significant cost. These are enormous industrial activities, there is nothing in history that looks like this outside of wartime.

In my own country, our own Chancellor has put that cost at over one trillion pounds, or almost 2% of GDP per annum. It is an insane policy.

If the EU truly wishes to make itself even less competitive, in the face of some of the world’s highest electricity prices, they are only self-flagellating in an already flailing economy which continues to slow to 5-year lows. If the EU truly looked at its record since 2007, it would see its policies have delivered 40 million more people into poverty, a number which totals 118 million people, or 23% of the EU population!

If there was ever a bigger load of intellectual dishonesty posted by the EU it would be this. It states that,

Climate emergency declarations in 1,195 jurisdictions and local governments cover 545 million citizens with 53 million of those living in the United Kingdom. This means in Britain now roughly 80 per cent of the population lives in areas that have declared a climate emergency.

The irony if such a statement is that there is no way in the world that 545 million citizens are in agreement within those 1,195 jurisdictions. 53mn Brits? Seriously? In Australia’s case, many declaring climate emergencies have been local green-left councils who have made idle gestures without backing it up with realities. Constituents have not been asked. Windfarm plans for Warringah are not on the agenda.

The greatest irony with the EU is that they classify biomass (which is more polluting than coal) as a renewable and gives it a zero-carbon emission weighting provided a tree is planted per tree burnt. Sadly trees take 40 years to fully grow to be able to offset that produced. However, we will discover that the fine print taketh away the wonderful headlines.

Will the Poles ditch their coal industry to comply or face savage reprisals from Brussels? Will the EU guarantee Poland gets huge subsidies to pay for its termination? Which country would be so blind as to put their livelihoods into the hands of the EU!? The Greeks might have a view as do the Brits.

This action will spectacularly blow up.

By all means ride the short term wave of renewables stocks but be sure to line up all of those nasty fossil fuel companies into the portfolio that get pummeled by financial markets because the type of economic disaster that will beset the EU will only create the conditions where the peons will revolt and force a return to the way things were. Efficient, cheap and reliable forms of energy that will make a proper dent in the poverty line rather than promises and handouts.

The EU needs to learn the lesson that “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” It won’t be long before the youth of today get to embrace their love for socialism. Experience is a hard teacher. They’ll get the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Scorched house climate policy?

As 30cm of snow fell on Falls Creek yesterday (i.e. summer), Mother Nature proved yet again she is full of surprises. To think that giving loads of money to the UN can somehow change her stubborn ways is rather obtuse.

Less of a surprise was a protestor, Melinda Plesman, who brought parts of her burnt down house to attack the PM Scott Morrison for allowing the climate crisis to happen. Forget that the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) reports consistently that c.85% of fires are either deliberately, accidentally or suspiciously lit. Forget that multiple children have been found responsible for lighting these recent mega-fires. Just blame climate change, even though the Western Australian fire service notes on its own website that there is no evidence of such. CM wrote about that here.

Maybe Plesman could reflect on the internal politics within the upper echelons of the fire services? Not so much the rank and file (supposedly wife-beating) front line firefighters but the bureaucrats who make daft decisions such as buying a Boeing 737 fire-bomber which can only be used at 4 airports rendering it highly inflexible (as much as it’s a great political sales point) or a military helicopter which spends 5hrs in the maintenance shed for every hour it is in the field working. Or replacing 1-yo trucks with brand new ones because records are poorly kept? Or inadequate removal of fuel from the bush floor?

While it is completely understandable Plesman and 100s of others like her, are devastated that their houses have burnt to the ground, had Scott Morrison erected 1000s of wind turbines and solar parks since he took over the top job, it would not have made the slightest dent in the 1.3% of global emissions that makes up Australia’s share of the global total, nor have prevented these fires.

PM Morrison should arrange his RAAF jet to take Plesman to Beijing to tell President Xi that he is to blame for causing c.30% of global human-made GHG emissions and rising. She can then openly criticise Chinese policy that won’t approve new renewables projects unless they are cheaper than burning coal. What a surprise such investments are c.40% down on the previous year in China. What a shock that China has 100s of new coal-fired power plants on the drawing board?

