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Vested Shorts: Tesla in India, Samsung’s profit surge, Google’s AI pivot, issues for Intel, and global expansion by Ant

by Parth Parikh
April 6, 2024
5 min read
Vested Shorts: Tesla in India, Samsung’s profit surge, Google’s AI pivot, issues for Intel, and global expansion by Ant

In today’s edition

  • Tesla: Strategic expansion
  • Samsung: Chip recovery
  • Google: Paid enhancements
  • Ant Group: Resilience & Evolution
  • Intel: Prolonged recovery

Market Snapshot

In a recent report by the US Labor Department, the job market showcased unexpected strength with nonfarm payrolls witnessing a significant surge of 303,000 last month, notably surpassing the anticipated increase of around 200,000 by analysts.

Despite the positive job growth figures, the unemployment rate held steady at 3.8%, barely moving from the 54-year lows observed earlier in 2023. This stability, combined with the jexpected wage growth, suggests a balanced growth trajectory without exerting undue pressure on inflation, a scenario likely to influence the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions.

Market reactions were mixed, with major indices recovering from a prior slump but still closing the week on a lower note. The S&P 500 index dipped by 1.0% to settle at 5,204.34 for the week, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw a sharper decline of 2.3%, ending at 38,904.04. The Nasdaq Composite experienced a modest fall, closing at 16,248.52, down by 0.8%.

Stock market closing data for the week from April 1st to 5th, 2024

News Summaries

Tesla is advancing its international expansion strategy by scouting locations in India for a potential electric car plant, which is estimated to cost between $2bn and $3bn. This move aligns with New Delhi’s recent incentive of lowered tariffs on imported EVs for manufacturers committing to local production within three years, a condition Tesla advocated for. The company’s exploration focuses on states with existing automotive ecosystems and port access, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu, to facilitate exports. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for manufacturing and EV industry growth amidst a competitive geopolitical landscape with China, a Tesla investment could significantly bolster India’s ambitions in the EV sector. Tesla’s plan includes potentially manufacturing a more affordable vehicle under $30,000, targeting not just the Indian market but also exports to southeast Asia, the Gulf, Africa, and parts of Europe. This development comes as Tesla seeks to diversify its manufacturing footprint amid a global slowdown in EV sales growth, with plans for a new factory also underway in Mexico.

Samsung Electronics is set to report operating profit for the first quarter, projecting a 931% rise to Won6.6tn ($4.9bn), exceeding analysts’ expectations, fueled by a robust recovery in memory chip prices. This rebound, the strongest since the third quarter of 2022, is driven by strategic production cuts and a surge in demand for high-performance chips amid an AI boom, with Dram and Nand flash memory chips experiencing significant price increases. The anticipated profit contrasts sharply with a previous operating loss, marking a pivotal turnaround attributed to both a favourable market recovery and Samsung’s efforts to enhance its competitive edge in high-margin AI chips. Additionally, Samsung’s recent advancements in the high bandwidth memory (HBM) sector and optimistic forecasts for its chip packaging business contribute to this upswing, alongside strong sales of AI-integrated smartphones, positioning the company for a profitable year ahead.

Google is contemplating the introduction of paid “premium” features to its search engine, utilizing generative artificial intelligence, in a significant departure from its traditional ad-supported model. This consideration comes as Google faces the disruptive impact of AI technologies like ChatGPT on its advertising-centric business model, which generated $175bn in revenue last year. By potentially integrating AI-powered search enhancements into its existing subscription services, Google aims to balance innovation with revenue preservation. This move would mark the first instance of Google charging for improvements to its foundational search service amidst efforts to maintain its dominant market position against competitors like Microsoft’s Bing, which has already integrated GPT-powered features. Google’s exploration into premium, AI-enhanced search options reflects a strategic response to evolving user demands and the competitive landscape despite the absence of immediate plans to remove ads or offer an ad-free search experience within its subscription models.

Ant’s Pivot to Global Markets

Ant Financial

After the collapse of its $37 billion IPO in 2020 and a subsequent 40% devaluation, Ant Group is refocusing its strategy towards international expansion. This move is a direct response to the restructuring and a Rmb7.12bn ($984mn) fine imposed by Chinese regulators, which reshaped Ant’s business operations, especially within its core fintech sectors. Facing these domestic challenges, Ant is now seeking growth opportunities abroad, evidenced by its bid for Credit Suisse’s Chinese securities unit and efforts to expand its global payments business.

The financial impact of heightened regulatory scrutiny on Ant is clear, with a significant drop in profits from Rmb30.9bn in 2022 to a more than 90% decrease in third-quarter profits in 2023 to Rmb240mn, based on Alibaba’s financial disclosures, which holds a 33% stake in Ant. This downturn has forced Ant to look beyond its traditional revenue streams, pivoting towards international markets as a new avenue for growth. This strategic shift is reinforced by Ant’s focus on enhancing its global payment services, with the aim of linking millions of merchants to consumers worldwide, demonstrating a clear strategy to overcome domestic market barriers.

Ant’s transition to global markets is marked by operational changes, including granting operational independence to its international payment division and introducing a stock incentive program for its staff. Led by CEO Eric Jing, Ant is aggressively pursuing its goal to integrate into the international payments ecosystem, connecting over 88 million merchants to 1.5 billion consumer accounts across 57 countries and regions. This shift reflects Ant’s strategic adaptation to regulatory pressures, emphasizing its commitment to finding new growth pathways while navigating the challenges of the global fintech environment without Jack Ma’s direct influence.

Intel’s Uncertain Path

Intel's Uncertain Path

Intel faces a critical juncture as it reports substantial financial setbacks within its manufacturing sector, revealing a potential loss of $11.2bn last year, reduced to a $7bn deficit after revising depreciation policies. This financial strain highlights the challenges of Intel’s accelerated pace through five manufacturing nodes in just four years, a strategy fraught with high start-up costs and insufficient volume production for immediate profitability. Despite this aggressive timeline aiming to recapture its competitive edge in chip manufacturing, investor confidence wavers, as evidenced by a further 8% decline in share price upon the announcement.

The company’s strategic move to separate its manufacturing and chip design businesses was intended to enhance transparency and performance, with projections valuing the manufacturing arm alone at $200bn in the future. However, investor reactions suggest a perception of inherent interdependence between the two divisions, casting doubt on the effectiveness of this strategy in rallying the stock price.

Intel’s challenges are compounded by its struggles to align product offerings with the rapidly growing AI market, missing key profitability targets for 2026 and delaying expected gains until the end of the decade. This misalignment not only impacts Intel’s immediate financial projections but also raises questions about its capacity to fulfil the role of a national champion in chip manufacturing, a status bolstered by significant government subsidies. The unfolding scenario underscores the complexity of Intel’s recovery efforts, balancing operational restructuring, market repositioning, and the long-term financial implications of its current strategic course.

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