What caught my attention – week of 2 March 2020

Good morning from Hong Kong. Below are a few articles focusing on the global chip industry, global supply chains (that are way overdue for a re-organisation) and the environmental impact of the current global health situation.

1. Global chip industry

Title: How ASML became chipmaking’s biggest monopoly
Link: Economist

Ask people to pinpoint the centre of the digital economy and many will finger Silicon Valley, populated by Apple, Google, Facebook and too many sexy startups to count. Others may nod at the area around Seattle, where Amazon and Microsoft are based. Some could suggest Shenzhen, China’s technology hub. Few would point to a nondescript suburb of Eindhoven, the Netherlands’ fifth-biggest city. Yet on closer inspection, the case for Veldhoven looks compelling. It is home to ASML, the world’s sole manufacturer of the most advanced equipment critical to modern chipmaking. If chips make the world go round, ASML may be the closest the multi-trillion-dollar global tech industry has to a linchpin.

2. Entrepreneurs

Title: How Nerio Alessandri started Technogym, worth $2.4 billion, in his garage in Italy
Link: CNBC

You may never have heard of Nerio Alessandri, but you may well have used the gym equipment he designed. Alessandri is the founder of Technogym, one of the most popular gym equipment brands in the world, with 50 million users globally across 100 countries. Founded in 1983, the company now makes products ranging from free weights to rowing machines. It has already supplied exercise bikes, treadmills and more for several Olympic Games and will this year provide equipment for the event in Tokyo. It has also sponsored Formula 1 and soccer teams including A.C. Milan. The business is now worth around €2.2 billion ($2.4 billion) and since it went public on the Milan Stock Exchange in May 2016 has seen its share price increase by 156%.

3. Global supply chains

Title: The new coronavirus could have a lasting impact on global supply chains
Link: Economist

Most multinational firms have been caught by surprise. This is not the first time they have suffered shocks to their Asian supply chains. The tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and devastating floods in Thailand the same year disrupted production for many big firms. More recently, Donald Trump’s trade war with China has exposed the risks of supply chains that rely too heavily on the mainland. But the bosses of such businesses have done little to prepare for shocks such as that inflicted by the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Investors are punishing companies for this failure. The shares of American firms with strong exposure to China have underperformed the S&P500 index by 5% since early January, when news of the outbreak first broke.

4. Environment

Title: Nasa images show pollution over China has cleared as coronavirus keeps people inside
Link: Yahoo

Satellite images from Nasa show pollution over China has cleared due to the coronavirus epidemic closing factories and keeping people inside their homes. The Chinese government has operated strict curfews and isolation policies to curtail the spread of the deadly virus that has killed more than 2,850 people globally. This has partly led to a decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels over the past eight weeks, according to Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA). Fei Liu, Air Quality Researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.”

5. HeartMath research

Title: Women’s Volleyball Team Serves Up Court Lock-In
Link: HeartMath

Members of the women’s volleyball team at Azusa Pacific University shouted and flashed plenty of the usual signals during a close game in the fall of 2007, but a peculiar one proved to be their secret weapon that day. “Link up, link up!” the players on the sideline yelled to their teammates out on the court. Everybody on the team knew the meaning of this verbal admonition: Time for a Quick Coherence. “They were interlocking their arms all in row,” researcher Cynthia Tanis, who watched from the stands that day, recently told HeartMath. “They were yelling, ‘Link up, link up,’ and they ended up winning the game.” The bench players, of course, were calling for their teammates to do HeartMath’s Quick Coherence Technique, which they’d all practiced for weeks as participants in an independent study Tanis was conducting on heart-rhythm biofeedback training using HeartMath methods.

+1 Book of the week

Author and title: David Michaelis – Schulz and Peanuts: A biography

I think it’s OK to admit that I’ve been a huge fan of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Peanuts. These stories were fantastic to read and watch as a kid (certainly for someone behind the ‘Iron Curtain’) but it was only later that the beauty and complexity of the stories and characters were revealed.

Many great children’s book writers (such as A. A. Milne who wrote Winnie the Pooh) take their inspirations from their struggles with relationships, life situations and choices and translate them for children in their wonderful stories.

This biography is very revealing and shows the complexity of Schulz’s character. It does a superb job of juxtaposing his creativity with (what seems like) a complicated family life and relationships. Long one but highly recommend it.