Recent Economic Policy Symposium at Jackson Hole Wyoming (August 23-25) where economists, central bankers, policy makers gather together annually discussed issues of Rising Market Concentration, Declining Business Investments, and Declining Economic Dynamism.
2018 Economic Policy Symposium, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Public traded companies are always under pressure to show earnings growth and sales revenue growth to enhance shareholder value.
How do they do it when markets have matured and economy has slowed?
Increase Market Share
How do then companies lower their costs?
Vertical Mergers and Acquisitions
Outsourcing (Sourcing parts and components / Intermediate Goods / Inputs from cross border)
Offshoring (Shifting Production cross border)
How do then companies increase their market share?
Horizontal Mergers and Acquisitions
Cross Border Markets Share (Sales in other countries)
In the last thirty years, this is exactly what has happened in US economy.
Macro Trends of increase in Outsourcing/Offshoring, Increase in Market Concentration, Oncrease in Inequality, Increase in Corporate Profits, Rising Equity Prices, Slower Productivity Growth, Lower Interest Rates, Low Labor Share, and Capital Share.
Please see my other posts expanding on these issues.
Please note that these forces are continuing and trends will remain on current trajectory.
Stakeholder vs Shareholder Capitalism
Slow Productivity Growth
Rising Market Concentration
Rising Equities Market
Dupont Ratio Analysis
Financial Planning (Micro – Firm Level)
Economic Planning (Macro- Aggregate Level)
From SHAREHOLDER CAPITALISM: A SYSTEM IN CRISIS
Our current, highly financialised, form of shareholder capitalism is not just failing to provide new capital for investment, it is actively undermining the ability of listed companies to reinvest their own profits. The stock market has become a vehicle for extracting value from companies, not for injecting it.
No wonder that Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England, recently suggested that shareholder capitalism is ‘eating itself.’1 Corporate governance has become dominated by the need to maximise short-term shareholder returns. At the same time, financial markets have grown more complex, highly intermediated, and similarly shorttermist, with shares increasingly seen as paper assets to be traded rather than long term investments in sound businesses.
This kind of trading is a zero-sum game with no new wealth, let alone social value, created. For one person to win, another must lose – and increasingly, the only real winners appear to be the army of financial intermediaries who control and perpetuate the merry-goround. There is nothing natural or inevitable about the shareholder-owned corporation as it currently exists. Like all economic institutions, it is a product of political and economic choices which can and should be remade if they no longer serve our economy, society, or environment.
Here’s the impact this shareholder model is currently having:
• Economy: Shareholder capitalism is holding back productive investment. Even the Chief Executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has admitted that pressure to keep the share price high means corporate leaders are ‘underinvesting in innovation, skilled workforces or essential capital expenditures.’ 2
• Society: Shareholder capitalism is driving inequality. There is growing evidence that attempts to align executive pay with shareholder value are largely responsible for the ballooning of salaries at the top. The prioritisation of shareholder interests has also contributed to a dramatic decline in UK wages relative to profits, helping to explain the failure of ordinary people’s living standards to rise in line with economic growth.
• Environment: Shareholder capitalism helps to drive environmental destruction. It does this by driving risky shortterm behaviour, such as fossil fuel extraction, which ignores long-term environmental risks.
The idea that shareholder capitalism is the most efficient way to mobilise large amounts of capital is no longer tenable.
We need both to create new models of companies, and implement new ways of organising investment that are fit for building an inclusive, equal, and sustainable economy.
Companies should be explicitly accountable to a mission and a set of interests beyond shareholder returns. Equally, investment must provide long-term capital for socially and environmentally useful projects, and damaging forms of speculation must be restricted.
For most people, our economy simply is not working, and the damaging aspects of shareholder capitalism are at least in part responsible. Reforming shareholder capitalism must not be dismissed as too difficult – the crisis is too urgent for that. We can take the first steps towards a better economic model right now. It’s time to act.
A Crash Course in Dupont Financial Ratio Analysis
What happens when economic growth slows ?
What happens when profit margins decline ?
What happens when Sales growth is limited ?
What does lead to Mergers and Acquisitions ?
What is the impact of Cost of Capital ?
What is EVA (Economic Value Added) ?
What is impact of Outsourcing/Offshoring on Financial Ratios ?
What is impact of Mergers and Acquisitions on Financial Ratios ?
What is impact of Stock Buy Backs on Financial Ratios ?
What is impact of Dividends on Financial Ratios ?
ROS (Return on Sales)
ROE (Return on Equities)
ROA (Return on Assets)
ROIC (Return on Invested Capital)
EVA (Economic Value Added)
MVA (Market Value Added)
From The DuPont Equation, ROE, ROA, and Growth
The DuPont Equation
The DuPont equation is an expression which breaks return on equity down into three parts: profit margin, asset turnover, and leverage.
Explain why splitting the return on equity calculation into its component parts may be helpful to an analyst
By splitting ROE into three parts, companies can more easily understand changes in their returns on equity over time.
As profit margin increases, every sale will bring more money to a company’s bottom line, resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
As asset turnover increases, a company will generate more sales per asset owned, resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
Increased financial leverage will also lead to an increase in return on equity, since using more debt financing brings on higher interest payments, which are tax deductible.
competitive advantage: something that places a company or a person above the competition
The DuPont Equation
The DuPont equation is an expression which breaks return on equity down into three parts. The name comes from the DuPont Corporation, which created and implemented this formula into their business operations in the 1920s. This formula is known by many other names, including DuPont analysis, DuPont identity, the DuPont model, the DuPont method, or the strategic profit model.
The DuPont Equation: In the DuPont equation, ROE is equal to profit margin multiplied by asset turnover multiplied by financial leverage.
Under DuPont analysis, return on equity is equal to the profit margin multiplied by asset turnover multiplied by financial leverage. By splitting ROE (return on equity) into three parts, companies can more easily understand changes in their ROE over time.
Components of the DuPont Equation: Profit Margin
Profit margin is a measure of profitability. It is an indicator of a company’s pricing strategies and how well the company controls costs. Profit margin is calculated by finding the net profit as a percentage of the total revenue. As one feature of the DuPont equation, if the profit margin of a company increases, every sale will bring more money to a company’s bottom line, resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
Components of the DuPont Equation: Asset Turnover
Asset turnover is a financial ratio that measures how efficiently a company uses its assets to generate sales revenue or sales income for the company. Companies with low profit margins tend to have high asset turnover, while those with high profit margins tend to have low asset turnover. Similar to profit margin, if asset turnover increases, a company will generate more sales per asset owned, once again resulting in a higher overall return on equity.
