Apple to launch Apple Card in August. 

Recent figures released from Apple reveal that the company’s third-quarter earnings beat predictions, sending shares up 3% in after-hours trading.  The tech company reported quarterly revenue of $53.8bn, beating its previous estimate of $53.39bn.

This lift didn’t come from its iPhone however.  It has long been noted that sales of this former “hero” have been falling.  In Q3, sales of the iPhone made up less than half of Apple’s revenue for the first time since 2012.  Instead, it has been the Apple wearable tech; Airpods and the Apple Watch which have pillared the growth.

Sales from these products have allowed the tech giant to significantly expand their business model.  Apple have diversified into services such as Apple Pay, Apple Care and Apple Music.

This week, Tim Cook has announced that Apple will grow further.  Later this month, we will see Apple launch its own credit card.

The Apple Card will include a user interface that shows customers where each purchase was made and the value of each transaction.  It will also be able to break down each purchase into a specific category; entertainment, food, and shopping for example. It will also include cashback incentives for customers rather than operate a points system.  

Apple will partner with Goldman Sachs to launch the card; a collaboration that has been rumoured to have been ambitious.  The two companies have very different corporate cultures; think old-world finance titan meets progressive tech modernista!   

As in all great partnerships, the companies divided responsibilities for developing and managing the project according to its strengths.  Apple-designed the card and will handle its software interface for iPhones, while Goldman Sachs is responsible for the underlying infrastructure.  GS will manage payment disputes, handle transaction data and will collate the information for monthly statements.

At the launch, Tim Cook revealed that thousands of Apple employees had been beta testing the card “every day for months” ready for the summer launch.  The general public who own an iPhone will be able to sign up for the card via the Wallet app, which will have built-in Apple Card support as part of the latest iOS 12.4 update. 

Just Eat and Takeaway.com in £9bn merger talks.

It was revealed earlier this week that two of the biggest names in on-demand food delivery, Just Eat and Takeaway.com have agreed an “on principle” merger – one which looks set to be worth a massive £9bn.  

If successful, the combination of these two companies would create one of the largest online food delivery platforms in the world.  In 2018, both companies had a combined total of 360 million orders worth €7.3 billion; holding particularly strong positions in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada.  In the same period, they amassed a shared customer base of 40.4 million and combined revenue of just under £993m.

It is not surprising then, that the prospect of this Just Eat / Takeaway.com team up sent Just Eat shares soaring by more than a fifth on Monday.   When announced, the proposed combination valued Just Eat shares at 731p and the UK company’s share capital at £5bn.  If this wasn’t enough, industry speculation about a rival bidder pushed Just Eat shares comfortably above the offer terms.  Shares in Just Eat closed up 22.7% at 780p.

There has been a flurry of activity amongst the vibrant online food delivery space; a fact that has led the speculation surrounding a potential counter bid.   In January 2018, Just Eat bought the UK firm HungryHouse, while in December Takeaway.com acquired Delivery Hero’s food delivery business in Germany.

Analysts at Jefferies have commented that the most likely counter-bid would come from a source outside the industry; Japan’s SoftBank, Amazon or a private equity investor for example.

Any bid from a big name rival from the food delivery industry, Uber Eats or Deliveroo for example would raise competition issues, and as such could also affect Amazon.  Back in May, Amazon became the lead investor in a £451m financing round in Deliveroo. Following this, they were ordered by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority to call a stop to any integration efforts pending an investigation into potential breaches of competition rules.

Jitse Groen heads up Takeaway.com.  He has described the UK as one of the strongest markets in Europe; up there with the Netherlands and Poland.  Takeaway.com operates across 10 European countries as well as in Israel and Vietnam. It does not however have a presence in the UK; a region dominated by Just Eat.  As such, if it goes ahead, the partnership between the two has the potential to have the globe covered.  

Tesla’s new energy product: Megapack.

Modelled after the giant battery system it deployed in Southern Australia, Tesla have launched a new utility-scale energy storage product called Megapack.

In a bid to provide an alternative to natural gas “peaker” power plants,  Megapack is the third and largest energy storage system offered by Tesla. It joins the company’s residential Powerwall and commercial Powerpack systems.

Megapack becomes the latest effort by the company to retool and grow its energy storage business.  In the 2nd quarter, Tesla revealed company revenue of $6.4 billion; with just $368 million of that coming from its solar and energy storage product business.

