Spirit Of Booooom!

Spirit of Boom2It’s not often that a ‘bridesmaid in sport’ inspires you. But when Spirit Of Boom got up to win the William Reid Stakes on 21 March, he reminded us of what racing’s all about. Persistence.

No longer the luckless second to the great horses at Group One level, he broke through for his first G1 win, and deservedly so.

Mind you, his win came with a nervous wait for the number to appear in the frame. Queensland trainer Tony Gollan and the owners held their breath as the judge called for a photo that showed the narrowest of margins.

What happened next was excitement and elation. The holy Spirit Of Booooom finally had God on his side!

When jockey Michael Rodd found out his horse had won, he said ‘I can’t tell you how much this means to me’. He’s not the only one!

Being on track made it all the more special

Just ask Greg Irvine, owner of this very special photo (above) taken moments after the race. Greg’s photo says so much about the occasion, the emotion, and what it feels like to have the ‘monkey off the back’ in sport.

The 6yo son of Sequalo, Spirit Of Boom started his Group 1 autumn campaign with a second in both the Oakleigh Plate over 1,100 metres and the Newmarket over 1,200. His performances served as great preparation for the William Reid, a Group 1 sprint race at weight-for-age, run over 1,200 metres on a tight turning track they call the ‘Valley’.

A great race creates its own history, and the status of winning this race goes up a notch knowing that Black Caviar had won it twice.

Why single out Spirit Of Boom?

Every horse has a story and Spirit Of Boom has his. His racing style is the epitome of never giving up, always contesting and giving it his best shot. And always figuring in the finish. It’s a story about his trainer and owners never losing patience with him, and placing their ‘investment’ where it would eventually be realised.

Best of Breed quotation mark 2Tony Gollan: This is my second Group 1 win as a trainer and I’m rapt to win it down here as the state (Victoria) has been good to me. He’s a very tough stallion, he’s been Best of Breed quotation mark 1racing for many seasons. He enjoys his racing. Source: gollanracing.com.au

Spirit Of Boom’s next assignment?spirit-of-boom

He’s off to Randwick for the T J Smith Stakes* and maybe the Goodwood in May! Then, it’s a visit to some ladies? Rumour has it, he’ll join his dad Sequalo later this year!

Why not talk to @SpiritofBoom on Twitter and ask him how he intends to run his next race!

*Update 12/4/14: Spirit Of Boom was scratched from the TJ Smith Stakes due to the heavy track conditions. But that’s a minor hiccup for this champ, and we look forward to seeing him race at least once more before retirement.

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And who’s William Reid?

A Victorian banker who owned a number of racehorses including Uncle Sam, winner of the Caulfield Cup in 1912 and 1914, and third home in the Melbourne Cup of 1912. He was a former committee member of the Moonee Valley Racing Club and died in 1923.

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Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd.

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

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Janet Yellen’s taper, scissors, rock challenge

Janet YellenIt’s official. Janet Yellen is the first woman chair of the US Federal Reserve and that’s no mean feat!

As Barack Obama’s choice to succeed Ben Bernanke, she took the reins on 1 February 2014 after the US Senate not surprisingly confirmed her appointment!

Her biggest short-term challenge? To pare back (or taper) the US Federal Reserve’s massive bond-buying stimulus program from US$85 billion per month to US$75 billion, and the rest.

Under Ben Bernanke, the Fed’s controversial bond-buying program had been under scrutiny since its introduction during the GFC. But the economic mood remains fairly positive and there’s some evidence the US economy is almost ready to stand on its own two feet.

What will happen?

Paper-rock-scissorsThe first steps in scaling back the bond-buying program started in January. But don’t worry, unlike the real game of ‘paper, scissors, rock’, the taper is not based on any coin flipping or dice throwing! It’s a strategy that uses a high degree of skill! Just ask Janet Yellen.

The US Federal Reserve’s FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) will ‘modestly reduce’ the pace of its asset purchases and add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities. To start off, the Fed will reduce purchases by US$5 billion per month to US$35 billion per month and holdings of longer-term Treasury securities from US$45 billion per month to US$40 billion per month.

They say the best indicator of a policy shift is hidden in the Fed’s FOMC statement. Some people spend a lifetime analysing these statements, but on 18 December 2013, the FOMC statement couldn’t have been any clearer! There’ll be no change to the Committee’s support for progress toward maximum employment and price stability, meaning, their policy actions will continue to be determined by the labour market and inflation.

BernankeTheir view is that a highly accommodative stance on monetary policy is the right strategy for now and for a considerable time after their asset purchase program ends. And, there’s no surprise that the current low target range for the federal funds rate of 0.0% to 0.25% will remain, so long as the US unemployment rate remains above 6.5%. Whew!

She speaks!

On 12 February Janet Yellen’s first official communication on monetary policy confirmed this stance and as a result, markets went up! As predicted, she’s not planning to make any policy changes just yet. The Fed will continue to slowly taper its stimulus while keeping a close eye on the labour market. Janet said ‘I expect a great deal of continuity in the FOMC’s approach to monetary policy’. The market loves certainty. Go Janet!