Components of the DuPont Equation: Financial Leverage
Financial leverage refers to the amount of debt that a company utilizes to finance its operations, as compared with the amount of equity that the company utilizes. As was the case with asset turnover and profit margin, Increased financial leverage will also lead to an increase in return on equity. This is because the increased use of debt as financing will cause a company to have higher interest payments, which are tax deductible. Because dividend payments are not tax deductible, maintaining a high proportion of debt in a company’s capital structure leads to a higher return on equity.
The DuPont Equation in Relation to Industries
The DuPont equation is less useful for some industries, that do not use certain concepts or for which the concepts are less meaningful. On the other hand, some industries may rely on a single factor of the DuPont equation more than others. Thus, the equation allows analysts to determine which of the factors is dominant in relation to a company’s return on equity. For example, certain types of high turnover industries, such as retail stores, may have very low profit margins on sales and relatively low financial leverage. In industries such as these, the measure of asset turnover is much more important.
High margin industries, on the other hand, such as fashion, may derive a substantial portion of their competitive advantage from selling at a higher margin. For high end fashion and other luxury brands, increasing sales without sacrificing margin may be critical. Finally, some industries, such as those in the financial sector, chiefly rely on high leverage to generate an acceptable return on equity. While a high level of leverage could be seen as too risky from some perspectives, DuPont analysis enables third parties to compare that leverage with other financial elements that can determine a company’s return on equity.
ROE and Potential Limitations
Return on equity measures the rate of return on the ownership interest of a business and is irrelevant if earnings are not reinvested or distributed.
Calculate a company’s return on equity
Return on equity is an indication of how well a company uses investment funds to generate earnings growth.
Returns on equity between 15% and 20% are generally considered to be acceptable.
Return on equity is equal to net income (after preferred stock dividends but before common stock dividends) divided by total shareholder equity (excluding preferred shares ).
Stock prices are most strongly determined by earnings per share (EPS) as opposed to return on equity.
fundamental analysis: An analysis of a business with the goal of financial projections in terms of income statement, financial statements and health, management and competitive advantages, and competitors and markets.
Return On Equity
Return on equity (ROE) measures the rate of return on the ownership interest or shareholders’ equity of the common stock owners. It is a measure of a company’s efficiency at generating profits using the shareholders’ stake of equity in the business. In other words, return on equity is an indication of how well a company uses investment funds to generate earnings growth. It is also commonly used as a target for executive compensation, since ratios such as ROE tend to give management an incentive to perform better. Returns on equity between 15% and 20% are generally considered to be acceptable.
Return on equity is equal to net income, after preferred stock dividends but before common stock dividends, divided by total shareholder equity and excluding preferred shares.
Return On Equity: ROE is equal to after-tax net income divided by total shareholder equity.
Expressed as a percentage, return on equity is best used to compare companies in the same industry. The decomposition of return on equity into its various factors presents various ratios useful to companies in fundamental analysis.
ROE Broken Down: This is an expression of return on equity decomposed into its various factors.
The practice of decomposing return on equity is sometimes referred to as the “DuPont System. ”
Potential Limitations of ROE
Just because a high return on equity is calculated does not mean that a company will see immediate benefits. Stock prices are most strongly determined by earnings per share (EPS) as opposed to return on equity. Earnings per share is the amount of earnings per each outstanding share of a company’s stock. EPS is equal to profit divided by the weighted average of common shares.
Earnings Per Share: EPS is equal to profit divided by the weighted average of common shares.
The true benefit of a high return on equity comes from a company’s earnings being reinvested into the business or distributed as a dividend. In fact, return on equity is presumably irrelevant if earnings are not reinvested or distributed.
Assessing Internal Growth and Sustainability
Sustainable– as opposed to internal– growth gives a company a better idea of its growth rate while keeping in line with financial policy.
Calculate a company’s internal growth and sustainability ratios
The internal growth rate is a formula for calculating the maximum growth rate a firm can achieve without resorting to external financing.
Sustainable growth is defined as the annual percentage of increase in sales that is consistent with a defined financial policy.
Another measure of growth, the optimal growth rate, assesses sustainable growth from a total shareholder return creation and profitability perspective, independent of a given financial strategy.
retention: The act of retaining; something retained
retention ratio: retained earnings divided by net income
sustainable growth rate: the optimal growth from a financial perspective assuming a given strategy with clear defined financial frame conditions/ limitations
Internal Growth and Sustainability
The true benefit of a high return on equity arises when retained earnings are reinvested into the company’s operations. Such reinvestment should, in turn, lead to a high rate of growth for the company. The internal growth rate is a formula for calculating maximum growth rate that a firm can achieve without resorting to external financing. It’s essentially the growth that a firm can supply by reinvesting its earnings. This can be described as (retained earnings)/(total assets ), or conceptually as the total amount of internal capital available compared to the current size of the organization.
We find the internal growth rate by dividing net income by the amount of total assets (or finding return on assets ) and subtracting the rate of earnings retention. However, growth is not necessarily favorable. Expansion may strain managers’ capacity to monitor and handle the company’s operations. Therefore, a more commonly used measure is the sustainable growth rate.
Sustainable growth is defined as the annual percentage of increase in sales that is consistent with a defined financial policy, such as target debt to equity ratio, target dividend payout ratio, target profit margin, or target ratio of total assets to net sales.
We find the sustainable growth rate by dividing net income by shareholder equity (or finding return on equity) and subtracting the rate of earnings retention. While the internal growth rate assumes no financing, the sustainable growth rate assumes you will make some use of outside financing that will be consistent with whatever financial policy being followed. In fact, in order to achieve a higher growth rate, the company would have to invest more equity capital, increase its financial leverage, or increase the target profit margin.
Optimal Growth Rate
Another measure of growth, the optimal growth rate, assesses sustainable growth from a total shareholder return creation and profitability perspective, independent of a given financial strategy. The concept of optimal growth rate was originally studied by Martin Handschuh, Hannes Lösch, and Björn Heyden. Their study was based on assessments on the performance of more than 3,500 stock-listed companies with an initial revenue of greater than 250 million Euro globally, across industries, over a period of 12 years from 1997 to 2009.
