In The Headlines

European Firms Look to HERE in the Push for Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous VehiclesSince Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz out-maneuvered potential bidders including Apple, Facebook and Alibaba to acquire HERE in 2015 for $3.1 billion, the mapping and location-based services company has made strategic moves and signed up significant partners to not only move autonomous vehicles closer to reality, but to also help streamline smart mobility and expand its location-based services into Internet of Things (IOT) applications.

For example, in February of last year, HERE joined with BMW and Mobileye to add its high-definition mapping capability to Mobileye’s Road Experience Management (REM) platform that uses the company’s ubiquitous in-car cameras to gather real-world roadway images to help autonomous cars better understand their surroundings.

HERE has also leveraged its mapping prowess to lay the groundwork for mobility solutions ranging from smart city technology to logistics and tracking of shipments. So it makes sense that Bosch and Continental would both take a 5% stake in HERE to bolster their own autonomous vehicle, mobility and IOT initiatives.

While much of the attention around and investment in self-driving car technology has focused on sensors and artificial intelligence, mapping is an equally crucial element to enable vehicles to become truly autonomous. Bosch developed a technology called road signature that is similar to Mobileye’s REM that uses radar sensors to help map roads, and last year announced a partnership with HERE competitor TomTom to use road signature to develop maps for autonomous vehicles.

Bosch said in a statement announcing its stake in HERE that the two companies “are exploring opportunities to utilize road signature in the maintenance of HERE HD Live Map, HERE’s map for automated vehicles.” Bosch added that it will continue to work with TomTom and other road signature partners such as Baidu, AutoNavi, and NavInfo.

Bosch also plans to use the HERE partnership to further IOT-based Industry 4.0 initiatives, such as employing high-definition indoor navigation maps to automate and streamline the flows of goods on production lines. “Bosch is more than cars,” Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, said in a statement. “Industry 4.0, smart homes and smart cities are rapidly growing areas of business for us, in which establishing and expanding data-based services will result in synergies with HERE.”

Continental and HERE have already collaborated on hardware, software, data and services, and the stake the large automotive supplier is taking in the mapping company will primarily focus on using HERE’s HD Live Map platform to explore how autonomous vehicle positioning can be improved and dynamically updated. Conti will also use HERE HD Maps to refine its eHorizon feature that alerts vehicles and drivers to road features and conditions ahead as well as to develop new applications and mobility services. “Digital maps and location-based services are key innovations for the future of connected mobility,” Dr. Elmar Degenhart, Continental CEO, said in a statement. “By leveraging HERE’s technology, we look forward to generating further profitable growth in mobility services and automated driving.”

Citations                     

  1. http://reut.rs/2m3EvjA – Reuters
  2. http://bit.ly/2m3bnJf – Forbes

The Disney / 20th Century Fox Merger Could Challenge Theaters

Disney 20th Century FoxAmerica’s movie theaters were packed in December for the screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a story about the Resistance battling the evil First Order. But with the announcement in December that Walt Disney Co. will acquire much of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment businesses, theater owners may feel like they are the Resistance.

The proposed marriage of Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox could spell trouble for traditional movie houses like Leawood-based AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. at a time when theater chains already are struggling. Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s film studio will unite some of the most lucrative movie franchises, from Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel series to Fox’s X-Men and Avatar.

With control of more blockbusters, not only does Disney gain more leverage over theater chains such as AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Carmike Cinemas Inc., it also wins more films it could distribute exclusively on its upcoming online service—cutting out cinema operators entirely. “Disney is becoming the Wal-Mart of Hollywood: huge and dominant,” says Barton Crockett, a media analyst at B. Riley FBR. “That’s going to have a big influence up and down the supply chain.”

Disney expects the $52.4 billion deal, which includes Fox’s cable channels and international assets, to be completed in 12 to 18 months if regulators approve it. That’s a big if, given that the government recently sued to block the enormous media deal between AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc., home of the Warner Bros. studio. Together, Disney and Fox accounted for 40% of ticket sales in 2016 in the U.S. and Canada, a level of market concentration that could draw scrutiny from Washington.

If the deal goes through, theater owners could get squeezed. Usually, a film’s box-office revenue is split evenly between exhibitors and the studio. But Disney previously has gotten theaters to hand over a larger share—sometimes more than 60%—on its biggest, most popular films, such as the Star Wars series. Now it could try the same tactic with Fox’s Avatar, which has four sequels in the works. “While the future of movie exhibition looks increasingly dim, a Disney-Fox merger will elevate its level of pain,” says Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG LLC.

Cinema chains have already suffered this year from a string of box-office bombs, including Warner Bros.’ King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and online video services such as Netflix Inc. are keeping more moviegoers at home. Studios also are considering ways to get film releases onto video sooner, putting more pressure on theater owners. All that has led to consolidation in the industry, with Britain’s Cineworld Group Plc agreeing to buy Regal Entertainment Group for $3.6 billion in December.

Unlike Fox and other big studios, Disney has not pushed to shorten the time movies are shown in theaters before reaching home video. So shifting Fox’s movie slate to Disney, which prefers long theatrical runs, “could be a positive for theaters,” says Leo Kulp, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets LLC. Yet Disney still presents exhibitors with a big potential worry: its plan to launch an online service in 2019 with Pixar and Marvel pictures. “Disney may push Fox’s films to its direct-to-consumer platform,” Kulp says, “and bypass the theaters altogether.”

