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Coinweb and Coldwell Banker Execute Agreement to Enable Mainstream Real-Estate Tokenisation

Coinweb continues its mission in delivering blockchain technology to traditional businesses with the global real estate brand Coldwell Banker, the company has announced. Development has already begun on the platform, with a product release in beta planned for Q3 2022. The project will see Coinweb develop and support cross-chain token issuance pertaining to both luxury […] The post Coinweb and Coldwell Banker Execute Agreement to Enable Mainstream Real-Estate Tokenisation appeared first on RISMedia. Coinweb continues its mission in delivering blockchain technology to traditional businesses with the global real estate brand Coldwell Banker, the company has announced. Development has already begun on the platform, with a product release in beta planned for Q3 2022. The project will see Coinweb develop and support cross-chain token issuance pertaining to both luxury residential and high-end commercial property portfolios of Coldwell Banker’s significant customer base, launching in Thailand in the first instance as a pilot. Coinweb will issue cross-chain governance tokens that map down to the underlying asset’s income, enabling stakeholder voting rights on distribution and furthermore cross-chain security tokens mapping down to asset ownership. This will deliver a lower barrier to entry to a wider pool of investors seeking returns from luxury properties with higher yields. Stage 2 of the project will see implementation of parallel smart contracts being executed in the Coinweb layer, streamlining compliance checks and automating aspects of corporate action management. Coldwell Banker’s tokens will be publicly tradable and retain cross-chain characteristics to maintain stability in mitigating risks of fluctuating gas fees and other scaling issues such as network speed. Once the pilot in Thailand has been proved, Coinweb will be introduced to the property group’s other territories around the world, where the regulatory framework supports the project. Though still at its nascent stage, real-estate tokenisation has been regarded as a major step in unlocking liquidity, along with increasing data transparency, automating substantial manual conveyancing and document notarization that will deliver higher efficiency and fewer errors. With an ultimate aim of reducing settlement times, hefty processing fees and providing better security. According to Ms. Napatkan Chaiwichit, Managing Director of Coldwell Banker Thailand, “We see real-estate tokenisation as the pivotal point for next-generation wealth-management, hence our initiative in working towards this direction with Coinweb’s layer 2 blockchain infrastructure. We envisage significant opportunities arising from enabling fractional investment and ownership, driving demand in both the primary and the secondary market, which is crucial in unlocking liquidity that real estate has always been associated with, especially in the luxury property arena. The potential to explore and fully leverage blockchain technology is real and very promising. We expect real estate investment to be invigorated by allowing access for new investors to buy into yielding quality assets.” “The real estate space has always remained a high-value sector yet with legacy processes, high fees and illiquidity. Our partnership with Coldwell Banker aims to solve these pain points.” Coinweb CEO Toby Gilbert commented. “After Thailand, and once the project is proven, it will be introduced to the different territories where Coldwell Banker maintains a presence around the world. Our team is ready and super excited to deliver on real-world blockchain use in partnership with a global brand.” For more information about the firms, visit Coinweb.io and Coldwell Banker. The post Coinweb and Coldwell Banker Execute Agreement to Enable Mainstream Real-Estate Tokenisation appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaJan 14th, 2022

William Raveis: The Family Advantage

How William Raveis Real Estate Responds to Market Needs in Real Time  As one of the industry’s most iconic firms, William Raveis Real Estate’s (WRRE) origin story is a classic tale of entrepreneurial moxie. Started above a Fairfield, Connecticut, grocery store by Bill Raveis in 1974, the firm now comprises 136 offices in eight states, […] The post William Raveis: The Family Advantage appeared first on RISMedia. How William Raveis Real Estate Responds to Market Needs in Real Time  As one of the industry’s most iconic firms, William Raveis Real Estate’s (WRRE) origin story is a classic tale of entrepreneurial moxie. Started above a Fairfield, Connecticut, grocery store by Bill Raveis in 1974, the firm now comprises 136 offices in eight states, and is home to 4,300 sales associates. In RISMedia’s 2021 Power Broker Report, WRRE ranked No. 7, reporting more than $16 billion in sales volume in 2020. Today, Bill and the next generation of the Raveis family—brothers and co-presidents Chris and Ryan—share leadership responsibility for increasing revenue and expanding WRRE’s footprint in the coming years and beyond. In this exclusive interview, the pair explains how operating as a family-run business provides the firm with two critical characteristics necessary for growth: cultural agility to turn on a dime to innovate; and consistent leadership with an unmatched level of pride, passion and strategic vision. “No matter how much we evolve, this is not just a business for us—it’s a family,” says CEO and Chairman Bill Raveis. “At our core, family values drive every decision we make. From the very beginning, I said our agents are our customers, and 47 years later, we continue to provide the tools, technology and mentoring to empower their success.” Here, Ryan and Chris Raveis share what’s enabled the company’s extensive growth over the years, along with how they’re helping agents and clients maximize value and experience outstanding customer service in any market. Maria Patterson: William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance is the No. 1 family-owned real estate company in the Northeast, and your father views the entire firm as family. Please share a bit about how you and your brother came on board. Ryan Raveis: Growing up, Chris and I saw all those yard signs and wondered why our name was in front of everyone’s homes! We definitely had an affinity for the company and saw what Dad was doing and how hard he was working. But as we grew up, Chris and I wanted to spread our wings a bit, like most young, post-college graduates. I decided to pursue management consulting and Chris worked in commercial real estate. Then, in our late 20s, we were offered the opportunity to join the family business, but with a very clear understanding. Dad sat us down and told us there were two conditions: You have to grow the company; and you can never sell it. MP: I take it you’re happy with your decision? RR: I have worked in a large public company and so has Chris. While every industry has its excitement in some way, shape or form, there’s nothing I’d rather do than work with my Dad and brother and continue to drive our goals of a family-owned real estate, mortgage and insurance powerhouse. MP: What are some of the biggest advantages of being a family firm? RR: The biggest advantage is the consistency in leadership. This is a family business, and our name is on the door. We take our reputation, professionalism and the way we support our agents very seriously, to the point where being a family business is part of our identity. We plan on passing the company down to our children, so we want to leave it in a position where it’s thriving in each of its markets and each of its businesses. The only way we do that is by delivering superior service for our clients and agents. CEO Bill Raveis (center) poses with sales associates and managers at a WRRE networking event. MP: William Raveis Inc. is one of the only privately held firms to offer mortgage and insurance services under one roof. What role have these firms played in your growth over the years? RR: I don’t look at our mortgage and insurance companies as businesses under the real estate umbrella. Each of those companies was purposefully built with the ability to stand on its own. Granted, they service our real estate clients, but they also partner with clients who used another real estate brokerage prior to doing business with the mortgage and insurance companies. We strategically built these companies to a substantial level to support the overall entity, and this helps when we’re looking to expand into new markets. MP: Does having an established mortgage and insurance business play a more significant role in today’s real estate climate? RR: I think it does. In today’s market, we see plenty of large private equity and public companies that are trying to find their way. They’re struggling to figure out how to make a profit, and it’s not that easy. We’ve been running William Raveis Mortgage and William Raveis Insurance since the ’80s, and both have well-established operations and excellent reputations. MP: How would you describe market conditions in your regions? Chris Raveis: If I’m a home seller, I’ve seen my value increase by 30% in all the markets we serve. If I’m a buyer, I’m looking for solutions to help me find a home in this market. Overall, the market has been excellent for real estate brokers and agents, and that will continue through the end of the year, particularly in Florida, where we just had some of the largest sales in our company history—$80 million and $50 million in Palm Beach and Naples, respectively. The luxury market has taken off in those areas. MP: WRRE serves luxury buyers in many of your markets. What role does the luxury market play in the company’s success? CR: The luxury market is essential to our identity. We’re recognized by Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® as the globe’s top luxury broker. We serve some of the highest-end markets in the U.S.—Naples, Florida; Fairfield County, Connecticut; Nantucket—and we have many of the finest agents in the world serving those markets. Their local knowledge and real estate expertise enable them to best connect with affluent clients, which is a priority audience for us. That said, we have a large audience base and serve other segments as well. Best practices honed by selling luxury properties are completely transferrable. We’ve fully embraced superior customer service at every point in the home-selling and -buying journeys, and consequently, invented new products and processes to support our agents. When we look at the level of service we strive to provide, we’re looking to emulate brands like The Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. Co-Presidents Chris Raveis and Ryan Raveis snap a picture with mortgage banker Francine Silberman and VP of Business Development Lisa Theiss. MP: Tell us about some of the ways you’re supporting agents… CR: Ryan, Bill, our senior management team and I are constantly in the field, constantly listening to agents. As a family business, we make decisions very quickly. Plus, we have the resources to compete with anybody. Each branch has a full-time manager, and we have multiple layers of admin and marketing support for agents. We are the only company that provides personalized branding for our sales associates because we believe each one is an entrepreneur who cannot be fit into a single, specific mold. Every manager is extensively trained through our career development department to become a certified coach and mentor to our sales associates. And we also bring in world-renowned business coaches, like Tom Ferry and Mike Staver. On the tech side, we’re well ahead of the market, particularly with automation. We have a completely automated listing launch platform, where in 30 seconds, an agent can get a listing launched, one that is personally branded with the agent’s name. Even better, we have integrated performance tracking, giving our agents and clients customized and immediate insights with real-time analytics. MP: This year, you quickly rolled out products to help buyers and sellers navigate the unique challenges of the market. Tell us a bit about them. RR: We truly walk the talk on exceptional customer service throughout the buying and selling journey. For the seller who has their home listed but can’t financially move or can’t get the equity out, we provide a bridge loan through William Raveis Mortgage. Another option we offer is Raveis Purchase, where sellers benefit from the speed of getting out of their home and unlocking their equity to make a non-contingent offer on a new home. With this program, we buy the home from them and use Raveis Refresh to help prepare and stage the home with our certified network of designers and installation teams. And here’s the best part: When we sell the refreshed home at a higher price point on the open market, the client keeps the upside, which is different than any other model out there. We’ve moved a couple dozen customers in the 90 days since we launched this innovative offering (at press time), and the traction has been incredible. We have hundreds in the pipeline. We also just launched the Raveis CashBid program where we buy the home from the seller—on behalf of the buyer—and take title to the home. Then we help those pre-approved buyers get a mortgage and repurchase the home from us. This creates opportunities for those buyers losing out on offers, as well as first-time homebuyers who can’t put down an all-cash bid. These are just a few examples of how we are empowering our agents to take care of their clients during a competitive market. We are always thinking outside the box and partnering for success. It’s all really exciting. MP: Were programs like this borne out of the pandemic? RR: 100%. When the pandemic hit, we knew that listing inventory was going to be slim, absorption rates would be fast, and that we needed to come up with solutions. Ryan and Chris Raveis with Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Carpenter MP: It seems like only a company of your scope and size, with in-house mortgage services, could make programs like these work… RR: Yes, it wouldn’t happen without the mortgage company. When the agent understands the 360-degree view of the consumer, it makes them a better agent. We have the resources—the luxury, mortgage and insurance products—but being able to execute and help thousands of agents put those resources to use is another thing. With the breadth of our offerings and our investment in career development, our agents are better trained than anyone else in the industry. MP: Do such programs represent the future of real estate, or are they temporary solutions to market conditions sparked by the pandemic? RR: If a company’s business model is banking on programs that buy homes and resell them, that company will have a tough time in a downturn. You have to be good at recognizing the tenor of the market and actively develop the right programs because each year has different needs. We constantly listen to our agents and innovate to serve their market needs. This was true in 1974, and it remains the same today. MP: What other evolutions—to your company and to the market—do you foresee taking place in the next year or so? CR: The market will remain challenging. The fourth quarter won’t be like last year, but it will be better than we thought at the beginning of the year. We are continuing to grow—having just expanded in Sarasota, Florida. Our footprint will encompass new areas in the Northeast and down the eastern seaboard as well. MP: Finally, if you had to point to just a few keys to success that have been instrumental to the firm’s longevity and growth over the years, what would they be? CR: You have to love the business; it has to be part of your soul. If you do, there’s a palpable energy that continually motivates you. And being a family business lends a lot to that—people are proud to associate themselves with real people as opposed to a large public or private equity firm. We thrive off each other and our larger business family. Our success is truly a collective team effort all around. For more information, please visit www.raveis.com. Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to maria@rismedia.com. The post William Raveis: The Family Advantage appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaOct 7th, 2021