Due to the span of time included in the study, the authors considered their findings to be, for the most part, independent of specific economic cycles. The study found that return on assets, return on sales and return on equity do in fact rise with increasing revenue growth of between 10% to 25%, and then fall with further increasing revenue growth rates. Furthermore, the authors attributed this profitability increase to the following facts:
Companies with substantial profitability have the opportunity to invest more in additional growth, and
Substantial growth may be a driver for additional profitability, whether by attracting high performing young professionals, providing motivation for current employees, attracting better business partners, or simply leading to more self-confidence.
However, according to the study, growth rates beyond the “profitability maximum” rate could bring about circumstances that reduce overall profitability because of the efforts necessary to handle additional growth (i.e., integrating new staff, controlling quality, etc).
Dividend Payments and Earnings Retention
The dividend payout and retention ratios offer insight into how much of a firm’s profit is distributed to shareholders versus retained.
Calculate a company’s dividend payout and retention ratios
Many corporations retain a portion of their earnings and pay the remainder as a dividend.
Dividends are usually paid in the form of cash, store credits, or shares in the company.
Cash dividends are a form of investment income and are usually taxable to the recipient in the year that they are paid.
Dividend payout ratio is the fraction of net income a firm pays to its stockholders in dividends.
Retained earnings can be expressed in the retention ratio.
stock split: To issue a higher number of new shares to replace old shares. This effectively increases the number of shares outstanding without changing the market capitalization of the company.
Dividend Payments and Earnings Retention
Dividends are payments made by a corporation to its shareholder members. It is the portion of corporate profits paid out to stockholders. On the other hand, retained earnings refers to the portion of net income which is retained by the corporation rather than distributed to its owners as dividends. Similarly, if the corporation takes a loss, then that loss is retained and called variously retained losses, accumulated losses or accumulated deficit. Retained earnings and losses are cumulative from year to year with losses offsetting earnings. Many corporations retain a portion of their earnings and pay the remainder as a dividend.
A dividend is allocated as a fixed amount per share. Therefore, a shareholder receives a dividend in proportion to their shareholding. Retained earnings are shown in the shareholder equity section in the company’s balance sheet –the same as its issued share capital.
Public companies usually pay dividends on a fixed schedule, but may declare a dividend at any time, sometimes called a “special dividend” to distinguish it from the fixed schedule dividends. Dividends are usually paid in the form of cash, store credits (common among retail consumers’ cooperatives), or shares in the company (either newly created shares or existing shares bought in the market). Further, many public companies offer dividend reinvestment plans, which automatically use the cash dividend to purchase additional shares for the shareholder.
Cash dividends (most common) are those paid out in currency, usually via electronic funds transfer or a printed paper check. Such dividends are a form of investment income and are usually taxable to the recipient in the year they are paid. This is the most common method of sharing corporate profits with the shareholders of the company. For each share owned, a declared amount of money is distributed. Thus, if a person owns 100 shares and the cash dividend is $0.50 per share, the holder of the stock will be paid $50. Dividends paid are not classified as an expense but rather a deduction of retained earnings. Dividends paid do not show up on an income statement but do appear on the balance sheet.
Stock dividends are those paid out in the form of additional stock shares of the issuing corporation or another corporation (such as its subsidiary corporation). They are usually issued in proportion to shares owned (for example, for every 100 shares of stock owned, a 5% stock dividend will yield five extra shares). If the payment involves the issue of new shares, it is similar to a stock split in that it increases the total number of shares while lowering the price of each share without changing the market capitalization, or total value, of the shares held.
Dividend Payout and Retention Ratios
Dividend payout ratio is the fraction of net income a firm pays to its stockholders in dividends:
The part of the earnings not paid to investors is left for investment to provide for future earnings growth. These retained earnings can be expressed in the retention ratio. Retention ratio can be found by subtracting the dividend payout ratio from one, or by dividing retained earnings by net income.
Dividend Payout Ratio: The dividend payout ratio is equal to dividend payments divided by net income for the same period.
Relationships between ROA, ROE, and Growth
Return on assets is a component of return on equity, both of which can be used to calculate a company’s rate of growth.
Discuss the different uses of the Return on Assets and Return on Assets ratios
Return on equity measures the rate of return on the shareholders ‘ equity of common stockholders.
Return on assets shows how profitable a company’s assets are in generating revenue.
In other words, return on assets makes up two-thirds of the DuPont equation measuring return on equity.
Capital intensity is the term for the amount of fixed or real capital present in relation to other factors of production. Rising capital intensity pushes up the productivity of labor.
return on common stockholders’ equity: a fiscal year’s net income (after preferred stock dividends but before common stock dividends) divided by total equity (excluding preferred shares), expressed as a percentage
quantitatively: With respect to quantity rather than quality.
Return On Assets Versus Return On Equity
In review, return on equity measures the rate of return on the ownership interest (shareholders’ equity) of common stockholders. Therefore, it shows how well a company uses investment funds to generate earnings growth. Return on assets shows how profitable a company’s assets are in generating revenue. Return on assets is equal to net income divided by total assets.
Return On Assets: Return on assets is equal to net income divided by total assets.
This percentage shows what the company can do with what it has (i.e., how many dollars of earnings they derive from each dollar of assets they control). This is in contrast to return on equity, which measures a firm’s efficiency at generating profits from every unit of shareholders’ equity. Return on assets is, however, a vital component of return on equity, being an indicator of how profitable a company is before leverage is considered. In other words, return on assets makes up two-thirds of the DuPont equation measuring return on equity.
ROA, ROE, and Growth
In terms of growth rates, we use the value known as return on assets to determine a company’s internal growth rate. This is the maximum growth rate a firm can achieve without resorting to external financing. We use the value for return on equity, however, in determining a company’s sustainable growth rate, which is the maximum growth rate a firm can achieve without issuing new equity or changing its debt-to-equity ratio.
