Vodafone Merger in India

Rival telecommunications companies Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular Ltd. agreed to a merger in India that is expected to finalize in 2018. This decision arose from the intense price war in the world’s second-largest mobile phone market, and this larger operator will have 395 million subscribers, more than market leader Bharti Airtel Ltd. Due to extreme competition in the country, Idea lost money last year for the first time in ten years. Vodafone faces similar struggles with profitability, but four years from the agreement, the merger will save $2.1 billion per year on costs and investments. The $23.2 billion deal values Vodafone India at $12.4 billion and Idea Cellular at $10.8 billion.

Vodafone’s expansion over time as a holding company allows it to relinquish partial control of its most troubled assets. The merger helps redeem the company’s expensive “bet” on India, which saw it continue to decrease in value and accumulate debt, by moving an unprofitable business off its balance sheet and providing potential for growth. Competitors will most likely follow in the footsteps of Vodafone and Idea, because “the logic behind telecoms mergers is indisputable. In effect mobile telecoms is infrastructure and the winner in such a market is the business with the greatest market share. They can put the biggest volume of users through their infrastructure, which is effectively fixed cost, minimizing cost per user.”

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao believes that this merger will trigger mobile network growth in India. He thinks the new network will bring strong 4G networks to more locations throughout the country and revolutionize “Digital India”. He says, “this is a transformational deal that changes, at the same time, the prospect and future of Vodafone and Idea in India, but also the industrial structure in India.” Due to the size of the new company, new technologies can be explored without the risk of losing too much money. Mobile money services and other technologies can now come to India and make life easier for its citizens.





Branding the Budding Marijuana Industry

The marijuana industry has exploded since the legalization of the plant for medical use (and recreational use in states like Colorado and Washington). There are currently twenty eight states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes and eight of them and Washington, D.C. have also approved recreational use. The rush to enter this vast new market has resulted in an explosion of dispensaries and the market value in 2016 was estimated at 7.1 billion dollars. In 2015 in Colorado alone, sales of recreational and medical marijuana totaled 996 million dollars.

Yet, the industry is hamstrung. On a federal level, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that the Controlled Substances Act considers it to be void of any medical benefits. This has caused legitimate marijuana businesses in legalized states to encounter branding issues as they attempt to act like legitimate businesses. Federal trademarks, for example, cannot be awarded to businesses that grow or distribute marijuana. Yet the ability of firms in this market to distinguish themselves from their competition and protect their unique image in an ever-growing throng of dispensaries is crucial. So, in an industry that is only going to grow faster as more states move towards legalization, how can firms take the important steps to branding themselves?

Some have taken the route of deception. In a 2016 Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision, a Washington-based retailer attempting to secure a federal trademark for the name “Herbal Access” was denied on the grounds that it sold marijuana. Yet the retailer did not come clean about that. Instead, it tried to conceal the fact that it sold marijuana and labelled itself as an “herb store”. This was seen through immediately and the retailer did not obtain the desired trademark. Furthermore, more legal issues emerged later on because of the store’s insistence on lying about its true nature despite advertising the sale of marijuana on its official website. Trademarks have been denied based on implications made that either there is no sale of marijuana when there actually is, or even that there is sale of marijuana when there really isn’t.

For entrepreneurs attempting to tap the marijuana market, the short run is important to consider. For now, marijuana is not legalized at the federal level, and so marketing must be contained within states where it is. It is advisable that businesses simply register marijuana-related aspects of their brand under state law.


Connors, Tiffany Scott, and David Spellman. “Branding Marijuana Businesses: Lessons Learned From In Re Morgan Brown.” The Licensing Journal. Vol. 36. New York: Aspen, 2016. 5. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.





OPEC: Cartels, Cheating and Saudi Arabia

I provide no links, it’s easy enough to the find info below, or see me in office hours.

