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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Ford: Rocketing reputation

Nir Kossovsky - Thursday, April 08, 2010
The results are in and jaws are agape. Heroes are tarnished, the low are elevated, and we have a new crop of villains to talk about. Of course, were referring to the Harris Reputation Quotient.

The Harris organization released their 2009 rankings earlier this week. Based on interviews and other processes in the first weeks of 2010, this is one of the most widely watched reputation metrics.

One surprise is that Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) took the top spot from frequent top scorer Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). Of course, the latter had a reputation run in with both FDA and the US Justice Department earlier this year that appears to have cost them reputationally.

A true bright spot in the study belongs to Ford (NYSE:F), whose RQ score increased by 11.28 points from 2008, the largest single year improvement in the past nine years. Readers of the Mission:Intangible blog saw this coming with our post in April 2009. The major turning point for Ford was 30 October 2009. Below we paste the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index rankings for Ford relative to its 9 automotive peers. Compared with the fortunes of GM, Chrysler and Toyota (NYSE:TM), Ford is flying. Its rankings climbed from the 33rd to the 87th percentile.

But even compared with the reputation metrics of the largest public companies with values $50B and greater shown in the chart below, Ford is clearly rocketing. Among these 85 peers, Ford climbed from the 2nd percentile to the 29th percentile. Not to take a shine off its product, but corporate reputation in this instance clearly benefitted from a period ROE of some 230%. Alas, this is all so 2009.

Which leads us to assert, with restrained hubris, that the Harris Reputation Quotient is a lagging indicator of reputation relative to the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index. Really.

Government motors, not! (and we'll prove it)

Nir Kossovsky - Friday, October 09, 2009
Ninety days ago today, on 10 July, General Motors (fomerly NYSE:GM) emerged from bankruptcy. At an auto show this past weekend, Robert Lutz, the ‘new”  General Motors vice chairman of marketing and communications, said, “The world does not realize how great today’s GM products are." Lutz said GM is not afraid to back up those comments. He is heading the team that has started a new “may the best car win” ad campaign, “Our products are equal or superior to the competitors.”

While some members of our Society may know much about cars, as a group we share common interest in the concepts of quality and reputation, and we recognize that communications are an integral step in the process by which stakeholders form impressions that culminate in a company's reputation. In view of Bob Lutz's challenge, we thought it would be interesting to baseline business sentiment in the media covering the Automotive sector. As before, we use use the Financial Times' Newssift engine for the sentiment analysis.

We searched for articles in the business press covering both reputation and one of these five automobile companies: General Motors (GM), Ford (NYSE:F), Toyota (NYSE:TM), Honda (NYSE:HMC), and Daimler (NYSE:DAI). We broke down the data into the 90 days prior to GM's emergence from bankruptcy, and the 90 days following, and using the Newssift engine, sorted articles by sentiment: positive, neutral, or negative. Here are the results.

With respect to business press articles that had a positive angle, GM and Daimler showed little change. Positive articles comprised about 1/3 and 1/2 of the news stories, respectively. Positive articles about Ford and Toyota increased from about 1/3 to nearly 1/2. Positive articles about Honda dropped from nearly 1/2 to less than 1/4, although the total number of articles about Honda in each case, 25, is small compared to the total of 1139 articles analyzed.

With respect to business press articles that had a negative angle, GM and Daimler again showed little change at around 20% and 11% respectively. Negative articles about Ford dropped from 25% to 13%; they rose for Toyota from 13% to 20%. At Honda, they remained the same at 4% which represented only one article for each period. For those of you keeping score in the reputation sweepstakes, the current winner following GM's emergence from bankruptcy is Ford.


Turning now to the economic returns over the 180-day period, looking at the chart adapted from BigCharts.com, so far Ford is leading with an ROE of about 70% followed by Daimler at 40%. The S&P500 is up about 20%. As they say in the business, the race is on. And as Bob Lutz says, may the best car company win. Stay tuned.

Fast lane

Nir Kossovsky - Thursday, September 17, 2009
As he made his way here to Pittsburgh, home of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, to address a gathering of union leaders on Tuesday, US President Obama stopped by a General Motors plant in Ohio, where he said the government’s intervention in the automobile industry “may not have been popular,” but helped jumpstart the struggling sector. Let’s take a closer look at the sector from the Society’s perspective.

Let's first look at the reputation metrics from the Steel City Re IA (Corporate Reputation) Index? from 22 April when we last looked at this sector. The Index, which correlates with reputation surveys such as those published by Forbes, Fortune, and Harris Interactive, captures the financial implications of stakeholder behaviors and expectations of stakeholder behaviors as determined by corporate reputation. The Index is a good leading indicator of financial performance and returns on equity.

At that time, Ford (NYSE:F) showed a rising IA index and decreasing EWMA IA Index volatility with a final log magnitude of 2 while GM (NYSE:GM) showed opposite directional movements and a final volatility log magnitude of 3. From these data, we projected great financial results for the former, and ongoing dismal financial results for the latter.  Honda (NYSE:HMC) was our highest ranked automotive firm on 22 April.

Let’s see how those financial projections panned out as demonstrated in these graphs from BigCharts.com.

Since April, Ford has returned nearly 100% on equity; GM has lost nearly 65%, and Honda (which had returned 45% for the year until 22 April) still had some firepower left and continued to move upwards, but underperformed the S&P500 for this period.

If we take the long view of a 2-year return, Honda just barely beats Ford but is in negative territory; both outshine the S&P500 which is about 30% off from the 2007 peak, and GM is, well, "underperforming."

Let's wrap this up with an homage to reputation management. Kudos to Ford for demonstrating the power of reputation mangement, and its ability to create value on the basis of expectations of further great things to come. This type of financial result is exactly what the Society seeks to promote. And kudos to Honda for demonstrating the power of a superior reputation to forge resilience. This type of financial resilience is exactly what the Society hopes will motivate companies to exercise best practices in the management of their intangible assets.

A tale of two chassis

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Over the past year, the monolithic big three US auto companies have resolved into their individual identities revealing, a rising Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and a sinking General Motors Corporation (NYSE:GM). Among the 11 companies that comprise the Automobiles sector, Ford has outperformed its peers by 6.23% while GM has underperformed by 44.9%.

Looking at the reputation metrics from the Steel City Re Intangible Asset Finance (corporate reputation) Index below, Ford shows a rising IA index and decreasing EWMA IA Index volatility with a final log magnitude of 2 while GM shows opposite directional movements and a final volatility log magnitude of 3. Our question to you - what business processes do you think are the most important drivers of corporate reputation in this sector: safety, innovation, quality, sustainability, ethics or other?  We look forward to hearing from you on this blog (post a note) or email the Society at secretariat@iafinance.org.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the number 1 ranked firm in this sector as of 17 April is Honda Motor Company Ltd (NYSE:HMC) with a return on equity this past year of 45%.

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