Capital Intensity and Growth
Return on assets gives us an indication of the capital intensity of the company. “Capital intensity” is the term for the amount of fixed or real capital present in relation to other factors of production, especially labor. The underlying concept here is how much output can be procured from a given input (assets!). The formula for capital intensity is below:
Capital Intensity=Total AssetsSales
The use of tools and machinery makes labor more effective, so rising capital intensity pushes up the productivity of labor. While companies that require large initial investments will generally have lower return on assets, it is possible that increased productivity will provide a higher growth rate for the company. Capital intensity can be stated quantitatively as the ratio of the total money value of capital equipment to the total potential output. However, when we adjust capital intensity for real market situations, such as the discounting of future cash flows, we find that it is not independent of the distribution of income. In other words, changes in the retention or dividend payout ratios can lead to changes in measured capital intensity.
This document was prepared by the OECD Secretariat to serve as an issues paper for the hearing on market concentration taking place at the 129th meeting of the OECD Competition Committee on 6-8 June 2018
Rising Market Concentration and Declining Business Investments in the USA – Update June 2018
Since my last posts in August/September 2017 on the subject of
Declining Business Investments
several new studies have been published. In addition, several important hearings and conferences have been organized by OECD, Brookings Institution, Boston University School of Law. Please see my list of references for details of each one of them.
This topic now is getting good attention in media also.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) held a major research conference on the “Policy Implications of Sustained Low Productivity Growth” on November 9, 2017. Jeromin Zettelmeyer, PIIE, moderates panel 4, “Wages and Inequality.” Presenters include Jason Furman, Harvard University and PIIE, and Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard University. I have given the link to Video of the session 4 in the references.
OECD on June 7-8, 2018 held hearings on Market Concentration at Paris, France. Several presentations were given by experts in the field. I have given link to the conference webpage in the references.
The Hamilton Project/Brookings Institution had a Conference on June 13, 2018 in Washington DC on the subject of Market Concentration. Please see the link to the conference video and papers in the references below.
From The State of Competition and Dynamism: Facts about Concentration, Start-Ups, and Related Policies
From The State of Competition and Dynamism: Facts about Concentration, Start-Ups, and Related Policies
Since my earlier posts on this subject there has been several new studies published highlighting weakness in business investments as one of the cause of slower economic growth and lower interest rates.
Other significant factors impacting interest rates are demographic changes, and slower economic growth.
I argue that there is mutual (circular) causality in weak business investment, slower economic growth, and lower interest rates which reinforce each other.
Decreased competition, increased concentration, corporate savings glut, share buybacks, paying dividends are also identified as factors.
Number of public companies have decreased significantly in USA since 1996 due to M&A activity. See the data below.
Increased Mergers/Acquisitions, Increased Concentration, Decreased Competition, Decreased Number of Public Companies, Share buybacks, and Dividend Payouts are multiple perspectives of same problem.
From The Incredible Shrinking Universe of Stocks
The Causes and Consequences of Fewer U.S. Equities
Key sources of Research:
The Low Level of Global Real Interest Rates
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Conference to Celebrate Arminio Fraga’s 60 Years
Casa das Garcas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Short term Thinking in Investment Decisions of Businesses and Financial Markets
When companies buyback shares and pay dividends rather than investing in new capacity, it leads to low economic growth and low aggregate demand.
Central Banks respond by cutting interest rates. Yet Businesses do not invest in new capacity.
Many studies attribute this to short term thinking dominant in corporate investment decisions. Pressures from shareholders push corporate managers to be short term oriented.
Many economists and thinkers have criticized this recently as advanced economies are suffering from anemic growth.
Larry Summers has invoked Secular Stagnation. He says one of the reason for Secular Stagnation is short term thinking.
Andy Haldane of Bank of England has criticized short term thinking as it prevents investments and causes low economic growth.
Short Term Thinking
Low Economic Growth
Real Interest Rates
Income and Wealth Inequality
Long Term Investments
Corporate Cash Pools
Capitalism for the Long Term
From the March 2011 Issue of HBR
The near meltdown of the financial system and the ensuing Great Recession have been, and will remain, the defining issue for the current generation of executives. Now that the worst seems to be behind us, it’s tempting to feel deep relief—and a strong desire to return to the comfort of business as usual. But that is simply not an option. In the past three years we’ve already seen a dramatic acceleration in the shifting balance of power between the developed West and the emerging East, a rise in populist politics and social stresses in a number of countries, and significant strains on global governance systems. As the fallout from the crisis continues, we’re likely to see increased geopolitical rivalries, new international security challenges, and rising tensions from trade, migration, and resource competition. For business leaders, however, the most consequential outcome of the crisis is the challenge to capitalism itself.
That challenge did not just arise in the wake of the Great Recession. Recall that trust in business hit historically low levels more than a decade ago. But the crisis and the surge in public antagonism it unleashed have exacerbated the friction between business and society. On top of anxiety about persistent problems such as rising income inequality, we now confront understandable anger over high unemployment, spiraling budget deficits, and a host of other issues. Governments feel pressure to reach ever deeper inside businesses to exert control and prevent another system-shattering event.
My goal here is not to offer yet another assessment of the actions policymakers have taken or will take as they try to help restart global growth. The audience I want to engage is my fellow business leaders. After all, much of what went awry before and after the crisis stemmed from failures of governance, decision making, and leadership within companies. These are failures we can and should address ourselves.
In an ongoing effort that started 18 months ago, I’ve met with more than 400 business and government leaders across the globe. Those conversations have reinforced my strong sense that, despite a certain amount of frustration on each side, the two groups share the belief that capitalism has been and can continue to be the greatest engine of prosperity ever devised—and that we will need it to be at the top of its job-creating, wealth-generating game in the years to come. At the same time, there is growing concern that if the fundamental issues revealed in the crisis remain unaddressed and the system fails again, the social contract between the capitalist system and the citizenry may truly rupture, with unpredictable but severely damaging results.
Most important, the dialogue has clarified for me the nature of the deep reform that I believe business must lead—nothing less than a shift from what I call quarterly capitalism to what might be referred to as long-term capitalism. (For a rough definition of “long term,” think of the time required to invest in and build a profitable new business, which McKinsey research suggests is at least five to seven years.) This shift is not just about persistently thinking and acting with a next-generation view—although that’s a key part of it. It’s about rewiring the fundamental ways we govern, manage, and lead corporations. It’s also about changing how we view business’s value and its role in society.