Expect some instability though as the market fully adjusts to the taper challenge. But that’s normal, that’s the market. The market has known about this for some time, and in many ways, has already factored in a slow tapering.

What is monetary policy and the FOMC?

Monetary policy is the action taken by a central bank to influence the availability and cost of money and credit in an economy. In the case of the US, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 gave the Fed responsibility for setting monetary policy. The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) is the Fed’s policy body, and its members, well, their job is to agree on the approach. Who are they? Members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System including five Reserve Bank presidents. Janet Yellen is a member. The FOMC has eight scheduled meetings per year.

Who is Janet Yellen? 

Arguably the most powerful woman in the world given her economic mandate. You can read Janet’s official bio on the US Federal Reserve’s website. As a big fan of Chairman Ben Bernanke, he’ll be missed, but there’s no doubt Janet Yellen will prove a very able, and dovish? successor. Born on 13 August 1946, it’s no surprise that she’s a Leo, and the combination of being born in Brooklyn means she’s a great communicator too! :)

Here’s another take on the taper – John Clarke and Brian Dawe style!

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Related articles

Leanne’s 2012-13 articles on monetary policy:

Riding towards the US debt ceiling cliff

Managing the fiscal cliff without a sky fall

Managing the monetary policy message

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Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd.

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

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Great moments in Aussie sport 2013

Best of Breed’s top three iconic sporting moments

See if you agree!

No.1 Black Caviar

With nothing left to prove, Nellie retired unbeaten for 25 starts and 25 wins! A perfect record. Black Caviar proved her outperformance as the ‘world’s best asset class’, a phase I branded for her on Australia Day 2012, just prior to her 17th win. On 16 February 2013 Black Caviar put a stamp on her farewell tour with a Group 1 win in the race re-named the ‘Black Caviar Lightning’ at Flemington. At weight-for-age, over 1,000 metres, she ‘smashed’ the course record with 55.42! It was her third consecutive win in this race, really proving that lightning can strike thrice! View a compilation of her wins.

No.2 Adam Scott

Adam’s US Masters Tournament win in Augusta was superb. He won the tournament on the second hole of a sudden death playoff against Ángel Cabrera and became the first Australian to wear the green jacket in its 77 year history! It was Adam’s first major championship and the victory elevated him to No. 3 in world golf rankings and a career high.

No.3 Liverpool FC at the MCG

There was nothing more stirring than 95,400 Liverpool fans at the MCG singing an emotional rendition of the club anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone! Liverpool toured Australia in July 2013 to play Melbourne Victory FC in a friendly pre-season soccer game and won 2-0. But somehow, the score didn’t matter. You just had to be there!

And where does Australia rank in winning back the Ashes on home soil in December? No.4!

And No.5? You guessed it. The amazing Australasian super sire and superstar Zabeel. He retired from stud duties in late December 2013 with an outstanding record on and off the track, including the siring of 43 individual Group 1 winners! #bestofbreed

Video sources: YouTube

Related articles

Read Leanne’s 2013 stories about Black Caviar:

Being a champion means nothing left to prove

Farewell tour worth the weight!

Or, if you’re interested in the Ashes and taking a Lord’s tour: Lord’s urns its reputation

Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd. And massive sports fan!

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

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X marks the spot on JFK’s 50th anniversary

JFKDallas. 22 November 2013 at 12.30pm. 50 years on…

The pilgrimage to Elm Street. Since 1963, the assassination of President John F Kennedy has become not so much a story about ‘who’ killed Kennedy, but ‘why’. Despite the release of some declassified material over the years, the world still seeks an answer.

But the question of ‘why’ won’t be answered by standing on the grassy knoll, or by watching the new movie Parkland (see below), released as one of the many activities to mark ’JFK 50′.

Even a visit to the world’s greatest library The John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, one of the thirteen Presidential Libraries in the US, will only provide clues.

750 elmThe alleged crime scene on the sixth floor of the old The Texas School Book Depository in Dallas (now The Sixth Floor Museum) won’t tell you ‘why’ either. The only thing that provides a clue is the location – the grassy knoll. Stand on the second white ’X’ that marks the spot on Elm and you’ll see that the angle of the third and fatal shot came from behind the picket fence. And that means a conspiracy.

The grassy knoll

X markSolving JFK’s murder has been a life long passion for thousands, if not millions of Elm Street pilgrims. And understandably so. It’s the greatest unsolved murder of the twentieth century. Just visit Dealey Plaza in Dallas on any given day and you’ll soon be drawn in. It’s a place to reflect, pay homage, sit on the grassy knoll, or even stand behind the picket fence and imagine Zapruder and many others in that historical moment.

To stand on X also means dodging the traffic on Elm, but it was worth it, just to get a sense of the crime scene and to be one of those pilgrims.