It is easy to forget that Australia ranks #3 in the world for renewables spending per capita. We spent $9.5bn on clean energy last year, almost twice as much as France with its Paris Climate Accord loving Macron at the helm.

Unfortunately, it is too easy to capitulate to the cabal of climate change activism. Submit to the script of 11,000 signatories, despite the fact it included the likes of Mickey Mouse, Albus Dumbledore and Araminta Aardvark. Ignore that a recent major scientific paper, which claimed to have found rapid warming in the oceans as a result of manmade global warming, was withdrawn after an amateur climate scientist found major errors in its statistical methodology. Or the accident-prone Bureau of Meteorology and its 85% senior management structure which is in dire need of a thorough investigation.

Alarmists love to hate the coal industry. Plesman expressed her disdain too. It is a line often pushed by the climate change movement that Australia is responsible for the emissions caused by those who burn our black rocks overseas. By that measure, perhaps we should blame the Japanese, Koreans and Europeans for all of the emissions caused by the production and use of the 1,150,000+ cars we buy but are required to import each year? Or the Americans and Europeans for the commercial aircraft that belch all that nasty CO2? Or manufacturers of mobile devices and computer periphery? Maybe all the solar panels and wind towers, often built with raw materials from the fossil fuel industry?

CM honestly feels sorry for Plesman and others that have suffered such losses from these devastating bushfires but it doesn’t absolve them of getting to grips with the facts. She can be absolutely sure that even if Australia went 100% renewable and stopped exporting coal, that severe bushfires will continue to plague our future. As the WA Gov’t’s Bushfire Front states, “The only factor we can control is the large contiguous accumulations of fuel. Therefore, broadscale fuel reduction burning is the only defence we have against large wildfires. This will not prevent fires occurring, but it will ensure fires are less intense, are easier and safer to control and will do less damage...Experienced firefighters do not fear a 40-degree day per se. This is because even on a hot day, a fire in one or two-year old fuel can be controlled; on the same day a fire in 20-year old fuels with high winds would usually be unstoppable.

Fair Dinkum Virtue Signaling

Atlasssian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has been a huge advocate of renewables. So much so he has stated he wants to be a net exporter of wind and solar. Fair Dinkum Power (FDP), the company he helped set up, had a manifesto which stated the following,

We are a movement. We are a brand for Australia’s energy future. We are a rallying cry for all who believe in the power of the wind, the sun, the waves and – most importantly – the power of the people of Australia.

For energy to be fair dinkum, it must be honestly good for our wallets, good for our economy and good for our planet.

So to CM’s surprise today, the AFR noted,

“The Atlassian co-founder applied to deregister Australian Fair Dinkum Power Pty Ltd on November 27, almost exactly a year after he set it up in response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison referring to coal as “fair dinkum power” in comparison to solar or wind.

A spokesperson for the Rich Lister said the Fair Dinkum Power cause, which advocates for Australia to be 100 per cent powered by renewables and export as much again, would live on in the form of a website, an online petition (which has more than 90,000 signatories) and a Facebook page.

The company never undertook any business activity and the spokesperson said there had never been any intention to start any, despite rumours that Mr Cannon-Brookes would launch a retail energy supplier under the Fair Dinkum banner.

One can only imagine that the realities of the free market meant that it was never going to be good for wallets or the economy. CM awaits the media to conduct a full investigation into this sad outcome with all the gusto they did at FDP’s inception.

Fair Dinkum Virtue Signaling!

It was only several months ago that Mike Cannon-Brookes (MCB) was on a campaign to get the already left-leaning board of BHP to ditch ties with groups like the Minerals Council of Australia. But why?

