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Aston Martin Finally Predicts a More Profitable Future

After years in the dumps, iconic Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings plc, the luxury sports car maker forever associated with James Bond 007, predicts it will finally turn a profit

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Warwickshire, United Kingdom (4E) – After years in the dumps, iconic Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings plc, the luxury sports car maker forever associated with James Bond 007, predicts it will finally turn a profit. And this, despite the slowdown in demand in China and soft sales elsewhere around the world.

In 2017, Aston Martin reported a pre-tax profit of $111 million, its first annual pre-tax profit since 2010.

The British automaker says it’s on track to produce 6,400 vehicles this year despite the China slowdown and worries over the impact of Brexit on sales. Aston Martin plans to manufacture 14,000 cars by 2025.

CEO Andy Palmer said the size of the company should grow four-fold by 2025 from what it was in 2014. He predicts the company will also become a very profitable company.

“The rich are getting richer, they want more personalization,” said Palmer. “On the other hand, the car industry is getting more and more commoditized because of technology.”

Palmer brushed aside the notion there is a slowdown in demand for Aston Martin cars in key markets. Until October, Aston Martin saw turnover grow 185 percent in the U.S; 133 percent in Asia-Pacific and 118 percent growth in China.

“The retail part is not in dispute. China was slow, but not for us,” he said. The company is confident it will achieve higher profits in 2018.

“If you focus on EBITDA, then yes we obviously will see growth. Excluding one-off costs, last 12 months, it all looks very healthy,” he said. Adjusted EBITDA more than doubled to $266 million in 2017.

Aston Martin said it will definitely launch its new sport utility vehicle (SUV) in late 2019. It is betting on existing Aston Martin customers who also have an SUV to go for the Aston Martin version, said Palmer. He noted that that demand for SUVs in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region is similar in size to China.

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Finance

Nike Unveils ‘Nike Adapt BB’ Self-Lacing Shoe

Nike has unveiled its second-generation “self-lacing shoe” that adapt to a wearer’s foot at the touch of a button or an app.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington County, OR, United States (4E) – Nike has unveiled its second-generation “self-lacing shoe” that adapt to a wearer’s foot at the touch of a button or an app.

“Nike Adapt BB” pairs a smartphone with the self-lacing shoe to adapt to a wearer’s foot at the touch of a button. BB stands for basketball and it identifies who this shoe was developed for.

Nike will begin offering the Adapt BB in February for $350, or less than half the Hyperadapt’s original price of $720.

“Say goodbye to the shoelace,” said Michael Donaghu, Nike’s director of global footwear innovation.

Donaghu said the new shoe is all about fit and is targeted directly at basketball players.

Nike explains Adapt BB has a near-symbiotic relationship with its digital app thanks to opt-in firmware updates. It explained that when a player steps into the Nike Adapt BB, a custom motor and gear train senses the tension needed by the foot and adjusts accordingly to keep the foot snug.

The tensile strength of the underfoot lacing can generate 32 pounds of force to secure a foot throughout a range of movement. FitAdapt tech, the shoe’s “brain” then kicks-in. A user can input different fit settings depending on different moments of a game by manual touch or by using the Nike Adapt app on a smartphone.

For example, a player can loosen the shoe before tightening it up as he re-enters the game after a time-out. Nike said varying the fit is necessary because a foot can expand almost a half-size during play over the course of a basketball game. A level of fit that’s comfortable at one point might feel constrictive 20 or so minutes later.

Adapt BB enables these minute changes in tightness using the companion app, leading to 40% more “lockdown” for feet.

The app also lets users change the color of the glowing twin dots on the midsole of the shoe to 14 different colors. Adapt BB comes with a wireless charging mat that can charge the shoes in three hours for two weeks of wear time. The new shoe is also connected.

It can send data about usage and analytics back to Nike, should users allow that. The data might also eventually be used to track athletes’ movement and performance, which Nike says can help it offer new products or services to customers.

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SpaceX will Fire 577 Employees as Launch Business Sours

SpaceX will fire 577 employees over the next few days in an effort to stay lean as it anticipates fewer launches and higher expenses this year.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – SpaceX will fire 577 employees over the next few days in an effort to stay lean as it anticipates fewer launches and higher expenses this year.

The total of those being let go represents close to 10% of the company’s total workforce of some 6,000 employees. Most of those to be fired work at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory located at Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell in late 2018 warned there might be a slowdown in orders from the geo-telecommunications industry, which is the lifeblood of SpaceX.

“Next year you won’t see as many launches as you see in 2018,” said Shotwell. “2019 is a lower-cadence year.”

Ironically, Space X had its best year in 2018. It successfully launched 21 times, giving it the U.S. record for most launches in a year.

In a statement about the firings, SpaceX said that to “continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company.”

It said the mass firing “is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary.”

“It’s always unfortunate when there are large layoffs,” said Jan Vogel, executive director of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board.

“We’re in touch with SpaceX and we’re to provide transitional services to impacted employees. There are a lot of aerospace companies in the Los Angeles area. We’re ready to help people.”

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PG&E will File for Bankruptcy to Avoid $30 Billion in Lawsuit Damages

Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation (PG&E), parent company of the utility that provides electricity and gas to most of Northern California, has announced its intention to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stay alive amidst billions of dollars worth of lawsuits associated with the catastrophic wildfires that occurred in 2017 and 2018.

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San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation (PG&E), parent company of the utility that provides electricity and gas to most of Northern California, has announced its intention to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stay alive amidst billions of dollars worth of lawsuits associated with the catastrophic wildfires that occurred in 2017 and 2018.

PG&E’s liability could exceed $30 billion should it be found legally responsible for some or all of the costs connected with the 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires. These catastrophes include the Camp Fire in November 2018, which is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date.

PG&E stands on precarious legal grounds. Cal Fire, California’s fire agency, determined in June that PG&E equipment ignited 17 wildfires across Northern California in 2017. In 12 of these fires, the agency’s findings were referred to the appropriate county District Attorney’s offices for potential violations of state law.

California law says utility companies can be held liable for fire damage caused by their equipment, even if they weren’t negligent in maintenance.

State regulators are also investigating PG&E’s potential culpability in the Camp Fire that killed some 86 people; destroyed more than 18,000 structures and inflicted damage worth over $16.5 billion.

“We believe a court-supervised process under Chapter 11 will best enable PG&E to resolve its potential liabilities in an orderly, fair and expeditious fashion,” said interim CEO John Simon. “We expect this process also will enable PG&E to access the capital and resources we need to continue providing our customers with safe service and investing in our systems and infrastructure.”

Shares of PG&E Corporation plummeted more than 51 percent on Monday afternoon. The company has lost more than two-thirds of its market value since the Camp Fire.

The Calaifornia Legislature, however, might still take action to protect the company from 2018 fire liabilities between now and when PG&E actually files for Chapter 11.

Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill, a longtime critic of PG&E, said that if Monday’s bankruptcy announcement is a company tactic to pressure the Legislature for a bailout, it won’t work.

The company’s already considrable financial problems only worsened following the Camp Fire. This would be the company’s second bankruptcy since it first filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

The company was convicted of felonies in a deadly gas line explosion, and now faces those potentially crippling wildfire liabilities and safety lawsuits.

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