As JFK once said, there are no faint hearts in Fort Worth

The new documentary JFK: The Final Hours gives first-hand accounts from people who say they were the last to see the President alive. Narrator and actor Bill Paxton was an eight year old pilgrim at the time. He recalls being in the crowd at Fort Worth when Kennedy gave what was his last speech. Bill was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying ‘I remember thinking it was like seeing a movie star. There stood a man at the peak of his life and his career, but little did he or any of us know that in three hours he would be murdered in cold blood.’ 

The closer you get to history, the more elusive it becomes.

Parkland the movie

Zapruder

Parkland the movie is based on the book Four Days In November by Vincent Bugliosi. Directed by Peter Landesman and produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Bill Paxton, Nigel Sinclair and Matt Jackson, the movie focuses on the people and events at Parkland Hospital immediately after JFK’s assassination. With music composed by James Newton-Howard, this line up would satisfy any audience! Watch for the brilliant casting of Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder and Jacki Weaver as Lee Harvey Oswald’s Mum!  parkland-billy-bob-thornton

Billy Bob Thornton as Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels sums it up best with a great line in the movie: ‘There are people out there who are ready to start a war.’

Here’s the movie trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgPjt_BRLvY

Related articles

Want another story on JFK? Read Leanne’s 2012 A Kennedy Story That Time Won’t Heal.

Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd. And JFK fan!

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

 

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Lord’s has ‘urned’ a great reputation

Ashes UrnShane Warne delivered his first ball in an Ashes series on English soil, known as the ‘Ball of the Century’. Richie Benaud was in the commentary box at Old Trafford on 4 June 1993 and described the moment:

Best of Breed quotation mark 1First ball in Test cricket in England for Shane Warne… And he’s done it! He started off with the most beautiful delivery… Gatting has absolutely no idea what has happened to it… He still doesn’t know… He asked Kenny Palmer on the way out. Kenny Palmer just gave him a raised eyebrow anBest of Breed quotation mark 2d a little nod. That’s all it needed!  (Still don’t believe it? Here’s the footage courtesy of Cricket Australia!)

It was day two of the first Ashes test when wonder struck. The ’Ball of the Century’ had been branded forever, in an Ashes series, which only served to make the moment even more memorable!

‘Urning’ a reputation 

It all starts with great stories, great moments and unfortgettable experiences, backed up by high quality performances by great players, and over time. The Ashes is steeped in history and tradition and to understand the pysche of The Ashes there’s nothing more interesting than a tour of Lord’s, the famous English cricket ground. It just happens to house one of the real attractions and hidden gems, a tiny terracotta urn. Revered, savoured and protected, for some cricket fans it gives them the true meaning of life! It’s amazing how a tiny urn attracts pilgrims year after year to visit one of the world’s greatest sporting meccas.

Where did the ‘Ashes’ come from?

Lords signThe Honourable Ivo Bligh captained England in the first Ashes Test against Australia in 1882-83. In 1882, England lost a test match to Australia at The Oval. The next day a London newspaper said that English cricket had ‘died’ and the body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. When England toured Australia later that year, Bligh vowed to return with ‘the ashes’. And the rest was history! What’s in the urn? Reputedly, a burnt bail.

Fiercely fought for and defended throughout history, the urn represents ‘more than just cricket’ between the two countries. On a recent tour of Lord’s to see the oldest sports museum in the world, it was easy to see and feel this. Over a hundred Test matches have been played at Lord’s, the first match in 1884. England triumphed over Australia by an innings and 5 runs. Australia notched its first win in 1888 by 61 runs.

Inside the Long Room the stunning portraits on the walls are to be admired, none more so than the imposing figure of ‘Doctor Grace’. Not the Australian racehorse, but the English cricket legend WG Grace! They say Dr Grace ‘revolutionised batting and brought cricket to a mass audience and transformed cricket in England into the unrivalled spectator sport of the summer’! Sounds like Kerry Packer? :) Here’s the Doc’s profile.

The Lord’s Balcony

Two constructions stood out for me. Firstly, the Balcony. What a great feeling to stand on the balcony overlooking the hallowed turf. It’s the balcony for victory celebrations. Just ask Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly! In 2002 Ganguly took off his shirt to celebrate his team’s win. His behaviour was seen as disrespectful and not a good image for cricket!

The Media Centre is out of this world!

Secondly, the JP Morgan Media Centre. You can’t miss it! The world’s first all-aluminium semi-monocoque building. Built in a shipyard by ship builders and prefabricated into 26 sections, it was re-assembled at Lord’s. A winner of many architectural awards, the centre was voted #11 in the UK’s top 50 most impressive buildings in 2011. Source: JP Morgan.

Top ten classic Ashes moments

Clashes between England and Australia always create talking points and there’s a good Sky Sports list of the top ten moments and incidents which have ‘taken up thousands of columns inches over the years.’ The 1932-33 Bodyline series was prominent for the collision of cricket and politics. Designed to limit Don Bradman, the approach was simple – very aggressive bowling by the English with one intent in mind!

Don  BradmanHere’s my #1. It’s Don Bradman’s brilliance in the second Test at Lord’s in 1930: Bradman scored 254 in an innings which he always said was ‘the finest of his career’. Bradman wrote “Practically without exception every ball went where it was intended to go, even the one from which I was dismissed, but the latter went slightly up in the air.” Gold!

