Breakingviews

Exxon Mobil reaches bottom of the oil barrel

April 29, 2016

The energy goliath suffered a 63 pct fall in quarterly profit. Rivals Chevron and Conoco were hurting, too, as crude fell below $30 in January before investment cuts helped ease excess supply and push up the price. Recovery will be slow and uneven, but the worst is probably past.

Morgan Stanley growth plays 2016 version of Godot

April 18, 2016

The Wall Street firm’s $1.1 bln Q1 showing makes it unlikely CEO James Gorman will this year hit his 10 pct return on equity target. Even giving investors all the bank’s excess capital wouldn’t do the trick. Cost cuts might help, but higher earnings are taking forever to arrive.

Mike Corbat now entangled in banking Catch-22

April 15, 2016

The Citigroup boss aced both the living will and stress tests. He also has fashioned an efficient operation, evidenced by Q1 results. To improve on a 6.4 pct return on equity, though, will require exhausting tax breaks. And to do that depends on finding more elusive profit.

Valeant CEO back with less power and no glory

February 29, 2016

Mike Pearson has returned from illness, stripped of his chairmanship. The $25 bln drugmaker also withdrew guidance and will further delay reporting 2015 results. Marginally better-looking governance isn’t enough to give investors like Bill Ackman hope of reversing losses.

Buffett fancies himself exception to every rule

February 29, 2016

The latest missive from Omaha hews to a familiar Oracle tradition. Asset-liability mismatches and unofficial accounting metrics get both mocked and embraced, just like investment bankers, derivatives and tech stocks before them. Homespun wisdom is for lesser investing mortals.

Facebook mobile growth accelerates down open road

January 27, 2016

Revenue from smartphone and tablet ads grew a whopping 81 pct last quarter year-over-year, accounting for most of the social-media giant’s $5.8 bln total revenue. With companies getting more comfortable touting wares on digital devices, Facebook still has plenty of room to expand.

Too-big-to-fail cabal nursing $130 bln in damages

January 15, 2016

That’s the amount of market value swiped from the top six U.S. banks in the past two weeks. All but Wells Fargo now trade below book value. It’s not a reaction to lackluster fourth-quarter results, but a sign investors expect a year of pain. Whether they’re right is a toss-up.

Chancellor: The illusion of debt-fuelled earnings

November 18, 2015

Low borrowing costs enabled acquisitive drugmaker Valeant to ratchet up EPS with leverage. Earlier episodes of financial engineering - like Japan’s zaitech and the 1960s conglomerate boom - came unstuck after rates rose and stocks fell. It won’t be any different this time.

Apple: a tech company with Chinese characteristics

October 27, 2015

Almost a quarter of sales – and two-thirds of revenue growth – came from China. Apple’s new iPhone installment plan could bump this up even further. Chief Executive Tim Cook’s bet on the Middle Kingdom is yielding impressive dividends, but carries existential political risks.

GM’s bumper Q3 exposes broader carmaker concerns

October 21, 2015

The Motown giant earned $1.4 billion and posted a record pre-tax margin. Fears about U.S. and China profit and rising competition from Silicon Valley persist, though, hobbling stocks across the industry. But GM’s discount to rivals is looking increasingly unwarranted.