A capital feast is about to begin, and some people are ready to move. “An institution with Ant Financial Services launches new projects with a subscription fee of 2%, a management fee of 2%, and a profit share of 20%. What do you think?” someone asked in a stock community. The person who asked the question was obviously a bit entangled. It was not because he was afraid to start. On the contrary, he was worried that he could not get enough shares. “Don’t subscribe for 1 million. The subscription fee was paid for 20,000. In the end, only a little bit was won.”
In the recent period, the frequency of the word “new hits” in the workplace has increased significantly. In the context of the general rise of global technology stocks, new stocks have become savory, and winning the lottery is the winning. So whenever news of new stocks comes out, people look out for the wind.
In late August, Ant Group, which was repeatedly reported about listing news, finally announced the submission of listing applications to the Shanghai Stock Exchange Science and Technology Innovation Board and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
As it claims to be the world’s largest IPO, Ant Group’s listing is like throwing a boulder into the heart of a lake, causing waves in the market, which has moved many people.
From all aspects, Ant Group is a very high-quality company: its main product, Alipay, has more than 1 billion annual active users, the company’s annual revenue exceeds 100 billion, and profits are tens of billions, ranking first on the financial technology track.
With the combination of these factors, it is not surprising that the market value of ants will exceed 200 billion US dollars (about 1.37 trillion yuan).
But for ants, it is not only a glorious side. The market is changing rapidly and risks are everywhere. Even giant crocodiles dare not take it lightly.
In the prospectus, Ant Group’s description of risk factors is as many as 40 pages, involving seven major aspects such as business, law, finance, and technology. If any of these risk factors actually occurs, it will be enough to cause a serious blow to Ant Group. .
Behind the giant ant, there are anxiety, troubles and challenges.
Fortunately, Ant Group is in China’s rapidly developing economy. There are still many opportunities that come along with the challenges, and the best way to eliminate the troubles is to let growth speak for themselves.
The ants on the IPO are more important to tell the story of future growth.
From the valuation of 50 billion US dollars to today or over 200 billion US dollars, Ant Group only spent four years.
The main reason supporting Ant’s valuation surge is the rapid growth of its business. From the perspective of income, in 2017, 2018, and 2019, Ant Group’s revenue was 65.396 billion yuan, 85.722 billion yuan, and 120.618 billion yuan, with an annual growth rate of more than 30%. Net profit also increased from 6.95 billion yuan to 16.957 billion yuan.
But can such strong growth be sustainable? Facts show that Ant Group has shown signs of slowing down in user growth and its main business.
The prospectus shows that from the end of 2017 to the end of 2019, Alipay’s monthly active population increased from 499 million to 659 million, and this number was 711 million by June 2020.
However, the growth rate during this period was uneven. Among them, the monthly active users of Ant in 2018 increased by 24% year-on-year, and in 2019 it only increased by 7% year-on-year.
And how did the 24% user growth in 2018 come about? Two words-burning money.
The prospectus shows that in 2018, Ant Group made a large-scale investment in promotion and advertising. The annual sales cost reached 47.35 billion yuan, accounting for 55.2% of the year’s revenue. It gained 119 million new Alipay monthly active users. ; The sales expenses invested by Ant Group in 2019 are 18.05 billion yuan, and the number of new Alipay monthly active users is 41 million.
Such a huge investment even made the Ant Group almost fall into a loss that year.
According to the 2018 Alibaba financial report, Ant Financial’s pre-tax losses in the first and third quarters of 2018 reached 1.901 billion yuan and 2.427 billion yuan respectively. The reason for the loss was “In the first quarter of 2018, Ant Financial continued to increase investment, thereby achieving strong user acquisition and participation. These investments led to a net loss of Ant Financial this quarter.” In the end, the profit in 2018 was only 667 million yuan, a decrease of 90% from 2017.
In the eyes of the outside world, this method of burning money is obviously unsustainable. Recently, this question was mentioned in the inquiry letter of the Shanghai Stock Exchange. “Does Ant Group need to rely on continuous sales investment in exchange for active users? Active users’ loyalty? Does it need to rely on regular large-scale sales input to stimulate and consolidate?”
