British hypocrisy

Not so Nice

On the day of the terrorist attack in Nice, Fatima Manji was scheduled to present the evening news on Britain’s Channel 4. The newsreader roster had been prepared 10 days earlier.

As one might surmise from the name, Fatima is Muslim. So was the terrorist.

Purely coincidental one might assume; but Fatima’s faith prompted an outburst by Kelvin MacKenzie.

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Heading for Brexit?

Hold on, it may never happen

So on Thursday 23 June 2016 a majority of British voters chose the Brexit option. This unexpected result has caused major ripples across the globe.

The next step is for the UK prime minister to invoke Article 50, following which two years of negotiations take place and then Britain (or, more accurately, the United Kingdom – see the box below) leaves the EU unless there is unanimous agreement amongst the remaining states to extend exit negotiations.

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Google breakup? Now Europe gets it wrong

On the Internet four years behind USA as usual

Now the European Parliament has weighed into the battle, four years behind the US Consumer Watchdog, calling for a resolution that Google be broken up.

See this NYTimes blog article, for example.

This is going over old ground … very old ground.

We discussed it here.

Four and a half years later our opinion is Read more

No protective father figures

But non-protective mothers seem to be everywhere you look

The latest harrowing report of what appears to be a misapplication of the intent of the law requiring adults to protect children from abuse has been widely reported recently. For example, see the “battered, bereaved and behind bars” story on Buzzfeed.

There is understandable outrage at the judicial system’s application of the law – claiming that a woman failed to protect her child and sending the woman to prison for forty five years.

There is also an understandable backlash against sexist lawmakers.

Here at VoxSapiens we suspect that the backlash might be misplaced. We suspect that it is a sexist interpretation and application of the law, rather than a sexist law per se, that is at the root of the problem. Here’s why. Read more

Ten years of whitespace

Recycling unused parts of screens and paper

Ten years ago, Slate announced the introduction of whitespace, a language designed to compensate for the “white-space doesn’t count” culture of contemporary programming languages.

Whitespace uses spaces and tabs to code in the whitespace that surrounds text. The great advantage with this approach is that your documentation can be right in the middle of your code and yet not interfere with it.

You can see the slashdot article here.

Just be careful that you don’t use GZIP, Winzip, 7-zip or any other similar utility to package your whitespace program or you may find that it is rendered unexecutable. Read more

Emigration Tax

Is the Finance Ministry becoming Hotel California?

You can check out any time you want but you can never leave. So sang The Eagles in 1970. Here at Vox Sapiens we suspect that country residence could begin to resemble living at Hotel California. There may come a time when you will be unable to leave the country without paying your share of the public debt.

Let us explain a bit more about the state of public finances before returning to the pay-as-you-leave hypothesis …

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The Internet Age Emperor’s New Clothes

A Bit of a long shot

The BitCoin bubble is in full swing. But this bubble started a lot longer ago than most commentators report, and is much bigger than most commentators report.

The main reason is that most commentators give credence to BitCoin, and treat it like a respectable currency. Even laying aside the Silk Road connections, here at Vox Sapiens we have no confidence in BitCoin (or in its cousins such as LiteCoin and NameCoin). Here’s why. Read more

onlycoin – only ten years too late

PINning your hopes on an unCHIPped picture of the future

A new startup, onlycoin.com, is attempting crowdfunding for a new credit card wallet. This product, called coin, is the same size as a credit card and stores the details of up to eight other credit cards (or debit cards, or any similar card with a magnetic strip). The onlycoin.com card runs an application that allows you to select which of these eight cards the onlycoin.com card should emulate. This allows you to leave your other cards at home and carry just the onlycoin.com card.

Many people’s physical wallets are bursting with multiple cards, and the onlycoin.com card helps address this problem. But it has a major drawback. The onlycoin.com card does not Read more

Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire European Parliament

Diocletian, or Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus, a Roman emperor who ruled from 284 to 305, issued the edict on maximum prices (in Latin, Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium) in 301.

In an outburst against a European Union cap on bankers’ bonuses, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said “the most this measure can hope to achieve is a boost for Zurich and Singapore and New York at the expense of a struggling EU. This is possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman empire.”

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Bubble 2.0

Wait for the pop!

Yes it’s happened again. Our memories must last about ten years. We have a new bubble in Internet stocks.

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Nok-nok-nokiaing on heaven’s door

Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh

Nokia and Microsoft have announced an alliance whereby Nokia will use Microsoft Windows on its new models of smartphones, beginning in 2013.

Will that save Nokia?

At Vox Sapiens we think Read more

Driving bankers’ bonuses off the front page

That’s what government funds are for

Rumors today suggest that GM and Chrysler will award their employees with bonuses of up to 50% of base pay.

