The Jeff Bezos effect: 5 lessons we can learn from the soon-to-be richest man on Earth

It might happen tomorrow. It could take until the end of the week. Heck, it might even take until the end of the month. But any day now the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will become the world’s richest person. After yet another powerful set of results, and yet another surge in the company’s share price, Bezos is a mere $US5 billion away from the Microsoft founder Bill Gates and likely to overtake him very soon.

True, on one level, the “world’s richest man” is just a statistical footnote, of no great significance. On another, however, the title sets a role model that entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world aspire to.

FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2012, file photo, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, speaks at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite personal devices, in Santa Monica, Calif. The Washington Post Co. agreed Monday, Aug. 6, 2013, to sell its flagship Washington Post newspaper to Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com for $250 million. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

After all, if making more money than anyone else doesn’t tell you they are doing something right, it is hard to know what might. So what lessons can we learn from Bezos’s rise to the top of the pile? That you should think big, innovate furiously, ignore failures, forget about obsessing over profits, and avoid major acquisitions. Those are pretty good guidelines for any business heading into the 2020s.

The rising value of Bezos’s net worth has been almost as relentless as the hard sell of Amazon Prime memberships over the past few years. His stake in the web giant he founded slightly over two decades ago is now worth US$81 billion. In the past five years, Amazon’s share price has more than quadrupled, rising from US$220 to more than $900 as the company powers into new industries and markets. He has already overtaken Warren Buffett and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of Zara owner Inditex, to become the world’s second richest. It will only take a few more dollars on the share price for him to race past Gates – and given the relatively stagnant performance of his Seattle neighbour, that seems just about inevitable.

SANTA MONICA, CA – SEPTEMBER 6: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveils new Kindle reading devices at a press conference on September 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. Amazon unveiled the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire HD in 7 and 8.9-inch sizes. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Although there were times when he was briefly overtaken by Buffett, and also for a few weeks by Ortega, Gates has hung onto that title for a long time. He became the world’s richest man all the way back in 1995, when it took a mere US$12.9 billion to take that slot. In the past, the title has been held by tycoons such as John D Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, or indeed, if you want to go back far enough, by Musa I of Mali, the 14th-century African king, who many historians now reckon was the richest person of all time, with a net worth of $400 billion in today’s money. After 22 years, however, the baton appears about to pass onto a new man. So what are the lessons that every business – and investor for that matter – can learn from Bezos? Here are five of the most important.

One, think big. Amazon was started in 1994 as an online books retailer. But books were only chosen because Bezos could see they were a relatively easy way into online retailing. They come in standard sizes, you don’t need to try them on, they fit easily into parcels, and there was plenty of space to compete on choice and price. But its ambitions always went way beyond that. As it moved into CDs, DVDs, and then just about everything, it became clear that Bezos wanted Amazon to be the biggest retailer in the world. He was thinking big right from the beginning – and working out the best starting place to get to his ultimate destination.

Secondly, keep innovating. Amazon is now far more than just an online retailer. It has built a massive cloud computing business that serves some of the biggest web companies in the world. It is making films and TV series for its Prime streaming service. It has developed publishing, physical shops, grocery sales, own-label products, and drone delivery systems. It is rare that more than a few weeks go by without Amazon trialling something or other – right now it is making a huge push with its Alexa voice-activated assistant. Whatever it does, it invariably brings something new to it – for example, shops with no check-out staff. Most companies come up with one or two good ideas  Google’s parent Alphabet has created both the search engine and the Android operating system – but Amazon comes up with dozens of them. That is hard to emulate – but it is an incredibly powerful model if you can get it right.

Thirdly, don’t fret about failure. As you might expect for a company that is always trying out new stuff, Amazon also has plenty of flops. Its smart phone was a complete turkey – it cost US$170 million in investment, but has made no progress so far. Its web payment service went nowhere, and so did Amazon Destinations, its travel unit. Askville, its questions and answers service, was shut down after several years of investment, and Amazon Local was no match for competitors such as Groupon. But so what? Bezos accepts that if you don’t try out lots of stuff, you won’t ever have more than one or two businesses. He just moves on to the next one.

Next, profits matter much less than market share. Amazon appears to hardly care whether it makes any money. It is interested in moving into new markets, and dominating the ones where it has already established itself. Profits will take care of themselves. It is not quite as relentlessly unprofitable as it used to be – it has actually made money for eight quarters in a row now – but its overall margins are wafer-thin given its vast size. Investment in expansion is far more useful than racking up cash in the bank, like Apple, or returning it to shareholders through dividends or stock buy-backs, like just about every other major company. Investors love it – and are rewarded via the share price.