Ant Group responded that the company’s higher sales expenses in 2018 were due to strategic investment, rather than periodic passive recurrences. In 2019 and January to June this year, active users continued to be active despite the reduction in sales expenses. Steady growth, so there is no situation where active user loyalty needs to rely on regular large-scale sales investment.
As a platform-based company, the user base is the key to Ant’s business development. “The company’s financial performance depends to a large extent on its ability to retain and attract active users, as well as its ability to expand service scenarios.” According to Ant, the participation, activity, and service scenarios of consumers and businesses on the platform Scope is critical to the success of the company.
The consequences of the slowdown in user growth are beginning to be reflected in the business.
As the starting business of Ant Group, the growth rate of payment business has slowed down significantly in recent years. The year-on-year growth rates of Ant Group’s payment and merchant service revenue from 2018 to 2019 and the first half of 2020 were 23.6%, 17%, and 13.1%, respectively, showing a downward trend.
In addition, for the micro-loan business that has now taken over as the largest revenue pillar, Ant Group also stated that “there is no guarantee that the revenue of the micro-credit technology platform will continue to grow rapidly in the future.” The prospectus shows that the revenue growth rate of the micro-credit technology platform There will be a decline in the first half of 2020.
In the case of slowing growth of Ant Group, it faces strong challenges from rivals.
Guosen Securities’ research pointed out that as of June 2020, WeChat’s MAU was 1.206 billion, Alipay’s MAU was 711 million, and WeChat’s MAU was 1.7 times that of Alipay in the same period, and the number of user activations should be higher than Alipay. From this perspective, Tencent Financial The user reach ability of technology is stronger than Alipay.
Alipay has a big gap with WeChat in terms of monthly active users. The picture is from Guosen Securities Research Report
This is obviously something that worries Ant Group. “The company’s competitors will continue to invest in innovation, expand their business and increase user activity.” In the prospectus, Ant Group admitted that the company faces a variety of corporate competitions, some of which are competing The opponent has a large amount of traffic and has established a strong brand recognition, technical capabilities and financial strength.
Regarding the issue of industry competition, the regulator is also very concerned. In the first round of inquiry letter on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, it asked Ant Group to further disclose the industry’s comparable business categories according to digital payment, digital life services, digital merchant services, digital finance and innovative businesses. Comparison of companies’ key business data to measure core competitiveness.
On September 7, Ant Technology Group stated in its reply that WeChat Pay, operated by Tencent, also provides similar digital payment services, but there are certain differences between the payment services provided by these companies and the company’s digital payment and merchant service businesses, and they are not comparable. Sex.
However, this response did not seem to satisfy the Shanghai Stock Exchange. In the second round of inquiry, the Shanghai Stock Exchange still repeated this question, and specifically mentioned in the domestic market that “WeChat Pay, operated by Tencent, also provides similar digital payment services.”
In this regard, the Ant Group once again stated that there are many companies providing payment services worldwide. WeChat Pay, operated by Tencent in the domestic market, also provides similar digital payment services, but the payment services provided by these companies and the company’s digital payment and merchant service businesses There are certain differences and they are not comparable.
Ant has repeatedly avoided comparison with WeChat Pay, but this does not eliminate outside doubts.
In fact, in order to increase user activity and retention, ants have begun to compete secretly, open up new markets and try new opportunities.
In March of this year, Ant Financial released its digital life strategy. This is the new trick of Ant Group. “Digital payment, digital finance and digital life services have formed a strong synergy and a virtuous circle, which is an important driving force for the company’s growth.”
However, in terms of digital life services, in the face of strong competition from Meituan, Ant is not sure of winning.
Instead, since Alipay released its digital life strategy, Meituan’s share price has risen from HK$90.8 to the current HK$238, an increase of 162%.
“The company is expanding business services and digital life services, but the company cannot guarantee that it can achieve the expected performance in these business areas.” Ant Group mentioned in the prospectus that developing new businesses and business models requires a lot of time and manpower. And may encounter technical, operational and compliance challenges, and new products or services may not be fully recognized by the market.
Policy and economic environment challenges
The Ant Group should not only worry about internal growth, but also the external risks.
In recent years, the financial technology industry has been increasingly affected by regulatory policies, and these policies have even affected the business model of the platform.