The VoxSapiens team assumes that bankers are breathing a sigh of relief at this news. Read more

CFOs should put their heads in the cloud

And save some money

As I perform my day job, as a management consultant with a bias towards IT, and the alignment of IT with business, I continue to be amazed at how CFOs are ignoring cloud computing.

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Let’s Face(book) it, this time it is different

No it’s not !!!

Here we go again. Goldman Sachs drags up the mindless euphoria of the 1999 Internet bubble and makes a small investment in Facebook which indicates a valuation of USD 50bn. This is 25 times sales. When Google was valued at USD 50bn it had sales of USD 3.2bn, compared to Facebook’s USD 2bn, and a viable strategy to grow those sales rapidly.

And Facebook?

“Facebook is becoming like the telephone system,” according to a “the daily beast” commentator on Bloomberg, apparently justifying the stretched valuation.

Well here at Vox Sapiens we see this as a ridiculous overvaluation for several reasons. Read more

Back to the Future

Swapping credit

Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act, or “the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act of 2010,” threatens major capital reserve burdens on OTC derivatives traders by requiring that OTC swaps are cleared through clearinghouses that will demand a margin in addition to the capital reserve required by the Regulations.

The Act also determines that Federal support will not be provided to businesses involved in swaps (there are exceptions).

This will have major implications for the financial markets.

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Paybox.me is not a competitor for Paypal

Beware this one.

This blog is not usually concerned with warning people about websites that show similarities with scams. But this post breaks with tradition because the website in question has been mentioned in the comments to a previous post: Google breakup? Wrong target again.

In that post I discussed why Paypal was far more dangerous than Google, with respect to consumer choice and other monopolistic matters.

Earlier today “Al” commented that Paybox (http://www.paybox.me/r/signuppage) was emerging as a potential competitor to Paypal.

I don’t think this is the case. For several reasons I think that the business is a l-o-n-g way from competing with Paypal. Read more

158 Million IT Jobs Sent Offshore in 2010

Yes, honestly, it’s in the press.

I never cease to be amazed at how some people have no innate feeling for the size of numbers.

One might expect IT people to be more numerically comfortable than the average person? Well today Read more

Juvenile crash test dummies

Where is the legislation that requires rear crumple zones?

When a car driver drives into the car in front, he or she has a fair chance of survival – because the law requires a crumple zone in the front of the vehicle to absorb the energy dissipated by the rapid deceleration.

But what of the passengers in the rear seats of that car that was hit from behind? Read more

Simple defense to reduce email risks

Why don’t major webmail providers support this?

We have all been subject to spam. And most of us to malicious emails too. Particularly annoying are emails that present a threat simply by being read, even if no links are clicked. But there is a way to substantially reduce the risk that people will open dangerous emails. But for some reason none of the major webmail providers support a mechanism to enable this.

Why? I have no idea.

The simple solution is to Read more

Apotheker to run SAP again?

What are HP’s strategic plans?

So Leo Apotheker, former head of SAP AG, replaces Mark Hurd at HP. Mr Apotheker has a background in software, but was chosen over a large number of candidates with far more relevant experience and caught many observers on the back foot.

But here at Vox Sapiens we were not at all surprised. In fact, we half suspected it because Read more

The Fat MAN defense

Fiat mixtura – but which one

The fat man defense is a company strategy whereby an acquisition is made to increase the size of a business so that it is more difficult to acquire. Fiat mixtura is a Latin phrase that can be loosely translated as “let the integration be made.” But will an integration involve a fat MAN? Read more

Are Private Equity firms buying the right due diligence?

Are their needs the same as those of corporate buyers?

Private Equity companies and Corporates tend to buy a very similar scope of acquisition due diligence services. They buy a huge financial due diligence (FDD) exercise, usually also containing a significant tax component; they buy legal due diligence; and they might buy a bit of operational due diligence (ODD), a bit of commercial due diligence (CDD), and maybe a bit of the supporting products such as IT due diligence (ITDD) and HR due diligence (HR). But Private Equity companies and Corporates have very different internal skill bases, and therefore need to buy different acquisition due diligence products. So why don’t they?
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The end of Open Source ?

The GPL debate will run and run

Over the last few days a debate has flared up over the GPL (the GNU General Public License). Specifically, the debate relates to the refusal of DIYThemes to release its WordPress Thesis theme under the GPL.

The details of the debate encapsulate a major nerdfest, with legal and technical nerds crawling out of their boxes and greeting the world. But beyond this, the debate has much wider implications.

In fact, at Vox Sapiens we wonder whether this debate will be seen as the tipping point that identifies the crest of the Open Source wave. We think that, maybe, the strength of the Open Source movement will wane from this moment because Read more

What price a banking license?

Around 50 million pounds

JC Flowers, the Private Equity house based in New York, has agreed to pay GBP50m for a 49% stake in a Joint Venture with Kent Reliance Building Society (KRBS).

