Monday 10/05/21

  1. In VACCINES & CRYPTO NEWS, jab rollout helps the UK services sector, we are getting closer to peanut allergy relief and Dogecoin falls
  2. In CAR-RELATED NEWS, Nio bets on battery-swapping, EVs are set to get cheaper and self-driving cars are still a way off
  3. In CONSUMER/RETAIL NEWS, US consumers see prices rise and in the UK, one discount chain plans serious expansion
  4. In INDIVIDUAL COMPANY NEWS, Facebook gets the cold shoulder
  5. AND FINALLY, I bring you an unusual “get well” incentive and a woman with a massive mouth…



So the jab rollout helps the UK economy, a peanut allergy solution gets closer and Dogecoin falls…

Jabs provide boost for service sector (The Times, Alistair Osborne) cites the latest monthly business trends survey from accountancy firm BDO which shows that the successful vaccination programme and lifting of lockdown restrictions has driven confidence in the service sector to its highest level in 14 months. April was the third month in a row where business optimism rose and it all goes to reinforce similar findings from the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

In news on vaccines that aren’t related to the coronavirus, Peanut allergy sufferers offered hope by British plan to test vaccine (Daily Telegraph, Julia Bradshaw) shows that we are potentially closing in on a solution to peanut allergies after British biotech company Allergy Therapeutics announced that it will be conducting human

clinical trials. The jab has worked well on mice, hence the company has moved forward. * SO WHAT? * This is a world first and would be a pioneering development if it works in humans! Don’t get too excited, though – the soonest it could hit the market would be in about four or five years’ time. Still, if it worked it would be the first treatment of this kind and offer hope to thousands of people around the world for whom an allergy to peanuts can lead to death.

Then in Elon Musk on ‘SNL’ says he has Asperger’s, jokes about Dogecoin (Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Elliott and John Jurgensen) we see that Dogecoin traded between 49 cents and 69 cents while he was hosting the Saturday night TV programme (having traded at up to 74 cents in the lead-up) and then fell to around 52 cents after he dubbed Dogecoin “a hustle”. The show was livestreamed in over 100 countries! Hopes that the cryptocurrency will hit $1 were scuppered for the moment (but presumably all it needs to get there is another Elon Musk tweet perhaps!).



Nio banks on swappable batteries and research suggests EVs will be cheaper to make than ICE cars by 2027 but self-driving continues to be out of reach…

In China’s Nio bets on battery swapping in Tesla challenge (Financial Times, Christian Shepherd) we see that Chinese EV maker Nio is banking on battery swapping as being a key attraction when pitted against Tesla for potential buyers. Battery swapping enables drivers to change batteries at special service stations – and is way faster than charging. In April, the company partnered with state-run oil group Sinopec to more than double the current tally of stations in China to 500 this year. Interestingly, it also plans to open such stations in Norway as part of its European expansion plans. Even more interestingly, the Chinese government made battery swapping a condition for getting subsidies on EVs costing Rmb300,000 or more. * SO WHAT? * I personally LOVE this idea. I wrote about it in a note to one of my corporate content clients at the beginning of last year. Basically, you drive into one of these stations, give your keys to the Nio employee, they jack up your car, swap the battery and – hey presto – you’re ready to roll! The company even launched a subscription plan for batteries last year giving you a car for a $10,000 discount from the purchase price. I think this is genius. In my ideal world (!) you could have these stations at existing service areas AND you could potentially have a mobile option where you have vans travelling to stranded motorists to swap their batteries over. The thing is, though, that for this to REALLY work well, you’d have to standardise batteries across makers and I don’t think they would like that because it would commoditise batteries that they’ve spent years sinking money into. Still, this would be my EV battery fantasy! 

Electric cars ‘will be cheaper to produce than fossil fuel vehicles by 2027’ (The Guardian, Joanna Partridge) cites forecasts from BloombergNEF which say that EVs and vans will be cheaper to produce than conventional vehicles by 2027 as more resources are put into their production. The current pre-tax average retail price of a mid-sized electric car is €33,300 versus €18,600 for a petrol car, but this will reach parity at €19,000 in 2026. This estimate is more conservative than other forecasts – UBS reckons parity will be achieved by 2024. Interestingly, a study commissioned by Transport & Environment, a European non-profit, reckons that new battery prices will drop by 58% over the course of this decade. * SO WHAT? * Clearly T&E is biased (it is a group that campaigns for cleaner transport in Europe, after all) but I think that the general message is clear. As things stand, I think that there are two main hurdles to buying an EV at the moment in the UK. One is lack of faith in the current state of the charging network and the other is the initial price (it’s too expensive). Once these things get solved, mass-adoption will occur IMO. Battery prices and technological improvements will be key.