Take the third-party payment reserve fund depository system as an example. When customers use the third-party payment platform for consumption transfer, due to the time difference of the settlement cycle, a certain amount of funds will be deposited in the reserve account.
Before 2018, the form of relying on the reserve fund to eat the spread was one of the important ways for Alipay and WeChat payment to make money, and it was called lying down and making money by the outside world.
In January 2017, the Central Bank issued the “Guidelines for the Centralized Deposit of Reserves for Payment Institution Customers”, requiring that from 2018 onwards, the proportion of centrally deposited reserves for payment institution customers will increase from about 20% to about 50%. In June 2018, the supervision of reserve funds was further tightened, requiring that starting from July 9, 2018, the proportion of centralized deposits of payment institution customers’ reserve funds should be gradually increased on a monthly basis, and 100% centralized payment should be realized by January 14, 2019. Save.
According to industry insiders, this means that Alipay and WeChat Pay have lost several billion yuan in revenue each year.
At present, for Ant Group, which has entered the financial field, the relevant laws, regulations and rules of financial supervision are highly complex and constantly changing, and the compliance challenges it faces cannot be underestimated.
Taking digital payment and merchant service businesses as examples, Ant Group faces at least two major challenges-barcode payment interconnection and digital RMB.
In September 2019, the People’s Bank of China announced the “FinTech Development Plan (2019-2021)” to promote the interconnection of barcode payment, research and formulate technical standards for barcode payment interconnection, unify barcode payment coding rules, and build barcode payment Interconnection technology system.
After the bar code is interoperable, it means that when the user uses the QR code to pay, the bar codes of different apps can be mixed and used without distinction.
Barcode interoperability is an important change for the third-party payment industry. In the view of some third-party payment industry professionals, this policy is expected to change the industry structure and eliminate some of the advantages of Alipay and WeChat payment.
“These new measures may change the competitive environment and situation in the digital payment industry.” Ant Group also stated in the prospectus that it cannot predict the changes this change will bring to the competitive environment of the electronic payment industry. “If the company is unable to adapt to the new regulatory environment in a timely manner, the company’s business, financial status and operating results may be materially and adversely affected.”
Another policy challenge comes from the central bank is stepping up the development of digital renminbi wallets. As digital currency is a legal tender issued by the central bank, it can provide services such as inquiry, payment, redemption, redemption, transfer, and credit card repayment.
Digital RMB wallet interface of a bank
Compared with WeChat Pay and Alipay, digital currency is guaranteed by the central bank’s credit and has unlimited legal repayment. It also breaks the restrictions of the app when using it, and it can also be used offline.
Will digital renminbi have an impact on third-party payment tools? Ant Group stated that since there is no timetable for when the digital renminbi will be officially launched, it is difficult to assess the impact of this work on the company’s business, financial status and operating results.
Deng Jianpeng, a professor at the China Finance Law School and director of the Fintech Legal Research Center, pointed out that there are three types of third-party payment institutions that may be affected by the central bank’s digital currency in the future. One is the payment business licensed by the central bank; the other is the business derived from the flow advantage of the payment platform. For example, access to the sales port of financial products such as monetary funds; third, credit investigation and risk control related businesses derived from payment data information, such as the Zhima Credit Score, which is currently closely related to Alipay.
He believes that if the data generated by users based on digital currency is only provided to the central bank in the future, the expansion of the above-mentioned business of third-party institutions will inevitably face great difficulties.
“If the central bank’s digital currency wallet is completely independent of third-party payment institutions and does not open interfaces to third-party payment institutions, then some or most of the functions of third-party payment institutions may be replaced in the future.” Deng Jianpeng mentioned, in this case Under the circumstances, third-party payment institutions should strive to actively participate in the construction of digital renminbi as soon as possible and cooperate with relevant institutions.
Actually, the Ant Group is indeed doing the same. According to the prospectus, at the end of 2017, the People’s Bank of China began to organize some powerful commercial institutions to jointly develop the digital RMB system, and Ant Group was one of them. For more than two years, it has also actively participated in digital RMB research and development trials, and according to the arrangements of the People’s Bank of China, it is preparing for internal closed pilot testing in Shenzhen, Suzhou, Xiongan, Chengdu and future Winter Olympic scenes.
In other sectors of financial technology, there are also many regulatory risks that Ant Financial is worried about.