Citations

  1. https://bloom.bg/2CNF5ws – Bloomberg
  2. http://bit.ly/2kSkATA Deadline Hollywood

The Good News Is . . .

Good NewsU.S. wholesale inventories rose more than initially estimated in November, suggesting that inventory investment will probably contribute to economic growth in the fourth quarter. The Commerce Department said that wholesale inventories rebounded 0.8% after dropping 0.4% in October. The department reported last month that wholesale inventories jumped 0.7 percent in November. Inventory investment contributed almost eight-tenths of a percentage point to the economy’s 3.2% annualized growth pace in the third quarter. Inventory investment accelerated in the third quarter after slowing sharply at the start of 2017. Auto inventories increased 0.7% in November, reversing October’s 0.7% percent. There were also increases in inventories of petroleum, machinery and electrical goods.

Sales at wholesalers shot up 1.5% in November after increasing 0.8% in October. Sales of motor vehicles rose 1.2% in November after jumping 3.4% the prior month. SuperValu Inc., a network of more than 3,000 owned, franchised, and independently owned stores, reported earnings of $0.61 per share, an increase of 42.6% over year-earlier earnings of $0.35 per share. The firm’s earnings topped the consensus estimate of analysts by $0.15. The company reported revenues of $3.94 billion, an increase of 31.3%. Management attributed the results to strong underlying growth in its wholesale business and contributions from its recent acquisition of Unified Grocers.

Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-sharing company, agreed to acquire full control of 99—the main Brazilian rival to Uber and a company in which Didi already holds a stake—for around $600 million in cash. The deal changes the global competitive landscape for ride-hailing companies, particularly Uber and Didi, the industry’s two biggest players. The companies have been locked in a struggle to be the dominant force in as many regions as possible, with fast-growing markets like South America, and Brazil specifically, seen as huge prizes. With a population of about 210 million and underdeveloped public transportation networks, Brazil is a lucrative market for ride-hailing companies.

Citations

  1. http://reut.rs/2mnLe7B – Reuters
  2. http://cnb.cx/2lwnm3s – CNBC
  3. http://bit.ly/2DqprEp – SuperValue, Inc.
  4. http://nyti.ms/2CYlNk9 – NY Times Dealbook

Planning Tips

Guide to Financial Resolutions for 2018

Financial ResolutionsThe beginning of a new year is the most popular time to set goals and make plans, and everyone’s resolution list should include a few financial resolutions. If getting your financial life in order is a resolution for you this year, here are some specific things you can do to help you get there faster: It is a good idea to consult with your financial advisor in putting together a plan that will work for your situation.

Save a percentage of your gross income each month – Most people say they want to save more, but do not know how much they should save or where they should save it. Your first task should be to set a savings goal that is sustainable. The best way to stay successful and continuously achieve this goal is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account for this amount every month. If you need the money to pay bills, you can always transfer it back, but challenge yourself to live off of what is left after your automatic transfers happen. It is an effective way to save.

Monitor your credit score quarterly – A good credit score is important to your financial health. Set a calendar reminder for every two to three months to review your credit score for any changes. If you have credit cards with American Express, Discover, Bank of America and others, you can check your FICO score for free at any point. There are also sites like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma that allow you to check your credit scores for free whenever you like. The sooner you uncover any problems with your credit, the easier they are to fix, so it is important to make this a regular part of your financial health routine.

Invest monthly – Just like you should save regularly, you should set up a regular process to invest your money. Money sitting in a bank account is earning less than 1% and inflation is 2-3% which means that every day your money sits in a bank account, it loses 1-2% of its value. You do not need a lot of money to start investing as there are apps that will let you invest with just five dollars or less, and they make it easy for you to automate. If you want to start investing outside of your retirement account, there are apps like Acorns, Stash Invest and Betterment that help you automate your investing and set up a regular schedule. If you have funded your emergency savings and you feel prepared for your near-term goals, then you should take advantage of retirement savings options you may have through your work like 401ks or 403bs or on your own like IRAs or Roth IRAs. If it is through your company, you can automate your investing easily through payroll deductions or you can also automate through investment sites like Betterment or Wealthfront for individual retirement accounts.

Create a debt plan – If debt has been a constant problem for you, make 2018 the year that you start to tackle it head-on. Paying down debt is like climbing a mountain, it’s going to take time and strategy and the only way to get to the top is to start climbing. The first step of your plan is figuring out the total debt you have, the type of debt you have and what the interest rates are on your debts. I suggest putting all of this in a spreadsheet. After you have figured out your interest rates, look for ways to consolidate your debt or lower your interest rates either through 0% balance transfer credit cards, personal loans or student loan refinance options. Once you have all of the debt and interest rates set, pick the best repayment strategy for you. Some people like using the debt snowball method where you pay the smallest debts off first while others like the debt avalanche where you pay the highest interest rate debt first. Use whatever is going to motivate you the most in your debt repayment process.

Track expenses daily – There are a number of free apps like Expenses OK or Spending Tracker that can help you with expense tracking or you can simply put it all in a spreadsheet every day. The best part about expense tracking is that it will make you more mindful of your money and force you to start to think about how you spend it.

Citations

  1. http://fxn.ws/2DD0Fj9 – Fox Business
  2. http://bit.ly/2ACmjXT – US News & World Report
  3. http://bit.ly/2CXA1lS – Forbes
  4. http://bit.ly/2kAQGUm – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  5. http://bit.ly/2zU7iv1 –  The Motley Fool