Does JC Flowers see KRBS as a major business opportunity? Hardly, because Read more

Still wrong on bankers’ bonuses

What is wrong with a bonus culture in banking?

The European Union parliament will vote next week on new legislation to curb bankers’ bonuses. The rules on bonuses are included within a larger proposal on capital requirements. According to the Financial Times, ‘lawmakers and EU officials welcomed the agreement and said it should help to reduce the “bonus culture” in the banking sector.’

Well here at Vox Sapiens, at risk of repeating ourselves (see Bankers’ bonuses – wrong target) we think the bonus culture should be increased, not reduced. This is because Read more

Brandy excesses

How many brands does a car company need?

The Financial Times recommends that Ford no longer needs Mercury, although it doesn’t speculate on the merits of selling it rather than closing it.

The FT also comments that “a Mercury-less Ford would resemble its Asian competitors with just two brands – mass-market and luxury.” So is that the best option for an automaker?

Read more

Has SAP missed a trick?

Sybase may be a costly mistake

So it looks like SAP is going to buy Sybase, database vendor. But SAP is paying a lot of money for the company placed fourth in its main market. The price per share, at USD65 and a 44% premium to the pre-announcement price, hearkens back to the mid-1990’s when Sybase was still considered a serious competitor to Oracle, IBM, Ingres (another decliner), and Microsoft was not taken seriously as an enterprise computing vendor.

Here at Vox Sapiens we are not sure this is the right move for SAP. Firstly, Sybase is probably a poor choice at virtually any price. But there is plenty of commentary available on this elsewhere on the web.

So instead, here at Vox Sapiens we will discuss the company that SAP should have bought. And that company is Read more

Rusty old dumping ground

Await the Chinese backlash

The latest European passenger vehicle emissions standard (“Euro5”) was introduced in September 2009. Since that date, in Europe it has been illegal to sell new vehicles that do not meet this standard. Older models that only met the Euro4 standard can only be exported outside Europe to markets with more lenient standards. Within Europe the cars have little value – they can only be disassembled in order to reuse the components – and this value is therefore below cost.

This situation alone raises the possibility that dominant carmakers in the other markets will already be very suspicious of Euro4-compliant automakers. But it can get worse, much worse. Imagine that Read more

The importance of thorough research

Repeating comments in a different context can be misleading

At Vox Sapiens we are disappointed by a recent FT article which appears to show sloppy research. We have long admired the quality of the research and analysis in the FT compared to many other newspapers. However, today’s article appears to have taken an idea from an old article and repeated it almost verbatim, thereby misleading the reader. We are using this as an example of how it is important to be careful when using the Internet for research.

The article in question relates to Read more

Google breakup? Wrong target again

Consumer Watchdog misses the biggest threat

The Consumer Watchdog April 21 asked the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch an antitrust action against Google. In its request it suggested that Google might be broken up.

While there is the potential for Google to develop into something that needs to be broken up, right now there is a candidate that is way higher in priority. And that is Read more

From petrolhead to chiphead

The future of the automotive industry is more than the new powertrain

Powertrain 2020! The EV vision! The lust for lithium! The fuss about fuel cells! The automotive industry is alive with a debate over the replacement of the gasoline powertrain.

This is an extremely important debate, and will have major impacts on the strategic positioning of the OEMs. For example, what would happen if the future is rechargeble batteries and in the future the electricity supply companies give away vehicles in exchange for exclusive recharging contracts? Don’t believe it could happen? Look at the mobile phone handset industry.

But creeping up quietly is another technological shift that could have even more impact Read more

Escher’s Bank

The incredible story of the Icelandic banking crisis

The Icelandic Special Investigation Committee (SIC) yesterday (April 12th, 2010) delivered its report on the collapse of the three main banks in Iceland. It makes shocking reading.

It can be downloaded here.

At Vox Sapiens, our initial vision was of a couple Escher’s masterpieces. Read more

Better risk management for banks

A new approach to punishing offenders and rewarding the best

The recent financial crisis was exacerbated by several failures, one of which was poor risk management by banks. Previous attempts to coerce management into being more responsible have failed. How about this approach? Read more

O Lord, I’ve bought me …

… a chunk of Mercedes-Benz

So Renault-Nissan and Daimler have agreed a cross-shareholding and cooperation on future technology. Here at Vox Sapiens we are not optimistic about this alliance. Read more

Lawyers and the real world again

Why can’t they see the bigger picture?

So Microsoft (presumably on the advice of lawyers) used the DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to force Cryptome.org’s hosting provider, Network Solutions, to close down the website and keep a lock on the domain name to prevent the site being relocated. Then a day later the complaint was rescinded, allowing the site to be restored.