Finally, forget acquisitions. It would be wrong to say that Amazon doesn’t buy companies. It paid US$1.2 billion for the online shoe shop Zappos in 2009 and $900 million for the video gaming streaming site Twitch in 2014.

There have been a steady stream of agreed takeovers. But they are all small scale stuff given the size of the company. It is clearly determined to take on Netflix in content, but it is spending massive sums on its own programmes rather than bidding for its rival.

Likewise, it’s trying to compete with Spotify in music, and Sainsbury’s and Tesco in groceries, rather than taking them out in a bid. Most acquisitions destroy value. It is far better to build your own rival from the ground up.

Amazon is far from perfect. It can ride roughshod over the competition, and it can be difficult place to work. But with its relentless drive to innovate and create new products, there could be many worse role models for entrepreneurs and business leaders.

In his annual letter to shareholders last month, Bezos urged people to “experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight.”

That formula won’t work for everyone. But it is about to make Bezos the richest man in the world – and any business could do a lot worse than follow that formula.

www.itbooksolutions.com

Henry Sapiecha

 

19 billionaires who were once very dirt poor

The “rags-to-riches” trope may be a cliché, but it’s one that’s definitely grounded in reality. Through extraordinary grit and perseverance, individuals across many nations have beaten the odds and achieved their own rags-to-riches stories.

Here are 19 people who started off life poor and went on to become billionaires.

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1. Howard SchultzStarbucks' Howard Schultz image www.profitcentre.net

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, now worth $US2.9 billion ($3.8 billion), grew up in a housing complex for the poor

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz grew up in a housing complex for the poor.

Net worth: $US2.9 billion ($3.8 billion)

In an interview with the Mirror, Schultz says: “Growing up I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks.

“I knew the people on the other side had more resources, more money, happier families. And for some reason, I don’t know why or how, I wanted to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible.

“I may have a suit and tie on now, but I know where I’m from and I know what it’s like.”

Schultz ended up winning a football scholarship to the University of Northern Michigan and went to work for Xerox after graduation. Shortly after, he took over a coffee shop called Starbucks, which at the time had only 60 shops.

Schultz became the company’s CEO in 1987 and grew the coffee chain to more than 16,000 outlets worldwide.

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2. Oprah Winfrey

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Born into poverty, Oprah Winfrey became the first African American TV correspondent in Nashville. Photo: Don Arnold

Net worth: $US2.9 billion

Winfrey was born into a poor family in Mississippi, but this didn’t stop her from winning a scholarship to Tennessee State University and becoming the first African American TV correspondent in the state at the age of 19.

In 1983, Winfrey moved to Chicago to work for an AM talk show which would later be called The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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3. Mohed Altrad

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Montpellier rugby club president and Entrepreneur of the Year Mohed Altrad survived on one meal a day when he moved to France.

Net worth: $US1.03 billion

Born into a nomadic tribe in the Syrian dessert to a poor mother who was raped by his father and died when he was young, Altrad was raised by his grandmother. She banned him from attending school in Raqqa, the city that is now the capital of ISIS.

Altrad attended school anyway. When he moved to France to attend university he knew no French and lived off of one meal a day.

Still, he earned a PhD in computer science, worked for some leading French companies and eventually bought a failing scaffolding company, which he transformed into one of the world’s leading manufacturers of scaffolding and cement mixers, Altrad Group.

He has previously been named French Entrepreneur of the Year and World Entrepreneur of the Year.

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4. Kenny Troutt

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Kenny Troutt, the founder of Excel Communications, paid his way through college by selling life insurance.

Net worth: $US1.41 billion

Troutt grew up with a bartender dad and paid for his own tuition at Southern Illinois University by selling life insurance.

He made most of his money from phone company Excel Communications, which he founded in 1988 and took public in 1996. Two years later, Troutt merged his company with Teleglobe in a $US3.5 billion deal.

He’s now retired and invests heavily in racehorses.

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5. Roman Abramovich

Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich image www.profitcentre.net

Russian business tycoon and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was born into poverty and orphaned at age two.

Net worth: $US8.4 billion

Abramovich was born into poverty in southern Russia. After being orphaned at age two, he was raised by an uncle and his family in a subarctic region of northern Russia.

