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Zillow’s Move Gives OpenDoor Technologies a Chance

The decision of Zillow Group (NASDAQ:Z) to back out of the home-flipping business and wind down Zillow Offers can either be a game-changer for Opendoor…

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The decision of Zillow Group (NASDAQ:Z) to back out of the home-flipping business and wind down Zillow Offers can either be a game-changer for Opendoor  (NASDAQ:OPEN) stock, or it can be an example that something is fundamentally wrong in the iBuying business.

The Opendoor (OPEN) website is open on a smartphone that is resting on top of a map.Source: Tada Images / Shutterstock.com

In business, a decision by one of your direct competitors can either benefit or hurt your economic viability.

It can also define the future of your business model and its performance.

In this article, I will mostly focus on the risks and opportunities that Open Technologies has to offer.

As a digital platform for residential real estate in the United States, Open Technologies enables consumers to buy and sell a home online. And I will start with a very quick note on the fundamentals of OPEN stock.

OPEN Stock: The Most important Concept

Any business has only one major goal, to be profitable and to maximize profitability if possible. In the short-run economics, analysis dictates that you can run a business with losses, however — in the long run, this trend is not sustainable.

Moreover, Opendoor Technologies has not been profitable for the past three consecutive years. In 2018-2020, on its first core business, it had a negative operating income, and secondly, it had net losses after taking into consideration other accounts on the income statement.

When net losses are followed by a sharp decline in revenue for 2020 of about 45%, worries are fully justified about the performance of Opendoor Technologies’ business model and the effect it might have on OPEN stock.

Zillow’s Decision

Zillow recently took a bold, but fully justified decision, to back out of the home-flipping business and to wind down Zillow Offers. Why bold? It has built over the past years a business model entirely based on the idea of flipping homes, becoming an iBuyer.

Why fully justified? Because it lost money. So it was a matter of time to decide to terminate its instant-buying (iBuying) division for the rest of the year.

Why do I consider it to be a huge lesion for Outdoor? Simply because Opendoor runs a similar approach to Zillow, it is an iBuyer. Therefore, my argument is that, if something did not work out for one of your largest competitors, then it may be a good idea now to evaluate what went wrong for your competitor.

What is iBuying?

“The iBuyer model is an instant method of buying and selling homes that is revolutionizing the real estate market.”

In a nutshell, iBuyer.com says that “iBuyer stands for Instant Buyer. In technical terms, the iBuyer model uses artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver home value. Using data about your property and mathematical algorithms, the iBuyer generates an automated valuation model (AVM) that gives you an instant all-cash offer. The iBuyer then makes any repairs, markets the house, and re-sells it.”

If Outdoor implements a business model that does not have any of the structural problems that lead Zillow into severe financial trouble, it can gain a larger market share and thrive in its business.

But what are the risks to avoid now?

  • AI and price forecasting volatility
  • Macroeconomic uncertainty
  • Labor shortage
  • Supply vs demand equilibrium
  • High competition from the traditional market
  • A capital and labor-intensive industry

Takeaway

Now, what Opendoor needs mostly is not to make Zillow’s mistake. It needs a large inventory of houses to sell, and hope that their prices will go up to make a profit. Hoping and wishful thinking are hardly traits that make a business a successful one.

With the U.S real estate market booming and the average sales price of houses sold to be in a strong uptrend — what could threaten the health of the housing market?

With the current sales price for houses, the fears of a bubble and rising interest rates will make mortgages more expensive — a possible economic slowdown in the growth of the U.S economy.

But if I had to choose a specific factor that did not work for Zillow and Opendoor — it would be to focus on the price forecasting volatility and the AI data.

I will end this article with a quote by Steve Jobs, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

For now, Opendoor needs to grab this opportunity and deliver positive financial results when Zillow quits leasing houses.

On the date of publication, Stavros Georgiadis, CFA  did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Stavros Georgiadis is a CFA charter holder, an Equity Research Analyst, and an Economist. He focuses on U.S. stocks and has his own stock market blog at thestockmarketontheinternet.com/. He has written in the past various articles for other publications and can be reached on Twitter and on LinkedIn.   

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Economics

Are These The Charts That Spooked Jerome Powell?

#CKStrong Fed Chair, Jerome Powell finally admitted today there is too much stimulus demand (in the macro context) in the global economy and the Fed will…

#CKStrong

Fed Chair, Jerome Powell finally admitted today there is too much stimulus demand (in the macro context) in the global economy and the Fed will have to accelerate its tapering.