And here’s another interesting one at Lord’s, this time in 1972: It was Australian cricketer Bob Massie’s Test debut as a swing bowler where he took took 8/84 and 8/53 for the match. A world record. Massie only played five more Tests but made his impact!

The Ashes series 2013

More history-making moments and the excitement of a truly great series on English soil. After a humiliating 4-0 Test series loss to India earlier this year, Australia has been fighting hard in England to regain the Ashes after two successive losses. But to no avail. Led by our fearless captain Michael Clarke the new look team hasn’t been able to create their own piece of Ashes history. To win, all they needed to do was return the urn! If you’re in London, your best option to see some history, is to take the Lord’s tour!

Highlight of The Ashes series? The debut of Ashton Agar at Trent Bridge.

Two words. Ashton Agar!

AshtonRemember I said ‘it all starts with great stories and great moments’ in Ashes Test history? Australian debutant and excitement machine Ashton Agar ripped apart the English bowlers on Day Two of the First Test at Trent Bridge! Coming in at number 11, he was a huge part of a record Australian 10th wicket partnership, the highest ever in Test cricket against England and in any match! And Ashton’s 98 was the highest score ever by a number 11 batsman in Test cricket history! Say no more! And he’s from Melbourne! :)

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Lord’s Cricket Ground was named after its founder Thomas Lord and is owned by the MCC, the Marylebone Cricket Club. It is also the home of Middlesex County Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the European Cricket Council (ECC) and was once the home of the International Cricket Council (ICC) until 2005.

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Return The Urn

BREAKING: Australia regained The Ashes on Australian soil six months later in January 2014. Their history-making 5-0 win is a whole other subject! #ReturnTheUrn

Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd. And a massive cricket follower!

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

 

 

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Being a champion means nothing left to prove

It’s official. It’s not over, it’s just beginning for the world’s best asset class Black Caviar, with a portfolio return that already boasts the following:

Wins: 25 from 25!

Australian record holder of the most number of Group 1 wins with 15, surpassing the record she shared with Kingston Town after win #24!

Track record holder of the Black Caviar Lightning, a weight-for-age race over 1,000 metres at Flemington, in a course record time of 55.42, and her third consecutive win in this race.

Ascot Diamond Jubilee 2012 winner.

Inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, before retirement!

Three-time world champion sprinter.

Brand icon, cover girl for the December 2012 edition of fashion magazine Vogue, winner of the Australian ‘Sportswoman’ of the Year 2012, public property #1, and so much more! :)

Black Caviar retired on 17 April 2013 to focus on becoming a Mum, with an investment objective that may well produce the highest priced yearling in world thoroughbred racing!

Like Pharlap, Black Caviar has nothing left to prove, a sign of a true ‘champion’.

‘Price is what you pay, value is what you get’ for a champion bloodline!

Recently we saw the ‘half-brother’ to world champion Black Caviar sold as a yearling for an Australian record price of A$5 million! And his investment value will just keep rising, whether or not he steps onto a racetrack.

Known as Lot 131 and star of the Inglis Easter Yearling Sales, he is by champion sire Redoute’s Choice out of the broodmare Helsinge, Black Caviar’s Mum. He was purchased by the same BC3 Thoroughbreds syndicate that bought Black Caviar’s half-sister in 2012 for A$2.6 million. Such is the power of the bloodline, ‘the underlying fundamental’, when it comes to assessing investment value! :) Warren Buffett would be happy with BC3′s investment approach!

Black Caviar stampHelsinge is also the dam of All Too Hard, winner of three Group 1 races including the Caulfield Guineas. He was purchased for A$1.025 million in 2011 and sold to Vinery Stud for more than A$25 million. Not bad! Horses like All Too Hard will ensure that the public can still see the Helsinge bloodline in action, with the horse set to resume in the All Aged Stakes at Randwick on 27 April.

(Update 6/5/13: Champion All Too Hard has retired after winning the All Aged Stakes! Vinery Stud’s general manager Peter Orton was quoted as saying “All Too Hard has done all we could have asked for and more. He possesses an outstanding pedigree being out of Helsinge and a half-brother to world champion sprinter Black Caviar but offers the blood of champion sires such as Danehill, Snippets, Last Tycoon, Flying Spur and Vain.” Source: smh.com.au)

Are we happy for Black Caviar?

You bet! And so is Frankel, Americain and Fastnet Rock! We look forward to a new race emerging for Black Caviar and another world’s best asset class being ‘constructed’, with a hedging strategy, of course! :)

Let’s celebrate with some line dancing! Not Gangnam style, but Black Caviar style. Here’s what the line looks like on paper:

1111111111111111111111111 = 25

Thanx for the memories, Nelly….

(Update 11/5/13: Can you imagine the investment value of the Black Caviar stamp in fifty years’ time? Launched on 11 May 2013, see her stamp above right!)

