Weekly reading 25th June 2022

What I wrote last week

Books on Payments

Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and took away abortion rights

Business

Inside the Reinvention of Albertsons Cos. The over-arching theme of Albertsons’ plan moving forward is to use technology and data to make decisions so that efficiency can improve and so does customer engagement. Grocery is a hard business. Margin is low and competition is fierce. Albertsons said their goal was to have shoppers complete grocery shopping at their stores without visiting rivals’ footprint while offering local assortments. It means that the selection has to be broad, but the stores at the same time cannot expand in size forever. They also need to keep a close eye on costs and margin as well. That would require a lot of data analytics, coordination in the case of omni-channel shopping and great execution.

($) Retailers’ Inventories Pile Up as Lead Times Grow. On top of the ever-changing consumer behavior and sky-high inflation, retailers now have to deal with long lead times in production which make it even more difficult to match demand with supply while keeping costs in check. Hold a lot of the wrong inventory to avoid supply chain and production issues, and you will be punished like Walmart or Target. Be nimble with inventory and you don’t have well-stocked shelves to woo customers. Hard times ahead.

Consumer watchdog eyes crackdown on credit card late fees as inflation threatens to increase them. If CFPB introduces regulations on late fees, it will affect how issuers generate revenue from credit cards. Late fee is a significant source of revenue by itself, but it also encourages consumers to pay off balance to avoid further penalty. If late fees are further capped or even outright banned, such an incentive will go away and consumers may carry more balance. It will increase risks and reduce revenue for issuers. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

($) Canada to Compel YouTube, TikTok and Streamers to Boost Domestic Content. I am generally supportive of having the right kind of regulations in place to help businesses. Hence, I would be in favor of the Canadian government giving these streamers incentives to promote Canadian creators’ work. I am not; however, ok with a government mandating a preference of local content.

($) GM and Ford, Driving to Beat Tesla, Turn on Each Other. An interesting read on how two iconic American car manufacturers are going at each other for market shares in the EV area.

($) How Singapore Got Its Manufacturing Mojo Back. “In courting factories like this, Singapore has become a rare wealthy country to reverse its manufacturing downturn. The city-state had faced industrial decline, with World Bank figures showing manufacturing falling to 18% of gross domestic product in 2013, from 27% in 2005. Then manufacturing made a comeback in Singapore, rising to 21% of GDP in 2020, according to the World Bank’s latest figures. Singapore has aggressively wooed highly automated factories with tax breaks, research partnerships, subsidized worker training and grants to local manufacturers to upgrade operations to better support multinational companies, among other enticements. There’s a caveat: Singapore’s success has come by automating away many jobs. It has more factory robots per employee than any country other than South Korea. Business executives say Singapore has succeeded because it has a welcoming, low-tax government and a strong base of English-speaking science, engineering and mathematics graduates and manufacturing managers. Relatively loose immigration laws make it easy to hire foreign engineers.  Executives also say they trust intellectual-property protection laws in Singapore, unlike in places like China where they sometimes worry their partners will copy their products.”

Source: Twitter

Other stuff I find interesting

Japan to subsidize TSMC’s Kumamoto plant by up to $3.5bn. Semiconductor companies get handsome subsidies from governments from all over the world. Japan will give TSMC $3.5 billion while Europe hands Intel billions of euros to build a plant there. That goes to show how countries value the strategic importance of semiconductor going forward

Why America Will Lose Semiconductors. A good run-down of problems that America faces in semiconductor. It’s a nice complementary read to the previous link

Friendly fungi help forests fight climate change. “A 2016 study led by researchers from Imperial College London revealed that one particular type – ectomycorrhizal fungi – enables certain trees to absorb CO2 faster (and therefore grow faster) than others. This is known as the “CO2 fertilisation effect”. These fungi live in the root system of a host tree. In a symbiotic relationship, fungi help the tree to absorb more water, carbon and other nutrients. In exchange, the tree provides food for the fungi by photosynthesising. Ectomycorrhizal fungi have also been found to slow down the process of rotting; decomposition breaks down all that locked-away carbon and releases it into the atmosphere. So the fungi, in effect, have two methods of fighting global warming.”

