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Visualizing Major Tech Acquisitions (1991-2018)

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Launch the interactive version below, or go to our story for simpler, static images

Interactive: Visualizing Major Tech Acquisitions (1991-2018)

To stay successful in tech, companies must find a way to walk alongside the cutting edge of innovation.

Companies do this partially by devoting a large portion of their resources towards research and development (R&D) – but to hedge their bets, these companies also are in constant negotiations to gobble up new startups that could be strategic to their futures.

In this giant game of Pac-Man, most of the acquisitions are small and sequential, just like the dots that make up the arcade game’s classic maze. That said, sometimes these tech giants get lucky, such as in Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, and buyouts turn into power-ups that can change the dynamics of the game entirely.

Tech Acquisitions by Company

Today’s interactive infographic comes to us from IG and it allows you to compare the tech acquisitions made by dominant companies such as Facebook, Apple, IBM, or Cisco.

Acquisitions can be sorted by industry filters (i.e. e-commerce, security, etc.) and different acquiring companies can be switched in. There are also different tabs that show total M&A expenditures by company, M&A activity by CEO, and frequency of acquisitions measured in quantity per year.

The Big Picture

Before we go into specific acquisitions, let’s look at the big picture using images pulled from the interactive version of the graphic.

Here is a comparison of the number of acquisitions made since 1991, for each major company on the list:

Number of tech acquisitions

Google has made the most acquisitions, averaging about 10 to 11 per year. That adds up to a total of 214 since the company was founded.

Tech acquisitions by dollar amount

Interestingly, while Google has had the most acquisitions, it only ranks in 6th out of this group in terms of dollars spent. Giants like Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM may make fewer acquisitions, but the companies they do buy tend to be more established with higher valuations.

As an example of this: Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion. That’s more than Amazon has spent on all of its acquisitions (including Whole Foods) combined.

The Big Five

Finally, here’s a comparison of the big five – Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google (Alphabet) – which are also the five largest companies by market capitalization in the United States.

The Big Five Tech Companies

On the interactive version, it’s possible to highlight each acquisition to get the deal value and company name.

But, even on the static version above, it’s noticeable that each of the Big Five has made at least one real sizable acquisition. Those are the circles that stand out the most on the timeline:

  • 2011: Google buys Motorola for $12.5 billion
  • 2014: Facebook buys WhatsApp for $19 billion, and Apple buys Beats for $3 billion
  • 2016: Microsoft buys LinkedIn for $26.2 billion
  • 2017: Amazon buys Whole Foods for $13.7 billion

The gobbling activity for these Big Five has continued into 2018, as well.

In fact, just in June 2018, Microsoft announced the acquisition of code repository GitHub for $7.5 billion. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

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How China Overtook the U.S. as the World’s Major Trading Partner

China has become the world’s major trading partner – and now, 128 of 190 countries trade more with China than they do with the United States.

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How China Overtook the U.S. As the World’s Trade Partner

In 2018, trade accounted for 59% of global GDP, up nearly 1.5 times since 1980.

Over this timeframe, international trade has transformed significantly—not just in terms of volume and composition, but also in terms of the countries that the rest of the world leans on for their most important trade relationships.

Now, a critical shift is occurring in the landscape, and it may surprise you to learn that China has already usurped the U.S. as the world’s most dominant trading partner.

Trading Places: A Global Shift

Today’s animation comes from the Lowy Institute, and it pulls data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) database on bilateral trade flows, to determine whether the U.S. or China is a bigger trading partner for each country from 1980 to 2018.

The results are stark: before 2000, the U.S. was at the helm of global trade, as over 80% of countries traded with the U.S. more than they did with China. By 2018, that number had dropped sharply to just 30%, as China swiftly took top position in 128 of 190 countries.

The researchers pinpoint China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization as a major turning point in China’s international trade relationships. The dramatic shift that followed is clearly demonstrated in the visualization above—between 2005 and 2010, a number of countries tipped towards Chinese influence, especially in Africa and Asia.

Over time, China’s dominance has grown dramatically. It’s no wonder then, that China and the U.S. have a contentious trade relationship themselves, as both nations battle it out for first place.

A Tale of Two Economies

The United States and China are competitors in many ways, but to be successful they must rely on each other for mutually beneficial trade. However, it’s also the major issue on which they are struggling to reach a common ground.