The firm’s energy arm is a significantly smaller revenue driver than sales from its electric vehicles.

That being said, Tesla provided a record 415 megawatt-hours of energy storage products in the second quarter, an increase of 81% from the previous one.  Additionally, Powerwalls are now installed at more than 50,000 sites.

Megapack was designed and engineered to be an easy to install utility-scale system; one which includes battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC main breaker and controls.  It has 3 megawatt-hours of energy storage and 1.5 MW of inverter capacity.

All Megapacks connect to Powerhub; an advanced monitoring and control platform designed for large-scale utility projects and microgrids.  It also integrates with Autobidder, Tesla’s machine-learning platform for automated energy trading.

Megapack comes off the back off Tesla’s Hornsdale project, one that combined its 100 MW Powerpack system with Neoen’s wind farm near Jamestown in South Australia.  The Tesla Powerpack system stored power generated by the wind farm and then delivered electricity to the grid during peak hours; a move which saw the facility save a huge $40 million in its first year. 

Tesla believe that savings in line with this could be standard, and just the tip of the iceberg.  If utilities can be persuaded away from natural gas “peaker” plants (as are the current ‘go-to’), the Megapack could be used to store excess solar or wind energy in order to support the grid’s peak loads.

Peaker plants are necessary to meet energy demands in instances where a local utility grid can’t provide enough power to meet peak demand; a situation that is becoming more and more common as both temperatures and populations rise.   

Not only are solutions such as Tesla’s financially sound, but they are also a more sustainable option. It is likely therefore that this latest Musk innovation could take off, especially as more and more territories escalate their attempts to realise ambitious emissions targets.

A timely announcement.  On Wednesday, figures from here in the UK reveal that the hottest ten years on record have all occurred since 2002. A very real reminder that climate change IS happening and that as a global community we have got to take steps to control it.  

Fintech, Revolut on track to be as “big as Barclays”.

The impressive upward trajectory of Fintech startups has been well documented.  Barely a week goes by when we are not reminded of the surge that is being enjoyed by these disruptive new kids of finance.  

Not only are these so-called ‘challenger banks’ providing a tempting alternative to traditional high street models, but they are also inviting larger than ever rates of investment from financiers wishing to capitalise upon the fintech revolution.  

At the forefront are industry leaders, Revolut who have enjoyed huge success since their 2015 inception.  In just 4 short years, this punchy startup has amassed an impressive 6 million-strong customer base. Revolut are looking to ride the crest of the fintech wave, and have made it clear that they are looking to raise £500m in investment this year.  A move that, if successful, will see them reach a notable £8bn valuation.   

In its attempts to realise this ambitious objective, Revolut have been linked with some well-known names in the investment space.  A Japanese firm, Softbank for example who, just last week, confirmed that they had raised $108bn for its new technology investment fund.

Should 2019 see Revolut realise this ambition, it is understood that the start up have aggressive global expansion at the heart of their plans.  This will include a launch in India; hiring operations executives to target the 1.4 billion strong market. They have also revealed that they will launch an attack on the US as soon as this summer.

Simon Cook is chief executive at Draper Esprit as well as being a board member and investor at Revolut.  It is his belief that Revolut is just one of a handful of European start-ups on track to be worth tens of billions of pounds;

“This generation like N26, UiPath, Revolut and Transferwise are growing twice as fast [as previous start-ups]…They could get to £500m in revenues in five years. This means we are building real, $10bn companies in Europe for the first time.”

He goes on to say that; 

“Barclays has 25 million customers. The idea that N26 or Revolut could go on to be the size of Barclays, that looks believable to me.”  

If Revolut continues to amass customers at the rate they are going, then of course, this looks to be a very real assertion.  

The path to success has not been without its hold-ups for Revolut.  In February, it was revealed that Revolut failed to block thousands of potentially suspicious transactions on its platform when it switched off an automated system designed to stop money transfers that had been flagged for sanctions checks.  Again in February, Revolut faced questions over its internal culture and were also forced to respond to complaints about claims in its billboard advertising.    

In a counter-attack, established banks have launched their own brands in an effort to stem the rise of the challengers.  Most successful has been Goldman-Sachs, whose banking app Marcus managed to sign 250,000 UK customers in eight months, taking in more than $8bn worth of deposits.