While a student at the Moscow Auto Transport Institute in 1987, he started a small company producing plastic toys, which helped him eventually found an oil business and make a name for himself within the oil industry.

Later, as sole leader of the Sibneft company, he completed a merger that made it the fourth biggest oil company in the world. The company was sold to state-run gas titan Gazprom in 2005 for for $US13 billion.

He acquired the Chelsea Football Club in 2003 and owns the world’s largest yacht, which cost him almost $US400 million in 2010.

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6. Ken Langone

Kenneth Langone, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, NYU Langone Medical Center, helps SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the NYU Langone Medical Center launch the 'Doctor Radio' channel, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, in New York. 'Doctor Radio' is a national radio channel hosted by physicians from a new studio at the NYU Langone Medical Center and will feature daily shows and reports on general health, plastic surgery, psychiatry, weight loss, pregnancy, pediatrics and much more. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

Kenneth Langone, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, NYU Langone Medical Center, helps SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the NYU Langone Medical Center launch the ‘Doctor Radio’ channel, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, in New York. ‘Doctor Radio’ is a national radio channel hosted by physicians from a new studio at the NYU Langone Medical Center and will feature daily shows and reports on general health, plastic surgery, psychiatry, weight loss, pregnancy, pediatrics and much more. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

Investor Ken Langone’s parents worked as a plumber and cafeteria worker.

Net worth: $US2.8 billion

To help pay for Langone’s school at Bucknell University, he worked odd jobs and his parents mortgaged their home.

In 1968, Langone worked with Ross Perot to take Electronic Data Systems public. (It was later acquired by HP.) Just two years later, he partnered with Bernard Marcus to start Home Depot, which also went public in 1981.

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7. John Paul DeJoria

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John Paul DeJoria, the man behind a hair-care empire and Patron Tequila, once lived in a foster home and his car.

Net worth: $US3.1 billion

Before the age of 10, DeJoria, a first generation American, sold Christmas cards and newspapers to help support his family. He was eventually sent to live in a foster home and even spent some time in a gang before joining the military.

With a $US700 loan, DeJoria created John Paul Mitchell Systems and sold the shampoo door-to-door while living in his car. He later started Patron Tequila and now invests in other industries.

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8. Shahid Khan

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At one time, businessman Shahid Khan washed dishes for $US1.20 an hour.

Net worth: $US6.7 billion

He’s now one of the richest people in the world, but when Khan came to the US from Pakistan, he worked as a dishwasher while attending the University of Illinois.

Khan now owns Flex-N-Gate, one of the largest private companies in the US, the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and Premier League soccer club Fulham.

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9. Do Won Chang

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Forever 21 founder Do Won Chang worked as a janitor, gas station attendant, and in a coffee shop when he first moved to America.

Net worth: $US2.8 billion

The husband-and-wife team — Do Won Chang and Jin Sook — behind Forever 21 didn’t always have it so easy. After moving to America from Korea in 1981, Do Won had to work three jobs at the same time to make ends meet. They opened their first clothing store in 1984.

Forever 21 is now an international, 480-store empire that rakes in about $US3 billion in sales a year

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10. Ralph Lauren

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Ralph Lauren was once a clerk at Brooks Brothers.

Net worth: $US5.8 billion

Lauren graduated high school in the Bronx, New York, but later dropped out of college to join the army.

It was while working as a clerk at Brooks Brothers that Lauren questioned whether men were ready for wider and brighter designs in ties. The year he decided to make his dream a reality, 1967, Lauren sold $US500,000 of ties. He started Polo the next year.

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11. Lakshmi Mittal

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Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal came from modest beginnings in India.

Net worth: $US13.3 billion

A 2009 BBC article says the ArcelorMittal CEO and chairman, who was born in 1950 to a poor family in the Indian state of Rajasthan, “established the foundations of his fortune over two decades by doing much of his business in the steel industry equivalent of a discount warehouse”.

Today, Mittal runs the world’s largest steel-making company and is a multibillionaire.

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12. Francois Pinault

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Luxury goods mogul Francois Pinault quit high school in 1974 after being bullied for being poor.

Net worth: $US14.6 billion

Pinault is now the face of fashion conglomerate Kering (formerly PPR), but at one time, he had to quit high school because he was teased so harshly for being poor.

