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  • 03/07/2016

Monetising Us? The Value We Transfer for Free




Monetising Us? The Value We Transfer for Free


By Paula DiPerna

I wonder sometimes if the digital economy is free riding on our eyeballs. Since so much valuation of today’s companies tends to depend on sales volume from advertising revenue, in turn dependent on how many hits, likes, clicks, tweets, forwards and comments we provide free, not to mention bots—which are fabricated versions of all these. The more our eyes pass over a webpage, the more we add value to that page, subsidising the page owner, for then the more advertising potential the website can claim. But is this turning much of the web into mere wallpaper for ads? Our eyeballs convey billions of dollars of valuation to digital companies of all kinds, but are we getting back the value we are creating in better products, or customer experiences? I doubt it.

The more we look, the more there is to look at, or so it seems, and is it my imagination but are websites now forcing us into more clicks to get to basic information, which can be racked up as signs of interest? We provide our eyeballs, and fingertips, then marketeers brag about our doing it, a transfer of value from us to them. Just last week, the venerable New York Times referred to its business strategy as “monetising our audience”—meaning us, the readers, digital and print—for the sake of ad revenue.

I’m not sure I want to be monetised. But free riding by companies may not be confined to eyeballs. We also transfer value through participating in the increasing DIY nature of the so-called service economy, surely a paradox. Doing for ourselves what others used to do for us strikes me as a wholesale transfer of value from us to them—for which we get little productive reward, and which tends to value, shall we say, the doodads around the product, rather than the product itself.

Take airlines, perhaps the most vivid example of de-emphasis of the actual tangible product—the flight—in favour of intangibles, the extraneous new revenue lines that have little to do with flight. Of course, the core competence of an airline is the journey delivered at a speed common to all planes of the same type. And, part of that core competence also used to be customer service. Today, the downward cost-control spiral presses, and airlines seek to offload as much cost to us, the passengers, as possible, such as offloading check-in to online operations and away from human interaction in all but the premium classes, and even they now seem to be squeezed. And, in cabin, business class seems more and more about over-the-top meals and wine choices, rather than calm elite ambiance.

Of course many travellers find it convenient to check-in online and print out their own boarding pass, and the more we do that, the more the airline saves money. But has the airline industry transferred that new value to us? I don’t feel it, whereas on the other hand, we have the explosion of nuisance charges, such as bag charges, charging for seat assignments, and now even extra charges for reserving on the telephone. And ad hoc overweight policies that are impossible to follow, especially on low-cost airlines, which can be the only option on some routes, especially in Asia. Recently, in Thailand, I was charged 1300 Baht for a short flight, but then got whacked with a 2000 Baht overweight charge for 10 kilos. I should have known the fare was too low to be real. “Read the conditions,” said the indifferent airline airport manager to my protest—“it’s on your boarding pass…You could have bought more overweight allowance in advance.” Well, no one had offered me a menu of fares that would have covered the overweight luggage and, as for the boarding pass, indeed the conditions were printed there but the flimsy critical document looked more like a receipt for toothpaste from a 7-11, and I had almost crumpled it up by mistake.

Then, there is a constant upselling of doodads. In flight duty-free is one case, a practice that is itself a nuisance in flight, all the more because the harried in-cabin staff seem to detest having to push those carts up and down the aisles. And, recently, I received an email blast from a leading international carrier promoting its new line of amenity kits—tiered amenity kits to correspond to its business class and frequent flyer levels. This seems patently ridiculous to me—for what can truly be distinguishing about an amenity kit? And one can only imagine the cabin havoc as passengers start to complain that they have been issued the wrong amenities—beneath them and their fare grade. Surely dreaming up Type A, B and C amenity kits cannot be a truly productive use of marketing dollars, or corporate brain power. But, in both the case of overweight luggage and the amenity kit, the business model seems to say the actual flight is an afterthought, compared to the extras.

Business model disruption is dynamic, for sure, but transferring value to unproductive and parasitic intangibles may be hollowing out the very economic energy we seek to create. But then, I guess we could start counter-monetising, charging those who charge us for using us. That would truly be disruptive. BM

從印度轉型中獲利

Matthew Fletcher 撰文

說到選股,一切皆關乎對細節的認真探究,這正正是木星資產管理的優勝之處。因此,由文智華(Avinash Vazirani)管理的木星印度精選SICAV基金,自2008年中推出起表現一直跑贏基準指數。 為表彰此方面的卓著表現,基金已獲評為《指標》2016年度基金大獎印度股票「同級最佳」基金。

把握印度的國內增長潛力

選股時,文智華採用由下而上分析法,物色市盈率與市賬率低於市場均值、但往績與預測每股盈利增長高於市場均值的公司;換言之,就是以合理價格買入他看好的公司。他通常先和管理層見面,了解一段時間後才放心投資。「我們追求由人才雄厚的團隊經營,並將股東利益放在心中的好公司。」