Camber Energy: What If They Made a Whole Company Out of Red Flags? – Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale Capital is short shares of Camber Energy Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:CEI). Camber is a defunct oil producer that has failed to file financial statements with the SEC since September 2020, is in danger of having its stock delisted next month, and just fired its accounting firm in September. Its only real asset is a 73% stake […] Kerrisdale Capital is short shares of Camber Energy Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:CEI). Camber is a defunct oil producer that has failed to file financial statements with the SEC since September 2020, is in danger of having its stock delisted next month, and just fired its accounting firm in September. Its only real asset is a 73% stake in Viking Energy Group Inc (OTCMKTS:VKIN), an OTC-traded company with negative book value and a going-concern warning that recently violated the maximum-leverage covenant on one of its loans. (For a time, it also had a fake CFO – long story.) Nonetheless, Camber’s stock price has increased by 6x over the past month; last week, astonishingly, an average of $1.9 billion worth of Camber shares changed hands every day. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q2 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Is there any logic to this bizarre frenzy? Camber pumpers have seized upon the notion that the company is now a play on carbon capture and clean energy, citing a license agreement recently entered into by Viking. But the “ESG Clean Energy” technology license is a joke. Not only is it tiny relative to Camber’s market cap (costing only $5 million and granting exclusivity only in Canada), but it has embroiled Camber in the long-running escapades of a western Massachusetts family that once claimed to have created a revolutionary new combustion engine, only to wind up being penalized by the SEC for raising $80 million in unregistered securities offerings, often to unaccredited investors, and spending much of it on themselves. But the most fascinating part of the CEI boondoggle actually has to do with something far more basic: how many shares are there, and why has dilution been spiraling out of control? We believe the market is badly mistaken about Camber’s share count and ignorant of its terrifying capital structure. In fact, we estimate its fully diluted share count is roughly triple the widely reported number, bringing its true, fully diluted market cap, absurdly, to nearly $900 million. Since Camber is delinquent on its financials, investors have failed to fully appreciate the impact of its ongoing issuance of an unusual, highly dilutive class of convertible preferred stock. As a result of this “death spiral” preferred, Camber has already seen its share count increase 50- million-fold from early 2016 to July 2021 – and we believe it isn’t over yet, as preferred holders can and will continue to convert their securities and sell the resulting common shares. Even at the much lower valuation that investors incorrectly think Camber trades for, it’s still overvalued. The core Viking assets are low-quality and dangerously levered, while any near- term benefits from higher commodity prices will be muted by hedges established in 2020. The recent clean-energy license is nearly worthless. It’s ridiculous to have to say this, but Camber isn’t worth $900 million. If it looks like a penny stock, and it acts like a penny stock, it is a penny stock. Camber has been a penny stock before – no more than a month ago, in fact – and we expect that it will be once again. Company Background Founded in 2004, Camber was originally called Lucas Energy Resources. It went public via a reverse merger in 2006 with the plan of “capitaliz[ing] on the increasing availability of opportunistic acquisitions in the energy sector.”1 But after years of bad investments and a nearly 100% decline in its stock price, the company, which renamed itself Camber in 2017, found itself with little economic value left; faced with the prospect of losing its NYSE American listing, it cast about for new acquisitions beginning in early 2019. That’s when Viking entered the picture. Jim Miller, a member of Camber’s board, had served on the board of a micro-cap company called Guardian 8 that was working on “a proprietary new class of enhanced non-lethal weapons”; Guardian 8’s CEO, Steve Cochennet, happened to also be part owner of a Kansas-based company that operated some of Viking’s oil and gas assets and knew that Viking, whose shares traded over the counter, was interested in moving up to a national exchange.2 (In case you’re wondering, under Miller and Cochennet’s watch, Guardian 8’s stock saw its price drop to ~$0; it was delisted in 2019.3) Viking itself also had a checkered past. Previously a shell company, it was repurposed by a corporate lawyer and investment banker named Tom Simeo to create SinoCubate, “an incubator of and investor in privately held companies mainly in P.R. China.” But this business model went nowhere. In 2012, SinoCubate changed its name to Viking Investments but continued to achieve little. In 2014, Simeo brought in James A. Doris, a Canadian lawyer, as a member of the board of directors and then as president and CEO, tasked with executing on Viking’s new strategy of “acquir[ing] income-producing assets throughout North America in various sectors, including energy and real estate.” In a series of transactions, Doris gradually built up a portfolio of oil wells and other energy assets in the United States, relying on large amounts of high-cost debt to get deals done. But Viking has never achieved consistent GAAP profitability; indeed, under Doris’s leadership, from 2015 to the first half of 2021, Viking’s cumulative net income has totaled negative $105 million, and its financial statements warn of “substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”4 At first, despite the Guardian 8 crew’s match-making, Camber showed little interest in Viking and pursued another acquisition instead. But, when that deal fell apart, Camber re-engaged with Viking and, in February 2020, announced an all-stock acquisition – effectively a reverse merger in which Viking would end up as the surviving company but transfer some value to incumbent Camber shareholders in exchange for the national listing. For reasons that remain somewhat unclear, this original deal structure was beset with delays, and in December 2020 (after months of insisting that deal closing was just around the corner) Camber announced that it would instead directly purchase a 51% stake in Viking; at the same time, Doris, Viking’s CEO, officially took over Camber as well. Subsequent transactions through July 2021 have brough Camber’s Viking stake up to 69.9 million shares (73% of Viking’s total common shares), in exchange for consideration in the form of a mixture of cash, debt forgiveness,5 and debt assumption, valued in the aggregate by Viking at only $50.7 million: Camber and Viking announced a new merger agreement in February 2021, aiming to take out the remaining Viking shares not owned by Camber and thus fully combine the two companies, but that plan is on hold because Camber has failed to file its last 10-K (as well as two subsequent 10-Qs) and is thus in danger of being delisted unless it catches up by November. Today, then, Camber’s absurd equity valuation rests entirely on its majority stake in a small, unprofitable oil-and-gas roll-up cobbled together by a Canadian lawyer. An Opaque Capital Structure Has Concealed the True Insanity of Camber’s Valuation What actually is Camber’s equity valuation? It sounds like a simple question, and sources like Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance supply what looks like a simple answer: 104.2 million shares outstanding times a $3.09 closing price (as of October 4, 2021) equals a market cap of $322 million – absurd enough, given what Camber owns. But these figures only tell part of the story. We estimate that the correct fully diluted market cap is actually a staggering $882 million, including the impact of both Camber’s unusual, highly dilutive Series C convertible preferred stock and its convertible debt. Because Camber is delinquent on its SEC filings, it’s difficult to assemble an up-to-date picture of its balance sheet and capital structure. The widely used 104.2-million-share figure comes from an 8-K filed in July that states, in part: As of July 9, 2021, the Company had 104,195,295 shares of common stock issued and outstanding. The increase in our outstanding shares of common stock from the date of the Company’s February 23, 2021 increase in authorized shares of common stock (from 25 million shares to 250 million shares), is primarily due to conversions of shares of Series C Preferred Stock of the Company into common stock, and conversion premiums due thereon, which are payable in shares of common stock. This bland language belies the stunning magnitude of the dilution that has already taken place. Indeed, we estimate that, of the 104.2 million common shares outstanding on July 9th, 99.7% were created via the conversion of Series C preferred in the past few years – and there’s more where that came from. The terms of Camber’s preferreds are complex but boil down to the following: they accrue non- cash dividends at the sky-high rate of 24.95% per year for a notional seven years but can be converted into common shares at any time. The face value of the preferred shares converts into common shares at a fixed conversion price of $162.50 per share, far higher than the current trading price – so far, so good (from a Camber-shareholder perspective). The problem is the additional “conversion premium,” which is equal to the full seven years’ worth of dividends, or 7 x 24.95% ≈ 175% of face value, all at once, and is converted at a far lower conversion price that “will never be above approximately $0.3985 per share…regardless of the actual trading price of Camber’s common stock” (but could in principle go lower if the price crashes to new lows).6 The upshot of all this is that one share of Series C preferred is now convertible into ~43,885 shares of common stock.7 Historically, all of Camber’s Series C preferred was held by one investor: Discover Growth Fund. The terms of the preferred agreement cap Discover’s ownership of Camber’s common shares at 9.99% of the total, but nothing stops Discover from converting preferred into common up to that cap, selling off the resulting shares, converting additional preferred shares into common up to the cap, selling those common shares, etc., as Camber has stated explicitly (and as Discover has in fact done over the years) (emphasis added): Although Discover may not receive shares of common stock exceeding 9.99% of its outstanding shares of common stock immediately after affecting such conversion, this restriction does not prevent Discover from receiving shares up to the 9.99% limit, selling those shares, and then receiving the rest of the shares it is due, in one or more tranches, while still staying below the 9.99% limit. If Discover chooses to do this, it will cause substantial dilution to the then holders of its common stock. Additionally, the continued sale of shares issuable upon successive conversions will likely create significant downward pressure on the price of its common stock as Discover sells material amounts of Camber’s common stock over time and/or in a short period of time. This could place further downward pressure on the price of its common stock and in turn result in Discover receiving an ever increasing number of additional shares of common stock upon conversion of its securities, and adjustments thereof, which in turn will likely lead to further dilution, reductions in the exercise/conversion price of Discover’s securities and even more downward pressure on its common stock, which could lead to its common stock becoming devalued or worthless.8 In 2017, soon after Discover began to convert some of its first preferred shares, Camber’s then- management claimed to be shocked by the results and sued Discover for fraud, arguing that “[t]he catastrophic effect of the Discover Documents [i.e. the terms of the preferred] is so devastating that the Discover Documents are prima facie unconscionable” because “they will permit Discover to strip Camber of its value and business well beyond the simple repayment of its debt.” Camber called the documents “extremely difficult to understand” and insisted that they “were drafted in such a way as to obscure the true terms of such documents and the total number of shares of common stock that could be issuable by Camber thereunder. … Only after signing the documents did Camber and [its then CEO]…learn that Discover’s reading of the Discover Documents was that the terms that applied were the strictest and most Camber unfriendly interpretation possible.”9 But the judge wasn’t impressed, suggesting that it was Camber’s own fault for failing to read the fine print, and the case was dismissed. With no better options, Camber then repeatedly came crawling back to Discover for additional tranches of funding via preferred sales. While the recent spike in common share count to 104.2 million as of early July includes some of the impact of ongoing preferred conversion, we believe it fails to include all of it. In addition to Discover’s 2,093 shares of Series C preferred held as of February 2021, Camber issued additional shares to EMC Capital Partners, a creditor of Viking’s, as part of a January agreement to reduce Viking’s debt.10 Then, in July, Camber issued another block of preferred shares – also to Discover, we believe – to help fund Viking’s recent deals.11 We speculate that many of these preferred shares have already been converted into common shares that have subsequently been sold into a frenzied retail bid. Beyond the Series C preferred, there is one additional source of potential dilution: debt issued to Discover in three transactions from December 2020 to April 2021, totaling $20.5 million in face value, and amended in July to be convertible at a fixed price of $1.25 per share.12 We summarize our estimates of all of these sources of potential common share issuance below: Might we be wrong about this math? Absolutely – the mechanics of the Series C preferreds are so convoluted that prior Camber management sued Discover complaining that the legal documents governing them “were drafted in such a way as to obscure the true terms of such documents and the total number of shares of common stock that could be issuable by Camber thereunder.” Camber management could easily set the record straight by revealing the most up- to-date share count via an SEC filing, along with any additional clarifications about the expected future share count upon conversion of all outstanding convertible securities. But we're confident that the current share count reported in financial databases like Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance significantly understates the true, fully diluted figure. An additional indication that Camber expects massive future dilution relates to the total authorized shares of common stock under its official articles of incorporation. It was only a few months ago, in February, that Camber had to hold a special shareholder meeting to increase its maximum authorized share count from 25 million to 250 million in order to accommodate all the shares to be issued because of preferred conversions. But under Camber’s July agreement to sell additional preferred shares to Discover, the company (emphasis added) agreed to include proposals relating to the approval of the July 2021 Purchase Agreement and the issuance of the shares of common stock upon conversion of the Series C Preferred Stock sold pursuant to the July 2021 Purchase Agreement, as well as an increase in authorized common stock to fulfill our obligations to issue such shares, at the Company’s next Annual Meeting, the meeting held to approve the Merger or a separate meeting in the event the Merger is terminated prior to shareholder approval, and to use commercially reasonable best efforts to obtain such approvals as soon as possible and in any event prior to January 1, 2022.13 In other words, Camber can already see that 250 million shares will soon not be enough, consistent with our estimate of ~285 million fully diluted shares above. In sum, Camber’s true overvaluation is dramatically worse than it initially appears because of the massive number of common shares that its preferred and other securities can convert into, leading to a fully diluted share count that is nearly triple the figure found in standard information sources used by investors. This enormous latent dilution, impossible to discern without combing through numerous scattered filings made by a company with no up-to-date financial statements in the public domain, means that the market is – perhaps out of ignorance – attributing close to one billion dollars of value to a very weak business. Camber’s Stake in Viking Has Little Real Value In light of Camber’s gargantuan valuation, it’s worth dwelling on some basic facts about its sole meaningful asset, a 73% stake in Viking Energy. As of 6/30/21: Viking had negative $15 million in shareholder equity/book Its financial statements noted “substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue as a going ” Of its $101.3 million in outstanding debt (at face value), nearly half (48%) was scheduled to mature and come due over the following 12 months. Viking noted that it “does not currently maintain controls and procedures that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the Company in the reports it files or submits under the Exchange Act are recorded, processed, summarized, and reported within the time periods specified by the Commission’s rules and forms.” Viking’s CEO “has concluded that these [disclosure] controls and procedures are not effective in providing reasonable assurance of compliance.” Viking disclosed that a key subsidiary, Elysium Energy, was “in default of the maximum leverage ratio covenant under the term loan agreement at June 30, 2021”; this covenant caps the entity’s total secured debt to EBITDA at 75 to 1.14 This is hardly a healthy operation. Indeed, even according to Viking’s own black-box estimates, the present value of its total proved reserves of oil and gas, using a 10% discount rate (likely generous given the company’s high debt costs), was $120 million as of 12/31/20,15 while its outstanding debt, as stated above, is $101 million – perhaps implying a sliver of residual economic value to equity holders, but not much. And while some market observers have recently gotten excited about how increases in commodity prices could benefit