UK Fintech is an area which has enjoyed huge investment from private equity firms and venture capitalists in the first half of 2019.  The UK looks to be a target market for these investors though, and these investment levels buck the wider trend.   According to KPMG’s latest Pulse of Fintech report, just $37.6bn was invested in global fintech firms in the first six months of the year, down from $62.6bn in the first half of 2018.  Fintechs here in the UK, however, have continued to thrive. Investors continue to throw money at the UK. $3.06bn was raised in new funding and saw $3.9bn worth of investment activity overall. 

Both the growth in investment and the success enjoyed by these neo financial products leaves us in no doubt that that the market is flourishing.  It is also clear that their whirlwind growth leaves plenty of room for disruption. We are keen to see what the latter half of 2019 will bring for Revolut and those like them.

Revolut to introduce commission-free trading to Metal customers.

More from Revolut! 

In a company blog post, Revolut have announced they have launched commission-free stock trades for their Metal customers.  These trades will be supported by real-time price and performance data and will see users from the UK and Europe be able to avoid the heavy cost and complication associated with stock market trading.  Investors will be able to take advantage of up to 100 commission-free stock trades per month. 

Any customers who wish to make further trades beyond the free 100 limit will be able to do so; just at the company’s standard cost of £1 commission fee per trade.

They have also upended some of the other restrictions that stock trading has formally held for the everyman.  With their fractional share option, Revolut have opened trading up as an option to all of us, and not just the super-wealthy.   Typically, investors are required to buy whole shares, and as such are forced to buy at least one. This isn’t necessarily a problem if the share value is low.  However, should investors wish to own a slice of Google or Amazon, for example, this could run into the thousands. Revolut’s trading feature allows the purchase of part shares for as little as $1 US.  

Another considerable benefit is that trades can be made in a number of currencies remotely, straight from the Revolut app.  Now, trading is not only affordable, it has become fast and convenient too.

At the moment, it is only Metal customers who are eligible to use this commission-free trading platform.  In the coming weeks though, Revolut plan to roll it out to their standard and premium customers.

This is a game-changer, and this commission-free approach will significantly increase the reach of stock trading.   We wonder if traditional high street banking models will follow suit. We compared Revolut to Barclays earlier on. At the current time, Barclays charge between £4.95 and £10 a trade. We wonder how these established institutions will adapt their approach to remain competitive.

To read more about this exciting new approach, you can find the Revolut announcement here.

Alphabet become world’s most cash-rich company.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet have overtaken Apple in the race to become the world’s most cash-rich company.  

The Financial Times has reported that Alphabet holds $117 billion in liquid reserves, compared to Apple’s $102 billion.

Although on the surface, the “cash king” title may be one that ought to be highly prized and desired, it is in fact one that could be problematic for Alphabet.

Government and industry regulators have shown concern about big tech companies, their power over the market and their use of customer data.  Facebook, Amazon and indeed, Google have faced heavy scrutiny from governing bodies in the US. Just last week, the Justice Department opened a fresh antitrust investigation into these tech giants.  Such an overt statement of wealth is likely to raise the profile of these companies and will undoubtedly incite a heightened level of investigation.  Google and its parent company have been hit with €8.2 billion in antitrust fines by the EU in the past two years alone.

Alphabet are also likely to suffer internal pressures from shareholders who may rather the company spend more of its money on dividends or share buybacks. 

Perhaps this is why Apple have appeared to actively reduce its liquidity.  Over the past two years, Apple’s reserves have fallen by $61 billion from its $163 billion high.  The iPhone manufacturer has taken advantage of US tax reforms to repatriate overseas reserves and pay it out to investors.  On the flip side, Alphabet’s cash reserves have risen by $20 billion over the same period, despite the company’s heavy investment in real estate.  Google have been expanding their property portfolio; buying up office space and data centres

Looking past the cash title, becoming the globe’s most valuable company is still an accolade that has eluded Alphabet.  The first of the Big Five to become a member of the trillion-dollar club was Apple, who was awarded the title this time last year.  

Since then though, Apple has been overtaken by both Amazon and Microsoft; the latter of which is now the only company to have a market cap of $1 trillion. 

The tech ecosystem is one that is volatile and transient.  The “Cash King” crown may not be one that is worn by Alphabet for long, but for now ‘A’ most definitely is for Alphabet! 

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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