In terms of micro-lending business, on August 20, 2020, the Supreme People’s Court formally issued the newly revised “Regulations of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Laws in the Trial of Private Lending Cases”, which revised the upper limit of judicial protection of private lending interest rates to national banks. Four times the quoted market rate (LPR) for one-year loans issued by the Interbank Funding Center on the 20th of each month.
Taking the LPR 3.85% released on July 20, 2020 as an example, the upper limit of judicial protection for private lending rates will be 15.4%. This adjustment has attracted the attention of the entire credit industry. The key is that the so-called upper limit of 15.4% refers to the annualized rate of return APR or the internal rate of return IRR. There is a big difference between the two.
The impact of this policy on Ant Group cannot be ignored. The main reason is that the policy is aimed at private lending, and Ant micro-loan business relies on small loan companies. At present, there is no conclusion whether small loan companies belong to private lending.
This means that the business model of Ant’s small loan companies may face adjustments, which will adversely affect Ant Group.
In addition, the joint loan model adopted by Ant’s micro-lending business has also recently been subject to regulatory shocks.
Recently, there is news that the central bank is investigating the scale of online joint consumer loans, which specifically requires banks to list joint loans with Ant Huabei and Ant Borrowe separately.
In July, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission issued the “Interim Measures for the Administration of Internet Loans of Commercial Banks”. The new regulations set requirements on the joint loan model. For example, when commercial banks choose cooperative institutions to jointly fund loans, they should also focus on the capital adequacy level and leverage ratio of the partners. , Liquidity level, non-performing loan ratio, loan concentration and its changes, and carefully determine the list of cooperative institutions.
Xue Hongyan, deputy dean of the Suning Financial Research Institute, believes that on the positive side, joint loans have promoted the development of inclusive finance, allowing financial technology to benefit more borrowers, and also provide small and medium banks with a crutch for Internet transformation-most banks Without its own flow, banks can also obtain a large number of new users from external platforms through joint loans. But at the same time, supervision is worried that some banks will develop a psychology of dependence, and risk control will become a mere formality, which will eventually degenerate into a capital pipeline.
After the implementation of the new regulations, it has been reported that in order to rectify their business, some city commercial banks have stopped adding new joint loans with third-party institutions, especially cooperative loans with Ant Group.
This means that part of the funding source of Ant’s micro-lending business has been cut off. The Ant Group said that if policies restrict the cooperation between financial institutions and platforms, financial institutions will reduce or even stop cooperation with platforms.
In order to speed up the flow of funds and expand the scale of business, the Ant Micro-loan business is also very good at adopting the ABS method. However, in 2018, the Ant Group was subject to regulatory requirements and reduced the scale of ABS issuance.
Whether the supervision of ABS will be restricted in the future is still unknown. Ant Group stated that “if the asset securitization market is not available, the company and cooperative financial institutions may not be able to obtain sufficient funds to issue loans on the company’s platform.”
In addition to regulatory policies, changes in the economic environment also have a comprehensive impact on the future development of Ant Group.
This epidemic is a sample. Data shows that from January to June 2020, the total payment transaction scale and revenue growth of Ant Group’s digital payment and merchant services will be negatively affected. The same is true for the microfinance business.
In the first half of this year, the overdue rate of Ant Group’s micro-loan business showed a clear upward trend. The overdue rate for more than 30 days rose from 1.76% in January 2020 to 3.01% in May, an increase of 71%.
During the epidemic, the overdue rate of Ant’s consumer credit balance increased significantly, the picture is from the prospectus
Serving small and micro customers is the killer of Ant Group, but it is also its weakness. As a group with weaker risk tolerance, they are more susceptible to fluctuations in the economic environment. A few months of the epidemic can significantly change its debt solvency. difference.
Although Ant Group can be called a giant in the domestic financial technology field, its international business is still in a fairly rudimentary state.
As of June 30, 2020, the total payment transaction scale of Ant Group reached 118 trillion yuan, of which the total international payment transaction scale was only 621.9 billion yuan, accounting for 0.5%.
The prospectus also shows that in 2017, 2018, 2019 and January-June 2020, the company’s operating income from overseas regions accounted for 5.23%, 5.03%, 5.46% and 4.42%, respectively.