Then in Musk’s claim hits bump (Daily Telegraph, James Titcomb) we see that Musk’s previous claims about its cars being able to drive themselves have been contradicted by Tesla employees, according to documents that came from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Musk keeps banging on about self-driving cars and he once said that a Tesla will be able to drive itself across the US unaided by the end of 2017. The documents were obtained by investigative website Plainsite under freedom of information laws. * SO WHAT? * As many of you will know by now I am hugely sceptical of the mass-adoption of ANYTHING self-driving on our roads. There are so many moral, legal and insurance risks that until the tech is perfected AND THAT IT IS WIDELY ADOPTED, it just won’t be workable. Clearly Musk is a genius with goals that most of us cannot even conceive of – but that doesn’t mean to say that he is right 100% of the time!



US consumers are encountering higher prices while a British discount chain aims to expand…

Further to all that recent chat about inflation in the US, Higher prices leave consumers feeling the pinch (Wall Street Journal, Jaewon Kang) shows that American consumers are facing higher prices as the economy gathers momentum. Research from NielsenIQ, shows that products like freezers, dishwashers and various garden products are rising and I mentioned last week rising prices for basic foodstuffs, which are now being passed on to the end consumer. * SO WHAT? * Fed chief Jerome Powell is sticking with his stance that these big price rises are temporary as lockdown lifting euphoria washes through the market, but I really think that the next few months will see a huge upswing in economic activity on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite what the central bankers are saying I am happy with my rather risky prediction that interest rates will rise in the US and/or UK THIS year in order to take some of the heat out 😁.

Back in the UK, Discount chain plans 50 new stores (The Times, Ashley Armstrong) highlights the plans of a discount chain called JTF Central, which is about to open its first store in Hull as part of a rollout of 50 shops across Britain. If it manages to do this, the company claims that it will create 2,000 new jobs. It will require customers to be members (like Costco) and sell a wide range of goods. It aims to differentiate itself by introducing live demonstration of toys and themed food promotions, among other things. * SO WHAT? * It sounds to me like an opportunistic punt on retail, taking advantage of low rents and rent-free deals from landlords. Despite a lot of current comment being about consumers who’ve managed to save loads of money and are itching to spend it when lockdown lifts, there are a lot of people out there who have really suffered financially and I think that such an initiative could fly, especially if it tries to give itself a proper identity. Best of luck to it, I say! 



Facebook is dented by Apple’s privacy measures…

In Facebook blow as iPhone users reject app tracking (Daily Telegraph, James Titcomb) we see that the social media giant is one of many other digital advertisers who have really suffered from Apple’s new privacy controls as early data shows that most iPhone users are saying no to having their online activity tracked across different apps. According to app data company Flurry, 87% of users with the latest iOS update are NOT opting in to tracking – and

it’s even higher in the US at 95%! * SO WHAT? * OK, so it’s early days yet and people could well opt back in, but Facebook said that this development will be a significant headwind to the prospects for its advertising business. FWIW, Facebook is still the daddy in advertising, so I think that ad clients are just going to have to get used to poorer quality data. If that is the case, “traditional” advertisers might benefit because one of the main advantages digital advertising has over things like billboards, TV ads etc is that the data is much better, enabling more efficient targeting of target audiences. That advantage has now been reduced, so they may be able to benefit.



…in other news…

There are times in our lives that we need that extra little incentive to push us towards our goals. I would say that this is a rather unusual example: Paralysed man makes miracle recovery – so he can kick his friend in the balls (The Mirror, John Bett). I mean, this is not an option I would choose to offer if I knew someone in the same situation…and then there’s someone who revels in having a “special power” in Woman with ‘world’s biggest mouth’ fits in large McDonald’s fries in one go (The Mirror, Emma Rosemurgey). Just…why?!?

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Some of today’s market, commodity & currency moves (as at 0741hrs green is up, red is down). THIS IS INTENDED AS A ROUGH GUIDE ONLY!

FTSE 100 *Dow Jones *S&P 500 *Nasdaq*DAX *CAC-40 *Nikkei **Shanghai **
7,130 (+0.76%)34,777.76 (+0.66%)4,232.6 (+0.74%)13,752.24 (+0.88%)15,400 (+1.34%)6,386 (+0.45%)29,518 (+0.55%)3,428 (+0.27%)
Oil (WTI) p/bOil (Brent) p/bGold Per t/oz£/$€/$$/¥£/€$/₿

(markets with an * are at yesterday’s close, ** are at today’s close)