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On December 1, 2017, FinGuy commented on Apple Inc. – Powered by 100% Renewable Energy :

Apple’s commitment to producing via 100% renewable energy reflects the type of corporate leadership that consumers should reward. The challenges of climate change are most effectively overcome via bottoms-up approaches / buy-in. Your three proposals are strong recommendations for Apple as it works toward this goal. I found your third proposal (i.e. financial support for suppliers) to be the most compelling and actionable path for Apple to manage its supply chain activities. However, Apple’s materials manufacturers may be taking on significant business risk by accepting such investments. For instance, let’s assume one of Apple’s manufacturers also manufactures raw materials for Boeing. If Apple subsidizes that manufacturer’s renewable energy utilization, it also benefits Boeing, despite Boeing contributing nothing. Apple could understandably not like that outcome, and ask its manufacturer to have Boeing also contribute to its renewable energy subsidization – putting the manufacturer in a tough spot if Boeing is unwilling. Ideally, we’ll see more companies exhibiting the leadership that Apple is as it relates to climate change mitigation, reducing this business risk for manufacturers.

On December 1, 2017, FinGuy commented on Bringing Mortgages into the 21st Century :

Digitalizing the notarization process could certainly streamline the complex and convoluted mortgage process. Importantly, your article highlights the need for digitalization more broadly across the financial services industry. However, I’m left wondering two things. First, is this truly a cost center for Wells Fargo? Said differently, do banks pass along the cost of notarization to the consumer? If so, this may be a contributing cause to the inertia to adopt this new technology. Second, in the context of mortgages / home buying, is the notarization process truly a “headache” for consumers? Securing title insurance as part of a new mortgage is also a relatively inefficient process. However, relative to the other steps in the home-buying process (e.g. choosing the real estate, finding your mortgage lender, etc.), getting title insurance (and potentially notarization) seem less ominous. This could be another limiting factor in the adoption of technology in this part of the supply chain – consumers are simply not sufficiently fussed to incentivize greater efficiency.

As you suggest, the tariff threat to General Mills should not be taken lightly. Brexit and isolationism more broadly will undoubtedly create competitive pressure for global companies, specifically (as you describe) via the potential rise of domestic players. While such competition may not arise immediately, new entrants are likely to identify the arbitrage opportunity and attempt to seize it. Assuming that is the case, my initial sense is that General Mills should not absorb the tariff cost absent a viable path to tariff elimination / reduction. To do so would only delay an unavoidable outcome.
Another potential path for General Mills is to actively engage with other food manufacturers in lobbying the U.K. government to craft favorable trade policies as it negotiates Brexit. While potentially expensive, this path could preserve long-term profitability / cash generation in the British market for General Mills.

On December 1, 2017, FinGuy commented on Navigating the Storm: SEACOR and the Jones Act :

SEACOR’s economic gains from the Jones Act provide yet another example of the market distortions created by isolationist policies. Your recommendations to SEACOR are strong – specifically your proposal to engage in more long-term contracts and invest in research and development to achieve operating efficiencies. However, I’m skeptical that SEACOR would proactively work toward them in the short or long term. The experience of the Export-Import Bank (which provides cheaper financing to large American manufacturers, such that they can be competitive globally) is relevant here. While pressure exists to close the Bank, it has remained active because of effective lobbying by large manufacturers. With that as a comparison point, I wonder if SEACOR would actually overcome inertia and improve its operations at a fundamental level, versus spending cash on a solution (lobbying) that seems to be effective.

As consumer demands become increasingly personalized, Nike seems to be effectively responding with supply chain innovations such that it can continue to fulfill its customer promise. While the technological changes to sell more customized shoes are exciting (e.g. digital printing), I’m more cautious about Nike reevaluating its brick and mortar retail footprint. While I agree that the economics of brick and mortar stores are a challenge, other consumer retail companies that have gone to market with an online-only strategy (e.g. Bonobos) have begun opening brick and mortar stores. Similarly, years ago, many industry analysts in the financial sector predicted significant bank branch closures; while these have materialized (see article below), banks continue to operate thousands of branches today. These two examples suggest that there are limits to digitalization – consumers (or at least some of them) still demand an in-person experience.

On December 1, 2017, FinGuy commented on Protecting Livestock and Profits at Tyson :

In the spirit of “protecting the factory,” Tyson’s response to climate change-induced challenges aims to provide its farming partners (upstream on the supply chain) with the resources needed to generate sufficient supply of meat. While I agree that Tyson could enhance its short-term efforts, I’m wondering how much leverage Tyson has to enforce these behaviors. Said differently, what mechanisms could they use to further incentivize farmers to stick to the animal-housing guidelines from BQA and LMA? Additionally, with regard to plant-based meat, it seems likely that climate change will also create obstacles on that front. As explained in the link below, while rising temperatures may lead to faster plant growth, it could inadvertently reduce production / output because soil may not be able to supply nutrients to plants at adequate rates (e.g. water evaporating too quickly).