Related articles

Black Caviar farewell tour worth the weight

Iconic brand Black Caviar is world’s best investment

Australian Story tribute

ABC Australian Story 22/4/13 Fade to Black

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Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd. Pseudo PR manager for Black Caviar!

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

 

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Black Caviar farewell tour worth the weight!

There’s nothing wrong with being ‘overweight’ in the ‘world’s best asset class’!

On 16 February 2013 Black Caviar continued her run of investment outperformance with 23 consecutive wins! In a flash, she put her stamp on the Group 1 race re-named the ‘Black Caviar Lightning’ at Flemington and scorched the turf at weight-for-age, over 1,000 metres, and in a course record time of 55.42! It was her third consecutive win in this race, really proving that lightning can strike thrice!

Black Caviar needs no introduction, with her name, imagery and achievements already firmly embedded in the psyche of Australians and admirers around the world.

The public now understands that she is a once-in-a-lifetime horse and that opportunities to witness her re-write history are finite. To quote VRC chief Dale Monteith in February 2012, ”she is a game changer like no other horse.”

Recently rated the ‘World’s Best Sprinter’ for a third consecutive year, Black Caviar is a phenomenon. Purchased for $210,000, she has become an iconic Australian brand with a breeding value worth millions.

In July 2012, I posted Iconic brand Black Caviar is the world’s best investment, a story about her brand value and the impressive use of social media in her promotion. ‘Consistent’ and ‘accessible’ were the two attributes that immediately came to mind when describing the Black Caviar brand. Transcending borders, she has also added the status of fashionista, having appeared on the December 2012 cover of one of the world’s most respected magazines, Vogue. No weight problem there! :)

Weight stops trains? Not this Nelly!

Despite her ‘weight problem’ over the Australian summer prior to the Caulfield exhibition gallop on 2 February, she was presented fit and ready to resume from her spell. Bart Cummings once said “Weight stops trains.” You can’t underestimate his wisdom, but for now, it’s not an issue while contesting races at weight-for-age.

In investment terms, there’s no such weight problem for the investor, for maintaining an ‘overweight’ position in the world’s best asset class has been a very lucrative strategy! :)

Her fans have had a ‘wait problem’, but one that has been surely worth it. With win #23 out of the way, we wish Black Caviar well as she embarks on what we hope may be many more races in her ’farewell tour’?!

Next up, the William Reid Stakes

Black Caviar’s next assignment is the Group 1 weight-for-age William Reid Stakes on 22 March at Moonee Valley over 1,200 metres, aiming for win #24! And who’s William Reid? A prominent Victorian banker and racehorse owner of the early 1900s who has a Group 1 race named after him and expects to add another Black Caviar win to his list!

Once again, the Australian Football League have obliged, recognising this special event in Australian history, by agreeing to Channel 7′s direct coverage of her race during the half time break of the AFL Round 1 season opener. ‘Now that’s gotta be good for footy!’ Yeehah!

(Update to this post 23/3/13: Win #24 in the William Reid! This is how racecaller Greg Miles described her win as she approached the finish line: ‘But this is brutal power, wrapped in an elegant machine.’)

By the way, have you seen Black Caviar race?

It’s memorable. Just ask Sally Lehnhardt, Black Caviar’s biggest US fan, who flew from the States to see the exhibition gallop at Caulfield, and then flew back to Melbourne for the Black Caviar Lightning. I contacted Sally on her arrival and she said “This is all so exciting!”

(Update to this post 11/4/13: Sally arrived in Australia again today to witness Black Caviar’s win #25 in the TJ Smith Stakes, a Group 1, WFA race over 1,200 metres at Randwick on 13 April. Black Caviar won this race in 2011! Update 13/4/13: Win #25 and now the Australian record holder of the most number of Group 1 wins with 15, surpassing the record she shared with Kingston Town after win #24! Is there anything this mare can’t do?!)

My memories? Will never forget being at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate Day in 2011 to see Black Caviar’s win #15 in the Schweppes Stakes, a Group 2 race over 1,200 metres in a time of 1:10.13. Nelly crossed the finish line to win by her equal longest winning margin of 6.0 lengths. Below is my own photo of that moment, which also appears in my July 2012 post. More yeehah!…

How good is she? Just ask the Racing Hall of Fame!

Black Caviar’s stature in racing has now been recognised with her induction into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. She is only the second horse to be inducted before retirement, the other being dual Cox Plate winner Sunline. Horses are not normally inducted while they are still racing, however Bob Charley, Chairman of the Australian Racing Board, said Black Caviar ‘was a deserved exception’. Great business decision, Bob!

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#BlackCaviarSongs trending on Twitter

How about ’Girl On Fire’ by Alicia Keys?

“You can try but you’ll never forget her name. She’s on top of the world, hottest of the hottest girls, say…..Everybody stares as she goes by, ‘cos they can see the flame that’s in her eyes…..She’s got both feet on the ground, and she’s burnin’ it down…..This girl is on fire!” Here’s Alicia’s video!

