Breakingviews

Alibaba delivers chunky growth, but at a cost

November 4, 2014

The Chinese e-commerce giant pulled off a 54 pct revenue increase for the second quarter, its first results since listing in New York. But earnings slipped, only in part because of big IPO payouts to staff. Alibaba also says it targets sales, not margins. That’s not reassuring.

Sky-high valuations no match for earnings reality

October 28, 2014

Investors knocked more than 10 pct, or well over $3 bln, off Twitter’s worth despite sales doubling. Blame the company’s overdone value multiples. Similar knocks to Amazon, Netflix, Pandora, Chipotle and Yelp show the danger when quarterly numbers can’t match a bullish story.

Duracell jolt highlights the value of focus at P&G

October 24, 2014

Investors were energized by the consumer-goods giant’s plan to offload its struggling batteries arm. Spinning off a low-growth commodity business won’t create much value on its own. But it’s a solid step in boss A.G. Lafley’s campaign to simplify the sprawling $225 bln firm.

Amazon’s ambition outruns its cash flow

October 24, 2014

The online retailer’s 20 pct sales growth in its third quarter was slower than expected, and its $437 mln loss was an ugly record. The firm’s voracious need for investment is a problem. CEO Jeff Bezos’ vision may be limitless, but his company’s ability to finance it is not.

Goldman pulls every lever to make machine run

October 16, 2014

Bankers and traders helped the firm increase profit 50 pct from a year ago. Investments like Tesla supplier Mobileye contributed, too. Socking away less for pay, though, provided the real fillip to 11.8 pct return on equity. In tough times especially, that’s how it should work.

Netflix stock horror follows familiar script

October 16, 2014

The film and TV streaming service lost $7 billion of market value after it signed up fewer new subscribers than expected. Even for one of the most-shorted and volatile stocks, a 25 percent decline is notable. And yet investors have seen this movie many times before.

Vladimir Putin is the new bad weather

August 4, 2014

The bogeyman of Ukrainian unrest is replacing snow as a reason to expect worse earnings. Just ask VW, Adidas or McDonald’s. The World Cup goes the other way, helping Adidas (again), Twitter and maybe Disney. The message could be muddled when Russia and soccer converge in 2018.

Weak yen makes Japanese electronics firms giddy

February 4, 2013

Panasonic shares jumped 17 percent after losses were less bad than expected. Manufacturers have been so badly beaten up that even small changes in profitability have a big impact on expectations. Revenue is still shrinking, though. The recent rally is largely based on hope.

Japan risks consumer electronics death spiral

November 2, 2012

Panasonic, Sony and Sharp all suffered slumping demand for consumer gadgets. Though the economy is partly to blame, so are successful rivals like Apple and Samsung. The temptation may be to cut product development spending, but that could leave the trio ever further behind.

Beware “blame China” earnings phenomenon

July 13, 2012

Investors have punished Burberry, Cummins and AMD for disappointing China growth. When it comes to handbags and excavators, China really does set the pace. But investors need to be alert this earnings season: a slowdown in the world’s growth engine gives everyone an excuse.