Saudi Arabia faces dire challenges: a burgeoning population that lives off of oil, and a growing royal family that lives extravagantly off of oil. The country is now running budget deficits, and otherwise is clearly living beyond its current means

…the Saudi’s hope is to stave off the day when they are the [political] disruptor of the Middle East…

So Saudi Arabia would like production cutbacks to drive up prices. What does the logic of cartels suggest will happen?

First, real-time data on OPEC production do not exist. That’s because cheating is rampant, and countries understate actual production. Scan the news and you’ll find stories galore on both the lack of data and (given that constraint!) the likely magnitude of cheating. After all, Saudi Arabia is not alone in finding itself squeezed between low oil prices and bedrock. Small producers pay lip service to the cartel, but in practice are selling all they can pump.

What of Saudi Arabia themselves? They currently pump about 1 in 8 barrels of oil, that is, 10 million of a global 80 million barrels per day. (OPEC pumps 42% officially, a bit more in reality.) So if Saudi Arabia cuts output 10% or 1 million barrels, global output falls 1.2%. Price does respond to demand, but even if it’s quite inelastic (0.3) that means price will go up by less than 5%. Hence Saudi revenue would fall 5%. Or more. So they simply cannot afford to cut output.

The greater the extent that others are capable of boosting output on the margin (think drillers in the US), the worse off the Saudis would be. (At present, for example, the US is sitting on record high inventories. As interest rates rise, that will pressure those “long” in the market to sell. A Saudi-induced bump in prices would accelerate that process, to the detriment of the Saudis.)

That doesn’t mean prices will necessarily remain low. Demand can change for a variety of reasons, and supply is subject to political disruptions. The Saudi’s hope is to stave off the day when they are the disruptor.

The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Pokemon Go

The Pokemon Go craze hit the world in the summer of 2016. In the first week, over 10 million people had downloaded Pokemon Go. By Pokemon Go’s peak in July of 2016, there were over 21 million daily users along with 500 million total downloads. These insane statistics meant Pokemon Go was one of the most played apps ever. However, it seemed that as quickly as Pokemon Go came, it left. Looking at Nintendo’s stock, (which is the best financial measure we have even thought they only received a small percentage of the revenue) you can easily see the rise and subsequent fall of Pokemon go.

Google Finance. Notes: Nintendo also likely dropped once people realized they were only getting a percentage of the revenue (Niantic, the actual creator was privately held). The bounce back around October was likely the announcement of Nintendo Switch.

By time the time schools were starting back up in the fall, the phenomenon had all but faded. How had a game as popular as Pokemon Go felt such decline, where by August 2016 Pokemon Go was losing around 10 million users a month?

Source: Bloomberg

One reason Pokemon Go had such a steep rise in the first place was the nostalgic aspect of Pokemon Go. Young adults age 18-34 were the key demographic averaging 78% of downloads with males 21-27 making up the largest portion of that demographic. Mostly everyone played pokemon in some form as a child and so Pokemon Go represented a way to capture that youth. Additionally, Pokemon Go’s augmented reality set up was a fairly novel concept to the mass market.

So what happened to cause Pokemon Go to fall as quickly as it rose? One reason is that the game was released before there was actual game play. Sure you could walk around and capture pokemon or take on a gym, but little else reflected the game most of us knew and loved. There were no attacks, only swiping left and right while furiously tapping; wild pokemon simply waited to have pokeballs tossed at it, and no interface in which to communicate/trade/battle other users directly. The actual game play left much to be desired and Niantic (the creator of the app) seemed to role out new features very slowly. This led many users to lose interest in the game. Niantic was silent as to how they planned on improving many flaws in the game (the issue of pokemon tracking, no battling others, trading, etc.) which only caused more users to leave the game.

Pokemon Go, while a tremendous business idea, was a poorly executed game. The creators seemingly had no road map as to how they intended to make improvements, fix issues and their inability to communicate with users only compounded the problem. Augmented reality games (ARGs) are a novel concept and could be the future of gaming, but games such as Pokemon Go indicate that ARGs might have further to go before being truly competitive with conventional gaming.

