March 31, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! It's April Fools' Day tomorrow, so get ready for another round of fake products cooked up by companies' marketing departments that will inevitably trick some of your more gullible friends. Today we’re exploring:

  • Breaking up: Alibaba's splitting into 6.
  • Moneyball: MLB's back, so we're exploring franchise financials.
  • Major decisions: The factors Americans think are important when choosing college subjects.
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Breakin’ up

This week, Alibaba’s elusive founder Jack Ma was spotted in China for the first time in a year. The reason for his reappearance soon became clear: a major breakup was about to go down. Indeed, the next day the Chinese tech giant announced plans to split its mega-business into 6 units.

The restructuring will see its 6 main divisions — Chinese e-commerce, cloud computing, global e-commerce, media and entertainment, logistics, and digital mapping/food delivery (local consumer services) — become independently-run companies. Except for Chinese e-commerce, each unit will be able to seek outside capital, with potential IPOs already being touted.

Crackin’ down

The move is being hailed as a sign that the CCP's multiyear crackdown on tech giants is beginning to ease. Baba, at times, has taken the brunt of that scrutiny, having been slapped with a record fine of ¥18.23 billion ($2.8bn) just 2 years ago after regulators accused the company of abusing its market dominance.

The business, often known as "China's Amazon", has really established that dominance over the last 10 years, with 2012's ¥20 billion ($2.9bn) revenue growing to ~¥850 billion ($124bn) in 2022. Chinese e-commerce, the only division remaining in sole control of the parent company, accounted for nearly 70% of that figure, bringing in a whopping ¥593 billion ($86bn) last year.

Baseball’s back

The MLB had its biggest opening day of fixtures for 55 years yesterday, with all 30 teams in action on the first day of the season for the first time since 1968.

One of the biggest results of the day was the immediate impact of new rules and regulations, aimed at speeding up the game. Indeed, the New York Times reported that the average game time was down and hits-per-hour were up as the MLB looks to reinvigorate America’s pastime.

Swings and misses

Even though attendance sunk to a 25-year low last year, the MLB’s been hitting it out of the park financially in the recent past. The organization confirmed that revenue reached a record $10.8bn in 2022, with the uptick reportedly down to new TV deals worth some $1.76 billion a year.

Many of the league's franchises are in good form financially as well. According to Forbes, franchise valuations are up 12% across the board this year, with sides like the LA Dodgers and the New York Yankees valued at $4.8 billion and $7.1 billion, respectively. Such titans, predictably, tend to bring in the most money too, with annual revenue for the Yankees reaching $657 million.

Even with valuations and revenues increasing, a third of franchises still have money problems, including another high-valued New York team. The Mets, despite being valued at $2.9 billion, lost more money than anyone else in the league in 2022, down $139 million, as owner Steve Cohen continues his spending spree.

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Expensive education

Meeting the GPA requirements to secure a place at an Ivy League college is difficult, but the financial barrier to America’s elite institutions is becoming a much more daunting obstacle, with costs veering dangerously close to crossing the $90k-a-year point, according to a Bloomberg report this week.

While millions of students from the high school class of ‘23 will be awaiting admission results in the coming weeks, tuition fees and living costs will have undoubtedly influenced thousands of others — enrolment figures were down for an 11th consecutive year in 2022 as more students question whether the cost of college is really worth it.

Major issues

The difficult decisions for prospective students don’t stop there either. If you decide that college life (and the eye-watering fees that come with it) is for you, the not-inconsiderable decision of which subject to devote the next few years of your life to isn't far behind.

For any potential undergrads looking for early inspiration, a recent YouGov poll found the primary factors people think students should consider when picking majors. According to most Americans, interest in the subject should be the prevailing consideration, with 84% of respondents saying that factor was “very”, or “somewhat”, important. Similarly, some 82% said the same about the relevance of the major to the student’s job prospects. Surprisingly, in light of the amount of cash now required to get a major, earning potential was “very important” to less than half of the respondents.

Go deeper: Explore the full findings of the survey, and where 40 majors ranked on different factors, here.

More Data

Virgin Orbit is coming back down to earth as it cuts 85% of staff and ceases operations “for the foreseeable future”.

Pink Panther: an ultra-rare pink diamond is expected to sell for more than $35 million at auction.

• Sky-high egg prices saw profits at Cal-Maine Foods, the largest egg producer in the US, surge 718% last quarter.


• Continuing the education theme, here is a cool visualization of UC admissions rates for every high school in California.

• Charting the reasons Americans don't take all their paid time off from work.

Off the charts: Which decades-old rivalry were we charting about back in April last year? Hint: one of the companies is refreshing its logo for the first time in 15 years to celebrate its 125th birthday. [Answer below].

Answer here.

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