January 29, 2024

Today's Topics

Good morning! Developers are eyeing an unlikely spot to start building the new tallest building in the US, proposing plans for the 1,907-ft skyscraper in… Oklahoma City. Today we're exploring:

  • Back on top: Luxury giant LVMH reports another record year.
  • Tokyo drift: Japan is attracting foreign workers, as it grapples with an aging population.
  • Sunset: After years of growth, tequila exports are falling.
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Vuitton top

The world’s largest luxury company, LVMH, has had reasons to pop the Champagne after its annual results almost every single year for the past 2 decades — and 2023 was no exception.

The company, home to 75 luxury brands (or houses, as LVMH calls them), reported sales that were up 9% on last year, as its €42.2bn Fashion & Leather Goods division powered the titan to a record total operating profit of €22.8bn from its recurring operations. Another bright spot was the company’s Watches & Jewelry division, aided by a revitalized Tiffany & Co. Indeed, the iconic blue box seller is a new jewel in LVMH’s well-adorned crown, after its ~$16bn acquisition in 2021.

Since that deal, LVMH has been running its usual playbook: it installed its own top brass to run the company, acquired a French jewelry manufacturer to aid Tiffany’s production, invested millions in marketing featuring Jay-Z, collaborated with Nike, and even completely shut down Tiffany’s flagship store in New York for renovations, spending a rumored $500m on a complete fit out.

Secured the bag

The report, released late last week, sent LVMH shares soaring, leaving the stock up more than ~15% over the last 5 days. It also means that Bernard Arnault is, once again, the world’s richest individual, unseating Elon Musk.

Tokyo drift

In recent years, Japan has increasingly relied on external manpower to make up for labor shortages, with the country’s working age population having steeply declined since 1995. However, that trend escalated to new heights in 2023, and Japan’s Labor Ministry reported on Friday that the number of foreign workers surpassed 2 million for the first time ever — roughly tripling over the past decade and up 12% on last year.

Japan has issued more international visas across all qualification levels, from engineers and researchers to factory hands and caregivers, with employers using wage hikes and improved stability to draw in new talent — although the report outlined that it was “specialized skilled workers” seeing the biggest increase, soaring more than 75% to 139k.

Coming of age

Japan faces a similar, although arguably more acute, set of economic challenges to China due to its top-heavy workforce. One study recently predicted that the country might face a shortage of more than 11 million workers by 2040 due to death rates surging and birth rates hitting all-time lows last year. In 1993, nearly 32% of Japan’s population was 24 or younger — today, it’s estimated at less than 21%.

The news comes as Japanese authorities look to reinvigorate the economy after the “lost decades” — a post-1990 period that’s been marked by very little growth, stubbornly low inflation, and few productivity gains. But, more recently, there are green shoots of optimism and change: wages are rising faster than at any time in the last 3 decades, deflationary risks seem to be abating, and CEOs in the Nikkei stock index are getting younger as the country begins to gently move away from its traditional age-based hierarchies and lifetime employment models.

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Sunset

According to Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council, exports of the drink — which is recognized as a protected designation origin, similar in Champagne — have dropped for the first time since 2009, falling some 4% year-over-year to 401 million liters in 2023.

Figures were down across key tequila-drinking regions last year, including the US — the biggest buyer of the spirit — where shipments fell 5%. However, the decline in exports isn’t necessarily down to people giving up on tequila themselves, but rather a shortage of agave, the liquor’s base ingredient, which saw production drop almost 8% last year.

Margaritaville

Sales of tequila and other Mexican beverages have been booming in the US and beyond for a while now, as drinkers have ordered and mixed Margs, Palomas, and Sunrises in increasing quantities. Indeed, agave-based liquors like tequila and mezcal were the fastest-growing spirit category in the US in 2022, knocking whiskey off the second-best-selling spot that same year.

The upshot of the tequila boom didn’t go unnoticed by A-list celebrities such as The Rock and Kendall Jenner, both of whom capitalized on — and possibly even contributed to — growth in recent years with their own trendy tequila brands.

More Data

• Reddit's ambitions are being tempered, as investors advise the social media company to aim for a $5bn valuation in its upcoming IPO, a sharp drop from the $15bn value placed on it in 2021.

• Amazon has canceled its $1.4bn acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot, citing regulatory roadblocks. iRobot has simultaneously laid off 350 employees, more than 30% of its workforce.

Icon of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship at nearly 1,200-ft long, with a capacity for 7,600 passengers and a staggering price tag of $2bn, set sail on Saturday for its maiden voyage. (Our chart on how massive it is!)

• A study shows remote workers are 35% more likely to be handed the pink slip than those who venture to the office.

• Divorce parties are apparently a thing and are gaining popularity, with Evite noting a 22% increase in divorce-related event invitations last year compared to 2019.

Hi-Viz

• Great visual exploration of the data behind the GOP nomination.

Zillow bait: The 10 most expensive homes sold in America in 2023.

Off the charts: Which news publishing giant — currently being buoyed by its puzzles and games section — were we charting back in June? [Answer below.]

Answer here.

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