Sources: http://theinvestmenttracker.com/how-to-buy-niantic-stock/



Is a Super Bowl Ad Really Worth it?

A 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl this year cost $5 million. There are several reasons for this lofty price tag. The first is the reach. Over 110 million people watched the Super Bowl this year. To give some perspective, the highest grossing movie of 2016, Star Wars Rogue One, sold 55 million tickets, game 7 of the NBA finals this past year garnered about 31 million viewers, and only 9 million watched the season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones. This alone doesn’t justify the hefty cost of an ad. Networks and the NFL realize there is something different about Super Bowl commercials than regular ones: people actually watch them. Every other day of the year, people try to avoid advertisements as much as they can. However, 17.7% of adults say that advertisements are the most important part of the event, according to Prosper Insights and Analytics. The advertisements drum up conversation among viewers when they discuss their favorite ones.

When just observing data it is hard to understand how the price could be so high, and how it has exponentially grown. The cost of a 30-second ad in 2007 was 2.39 million, meaning the price has doubled in ten years. The price has gone up by about 60 percent in the past 5 years despite no significant increase in viewership or number of commercials.

Despite the unique features of a Super Bowl ad, it is still rarely “worth” it. The $5 million price tag the network charges doesn’t include the cost to make the ad or drum up publicity to make it a successful campaign. A study by Wesley R Hartmann titled “Do Superbowl Ads Affect Brand Share” found that commercials from common Super Bowl Advertisers, like soda or beer, had a “null and/or insignificant effect” on revenue. Companies realize that they’re paying millions of dollars for something that won’t help the company, so why do they do it? It is possible for companies to receive significant lifts from a Super Bowl ad. The issue is that any market share gains to be made by a company like Coors is going to be negated by another commercial from Budweiser. This presents a Prisoner’s Dilemma for companies: if none advertised during the Super Bowl, they could save millions of dollars and not experience any change in market share. Instead, everyone advertises and significant amounts of money are lost for no reason.

Some companies are using strategies that make the purchase more reasonable. SunTrust is using digital media to their advantage. They created a website that was designed solely because of their commercial where there is a lot more information for a consumer and opportunities to share through other forms of media like Facebook. For example, they can take a pledge to better their financial health and create their own version of the Super Bowl Commercial. Chief marketing officer Susan Johnson said it best: “We’re not launching a product. We need to get people aware of the issue… The best way to do that is through the Super Bowl Stage with the digital wrapped around it.”

This makes a lot of sense for a company like SunTrust, and probably would for many others. However, a lot of the big boys are wasting money for nothing. With $5 million, they’d likely be better off getting a lot of slots elsewhere.

  1. Average Cost of a 30 Second Ad Spot During Super Bowl
  2. super-bowl-commercial-cost-2017
  3. super-bowl-ads-waste-5-million
  4. is-a-super-bowl-ad-really-worth-the-5-million

Can Apple Continue its Dominance as a One-Product Company?

Ten years ago, Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone to the world, changing the trajectory of the company for the next decade and completely revolutionizing the cell phone industry in the process. Thanks to this innovation, Apple has made billions of dollars in revenue. However, the iPhone’s success has been a double-edged sword for the company, as it is very challenging for any company to rely so heavily on one individual product. Many analysts believe that as the iPhone becomes less popular, so does the company.

It is important to note that the iPhone still has major success in the cell phone market, and that does not appear to be changing any time soon. According to the most recent reports, the iPhone 7 beat last year’s all-time unit sales record by a few million, and revenue growth was up by 4.7 percent. Consequently, as seen in the graph below, for the last quarter iPhone revenue is nearly 70 percent of Apple’s earnings.  As shown, the company’s financial results are heavily dependent on strong iPhone sales. This figure does not even include sales from iTunes, the App Store, and Other Products (cases, headphones, etc.) that are major complimentary goods to the Apple iPhone. The revenue dominance raises the stakes for new CEO Tim Cook to keep the company’s (main revenue contributor) marquee handset a top seller.