The following charts clearly illustrate the U.S. economy is overheating and a major contributing factor to inflation. Nominal retail sales and core capital good shipments remain 15 percent above and years ahead of their pre-COVID trend. Think of the trend line as the supply curve.

In hindsight, it is easy to say the global policymakers overshot with their stimulus, but it is certainly better than the alternative and a deep recession/depression.  Just as you and I, policymakers make decisions with imperfect information.  Counterfactuals don’t go a long way in the political arena.

We think it is about time the FOMC finally starts to focus on the problems caused by the “monetary supply chain,” rather than blaming the economic imbalances on “supply chain issues,” and it appears they have. If demand were not so strong, the supply chain issues would have worked themselves long ago, and the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach wouldn’t look the 405 freeway during rush hour.   

As reflected in the charts below, the supply chain broke early during the pandemic as upstream suppliers were “bullwhipped” by the massive volatility in point-of-sale or end demand.

We believe the next inflection point, where the Fed keeps tapering and then tightening until something breaks, which leads to reversal and a new monetary regimes, is a long way off.

Stay tuned.



Author: macromon

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Economics

Financial Markets and Omicron and Powell

Five year inflation breakeven (unadjusted) down, 10yr-3mo term spread down, VIX and EPU up, and S&P 500 down. Figure 1: Five year inflation breakeven…

Five year inflation breakeven (unadjusted) down, 10yr-3mo term spread down, VIX and EPU up, and S&P 500 down.

Figure 1: Five year inflation breakeven (blue), ten year – three month Treasury spread (red), both %. Source: Treasury via FRED, and author’s calculations.

Ignoring adjustments for inflation risk term and liquidity premia, implied expected 5 year inflation is down to 2.8%, while growth prospects also revert back to September levels.

Figure 2: VIX (blue, left scale), and Economic Policy Uncertainty index (red, right scale).  Source: CBOE via FRED, policyuncertainty.com.

Risk and policy uncertainty are also at recent highs, but still are dwarfed by Trump era highs (83 for VIX at 27.2; 862 for EPU at 180 on 11/29).

Figure 3: S&P 500 index (blue, log scale). Source: S&P via FRED. 

Given this backdrop (lower expectations for growth and presumably profits, due to Omicron, and higher interest rates from Powell’s statement re: inflation persistence), it’s not surprising to see a drop in stock indices.




Author: Menzie Chinn

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Economics

Retailers Open Pop-Up Container Yards To Bypass Savannah Port Jams

Retailers Open Pop-Up Container Yards To Bypass Savannah Port Jams

By Eric Kulisch of American Shipper,

Overflow lots set up by large retailers…

Retailers Open Pop-Up Container Yards To Bypass Savannah Port Jams

By Eric Kulisch of American Shipper,

Overflow lots set up by large retailers this month as temporary staging areas for imported containers have helped bring down congestion levels at the Port of Savannah, and Georgia officials expect further efficiency gains with this week’s opening of two more port-sponsored pop-up sites.

The Georgia Ports Authority, in partnership with the Norfolk Southern, will start accepting loaded containers on Monday at the freight railroad’s nearby Dillon Yard and later this week will begin routing shipping units to a general aviation airport in Statesboro, located about 60 miles west of Savannah, Chief Operating Officer Ed McCarthy told FreightWaves.

Moving containers to off-port properties is part of the recently announced South Atlantic Supply Chain Relief Program designed to reclaim space at the Garden City Terminal, where container crowding is making it difficult for vessels to unload and for stacking equipment and trucks to maneuver. In October, Savannah handled an all-time record of 504,350 twenty-foot equivalent units for a single month, an increase of 8.7% over October 2020. The volume surpassed the GPA’s previous record of 498,000 TEUs set in March.

Port officials began testing the Dillon Yard and Statesboro locations last week after renting top loaders for stacking and truck transfers, installing computer lines in order to track containers entering the gate with radio frequency identification, and laying extra pavement at the rail facility, McCarthy said. 

Four or five more pop-up container facilities are scheduled to open around Georgia by mid-December and the port authority is talking with freight railroad CSX about an auxiliary storage site in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the COO said in an interview. 

The sites are mini-versions of inland ports where containers are brought to strategically located sites by intermodal rail, shortening the distance trucks have to travel to collect imports or drop off exports and reducing traffic in and around busy seaports. The concept essentially brings the seaport closer to manufacturing, agriculture and population centers. 