There are three essential elements of the shift. First, business and finance must jettison their short-term orientation and revamp incentives and structures in order to focus their organizations on the long term. Second, executives must infuse their organizations with the perspective that serving the interests of all major stakeholders—employees, suppliers, customers, creditors, communities, the environment—is not at odds with the goal of maximizing corporate value; on the contrary, it’s essential to achieving that goal. Third, public companies must cure the ills stemming from dispersed and disengaged ownership by bolstering boards’ ability to govern like owners.
When making major decisions, Asians typically think in terms of at least 10 to 15 years. In the U.S. and Europe, nearsightedness is the norm.
None of these ideas, or the specific proposals that follow, are new. What is new is the urgency of the challenge. Business leaders today face a choice: We can reform capitalism, or we can let capitalism be reformed for us, through political measures and the pressures of an angry public. The good news is that the reforms will not only increase trust in the system; they will also strengthen the system itself. They will unleash the innovation needed to tackle the world’s grand challenges, pave the way for a new era of shared prosperity, and restore public faith in business.
1. Fight the Tyranny of Short-Termism
As a Canadian who for 25 years has counseled business, public sector, and nonprofit leaders across the globe (I’ve lived in Toronto, Sydney, Seoul, Shanghai, and now London), I’ve had a privileged glimpse into different societies’ values and how leaders in various cultures think. In my view, the most striking difference between East and West is the time frame leaders consider when making major decisions. Asians typically think in terms of at least 10 to 15 years. For example, in my discussions with the South Korean president Lee Myung-bak shortly after his election in 2008, he asked us to help come up with a 60-year view of his country’s future (though we settled for producing a study called National Vision 2020.) In the U.S. and Europe, nearsightedness is the norm. I believe that having a long-term perspective is the competitive advantage of many Asian economies and businesses today.
Myopia plagues Western institutions in every sector. In business, the mania over quarterly earnings consumes extraordinary amounts of senior time and attention. Average CEO tenure has dropped from 10 to six years since 1995, even as the complexity and scale of firms have grown. In politics, democracies lurch from election to election, with candidates proffering dubious short-term panaceas while letting long-term woes in areas such as economic competitiveness, health, and education fester. Even philanthropy often exhibits a fetish for the short term and the new, with grantees expected to become self-sustaining in just a few years.
Lost in the frenzy is the notion that long-term thinking is essential for long-term success. Consider Toyota, whose journey to world-class manufacturing excellence was years in the making. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s it endured low to nonexistent sales in the U.S.—and it even stopped exporting altogether for one bleak four-year period—before finally emerging in the following decades as a global leader. Think of Hyundai, which experienced quality problems in the late 1990s but made a comeback by reengineering its cars for long-term value—a strategy exemplified by its unprecedented introduction, in 1999, of a 10-year car warranty. That radical move, viewed by some observers as a formula for disaster, helped Hyundai quadruple U.S. sales in three years and paved the way for its surprising entry into the luxury market.
To be sure, long-term perspectives can be found in the West as well. For example, in 1985, in the face of fierce Japanese competition, Intel famously decided to abandon its core business, memory chips, and focus on the then-emerging business of microprocessors. This “wrenching” decision was “nearly inconceivable” at the time, says Andy Grove, who was then the company’s president. Yet by making it, Intel emerged in a few years on top of a new multi-billion-dollar industry. Apple represents another case in point. The iPod, released in 2001, sold just 400,000 units in its first year, during which Apple’s share price fell by roughly 25%. But the board took the long view. By late 2009 the company had sold 220 million iPods—and revolutionized the music business.
It’s fair to say, however, that such stories are countercultural. In the 1970s the average holding period for U.S. equities was about seven years; now it’s more like seven months. According to a recent paper by Andrew Haldane, of the Bank of England, such churning has made markets far more volatile and produced yawning gaps between corporations’ market price and their actual value. Then there are the “hyperspeed” traders (some of whom hold stocks for only a few seconds), who now account for 70% of all U.S. equities trading, by one estimate. In response to these trends, executives must do a better job of filtering input, and should give more weight to the views of investors with a longer-term, buy-and-hold orientation.
If they don’t, short-term capital will beget short-term management through a natural chain of incentives and influence. If CEOs miss their quarterly earnings targets, some big investors agitate for their removal. As a result, CEOs and their top teams work overtime to meet those targets. The unintended upshot is that they manage for only a small portion of their firm’s value. When McKinsey’s finance experts deconstruct the value expectations embedded in share prices, we typically find that 70% to 90% of a company’s value is related to cash flows expected three or more years out. If the vast majority of most firms’ value depends on results more than three years from now, but management is preoccupied with what’s reportable three months from now, then capitalism has a problem.
Roughly 70% of all U.S. equities trading is now done by “hyperspeed” traders—some of whom hold stocks for only a few seconds.
Some rightly resist playing this game. Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Ford, to name just a few, have stopped issuing earnings guidance altogether. Google never did. IBM has created five-year road maps to encourage investors to focus more on whether it will reach its long-term earnings targets than on whether it exceeds or misses this quarter’s target by a few pennies. “I can easily make my numbers by cutting SG&A or R&D, but then we wouldn’t get the innovations we need,” IBM’s CEO, Sam Palmisano, told us recently. Mark Wiseman, executive vice president at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, advocates investing “for the next quarter century,” not the next quarter. And Warren Buffett has quipped that his ideal holding period is “forever.” Still, these remain admirable exceptions.
To break free of the tyranny of short-termism, we must start with those who provide capital. Taken together, pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, and sovereign wealth funds hold $65 trillion, or roughly 35% of the world’s financial assets. If these players focus too much attention on the short term, capitalism as a whole will, too.
In theory they shouldn’t, because the beneficiaries of these funds have an obvious interest in long-term value creation. But although today’s standard practices arose from the desire to have a defensible, measurable approach to portfolio management, they have ended up encouraging shortsightedness. Fund trustees, often advised by investment consultants, assess their money managers’ performance relative to benchmark indices and offer only short-term contracts. Those managers’ compensation is linked to the amount of assets they manage, which typically rises when short-term performance is strong. Not surprisingly, then, money managers focus on such performance—and pass this emphasis along to the companies in which they invest. And so it goes, on down the line.
Only 45% of those surveyed in the U.S. and the UK expressed trust in business. This stands in stark contrast to developing countries: For example, the figure is 61% in China, 70% in India, and 81% in Brazil.
