The relentless, unstoppable force that spooked Murdoch and Lowy
By John McDuling
It is hard to think of a more fitting conclusion to 2017 for corporate Australia than the two seismic deals involving Rupert Murdoch and Frank Lowy that sent shockwaves around the world [in Dec 2017].
Murdoch has made little secret of the fact he was concerned that his Fox entertainment businesses didn’t have the necessary scale to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, so he sold them to Disney.As you almost certainly know by now, the two iconic, octogenarian billionaires decided to sell assets they had spent decades building up, at least in part due to concerns about threats posed to their businesses by internet led rivals.
Even Murdoch is buying into it.“I read this week about my Australian friends at Westfield. They can see what Amazon is doing to bricks and mortar retail,” he told the Financial Timesover the weekend.
As one of the next generation of globally significant Australian executives, Mike-Cannon Brookes, pointed out last week, every industry is being threatened by some form of digital insurrection at the moment.
The advent of Amazon, which terrified retail executives and investors in the sector; Elon Musk and Cannon-Brookes’ intervention into the national energy debate in South Australia, and the rise of crypto-currencies upending the established order in finance were just a few of the big stories that played into this theme.
There is a belief the Murdoch and Lowy mega-deals could merely represent a taste of things to come, with the theme of technology motivated mergers and acquisitions set to continue next year.
Senior investment bankers this column has spoken to say rapid technological change remains a top concern among directors on the boards of our biggest companies.
This is forcing them to invest more in innovation and technology. Selling assets (including infrastructure and property, but also non-core businesses) that aren’t central to their business is one way to fund that.
One such example could be Telstra’s decision to take steps to reduce its stake in pay TV company Foxtel.
A recent survey of companies and private equity firms by consulting giant Deloitte found that companies in the US expect to do more acquisitions next year.
They are sitting on more cash than they were a year ago – potential changes to America’s tax regime could provide them with even more firepower – and they expect to use that cash to buy other companies.
The biggest motivating factors for acquisitions, according to the Deloitte survey, were a desire to acquire technology, and the need to build out a digital strategy.
The Deloitte survey dovetails with a forecast by Goldman Sachs, which expects M&A spending in the world’s largest economy to rise 6 per cent to $US355 billion next year.
Almost every company these days is trying to position itself as a tech firm. This includes our big banks, Telstra, and in a global context, century old industrial giant General Electric.
The distinction between business and technology is becoming increasingly blurred, the firms with the best tech over the long run will win.
For people exposed to the technology industry, it can be nauseating to hear old school executives rattle off terms like digital disruption, the blockchain and artificial intelligence.
But in fairness to them, in an era of rapid technological change, fighting progress will be futile, so they have little choice but to embrace it.
Unless, like Lowy and Murdoch, you can find a way out.
Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald (online) on 18 December, 2017
In a recent piece, I spelled out that I had grown accustomed to owning a vehicle in Cairns. Not a lot has changed. I still need a car, maybe more so now since I sold my car and live a fair way out of the CBD.
Media attention awarded to Bugandi Secondary School of late, has tainted the name of this pillar of education within the Lae City community. I do not want to dwell on the events that have garnered such infamy, but it would be fair to say, there exists a sense of bitter distrust from the part of the greater Lae community.
But the nature of trust is that
it can also be earned back because bad does not necessarily mean ‘there is an absence of good’. At least that was my experience with the Bugandi Secondary School students on Friday, 6th October. An incident transpired during that day that showed hope and goodness that often goes unacknowledged about that institution.
I am not at liberty to fully disclose the details of the incident, least to say it was a hit and run and I, along with the students were first witnesses. I’ll add though that it was the quick thinking on behalf of the Bugandi students that led to the survival of the victim; the emergency ward named ‘Mr Friday Unknown’.
In a show of spirited heroism, the young men from Bugandi Secondary School gathered the seemingly lifeless pile of aged bones and soft tissue onto my ute. Without time to spare we rushed the Mr Friday Unknown to the accident and emergency ward at ANGAU Memorial Hospital.
There is always a moment of sho
ck that follows accidents so gruesome as that that reminds us humanity is nothing but skin and bones. It is the spirit that connects us to each other.
Seeing the spirit the Bugandi students showed to save a life gives me faith enough to say that the school is raising integral community members and citizens of Papua New Guinea. That lesson cannot
be overlooked. That lesson is more important then any piece of information that can be found in textbooks.
But this is not an isolated event. This act of selflessness is evidently engrained in these students. Almost a month before this incident a head on collision between two vehicles on Jawani Street (next to Bugandi) was witnessed by Bugandi Secondary School students who were unwilling first respondents to the scene, doing what they could to save the lives.
The description of the incident is not important here, but the character
demonstrated by the students is, again, testament to their strength and value as members of the greater Lae City
I would like then to commend the teachers and for their commitment towards their students. For believing in the goodness in your students. To the Principle, Mr Tony Gaul and your leadership team, it takes real courage and strength to believe in your mission with limited resources and the clout of negative media – for that I applaud you and your team.
Bugandi Secondary School has quite the journey ahead of it yet I believe that in the not too distant future, the institution will give the great city of Lae reasons to look upon it with the endearing fondness that it deserves..