A number of international, multi-billion dollar acquisitions of patents is probably the start of a new investment trend as companies begin to realize the value of patents.
This is according to Chris Bull, director at ENS says we are starting to see stock markets “tune in” to the value of patents.
“In our view boards of directors of listed and private companies are going to have to engage more actively on the issue of intellectual property. They are going to have to demonstrate how they are creating additional value for their shareholders from active intellectual property management. Without this shareholders are right to complain that value is being left on the boardroom table,” he says.
Big deals in the pipeline
He refers to deals such as AOL’s sale of 800 patents to Microsoft for $1 billion dollars which had echoes of Google’s acquisition of Motorola for $12,5 billion is the first of many such deals.
In the case of the AOL and Google deals, Bull says both transactions involved companies that had been losers in recent years in the competitive world of modern media and high technology and both transactions also involved companies that appreciate the importance and value of holding strong portfolios of intellectual property.
However, according to Bull, South African companies are unlikely to be able to benefit from this trend as few hold patent portfolios large enough to have “residual” patent portfolios with substantial value. “The challenge inSouth Africastill remains one of raising the awareness that patents can add substantially to the overall value of a business. All this starts with a conscious effort to actively manage intellectual property. This awareness needs to be driven by the board and senior management of companies.”
Bull explains the different mindset in the case of Google’s acquisition of Motorolla patents. He says analysts and rivals of Google were quick to appreciate Google’s motivation behind its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone maker.
“It hinges to a large extent on the patents held by Motorola. Google faced lawsuits from its rivals Microsoft and Apple over the successful launch of its Android mobile phone software. In this battle Google needed to give itself leverage against its rivals. Motorola offered Google this leverage in that Motorola had a formidable portfolio of patents, arising from Motorola’s once strong position in mobile phone technology,” he says.
A new tech bubble
According to Bull, Motorola’s market position had declined in recent years relative to its competitors and it is estimated that it held only 4% of the global market for smart phones. “However, despite its decline in market share Motorola still held a prime position in the world of patents, with its patents remaining central to much of the technology that is used in mobiles,” he says.
Bull says valuing intangible assets like patents depends on a wide range of issues, not least of which is the strategic value to the buyer. “Motorola held 17 000 patents, which apart from being a large portfolio is also of high quality with key industry patents in the portfolio,” says Bull.
According to Bull, current market trends would value portfolios such as the Motorola portfolio at approximately $250 000 per patent. However, Google paid substantially more than this at an average of approximately $350 000 per patent. According to Bull this is by no means at the upper end of the range for recent patent transactions. He refers to the sale of 6 000 patents from Nortel to a consortium led by Apple and Microsoft where the price was $750 000 per patent.
Based on these examples, Bull says there is speculation that these sorts of transactions point to a new kind of tech bubble – a Patent Bubble. However, Bull argues that this is not the case as the range of values that are being derived from large, well-positioned patent portfolios is consistent with valuations that have been achieved over the last decade.
Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
Herman Mashaba To Talk On City Of Jo’burg Job Creation Initiative
Herman Mashaba to talk on City of Jo’burg job creation initiative at 2019 Business Day TV SME Summit.
Leading organisations at the SME Summit
SME Insurance Checklist For New Year
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers, advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies.
Business owners who are planning for the year ahead should not overlook the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered against insurable risks.
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, every year businesses face unique challenges ranging from credit and market risks, technological disruptions, compliance, operational and regulatory risks, amongst others. As a matter of precaution, insurance policies should at least be reviewed or updated once a year.
He advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies:
- Employee movements – if there are any employees who have left or joined the company, ensure that your policy is updated accordingly.
This type of cover normally depends on the role and contribution of the employee to the business. For instance, directors may be covered for Key Person Insurance and Directors & Officers Liability insurance.
- Protest Actions – this year is the national election year and leading up to elections we can expect to see an increase in the frequency and severity of protest actions, riots and strikes. Thus, it is essential to ensure that adequate special risks cover is in place from the South African Special Risks Insurance Association (SASRIA).
SASRIA provides cover to both individuals and businesses against special risks like civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism at affordable premiums.
- Cyber risks – it is essential to communicate with your insurer or broker and find out if there are any new risks that your business should be protected against. Cyber incidents continue to be a major risk for businesses especially in the SME sector. Over the last couple of years there has been a major increase in the number of reported cyber incidences.
More businesses are now facing increased cyber threats due to their increased dependency on technology, relating to their internal and customer data being compromised by fraudsters. It is therefore essential to have some form of cyber risk insurance cover and/or enhancement of data security protocols.
- Regulatory changes – every year there are a number of regulatory changes that impact businesses directly or indirectly, which may result in fines and penalties for non-compliance.
- Natural catastrophes – the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, coupled with intensifying natural catastrophes will continue to have a significant impact on businesses.
Businesses should ensure they are adequately protected against these risks to avoid incurring sever financial losses.
- Business changes – should a business consider moving to a new location, purchasing new premises or venture into new business activities, these types of changes could have a major impact on its risks profile. As a result, the policy needs to be updated accordingly.
- New and Enhanced products – An innovative culture has taken over the insurance industry and ever so often we see the introduction of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Get in touch with you broker to advise you on any new products that might add value to your existing insurance portfolio.
“Reviewing your policy regularly gives you peace of mind knowing that you can focus on running your business effectively, without worrying about unforeseen risks,” concludes Maupa.
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