JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 121 : 29 May 2003

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

  • Invensys - Baan sale & pension deficit cause giant loss
  • Siemens buying Honeywell IS - news re-surfaces
  • Sidetracked from the war on terrorism
  • The future of air travel
  • The Aussie fieldbus
  • eFeedback:
    • More about jobs going offshore
    • Reaction against the "liberal crap" label
    • In favor of digital media

Invensys - Baan sale & pension deficit cause giant loss

In final year-end results announced 29 May 03, the loss at Invensys nearly doubled to £1.44bn from £869m last year. This resulted largely a £585m goodwill write-off related mostly to Baan and a £931m pension fund deficit. Revenue from continuing operations fell 7.8% to £4.26bn.

Surprisingly, Invensys did NOT announce the all-but-complete £85m ($137m) sale of Baan to General Atlantic Partners, a US private equity firm. The Baan sale comes 3 years after Baan was acquired by Allen Yurko for £470m ($757m). Baan lost about $30m last year on sales of about $260m and net assets, including capitalized goodwill, are about £650m. Invensys is expected to incur a goodwill write down of £585m, which dwarfs its £250m profit for the year.

In his report, Haythornthwaite said that the sell-offs will continue over the next 18 to 24 months because the "gap opened up in the pension fund" which, together with the company's debt, reduces its flexibility and "creates the perception" that Invensys is unable to overcome its problems. Duh!

Meanwhile, Allen Yurko (who bought Baan and started the Invensys death-spiral) continues to operate as a heavy-weight venture capitalist; and Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge (who colluded with Yurko, and chaired the collapse) has retired gracelessly to his lordly domain. And Rick Haythornthwaite (who hosted hordes of highly-paid hangers-on to help) is now left holding the bag. His strategy: Put on a brave face, provide results in great detail and answer questions with even greater detail. All the while, he looks to negotiate a good price to pave his own exit.

Click Invensys blames tough market for £1.4bn loss

Click Invensys to shock City with £1bn loss

Click Invensys to sell Baan to General Atlantic

Click Invensys weblog

Siemens & Honeywell - news re-surfaces

Once again, rumors are running hot that Siemens is buying Honeywell Industry Solutions. This makes good sense - the acquisition would be in the best interests of both companies.

An industry guru commented:

    "I can't see any way that Honeywell can fix what they have without a complete redesign. They are simply putting patches on their old designs. To really move to the new world and be competitive would take them the better part of 5 years and close to $200m (which they will not get from David Cote, their hard-nosed CEO). And even if they did get the budget, the technology will have moved ahead and what they introduce in 2007-8 will again be way behind the competitors."
A Siemens observer noted:
    "Siemens is ready for a big acquisition. The largest industrial automation needs a presence in process controls, and the only two possibilities are Foxboro (from Invensys) and Honeywell IS."

Click Honeywell weblog

Click Siemens weblog

Sidetracked from the war on terrorism

The Iraqi war, far from addressing the roots of the terrorism, has exacerbated the problems. Indeed, the easy win with no apparent justification simply inflames the extremists. They are now even more convinced that America's intentions are as they had feared all along - control of oil resources and expansion of Israel's influence. This may be far from the truth, but the extremists will never believe that. And the roots of terrorism are fed and strengthened.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak gave an ominous warning, "The war in Iraq will create hundreds of bin Ladens!" And sadly, this is perhaps what bin Laden himself has wanted. Bin Laden had also wanted Americans to exit Saudi Arabia; with the transfer of US headquarters to Qatar, his wish is granted.

Now, after Iraq has been occupied, no weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up, and any questions are quickly side-stepped. The justification for a preemptive invasion now seems like glib, marketing hype to justify reckless use of power.

Why were US troops needlessly put at risk? Why were thousands of Iraqi civilians killed and injured when war was not really necessary? How do the families of those who were killed feel about their loss with no clear justification? Now, after the fact, it seems as though the American public - and the world - were simply bullied into acceptance. And now, the way the President's foreign policy is proceeding, Iraq may not be the last war he asks the US to fight.