The GPA currently operates a large inland intermodal rail terminal in Murray County, Georgia, as well as an inland dry bulk facility. Construction on a second inland rail link for containerized cargo in northeast Georgia is scheduled to begin in April and be completed by mid- to late 2024, spokesman Robert Morris said. South Carolina also operates two inland ports, Virginia has one in the northwestern part of the state and the Port of Long Beach in California recently launched an effort to quickly flow cargo to Utah for distribution by converting truck traffic to rail.

Several users of the Port of Savannah this month have opened pop-up yards of their own where they can directly flow import containers to avoid waiting for longshoremen to sort through shipping units for their cargo and then retrieve them when space opens at one of their distribution centers. Each of the private spillover yards can accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 containers. 

“We’re starting to see some of our customer base do their own pop-ups. They’re contracting with some folks who have capabilities in the Savannah region and … taking their long-term destiny in their own hands,” McCarthy said in an interview.

The Rocky Mount intermodal facility being discussed with CSX will probably be used as an alternative storage location for empty containers. It could be running by early December, the COO said. Whether containers are diverted from other locations or whether empties are loaded up in Savannah and sent there remains to be determined. 

The Biden administration, which is focused on alleviating a nationwide supply chain crisis that is creating product shortages and contributing to inflation, helped fund the GPA’s emergency storage yards by reallocating $8 million in federal funds. Additional flexibility recently granted by the Department of Transportation allows port authorities to redirect cost savings from previous projects funded by port infrastructure grants toward mitigating truck, rail and terminal delays that are preventing the swift evacuation of containers from ports.

White House port envoy John Porcari, the liaison between industry and the White House Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, said the government is looking to create more inland ports. 

“We’re encouraging other ports to do the same [thing as Savannah.] I think you’ll see a generation of projects in the short term around the country that will help maximize the existing on-dock capacity through interior pop-up sites,” Porcari said on Bloomberg’s “Odd Lots” podcast last week. 

“The fundamental issue is that the docks themselves are such valuable pieces of real estate that you don’t want the containers dwelling there a second longer than you have to. You want to get them to the interior or back on ships to their target markets overseas,” he said.

Better Fluidity

Improvements in rail handling, a dip in import volumes in line with seasonal patterns and the customer pop-up yards have combined to improve cargo flow and reduce the number of ships waiting for a berth at the Port of Savannah, McCarthy said. 

The port authority released an operations update last week showing the average dwell time for a container moving by rail after vessel unloading is two days, and that the average resting time within the terminal for import and export containers is about eight days, down from 11 and 10 days, respectively. The backlog of empty containers remains a problem, with boxes lingering an average of 17.8 days.

The improved performance is helping personnel work vessels faster and reduce Savannah’s cargo backlog. The number of ships at anchor in the Atlantic Ocean declined to 15 as of Monday morning from 22 two weeks ago, Morris said. There were 24 container vessels at anchor in mid-October. Total containers on the terminal also declined 13% and are down 16% from the peak of 85,000, according to the update.

McCarthy said there are about 225,000 TEUs currently on the water, a 10% to 12% reduction from early November that indicates “we are over the hump of the peak season.”

Last week, ocean carrier CMA CGM said its Liberty Bridge service from northern Europe to the U.S. East Coast would temporarily skip Savannah due to the congestion. According to the revised schedule, seven stops between late December and early February will be omitted. Shippers can send Savannah cargo to the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, until then, it said.

The GPA also noted that providers have increased the supply of chassis, the wheeled frames on which containers rest when pulled by truck, and are increasingly able to repair more chassis to help meet demand for cargo deliveries.

Mason Rail Terminal expansion. (Source: Georgia Ports Authority)

The Port of Savannah increased its near-dock rail capacity by 30% with the commissioning two weeks ago of a second set of nine tracks at the Mason Mega Rail Terminal. The port moved 550,000 containers by rail last year and now has more than 2 million TEUs of capacity with an eye toward future growth. The ability to discharge cargo from a vessel and ship it out by train in less than two days is best in class for the U.S., McCarthy noted.

A huge new container yard will come online in phases starting in December and culminate with about 820,000 TEUs of additional capacity by March. The project includes rubber-tired gantry cranes for sorting, stacking and transferring containers.

Construction of another berth is underway and scheduled to be complete in 2023.

Meanwhile, the federal dredging project to deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet (54 feet at high tide) is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2022. It has already allowed vessels with deeper drafts to enter the port, McCarthy said. The deepening translates to about 200 extra loaded containers per foot and a total of 1,000 per vessel when the project is finished.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 11/30/2021 – 19:45

Author: Tyler Durden

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