Last year, the iPhone also received its first decline in sales since it was introduced. Steve Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook is feeling the heat (already receiving a pay cut) as a result. Tim Cook is not as visionary a CEO as Steve Jobs, who transformed Apple from a niche computer company into one of the most profitable companies in the world. Between 2001 to 2008, Jobs reinvented Apple products three times, and each transformation—centering around the iPod and iTunes in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the App Store in 2008—drove revenue and profits to new heights. Yet in five years the only truly new product that’s managed to ship is the Apple Watch.

The iPhone alone generated $102 billion in sales in Apple’s last fiscal year, more than Google, Facebook, and Twitter’s annual revenue combined, and it appears to be going nowhere any time soon. Nevertheless, the question still remains: how long can Cook and Apple maintain the exceptionally high product demand of the iPhone before a new innovation takes control of the market? And will Apple be the company with the next great innovation or will another company rise and take over the market?





Microsoft establishing market dominance through aggressive bundling strategies

The foundation of Microsoft’s market dominance was born out of their bundling strategy. The company started by developing the early version of Windows as a disk based operating system (DOS) that proved to be very successful, and upon achieving an early monopoly with its operating system, Microsoft was able to offer discounts to its customers in a manner that priced out its competitors. For example, using the profits earned by the success of Windows, they could subsidize the bundling of the individual Microsoft Office products Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into one package, then priced the package at a low price other competitors could not compete with, thus ensuring market dominance of the Microsoft Office bundle.

This same strategy was used in establishing early market dominance over internet search browsers. In the mid 1990’s, Netscape was the dominant browser and considered a “superior product” to internet explorer. However, Microsoft decided to bundle internet explorer “free” with their Windows operating system, and since their operating system was so popular, Internet Explorer quickly gained 90% control of the market and Netscape collapsed. This is an aggressive ploy that is being reused currently with Windows 10. With this updated system, the new browser “Edge” is automatically installed as the default browser even if you originally had Chrome or Firefox etc. already set to default. This move from Microsoft angered the Mozilla CEO to the point where he wrote an open letter, complaining that, while it was possible to revert back to Firefox instead of Edge, the new Microsoft system’s interface does not make it “obvious or easy” to make this adjustment.

The theoretical benefits to bundling can be shown in the above two product example as part of the bundling notes on this site. As the theory states, when a company uses a bundling strategy, they expect to earn greater profits that if a company sold two individual products separately. An example of this process can be found through Nintendo and their attempts to sell platforms and games, with a catch that bundling is only profitable if you do it right. Research by a Harvard Business School professor showed that bundling only encourages consumers to purchase the bundled product if they also have the option to purchase the individual components of the bundle separately. For example, when a bundle was offered alongside individual products, a “mixed bundle,” Nintendo’s total hardware sales were “higher by approximately 100,000 units,” and “sales of video games jumped by over a million units.” In contrast, when the bundle was the only option for a consumer, a “pure-bundle,” revenues were 20% less than in the mixed-bundle scenario and total hardware and software units sold declined by 10s of millions. 

Back to Microsoft, one of their most ingenious moves was to create a bundle of bundles called an “Enterprise Agreement,” in which they combined Office, Windows, and ‘The Core CAL’ (a bundle of license rights). From this, Microsoft have manipulated these bundles in such a way as to be able to introduce new products originally as part of the bundle, before taking them out of the bundles. Because of this, consumers need to purchase the side product at great additional cost, allowing Microsoft to reap “enormous cash gains” to the point where these side products such as the “System Management Server” have become billion dollar businesses in their own right. 

Microsoft’s aggressive bundling strategy has obviously been hugely important in taking the company to its current position, and it will be interesting to see whether they can continue to use this strategy successfully. 