Did we really expect "shock and awe" to end terrorism? Far from being greeted with garlands, most Iraqis are upset about occupation by foreign invaders. US troops are still under fire and lives are still being lost. Meanwhile Saddam Hussein is still missing. And Bin Laden is still at large and apparently still in charge of Al Quaeda. And terrorism escalates. Did we really expect any different?

The present US foreign policy is arrogant and bullying, generating resentment even from friendly countries. Clearly, it inflames the danger of extremist reactions. A world that rallied to support America after 9/11, increasingly perceives America itself as the greatest danger to peace.

Click Pinto article: Sidetracked from the war on terrorism

Click Iraq War, Unprovoked Invasion of A Sovereign Nation

Click The Most Dangerous Person on Earth

The future of air travel

In December 1903 the Wright brothers launched the very first human-carrying machine into the air on its own power. Their airplane was a biplane glider, powered by a 12 HP gasoline engine connected to a propeller. On the first day their longest flight was 852 feet and lasted 59 seconds.

Within a half-century, the development of jet aircraft brought vastly improved speed and luxury. The venerable Boeing 707, the most successful jetliner ever, made its maiden flight in 1957 and is still in use. Natural extensions in size and range led to today’s 747 and Airbus jetliners, carrying hundreds of people thousands of miles, non-stop. Inexpensive air travel allowed almost anyone to travel almost anywhere in the world within a day. The globe had become a village.

Up to the end of the past century, the number of airline passengers was forecasted to grow exponentially. But this was not matched by increases in aviation capacity, which meant increasing congestion and delays. But, in the first years of the new century, heightened terrorist jitters and the onset of SARS have suddenly stalled the seemingly inexorable growth pattern. Most airlines are ailing - some are near bankruptcy.

So, what will happen now? What is the future of air travel? What are the major air transport manufacturers - Boeing and European Airbus - planning for the decades ahead? Bigger jumbos? Or smaller, faster aircraft? Or, will they come up with something entirely different? Read my new article for a summary of their strategies.

Meanwhile, futurists still think that the fantasy of a personal flying machine is moving towards reality. Many experts suggest that safe, dependable personal "aircars" are not only feasible, but inevitable. A joint project between NASA and the FAA expects to outfit a nationwide system of more than 5,000 small airports connected by virtual "highways in the sky" for the use of small, safe, easy-to-fly, and inexpensive aircars. NASA and the FAA expect the system to be fully operational after about 2015.

Hey, but who knows - perhaps we'll be teleporting by then.
Beam me up, Scotty!

Click Read my new article - The Future of Airtravel

Click An aircar in every garage

The Aussie Fieldbus

This poem is written using the style of Poe's The Raven - with a lilt similar to some of my other poems.

This poem was written on April 28, 2003 for my friend Dick Morley, who was speaking at the INDCOMM industrial networking conference in Melbourne, Australia, April 30 & May 1, 2003. It describes the wonderful, new Aussiebus, which connected to just about every other network in the world. Except....

The Aussie Fieldbus
By : Jim Pinto
28 April, 2003

Half way round the world I flew, braving jet lag, Chinese flu
To tell the Aussies what I knew, and lecture on some fieldbus lore
With shrimp on barbie on my plate, I learned to say "g’day mate",
Was ready for my Indcomm date, when I was shaken to the core
"'Tis only a mirage!" I muttered, stopping right there at their door
'Twas only this and nothing more.

    Those clever Aussies had perfected, their new fieldbus was now connected
    To every network, none rejected, something never seen before
    It was invented here down-under, flash of brilliance, lightning, thunder
    The other specs soon cast asunder, this Aussiebus was all aglow!
    "How can this ever be?" I stuttered, "I can't believe this any more!
    It cannot be, or can it though?"

Read the complete poem to find out what the guru Dick Morley thought of this incredible new Australian fieldbus invention.

Click Poem - The Aussie Fieldbus


Bob Holland, bob@twohollands.com responded Jim Conoby's e-feedback on the offshore job drain:
    "I'm an optimist by nature. I once believed that with our best-of-class universities and our Yankee ingenuity we would stay ahead of the wealth drain of globalization. But as I sat watching a TV story recently about the tens, even hundreds of thousands of accounting jobs that are moving to India, something snapped in my head. I was reminded that the notion of knowledge assets conferring competitive advantage on private sector companies applies to whole countries as well. We all understand "brain drain". What we're experiencing now is more like lobotomy. We're watching as our best minds stand in unemployment lines or struggle to make ends meet as WalMart clerks and lawn mowing entrepreneurs.