As a businessman, Pinault is known for his “predator” tactic, which includes buying smaller firms for a fraction of the cost when the market crashes. He eventually started PPR, which owns high-end fashion houses including Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Today, he owns Christie’s, the world’s top art business.

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13. Leonardo Del Vecchio

Leonardo Del Vecchio, now worth $US16.4 billion image www.profitcentre.net

Leonardo Del Vecchio grew up in an orphanage and later worked in a factory where he lost part of his finger.

Net worth: $US16.4 billion

Del Vecchio was one of five children who was eventually sent to an orphanage because his widowed mother couldn’t care for him. He would later work in a factory making moulds of car parts and eyeglass frames.

At the age of 23, Del Vecchio opened his own molding shop, which expanded to become the world’s largest maker of sunglasses and prescription eyewear with brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley.

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14. George Soros

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Legendary trader George Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and arrived in London as an impoverished college student.

Net worth: $US24.9 billion

In his early teens, Soros posed as the godson of an employee of the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture to stay safe from the Nazi occupation of Hungary.

In 1947, Soros escaped the country to live with his relatives in London. He put himself through the London School of Economics working as a waiter and railway porter.

After graduating, Soros worked at a souvenir shop before getting a job as a banker in New York City. In 1992, his famous bet against the British pound made him a billion dollars.

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15. Li Ka-shing

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After his father died, business magnate Li Ka-shing had to quit school to help support his family.

Net worth: $US31.1 billion

Ka-shing fled mainland China for Hong Kong in the 1940s, but his father died when he was 15, leaving Ka-shing responsible for supporting his family.

In 1950, he started his own company, Cheung Kong Industries, which made plastics at first, but would later expand into real estate.

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16. Sheldon Adelson

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College dropout Sheldon Adelson grew up sleeping on the floor of a Boston tenement house.

Net worth: $US31.2 billion

Adelson, the son of a cab driver, grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and began selling newspapers at the age of 12, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Forbes profile of the billionaire says years later, after dropping out of the City College of New York, Adelson “built a fortune running vending machines, selling newspaper ads, helping small businesses go public, developing condos and hosting trade shows”.

Adelson lost almost all of his money in the Great Recession, but he earned much of it back in the following years. He now runs Las Vegas Sands, the largest casino company in the world, and is considered the most high-profile political donor in America, says Forbes.

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17. Larry Ellison

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Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison dropped out of college after his adoptive mother died. He held odd jobs for eight years.

Net worth: $US48.2 billion

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to a single mother, Ellison was raised by his aunt and uncle in Chicago.

After his aunt died, Ellison dropped out of college and moved to California to work odd jobs for the next eight years. He founded software development company Oracle in 1977, which is now one of the largest technology companies in the world.

Last September he announced his plans to step down as Oracle’s CEO to become CTO and executive chairman.

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18. Guy Laliberté

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Guy Laliberté was a fire-eater before founding Cirque du Soleil.

Net worth: $US1.33 billion

At the beginning of his career, Laliberté had fire in his belly — literally. The Canadian-born circus busker played the accordion, walked on stilts, and ate fire.

Later on, as Business Insider previously reported, he took a chance and flew a troupe from Quebec to Los Angeles without buying a return fair. The circus troup travelled to Las Vegas and became Cirque du Soleil.

Laliberté is now the CEO of Cirque de Soleil.

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19. Jan Koum

Jan Koum founder of whats app image www.profitcentre.net

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum emigrated to WhatsApp.

Net worth: $US8.8 billion

Koum was born in Kyiv, Ukraine. At the age of 16, he accompanied his mother to California, where they secured an apartment through government assistance. To survive, he swept floors at a local store.

According to The Independent, Koum taught himself computer skills.

In 2009, he co-founded the world’s largest mobile messaging service WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook for $US22 billion in 2014.

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www.money-au.com

CLUB LIBIDO BANNER MASKED WOMAN ON BLACK

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Henry Sapiecha

 

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire invests $US1 billion in the Apple group.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Monday revealed a new stake in Apple Inc, in a bet that the stock’s price could rebound after iPhone sales fell for the first time.

Berkshire held 9.81 million Apple shares worth $US1.07 billion ($1.47 billion) as of March 31, according to a regulatory filing detailing most stock holdings of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate.

It is unclear whether the Apple investment was made by Buffett or by one of his portfolio managers, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who each invest about $US9 billion.

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Apple shares look ‘stunningly cheap’: Wallman Investment Counsel founder Steve Wallman.