How the Success of the Nintendo Switch Could Change the Console Industry

Prior to the Switch’s launch last Friday, analysts at investment banks across the country forecasted weak sales numbers and an overall flop for the Japanese entertainment company, citing a high starting price and lack of strong launch titles.  Nintendo, which is still reeling from the unsuccessful launch of the Wii U, was banking on the Switch not only to succeed, but also to revitalize a business model forged on innovation.  If you look at the history of the gaming industry, you can see that upon the release of a highly successful Nintendo product, the rest of the industry subsequently attempts to tailor their products/technologies to match that of Nintendo.  There is no better example of this than the release of the Wii in 2006, which prompted Sony and Microsoft (both of whom were on the verge of releasing their newest generation consoles) to attempt to incorporate similar accelerometer-based technology.  As a result gamers received the Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move packages.

Fast forward to today and we see a drastically different story than that painted by analysts less than a week ago.  Nintendo claims that the Switch is claimed has outsold the 2006 Wii launch, and company stock prices reflect that with a recent jump of 4.1%.  The flagship title Zelda: Breath of the Wild has just barely came in at no. 2 in the UK games charts behind Playstation exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn.  But what does this mean for the future of the big three console companies?  The Switch essentially capitalizes on consumers’ obsession with mobile gaming, allowing them to take games they play on the TV at home with them on the go (and done in a much more effective way than Sony’s mid-2000s PSP).  Given the Switch’s relative success in comparison to the Wii, can we expect to see a restructuring of the approaches that Microsoft and Sony take to future platforms?  Will the entire industry see a shift to provide consumers with a high-performance alternative to smartphone mobile gaming?  We can only wait and see.


Nintendo shares jump 4.1% after Switch console success – Independent.co.uk

Analyst Predicts The Nintendo Switch Will Have a Sluggish Start with $5M in Sales in 2017 – Forbes

Nintendo says the Switch outsold the Wii at launch – Polygon

Movie Theaters: how do they make their money? What does that imply about movie distributor contracts with theaters?

On the contrary to popular conception, the movie theaters themselves rarely make any money of the tickets of the movies that they are showing inside the theater.  So how do theaters make their money?  Concession Margins.  Most of the theaters’ money comes from concessions.  Theaters can stay in business because the profit margins on drinks and food is so high.  Fountain drinks cost pennies to make, including the cup/lid/straw, so profit ratio is massive.  Popcorn is likewise really cheap, and they also charge a huge markup for it.  Their fixed costs with employees also leads to zero marginal costs for movie theaters in regards to selling concessions.  As Time magazine puts it in 2009, “Movie Theaters make 85% profit at concession stands”.

Looking at the price discrimination graph below, Movie theaters markups in their concessions are reflective of second degree price discrimination, meaning that the theaters charge a different price for different quantities.  This applies for movie ticket sales/food quantity.  Price discrimination is the action of selling the same product at different prices to different buyers, in order to maximize sales and profits.   The tickets are a form of price discrimination as well for their are different ticket prices for certain age demographics.

In the case above, the seller charges a higher per-unit price for fewer units sold and a lower per-unit price for larger quantities purchased (hence why theaters still implement family deals to attract customer initiatives.  The seller is attempting to extract some of the consumer’s surplus value as profits with residual surplus remaining with the consumer over and above the actual price paid.  Thus, high margins under a movie theater framework.

In movie distributor contracts with theaters, the movie studios leases a movie to the the local theater for a set period of time.  Movie distributors make deals with the theaters in regards to tickets, and there are several terms that are agreed to: Set figure negotiated by the theater to cover basic expenses each week, percentage split for next box office is set (amount of box office left after the deduction of house allowance), percentage split for gross box office is set, length of engagement set.