The Ant Group’s overseas revenue accounted for a relatively small portion during the reporting period. The picture is from the Ant Group’s prospectus
Ant Group’s overseas income mainly comes from cross-border payments and merchant services. Among them, the promotion of cross-border payment business mainly starts from the two routes of “Global Payment” and “Pay Global”.
In terms of global payment, Alipay cooperates with global financial institutions to support merchants to serve global consumers on mainstream international e-commerce platforms such as AliExpress, Lazada, Daraz and Tmall Overseas, realize global payment, global purchase, and global sales, and become a world electronics An important support for the trading platform (eWTP).
In the face of increasing pressure from domestic users, overseas markets with a larger population are undoubtedly a very good choice, and Ant Group is also working hard to expand its scope of overseas markets.
On the one hand, it has invested in local e-wallets in many countries and regions in Southeast Asia and South Asia.
According to a research report issued by Tianfeng Securities, merchants in 56 countries and regions around the world can accept Alipay offline payment services, and Ant Group has opened up 10 local e-wallet markets (“9+1” layout).
Ant Group’s global e-wallet layout
On the other hand, Ant Group also invests in technologies and channels in Europe and the United States, hoping to integrate into the global market.
But so far, these efforts have had little effect. According to Ant, the reason is that, on the one hand, it is attributed to the differences in domestic and foreign customs, economic environment, etc. This makes it not simply to copy the domestic successful model, but to develop according to local market conditions. New business models to meet the needs of different markets.
In addition, unlike Ant Group, which can use Alibaba’s e-commerce base to rise from a high starting point in China, in overseas markets, Ant’s brand recognition is low.
In this case, it is a “shortcut” to invest in and acquire players in the local market. However, with the changes in international geopolitics and the rise of anti-globalization, this path is not easy.
“Factors such as geopolitical tensions or protectionism will affect the development of the company’s cross-border business, hinder investment and mergers and acquisitions, and put the company in a disadvantageous competitive position compared with local local companies.” Ant Group said that as an outsider, although it has Electronic wallets cooperate, but they may still be regarded as competitors by partners. This is a question of long-term integration and trust.
In July this year, the “China Overseas Investment Country Risk Rating (2020)” report released by the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed that with the further intensification of Sino-US trade friction and the global pandemic of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, it has caused a global The investment environment in China has deteriorated, and Chinese companies’ overseas investment risks continue to rise.
Among them, investment risks in the United States, Vietnam, India, Thailand, and Laos have all increased.
In 2018, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) rejected Ant Group’s acquisition of MoneyGram, a US remittance company, on the grounds of national security.
In India, Ant Group mentioned that changes in India’s regulatory policies for foreign investment have forced them to reconsider the timing of capital increase in Indian restaurant reviews and food delivery company Zomato.
From this point of view, internationalization may seem glamorous, but it is not easy. Not only the Ant Group, but even Tencent and Alibaba are doing good.
Risks and opportunities often go hand in hand, and the same is true for Ant Group.
The biggest opportunity is that Ants is in a fast-growing economy. The continuous growth of China’s GDP and the gradual transition to a consumption-driven economy provide a good soil for its development.
The Ant Group cited data from iResearch that between 2019 and 2025, China’s total personal disposable income is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.6%, reaching 67 trillion yuan by 2025. China’s total personal consumption expenditure is expected It will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.0% from 2019 to 2025 and reach 51 trillion yuan by 2025.
Although the demographic dividend is gradually disappearing, the number of mobile Internet users in China will still be on the rise. Compared with the mobile Internet penetration rate of over 70% in developed countries such as the United States, Germany, and Japan, the current domestic penetration rate is only 63%. According to iResearch Consulting, the number of mobile Internet users in China reached 877 million in 2019 and is expected to reach 1.1 billion in 2025.
The growth space of mobile netizens is the development space of Ant Group.
Ant Group believes that on the basis of China’s digital payment transaction scale reaching 201 trillion yuan in 2019, the compound annual growth rate in the future will remain at a level of 17.5%, reaching 412 trillion yuan by 2025.
According to this calculation, assuming that the market share of Ant Group in the payment market remains at 55%, the total payment transaction scale of the Alipay platform can reach 226.6 trillion by 2025.
