Numlock News: February 19, 2020 • Trains, Planes, Grasshoppers
By Walt Hickey
Bombardier announced it will sell its train business to the French company Alstom SA, a move that will net it $4.5 billion. The company is best known for making high-speed trains and failing to make New York City subway cars. The company had been weighing whether to sell its train business to Alstom or its plane business to Textron. Last week, it also announced it was selling its stake in the commercial plane business to Airbus, and now is a smaller, more nimble company fighting for a stake of the $20 billion global market for new business jets. Bombardier — which makes Learjet, Global and Challenger — will see its annual revenue more than halved from the $15.8 billion it made in 2019 as a result of the sales, but will also enjoy a major reduction to its debts. Let this be a lesson to all of us: to succeed in business, stay as far away as humanly possible from relying on the New York City MTA.
In 2017, the average monthly cost of broadband internet in South Korea was $29.90 in USD, one of the most affordable in the world, but many countries have reasonable rates as well: France’s average bill that year was $38.10 per month and Germany’s was $35.71. Meanwhile, in the U.S. it was $66.17 per month, well over double the amount in South Korea. What gives? In other countries, monopolies in the telecom space are actively stymied, like in France where carriers are compelled to lease the last mile part of its network to competitors to fight for your business.
Write What You Know
An analysis of the 100 books published since 1900 that most often appeared on best-of lists found that for 61 of the 100, the book was at least partly set in a place the author lived, like how Stephen King puts a lot of stuff in Maine, or how Zadie Smith’s White Teeth takes place in London where she grew up, or how J.K. Rowling set Harry Potter in an isolationist country where powerful writers can punch down constantly on gender and sexual minorities with impunity. Of the other 39 books, the average minimum distance between where the author once lived and where the book is set is just 73.7 miles.
China is typically the third-largest aviation market in the world, but as a result of the coronavirus outbreak it’s now smaller than Portugal, the 25th largest market. Chinese airlines cut 10.4 million seats domestically, and approximately 1.7 million seats were dropped by global carriers from China’s air travel from January 20 to February 17. The country’s three main airlines cut international travel by somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent.
A study of businesses in 86 metro areas from 2016 to 2019 found that having a Yelp rating of 4.5 was linked to 9.9 percent average revenue growth over the period, compared to 8.8 percent growth for 4-star rated businesses, 7.6 percent for 3.5-star businesses and 5.5 percent growth for three-star businesses. Yelp rating is linked to business performance, but a new study finds distressing information about businesses in Black-majority neighborhoods in the United States, mainly that higher-rated businesses get fewer reviews, and that compared to businesses in other areas those located in Black-majority neighborhoods do not enjoy any advantages in terms of revenue by being a highly-rated business.
The peak for the American catalog came in 2009, when 19 billion catalogs moved through the USPS to prospective buyers. And while one might think that smartphones and increased access to the internet made catalogs vestigial, not so fast. In 2018, something like 11.5 billion catalogs were delivered in the United States, in part an act of cold-called desperation from retailers to hold on to customers by any means available, but also in part because there’s literally nothing in the rule book that makes it illegal to send someone a catalog without their permission, as is the case with newer innovations like tests, or app installations, or dare I say email.
The locust swarms in East Africa are indeed as bad if not worse as earlier reported, and the stakes are getting higher in terms of preventing their spread as soon as possible. Last year, the October to December rainy season was 120 percent to 400 percent wetter, meaning lots more stuff for locusts to devour. The locusts have now spread to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and are breeding in Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan, with swarms crossing into Uganda and Tanzania. Already, 13 million people in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia suffer severe acute food insecurity, and 20 million more will fall into crisis if crops sustain serious damage. Swarms — composed of 40 million to 80 million adults — can travel 150 kilometers per day, and a 40 million member locust swarm can consume the same amount of food as 35,000 people. Swarms are now entering South Sudan.
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