The U.S. has been vocal about negotiating more balanced trade agreements with China. In fact, a mid-2018 poll shows that 62% of Americans consider their trade relationship with China to be unfair.

Since 2018, both parties have faced a fraught relationship, imposing major tariffs on consumer and industrial goods—and retaliations are reaching greater and greater heights:

trade war china us

While a delicate truce has been reached at the moment, the trade war has caused a significant drag on global growth, and the World Bank estimates it will continue to have an effect into 2021.

At the same time, China’s sphere of influence continues to grow.

One Belt, One Road, One Trade Direction?

China seems to have a finger in every pie. The nation is financing a flurry of megaprojects across Asia and Africa—but one broader initiative stands above the rest.

China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative, planned for a 2049 completion, is advancing at a furious pace. In 2019 alone, Chinese companies signed contracts worth up to $128 billion to start Chinese large-scale infrastructure projects in various countries.

While building new highways and ports abroad is beneficial for Chinese financiers, OBOR is also about creating new markets and trade routes for Chinese goods in Asia. Recent research found that the OBOR program’s infrastructure expansion and logistics performance improvements led to positive effects on China’s exports.

Nevertheless, it’s clear the new infrastructure network is already transforming global trade, possibly cementing China’s position as the world’s major trading partner for years to come.

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Visualizing the Expanse of the ETF Universe

The global ETF universe has grown to be worth $5.75 trillion — here’s how the assets break down by type, sector, and investment focus.

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Visualizing the Expanse of the ETF Universe

View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here.

Under the right circumstances, an innovation can scale and flourish.

Within the financial realm, there is perhaps no better example of this than the introduction of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), a new financial technology that emerged out of the index investing phenomenon of the early 1990s.

Since the establishment of the first U.S. ETF in 1993, the financial instrument has gained broad traction — and today, the ETF universe has an astonishing $5.75 trillion in assets under management (AUM), covering almost every niche imaginable.

Navigating the ETF Universe

Today’s data visualization comes to us from iShares by BlackRock, and it visualizes the wide scope of assets covered by the ETF universe.

To start, let’s look at a macro breakdown of the “galaxies” that can be found in the universe:

 Global ETFs (AUM, $USD)Share of Global Total
All ETFs$5.75 trillion100.00%
Equities$4.39 trillion76.4%
Bonds$1.12 trillion19.5%
Alternative$0.20 trillion3.5%
Money market$0.04 trillion0.6%

As you can see, equities are by far the largest galaxy in the ETF universe, making up 76.4% of all assets. These clusters likely comprise the ETFs you are most familiar with — for example, funds that track the S&P 500 index or foreign markets.

That said, it’s worth noting that the fastest expanding galaxy is bond ETFs, tracking indices related to the debt issued by governments and corporations. The first bond ETFs were introduced in 2002, and since then the category has grown into a market that exceeds $1 trillion in AUM. Bond ETFs are expected to surpass the $2 trillion mark by 2024.

Everything Under the Sun

While the sheer scale of the ETF universe is captivating, it’s the variety that shows you how ubiquitous the instrument has become.

Today, there are over 8,000 ETFs globally, covering nearly every asset class imaginable. Here are some of the lesser-known and more peculiar corners in the ETF universe:

Thematic ETFs: Gaining popularity in recent years, thematic ETFs are built around long-term trends such as climate change or rapid urbanization. By having more tangible focus points, these funds can also appeal to younger generations of investors.

Contrarian ETFs: In a healthy market, there can be a variety of different positions being taken by investors. Contrarian ETFs help to make this possible, allowing investors to bet against the “herd”.

Factor-based ETFs: This approach uses a rules-based system for selecting investments in the fund portfolio, based on factors typically associated with higher returns such as value, small-caps, momentum, low volatility, quality, or yield.

Global Macro ETFs: Some ETFs are designed to mimic strategies used by hedge fund managers. One example of such a strategy is global macro, which aims to analyze the macroeconomic environment, while taking corresponding long and short positions in various equity, fixed income, currency, commodities, and futures markets.

Commodity ETFs: There are ETFs that track gold or oil, sometimes even storing physical inventories. Interestingly, however, there are commodity ETFs for even more obscure metals and agricultural products, such as zinc, lean hogs, tin, or cocoa beans.

Whether your investments track popular market indices or you are more surgical about your portfolio exposure, the ETF universe is impressively vast — and it’s projected to keep expanding in size and diversity for years to come.

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