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Small Talk

Out of Gas, Long Live the Brand, More

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Out of Gas
Toyota Motor Corp. recently announced that its vehicles powered exclusively by gasoline are on the road to extinction. The transition comes as part of the company’s efforts to reduce emissions by 90 percent by the year 2050, which includes focusing on hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Gasoline and diesel-fueled cars account for 85 percent of Toyota’s global vehicle sales, but a transition to the new generation of vehicle will take time, due in large part to the widespread lack of infrastructure to support the new transport technology. The Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen-powered car, will be rolled out in California in late 2015. Early adopters need to ensure that they can get to one of the 20 refueling stations throughout the state to stay on the road. Owners of gas-powered cars have their pick of some 10,000 stations.

Glass Half Empty
The announcement of a possible Anheuser-Busch InBev merger with SABMiller has craft brewers all hopped up. According to NPR, the merger would mean that the combined company would control more than half of the U.S. beer market. Some craft brewers argue that the merger will make it more difficult for them to get their products on store shelves. Business Insider, however, noted the merger and acquisition activity in the microbrewery space: more than 12 craft breweries were snapped up by larger companies in the last 12 months, ostensibly expanding the availability of those products. The Busch/InBev merger is currently awaiting shareholder and regulator approval.

Long Live the Brand
While there may be some question as to the relevancy and role of the British monarchy in an otherwise democratic nation, one thing is for certain: the royals do wonders for the economy. Brand Finance, a brand valuation and strategy consultancy, recently estimated the amount of money the monarchy contributes to the U.K. economy. Per their research, the grand total came to a princely £1.155 million ($1.7 million in U.S. dollars) in 2015. Its analysis looked at factors such as tourism revenue connected to the monarchy and businesses that advertise they serve the royal family. The “Kate Effect” alone, defined as the “uplift to fashion and other brands worn, used, or otherwise endorsed,” reined in an estimated £152 million ($235-million plus).

Forecasting Risk Tolerance
Can risk appetite be influenced by early-life exposure to freak weather events? Researchers from Singapore Management University, University of Oregon, and University of Cambridge looked at 1,508 public company CEOs to see if they grew up in an area that was impacted by a natural disaster. They then looked at financial characteristics of each company when they were led by these executives, such as leverage, cash-to-assets ratios, and acquisition activity. Executives that experienced a disaster with extreme consequences (e.g., high mortality rates) had a lower risk tolerance, while those who experienced disasters with less devastating outcomes were less sensitive to the downsides of dicey situations and had heartier risk appetites.

Lovin’ It
Although McDonald’s still stands as the world’s largest restaurant company, sales have flagged for seven quarters straight. Hoping to turn the tide, the fast-food giant pared down its unwieldy menu and on Oct. 6 began offering breakfast foods all day long. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales rose 0.9 percent by Oct. 22 and share prices rose by 8.1 percent, closing at $110.87—their highest ever. Although other factors could be credited for these immediate changes, analysts are predicting that breakfast could boost same-store sales by 1.5 percentage points in the fourth quarter and 1 percentage point over the next 12 months.

 

This story is from the November/December 2015 issue of NACD Directorship magazine.