Including: why I would buy Yahoo shares now that Marissa has gone all dominatrix over working hours, Singapore does the economic Darwin in reverse, Glasenberg berates, and Italy. Oh Italy.

Good morning

The headlines:

  1. Yahoo stops working from home.

    Link: I think it’s a good thing.

    Marissa Mayer, CEO and former Google employee*, sent out a memo last week. And it said:

    “To be the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side… Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

    Which is a euphemistic phrasing of “you will come into the office from now on, my bitches”.

    This decision has been met with much (unsurprising) complaint. And outside criticism, which is a bit more surprising. Richard Branson, for one, has called it “a backwards step” (here’s his blog post). Which does seem a bit crazy to me – it’s not like the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew can remotely serve drinks via skype. Is the argument that the tech folks work better from home?

    Rubbish.

    We’re herd animals. There’s nothing quite like being part of an office team that’s working on a project together, and it’s that sense of community that fosters productivity and growth. There is a litany of psychological literature to support that assertion. And even within the testamentary halls of human spiritual history: the sage-like hermits were always an exception, never a rule.

    What is needed is more community, not less.

    I’d buy Yahoo stock on the basis of this memo alone.

    *it’s yet to be established which title has greater significance…

  2. “Singapore’s Darwinian Budget”.

    Link: immigration control.

    Singapore has released a new budget that further limits the use of foreign labour for the fourth straight year in a row. This has been done by increasing levies on less-skilled foreign workers, I think (that’s what I’m picking up). Like waiters and hotel cleaners.

    Of course, the business owners are using words like “draconian” and “losing competitiveness” and so on. But actually – I think it’s quite sensible. After all, foreign labourers are not voting citizens – and this creates a clear incentive for firms to hire actual voters, without damaging the inflow of skilled foreign workers (who come with capital).¬†Especially when the increased costs are going to be cushioned by all manner of tax incentives.

    Like Singapore needs any more tax incentives to be attractive to foreign companies…

    But this does bring the capital controls versus immigration control argument to the forefront of mind again. I wrote about it here.

  3. The future of mining.

    Link: Glasenberg on screw-ups.

    The Glencore CEO speaks:

    “The big guys really screwed up. We’ve always been wanting to keep building and keep putting the cash which we generate into new assets. That’s what we’ve got to stop doing as a mining industry. We’ve got to learn about demand and supply.”

    It may be me – but doesn’t that sound like an open invitation to collude?

    Anyway – Mr Glasenberg is talking about not opening new mines and returning money to shareholders. Because this also means that the slower growth in supply will keep prices high. So: bonus.

    Literally: bonus.

    This is my favourite line:

    “We will get better returns on our investments, we will be able to kick out more cash to our shareholders. We will be late to invest. So, who cares? We’ll be late and we’ll have to invest in five years’ time. It’ll take us three years to build the mine but we could hopefully have an eight-year run.”

    Especially because, by not investing to meet global demand (and, thus, being “late to invest”), it implies three years of global shortage until the mines catch up.

    The consumer may care. But 8 years will take Mr Glasenberg to retirement age (he’ll be 64). So he definitely won’t care. Especially with all the cash being kicked back to his shares that are quietly aligning his interests with those of investors…

    On the other hand – he could be right. Because looking at all the write-downs by Rio Tinto and Anglo and the rest – it does look like the mining folk are over-stepping themselves with investment…

  4. Italian results.

    Link: Italy has hung herself.

    Italy has a hung parliament.

    In more comedic news – I did not realise that the television comedian who started an anti-austerity party (that won 25% of the votes) could not actually run as a candidate himself owing to a manslaughter conviction.

    But he can lead a party!

That’s all for now.

Have a good day.