As the stewardship advocate Simon Wong points out, under the current system pension funds deem an asset manager who returns 10% to have underperformed if the relevant benchmark index rises by 12%. Would it be unthinkable for institutional investors instead to live with absolute gains on the (perfectly healthy) order of 10%—especially if they like the approach that delivered those gains—and review performance every three or five years, instead of dropping the 10-percenter? Might these big funds set targets for the number of holdings and rates of turnover, at least within the “fundamental investing” portion of their portfolios, and more aggressively monitor those targets? More radically, might they end the practice of holding thousands of stocks and achieve the benefits of diversification with fewer than a hundred—thereby increasing their capacity to effectively engage with the businesses they own and improve long-term performance? Finally, could institutional investors beef up their internal skills and staff to better execute such an agenda? These are the kinds of questions we need to address if we want to align capital’s interests more closely with capitalism’s.
2. Serve Stakeholders, Enrich Shareholders
The second imperative for renewing capitalism is disseminating the idea that serving stakeholders is essential to maximizing corporate value. Too often these aims are presented as being in tension: You’re either a champion of shareholder value or you’re a fan of the stakeholders. This is a false choice.
The inspiration for shareholder-value maximization, an idea that took hold in the 1970s and 1980s, was reasonable: Without some overarching financial goal with which to guide and gauge a firm’s performance, critics feared, managers could divert corporate resources to serve their own interests rather than the owners’. In fact, in the absence of concrete targets, management might become an exercise in politics and stakeholder engagement an excuse for inefficiency. Although this thinking was quickly caricatured in popular culture as the doctrine of “greed is good,” and was further tarnished by some companies’ destructive practices in its name, in truth there was never any inherent tension between creating value and serving the interests of employees, suppliers, customers, creditors, communities, and the environment. Indeed, thoughtful advocates of value maximization have always insisted that it is long-term value that has to be maximized.
Capitalism’s founding philosopher voiced an even bolder aspiration. “All the members of human society stand in need of each others assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries,” Adam Smith wrote in his 1759 work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. “The wise and virtuous man,” he added, “is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest,” should circumstances so demand.
Smith’s insight into the profound interdependence between business and society, and how that interdependence relates to long-term value creation, still reverberates. In 2008 and again in 2010, McKinsey surveyed nearly 2,000 executives and investors; more than 75% said that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives create corporate value in the long term. Companies that bring a real stakeholder perspective into corporate strategy can generate tangible value even sooner. (See the sidebar “Who’s Getting It Right?”)
Creating direct business value, however, is not the only or even the strongest argument for taking a societal perspective. Capitalism depends on public trust for its legitimacy and its very survival. According to the Edelman public relations agency’s just-released 2011 Trust Barometer, trust in business in the U.S. and the UK (although up from mid-crisis record lows) is only in the vicinity of 45%. This stands in stark contrast to developing countries: For example, the figure is 61% in China, 70% in India, and 81% in Brazil. The picture is equally bleak for individual corporations in the Anglo-American world, “which saw their trust rankings drop again last year to near-crisis lows,” says Richard Edelman.
How can business leaders restore the public’s trust? Many Western executives find that nothing in their careers has prepared them for this new challenge. Lee Scott, Walmart’s former CEO, has been refreshingly candid about arriving in the top job with a serious blind spot. He was plenty busy minding the store, he says, and had little feel for the need to engage as a statesman with groups that expected something more from the world’s largest company. Fortunately, Scott was a fast learner, and Walmart has become a leader in environmental and health care issues.
Tomorrow’s CEOs will have to be, in Joseph Nye’s apt phrase, “tri-sector athletes”: able and experienced in business, government, and the social sector. But the pervading mind-set gets in the way of building those leadership and management muscles. “Analysts and investors are focused on the short term,” one executive told me recently. “They believe social initiatives don’t create value in the near term.” In other words, although a large majority of executives believe that social initiatives create value in the long term, they don’t act on this belief, out of fear that financial markets might frown. Getting capital more aligned with capitalism should help businesses enrich shareholders by better serving stakeholders.
3. Act Like You Own the Place
As the financial sector’s troubles vividly exposed, when ownership is broadly fragmented, no one acts like he’s in charge. Boards, as they currently operate, don’t begin to serve as a sufficient proxy. All the Devils Are Here, by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, describes how little awareness Merrill Lynch’s board had of the firm’s soaring exposure to subprime mortgage instruments until it was too late. “I actually don’t think risk management failed,” Larry Fink, the CEO of the investment firm BlackRock, said during a 2009 debate about the future of capitalism, sponsored by the Financial Times. “I think corporate governance failed, because…the boards didn’t ask the right questions.”
What McKinsey has learned from studying successful family-owned companies suggests a way forward: The most effective ownership structure tends to combine some exposure in the public markets (for the discipline and capital access that exposure helps provide) with a significant, committed, long-term owner. Most large public companies, however, have extremely dispersed ownership, and boards rarely perform the single-owner-proxy role. As a result, CEOs too often listen to the investors (and members of the media) who make the most noise. Unfortunately, those parties tend to be the most nearsighted ones. And so the tyranny of the short term is reinforced.
The answer is to renew corporate governance by rooting it in committed owners and by giving those owners effective mechanisms with which to influence management. We call this ownership-based governance, and it requires three things:
Just 43% of the nonexecutive directors of public companies believe they significantly influence strategy. For this to change, board members must devote much more time to their roles.
In the absence of a dominant shareholder (and many times when there is one), the board must represent a firm’s owners and serve as the agent of long-term value creation. Even among family firms, the executives of the top-performing companies wield their influence through the board. But only 43% of the nonexecutive directors of public companies believe they significantly influence strategy. For this to change, board members must devote much more time to their roles. A government-commissioned review of the governance of British banks last year recommended an enormous increase in the time required of nonexecutive directors of banks—from the current average, between 12 and 20 days annually, to between 30 and 36 days annually. What’s especially needed is an increase in the informal time board members spend with investors and executives. The nonexecutive board directors of companies owned by private equity firms spend 54 days a year, on average, attending to the company’s business, and 70% of that time consists of informal meetings and conversations. Four to five days a month obviously give a board member much greater understanding and impact than the three days a quarter (of which two may be spent in transit) devoted by the typical board member of a public company.
