NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Predicting the future is a mug’s game. And committing those thoughts to print, video and podcasts, as Breakingviews does over the Christmas and New Year season every year, means there’s a public record. As difficult as it may be, prognosticating can also be fun, thought-provoking, and occasionally yields some big wins. Here is our 2019 score sheet.
Let’s start with what went wrong. The initial public offerings of Lyft and Uber Technologies, we argued, would drain Tesla’s scarcity value by, among other things, offering alternatives for investing in the future of autonomous driving. A lack of clarity on how the two ride-hailing apps will ever turn a profit has burned more than a third off their debut valuations. Elon Musk’s electric-car maker, meanwhile, is eking out a profit – and its stock will end 2019 at or near a record high.
We also wrote that General Electric would have an even worse year than in 2018; shares are instead up by more than half as Chief Executive Larry Culp turns the creaking conglomerate around. Macquarie did not celebrate its 50th anniversary by acquiring a retail bank. There was no airline consolidation to speak of. Deutsche Bank did not become a trading star – based on the first nine months of the year, JPMorgan and others easily had it licked. And while we may well be right that the European Central Bank boss’s sidekick is the crucial role, we erred greatly in assuming the boss would be a dude.
Some of our prophecies are still fermenting. Mark Zuckerberg still needs to make way for someone better suited to run Facebook. Vivendi controlling shareholder Vincent Bollore has not yet broken up the company but has put a slug of Universal Music on the block and recently discussed selling most of its stake in Italian broadcaster Mediaset . And it’s still too soon to say whether the pain of the trade war with China, a financing drought – and climate factors – will turn America’s farmers against President Donald Trump.
When our columnists got it right, though, they nailed it. Mauricio Macri did indeed fail in his bid to be re-elected Argentina’s president; in October voters booted him out in favor of Alberto Fernandez. SoftBank Group, we predicted, would have to write down its investments – and it did. For 2020 we’re calling for an activist to take on Masayoshi Son’s conglomerate. We said AT&T was ripe for a pushy shareholder to take it on – Elliott Management came calling in September. And we correctly said there’d be more shareholder activism related to climate risk and that carbon prices would increase.
Breakingviews is celebrating its own milestones. We just clocked up our first decade as part of Reuters. And next year marks the 20th anniversary of our first published view. Rest assured that we will continue to provide you with considered, financially astute – and provocative – commentary in the years to come.
(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
(Editing by Rob Cox and Leigh Anderson)
© Reuters News 2019