For example, I pay $10 to go see La La Land at my local theater in their opening week, in which the the first week or two of the showing the theatre itself gets to keep only 20-25% of that $10 per unit.  As the theater moves into the third and fourth weeks of release, the percentage starts to swing anywhere from 45%-55% that the theater gets to keep.  Usually towards the end of the movies lease, the audience number starts to really decrease and the higher percentage allocation towards theater at that time means really little.  More often than not, the theaters itself are willing to lose money in the first week or two of a popular movie opening (giving distributors higher percentages) so they can generate higher volume in  people going to the concession stands, where the margins are high and they keep 100% of the profits.

Different films make different deals with theaters, so the exact percentage is different from film to film, but it always involves theaters agreeing to a small cut at the start and an ever growing percentage over time.  Ultimately, the real money for theaters comes from their concession stands, despite their actions to generate revenue from ticket sales.  For movie studios, they are more concerned with revenue maximizing rather than profit maximizing based on the structure of the studio/theater arrangement.


Sources Consulted:

Movie Theaters Make 85% Profit at Concession Stands



Why PSA Plans to Acquire Opel and Vauxhall

As Matthew posted, the French automaker Peugeot (also known as the PSA group) has been examining the prospect of purchasing two European subsidiaries of General Motors (Opel and Vauxhall). In fact, PSA is set to make the deal this Monday. Both Opel and Vauxhall have been financially draining for GM, so there is understandably some confusion as to why Peugeot would seek to acquire the companies. As Professor Smitka has said in class, two money-losing companies do not create a profitable company, but one larger money-losing company.

PSA only recently began to profit-the company’s 1.2 billion euro profit in 2015 was the companies first profitable year since 2011.

Income Statement (mil) 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Revenue $59,733.53 $65,159.308 $74,460.294 $73,271.889 $77,580.049
Gross Profit $11,107.448 $10,749.882 $11,186.252 $10,392.276 $13,244.237
Operating Income $2,107.432 $126.412 $-1,852.904 $-6,279.768 $1,162.82
Net Income $982.158 $-858.143 $-3,189.582 $-6,620.715 $761.401
Diluted EPS $1.14 $-1.4 $-9.32 $-20.62 $3.31

Along with this profit, PSA reported a 5.7% surge in sales. For comparison, in 2014, PSA posted a 555 million euro loss. The company took a major hit during the global financial crisis, and as a result was bailed out by the French state and Dongfeng Motor Corp. Both entities took a 14% stake in the company. After some restructuring, PSA began to make the proverbial climb back to a profitable future.

PSA CEO Carlos Tavares has commented on the purchase of Opel and Vauxhall, saying that he believes acquiring both companies would be a strategic purchase for PSA. Tavares believes that, based on the past financial performance of PSA, his company has the expertise to advise the current staff at Opel in a way that will positively affect profits. Tavares also believes that PSA would profit in terms of shared technology and purchasing power. The vehicles produced by PSA and Opel/Vauxhall share underlying technological platforms, which could result in significant cost savings for all the companies. PSA believes that a joint company consisting of PSA, Opel, and Vauxhall could sell more than 5 million cars annually, and improve the geographic range of each individual company in terms of where cars are sold.

Additionally, PSA, Opel, and Vauxhall are based in separate countries, which creates the potential for a “European car champion”, as Tavares termed it. However, the three countries are all intent on jobs remaining within their borders, especially the UK post Brexit.

In summary, PSA would acquire Opel and Vauxhall in order to combine engineering platforms and therefore realize cost savings, as well as to gain purchasing power and geographic sales range. Only time will tell if this “strategic” purchase pays off.


  • http://www.dw.com/en/french-carmaker-psa-returns-to-profitability/a-19069999
  • http://europe.autonews.com/article/20170224/ANE/170229917/psa-has-track-record-to-turn-around-opel-vauxhall-tavares-says
  • http://gmauthority.com/blog/2017/02/psa-group-to-see-value-and-speedy-savings-in-opel-purchase/
  • https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/03/psa-close-to-deal-for-general-motors-vauxhall-and-opel-brands
  • http://www.hoovers.com/company-information/cs/revenue-financial.peugeot_sa.eb38d6bee49a69d1.html