Camber/Viking, any near-term impact will be blunted by hedges put on by Viking in early 2020, which cover, with respect to its Elysium properties, “60% of the estimated production for 2021 and 50% of the estimated production for the period between January, 2022 to July, 2022. Theses hedges have a floor of $45 and a ceiling ranging from $52.70 to $56.00 for oil, and a floor of $2.00 and a ceiling of $2.425 for natural gas” – cutting into the benefit of any price spikes above those ceiling levels.16 Sharing our dreary view of Viking’s prospects is one of Viking’s own financial advisors, a firm called Scalar, LLC, that Viking hired to prepare a fairness opinion under the original all-stock merger agreement with Camber. Combining Viking’s own internal projections with data on comparable-company valuation multiples, Scalar concluded in October 2020 that Viking’s equity was worth somewhere between $0 and $20 million, depending on the methodology used, with the “purest” methodology – a true, full-blown DCF – yielding the lowest estimate of $0-1 million: Camber’s advisor, Mercer Capital, came to a similar conclusion: its “analysis indicated an implied equity value of Viking of $0 to $34.3 million.”17 It’s inconceivable that a majority stake in this company, deemed potentially worthless by multiple experts and clearly experiencing financial strains, could somehow justify a near-billion-dollar valuation. Instead of dwelling on the unpleasant realities of Viking’s oil and gas business, Camber has drawn investor attention to two recent transactions conducted by Viking with Camber funding: a license agreement with “ESG Clean Energy,” discussed in further detail below, and the acquisition of a 60.3% stake in Simson-Maxwell, described as “a leading manufacturer and supplier of industrial engines, power generation products, services and custom energy solutions.” But Viking paid just $8 million for its Simson-Maxwell shares,18 and the company has just 125 employees; it defies belief to think that this purchase was such a bargain as to make a material dent in Camber’s overvaluation. And what does Simson-Maxwell actually do? One of its key officers, Daryl Kruper (identified as its chairman in Camber’s press release), describes the company a bit less grandly and more concretely on his LinkedIn page: Simson Maxwell is a power systems specialist. The company assembles and sells generator sets, industrial engines, power control systems and switchgear. Simson Maxwell has service and parts facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, Prince George, Vancouver, Nanaimo and Terrace. The company has provided its western Canadian customers with exceptional service for over 70 years. In other words, Simson-Maxwell acts as a sort of distributor/consultant, packaging industrial- strength generators and engines manufactured by companies like GE and Mitsubishi into systems that can provide electrical power, often in remote areas in western Canada; Simson- Maxwell employees then drive around in vans maintaining and repairing these systems. There’s nothing obviously wrong with this business, but it’s small, regional (not just Canada – western Canada specifically), likely driven by an unpredictable flow of new large projects, and unlikely to garner a high standalone valuation. Indeed, buried in one of Viking’s agreements with Simson- Maxwell’s selling shareholders (see p. 23) are clauses giving Viking the right to purchase the rest of the company between July 2024 and July 2026 at a price of at least 8x trailing EBITDA and giving the selling shareholders the right to sell the rest of their shares during the same time frame at a price of at least 7x trailing EBITDA – the kind of multiples associated with sleepy industrial distributors, not fast-growing retail darlings. Since Simon-Maxwell has nothing to do with Viking’s pre-existing assets or (alleged) expertise in oil and gas, and Viking and Camber are hardly flush with cash, why did they make the purchase? We speculate that management is concerned about the combined company’s ability to maintain its listing on the NYSE American. For example, when describing its restruck merger agreement with Viking, Camber noted: Additional closing conditions to the Merger include that in the event the NYSE American determines that the Merger constitutes, or will constitute, a “back-door listing”/“reverse merger”, Camber (and its common stock) is required to qualify for initial listing on the NYSE American, pursuant to the applicable guidance and requirements of the NYSE as of the Effective Time. What does it take to qualify for initial listing on the NYSE American? There are several ways, but three require at least $4 million of positive stockholders’ equity, which Viking, the intended surviving company, doesn’t have today; another requires a market cap of greater than $75 million, which management might (quite reasonably) be concerned about achieving sustainably. That leaves a standard that requires a listed company to have $75 million in assets and revenue. With Viking running at only ~$40 million of annualized revenue, we believe management is attempting to buy up more via acquisition. In fact, if the goal is simply to “buy” GAAP revenue, the most efficient way to do it is by acquiring a stake in a low-margin, slow- growing business – little earnings power, hence a low purchase price, but plenty of revenue. And by buying a majority stake instead of the whole thing, the acquirer can further reduce the capital outlay while still being able to consolidate all of the operation’s revenue under GAAP accounting. Buying 60.3% of Simson-Maxwell seems to fit the bill, but it’s a placeholder, not a real value-creator. Camber’s Partners in the Laughable “ESG Clean Energy” Deal Have a Long History of Broken Promises and Alleged Securities Fraud The “catalyst” most commonly cited by Camber Energy bulls for the recent massive increase in the company’s stock price is an August 24th press release, “Camber Energy Secures Exclusive IP License for Patented Carbon-Capture System,” announcing that the company, via Viking, “entered into an Exclusive Intellectual Property License Agreement with ESG Clean Energy, LLC (‘ESG’) regarding ESG’s patent rights and know-how related to stationary electric power generation, including methods to utilize heat and capture carbon dioxide.” Our research suggests that the “intellectual property” in question amounts to very little: in essence, the concept of collecting the exhaust gases emitted by a natural-gas–fueled electric generator, cooling it down to distill out the water vapor, and isolating the remaining carbon dioxide. But what happens to the carbon dioxide then? The clearest answer ESG Clean Energy has given is that it “can be sold to…cannabis producers”19 to help their plants grow faster, though the vast majority of the carbon dioxide would still end up escaping into the atmosphere over time, and additional greenhouse gases would be generated in compressing and shipping this carbon dioxide to the cannabis producers, likely leading to a net worsening of carbon emissions.20 And what is Viking – which primarily extracts oil and gas from the ground, as opposed to running generators and selling electrical power – supposed to do with this technology anyway? The idea seems to be that the newly acquired Simson-Maxwell business will attempt to sell the “technology” as a value-add to customers who are buying generators in western Canada. Indeed, while Camber’s press-release headline emphasized the “exclusive” nature of the license, the license is only exclusive in Canada plus “up to twenty-five locations in the United States” – making the much vaunted deal even more trivial than it might first appear. Viking paid an upfront royalty of $1.5 million in cash in August, with additional installments of $1.5 and $2 million due by January and April 2022, respectively, for a total of $5 million. In addition, Viking “shall pay to ESG continuing royalties of not more than 15% of the net revenues of Viking generated using the Intellectual Property, with the continuing royalty percentage to be jointly determined by the parties collaboratively based on the parties’ development of realistic cashflow models resulting from initial projects utilizing the Intellectual Property, and with the parties utilizing mediation if they cannot jointly agree to the continuing royalty percentage”21 – a strangely open-ended, perhaps rushed, way of setting a royalty rate. Overall, then, Viking is paying $5 million for roughly 85% of the economics of a technology that might conceivably help “capture” CO2 emitted by electric generators in Canada (and up to 25 locations in the United States!) but then probably just re-emit it again. This is the great advance that has driven Camber to a nearly billion-dollar market cap. It’s with good reason that on ESG Clean Energy’s web site (as of early October), the list of “press releases that show that ESG Clean Energy is making waves in the distributive power industry” is blank: If the ESG Clean Energy license deal were just another trivial bit of vaporware hyped up by a promotional company and its over-eager shareholders, it would be problematic but unremarkable; things like that happen all the time. But it’s the nature and history of Camber/Viking’s counterparty in the ESG deal that truly makes the situation sublime. ESG Clean Energy is in fact an offshoot of the Scuderi Group, a family business in western Massachusetts created to develop the now deceased Carmelo Scuderi’s idea for a revolutionary new type of engine. (In a 2005 AP article entitled “Engine design draws skepticism,” an MIT professor “said the creation is almost certain to fail.”) Two of Carmelo’s children, Nick and Sal, appeared in a recent ESG Clean Energy video with Camber’s CEO, who called Sal “more of the brains behind the operation” but didn’t state his official role – interesting since documents associated with ESG Clean Energy’s recent small-scale capital raises don’t mention Sal at all. Buried in Viking’s contract with ESG Clean Energy is the following section, indicating that the patents and technology underlying the deal actually belong in the first instance to the Scuderi Group, Inc.: 2.6 Demonstration of ESG’s Exclusive License with Scuderi Group and Right to Grant Licenses in this Agreement. ESG shall provide necessary documentation to Viking which demonstrates ESG’s right to grant the licenses in this Section 2 of this Agreement. For the avoidance of doubt, ESG shall provide necessary documentation that verifies the terms and conditions of ESG’s exclusive license with the Scuderi Group, Inc., a Delaware USA corporation, having an address of 1111 Elm Street, Suite 33, West Springfield, MA 01089 USA (“Scuderi Group”), and that nothing within ESG’s exclusive license with the Scuderi Group is inconsistent with the terms of this Agreement. In fact, the ESG Clean Energy entity itself was originally called Scuderi Clean Energy but changed its name in 2019; its subsidiary ESG-H1, LLC, which presides over a long-delayed power-generation project in the small city of Holyoke, Massachusetts (discussed further below), used to be called Scuderi Holyoke Power LLC but also changed its name in 2019.22 The SEC provided a good summary of the Scuderi Group’s history in a 2013 cease-and-desist order that imposed a $100,000 civil money penalty on Sal Scuderi (emphasis added): Founded in 2002, Scuderi Group has been in the business of developing a new internal combustion engine design. Scuderi Group’s business plan is to develop, patent, and license its engine technology to automobile companies and other large engine manufacturers. Scuderi Group, which considers itself a development stage company, has not generated any revenue… …These proceedings arise out of unregistered, non-exempt stock offerings and misleading disclosures regarding the use of offering proceeds by Scuderi Group and Mr. Scuderi, the company’s president. Between 2004 and 2011, Scuderi Group sold more than $80 million worth of securities through offerings that were not registered with the Commission and did not qualify for any of the exemptions from the Securities Act’s registration requirement. The company’s private placement memoranda informed investors that Scuderi Group intended to use the proceeds from its offerings for “general corporate purposes, including working capital.” In fact, the company was making significant payments to Scuderi family members for non-corporate purposes, including, large, ad hoc bonus payments to Scuderi family employees to cover personal expenses; payments to family members who provided no services to Scuderi; loans to Scuderi family members that were undocumented, with no written interest and repayment terms; large loans to fund $20 million personal insurance policies for six of the Scuderi siblings for which the company has not been, and will not be, repaid; and personal estate planning services for the Scuderi family. Between 2008 and 2011, a period when Scuderi Group sold more than $75 million in securities despite not obtaining any revenue, Mr. Scuderi authorized more than $3.2 million in Scuderi Group spending on such purposes. …In connection with these offerings [of stock], Scuderi Group disseminated more than 3,000 PPMs [private placement memoranda] to potential investors, directly and through third parties. Scuderi Group found these potential investors by, among other things, conducting hundreds of roadshows across the U.S.; hiring a registered broker-dealer to find investors; and paying numerous intermediaries to encourage people to attend meetings that Scuderi Group arranged for potential investors. …Scuderi Group’s own documents reflect that, in total, over 90 of the company’s investors were non-accredited investors… The Scuderi Group and Sal Scuderi neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings but agreed to stop violating securities law. Contemporary local news coverage of the regulatory action added color to the SEC’s description of the Scuderis’ fund-raising tactics (emphasis added): Here on Long Island, folks like HVAC specialist Bill Constantine were early investors, hoping to earn a windfall from Scuderi licensing the idea to every engine manufacturer in the world. Constantine said he was familiar with the Scuderis because he worked at an Islandia company that distributed an oil-less compressor for a refrigerant recovery system designed by the family patriarch. Constantine told [Long Island Business News] he began investing in the engine in 2007, getting many of his friends and family to put their money in, too. The company held an invitation-only sales pitch at the Marriott in Islandia in February 2011. Commercial real estate broker George Tsunis said he was asked to recruit investors for the Scuderi Group, but declined after hearing the pitch. “They were talking about doing business with Volkswagen and Mercedes, but everything was on the come,” Tsunis said. “They were having a party and nobody came.” Hot on the heels of the SEC action, an individual investor who had purchased $197,000 of Scuderi Group preferred units sued the Scuderi Group as well as Sal, Nick, Deborah, Stephen, and Ruth Scuderi individually, alleging, among other things, securities fraud (e.g. “untrue statements of material fact” in offering memoranda). This case was settled out of court in 2016 after the judge reportedly “said from the bench that he was likely to grant summary judgement for [the] plaintiff. … That ruling would have clear the way for other investors in Scuderi to claim at least part of a monetary settlement.” (Two other investors filed a similar lawsuit in 2017 but had it dismissed in 2018 because they ran afoul of the statute of limitations.23) The Scuderi Group put on a brave face, saying publicly, “The company is very pleased to put the SEC matter behind it and return focus to its technology.” In fact, in December 2013, just months after the SEC news broke, the company entered into a “Cooperative Consortium Agreement” with Hino Motors, a Japanese manufacturer, creating an “engineering research group” to further develop the Scuderi engine concept. “Hino paid Scuderi an initial fee of $150,000 to join the Consortium Group, which was to be refunded if Scuderi was unable to raise the funding necessary to start the Project by the Commencement Date,” in the words of Hino’s later lawsuit.24 Sure enough, the Scuderi Group ended up canceling the project in early October 2014 “due to funding and participant issues” – but it didn’t pay back the $150,000. Hino’s lawsuit documents Stephen Scuderi’s long series of emailed excuses: 10/31/14: “I must apologize, but we are going to be a little late in our refund of the Consortium Fee of $150,000. I am sure you have been able to deduce that we have a fair amount of challenging financial problems that we are working through. I am counting on financing for our current backlog of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) projects to provide the capital to refund the Consortium Fee. Though we are very optimistic that the financial package for our PPA projects will be completed successfully, the process is taking a little longer than I originally expected to complete (approximately 3 months longer).” 