CM believes that nothing shows the prosecution of a cause than leading from the front. MCB should use the might of Atlassian’s $32 bn market cap and seek to buy a controlling stake in BHP whereby it can behave like an activist shareholder and achieve those goals from within. A bit rich to demand a company like BHP fold to the whims of another listed corporate which has no direct business with it. That would be terrible governance for BHP to pay MCB any mind.

How would MCB react if BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie turned around and demanded that Atlassian cut ties with ANZ for being embroiled in the Hayne Banking Royal Commission? MCB would rightly tell him to take a hike.

One doubts that MCB has much of his superannuation buried in BHP shares but why pick on the Minerals Council of Australia? After all, if he had a good look at what Australia’s mineral industry enables, Atlassian should be a backer not a knocker. Why not influence the debate by being part of it?

Here is a list of 30 things Australian minerals companies provide, including vital materials used in wind farms and solar panels, the very forms of renewable energy MCB wants Atlassian to rely on 100% to power its future. MCB’s Tesla is reliant on Aussie minerals to make the batteries. So does his smartphone, tablets, laptops and desktops. And so do the white goods that chill his food and the copper pipes that deliver hot water in his lovely mansion in Sydney. His dentist uses those minerals to maximise his oral hygiene.  The list goes on.

No one can take away the success MCB has achieved in the corporate sphere. However, it would appear that being an expert in the software world doesn’t always translate to being a sage on the environment much less hold any authority to dictate the boardroom discussions of a company that is more crucial to its existence than the other way around.

Harvey Norman Derangement Syndrome

img_1728

CM attended today’s Harvey Norman (HVN) AGM as an observer. This was a 2-hr lesson in HVN Derangement Syndrome by a handful of shareholder activists.

Two key takeaways – 1) there was overwhelming shareholder support for reappointments to the board, & 2) agitator and activist Stephen Mayne did little more than draw the ire of the audience as he rattled off what he believed to be a value-added commentary on the company’s approach to governance and supposed lack of independence, neither which he made a credible case for.

The ultimate irony expressed by Mr Mayne was his confession that he and his proxies would be voting FOR the reappointment of CEO Katie Page as a director, despite his constant interjections at the questionable state of governance at the firm. Seems 91% of shareholders want her to stay. Hardly a vote of no confidence.  Surely if he believed the board is the worst on the ASX for governance, why own shares at all? Crikey!

The flipside was the proposal for Mayne’s appointment to the HVN board received a 91% rejection by shareholders, reflective of their desire to maintain a winning formula. Chairman Gerry Harvey quipped, “who are the 8% of shares that voted for you?

Perhaps the area of focus by the media will be when Gerry Harvey decided to demolish Mayne by running through his trail of digital footprints, including one which described the activist ranking Aussie female politicians by looks with lewd comments such as “oozing sex and fun”, “very very tasty” and “dark, sensual and very attractive.” The chairman questioned whether Mayne was a “sexual predator?” Inappropriate? Whatever one’s personal view, Harvey and most present won’t be losing any sleep over it. Mayne can’t complain at being deprived of time on the microphone. Harvey was harsh but more than fair. It was not lost on anyone.

Mayne said to the media afterwards that, “He’s the worst in the market for governance and he’s only proved it here.” CM only hopes for more Gerry Harvey’s in the market. The leaders that don’t bend to all of the ridiculous woke causes which prioritise irrelevant factors over shareholder returns. As we pointed in an earlier CM, those industry super funds which prioritise social responsibility have all underperformed the ASX200.

It was hard not to be impressed by the global expansion. Katie Page ran through the enhanced footprint throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Ireland, Croatia and the poshing up of stores domestically to a premium standard.

This company has 18% compound returns since its listing. Dividend yield at present is 8%. One for the SMSF. This is a quality business. Management has conviction. There is a tangible track record.

Who on earth would want the likes of an activist who has now been rejected 50 out of 50 times to join ASX boards to occupy a spot at HVN? With such a resounding defeat, will Mayne sell his minuscule shareholding and move on? There are plenty of companies that will indulge Mayne’s desire for woke practices. This was nothing more than a display of Harvey Norman Derangement Syndrome.