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For Leanne’s latest article on Black Caviar published 18 April 2013 read Being a champion means nothing left to prove!

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Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd. Pseudo PR manager for Black Caviar!

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

 

 

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Riding toward the US debt ceiling cliff

When US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warns the US Congress to raise the debt ceiling limit, he means it!

After all, his options for applying any further conventional monetary policy to manage the US economy are limited, as evidenced by his recent move to set his own ‘fiscal framework’ tied to the US unemployment rate.

With the US edging towards its second, and more costly cliff, that of the ‘debt ceiling’ cliff, the pressure is mounting on US law makers.

At a recent University of Michigan forum, Mr Bernanke said “It’s very, very important that Congress take the necessary action to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the situation where the government doesn’t pay its bills.”

‘Congress needs to do what it needs to do’ is really the key message from Bernanke. Perhaps devising a real plan for spending and revenue would be a great start.

The current US borrowing limit is US$16.4 trillion and due for review at the end of February. (NB: Update 2/2/13 – deadline now extended to May 2013 – see end of this article).

How does it work? Raising the debt ceiling does not directly impact on the budget deficit. The US government passes a federal budget every year which details projected tax collections and outlays and the amount of borrowing the government needs to do in that fiscal year. A vote to increase the debt ceiling is ‘usually’ a formality in order to continue spending that has already been previously approved by the President and Congress. Source: wikipedia. But in recent US political experience, this process hasn’t gone to plan!

Maybe Bernanke needs to ride into town on a horse?

When Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig presented their hilarious skit at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards this week, it sparked an idea that perhaps Ben Bernanke could get the attention of US Congress another way…in ‘Hope Springs’, if you can visualise Will and Kristen’s description of the movie! It goes something like this:

“Ben Bernanke. Hope Springs. And he’s… he’s the sassy sheriff… he comes into town on a horse… and that scene, that scene where he looks at the town people… “You get outta here, y’all… You get outta here!” :)

There’s much work that still needs to be done by the ‘town people’ on the US economy and Bernanke has been vocal on this point. It’s possible that the US could go over the debt ceiling cliff, but expect this action to be temporary, just as the US ‘technically’ went over the fiscal cliff on 1 January. A deal was finally reached by Congress only two days after the deadline, addressing some taxation aspects, but not the key spending cuts to be made.

Obama was right when he said “the fiscal cliff is a politically self-inflicted wound”. Watch for ’cliff series 2′ to be screened in February, where the ‘debt jumping’ US deal makers try to artificially jump this next cliff. But the pressure is not only coming from Bernanke…

Fitch ratings has its own warning

The Fitch ratings agency has also issued a warning that the US must effectively manage its debt ceiling policy in order to strengthen the economy or its AAA credit rating is at stake if Congress does not reach agreement on raising the ceiling for the national debt. For full details on the warning, read Fitch’s media release of 15 January 2013.

Fitch are not talking default, the risk of which is extremely low. But they are saying that a failure by the US to raise its debt ceiling limit would lead to a review of its ratings of US debt instruments and sovereign ratings.

However, Fitch also warned that fundamental strengths in the US economy were being undermined by the weight of debt and associated strains.

Fitch warned that even if a crisis over the ceiling were averted in the immediate future, if the solution did not address the debt in a way which supported growth, then it was set to downgrade the US rating later in the year anyway. Read Sky’s article for more information.

Fitch says that having a US debt ceiling is an ineffective way to manage fiscal discipline. Investors and the town people should keep their eye on this bouncing ball for any future downgrade!…

“And Judi Dench, where did she come from?”

For one of the funniest Golden Globe presentations in years, the real winner is Will and Kristen. Watch their skit here! :)

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Update 2/2/13 - US Congress has now voted to extend the debt ceiling deadline until 19 May 2013, temporarily removing the risk of a government default from fiscal negotiations. This short term approach, while sensible, still requires a resolution, but the measure at least eliminates any risk of a default in the short term. Read Bloomberg’s update.

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Want to know the current state of US national debt? Take a peak at the US debt clock in real time by clicking here. It’s mesmerising!

Looking for a related article by Leanne? Read her post “Managing the fiscal cliff to avert a sky fall” published on 1 December 2012!

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Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd.

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

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Managing the fiscal cliff to avert a sky fall

“This is the end. Hold your breath and count to ten.”

When Adele sings those opening lyrics in the new James Bond movie Skyfall, some similarities come to mind between the movie’s conclusion and the deadline for the US ‘fiscal cliff’! In both cases, the world has to take a very deep breath!

While Daniel Craig’s mission ended at Skyfall, Barak Obama has his work cut out for him in a real life ‘Thelma and Louse’ cliff drama. In Obama’s case, negotiation is expected to be the winner, with his first deadline due on 31 December 2012.

It’s easy to dismiss the US fiscal cliff as just another economic theory that won’t play out in practice. But there’s enough concern from market watchers to say that the combination of capped borrowings and lower than expected tax income will send the US into recession.

