May 19, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Trust us that building a media company is hard. Maybe the best route is to make it to the NFL first, as Peyton Manning's media company has welcomed new investment, valuing the company at $400m. Today we're exploring:

  • TheftTok: How viral videos contributed to a spike of car thefts.
  • Apple: The tech giant is still reliant on the iPhone, now it's taking a chance on a new product.
  • Aston Martin: The British automaker is still struggling.
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Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai have agreed to pay $200m to settle a class action lawsuit that claims some of the vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2019 are too easy to steal. The legal challenge stemmed from a sharp rise in thefts of Kia & Hyundai vehicles over the last few years, as viral videos on TikTok and YouTube posted by thieves known as the “Kia Boyz” showed how to bypass certain models security systems, using tools as simple as a USB charging cable to start the ignition.

Data from city police departments, collated by USAFacts, reveals just how sharply those figures rose in certain cities. For example, in Chicago, Milwaukee and Dayton, more Kias and Hyundais were reported stolen than all other vehicle brands combined in certain months of the last 2 years. Milwaukee in particular was one of the earliest cities where the trend took off, with nearly 3,200 Kias or Hyundais stolen in the first six months of 2021, up more than 2,500% on the same period the year before.


The thefts are reportedly made possible because many Kia & Hyundai vehicles manufactured in that time lack electronic immobilizers — a feature that’s standard for most cars made in that period.

The deal struck this week includes potential payments of up to $6,125 for owners who have had their cars stolen, as well as provisions for installing new anti-theft security features. All told the settlement could cover up to 9 million vehicle owners.

Apple is reportedly set to unveil its new mixed-reality headset at its developer conference on June 5th. According to rumors, the product has gone from being imagined as a pair of unobtrusive eyeglasses to a relatively bulky offering that requires an external battery pack and is set to cost customers around $3,000.

Legacy defining?

This new product is being hailed as a potentially defining moment for CEO Tim Cook, who - on most measures - has presided over Apple’s most financially successful era, despite what some might call only relatively marginal improvements on the company’s actual product suite.

Indeed, the iPhone accounted for nearly 70% of Apple’s total products revenue last quarter, totalling more than $51 billion in sales. It also drives much of the success of Apple’s fast-growing services division, which includes the AppStore, AppleCloud, AppleMusic, ApplePay, AppleTV and more. That division is extremely profitable for Apple (70% gross margin), but it’s hard to imagine it being anywhere near as successful without the millions of iPhones around the world to support it.

Nerd helmet

Apple has a track record of making sleek products and turning them into gargantuan businesses, AirPods being one example, but venturing into the realm of tech-that-goes-over-your-face is a daring move as it’s a category that’s littered with expensive failures (Google Glasses?). The Wall Street Journal put it less delicately, wondering whether Apple can build a mainstream product that doesn’t end up as just a "nerd helmet". Interestingly, Apple has already scaled back its expectations of selling 3 million units in the first year to a more conservative 900,000.

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Shares in esteemed sportscar manufacturer Aston Martin soared 22% yesterday, after Chinese automotive company Geely announced an investment of £234m (~$290m) in the beleaguered British brand. The deal increases Geely’s stake in the company to 17%, completing a roster of high-profile shareholders that includes Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll, whose consortium owns a substantial 21%, and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which holds 18%.

Shaken, undeterred

Aston Martin has always positioned itself as the epitome of luxury; with its smooth, powerful and sleek cars winning fans around the world as James Bond’s go-to getaway car. But the company’s own corporate history is anything but smooth. The 110-year-old company has maneuvered its way through 7 bankruptcies in its history – with some of its most difficult years coming after its disastrous 2018 IPO. Since going public, Aston Martin’s shares have cratered, as investors lost faith that the company would be able to get its mountain of debt under control at the same time as launching its first ever SUV and its $3m hypercar Valkyrie.

Expensive cars, cheap shares

The latest deal is not the first time Geely has shown interest in owning the brand. In 2020, Aston’s board opted for a deal from Lawrence Stroll, rather than a rival bid from Geely, to try and rescue the company. Under his leadership, the company has continued with an ambitious turnaround plan, most notably re-entering the sport of Formula 1, just as the sport’s popularity was soaring. However, despite an average selling price north of $250k per car, persistent cost overruns have meant big losses for Aston Martin - forcing the company back to the negotiating table to raise cash over and over again, at increasingly deep discounts.

More Data

• After just 200days from its launch, Netflix’s ad tier has added 5 million subscribers, with 25% of new subscribers selecting the ad-supported tier.

• A new report from the UN estimates that there's a 66% chance that global surface temperatures will exceed the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C target during 1 of the next 5 years.

Disney have announced the closure of its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel, which cost ~$5,000 for a two-night stay and was only opened in March 2022.


• Interesting game to play showing how hard it is to get timing right when investing in stocks.

• Great interactive visual of the Tom Hanks cinematic universe.

Off the charts: The enormous sovereign wealth fund of which nation, that announced this week it would step up its pressure on companies to be more environmentally friendly, were we charting about in September? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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