    "I now believe that part of the solution is to limit the offshore transfer of knowledge jobs. I agree with Jim Conoby that there are just too many far-reaching negative consequences in the prospect of millions of bright highly qualified Americans being forced to accept low skilled, low productivity jobs. Isolationism in trade won't work, but isolationism in knowledge just might.

    "Let countries with millions of low-paid, low-skilled workers continue to market them as their competitive advantage. But let American companies that derive 10% of their income from, for example India, hire at most 10% of their knowledge workers there. To counter the resulting loss in global price competitiveness, let's make quality and service our hallmarks. Let's be really aggressive, adopting Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s motto: "Get there firstest with the mostest!".

    Meanwhile, let’s strengthen public education and the community college system as stepping stones to the universities, while creating incentives for younger Americans to put their brains to work in building even more competitive advantage here at home."

Lawrence Gould [lsg@LSGould.com] regarding the feedback I received about "liberal crap":
    "Jim, your "liberal crap" helps keep me sane! I find it extremely heartening to read that somebody in the factory automation field has the same "liberal crap" views I have, and isn't a brain-dead automaton.

    "The only reason why somebody would label your social commentary as "liberal crap" is because that somebody doesn't agree with your views. For shame: Using the label "crap" is typical of the below-the-belt, belittling, take-no-prisoners slamming discourse of flag-waving conservatives/Republicans who, in their narrow mindedness, seem to forget that this great democracy was founded upon (and fought for!) free discourse and the right to question governmental authority and processes.

    "I use that last word purposely: "processes." The concept of incremental improvement should not apply solely to production management, product design, and business processes. It's way past the time that incremental improvement, preferably large increments, be applied to the US government and society's functioning.

    "But I suppose that's the sort of "crap" that's a little too much for some "conservative" Americans to understand."

The editor of the UCSD CONNECT newsletter, Brian Blazevic [bblazevic@ucsd.edu] responded to Jake Brodsky's comments about media distribution schemes losing viability because of price:
    "I agree that the recording industry is one of many that are forced to cope with the relatively new Internet reality. There aren't a lot of good answers, but it's fascinating to watch it evolve.

    "I must disagree on one point. With the new $.99 per track price of download services, an 11-track CD will cost almost $11. Brodsky argues that because he has to supply his own CDs, cases, and covers, there is no benefit.

    "Conversely, the benefit is extreme when one looks at digital technology as a whole, not as a stop-over or bandaid. There is no need to buy CDs, cases, or covers. No need at all. Listen to the MP3s on your computer, and if it's not with you, get a $40 MP3 player, with connection to ANY sound system. Even car stereos can be purchased cheaply that have an upload capability for MP3s. Bring your laptop or MP3 player to the garage and upload your favorite songs! Soon your car will be Wi-Fi enabled, so the transfer will be wireless.

    "With broadband, an entire album can be downloaded from your living room in 15 minutes, versus the hour or two it takes to go through snarled traffic to the music shop. And how often do you like every track on a CD? With the Internet and MP3s, you can sample a song and mix-and-match any track on the service. This is a revolution on par with automatic deposit and online bill-pay, not a model that is without benefit.

    "I view digital technology as a complete advance, not just a faster or more clever way to accomplish the same old thing (like making a physical CD). Digital technology in total means that we're done with CDs. I haven't purchased a CD in over three years. It's odd to mess with a physical disc that has to be slid into a contraption with lots of moving parts and laser beams. It's 20-year-old technology. We have something much, much better.

    "The general philosophy I'm talking about is the same as with digital photography. It can actually be more expensive, and it's much more difficult, to have the picture files transferred to 4x6 prints to show friends and family. But we needn't do that! Bring your laptop and show people on screen, or put them on your website for all to see.

    "Bottom line: digital technology is only being used half way if we're using it to burn our own music CDs, make printouts on 8.5x11 paper, and convert photo files to paper. Thank goodness Internet-based flow management systems at companies like FedEx and Dell are used for more than printing out orders to be mailed to suppliers."

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