Buffett typically makes Berkshire’s multibillion-dollar investments, while Combs and Weschler make smaller wagers.

The investment deepens Berkshire’s commitment to the technology sector, which Buffett has largely shunned apart from a big stake in International Business Machines Corp, which grew slightly in the first quarter.

Apple last month reported its first quarterly decline in revenue in 13 years as an increasingly saturated market hurt iPhone sales.

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Apple shares have taken a beating over the past month.

Chief Executive Tim Cook is looking to develop other technologies, and last week unveiled a $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing.

Shares of Apple have fallen by nearly one-third since April 2015. They were up $US2.13, or 2.4 percent, at $US92.65 in Monday morning trading, likely because of Berkshire’s imprimatur.

“The stock is stunningly cheap, and it has a massive pile of cash,” said Steve Wallman, founder of Wallman Investment Counsel in Middleton, Wisconsin, who has owned Berkshire since 1982 and Apple since 2003. “Apple is not getting credit for research and development it is doing behind the scenes, which will eventually show up in new products.”

An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Despite his aversion to technology sector, Buffett told CNBC on Monday, he offered to help Dan Gilbert, the chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, finance a bid for Internet company Yahoo Inc.

Reuters first reported Buffett’s support on Friday.

The Apple investment may have been made with proceeds from the sale of AT&T Inc stock, as Berkshire exited what had been a $US1.6 billion stake in the quarter.

Berkshire’s investment also puts it at odds with investors that have retrenched from Apple.

Last month, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn said he sold his entire Apple stake, on concern that China could make it harder for the company to do business there.

David Tepper’s Appaloosa LP also shed his Apple stake in the first quarter, while Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates cut its investment by two-thirds.

In Monday’s filing, Berkshire also reported higher stakes in Bank of New York Mellon Corp, Deere & Co and Visa Inc, and lower stakes in MasterCard Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Reuters

SMS

Henry Sapiecha

LARGEST REVENUE EARNING COMPANIES IN THE WORLD SHOWN AS AN INFOGRAPHIC

MILLIONS of $$ BANK NOTES IN PILE IMAGE www.profitcentre.net

This chart shows Largest Companies by Revenue.

A company is an association or collection of individuals, whether natural persons, legal persons, or a mixture of both. Company members share a common purpose and unite in order to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals.

The largest public, state-owned, and private businesses by its consolidated revenue. The list is limited to companies with annual revenues exceeding $110 billion US. The most common industry is oil and gas, with nearly one third being classified as such.

The availability and reliability of up-to-date information on prior state-owned companies is limited and varies from country to country, thus this list may be incomplete. This list is shown in U.S. dollars, but many of the companies on it prepare their accounts in other currencies. The dollar value of their revenue may change substantially in a short period of time due to exchange rate fluctuations.

STUDY

Henry Sapiecha

Largest Companies by Revenue

TEN TOP RICHEST COMPANIES IN THE WORLD SHOWN IN THIS GRAPH

Top 10 Richest Companies in World

This chart shows the Top 10 Richest Companies in World.

A company is an association or collection of individuals, whether natural persons, legal persons, or a mixture of both. Company members share a common purpose and unite in order to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals.

Companies take various forms such as:

   1.Voluntary associations which may include nonprofit organization.

 2.A group of soldiers.

 3.Business entities with an aim of gaining a profit.

   4.Financial entities and banks.

Rank
Company
Networth in Billion
Corporation
Headquarters
1 Exxon 486.429 Multinational Oil and Gas corporation Irving, Texas,US
2 Welmart 446.9 Multinational Retail corporation Bentonville,Arkansas,US
3 Chevron 253.706 Multinational Energy corporation San Ramon,California
4 Toyota 236 Motor Corporation Toyota,Aichi,Japan
5 Apple 185 Multinational Technology Company California
6 General Electric 147.3 Multinational conglomerate corpporation Fairfield,Connecticut,US
7 Berkshire Hathaway 143.688 Multinational conglomerate holding corpporation Omaha,Nebraska,US
8 AT & T 126.723 Multinational telecommunication corporation Dallas,Texas,US
9 IBM 112.5 International Business Machines Corporation Armonk,New York,US
10 Procter and Gamble 82.55 Multinational consumer goods company Cincinnati,Ohio,US

OOO

Henry Sapiecha

An escalating war on using cash. Is cash doomed to the scrap heap?