Boards also need much more relevant experience. Industry knowledge—which four of five nonexecutive directors of big companies lack—helps boards identify immediate opportunities and reduce risk. Contextual knowledge about the development path of an industry—for example, whether the industry is facing consolidation, disruption from new technologies, or increased regulation—is highly valuable, too. Such insight is often obtained from experience with other industries that have undergone a similar evolution.
In addition, boards need more-effective committee structures—obtainable through, for example, the establishment of a strategy committee or of dedicated committees for large business units. Directors also need the resources to allow them to form independent views on strategy, risk, and performance (perhaps by having a small analytical staff that reports only to them). This agenda implies a certain professionalization of nonexecutive directorships and a more meaningful strategic partnership between boards and top management. It may not please some executive teams accustomed to boards they can easily “manage.” But given the failures of governance to date, it is a necessary change.
More-sensible CEO pay.
An important task of governance is setting executive compensation. Although 70% of board directors say that pay should be tied more closely to performance, CEO pay is too often structured to reward a leader simply for having made it to the top, not for what he or she does once there. Meanwhile, polls show that the disconnect between pay and performance is contributing to the decline in public esteem for business.
Companies should create real risk for executives.Some experts privately suggest mandating that new executives invest a year’s salary in the company.
CEOs and other executives should be paid to act like owners. Once upon a time we thought that stock options would achieve this result, but stock-option- based compensation schemes have largely incentivized the wrong behavior. When short-dated, options lead to a focus on meeting quarterly earnings estimates; even when long-dated (those that vest after three years or more), they can reward managers for simply surfing industry- or economy-wide trends (although reviewing performance against an appropriate peer index can help minimize free rides). Moreover, few compensation schemes carry consequences for failure—something that became clear during the financial crisis, when many of the leaders of failed institutions retired as wealthy people.
There will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to this complex issue, but companies should push for change in three key areas:
• They should link compensation to the fundamental drivers of long-term value, such as innovation and efficiency, not just to share price.
• They should extend the time frame for executive evaluations—for example, using rolling three-year performance evaluations, or requiring five-year plans and tracking performance relative to plan. This would, of course, require an effective board that is engaged in strategy formation.
• They should create real downside risk for executives, perhaps by requiring them to put some skin in the game. Some experts we’ve surveyed have privately suggested mandating that new executives invest a year’s salary in the company.
Redefined shareholder “democracy.”
The huge increase in equity churn in recent decades has spawned an anomaly of governance: At any annual meeting, a large number of those voting may soon no longer be shareholders. The advent of high-frequency trading will only worsen this trend. High churn rates, short holding periods, and vote-buying practices may mean the demise of the “one share, one vote” principle of governance, at least in some circumstances. Indeed, many large, top-performing companies, such as Google, have never adhered to it. Maybe it’s time for new rules that would give greater weight to long-term owners, like the rule in some French companies that gives two votes to shares held longer than a year. Or maybe it would make sense to assign voting rights based on the average turnover of an investor’s portfolio. If we want capitalism to focus on the long term, updating our notions of shareholder democracy in such ways will soon seem less like heresy and more like common sense.
While I remain convinced that capitalism is the economic system best suited to advancing the human condition, I’m equally persuaded that it must be renewed, both to deal with the stresses and volatility ahead and to restore business’s standing as a force for good, worthy of the public’s trust. The deficiencies of the quarterly capitalism of the past few decades were not deficiencies in capitalism itself—just in that particular variant. By rebuilding capitalism for the long term, we can make it stronger, more resilient, more equitable, and better able to deliver the sustainable growth the world needs. The three imperatives outlined above can be a start along this path and, I hope, a way to launch the conversation; others will have their own ideas to add.
The kind of deep-seated, systemic changes I’m calling for can be achieved only if boards, business executives, and investors around the world take responsibility for bettering the system they lead. Such changes will not be easy; they are bound to encounter resistance, and business leaders today have more than enough to do just to keep their companies running well. We must make the effort regardless. If capitalism emerges from the crisis vibrant and renewed, future generations will thank us. But if we merely paper over the cracks and return to our precrisis views, we will not want to read what the historians of the future will write. The time to reflect—and to act—is now.
Low Interest Rates and International Investment Position of USA
why long-term U.S. interest rates, as measured by the nominal yields of U.S. Treasury securities, have been persistently low and whether they are likely to remain low this year.
Fundamental economic forces are the key drivers of long-term rates. Long-term rates depend on
Federal Reserve monetary policy,
short-term interest rates,
actual and expected inflation,
economic growth and prospects,
and global financial flows.
Hence, a careful economic analysis of the economic fundamentals is essential to understand why nominal Treasury yields have stayed so low for so long.
From U.S. Long-Term Interest Rate Looks To Stay Low For Longer
From Secular drivers of the global real interest rate
Long-term real interest rates across the world have fallen by about 450 basis points over the past 30 years. The co-movement in rates across both advanced and emerging economies suggests a common driver: the global neutral real rate may have fallen. In this paper we attempt to identify which secular trends could have driven such a fall. Although there is huge uncertainty, under plausible assumptions we think we can account for around 400 basis points of the 450 basis points fall. Our quantitative analysis highlights slowing global growth as one force that may have pushed down on real rates recently, but shifts in saving and investment preferences appear more important in explaining the long-term decline. We think the global saving schedule has shifted out in recent decades due to demographic forces, higher inequality and to a lesser extent the glut of precautionary saving by emerging markets. Meanwhile, desired levels of investment have fallen as a result of the falling relative price of capital, lower public investment, and due to an increase in the spread between risk-free and actual interest rates. Moreover, most of these forces look set to persist and some may even build further. This suggests that the global neutral rate may remain low and perhaps settle at (or slightly below) 1% in the medium to long run. If true, this will have widespread implications for policymakers — not least in how to manage the business cycle if monetary policy is frequently constrained by the zero lower bound.
From INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL FLOWS AND U.S. INTEREST RATES Francis E. Warnock
In comparison, we know very little about the role of foreign flows in large developed economies. We aim to fill this gap by examining the impact of international capital flows on what is arguably the most important price in the U.S. economy—and possibly the world—that of the ten-year Treasury bond. Specifically, we ask to what extent foreign flows into U.S. bond markets can explain movements in long-term Treasury yields.
