BOEING AND ITS FUTURE: One must assume that an aerospace giant such as Boeing will, in time, overcome the damage wrought by its new and problem-plagued 737 MAX airliner. The longer-term question is whether Boeing can keep up with competitors, whether that be Airbus or aviation players in Brazil, Canada and China. The surprising answer that came from Yale alum Bertrand-Marc Allen, who is also president of Boeing International, was this: “A few years ago, it was very easy for everybody in the company to look to our European airplane competitor and our largest U.S defense competitor and see that as our competition. Today, the Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazons of the world are our competitors because they’re entering into disruptive mobility. They are entering into performance-based logistics and machine learning. Those will disrupt supply chains and the management of inventories which are things that we do.”
INTERNET SPACE RACE: The effort to connect the next billion-plus humans to the Internet has moved to outer space and fleets of satellites underwritten by technology giants and well-funded startup companies. The contenders include Facebook, SpaceX, OneWeb, Swarm Technologies, Astrocast, and Sky and Space Global. Satellite-based Internet service — currently being provided by Viasat and Hughes Network Systems — is only a $4 billion business, but it is projected to grow into a $22 billion business by 2024 and a $41 billion business in 2029. Viasat and Hughes, looking to defend their cyberspace encampments from surging competition, are planning to launch far more powerful satellites than they have previously sent into space.
THREAT OF BIG TECH IN PRIVATE WEALTH: Numerous studies have shown young consumers are more trusting of Amazon or Google as financial service providers than UBS or Merrill Lynch. Given their large and committed audiences, consumer data collection capabilities and relentless innovation, what’s to stop big tech from invading the private wealth space? It’s not hard to imagine Alexa or Google Assistant waking us in the morning to report how much money the markets or overall portfolio earned or lost us the day before, as well as account balances and what auto-pay bills are in the queue to be settled that day.
TALE FROM THE CRYPTO: When the leader of a company dies, the company’s beat goes on. Depth and continuity are major parts of what a management team is all about. But what happens if the company is a cryptocurrency bank and the CEO is the only one who possesses the depository codes required to access clients’ Bitcoin or Ethereum accounts, and the codes are on an encrypted laptop — and the CEO suddenly meets his death? It’s a true story that befell Quadrigacx, a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, whose CEO Gerald Cotten died during a visit to India. And now 90,000 Quadrigacx customers cannot get to about $135 million of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies stored on the exchange. Quadrigacx was granted protection from its creditors on Feb. 5 after arguing to the court that its customers’ money is still in the currency exchange’s possession, but it cannot access the accounts — at least for now.
CATTLE CALL: People all over the world like to eat meat, especially beef, pork and chicken — but nowhere more so than the United States, where meat consumption is the world’s highest (though Argentina and Brazil would probably be higher per capita if you adjusted for income). The average American consumes roughly 200 pounds of meat per year. When countries become richer, one of the first things they do is add high-value protein to their diets, so one can assume meat consumption will continue to rise as the world gets richer, which is why meat and poultry has grown into a $1 trillion global industry.
THE RICH GET RICHER DIETS: As the Chinese people are enriched by the country’s growing economy, they are using some of that income to enrich their eating habits. Diets high in protein and fat are proliferating in China, and so is the obesity rate, now at 10 percent in urban areas, but projected to rise to 25 percent by 2030. China’s government has incentive to try to check the problem before it gets that weighty, as obesity is already costing the country more than $93 billion annually, or 1.1 percent of GDP. Some 140 pounds of meat per year is consumed by the average Chinese citizen, which is six times the meat-eating rate in 1978, and has made China the world’s No. 1 consumer of meat.
Mike Consol (email@example.com) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.