And, there’s nothing more compelling than the comments from US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s July 2012 paper which states the “Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, if the full range of tax increases and spending cuts were allowed to take effect – a scenario widely referred to as the fiscal cliff – a shallow recession would occur early next year and about 1-1/4 million fewer jobs would be created in 2013.”

Simultaneous tax increases and spending cuts

The timing of certain US laws coming into effect at the end of this year and into early 2013 will place enormous pressure on the growth of the US economy. The major components include the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the ending of federal unemployment benefits and the 2% social security payroll tax cuts. Military spending and other domestic spending would also be reduced. Some provisions will increase taxes eg. the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, while others will reduce spending eg. expiration of unemployment benefits. Wikipedia has an accurate list of the laws creating the fiscal cliff concerns, but there are many other sources.

The fiscal cliff is a politically driven event that has some of its roots in the US debt ceiling negotiations of 2011. If Congress is unable to agree by the end of 2012, US$607b. in automatic spending cuts and tax increases will take effect in January. As an example, taxes on ordinary income, capital gains, dividends and estates will increase, lifting the top tax rate from 35% to 39.6%.

The outcome required is a compromise between the Republicans and the Democrats to smooth the introduction of these measures so that they have a reduced impact on the economy. Both sides agree the deficit has to be cut, but have differing views on how those cuts should be applied. Click for further explanation on the fiscal cliff and its effects.

Thelma and Louise explanation

If you would like the US fiscal cliff explained ‘Thelma and Louise style’ (with the help of Hollywood) and Paddy Hirsch, here it is video style! :)

The most likely outcome is a set of temporary measures that would delay a more permanent policy solution.

If Congress takes the middle ground, by extending the Bush tax cuts but removing the automatic spending cuts, then the economy may see some modest growth.

Where did the term originate?

Contrary to popular belief, Ben Bernanke didn’t create the term ‘fiscal cliff’ but he sure did popularise it in his speech on 29 February 2012 to the House Committee on Financial Services. He said “Under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases. I hope that Congress will look at that and figure out ways to achieve the same long run fiscal improvement without having it all happen at one date.”

For more on the origin of the term, Annalyn Kurtz’s view on CNN Money Blog is a good read.

Social media campaign #My2K

Obama has used Twitter to communicate one of his messages on the fiscal cliff using #My2K as the hashtag. He tweets that most families could save up to US$2,200 if Congress extends middle class tax cuts and he asked followers to describe what an extra US$2K would mean to their families. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of the year, a family of four would pay US$2,200 more in taxes in 2013. The President wants to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, but eliminate them for the top 2% of Americans who earn more than US$200K p.a.

National Debt Clock

What the fiscal cliff issue really highlights is the fragility of the US economy built on debt. One of the most ’mesmerising’ images I saw while in New York was the ‘debt clock’, a digital billboard display located near W. 44th and Sixth Avenue which shows the level of real time US debt. In September 2009, that debt was US$11 trillion (see the clock image above). This year, US debt surpassed US$16 trillion on 4 September 2012. At the end of FY 2013, the forecast for US total government debt is expected to reach US$20.5 trillion. Source: http://www.usgovernmentdebt.us/

For real time data on US debt, visit usdebtclock.org or click on the clock image above.

Entrepreneur Seymour Durst first erected the debt clock in 1989, albeit in a different location, for the initial purpose of drawing attention to the consequences of Reaganomics. At that time the US national debt was US$2.7 trillion. How long will the clock remain? Durst was quoted as saying “It’ll be up as long as the debt or the city lasts,” adding, “If it bothers people, then it’s working.” I love that line!

The debt clock certainly bothers Ben Bernanke and President Obama. As the US heads toward the fiscal cliff, it should be seen as an opportunity to take some real action to ‘manage down the debt’ as a work in progress, even though the pain involved would cause everyone to be ‘shaken, not stirred’!

Adele ends her song with “Let the sky fall. When it crumbles we will stand together. Face it all together.” As the US faces its fiscal cliff, this is one ending that can be averted at least for the short term, by taking a bi-partisan approach. If not, Daniel Craig as James Bond has his next mission!…

…Here’s the video of the Skyfall song for the avid fans! (source: YouTube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeumyOzKqgI

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Politically self-inflicted wound

Update to this post 2/1/13:  Technically, the US went over the fiscal cliff on 1 January, but within two days a deal was finally reached by Congress that addressed some taxation aspects, but not the key spending cuts to be made. A Forbes article provides a useful summary of the agreed measures to date, with so much more work to be done.

Obama was right when he recently said “the fiscal cliff is a politically self-inflicted wound”. It sure is, and if wounds are not treated properly, they linger and worsen, and in this case what we have is a bandaid solution to a much wider problem. My twitter comment of 2 January sums up a bigger problem looming: ”In the upcoming fiscal cliff series 2, watch US deal makers artificially jump the next debt hurdle in two months time. #DebtCeilingCliff”!

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Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd.

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

 

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Facebook growing in global brand value

 

 

 

Any business that can build a social media platform of one billion monthly active users must be doing something right. Last month Mark Zuckerberg did just that!