We address this issue at an important time. Two years ago, in the summer of 2003, short-term interest rates were very low and inflation was under control. Most models would have predicted very poor returns for U.S. bonds over the subsequent year or two.1 And, over the course of 2004, as inflation picked up, the Federal Reserve began a tightening cycle that raised short rates, and economic growth strengthened, many market observers predicted an increase in long-term U.S. interest rates that would result in substantial losses on bond positions (see, for example, Roach (2005)). Long-term interest rates have, however, remained quite low, and the bond market has held up at a time when many predicted subpar performance. The stubbornly low long rates have puzzled not only market participants and financial economists, but also policymakers. Might foreign flows help explain this puzzling behavior?
From INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL FLOWS AND U.S. INTEREST RATES Francis E. Warnock
Foreign official purchases of U.S. government bonds have an economically large and statistically significant impact on long-term interest rates. Federal Reserve credibility, as evidenced by dramatic reductions in both long-term inflation expectations and the volatility of long rates, contributed much to the decline of long rates in the 1990s. More recently, however, foreign flows have become important. Controlling for various factors given by a standard macroeconomic model, we estimate that had there been no foreign official flows into U.S. government bonds over the past year, the 10-year Treasury yield would currently be 90 basis points higher. Our results are robust to a number of alternative specifications.
From ABS Inflows to the United States and the Global Financial Crisis
The “global saving glut” (GSG) hypothesis argues that the surge in capital inflows from emerging market economies to the United States led to significant declines in long-term interest rates in the United States and other industrial economies. In turn, these lower interest rates, when combined with both innovations and deficiencies of the U.S. credit market, are believed to have contributed to the U.S. housing bubble and to the buildup in financial vulnerabilities that led to the financial crisis. Because the GSG countries for the most part restricted their U.S. purchases to Treasuries and Agency debt, their provision of savings to ultimately risky subprime mortgage borrowers was necessarily indirect, pushing down yields on safe assets and increasing the appetite for alternative investments on the part of other investors. We present a more complete picture of how capital flows contributed to the crisis, drawing attention to the sizable inflows from European investors into U.S. private-label asset-backed securities (ABS), including mortgage-backed securities and other structured investment products. By adding to domestic demand for private-label ABS, substantial foreign acquisitions of these securities contributed to the decline in their spreads over Treasury yields. Through a combination of empirical estimation and model simulation, we verify that both GSG inflows into Treasuries and Agencies, as well as European acquisitions of ABS, played a role in contributing to downward pressures on U.S. interest rates.
Gross capital flows tell the true story of which countries impact US economy. Some economists blame investments from China as a problem under Global Savings Glut hypothesis. See papers from Ben Bernanke and from R Caballero.
However, there are no studies I found which detail impact of Capital Outflows on US economic growth/ Investments/ and Interest Rates.
Please let me know if you know of any.
What is combined effect of Capital Inflows and Capital Outflows on US economic growth and short term and long term interest rates?
International Investment Position
The International Investment Position (IIP) is a statistical balance sheet that presents the dollar value of U.S. financial assets and liabilities with respect to foreign residents at a specific point in time. BEA presents IIP statistics at the end of a quarter or year (March, June, September, and December). For the June release, BEA also presents statistics on changes in the yearend position that are disaggregated into financial transactions and other changes in position.
The U.S. net international investment position is defined as the value of U.S. assets less the value of U.S. liabilities.
Components of IIP – Assets
IIP is a Stock position as compared to Capital Flow which is Flow variable. Changes in capital in flows and outflows during the year impact year end IIP. IIP indicates a cumulative effect (stock) of capital flows in an economy.
U.S. Net International Investment Position
Third Quarter 2016
The U.S. net international investment position increased to -$7,781.1 billion (preliminary) at the end of the third quarter of 2016 from -$8,026.9 billion (revised) at the end of the second quarter, according to statistics released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The $245.8 billion increase in the net investment position reflected a $346.2 billion increase in U.S. assets and a $100.5 billion increase in U.S. liabilities.
The net investment position increased 3.1 percent in the third quarter, compared with a decrease of 5.9 percent in the second quarter and an average quarterly decrease of 6.0 percent from the first quarter of 2011 through the first quarter of 2016.
U.S. assets increased $346.2 billion to $24,861.2 billion at the end of the third quarter, reflecting an increase in assets excluding financial derivatives that was partly offset by a decrease in financial derivatives.
Assets excluding financial derivatives increased $794.9 billion to $22,086.1 billion, mostly reflecting increases in portfolio investment and direct investment assets due to increases in foreign equity prices. Financial derivatives decreased $448.7 billion to $2,775.1 billion, mostly in single-currency interest rate contracts and in foreign exchange contracts.
U.S. liabilities increased $100.5 billion to $32,642.3 billion at the end of the third quarter, reflecting an increase in liabilities excluding financial derivatives that was partly offset by a decrease in financial derivatives.
Liabilities excluding financial derivatives increased $546.3 billion to $29,922.5 billion, reflecting increases in portfolio investment and direct investment liabilities due to financial transactions and increases in U.S. equity prices. Financial derivatives decreased $445.8 billion to $2,719.9 billion, mostly in single-currency interest rate contracts and in foreign exchange contracts.
Direct Investment & Multinational Enterprises (MNEs)
Balance of payments and direct investment position data cover transactions and positions between parent companies and their affiliates.
Data on activities of multinational enterprises provide a wide variety of indicators of the financial structure and operations of the firms involved.
U.S. direct investment abroad (outward direct investment) is ownership by a U.S. investor of at least 10 percent of a foreign business.
Foreign direct investment in the United States (inward direct investment) is ownership by a foreign investor of at least 10 percent of a U.S. business.
Direct Investment Position
Direct investment is a category of cross-border investment associated with a resident in one economy having control or a significant degree of influence on the management of an enterprise resident in another economy. Ownership or control of 10 percent or more of the nonresident entity’s voting securities is the threshold for separating direct investment from other types of investment. Direct investment positions include positions in equity and debt instruments. BEA’s IIP statistics feature the market value measure of direct investment positions, a measure that values owner’s equity at current-period prices using indexes of stock market prices.
Components of Direct Investment
Direct investment position include positions in equity and debt instruments.
Activities of U.S. Multinational Enterprises in the USA and Abroad
Key Sources of Research:
Direct Investment Positions for 2015 Country and Industry Detail