11/25/14: “I am confident that we can pay Hino back its refund by the end of January. … The reason I have been slow to respond is because I was waiting for feedback from a few large cornerstone investors that we have been negotiating with. The negotiations have been progressing very well and we are close to a comprehensive financing deal, but (as often happens) the back and forth of the negotiating process takes ” 1/12/15: “We have given a proposal to the potential high-end investors that is most interested in investing a large sum of money into Scuderi Group. That investor has done his due-diligence on our company and has communicated to us that he likes our proposal but wants to give us a counter ” 1/31/15: “The individual I spoke of last month is one of several high net worth individuals that are currently evaluating investing a significant amount of equity capital into our That particular individual has not yet responded with a counter proposal, because he wishes to complete a study on the power generation market as part of his due diligence effort first. Though we learned of the study only recently, we believe that his enthusiasm for investing in Scuderi Group remains as strong as ever and steady progress is being made with the other high net worth individuals as well. … I ask only that you be patient for a short while longer as we make every effort possible to raise the monies need[ed] to refund Hino its consortium fee.” Fed up, Hino sued instead of waiting for the next excuse – but ended up discovering that the Scuderi bank account to which it had wired the $150,000 now contained only about $64,000. Hino and the Scuderi Group then entered into a settlement in which that account balance was supposed to be immediately handed over to Hino, with the remainder plus interest to be paid back later – but Scuderi didn’t even comply with its own settlement, forcing Hino to re-initiate its lawsuit and obtain an official court judgment against Scuderi. Pursuant to that judgment, Hino formally requested an array of documents like tax returns and bank statements, but Scuderi simply ignored these requests, using the following brazen logic:25 Though as of this date, the execution has not been satisfied, Scuderi continues to operate in the ordinary course of business and reasonably expects to have money available to satisfy the execution in full in the near future. … Responding to the post- judgment discovery requests, as a practical matter, will not enable Scuderi to pay Hino any faster than can be achieved by Scuderi using all of its resources and efforts to conduct its day-to-day business operations and will only serve to impose additional and unnecessary costs on both parties. Scuderi has offered and is willing to make payments every 30 days to Hino in amounts not less than $10,000 until the execution is satisfied in full. Shortly thereafter, in March 2016, Hino dropped its case, perhaps having chosen to take the $10,000 per month rather than continue to tangle in court with the Scuderis (though we don’t know for sure). With its name tarnished by disgruntled investors and the SEC, and at least one of its bank accounts wiped out by Hino Motors, the Scuderi Group didn’t appear to have a bright future. But then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new business was born: Scuderi Clean Energy, “a wholly owned subsidiary of Scuderi Group, Inc. … formed in October 2015 to market Scuderi Engine Technology to the power generation industry.” (Over time, references to the troubled “Scuderi Engine Technology” have faded away; today ESG Clean Energy is purportedly planning to use standard, off-the-shelf Caterpillar engines. And while an early press release described Scuderi Clean Energy as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Scuderi Group,” the current Scuderi/ESG Clean Energy, LLC, appears to have been created later as its own (nominally) independent entity, led by Nick Scuderi.) As the emailed excuses in the Hino dispute suggested, this pivot to “clean energy” and electric power generation had been in the works for some time, enabling Scuderi Clean Energy to hit the ground running by signing a deal with Holyoke Gas and Electric, a small utility company owned by the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts (population 38,238) in December 2015. The basic idea was that Scuderi Clean Energy would install a large natural-gas generator and associated equipment on a vacant lot and use it to supply Holyoke Gas and Electric with supplemental electric power, especially during “peak demand periods in the summer.”26 But it appears that, from day one, Holyoke had its doubts. In its 2015 annual report (p. 80), the company wrote (emphasis added): In December 2015, the Department contracted with Scuderi Clean Energy, LLC under a twenty (20) year [power purchase agreement] for a 4.375 MW [megawatt] natural gas generator. Uncertain if this project will move forward; however Department mitigated market and development risk by ensuring interconnection costs are born by other party and that rates under PPA are discounted to full wholesale energy and resulting load reduction cost savings (where and if applicable). Holyoke was right to be uncertain. Though its 2017 annual report optimistically said, “Expected Commercial Operation date is April 1, 2018” (p. 90), the 2018 annual report changed to “Expected Commercial Operation is unknown at this time” – language that had to be repeated verbatim in the 2019 and 2020 annual reports. Six years after the contract was signed, the Scuderi Clean Energy, now ESG Clean Energy, project still hasn’t produced one iota of power, let alone one dollar of revenue. What it has produced, however, is funding from retail investors, though perhaps not as much as the Scuderis could have hoped. Beginning in 2017, Scuderi Clean Energy managed to sell roughly $1.3 million27 in 5-year “TIGRcub” bonds (Top-Line Income Generation Rights Certificates) on the small online Entrex platform by advertising a 12% “minimum yield” and 16.72% “projected IRR” (based on 18.84% “revenue participation”) over a 5-year term. While we don’t know the exact terms of these bonds, we believe that, at least early on, interest payments were covered by some sort of prepaid insurance policy, while later payments depend on (so far nonexistent) revenue from the Holyoke project. But Scuderi Clean Energy had been aiming to raise $6 million to complete the project, not $1 million; indeed, this was only supposed to be the first component of a whole empire of “Scuderi power plants”28 that would require over $100 million to build but were supposedly already under contract.29 So far, however, nothing has come of these other projects, and, seemingly suffering from insufficient funding, the Holyoke effort languished. (Of course, it might have been more investor-friendly if Scuderi Clean Energy had only accepted funding on the condition that there was enough to actually complete construction.) Under the new ESG Clean Energy name, the Scuderis tried in 2019 to raise capital again, this time in the form of $5 million of preferred units marketed as a “5 year tax free Investment with 18% cash-on-cash return,” but, based on an SEC filing, it appears that the offering didn’t go well, raising just $150,000. With funding still limited and the Holyoke project far from finished, the clock is ticking: the $1.3 million of bonds will begin to mature in early 2022. It was thus fortunate that Viking came along when it did to pay ESG Clean Energy a $1.5 million upfront royalty for its incredible technology. Interestingly, ESG Clean Energy began in late 2020 to provide extremely detailed updates on its Holyoke construction progress, including items as prosaic as “Throughout the week, ESG had met with and continued to exchange numerous e-mails with our mechanical engineering firm.” With frequent references to the “very fluid environment,” the tone is unmistakably defensive. Consider the September update (emphasis not added): Reading between the lines, we believe the intended message is this: “We didn’t just take your money and run – honest! We’re working hard!” Nonetheless, someone appears to be unhappy, as indicated by the FINRA BrokerCheck report for one Eric Willer, a former employee of Fusion Analytics, which was listed as a recipient of sales compensation in connection with the Scuderi Clean Energy bond offerings. Willer may now be in hot water: a disclosure notice dated 3/31/2021 reads: “Wells Notice received as a preliminary determination to recommend disciplinary action of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and recommendation without due diligence in the sale of bonds issued by Scuderi Holyoke,” with a further investigation still pending. We wait eagerly for additional updates. Why does the saga of the Scuderis matter? Many Camber investors seem to have convinced themselves that the ESG Clean Energy “carbon capture” IP licensed by Viking has enormous value and can plausibly justify hundreds of millions of dollars of incremental market cap. As we explained above, we find this thoroughly implausible even without getting into Scuderi family history: in the end, the “technology” will at best add a smidgen of value to some generators in Canada. But track records matter too, and the Scuderi track record of failed R&D, delays, excuses, and alleged misuse of funds is worth considering. These people have spent six years trying and failing to sell power to a single municipally owned utility company in a single small city in western Massachusetts. Are they really about to end climate change? The Case of the Fictitious CFO Since Camber is effectively a bet on Viking, and Viking, in its current form, has been assembled by James Doris, it’s important to assess Doris’s probity and good judgment. In that connection, it’s noteworthy that, from December 2014 to July 2016, at the very start of Doris’s reign as Viking’s CEO and president, the company’s CFO, Guangfang “Cecile” Yang, was apparently fictitious. (Covering the case in 2019, Dealbreaker used the headline “Possibly Imaginary CFO Grounds For Very Real Fraud Lawsuit.”) This strange situation was brought to light by an SEC lawsuit against Viking’s founder, Tom Simeo; just last month, a US district court granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC against Simeo, but Simeo’s penalties have yet to be determined.30 The court’s opinion provided a good overview of the facts (references omitted, emphasis added): In 2013, Simeo hired Yang, who lives in Shanghai, China, to be Viking’s CFO. Yang served in that position until she purportedly resigned in July 2016. When Yang joined the company, Simeo fabricated a standing resignation letter, in which Yang purported to “irrevocably” resign her position with Viking “at any time desired by the Company” and “[u]pon notification that the Company accepted [her] resignation”…Simeo forged Yang’s signature on this document. This letter allowed Simeo to remove Yang from the position of CFO whenever he pleased. Simeo also fabricated a power of attorney purportedly signed by Yang that allowed Simeo to “affix Yang’s signature to any and all documents,” including documents that Viking had to file with the SEC. Viking represented to the public that Yang was the company’s CFO and a member of its Board of Directors. But “Yang never actually functioned as Viking’s CFO.” She “was not involved in the financial and strategic decisions” of Viking during the Relevant Period. Nor did she play any role in “preparing Viking’s financial statements or public filings.” Indeed, at least as of April 3, 2015, Yang did not do “any work” on Viking’s financial statements and did not speak with anyone who was preparing them. She also did not “review or evaluate Viking’s internal controls over financial reporting.” Further, during most or all of the Relevant Period, Viking did not compensate Yang despite the fact that she was the company’s highest ranking financial employee. Nevertheless, Simeo says that he personally paid her in cash. Yang’s “sole point of contact” at Viking was Simeo. Indeed Simeo was “the only person at Viking who communicated with Yang.” Thus many people at Viking never interacted with Yang. Despite the fact that Doris has served as Viking’s CEO since December 2014, he “has never met or spoken to Yang either in person or through any other means, and he has never communicated with Yang in writing.” … To think Yang served as CFO during this time, but the CEO and other individuals involved with Viking’s SEC filings never once spoke with her, strains all logical credulity. It remains unclear whether Yang is even a real person. When the SEC asked Simeo directly (“Is it the case that you made up the existence of Ms. Yang?”) he responded by “invoking the Fifth Amendment.”31 While the SEC’s efforts thus far have focused on Simeo, the case clearly raises the question of what Doris knew and when he knew it. Indeed, though many of the required Sarbanes-Oxley certifications of Viking’s financial statements during the Yang period were signed by Simeo in his role as chairman, Doris did personally sign off on an amended 2015 10-K that refers to Yang as CFO through July 2016 and includes her complete, apparently fictitious, biography. Viking has also disclosed the following, which we believe pertains to the Yang affair (emphasis added): In April of 2019, the staff (the “Staff”) of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement notified the Company that the Staff had made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against the Company, as well as against its CEO and its CFO, for alleged violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder [laws that pertain to securities fraud] during the period from early 2014 through late 2016. The Staff’s notice is not a formal allegation or a finding of wrongdoing by the Company, and the Company has communicated with the Staff regarding its preliminary determination. The Company believes it has adequate defenses and intends to vigorously defend any enforcement action that may be initiated by the SEC.32 Perhaps the SEC has moved on from this matter and will let Doris and Viking off the hook, but the fact pattern is eyebrow-raising nonetheless. A similarly troubling incident came soon after the time of Yang’s “resignation,” when Viking’s auditing firm resigned, withdrew its recent audit report, and wrote a letter “advising the Company that it believed an illegal act may have occurred” – because of concerns that had nothing to do with Yang. First, Viking accounted for the timing of a grant of shares to a consultant in apparent contradiction of the terms of the written agreement with the consultant – a seemingly minor issue. But, under scrutiny from the auditor, Viking “produced a letter… (the version which was provided to us was unsigned), from the consultant stating that the Agreement was invalidated verbally.” Reading between the lines, the “uncomfortable” auditor suspected that this letter was a fake, created just to get him off Viking’s back. In another incident, the auditor “became aware that seven of the company’s loans…were due to be repaid” in August 2016 but hadn’t been, creating a default that would in turn “trigger[] a cross-default clause contained in 17 additional loans” – but Viking claimed it “had secured an oral extension to the loans from the broker-dealer representing the lenders by September 6, 2016” – after the loans’ maturity dates – “so the Company did not need to disclose ‘the defaults under these loans’ after such time since the loans were not in default.” It’s easy to see why an auditor would object to this attitude toward financial disclosure – no need to mention a default in August as long as you can secure a verbal agreement resolving it by September! Against this backdrop of disturbing behavior, the fact that Camber just dismissed its auditing firm three weeks ago on September 16th, even with delisting looming if the company can’t become current again with its SEC filings by November, seems even more unsettling. Have Camber and Viking management earned investors’ trust? Conclusion It’s not clear why, back in 2017, Lucas Energy changed its name to “Camber” specifically, but we’d like to think the inspiration was England’s Camber Castle. According to Atlas Obscura, the castle was supposed to help defend the English coast, but it took so long to build that its “advanced design was obsolete by the time of its completion,” and changes in the local environment meant that “the sea had receded so far that cannons fired from the fort would no longer be able to reach any invading ships.” Still, the useless castle was “manned and serviced” for nearly a century before being officially decommissioned. Today, Camber “lies derelict and almost unheard of.” But what’s in a name? Article by Kerrisdale Capital Management Updated on Oct 5, 2021, 12:06 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkOct 5th, 2021

Franklin (BEN) Concludes O"Shaughnessy Asset Management Buyout

