Thursday 14/11/19

  1. In TECH NEWS, we see Google try banking, how our health data gets shared, Tencent’s weaker profits and the new Twitter/Facebook from Wikipedia
  2. In ELECTRIC VEHICLE NEWS, Tesla’s Musk attacks Brexit and Chinese EV start-up raises $400m
  3. In INDIVIDUAL COMPANY NEWS, British Land is the latest retailer landlord to see its property values slide while Mulberry reports losses
  4. In OTHER NEWS, I bring you…Rod Stewart’s train set 🤔



So Google looks at banking and we look at how healthcare data is shared, Tencent’s weakening profits and Wikipedia’s new “Twitter”…

Next in Google’s quest for consumer dominance: banking (Wall Street Journal, Peter Rudegeair and Liz Hoffman) shines a light on Google’s Next Big Thing – offering checking accounts to consumers in a project code-named “Cache” (#cleverwordplay). The venture is due to launch next year with accounts being run by Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union and marks the latest attempt by a tech company to move into banking and/or banking-related activities. Checking accounts aren’t that s3xy on the face of it, but if Google can convince people to take up this offer the company will have access to some very useful information like how much people get paid, what they buy and what bills they get. * SO WHAT? * Although it’ll be very much the banks’ branding on this product, I would have thought that the public is going to find it hard to trust anything with the Google name on it when it comes to personal data at the moment – especially as its secret Project Nightingale, where it has access to a huge amount of medical records, has just been revealed. Interestingly, a recent survey conducted by consultancy firm McKinsey showed that 58% of respondents would trust financial products from Google – which puts the company ahead of Apple and Facebook but behind Amazon. Having said that, I don’t know whether this was carried out before or after the Project Nightingale revelation. Overall, I think this is an interesting development as it adds extra functionality to the existing Google Pay (which is on course to having 100 million users globally in 2020) but it remains to be seen whether users want to trust it with a deeper level of personal financial information.

Talking about sensitive data, How top health websites are sharing sensitive data with advertisers (Financial Times, Madhumita Murgia and Max Harlow) shows just how much personal data is being shared between WebMD, Healthline, Babycentre and Bupa and ad-giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Oracle as the Financial Times carried out a very revealing investigation.  79% of the sites dropped cookies allowing third-party companies to track individuals on the internet without the user consent that is required in the UK. Google’s advertising division DoubleClick was the main destination for the data by far, (showing up on 78% of the sites tested) with Amazon in

second place (on 48%) followed by Facebook, Microsoft and AppNexus. The data shared drug names, symptoms, menstrual and ovulation cycle information and in some cases came with an identifier meaning that the information could be tracked to an individual 😱😱😱 * SO WHAT? * This is an absolute shocker – and should result in some serious investigation by the government and other relevant authorities. It looks like the things that Google is doing in Project Nightingale are just the tip of the iceberg! I really recommend you read this article in its entirety – and there is a shocking graphic on there which shows where all the data goes. Wow (but in a bad way). I would imagine that lawyers will do well out of this as surely there will be a deluge of nervous, sweaty clients seeking advice to make sure they are complying with regulations on this otherwise things could turn quite nasty IMO.

In Tencent profits fall as threat from Alibaba grows (Financial Times, Ryan McMorrow) we see that the Chinese tech behemoth suffered in the third quarter with sales falling short of market expectations due to a sluggish economy, intensive competition in advertising, more onerous government regulation and interference in its gaming and online businesses. * SO WHAT? * This was clearly not a great performance by Tencent, but the company’s chief strategy officer said that falling ad revenues will improve and revenues at its fintech business, which includes the WeChat Pay mobile payments division, were up by 36% from the previous year. Still, the company faces a number of potential bumps in the road with ongoing niggles with NBA streaming (a tweet from the team manager of the Houston Rockets supporting the Hong Kong protests went down very badly in China), continued interference in their gaming business (authorities imposing playing limits for minors etc.) and its arch-rival Alibaba potentially making a splash as it prepares for a secondary listing in Hong Kong.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales launches Twitter and Facebook rival (Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw) highlights the advent of a new social media channel, called WT:Social, that was launched last month and lets users share links to articles and discuss them in a Facebook-like newsfeed. The idea is that this will be done without advertising and it will be supported by donations, as per the Wikipedia model. Wales said that he wanted to embark on this new venture because “The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic. It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content”. * SO WHAT? * It’ll be interesting to see whether this works without advertising – but good luck to him. I just registered on it to have a look but it doesn’t look all that at this stage. Maybe worth revisiting to see how it develops.



Musk attacks Brexit and an Alibaba-backed EV start-up raises $400m…

Following on from the news that Tesla is opening a new gigafactory in Berlin, Brexit fears drove Tesla’s giant factory to Germany (The Times, James Dean) says that Brexit uncertainty pushed Elon Musk to choose Germany over the UK for its first European megafactory. * SO WHAT? * Really?? Surely we were never in consideration – but it just turns the knife in the back of British car manufacturing employees who are losing their jobs as companies abandon the UK. He said he chose Germany for his Gigafactory 4 (Gigafactory 1 is near Reno, Nevada and Gigafactory 2 is in Buffalo, New York and Gigafactory 3 is in Shanghai) because “everyone knows that German

engineering is outstanding”.

Alibaba-backed Chinese electric vehicle start-up Xpeng raises $400m (Financial Times, Mercedes Ruehl) shows that the Alibaba and Foxconn-backed Xpeng Motors managed to raise a chunky amount of money from investors despite EV minnows having a tough time of things at the moment. This is all in preparation for Xpeng’s launch next year of its second model, the P7 sedan. It is believed that this equates to an implied valuation of nigh on $4bn for the company. * SO WHAT? * This all sounds lovely, but the fact is that it doesn’t matter who your backers are – you can still get neck-deep in do-do when making electric cars. A backdrop of weakening car sales, a withdrawal of EV subsidies in June and a broader economic slowdown doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but the company will just have to cross its fingers and hope that the money doesn’t run out before sales start to get to decent levels.



British Land is the latest landlord to quantify their retail-related suffering and Mulberry reports losses…

In a quick scoot around other news today, Value of British Land retail properties slides by over 10% (The Guardian, Julia Kollewe) highlights the latest retail landlord to see the value of its property portfolio slide due to retailer tenants going bust or asking to pay lower rents. Land Securities and Intu have also been in a similar nightmare – but I can’t see this getting better any time soon because even if they want to trim their portfolios, who are they going to sell to? Overseas investors may well step in here and bag a few bargains (especially with cheap sterling and low loan rates currently).

Then Mulberry reports £11m losses despite efforts to win younger customers (The Guardian, Sarah Butler) shows that losses at the luxury British brand have increased as more discounting dented sales in the UK, which account for 65% of the business. Chief exec Thierry Andretta sounded quite ominous when he said “The consumer is more and more waiting, in the market in general, for the promotional sales period. The UK is more and more similar to what’s been happening for a long time in the US”. This doesn’t sound good going into Christmas!



And finally, in other news…

Ever wondered what Rod Stewart does in his downtime? Me neither, but you have to admire his work in Sir Rod Stewart unveils model railway he worked on for 25 years (Sky News, This thing is AMAZING 😮

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Some of today’s market, commodity & currency moves (as at 0856hrs 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 **
7,351 (-0.19%)27,784 (+0.33%)3,094 (+0.07%)8,48213,230 (-0.40%)5,907 (-0.21%)23,142 (-0.76%)2,911 (+0.18%)
Oil (WTI) p/bOil (Brent) p/bGold Per t/oz£/$€/$$/¥£/€$/₿

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