The next step of Ant Group’s micro-loan business will also benefit from economic growth.
According to Oliver Wyman Research, the scale of China’s consumer credit market is expected to grow from 13 trillion yuan in 2019 to 24 trillion yuan in 2025, with an average annual compound growth rate of 11.4% during the period.
Among them, online credit business grew faster. Aowei Consulting believes that, driven by the widespread application of data technology, the scale of online credit in 2019 will reach 6 trillion yuan, and it is expected to reach 19 trillion yuan in 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 20.4% from 2019 to 2025.
In terms of operating loans for small and micro businesses. The credit balance of China’s small and micro operators with a single amount of less than 500,000 yuan is expected to increase from 6 trillion yuan in 2019 to 26 trillion yuan in 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 27.2% during the period. Among them, the compound annual growth rate through online methods is 40.8%, which will account for 61.5% of the entire market by 2015.
China’s wealth management and insurance markets will also show rapid growth in the future.
In 2019, the scale of personal investable assets sold through online channels in China reached 21 trillion yuan. Ant Group predicts that due to the widespread application of digital technology and users’ pursuit of a better investment experience, it is expected to reach 69 trillion yuan in 2025 , The compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2025 will reach 21.6%.
In terms of insurance, compared with the 11% insurance penetration in the United States, China’s insurance penetration is only 4%. In 2019, the scale of China’s online insurance premiums reached 0.3 trillion yuan, but Aowei Consulting expects that driven by digital technology, its market size will reach 1.9 trillion yuan by 2025, with an average annual compound growth rate of 38.1%.
In terms of innovative business, Ant Financial mainly provides innovative technical services for various enterprises and partners, including blockchain and database services.
According to the prospectus data, although the current innovative business accounts for less than 1% of Ant Group’s revenue, the prospects are full of imagination.
Taking blockchain technology as an example, this field is the focus of Ant Group’s development in recent years.
In a speech, Ant Financial Chairman Jing Xiandong explained his expectations for blockchain. He believed that blockchain is the best solution to the trust problem in the digital age. “Blockchain is the reconstruction of production relations. Technology, other technologies just improve productivity.”
At present, Ant Financial has built a number of platforms in the blockchain field, such as BaaS (Blockchain as a Service), an open platform for blockchain, the “Shuangliantong” platform for accounts receivable circulation and asset management, and a general smart contract platform.
According to statistics, as of July 31, 2020, Ant Group has a total of 583 blockchain patents that have been awarded patent certificates worldwide; a total of 303 blockchain patent applications that have passed patent examination and are yet to obtain patent certificates; A total of 5317 other blockchain patent applications are currently being accepted.
The China Patent Protection Association’s “Global Authorized Patent Report in the Blockchain Field 2020” shows that Alibaba Group ranks first in the world in the global blockchain authorized patent rankings.
In application, AntChain has helped solve the trust problem of more than 50 actual scenarios; in business, the daily “chain volume” of AntChain exceeds 100 million times a day.
Among the domestic Internet giants, it is not only Ant Group that is working on the blockchain, but Tencent has also invested a lot. It is understood that Tencent Cloud, a subsidiary of Tencent, has built its own and controllable underlying blockchain infrastructure. In 2017, it launched the blockchain service platform TBaaS. In June of this year, Tencent Cloud announced the establishment of an industrial blockchain alliance and launched the first domestic blockchain accelerator.
Li Li, general manager of Tencent Cloud Blockchain, recently stated that Tencent Cloud Blockchain has been perfected in 7 areas including supply chain finance, trusted deposits, electronic bills, data elements, identity management, supply chain management, and digital assets. Products and application solutions.
Jianzhi Research believes that the entire blockchain is still at a very early stage. Both Tencent and Ali are still setting benchmarks and focusing on concepts. “The challenge of blockchain is not an immediate goal for Ants. Commercial interests are more about betting on a possible future infrastructure like Alibaba Cloud.”
Incubation of the next “Ali Cloud” is obviously a huge temptation for ants, and once it succeeds, it means that the entire financial industry may be restructured.
Although unknown risks still exist, there are many opponents and pursuers behind them. For ants who are accustomed to riding the wind and waves, exploring the uninhabited land ahead is the only way to open up new territory.