The most dangerous place on Earth. “Nestled on Lithuania’s southeastern border, Druskininkai opens onto a narrow notch of strategic territory known as the Suwałki Gap. Stretching about 100 kilometers along the Lithuanian-Polish frontier, between Belarus in the east and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the west, Western military planners warn the area would likely be one of the Russian president’s first targets were he ever to choose to escalate the war in Ukraine into a kinetic confrontation with NATO.”

($) Erdogan Is Hung Up on the Power One Kurdish Woman Has in Sweden. “Amineh Kakabaveh’s journey from Peshmerga fighter to Kurdish refugee and then Swedish lawmaker has thrust her into her adopted homeland’s standoff with Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is holding up Sweden’s application to join the NATO alliance, saying it harbors “terrorists” — his catch-all label for those with links to Kurdish militancy — and he’s hinted at Kakabaveh’s influence as a particular problem.”. Just an amazing story by Amineh

Stats

Edmunds reported that the average price of an EV exceeded $60,000

Since November 2021, more than $2 trillion in cryptocurrency value has evaporated

Covid vaccines saved 20 million lives in the first year

TikTok had $4 billion in revenue in 2021. Its US-based users spent on average 29 hours on the platform, compared to 16 hours on Facebook and 8 on Instagram

Source: IMF

Data Visualization: Hotel Statistics from Singapore Tourism Board

The data from this Story is from 2014 to October 2018 and taken from Singapore Tourism Board website. You can find my Tableau dashboard here.

Accumulative figures for available room nights, booked room nights, revenue, average room rates and RevPar are on a monthly and yearly basis.

Drilling down further, hotel statistics are categorized by four hotel tiers: luxury, upscale, mid-tier and economy. Since segment data is available only in RevPar, average room rates and occupancy rate, it’s not possible to compute the accumulative figures for segments.

Basic terminologies:

Available room nights refer to the total possible number of room nights in a period of time.

Booked room nights refer to the total number of room nights booked by guests in a period of time.

Average room rates refer to the average revenue per booked room nights in a period of time. It’s calculated by revenue divided by the number of booked room nights

Occupancy rates refer to the percentage of booked room nights against the available room nights. It’s calculated by booked room nights divided by available room nights

Revenue per Available Room or RevPar refers to the revenue per a room night. It’s one of the most important metrics in the industry, showing how a property fills its room inventory and how much it can charge per room. It’s calculated by Occupancy Rate multiplied by Average Room Rates in the same period of time.

Insights

Yearly Statistics

From 2015 to October 2018, the Singaporean tourism industry averages more than 80% in occupancy rate; which is pretty positive

The industry seems also to be on expansion with increasingly bigger yearly available room nights (almost 3 million room nights from 2014 to 2017) & booked room nights


While the number of rooms and occupancy rate get increasingly bigger year after year, the average room rate and RevPar go in the opposite direction

The rise in revenue signals that the increase in available & booked room nights outweighs the drop in average room rates and RevPar


Data in 2018 doesn’t include figures in November and December. Given the past performances, it’s difficult and uncertain to predict how the average room rates and RevPar will fare. It seems; however, average room rate will go up in December, compared to the rate in November.

Also, December seems to be a low month for Singapore’s tourism as historical figures show below. On the other hand, July and August are the busiest months of the year for Singapore.

Regression Model

Regression models every year show that there seems to be a correlation between occupancy rate and RevPar. Every year’s model is accompanied with a P-value less than 0.05 and an R-Squared between 58% and 77%

Seasonality

Regarding seasonality of Singapore’s tourism industry, every September seems to take a sharp decline in terms of occupancy rate, compared to the same year’s July and August. It’s an interesting phenomenon given that the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place every September. Surprisingly, luxury and upscale segments tend to have fared better than mid-tier and economy segments from 2014 to 2016 and in 2018. My theory is that September may be a traditionally low month for Singapore and as a result, sees a low occupancy rate. However, hotels either push prices alone higher or package room rates with Formula 1 weekend tickets. The average room rate; therefore, may be driven up higher despite a low occupancy rate.

In 2014

In 2015

In 2016

In 2017

In 2018

It’s very interesting since if the demand is not there, businesses don’t usually drive up the prices. As a matter of fact, prices are usually lowered to stimulate the demand. My theory for such a phenomenon is cited above with regards to the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Singapore.

Luxury Segment

Upscale Segment

Mid-Tier Segment

Economy Segment