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In February 16th, The Washington Post printed the article, “It’s time to kill the $100 bill.” This came on the heels of a CNNMoney item, the day before, entitled “Death of the 500 euro bill getting closer.” The former cited a recent Harvard Kennedy School working paper, No. 52 by Senior Fellow Peter Sands, concluding that the abolition of high denomination notes would help deter “tax evasion, financial crime, terrorist finance and corruption.” In recent days, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, ECB President Mario Draghi, and even the editorial board of the New York Times, came out in support of the elimination of large currency notes. Apart from the question as to why these calls are being raised now with such frequency, the larger issue is whether these moves are actually needed or if they merely a subterfuge for more complex economic manipulations by central banks to extend control over private wealth.

In early 2015, it was reported that Spain had already limited private cash transactions to 2,500 euros. Italy and France set limits of 1,000 euros. In France, all cash withdrawals in excess of 10,000 euros in a single month must be reported to government agencies. In the U.S., such limits are $10,000 per withdrawal. China, India and Sweden are among those with plans under way to eradicate cash.

On April 20, 2015, the Mises Institute reported that Chase, a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase and a bailout recipient of some $25 billion (ProPublica, 2/22/16), had announced restrictions on its customers’ ability to use cash in the payment of credit cards, mortgages, equity lines and auto loans. Before that, on April 1, 2015, Chase, in concert with JPMorgan, updated its safe deposit box lease agreement to provide, “You agree not to store any cash or coins [including gold and silver] other than those found to have a collectible value.”

The war on cash unquestionably has extended from government into the private banking sector. But the public is predominantly unaware of the ever-increasing encroachment into individual privacy and freedom.

On February 5, 2016, The New York Times reported, “the United States could face a new recession in 2016 due to a ‘perfect storm’ of economic conditions.” Ten days later, in an introductory statement, Draghi told a European Parliamentary Committee that, “In recent weeks, we have witnessed increasing concerns about the prospects for the global economy.”

When consumers worry about the economy, unemployment and their own finances, spending on non-essentials diminishes. Caution results also in paying down loans and hoarding cash.

When economic growth falters, central banks lower interest rates and inject funds into the economy. But if consumer confidence falls further, cash hoarding causes a fall in the velocity of money. This stimulates central banks to discourage the hoarding of cash by introducing negative interest rates to force deposits out of banks. On February 10th, during her congressional testimony, Fed Chair Janet Yellen admitted that there had been a discussion but never fully researched “the legal issues”. However, her Vice-Chair, Stanley Fischer, already had told the Council on Foreign Relations, nine days earlier, that the Fed had discussed negative rate policy all the way back in 2012.

Should negative rates fail to force funds out of banks, governments may look to limit, and even forbid, the use of cash in large transactions. This is tantamount to a war on cash as part of an effort to eliminate citizens’ control over their wealth.

Furthermore, a war on cash could extend even to seizure of cash deposits under certain circumstances. The confiscation of bank deposits may seem remote to Americans. However, the 2013 Cypriot banking crisis exposed the new central bank stance of ‘bail-ins’ whereby deposits could now be frozen and even confiscated to rescue a bank!

Most of the great economic growth and apparent prosperity of the past 45 years, since the U.S. broke its dollar’s last link to gold, has been financed by credit-unimaginable trillions of dollars of credit. At the heart of this massive credit system are the banks.

The current collapse of oil prices places pressure on the sovereign wealth funds of oil-rich nations to reduce deposits and to sell securities. Lower deposits reduce the banks’ ability to lend and generate profits. If, simultaneously, a shrinking economy leads to bankruptcies and non-performing loans, banks would appear not only less profitable, but increasingly risky. Currently, banks are experiencing many of these pressures, which threaten a credit shortage just when it is needed most to boost confidence. This helps to explain why the current downturn in markets is being led by the financial sector.

To help make sure that depositors’ money stays in banks despite the negative rates, governments have proposed measures to eradicate opportunities to pay in cash. These measures are camouflaged politically as ‘protective’ means against money laundering, especially by terrorists.

But perhaps the most insidious of government motivations to ban cash is to increase the capability of surveillance over all spending by citizens and corporations. Undoubtedly, this makes it harder for anyone to shield income from the taxman, but it also makes it more difficult to achieve any type of anonymity in the marketplace. Soon there may be no legal place to shield legitimate wealth or spending patterns from the eyes of politicians.

