Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yabba Dhabi Doo

From the press this week, news that investment funds in the United Arab Emirates have taken MAJOR equity holdings in two of the largest global companies: Citigroup ($7.5 billion / 5%) and Sony ("substantial). This atop several other recent SWF investments in AMD (8%), Apollo Management (9%), and Airbus.

Worldwide, something north of $2.5 trillion sits in sovereign wealth funds. Abu Dhabi's fund is purported to be the largest, at $625 billion, but by no means are the Oily Arabs the only ones throwing their government cash around private markets. The second largest fund is purported to be Norway's at $330 billion. And in asia, Singapore has well over $200 billion in various funds. Even communist China owns stocks -- Blackstone Group is now 10% held by the Chinese government. France and Germany don't have specific funds ... that would create perhaps too much trancparency for them. Make no mistake - they're deeply invested in companies in their own countries. Airbus, for example, would not even exist did it not receive a steady "reverse dividend" from it's shareholders, the European governments.

While dollar markets are deep and wide enough to absorb these purchases without lurching overall, outsized SWF investments in other national markets have caused significant trauma ... and they've only begun to dip their toes in the water. Just wait 'till one of 'em tries to get a seat on the board of an American company or otherwise flex their ownership muscle.

Ya can't blame 'em really. All these emerging market countries are flush with cash (mostly in Dollars) from exports, primarily those of commodities, and those primarily of oil. Holding all that money in treasuries which (of late) don't even keep up with the rate of Dollar depreciation, just doesn't make sense. Think about it in domestic terms -- if Congress found out they could add a new massive revenue stream from investments, how long would they be able to keep from doing that? The money'd be spent before the investments had even been made. They might even lower taxes if faced with enough pressure.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Corporate Newspeak

I feel it necessary to do my little part to bust the current ridiculous TV writers' strike.

Here, from the front lines of corporate America's battlefields, are some phrase-isms which are too bizarre to be made up. Unfortunately, they call to mind Orwell's Newspeak and clearly achieve the same goal of dumbing down the populace.

Cover off on: (v) To get someone (else) to resolve or get someone to respond to
Usage: "It's great that you've been able to cover off on that issue so quickly."

Ask: (n) a question
Usage: "Good feedback on your ask when you covered off on it."

E: (n) an e-mail
Usage: "Please shoot me an E with your ask."

Shoot: (v) to send or submit. Also: get
Usage: "As soon as you get me your E, I'll shoot it back."

Learning (n) lesson
Usage: "In summary, here are the learnings from this week's sessions."

Out of Pocket (n) incommunicato
Usage: "I'm flying to New York in the morning, so I'll be out of pocket most of the day."

Dilbert (n) a conformist employee of a corporation
Usage: "Stay tuned, ye writer-less producers. I'll continue to report back with new jewels on this blog whenever my fellow Dilberts drop these non-speak jewels"

Hollywood writers' strike

The US is without question an information economy in the sense that intellectual property is one of the few areas where we have an unquestionable competitive advantage. US companies know that information and innovation are the only areas in which they can continue to compete with low-cost emerging markets. Correspondingly, they nearly worship the fertile minds who can create it from thin air. If you want job security today, don't join a union - go innovate. Then sell yourself to the highest bidder, be it your current employer or someone new.

Then repeat.
Then repeat again.

It's how the entire corporate world gets along ... and I very seldom hear execs complaining about exploitation -- they know they're getting paid exactly what they're worth because they constantly test it by keeping themselves on the market. And believe me, the bar on creativity in the corporate world is low. These Dilberts get highly bankrolled for some pretty mediocre brainstorms.

Software and media are the two industries with perhaps the greatest reliance on creativity. Why then, in the latter hotbed of ideas, do the writers feel so impotent that they have to resort to the childish collective bargaining tactics invented by braun-over-brains steelworkers a hundred and some years ago (and not innovated since). If they each would simply take responsibility for extracting their full value, and if they were ballsy enough to go out there and compete, the good ones would undoubtedly rise to the top. The not-good would appropriately go do something else they're better at.