Thank you to Justin Urquhart Stewart, and Regionally, for allowing us to share these weekly columns with the London Investor Show network. To find out more about Regionally, you can meet them on their stand at the London Investor Show – Stand No E4.

2nd September 2020: The Power of Nought: All Twelve of Them

“Nought's had, all's spent, where our desire is got without content.”

When in doubt resort to Shakespeare. This week though is a week of noughts, in fact twelve of them. This is on the back of the astonishing latest valuation of the Apple Corporation at a princely $2 trillion. Now I don’t know what your mathematical skills are like, but I must admit that I do too often have to rely on my calculator. However, in this case it would be useless.

So, what is a trillion? Actually, it is a million million, which really doesn’t help very much. So, what does that look like? Well, it has twelve noughts in it as a round number, so that $2 trillion looks like $2,000,000,000,000 –and that’s why my calculator is of no use as I cannot actually get that number on it.

Back in 1976 in a garagein Los Altos, California the founders of what was to become the Apple Corporation, Messrs Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, gave birth to this astonishing creation, which went on to have a long and varied history. In fact, in 1985, Jobs was unceremoniously ‘let go’ by the rather conservative board, only to go and help set up Pixar. Eventually the business was bought by Apple, which allowed Jobs back in. He then commenced the really dynamic period of Apple’s history.

Now almost everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous products of Apple or their ‘slavish’ competitors.The range has been remarkable, including the iMac, iTunes, iTunes Store, the Apple Stores themselves, as well as the iPod, iPhone, App Store and iPad. Mind you, there have been some failures like the iGlasses which seemed merely to provide extensive headaches. The great strength of the company has been to create a huge customer base in which users are hooked in by the strength of the product’s compatibility and the fear of mixing them with any other systems or services. So, it has been these additional services that have created a vast ongoing and growing value for the business.

This has meant that even though there have been only a few blockbuster new products, including the iWatch, and rather a seemingly endless variation of phones, it has been the strength of the brand that has been so valuable. This brand has been built on creating products key to the running of our lives. It has also created a real worry which means we don’t dare to use any other system for fear of confusion, loss of vital family information, data and photographs. Not forgetting that Apple also brought into their brand that products could be fun as well as essential.

Even with the demise of one of the founders, Steve Jobs in 2011, the business just kept on ballooning in value. This was enhanced as the stock markets globally fell in love with the anticipated future value of all things ‘tech’ even though most of the analysts and researchers could barely understand what they did and how they worked –that was left to the geeks in jeans, white T-shirts and glasses that desperately needed cleaning.

Now add to this corporate ‘wunderwaffe’, something that moves your products from being a core part of people’s lives into an essential technology to operate your business. Then add in the global pandemic of Covid-19. In the space of six months Apple products and all things ‘tech’ stormed their value targets with the Apple share price rising by 59 percent so far this year.

So, the value for thisbusiness has now gone from nought in 1976 to twelve noughts in 2020, which is not too far short of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the UK. That is around $2.8 trillion, placing Apple amongst the top ten values of nations around the world.

It has been good news for those shareholders, that their value has gone up like a rocket, but there is a potential downside. Are these rockets of celebration, or are they like the Titanic, a potential disaster pending?

The large Tech companies have already appeared infront of the US politicians to consider their possible monopolistic positions. Under American anti-trust legislation, such behemoths could be broken up, as they have done previously with the oil, steel, and telecom industries amongst others. And take a step back and look for a moment at a global economy that was already preparing for a significant slowdown before the pandemic, now looking far weaker and more dysfunctional than before. Add to that some erratic politicians, a Chinese Cold War and the lack ofa globally co-ordinated recovery plan, and things do not necessarily seem to justify record levels of the stocks markets and oleaginous (sorry but I had to use such a wonderful word) enthusiasms of silly gits in red braces.

So maybe the Shakespearian quote from the Scottish play may be more apt than we first thought. “When noughts had, all’s spent, when our desire is got without content”.

And finally ...The term ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ is a common description of poor weather, but of course the rain contains neither cat nor dog. However, when some describe the weather as ‘sh*t’ you could be forgiven when you found out that the rain appeared to be of a brownish hue.

So, when residents of Olten in Switzerland reported spotting “snow like cocoa powder” both in the air and on the ground, you can understand what they might have thought.

In fact, it came to light (eventually) that the local Lindt & Spruengli confectionary factory confirmed a malfunction and that the chocolate rain in the surrounding area was the result of a ventilation system malfunction during the production of a line of roasted cocoa nibs, and fragments of crushed cocoa beans.

Officials said they would cover any cleaning costs for vehicles or other property covered in the cocoa powder.

So next time you hear of a cold weather spell coming your way, there is just the vague chance that you could stand outside and wait for a cup of cocoa to be delivered straight to your door.