Negative interest rates combined with the eradication of cash appear as a desperate attempt to control global private wealth. Jamie Dimon is one of the world’s most astute and powerful individual bankers.

On February 11th, he invested some $26.6 million in the depressed stock of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. Reported as demonstrating confidence, it may be that Dimon sees the stock price recovering strongly when it is realized more widely just how much the banks might benefit from negative rates and the erosion of cash held privately outside the banks.

President Nixon’s decision to unilaterally abolish the last remnants of a gold standard in 1971 heralded a nuclear age for international trade in which nations looked to gain advantage through serial debasement of their currencies and make up the difference with massive debt creation, unfettered by any link to gold. Similar to the nuclear strategy of mutually assured destruction, it set international trade on a course of mutually assured economic destruction.

The size and scope of the political, economic and financial problems that now challenge the relative stability and tranquility of developed societies are unprecedented. Should the war on cash prove unsuccessful in its early stages, banks could be closed for long periods.

Investors should be aware of such possibilities and consider whether to hold cash and precious metals prudently outside the banking system. Better to be even months too early than a second too late should we be left facing a bank’s closed doors.

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Henry Sapiecha

20 Self-Made Teenage Millionaires Video Stories

From a 14 year old boy selling homemade jam to a university student that came up with a popular computer game you may have heard of called RuneScape, We count 20 Self-Made Teenage Millionaires

Money start ups which made the owners a fortune

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Henry Sapiecha

Big U.S. firms hold $2.1 trillion overseas to avoid taxes: study

The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study, by two left-leaning non-profit groups, found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund used the companies’ own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions.

Technology firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three overseas tax havens, the study said.

An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft is holding $108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries and drug company Pfizer is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries, the study said.

“At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014,” the study said. “All told these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.”

Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid taxes, with just 30 of the firms accounting for $1.4 trillion of that amount, or 65 percent, the study found.

Fifty-seven of the companies disclosed that they would expect to pay a combined $184.4 billion in additional U.S. taxes if their profits were not held offshore. Their filings indicated they were paying about 6 percent in taxes overseas, compared to a 35 percent U.S. corporate tax rate, it said.

“Congress can and should take strong action to prevent corporations from using offshore tax havens, which in turn would restore basic fairness to the tax system, reduce the deficit and improve the functioning of markets,” the study concluded.

(The story was refiled to correct the name of the group in the third paragraph to Citizens for Tax Justice)

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Henry Sapiecha

 

While share markets panic, this Japanese day trader makes $48 million while in his pyjamas

Day trader CIS IMAGE www.profitcentre.com

Day trader CIS. He likes to stay anonymous as he’s worried about robbery or extortion. Photo: Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg

While investors around the world were hitting the panic button during the global share sell-off on Monday, a Japanese day trader who’d made a big bet against the market timed the bottom almost perfectly.

Giving a play-by-play of the trade to his 40,000 Twitter followers, he claims to have walked away with $US34 million ($48 million).

As financial markets got crazy this week, many people turned cautious. Some were paralysed. Not the 36-year-old day trader known by the Internet handle CIS.

“I do my best work when other people are panicking,” he said in an interview Tuesday, about an hour after winding up the biggest trade of a long career betting on stocks. He asked that his real name not be used because he’s worried about robbery or extortion. To support his claims, he shared online brokerage statements showing his trades second by second.

CIS had been shorting futures on the Nikkei 225 Stock Average since mid-August, wagering it would fall. By the market close on Monday, a paper profit of $US13 million was staring him in the face. He kept building the position. When he cashed out late that night, a collapse in New York had caused his profit to double.

Instead of celebrating, he kept trading. He started betting the market had bottomed. When he finally took his winnings off the table on Tuesday, he tweeted, “That’s the end of my epic rebound trade.” His profit, he said, had almost tripled.

“It was a perfect trade,” said Naoki Murakami, who follows CIS on Twitter and whose markets blog has made him a minor celebrity in his own right.

Trash talking

Last year, when he was the subject of this profile story, CIS said that in a decade of day trading, mostly from a spare bedroom in a rented apartment, he had amassed a fortune of about $US150 million. At the time, he shared tax returns and brokerage statements to back up his claims. One document showed he had traded $US14 billion worth of Japanese equities in 2013 — about half of 1 per cent of all the share transactions done by individuals on the Tokyo Stock Exchange that year.

CIS became a cult figure among Japan’s tight-knit community of day traders by trash talking on internet message boards early in his career.