After carefully managing the growth of his Facebook company since 2004, the biggest database in the world has so far generated 1.13 trillion ‘likes’, 140 billion friend connections and the uploading of 219 billion photos. Whew!

In October 2007, Facebook hit 50 million users. Back then, the median age of the user signing up was 26 years old, with an average of 321 friends. The top five countries using the platform were the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Turkey.

Five years on, and the median age of the user signing up has dropped to 22 as at September 2012, and the mix of the top five countries now includes the US, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico. Along the way, Facebook has gathered 600 million mobile users, up from 543 million at the end of June. Source: Facebook.

Facebook gains in global brand value attention

Last week major global brand consultancy Interbrand released its Best Global Brands 2012 Report. The big news? Facebook has now entered Interbrand’s Top 100 list of the Best Global Brands, coming in at number 69. Interbrand commented that “despite its rocky start as a publicly listed stock and lingering uncertainty about its business model, Facebook’s growth as a brand, especially in developing markets, earns it a position in this year’s report.”

Coca-Cola retained its number one spot, and Apple jumped to number two with its sales in both developed and emerging markets. Google came in at number four after experiencing a 26% increase in brand value over the last year, exceeding Microsoft’s brand value for the first time since Interbrand has been publishing its report.

In terms of brand value, Interbrand says Facebook still has a long way to go to catch up to number one ranked Coca Cola. Their article ‘Moving Beyond Utility’ written by Lauryn Bennett said “Coca-Cola not only surpasses Facebook astronomically when it comes to financial performance with revenues of US$35 billion (Facebook’s revenue is estimated at US$4 billion this year) but also earns about half of its value from the role the brand itself plays at the time of conversion. For now, not only does Facebook fall short when it comes to revenue, but it also could benefit from more focus on its brand.”

Interbrand’s methodology analyses how a brand touches and benefits an organisation, from driving bottom-line business results to delivering on customer expectations. To develop its report, Interbrand looks at the three key aspects that contribute to a brand’s value: “The financial performance of the branded products or service, the role the brand plays in influencing consumer choice, and the strength the brand has to command a premium price, or secure earnings for the company.” Read Interbrand’s report for more information on its methodology and approach.

What does Facebook’s positioning mean for investors?

At the moment, the elevation in its global brand value and positioning would provide little comfort to those investors feeling some pain.

There’s no doubt that the challenge for Facebook is to improve its current share price for investors. Since Facebook’s IPO in May this year, the main issue for the business has been the monetisation of its users. Investors will want a return and monetising will help fund the development of a sustainable business model going forward.

Having passed the one billion active user mark on 14 September 2012, Facebook has acknowledged that a slowdown in new-user acquisition is inevitable as its worldwide reach expands.

Zuckerberg went on the front foot last month to help ease investors’ minds, making his first public appearance since the launch of the ‘IPO of the century’ in May. Talking up the company’s mobile prospects, he hinted at new initiatives in search and e-commerce. His words helped to arrest the slide, after Facebook hit an all-time low of US$17.55 on 4 September, well below its IPO price of $38. The share price currently sits at US$19.64 at the time of posting, but in the meantime those losses to date continue to hurt the investor. For the latest price, visit investor.fb.com.

The next important date for the market is 23 October 2012 when Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) will announce the company’s third quarter 2012 financial results. Can’t wait for that! (Update to this post: 23/10/12 Facebook’s 3Q earnings results show revenue up 32%, and 14% of ad revenue now coming from mobile, a step in the right direction!)

A New York article by Sandler, Womack and McMillan says there are more than 40 lawsuits related to Facebook’s offering with some investors blaming their losses on Nasdaq trading errors. Others claim company managers did not disclose revised revenue forecasts before the stock started to trade publicly, nor did it warn that a rise in mobile users would cut revenue. Facebook says the lawsuits lack merit.

‘The things that connect us’

Facebook has rolled out some initiatives to help generate more growth, including a new advertising platform and measurement methods to help marketers. They have also developed a feature that lets US users buy and send gifts such as gift cards, glasses and pastries to friends as it seeks to become more involved in e-commerce.

Zuckerberg said his company’s new mobile ads were delivering better results for advertisers than its traditional ads on personal computers. The market will be looking for the proof on this going forward.

How does Facebook describe its own business?

“Facebook Inc. operates a social networking website. The Company’s website allows people to communicate with their family, friends, and coworkers. Facebook develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information, photographs, website links, and videos. Facebook users have the ability to share and restrict information based on their own specific criteria.” Source: Facebook.

“Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life,” Mark Zuckerberg said in his official blog post.

There’s no doubt he’s done an amazing job and his social media platform has been revolutionary. But ultimately, the market, made up of investors, will determine its fate!

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Interested in the brand? Leanne has an archive article on this topic which includes Interbrand’s list for 2011. Read It’s all about the brand published on 26 February 2012.

Leanne Henderson is an Australian financial services executive and PR, marketing and communications specialist and owner of Best of Breed Communications Pty Ltd.

Twitter: @HendersonLeanne

 

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