Monday, April 26, 2010

Some Financial Reports: the Bad, the Good, and the Fictitious

1. Greek Economic Tragedy

Greece has been in the news a bit lately, as its government looks like
needing emergency loans to prevent it from defaulting.  The Greek
government's debt is about US$ 400 billion.  If you include money owed
by the private sector (i.e. companies and households), the combined
external debt is even higher.  A lot has been said about the PIIGS of
Europe (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) and their potential
financial problems.  Strangely, nothing much is said about the biggest
debtor in Europe, namely the United Kingdom.  The UK is easily the
second largest debtor in the world, after the US, with US$ 9191 billion
of external debt.  That's a staggering US$ 150,673 per person.

The following article is a bit out of date, but it highlights that the
UK looks like the basketcase of the G7:
"The true extent of Britain's debt"

Debt in itself is not a problem, as long as it can be paid on time.
One way of measuring the level of a country's debt is to compare it to
annual output (or GDP).  For example, if the debt-to-GDP ratio is 50%,
it will take half of a nation's total annual output to pay off its debt.
Here's a league table that ranks the debt level of several countries:

* United Kingdom  US$ 9191 billion, US$ 150,673/person, 365% of GDP
* Germany         US$ 5208 billion, US$ 63,350/person,  185% of GDP
* Greece          US$ 536 billion,  US$ 47,401/person,  153% of GDP
* Australia       US$ 826 billion,  US$ 38,798/person,  107% of GDP
* United States   US$13400 billion, US$ 43,646/person,  94% of GDP
* Italy           US$ 1060 billion, US$ 18,235/person,  58% of GDP
* Japan           US$ 1492 billion, US$ 4,528/person,   35% of GDP
* China           US$ 363 billion,  US$ 271/person,     5% of GDP

Source: Wikipedia, "List of countries by external debt"

So, on the surface, the UK looks as though it has a much bigger debt
problem than Greece.  However, Greece has a few extra problems:
* High levels of corruption, e.g. fakelaki
* A bloated public sector, so much of the debt is not very productive
* It's still paying off costs of hosting the 2004 Olympics
* It looks like past governments have been cooking the books
* Unlike Australia, it doesn't have a lot of export revenue

2. How IT Companies make their money

On a more positive note, it appears some tech companies are faring well
despite the global financial crisis.  Here's how some companies generate
their revenue...

* Apple
* Microsoft
* Google

3. "The Forbes Fictional 15"

"Global markets are rapidly recovering from the 2008 financial crisis,
 and so are the fortunes of the fictitious. There are six new characters
 on the 2010 edition of Fictional 15."