Franklin (BEN) strengthens its position as a separately managed accounts provider and boosts customization capabilities by purchasing O'Shaughnessy Asset Management. Franklin Resources, Inc. BEN completed its previously announced acquisition of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, LLC (“OSAM”), a preeminent quantitative asset management firm, thereby reinforcing its position in the separately managed account (SMA) space.Post-acquisition, OSAM continues to retain its brand, while more than 40 of its team members have joined Franklin. Also, OSAM’s intellectual property, investment management processes, and principal business assets have been transferred to Franklin’s Product Solutions division.Through the acquisition, the company will leverage OSAM’s factor-based investment management and custom indexing solution capabilities via the latter’s popular flagship Canvas platform. Since the Canvas platform was rolled out in late 2019, it has seen robust growth, with $2 billion AUM of OSAM’s aggregate $6.5 billion AUM as of Nov 30, 2021.Encouragingly, Canvas facilitates financial advisors to build and manage Custom Indexes in SMAs, which are curated per clients’ particular needs, preferences and objectives. The platform also allows advisors to create investment templates, utilize passive strategies, access factor investing strategies, and apply ESG investing and SRI screens in accordance with clients’ personal beliefs.It will also enable advisors to aptly plan, finalize tax budgets, zero in on realized and unrealized gains and losses, and sell certain positions to create offsets. Canvas platform aside, OSAM’s foothold in factor-based investing will also benefit Franklin.While Franklin is already one of the largest providers in the SMA industry, with $130 billion assets under management (AUM) as of Nov 30, 2021, the buyout will add to its SMA offerings.Management remarked, “Custom Indexing is aligned with our commitment to bringing sophisticated customization to a broader investment audience. This partnership enhances our ability to deliver compelling individualized SMA solutions to clients, advisors and firms.”Over the last couple of years, Franklin has grown through acquisitions, thereby enhancing its foothold. Such acquisitions will support the company in improving and expanding its alternative investments and multi-asset solutions platforms, which will help it provide world-class investment solutions to clients.Notably, in November 2021, Franklin inked an agreement to acquire Lexington Partners, a domineering secondary private equity and co-investment funds’ global manager. The deal will fortify Franklin’s alternative asset competencies apart from complementing its current prowess in real estate, private credit and hedge fund strategies. It comes at a time when investors are progressively stipulating capital across the huge arena of alternative asset offerings.However, overall high net outflows will likely keep the AUM balance under pressure.Shares of the company have gained 8.2% over the past six months compared with 4.8% growth recorded by the industry. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research BEN currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.Inorganic Growth Efforts by Other FirmsSeveral other companies from the finance sector are undertaking consolidation efforts to improve competencies in a bid to counter the low-interest-rate environment.In a similar move to enhance M&A advisory service competencies in the digital-infrastructure sector, Citizens Financial Group, Inc. CFG announced a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all assets of DH Capital LLC. DH Capital is a New York-based private investment banking firm catering to companies in the Internet infrastructure, software and next-generation IT services, and communications sectors.The move marks Citizens Financial’s third acquisition over the past four months to augment its corporate advisory team. In September, CFG closed the buyout of Willamette Management Associates and it acquired JMP Group in November.Velocity Financial, Inc. VEL acquired the majority stake in Century Health & Housing Capital. Century is a licensed “Ginnie Mae” issuer and servicer. Century offers government-insured Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage financing for multi-family housing, senior housing and long-term care/assisted living facilities.The acquisition will help Velocity Financial leverage Century’s well-established platform and diversify Velocity Financial’s revenues with the addition of fee-based origination and servicing income. The buyout adds new products. This along with Velocity Financial’s national origination footprint offers ample development scope for origination growth and the expansion of commercial mortgage product offerings.RBB Bancorp RBB entered a definitive agreement to buy Gateway Bank in a cash transaction valued at $22.9 million in a bid to penetrate the strategic San Francisco Bay Area. The buyout will expand RBB Bancorp’s physical presence in six of nine target markets of Gateway Bank and provide a profitable base to extend the advancement the latter has made in the Bay Area. It is also in line with RBB Bancorp’s aim to establish its relationship-based banking model in the region for the community.As of Sep 30, 2021, Gateway Bank had total assets of $172.4 million, total gross loans of $123.1 million, total deposits of $147.5 million and total tangible equity of $15.5 million. Hence, the acquisition is likely to enhance RBB Bancorp’s balance sheet. Infrastructure Stock Boom to Sweep America A massive push to rebuild the crumbling U.S. infrastructure will soon be underway. It’s bipartisan, urgent, and inevitable. Trillions will be spent. Fortunes will be made. The only question is “Will you get into the right stocks early when their growth potential is greatest?” Zacks has released a Special Report to help you do just that, and today it’s free. Discover 5 special companies that look to gain the most from construction and repair to roads, bridges, and buildings, plus cargo hauling and energy transformation on an almost unimaginable scale.Download FREE: How to Profit from Trillions on Spending for Infrastructure >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Franklin Resources, Inc. (BEN): Free Stock Analysis Report Citizens Financial Group, Inc. (CFG): Free Stock Analysis Report RBB Bancorp (RBB): Free Stock Analysis Report Velocity Financial, Inc. (VEL): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksJan 5th, 2022

8 Top CEOs Give Their Predictions for the Wild Year Ahead

(To receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.) Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders are heading into 2022 facing the strong headwinds of the Omicron variant, continued pressure on supply chains, and the great resignation looming over the labor market. TIME asked top leaders… (To receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.) Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders are heading into 2022 facing the strong headwinds of the Omicron variant, continued pressure on supply chains, and the great resignation looming over the labor market. TIME asked top leaders from across the world of business to share their priorities and expectations for the year ahead. Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, wants to leverage the advances his pharmaceutical company has made in fighting COVID-19 to tackle other diseases, while Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, has made improving access to healthcare one of her goals over the next year. GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan says building trust will be at the heart of decision-making at the crowdfunding platform—both with workers and its wider community. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Innovation is key to Intel CEO Patrick P. Gelsinger and Forerunner Ventures founder and managing partner Kirsten Green. And Rothy’s CEO Stephen Hawthornthwaite, Albemarle CEO Kent Masters, and Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, shared their suggestions for how companies and policymakers can respond to persistent supply chains problems. Read on to see how some of the most powerful people in business envision the coming year. (These answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.) What are the biggest opportunities and challenges you expect in the year ahead? Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer: The scientific advancements made by Pfizer and others over the past year have brought us very powerful tools to battle the worst pandemic of our lives. But, unfortunately, we don’t see everyone using them. I am concerned about the limited infrastructure and resources in the poorest countries as they struggle to administer their supply of COVID-19 vaccines to their people. Some of these countries have asked us to pause our deliveries of doses while they work to address these issues. While I am proud of the work Pfizer has done to make vaccines available to low- and lower middle-income countries over the past year, we need to find new ways to support the World Health Organization as they work with NGOs and governments to address these infrastructure issues. Getty ImagesAlbert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer Over the next year I’d like us to help find solutions to issues like the shortage of medical professionals, vaccine hesitancy due to limited educational campaigns, lack of equipment and even roads to allow timely delivery of vaccines. Throughout every chapter of this pandemic, we have been reminded of the importance of collaboration and innovative thinking. We need to work harder than ever before to address these health inequities so that people around the globe are protected from the virus. Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel: Throughout the history of technology, we’ve seen the pendulum swinging between centralized and decentralized computing. And there is still a tremendous untapped opportunity in edge computing as we bring greater intelligence to devices such as sensors and cameras in everything from our cars to manufacturing to the smart grid. Edge computing will not replace cloud; we’re swinging back to where decentralized compute becomes the primary growth for new workloads because the inference and AI analysis will take place at the edge. Technology has the power to improve the lives of every person on earth and Intel plays a foundational role within. We aim to lead in the opportunity for every category in which we compete. Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens: The pandemic affirmed Walgreens as a trusted neighborhood health destination to help our customers and patients manage their health. We provide essential care to our communities, including administering more than 50 million COVID-19 vaccines as of early December 2021. The opportunity ahead of us at Walgreens Health—our new segment launched this past fall—is to create better outcomes for both consumers and partners, while lowering costs across the care continuum. A year from now I want to look back on this time as an inflection point and a moment in time where real, lasting change happened—that we will all have collectively banded together to get through the pandemic and at the same time delivered real change toward improving accessible and affordable healthcare. I feel inspired and hopeful that some good will come out of this very difficult time in our country and the world’s history. Jason Redmond—AFP/Getty ImagesRosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens, speaks in Seattle, Washington on Mar. 20, 2019. Tim Cadogan, CEO of GoFundMe: We’re going to see continued disruption in the world and the workplace in 2022—this will require more people to come together to help each other. Our opportunity is to use our voice and platform to bring more people together to help each other with all aspects of their lives. Asking for help is hard but coming together to help each other is one of the most important and rewarding things we can do in life. We are continuously improving our product to make it easier for more people to both ask for and give help, whether it’s helping an individual fulfill a dream, working on a global cause like climate change, or supporting a family during a difficult time. Kirsten Green, founder and managing partner of Forerunner Ventures: We are nearly two years into the pandemic, and it is still ongoing. We must embrace this new normal and figure out how to make that reality work for our businesses, our consumers, and our people. Thankfully, we often see innovation come out of these periods of change and fluctuation. At the same time, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the world has evolved, and it is still important to understand that the ‘reset’ button just got hit for a lot of people. Values, goals, and core needs are being reevaluated and reestablished, and we as a society need to figure out how to move forward during a volatile period. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles: Our industry needs to help drive the American economic recovery amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The top priority remains getting goods to American consumers and creating a more fluid supply chain. We also need to address the growing trade imbalance. Imports are at all-time highs while U.S. exports have declined nearly 40% over the past three years in Los Angeles. We have to help American manufacturers and farmers get their products to global markets. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, our team is working to get our fair share of federal funds to accelerate projects to improve rail infrastructure, local highways and support facilities. The Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s primary trade gateway, yet east and gulf coast ports have received most of the federal funding in the past decade. The best return on port infrastructure investment is in Los Angeles, where the cargo we handle reaches every corner of the country. Kent Masters, CEO of Albemarle: Challenges will likely continue to include competition for top talent, supply chain disruptions due to possible pandemic impacts to raw material availability and logistics, and potential inflation impacts to material and freight costs, all of which we’re monitoring closely so we can respond quickly. With the global EV market growing rapidly, we have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us for years to come. Next year, we’ll advance our lithium business through new capacity ramp-ups in Chile, Australia and China, and restart the MARBL Lithium Wodgina hard rock resource in Australia to help feed our new conversion assets and meet customer needs. We’re also keenly focused on organizational goal alignment and continuous improvement to drive greater productivity through our global workforce next year. What do you expect to happen to supply chains in 2022? Gelsinger: The unprecedented global demand for semiconductors—combined with the impact of the global pandemic—has led to an industry-wide shortage, which is impacting technology providers across the industry. Intel is aggressively stepping in to address these issues and build out more capacity and supply around the globe for a more balanced and stable supply, but it will take time and strong public-private partnerships to achieve. Read more: From Cars to Toasters, America’s Semiconductor Shortage Is Wreaking Havoc on Our Lives. Can We Fix It? Brewer: We learned a lot over the past two years and companies are taking action with investments in capacity, resiliency and agility for supply chains across the world. We will continue finding creative ways to increase manufacturing and shipping capacity. Manufacturers will continue expanding capacity and increasing the diversity in their supplier base to reduce reliance of single sourcing. Companies will continue to invest to increase resiliency through expanded inventory positions, extended planning horizons and lead-times, and increased agility in manufacturing and logistics capabilities to fulfill customer needs. As the marketplace changes, we must be agile and adapt quickly as we respond to shifts in consumer behavior. Investments in technology, such as real time supply chain visibility and predictive/prescriptive analytics, will enable companies to deliver the speed and precision expected by today’s consumer. Seroka: Goods and products will get to market. The maritime logistics industry must raise the bar and make advances on service levels for both our import and export customers. Retailers will be replenishing their inventories in the second quarter of the year. And by summer, several months earlier than usual, we’ll see savvy retailers bringing in products for back to school, fall fashion and the winter holidays. Despite the challenges, retail sales reached new highs in 2021. Collectively, supply chains partners need to step up further to improve fluidity and reliability. Stephen Hawthornthwaite, CEO of Rothy’s: In 2022, pressure from consumers for transparency around manufacturing and production, coupled with pandemic learnings about existing supply chain constraints, will push businesses to condense their supply chains and bring in-house where possible. I also predict that more brands will test make-to-demand models to better weather demand volatility and avoid supply surpluses—a benefit for businesses, consumers and the planet. Nimbleness and a willingness to innovate will be crucial for brands who wish to meet the demands of a post-pandemic world. At Rothy’s, we’ve built a vertically integrated model and wholly-owned factory, enabling us to better navigate the challenges that production and logistics present and unlock the full potential of sustainability and circularity. Courtesy of Rothy’sStephen Hawthornthwaite, chairman and CEO, Rothy’s Green: The pandemic crystallized what a lot of us knew to be true, but hadn’t yet evaluated: There’s not nearly as much innovation in the supply chain as a flexible world is going to need. What we’re seeing now is a giant wake-up call to the entire commerce ecosystem. This is more than a rallying cry; it’s a mandate to reevaluate how we’re managing our production processes, and 2022 will be the start of change. Expect a massive overhaul of the system, and expect to see more investment building innovation, efficiency, and sustainability into the supply chain space. Read more: How American Shoppers Broke the Supply Chain Masters: As the pandemic continues with new variants, we