He’s notorious for lines like “Not even Goldman Sachs can beat me in a trade.” Last year he opened a Twitter account, on which he talks about video games and, regularly, his trading. It’s impossible to say how many of his followers are also day traders, and how many of those buy and sell in his wake. Those who do, of course, are quite possibly helping him make money.

Playing poker

During this week’s interview at a Tokyo coffee shop, where he had agreed to talk before continuing on to a poker game with buddies, he explained his recent trades step by step. Dressed in a plain gray T-shirt with a flannel shirt tied around his waist, he was monitoring a brokerage account on his iPad and had a $US1600 burgundy under one arm, a 2003 Domaine de la Romanee- Conti. (It wasn’t a celebratory bottle, he said; he drinks a lot of good wine.)

“Of course I’m happy about today, but you win some and you lose a lot, too,” he said, explaining the Greek financial crisis had cost him about $US6 million.

CIS said he has no idea whether or not China is going to drag down the global economy. He doesn’t even care. When he trades, he tracks volumes and price moves to follow the momentum. For him the basic rule is: “Buy stocks that are being bought, and sell stocks that are being sold.”

Latest trade

The latest trade began on August 12, when CIS noticed a shift in equity markets he hadn’t seen for a while. Shares in the major indexes were struggling to recover from sell-offs. He started shorting Nikkei futures: 200 contracts the first day and another 1300 over the following week and a half.

The stakes were enormous. With 1500 contracts at a notional value of about $US160,000 each, his bet against the Nikkei was about $US240 million. For every 100 yen move in the index, he stood to make or lose $US1.25 million.

The market was mostly flat over the next few days; CIS bided his time playing video games. Then last Friday, August 21, the Nikkei dipped. On Monday, the index plunged the most in two years, and the futures fell more than 1000 points to 18,410. By the close at 3 pm in Tokyo, his profit stood at about $US13 million.

Feedback loop

This is the point where most traders would take their money off the table and call it a year. Not CIS.

“I’m adding to my position,” he wrote on Twitter. “Then I’m going to go for a walk and prayer.”

He sold 100 more futures contracts. Two hours later, he sold another 100. His bet against the Nikkei had risen to about $US275 million. He would lose $US1.4 million for every 100-yen increase in the index.

His logic for hanging on to the trade until the US open, at 10:30 pm Tokyo time, was this: Panic would grip American investors returning from a weekend after they saw the scope of Asian selling, including Shanghai’s 8.5 per cent plunge. That would trigger selling, which, in a feedback loop, would pull Nikkei 225 futures down violently amid the thin volume of late- night trading.

“I figured there would be a lot of fear around the US open and that’s what I was aiming for,” he said.

On cue, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 6 per cent in early trading. Nikkei futures tumbled again, dipping 1250 yen below the 3 pm closing level. CIS, home in his pyjamas, finally cashed out his short position. His profit had hit $US27 million.

‘Too delicious

There was still more money to be made from the panic though. Some investors that night were willing to pay a hefty premium for options that protected against the Nikkei crashing below 10,500. That would be a collapse of almost 40 per cent. In CIS’s view, these investors were looking to buy insurance against a near impossibility.

He was happy to take the other side of that trade. The contracts were worth another $US250,000 to him. He made the first deal within 10 seconds of what would prove to be the market’s bottom at 10:34 pm.

“Too delicious,” he tweeted.

About an hour later, as he became more confident in a rebound, he started buying Nikkei futures. Now the play was the opposite of the short bet he’d started the day with. By 1 o’clock Tuesday morning, he’d accumulated 970 contracts, a $US145 million wager that the market would start to climb.

He made one more trade before bed: a few more option contracts sold to straggling panickers. Those were worth $US6,250. By now, at 1:40 am, he was a rich man stooping to pick up pennies.

He dashed off a last tweet at 2 am. “What a day. Still holding on to all my buys,” he wrote. “Time to sleep.”

The rebound trade

CIS returned to Twitter five hours later. Nikkei futures opened at about 18,000 and slowly recovered. Early that afternoon, he closed out his long position.

At the coffee shop later that day, CIS was pretty nonchalant for man who had made tens of millions of dollars in less than 24 hours. For him, it was just one trade out of thousands he would make this year.

“When a trade goes right I feel like bragging a little, but I don’t get on Twitter to talk about it if I lose,” he said with a laugh.

Bloomberg News

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Henry Sapiecha