Big Apple

AppleCarplay1This week Apple reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2015. And few companies could even dream of the figures revealed. In just thirteen weeks the corporation received $58,200 million in revenue but amazingly made some $17,700 million in operating profit. Not only is that 30% up on last year but it means that Apple has a surplus of around $200 million every day to spend on … anything it fancies. And this cash avalanche is before the over-subscribed Apple Watch hits the high street stores.

So what new product line will get some Apple reimagineering next? One rumour predicts that Apple will build a game-changing domestic motor car – most likely electric powered. But others say that would be a step too far. However the Apple Carplay (right) is something that has already been seen at car shows for over a year. And that might just be one more step towards a car and a corporation where desktop computers are just a memory …

Very Low Key

UKChartsApr24With just three more weeks before the start of the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna it looks like the BBC’s cunning plan is working.

BBC executives clearly decided that holding back their fantastic 2015 selection until the last minute was the way to win. And things are certainly going to plan with no sign of the song or its singers appearing anywhere in the pop charts. By holding back demand for the past seven weeks the BBC’s entertainment bosses will be able to hit Europe with the full force of the song’s up-tempo beat and an irresistibly catchy hook in one big push to the finish.

Given that British success in Eurovision 2015 is now virtually sewn-up the bookies have stopped taking bets from BBC insiders. Where a spare few thousand on Electro Velvet can be an amusing diversion for staff bored with tweeting and watching episodes of W1A. Take me back to Vienna …

Greener Homes

Nearertozero_180In 2007 the Labour Government introduced a policy that all new homes would be constructed to meet zero carbon standards from 2016. And this was more than just a policy with a new organisation being established the following year with operational responsibility for achieving this key government target.

Given the high priorities for new housing and carbon emission reductions you would expect that all the manifestos would be highlighting this critical change to UK building requirements. And certainly anyone wanting to cut their energy bills long term would be hoping that their first, or next, home would provide the maximum in modern energy saving measures.

But zero carbon homes do not seem to appear in the 2015 manifestos. However the civil servants at the Zero Carbon Hub are still working away in their central London office. Not employed to actually supervise the construction of compliant homes but instead organising meetings hoping that builders will play ball. Encouragement that has had little observable effect on any of the housing developments in Grandad’s area. Perhaps that will all change next year – it is, after all, the agreed target for compliance to start. But given the lack of support for zero carbon homes in the current manifestos that seems unlikely. Instead we will be sold smart meters and told to ration our own energy consumption – or pay the price.

Greener Transport

HS2_Plan1One of more bizarre promises made by politicians this week is best if quoted directly from the Lib Dem manifesto. To promote innovation and greener transport choices we will … support options for an intercity cycleway along the HS2 route, within the overall budget for the project.

However the manifesto does not say if this is as well as or instead of the super-fast trains. But for the sake of anyone prepared to ride intercity by bicycle then instead of seems the only sensible – and safe – interpretation.

Where Is The Dragon?

GeorgeDragon3In 1348 King Edward III of England founded the Order of the Garter with St George as its patron. And later it was the Battle of Agincourt, where English soldiers under King Henry V defeated the French, that lead to St George being adopted as the national patron saint.

With the famous battle being fought in 1415 this year should mark 600 years of St George’s official association with England. But despite this long history the saint’s day has never been a national holiday in England; partly because of its closeness to Easter.

And this year any celebrations will be overshadowed in the media by politicians and party activists chasing votes. Given that all the latest manifestos portray their parties as knights in shining armour it is hard to know who or what represents the modern day dragon in the story. Perhaps the growing debt mountain will emerge as the common threat that all parties can agree on …

Busy Bookies

This weekend could see a new high for the ever-growing number of high street and online bookmakers. And by far the biggest event is, of course, today’s Grand National at Aintree – where £150 million is expected to change hands; much of it on favourite Shutthefrontdoor.

Man1But there are plenty of other sports that the bookies are also covering this weekend. The Oxford-Cambridge boat race will be broadcast this afternoon to a estimated audience of 100 million world wide. Many will be hoping that favourites Oxford win. Meanwhile a small but dedicated band of cycling Grandads will be following their own grand national on Sunday with the 113th running of the Paris to Roubaix race. Taking over 6 hours and with 27 sections of cobbled cart tracks this race attracts a huge global audience. With Britain’s Bradley Wiggins starting as second favourite in his last race for Team Sky the bookies could be in for another boost.

And it’s not just sports events that are keeping bookmakers busy. With only a few weeks to go to the UK General Election plenty more cash is coming their way through bets on the outcome. And it will be interesting to see if their predicted results turn out to be nearer than the opinion polls. Coral are forecasting that the seats to be won on 7th May will be – 285 Conservatives, 264 Labour, 45 SNP, 27 Liberal Democrats, 7 UKIP, 2 Greens and 2 Plaid Cymru. But I wouldn’t bet on it ..

Misplaced Stories

CutFromThePress-1Today’s online edition of a UK national newspaper had two unrelated articles that plenty of readers thought must have been put in the same edition by the hand of god

Meanwhile the finance news from Argentina is much more pressing  … The government of president Cristina Fernandez, which was unable to raise cash in the global bond market after defaulting last year, is pressuring soybean growers to sell so that it can collect the 35% tax it slaps on soybean exports … The government also wants to see more soy sales because growers are required to convert their exports in US dollars into pesos. This feeds central bank reserves that are used to control the devaluation of the currency as the economy slumps under the weight of heavy trade controls.

This shortage of cash for the Argentine government will not be helped by today’s decision by the World Bank that Argentina has to pay 405 million US dollars to water services company GDF Suez as compensation. But at least the Argentine people have the prospect of some good news at the planned October elections where Fernandez is excluded from seeking a third term.