expect global supply chain issues to persist in 2022. To what degree remains to be seen, but I would expect impacts to some raw materials, freight costs, and even energy costs. On a positive note, we can successfully meet our customer obligations largely because of our vertically integrated capabilities. This helps us continue to be a reliable source of lithium, as well as bromine. Worldwide logistics issues are a factor, but more marginal in the supply question when the determining factor is the ability to convert feedstock to product and bolster the supply chain. In lithium, we have active conversion facilities running at full capacity now. As we bring more capacity online (La Negra III/IV, Kemerton I/II, Silver Peak expansion, and our Tianyuan acquisition in China) while making more efficient use of our feedstocks, it will help strengthen the global supply chain. How will the labor market evolve and what changes should workers expect in the coming year? Brewer: The labor market will continue to be competitive in 2022. I often say to my team: as an employer, it’s not about the products we make, it’s not about our brand. It’s about how are we going to motivate team members to feel good about themselves, fulfilled and passionate about their work, to contribute at their highest level of performance. How do we create a culture that means Walgreens Boots Alliance is the best place to work—so our team members say, “Yes, pay me for the work that I do, but help me love my job.” In the coming year and beyond, broadly across the market, we will see that managers will continue to become even more empathetic and listen more actively to their team members as people. Workers will expect that employers and their managers accept who they are as their whole, authentic selves, both personally and professionally. Read more: The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously. Is It Enough? Gelsinger: Our employees are our future and our most important asset, and we’ve already announced a significant investment in our people for next year. As I’ve said, sometimes it takes a decade to make a week of progress; sometimes a week gives you a decade of progress. As I look to 2022, navigating a company at the heart of many of the pandemic-related challenges, we must all carefully consider what shifts are underway and what changes are yet to come. It will continue to be a competitive market and I expect you’ll continue to see companies establish unique benefits and incentives to attract and retain talent. We expect the “hybrid” mode that’s developed over the past years to become the standard working model going forward. Al Drago/Bloomberg—Getty ImagesPatrick Gelsinger, chief executive officer of Intel Corp., speaks during an interview at an Economic Club of Washington event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Dec. 9, 2021. Bourla: The past couple of years have challenged our workforce in ways that we never would have imagined. Companies have asked employees to demonstrate exceptional flexibility, commitment, courage and ingenuity over the past two years—and they have risen to the challenge. I predict that we are likely to see an increase in salaries in the coming year due to inflation—and I believe this is a good thing for workers, as it will help close the gap in income inequality. That said, financial rewards are no longer the only thing that employees expect from their employers. Increasingly, people want to work for a company with a strong culture and a defined purpose. As such, companies will need to foster and promote a culture in which employees feel respected and valued for their contributions and made to feel that they are integral to furthering the purpose of their company. Businesses that are able to create such a culture will not only be able to attract the best talent, but also maximize the engagement, creativity and productivity of their people by enabling them to bring their best selves to every challenge. Green: For many years, Forerunner has been saying, “It’s good to be a consumer. Consumers want what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and they’re getting it.” That same evolution of thought has now moved into the labor market: It’s a worker’s market, not a company’s market, and the relationship between the worker and the employer needs to evolve because of that. Workers should expect to get more flexibility, respect, benefits, and pay in some cases—but they still need to show up and deliver impact at work. It’s a two-way street, and we need to tap into a broader cultural work ethic. As a society, we need to be more holistic in our approach to meeting both company and worker needs. Read more: The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work Seroka: There’s a need for more truck drivers and warehouse workers in southern California. President Biden’s new Trucking Action Plan funds trucker apprentice programs and recruit U.S. military veterans. It’s an important step forward to attract, recruit and retain workers. Private industry needs to look at improved compensation and benefits for both truckers and warehouse workers. We need to bring a sense of pride and professionalism back to these jobs. On the docks, the contract between longshore workers and the employer’s association expires June 30. Both sides will be hard at work to negotiate and reach an agreement that benefits the workers and companies while keeping cargo flowing for the American economy. Courtesy Port of Los AngelesGene Seroka, executive director, Port of Los Angeles. Masters: I think there will still be a fight for talent next year. It’s a tight labor market overall and Covid-19 restrictions are a challenge in some regions. Albemarle has a really attractive growth story and profile, especially for workers interested in combatting climate change by contributing in a meaningful way to the clean energy transition. We are embracing a flexible work environment, much like other companies are doing, and upgrading some benefits to remain an employer of choice in attracting and retaining the best people on our growth journey. And, of course, we should all expect pandemic protocols to continue next year to ensure everyone’s health and safety. How do you see your role as a leader evolving over the coming year? Bourla: We are entering a golden age of scientific discovery fueled by converging advancements in biology and technology. As an industry, we must leverage these advancements to make disruptive changes in the way we discover, develop and bring new medicines to patients. Since I became CEO of Pfizer, we have been working to reimagine this process by operating as a nimbler, more science-driven organization, focused on delivering true breakthroughs for patients across our six therapeutic areas. In the past few years, we have demonstrated our ability to deliver on this promise of bringing true scientific breakthroughs through our colleagues’ tireless work in COVID-19. But there is more work to be done to address the unmet need in other disease areas—and now is the time to do it. In the year ahead, my leadership team and I will focus on leveraging these advancements in biology and technology, as well as the lessons learned from our COVID-19 vaccine development program, so that we may continue to push this scientific renaissance forward. This is critical work that we must advance for patients and their families around the world who continue to suffer from other devastating diseases without treatment options. Gelsinger: We are in the midst of a digital renaissance and experiencing the fastest pace of digital acceleration in history. We have immense opportunities ahead of us to make a lasting impact on the world through innovation and technology. Humans create technology to define what’s possible. We ask “if” something can be done, we understand “why,” then we ask “how.” In 2022, I must inspire and ensure our global team of over 110,000 executes and continues to drive forward innovation and leadership on our mission to enrich the lives of every person on earth. Brewer: Purpose is the driving force at this point in my career. I joined Walgreens Boots Alliance as CEO in March of 2021, what I saw as a rare opportunity to help end the pandemic and to help reimagine local healthcare and wellbeing for all. Seven months later, we launched the company’s new purpose, vision, values and strategic priorities. My role as CEO now and in 2022 is to lead with our company’s purpose—more joyful lives through better health—at the center of all we do for our customers, patients and team members. I’m particularly focused on affordable, accessible healthcare for all, including in traditionally medically underserved communities. Healthcare is inherently local, and all communities should have equitable access to care. John Lamparski—Getty Images for Advertising Week New YorkTim Cadogan, CEO of GoFundMe, speaks in New York City on Sept. 26, 2016. Cadogan: The last two years were dominated by a global pandemic and social and geopolitical issues that will carry over into 2022. The role of leaders in this new and uncertain environment will be to deliver value to their customers, while helping employees navigate an increasingly complex world with a completely new way of working together. Trust will be at the center of every decision we make around product development and platform policies—do the decisions we are making align with our mission to help people help each other and do they build trust with our community and our employees? Green: Everything around us is moving at an accelerated pace, and being a leader requires you to operate with a consistent set of values while still leaning into opportunity. Arguably, the pandemic has been the most disruptive time in decades—a generational disruption on par with the Depression or WWII. People’s North Stars are in the process of transforming, and leaders need to figure out what that means for their companies, their cultures, and their work processes. How does this change require leaders to shift their priorities as a business? Courtesy, Forerunner VenturesKirsten Green, founder and managing partner, Forerunner Ventures Masters: My leadership style is to make decisions through dialogue and debate. I encourage teams to be curious about other perspectives, be contrarian, actively discuss, make decisions, and act. I wasn’t sure how well we could do this from a strictly remote work approach during the pandemic, but watching our teams thrive despite the challenge changed my mind. Our people adapted quickly to move our business forward. We’ve worked so well that we’re integrating more flexibility into our work environment in 2022. With this shift to hybrid work, it will be important for all leaders, myself included, to empower employees in managing their productivity, and ensure teams stay engaged and focused on our key objectives. We’re facing rapid growth ahead, so our culture is vital to our success. I’ll continue to encourage our teams to live our values, seek diverse viewpoints, be decisive, and execute critical work to advance our strategy. Courtesy of Albemarle Kent Masters, CEO of Albemarle Seroka: Overseeing the nation’s busiest container port comes with an outsized responsibility to help our nation—not just the Port of Los Angeles—address the challenges brought about by the unprecedented surge in consumer demand. That means taking the lead on key fronts such as digital technology, policy and operational logistics. On the digital front, our industry needs to use data better to improve the reliability, predictability, and efficiency in the flow of goods. Policy work will focus on improving infrastructure investment, job training and advocating for a national export plan that supports fair trade and American jobs. Operationally, we’ll look for new ways to improve cargo velocity and efficiency......»»

Category: topSource: timeJan 2nd, 2022

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead One year ago, when looking at the 20 most popular stories of 2020, we said that the year would be a very tough act to follow as there "could not have been more regime shifts, volatility moments, and memes than 2020." And yet despite the exceedingly high bar for 2021, the year did not disappoint and proved to be a successful contender, and if judging by the sheer breadth of narratives, stories, surprises, plot twists and unexpected developments, 2021 was even more memorable and event-filled than 2020. Where does one start? While covid was the story of 2020, the pandemic that emerged out of a (Fauci-funded) genetic lab team in Wuhan, China dominated newsflow, politics and capital markets for the second year in a row. And while the biggest plot twist of 2020 was Biden's victory over Trump in the presidential election (it took the pandemic lockdowns and mail-in ballots to hand the outcome to Biden), largely thanks to Covid, Biden failed to hold to his biggest presidential promise of defeating covid, and not only did he admit in late 2021 that there is "no Federal solution" to covid waving a white flag of surrender less than a year into his presidency, but following the recent emergence of the Xi, pardon Omicron variant, the number of covid cases in the US has just shattered all records. The silver lining is not only that deaths and hospitalizations have failed to follow the number of cases, but that the scaremongering narrative itself is starting to melt in response to growing grassroots discontent with vaccine after vaccine and booster after booster, which by now it is clear, do nothing to contain the pandemic. And now that it is clear that omicron is about as mild as a moderate case of the flu, the hope has finally emerged that this latest strain will finally kill off the pandemic as it becomes the dominant, rapidly-spreading variant, leading to worldwide herd immunity thanks to the immune system's natural response. Yes, it may mean billions less in revenue for Pfizer and Moderna, but it will be a colossal victory for the entire world. The second biggest story of 2021 was undoubtedly the scourge of soaring inflation, which contrary to macrotourist predictions that it would prove "transitory", refused to do so and kept rising, and rising, and rising, until it hit levels not seen since the Volcker galloping inflation days of the 1980s. The only difference of course is that back then, the Fed Funds rate hit 20%. Now it is at 0%, and any attempts to hike aggressively will lead to a horrific market crash, something the Fed knows very well. Whether this was due to supply-chain blockages and a lack of goods and services pushing prices higher, or due to massive stimulus pushing demand for goods - and also prices - higher, or simply the result of a record injection of central bank liquidity into the system, is irrelevant but what does matter is that it got so bad that even Biden, facing a mauling for his Democratic party in next year's midterm elections, freaked out about soaring prices and pushed hard to lower the price of gasoline, ordering releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and vowing to punish energy companies that dare to make a profit, while ordering Powell to contain the surge in prices even if means the market is hit. Unfortunately for Biden, the market will be hit even as inflation still remain red hot for much of the coming year. And speaking of markets, while 2022 may be a year when the piper finally gets paid, 2021 was yet another blockbuster year for risk assets, largely on the back of the continued global response to the 2020 covid pandemic, when as we wrote last year, we saw "the official arrival of global Helicopter Money, tens of trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, an overhaul of the global economy punctuated by an unprecedented explosion in world debt, an Orwellian crackdown on civil liberties by governments everywhere, and ultimately set the scene for what even the World Economic Forum called simply "The Great Reset." Yes, the staggering liquidity injections that started in 2020, continued throughout 2021 and the final tally is that after $3 trillion in emergency liquidity injections in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic to stabilize the world, the Fed injected almost $2 trillion in the subsequent period, of which $1.5 trillion in 2021, a year where economists were "puzzled" why inflation was soaring. This, of course, excludes the tens of trillions of monetary stimulus injected by other central banks as well as the boundless fiscal stimulus that was greenlighted with the launch of helicopter money (i.e., MMT) in 2020. It's also why with inflation running red hot and real rates the lowest they have ever been, everyone was forced to rush into the "safety" of stocks (or stonks as they came to be known among GenZ), and why after last year's torrid stock market returns, the S&P rose another 27% in 2021 and up a staggering 114% from the March 2020 lows, in the process trouncing all previous mega-rallies (including those in 1929, 1938, 1974 and 2009)... ... making this the third consecutive year of double-digit returns. This reminds us of something we said last year: "it's almost as if the world's richest asset owners requested the covid pandemic." A year later, we got confirmation for this rhetorical statement, when we calculated that in the 18 months since the covid pandemic, the richest 1% of US society have seen their net worth increase by over $30 trillion. As a result, the US is now officially a banana republic where the middle 60% of US households by income - a measure economists use as a definition of the middle class - saw their combined