This was a bad thing to do? Why?

OK, where should I start? Read more

Forget Tequila, welcome the Ouzo Crisis

How to prepare for the collapse of the euro currency union.

Greece uses the same currency as Germany. But Greek government bonds yield almost four per cent more than German government bonds, an all time record for the eurozone.

This is telling us something; really telling us something. The bond market is pricing in a high possibility of default by the Greek state. Read more

Toy-woe-ta

Looks like a business school case study in the making

Toyota seems to have spent the last few weeks giving PR people a good example of how not to handle a negative story.

Firstly, there were the stories of floor mats preventing the release of the accelerator pedals and the potential for accidents.

Then, two days ago (on January 26, 2010), there is the halt to production in North America and the recall of another couple million vehicles.

But, worst of all, many consumers do not know that the latter recall is a separate problem because Read more

Bankers’ bonuses – wrong target

Unless you’re a shareholder, point your gun elsewhere

During the last few days many of the large Investment Banks have announced staff bonuses. And in many cases these have been at, or near, record levels. This has led to public outcrys.

As a response, some governments have announced special taxes on these bonuses. And the triumverate of governments, central banks, and financial services industry regulators have all railed against the bonuses.

But why are the bonuses so high? Who should be the real target of the outrage? Read more

Really? You don’t say!

Taking your watch and telling you the time

Just a bloglet today – a more substantial post will be arriving soon.

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I subscribe to Get Abstract (registration required) which provides 5-page abstracts of business books, allowing me to keep up with trends without spending my entire life reading books. Usually I find it very useful. But today I received an abstract that included the most banal statement ever. Read more

And next the Renault Pico ??

A cheaper car than the Tata Nano

Renault has announced that it will produce a cheaper vehicle than the Tata Nano, which is currently the world’s cheapest car.

This story from Autonews (registration required) reports that the CEO of Renault and Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, states that an agreement has been signed with Bajaj Auto whereby Read more

The obligations of a debt rating agency

To whom are the ratings agencies legally accountable?

So McClatchy Newspapers has discovered that in late 2007 some analysts at Moody’s Investors Service were “downsized” for expressing concerns about the accuracy of the ratings being applied to some of the CDOs (collateralised debt obligations), especially those comprising MBSes (mortgage backed securities).

The news group alleges that Read more

What electric car tipping point?

Doctor Z, want to borrow my spectacles?

Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG (that produces Mercedes-Benz and Smart) is reported in Automotive News to have said of electric cars being on the immediate horizon that “we are at that tipping point now.”

Really? I disagree for several reasons. Read more

Marketing Myopia revisited

What about tobacco?

Recently I was re-reading Theodore Levitt’s epochal Marketing Myopia and considering the basic premise that companies are not defining their markets correctly (by being product-orientated or service-oriented rather than customer-oriented) and therefore not following the market as it migrates to an alternative product or service to fulfil the same underlying desire.

Then it struck me that maybe there is an exception for which a replacement has not been produced, and maybe cannot be produced … Read more

Financial Services – next recruitmentfest?

What value will be added by the next round of recruitment?

Every economic downturn the financial services industry sheds a large tranche of employees, pointing to the high proportion of total costs represented by personnel, and the need to reduce cost:income ratios.

Then the upturn comes, accompanied by a frenzy. But what value do these new recruits deliver? Read more

We should expect some mergers to fail

Why should mergers or carve-outs differ from other change programs?

Every report on the state of mergers and acquisitions points out that a proportion of mergers fail to deliver the intended benefits. Similarly, reports on the success of projects convey a similar message – some projects fail. Mergers are amongst the largest and most complex projects that companies must implement, and are not ‘run of the mill’ for most companies, so shouldn’t we expect mergers to fail – at least until we can implement projects successfully? Read more

GM’s intellectual property smokescreen?

“Transferring GM’s jewels to Russia via Opel”

The media report that General Motors was loathe to sell (a full or partial stake in) its European Opel operations to the Magna consortium because it is concerned that this will provide a conduit via which GM’s intellectual property (“IP”) might end up in the hands of GAZ, a competitor to the Chevrolet brand in Russia. Today the media report that GM has agreed to sell to the Magna-led consortium, but that there are conditions attached to the sale. I find this approach somewhat strange, and wonder whether it is a smokescreen. Read more

Here comes the “Nano Tax”

“First car for the second world family, second car for the first world family”

The Tata Nano is likely to change the lives of an immense number of families in the developing world, with the possibility that the Indian car market will increase by 65%, according to Standard and Poor’s Indian arm, CRISIL (source India Times). And much has been written about Ratan Tata’s dream of migrating Indian families from two wheels to four.

But how about the developed world? I believe that it will be disruptive here too – by fundamentally altering the tax applied to private vehicles. Read more

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