文智華指流動性並非他選股的主要投資準則。「我們投資的企業必需擁有可持續收入和現金流。假如您細看我們的投資組合,您會發現各公司一般均擁有強勁的品牌和知識產權,而且入行門檻較高,亦側重於內需消費。基本上,我們瞄準從印度國內增長中獲利的機會。」

基於上述選股原則,對比其指標指數MSCI印度指數,該基金持有較多的消費股及金融股,而商品股的持股量相對較少。

受惠於莫迪的反貪腐運動

他提出五個將帶動印度公司的長遠盈利能力,但目前仍被市場低估的因素,包括:政治穩定性、引入「福利直接轉帳」(DBT)計劃、在全國實施商品及服務稅(GST)、增加高速互聯網的覆蓋率,以及把人民的實體儲蓄轉化成金融儲蓄。去年十一月,總理納倫德拉・莫迪(Narendra Modi)決定廢除大面額現鈔的流通,或稱「廢鈔」,是對印度經濟有重大影響的事件。此項令人震驚的公佈,主要為了遏制恐怖主義發展,杜絕不明來歷的黑錢。由於被剔出法定貨幣的鈔票,包括主要為500 盧比及 1,000 盧比鈔票,佔總流通現鈔量的86%,或約2,200 億元,此舉對「黑市」經濟及官方經濟均構成直接衝擊。

印度經濟中多個依賴現鈔支付的行業均深受打撃。文智華解釋,例如在十一月及十二月初,貨車與陸路運輸公司及其他物流公司的業務忽然剎停,令企業銷售受到全盤影響。但從好的方面來看,印度人機智應變,很多店主於店外設置QR碼,轉用電子形式收款。文智華相信,隨著廢鈔,及越來越多印度人把資金存入銀行並在官方經濟中流轉,增加政府稅收,會有助印度轉型為更數碼化的經濟體。

據不完全統計,廢鈔已在短期內對廣泛經濟造成消極影響。就2017年而言,國際貨幣基金組織(IMF)鑑於廢鈔的影響,已將印度經濟增長預測調低1個百分點至6.6%。然而,廢鈔會如何在短期內逐漸影響到各公司的利潤,仍存在很大的不確定性。文智華指:「我們通常會預視未來六至十二個月的前景,而不明朗因素將於未來三至六個月內浮現。」

對文智華來說,廢鈔對經濟及股票市場極之有利。他指出:「貪污減少、更多人遵從稅法將會帶來長遠裨益,這正正是市場評論員所忽略的。」於印度非正規經濟內營運的公司,是現鈔支付經濟的主要參與者,如今他們將被帶返正規經濟領域內,且須繳立稅款。這將創造公平競爭環境,使這些公司與更有效、更妥善地營運並一直履行課稅責任的上市公司進行競爭,從而令上市公司受益。文智華投資的公司當中,大部份均有信心會從非正規經濟領域內的公司手上,取回更多市場佔有率。

文智華又指,目前斷定廢鈔的長遠贏家與輸家言之尚早。然而,金融服務公司與金融科技公司是兩個很明顯的受益行業,原因是印度人取回投放於黃金及物業的資金,再把資金投放於金融產品,如保險、網上儲蓄戶口和互惠基金,而建築公司會受到負面影響。文智華亦預測,隨著更多資金透過官方金融體系往來,市場利率將降低,公司可享受較低的借貸成本。由於商業客戶償還銀行貸款的能力增加,公營銀行,包括此基金持有的幾隻銀行股,應可從中受惠。

「處於變革期的開端」

印度是2016年表現較佳的新興市場之一,雖然股市不算太好,未有礙此基金跑贏大市。2017年的外圍環境正為印度帶來種種不明朗因素。自唐納・特朗普(Donald Trump)當選美國總統,並決定美國退出《跨太平洋夥伴關係自由貿易協定》起,可能已拉開貿易關係不穩的新時代序幕。美國息率上升的預期,可能有損海外投資者對印度證券的投資意欲。

文智華指出,印度與美國並無訂立自由貿易協定,因此,受特朗普政策影響較微。儘管市場憂慮美國保護主義情緒加劇,可能減少美國人對印度資訊科技服務的需求,美國國內對印度軟件工程師及資訊科技服務仍是求過於供。文智華指:「特朗普是擁有億萬家財的商家,我們應相信美國人的決定,繼續等待及觀望。」他又說,美元息率攀升,已造成海外股票投資者近月更猛力拋售印度股票,但國內流向印度互惠基金的資金增加,抵銷了部份不利影響。

對印度及長遠股市前景更重要的是,莫迪能夠成功推行廢止大面額現鈔,並令已討論了數十年的商品及服務稅,最終能於今年夏季推行。有關稅項將大大簡化印度繁複的稅制,同時令營商更加便利。對於文智華而言,這些是印度自獨立以來最大的制度改進。他說:「莫迪已取得很大的成功,他所作出的改變是如此驚人,你不能低估已推措施的成效。印度現正處於變革期的開端。」他續說:「投資印度多年,我從未如此深信各公司的未來賺錢能力和投資契機。」 BM

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