assets drop from 26.7% to 26.6% of national wealth as of June, the lowest in Federal Reserve data, while for the first time the super rich had a bigger share, at 27%. Yes, the 1% now own more wealth than the entire US middle class, a definition traditionally reserve for kleptocracies and despotic African banana republics. It wasn't just the rich, however: politicians the world over would benefit from the transition from QE to outright helicopter money and MMT which made the over monetization of deficits widely accepted in the blink of an eye. The common theme here is simple: no matter what happens, capital markets can never again be allowed to drop, regardless of the cost or how much more debt has to be incurred. Indeed, as we look back at the news barrage over the past year, and past decade for that matter, the one thing that becomes especially clear amid the constant din of markets, of politics, of social upheaval and geopolitical strife - and now pandemics -  in fact a world that is so flooded with constant conflicting newsflow and changing storylines that many now say it has become virtually impossible to even try to predict the future, is that despite the people's desire for change, for something original and untried, the world's established forces will not allow it and will fight to preserve the broken status quo at any price - even global coordinated shutdowns - which is perhaps why it always boils down to one thing - capital markets, that bedrock of Western capitalism and the "modern way of life", where control, even if it means central planning the likes of which have not been seen since the days of the USSR, and an upward trajectory must be preserved at all costs, as the alternative is a global, socio-economic collapse. And since it is the daily gyrations of stocks that sway popular moods the interplay between capital markets and politics has never been more profound or more consequential. The more powerful message here is the implicit realization and admission by politicians, not just Trump who had a penchant of tweeting about the S&P every time it rose, but also his peers on both sides of the aisle, that the stock market is now seen as the consummate barometer of one's political achievements and approval. Which is also why capital markets are now, more than ever, a political tool whose purpose is no longer to distribute capital efficiently and discount the future, but to manipulate voter sentiments far more efficiently than any fake Russian election interference attempt ever could. Which brings us back to 2021 and the past decade, which was best summarized by a recent Bill Blain article who said that "the last 10-years has been a story of massive central banking distortion to address the 2008 crisis. Now central banks face the consequences and are trapped. The distortion can’t go uncorrected indefinitely." He is right: the distortion will eventually collapse especially if the Fed follows through with its attempt rate hikes some time in mid-2020, but so far the establishment and the "top 1%" have been successful - perhaps the correct word is lucky - in preserving the value of risk assets: on the back of the Fed's firehose of liquidity the S&P500 returned an impressive 27% in 2021, following a 15.5% return in 2020 and 28.50% in 2019. It did so by staging the greatest rally off all time from the March lows, surpassing all of the 4 greatest rallies off the lows of the past century (1929,1938, 1974, and 2009). Yet this continued can-kicking by the establishment - all of which was made possible by the covid pandemic and lockdowns which served as an all too convenient scapegoat for the unprecedented response that served to propel risk assets (and fiat alternatives such as gold and bitcoin) to all time highs - has come with a price... and an increasingly higher price in fact. As even Bank of America CIO Michael Hartnett admits, Fed's response to the the pandemic "worsened inequality" as the value of financial assets - Wall Street -  relative to economy - Main Street - hit all-time high of 6.3x. And while the Fed was the dynamo that has propelled markets higher ever since the Lehman collapse, last year certainly had its share of breakout moments. Here is a sampling. Gamestop and the emergence of meme stonks and the daytrading apes: In January markets were hypnotized by the massive trading volumes, rolling short squeezes and surging share prices of unremarkable established companies such as consoles retailer GameStop and cinema chain AMC and various other micro and midcap names. What began as a discussion on untapped value at GameStop on Reddit months earlier by Keith Gill, better known as Roaring Kitty, morphed into a hedge fund-orchestrated, crowdsourced effort to squeeze out the short position held by a hedge fund, Melvin Capital. The momentum flooded through the retail market, where daytraders shunned stocks and bought massive out of the money calls, sparking rampant "gamma squeezes" in the process forcing some brokers to curb trading. Robinhood, a popular broker for day traders and Citadel's most lucrative "subsidiary", required a cash injection to withstand the demands placed on it by its clearing house. The company IPOed later in the year only to see its shares collapse as it emerged its business model was disappointing hollow absent constant retail euphoria. Ultimately, the market received a crash course in the power of retail investors on a mission. Ultimately, "retail favorite" stocks ended the year on a subdued note as the trading frenzy from earlier in the year petered out, but despite underperforming the S&P500, retail traders still outperformed hedge funds by more than 100%. Failed seven-year Treasury auction:  Whereas auctions of seven-year US government debt generally spark interest only among specialists, on on February 25 2021, one such typically boring event sparked shockwaves across financial markets, as the weakest demand on record hit prices across the whole spectrum of Treasury bonds. The five-, seven- and 10-year notes all fell sharply in price. Researchers at the Federal Reserve called it a “flash event”; we called it a "catastrophic, tailing" auction, the closest thing the US has had to a failed Trasury auction. The flare-up, as the FT put it, reflects one of the most pressing investor concerns of the year: inflation. At the time, fund managers were just starting to realize that consumer price rises were back with a vengeance — a huge threat to the bond market which still remembers the dire days of the Volcker Fed when inflation was about as high as it is today but the 30Y was trading around 15%. The February auaction also illustrated that the world’s most important market was far less liquid and not as structurally robust as investors had hoped. It was an extreme example of a long-running issue: since the financial crisis the traditional providers of liquidity, a group of 24 Wall Street banks, have pulled back because of higher costs associated with post-2008 capital requirements, while leaving liquidity provision to the Fed. Those banks, in their reduced role, as well as the hedge funds and high-frequency traders that have stepped into their place, have tended to withdraw in moments of market volatility. Needless to say, with the Fed now tapering its record QE, we expect many more such "flash" episodes in the bond market in the year ahead. The arch ego of Archegos: In March 2021 several banks received a brutal reminder that some of family offices, which manage some $6 trillion in wealth of successful billionaires and entrepreneurs and which have minimal reporting requirements, take risks that would make the most serrated hedge fund manager wince, when Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management imploded in spectacular style. As we learned in late March when several high-flying stocks suddenly collapsed, Hwang - a former protege of fabled hedge fund group Tiger Management - had built up a vast pile of leverage using opaque Total Return Swaps with a handful of banks to boost bets on a small number of stocks (the same banks were quite happy to help despite Hwang’s having been barred from US markets in 2013 over allegations of an insider-trading scheme, as he paid generously for the privilege of borrowing the banks' balance sheet). When one of Archegos more recent bets, ViacomCBS, suddenly tumbled it set off a liquidation cascade that left banks including Credit Suisse and Nomura with billions of dollars in losses. Conveniently, as the FT noted, the damage was contained to the banks rather than leaking across financial markets, but the episode sparked a rethink among banks over how to treat these clients and how much leverage to extend. The second coming of cryptos: After hitting an all time high in late 2017 and subsequently slumping into a "crypto winter", cryptocurrencies enjoyed a huge rebound in early 2021 which sent their prices soaring amid fears of galloping inflation (as shown below, and contrary to some financial speculation, the crypto space has traditionally been a hedge either to too much liquidity or a hedge to too much inflation). As a result, Bitcoin rose to a series of new record highs that culminated at just below $62,000, nearly three times higher than their previous all time high. But the smooth ride came to a halt in May when China’s crackdown on the cryptocurrency and its production, or “mining”, sparked the first serious crash of 2021. The price of bitcoin then collapsed as much as 30% on May 19, hitting a low of $30,000 amid a liquidation of levered positions in chaotic trading conditions following a warning from Chinese authorities of tighter curbs ahead. A public acceptance by Tesla chief and crypto cheerleader Elon Musk of the industry’s environmental impact added to the declines. However, as with all previous crypto crashes, this one too proved transitory, and prices resumed their upward trajectory in late September when investors started to price in the launch of futures-based bitcoin exchange traded funds in the US. The launch of these contracts subsequently pushed bitcoin to a new all-time high in early November before prices stumbled again in early December, this time due to a rise in institutional ownership when an overall drop in the market dragged down cryptos as well. That demonstrated the growing linkage between Wall Street and cryptocurrencies, due to the growing sway of large investors in digital markets. China's common prosperity crash: China’s education and tech sectors were one of the perennial Wall Street darlings. Companies such as New Oriental, TAL Education as well as Alibaba and Didi had come to be worth billions of dollars after highly publicized US stock market flotations. So when Beijing effectively outlawed swaths of the country’s for-profit education industry in July 2021, followed by draconian anti-trust regulations on the country's fintech names (where Xi Jinping also meant to teach the country's billionaire class a lesson who is truly in charge), the short-term market impact was brutal. Beijing’s initial measures emerged as part of a wider effort to make education more affordable as part of president Xi Jinping’s drive for "common prosperity" but that quickly raised questions over whether growth prospects across corporate China are countered by the capacity of the government to overhaul entire business models overnight. Sure enough, volatility stemming from the education sector was soon overshadowed by another set of government reforms related to common prosperity, a crackdown on leverage across the real estate sector where the biggest casualty was Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer. The company, whose boss was not long ago China's 2nd richest man, was engulfed by a liquidity crisis in the summer that eventually resulted in a default in early December. Still, as the FT notes, China continues to draw in huge amounts of foreign capital, pushing the Chinese yuan to end 2021 at the strongest level since May 2018, a major hurdle to China's attempts to kickstart its slowing economy, and surely a precursor to even more monetary easing. Natgas hyperinflation: Natural gas supplanted crude oil as the world’s most important commodity in October and December as prices exploded to unprecedented levels and the world scrambled for scarce supplies amid the developed world's catastrophic transition to "green" energy. The crunch was particularly acute in Europe, which has become increasingly reliant on imports. Futures linked to TTF, the region’s wholesale gas price, hit a record €137 per megawatt hour in early October, rising more than 75%. In Asia, spot liquefied natural gas prices briefly passed the equivalent of more than $320 a barrel of oil in October. (At the time, Brent crude was trading at $80). A number of factors contributed, including rising demand as pandemic restrictions eased, supply disruptions in the LNG market and weather-induced shortfalls in renewable energy. In Europe, this was aggravated by plunging export volumes from Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed monopoly pipeline supplier, amid a bitter political fight over the launch of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. And with delays to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, analysts say the European gas market - where storage is only 66% full - a cold snap or supply disruption away from another price spike Turkey's (latest) currency crisis:  As the FT's Jonathan Wheatley writes, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once a source of strength for the Turkish lira, and in his first five years in power from 2003, the currency rallied from TL1.6 per US dollar to near parity at TL1.2. But those days are long gone, as Erdogan's bizarre fascination with unorthodox economics, namely the theory that lower rates lead to lower inflation also known as "Erdoganomics", has sparked a historic collapse in the: having traded at about TL7 to the dollar in February, it has since fallen beyond TL17, making it the worst performing currency of 2021. The lira’s defining moment in 2021 came on November 18 when the central bank, in spite of soaring inflation, cut its policy rate for the third time since September, at Erdogan’s behest (any central banker in Turkey who disagrees with "Erdoganomics" is promptly fired and replaced with an ideological puppet). The lira recovered some of its losses in late December when Erdogan came up with the "brilliant" idea of erecting the infamous "doom loop" which ties Turkey's balance sheet to its currency. It has worked for now (the lira surged from TL18 against the dollar to TL12, but this particular band aid solution will only last so long). The lira’s problems are not only Erdogan’s doing. A strengthening dollar, rising oil prices, the relentless covid pandemic and weak growth in developing economies have been bad for other emerging market currencies, too, but as long as Erdogan is in charge, shorting the lira remains the best trade entering 2022. While these, and many more, stories provided a diversion from the boring existence of centrally-planned markets, we are confident that the trends observed in recent years will continue: coming years will be marked by even bigger government (because only more government can "fix" problems created by government), higher stock prices and dollar debasement (because only more Fed intervention can "fix" the problems created by the Fed), and a policy flip from monetary and QE to fiscal & MMT, all of which will keep inflation at scorching levels, much to the persistent confusion of economists everywhere. Of course, we said much of this last year as well, but while we got most trends right, we were wrong about one thing: we were confident that China's aggressive roll out of the digital yuan would be a bang - or as we put it "it is very likely that while 2020 was an insane year, it may prove to be just an appetizer to the shockwaves that will be unleashed in 2021 when we see the first stage of the most historic overhaul of the fiat payment system in history" - however it turned out to be a whimper. A big reason for that was that the initial reception of the "revolutionary" currency was nothing short of disastrous, with Chinese admitting they were "not at all excited" about the prospect of yet one more surveillance mechanism for Beijing, because that's really what digital currencies are: a way for central banks everywhere to micromanage and scrutinize every single transaction, allowing the powers that be to demonetize any one person - or whole groups - with the flick of a switch. Then again, while digital money may not have made its triumphant arrival in 2021, we are confident that the launch date has merely been pushed back to 2022 when the rollout of the next monetary revolution is expected to begin in earnest. Here we should again note one thing: in a world undergoing historic transformations, any free press must be throttled and controlled, and over the past year we have seen unprecedented efforts by legacy media and its corporate owners, as well as the new "social media" overlords do everything in their power to stifle independent thought. For us it had been especially "personal" on more than one occasions. Last January, Twitter suspended our account because we dared to challenge the conventional narrative about the source of the Wuhan virus. It was only six months later that Twitter apologized, and set us free, admitting it had made a mistake. Yet barely had twitter readmitted us, when something even more unprecedented happened: for the first time ever (to our knowledge) Google - the world's largest online ad provider and monopoly - demonetized our website not because of any complaints about our writing but because of the contents of our comment section. It then held us hostage until we agreed to implement some prerequisite screening and moderation of the comments section. Google's action was followed by the likes of PayPal, Amazon, and many other financial and ad platforms, who rushed to demonetize and suspend us simply because they disagreed with what we had to say. This was a stark lesson in how quickly an ad-funded business can disintegrate in this world which resembles the dystopia of 1984 more and more each day, and we have since taken measures. One year ago, for the first time in our 13 year history, we launched a paid version of our website, which is entirely ad and moderation free, and offers readers a variety of premium content. It wasn't our intention to make this transformation but unfortunately we know which way the wind is blowing and it is only a matter of time before the gatekeepers of online ad spending block us again. As such, if we are to have any hope in continuing it will come directly from you, our readers. We will keep the free website running for as long as possible, but we are certain that it is only a matter of time before the hammer falls as the censorship bandwagon rolls out much more aggressively in the coming year. That said, whether the story of 2022, and the next decade for that matter, is one of helicopter or digital money, of (hyper)inflation or deflation: what is key, and what we learned in the past decade, is that the status quo will throw anything at the problem to kick the can, it will certainly not let any crisis go to waste... even the deadliest pandemic in over a century. And while many already knew that, the events of 2021 made it clear to a fault that not even a modest market correction can be tolerated going forward. After all, if central banks aim to punish all selling, then the logical outcome is to buy everything, and investors, traders and speculators did just that armed with the clearest backstop guarantee from the Fed, which in the deapths of the covid crash crossed the Rubicon when it formally nationalized the bond market as it started buying both investment grade bonds and junk bond ETFs in the open market. As such it is no longer even a debatable issue if the Fed will buy stocks after the next crash - the only question is when. Meanwhile, for all those lamenting the relentless coverage of politics in a financial blog, why finance appears to have taken a secondary role, and why the political "narrative" has taken a dominant role for financial analysts, the past year showed vividly why that is the case: in a world where markets gyrated, and "rotated" from value stocks to growth and vice versa, purely on speculation of how big the next stimulus out of Washington will be, the narrative over Biden's trillions proved to be one of the biggest market moving events for much of the year. And with the Biden stimulus plan off the table for now, the Fed will find it very difficult to tighten financial conditions, especially if it does so just as the economy is slowing. Here we like to remind readers of one of our favorite charts: every financial crisis is the result of Fed tightening. As for predictions about the future, as the past two years so vividly showed, when it comes to actual surprises and all true "black swans", it won't be what anyone had expected. And so while many themes, both in the political and financial realm, did get some accelerated closure courtesy of China's covid pandemic, dramatic changes in 2021 persisted, and will continue to manifest themselves in often violent and unexpected ways - from the ongoing record polarization in the US political arena, to "populist" upheavals around the developed world, to the gradual transition to a global Universal Basic (i.e., socialized) Income regime, to China's ongoing fight with preserving stability in its gargantuan financial system which is now two and a half times the size of the US. As always, we thank all of our readers for making this website - which has never seen one dollar of outside funding (and despite amusing recurring allegations, has certainly never seen a ruble from the KGB either, although now that the entire Russian hysteria episode is over, those allegations have finally quieted down), and has never spent one dollar on marketing - a small (or not so small) part of your daily routine. Which also brings us to another critical topic: that of fake news, and something we - and others who do not comply with the established narrative - have been accused of. While we find the narrative of fake news laughable, after all every single article in this website is backed by facts and links to outside sources, it is clearly a dangerous development, and a very slippery slope that the entire developed world is pushing for what is, when stripped of fancy jargon, internet censorship under the guise of protecting the average person from "dangerous, fake information." It's also why we are preparing for the next onslaught against independent thought and why we had no choice but to roll out a premium version of this website. In addition to the other themes noted above, we expect the crackdown on free speech to accelerate in the coming year when key midterm elections will be held, especially as the following list of Top 20 articles for 2021 reveals, many of the most popular articles in the past year were precisely those which the conventional media would not touch out of fear of repercussions, which in turn allowed the alternative media to continue to flourish in an orchestrated information vacuum and take significant market share from the established outlets by covering topics which the public relations arm of established media outlets refused to do, in the process earning itself the derogatory "fake news" condemnation. We are grateful that our readers - who hit a new record high in 2021 - have realized it is incumbent upon them to decide what is, and isn't "fake news." * * * And so, before we get into the details of what has now become an annual tradition for the last day of the year, those who wish to jog down memory lane, can refresh our most popular articles for every year during our no longer that brief, almost 11-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. So without further ado, here are the articles that you, our readers, found to be the most engaging, interesting and popular based on the number of hits, during the past year. In 20th spot with 600,000 reads, was an article that touched on one of the most defining features of the market: the reflation theme the sparked a massive rally at the start of the year courtesy of the surprise outcome in the Georgia Senate race, where Democrats ended up wining both seats up for grabs, effectively giving the Dems a majority in both the House and the Senate, where despite the even, 50-seat split, Kamala Harris would cast the winning tie-breaker vote to pursue a historic fiscal stimulus. And sure enough, as we described in "Bitcoin Surges To Record High, Stocks & Bonds Battered As Dems Look Set To Take Both Georgia Senate Seats", with trillions in "stimmies" flooding both the economy and the market, not only did retail traders enjoy unprecedented returns when trading meme "stonks" and forcing short squeezes that crippled numerous hedge funds, but expectations of sharply higher inflation also helped push bitcoin and the entire crypto sector to new all time highs, which in turn legitimized the product across institutional investors and helped it reach a market cap north of $3 trillion.  In 19th spot, over 613,000 readers were thrilled to read at the start of September that "Biden Unveils Most Severe COVID Actions Yet: Mandates Vax For All Federal Workers, Contractors, & Large Private Companies." Of course, just a few weeks later much of Biden's mandate would be struck down in courts, where it is now headed to a decision by SCOTUS, while the constantly shifting "scientific" goal posts mean that just a few months later the latest set of CDC regulations have seen regulators and officials reverse the constant drone of fearmongering and are now even seeking to cut back on the duration of quarantine and other lockdown measures amid a public mood that is growing increasingly hostile to the government response. One of the defining political events of 2021 was the so-called "Jan 6 Insurrection", which the for America's conservatives was blown wildly out of proportion yet which the leftist media and Democrats in Congress have been periodically trying to push to the front pages in hopes of distracting from the growing list of failures of the Obama admin. Yet as we asked back in January, "Why Was Founder Of Far-Left BLM Group Filming Inside Capitol As Police Shot Protester?" No less than 614,000 readers found this question worthy of a response. Since then many more questions have emerged surrounding this event, many of which focus on what role the FBI had in organizing and encouraging this event, including the use of various informants and instigators. For now, a response will have to wait at least until the mid-term elections of 2022 when Republicans are expected to sweep one if not both chambers. Linked to the above, the 17th most read article of 2021 with 617,000 views, was an article we published on the very same day, which detailed that "Armed Protesters Begin To Arrive At State Capitols Around The Nation." At the end of the day, it was much ado about nothing and all protests concluded peacefully and without incident: perhaps the FBI was simply spread too thin? 2021 was a year defined by various waves of the covid pandemic which hammered poor Americans forced to hunker down at home and missing on pay, and crippled countless small mom and pop businesses. And yet, it was also a bonanza for a handful of pharma companies such as Pfizer and Moderna which made billions from the sale of "vaccines" which we now know do little if anything to halt the spread of the virus, and are instead now being pitched as palliatives, preventing a far worse clinical outcome. The same pharma companies also benefited from an unconditional indemnity, which surely would come in useful when the full side-effects of their mRNA-based therapies became apparent. One such condition to emerge was myocarditis among a subset of the vaxxed. And while the vaccines continue to be broadly rolled out across most developed nations, one place that said enough was Sweden. As over 620,000 readers found out in "Sweden Suspends Moderna Shot Indefinitely After Vaxxed Patients Develop Crippling Heart Condition", not every country was willing to use its citizens as experimental guniea pigs. This was enough to make the article the 16th most read on these pages, but perhaps in light of the (lack of) debate over the pros and cons of the covid vaccines, this should have been the most read article this year? Moving on to the 15th most popular article, 628,000 readers were shocked to learn that "Chase Bank Cancels General Mike Flynn's Credit Cards." The action, which was taken by the largest US bank due to "reputational risk" echoed a broad push by tech giants to deplatform and silence dissenting voices by literally freezing them out of the financial system. In the end, following widespread blowback from millions of Americans, JPMorgan reversed, and reactivated Flynn's cards saying the action was made in error, but unfortunately this is just one example of how those in power can lock out any dissenters with the flick of a switch. And while democrats cheer such deplatforming today, the political winds are fickle, and we doubt they will be as excited once they find themselves on the receiving end of such actions. And speaking of censorship and media blackouts, few terms sparked greater response from those in power than the term Ivermectin. Viewed by millions as a cheap, effective alternative to offerings from the pharmaceutical complex, social networks did everything in their power to silence any mention of a drug which the Journal of Antibiotics said in 2017 was an "enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug which continues to surprise and exceed expectations." Nowhere was this more obvious than in the discussion of how widespread use of Ivermectin beat Covid in India, the topic of the 14th most popular article of 2021 "India's Ivermectin Blackout" which was read by over 653,000 readers. Unfortunately, while vaccines continue to fail upward and now some countries are now pushing with a 4th, 5th and even 6th vaccine, Ivermectin remains a dirty word. There was more covid coverage in the 13th most popular article of 2021, "Surprise Surprise - Fauci Lied Again": Rand Paul Reacts To Wuhan Bombshell" which was viewed no less than 725,000 times. Paul's reaction came following a report which revealed that Anthony Fauci's NIAID and its parent, the NIH, funded Gain-of-Function research in Wuhan, China, strongly hinting that the emergence of covid was the result of illicit US funding. Not that long ago, Fauci had called Paul a 'liar' for accusing him of funding the risky research, in which viruses are genetically modified or otherwise altered to make them more transmissible to humans. And while we could say that Paul got the last laugh, Fauci still remains Biden's top covid advisor, which may explain why one year after Biden vowed he would shut down the pandemic, the number of new cases just hit a new all time high. One hope we have for 2022 is that people will finally open their eyes... 2021 was not just about covid - soaring prices and relentless inflation were one of the most poignant topics. It got so bad that Biden's approval rating - and that of Democrats in general - tumbled toward the end of the year, putting their mid-term ambitions in jeopardy, as the public mood soured dramatically in response to the explosion in prices. And while one can debate whether it was due to supply-issues, such as the collapse in trans-pacific supply chains and the chronic lack of labor to grow the US infrastructure, or due to roaring demand sparked by trillions in fiscal stimulus, but when the "Big Short" Michael Burry warned that hyperinflation is coming, the people listened, and with over 731,000 reads, the 12th most popular article of 2021 was "Michael Burry Warns Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming."  Of course, Burry did not say anything we haven't warned about for the past 12 years, but at least he got the people's attention, and even mainstream names such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey agreed with him, predicting that bitcoin will be what is left after the dollar has collapsed. While hyperinflation may will be the endgame, the question remains: when. For the 11th most read article of 2021, we go back to a topic touched upon moments ago when we addressed the full-blown media campaign seeking to discredit Ivermectin, in this case via the D-grade liberal tabloid Rolling Stone (whose modern incarnation is sadly a pale shadow of the legend that house Hunter S. Thompson's unforgettable dispatches) which published the very definition of fake news when it called Ivermectin a "horse dewormer" and claimed that, according to a hospital employee, people were overdosing on it. Just a few hours later, the article was retracted as we explained in "Rolling Stone Issues 'Update' After Horse Dewormer Hit-Piece Debunked" and over 812,000 readers found out that pretty much everything had been a fabrication. But of course, by then it was too late, and the reputation of Ivermectin as a potential covid cure had been further tarnished, much to the relief of the pharma giants who had a carte blanche to sell their experimental wares. The 10th most popular article of 2021 brings us to another issue that had split America down the middle, namely the story surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse and the full-blown media campaign that declared the teenager guilty, even when eventually proven innocent. Just days before the dramatic acquittal, we learned that "FBI Sat On Bombshell Footage From Kyle Rittenhouse Shooting", which was read by over 822,000 readers. It was unfortunate to learn that once again the scandal-plagued FBI stood at the center of yet another attempt at mass misinformation, and we can only hope that one day this "deep state" agency will be overhauled from its core, or better yet, shut down completely. As for Kyle, he will have the last laugh: according to unconfirmed rumors, his numerous legal settlements with various media outlets will be in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.  And from the great US social schism, we again go back to Covid for the 9th most popular article of 2021, which described the terrifying details of one of the most draconian responses to covid in the entire world: that of Australia. Over 900,000 readers were stunned to read that the "Australian Army Begins Transferring COVID-Positive Cases, Contacts To Quarantine Camps." Alas, the latest surge in Australian cases to nosebleed, record highs merely confirms that this unprecedented government lockdown - including masks and vaccines - is nothing more than an exercise in how far government can treat its population as a herd of sheep without provoking a violent response.  The 8th most popular article of 2021 looks at the market insanity of early 2021 when, at the end of January, we saw some of the most-shorted, "meme" stocks explode higher as the Reddit daytrading horde fixed their sights on a handful of hedge funds and spent billions in stimmies in an attempt to force unprecedented ramps. That was the case with "GME Soars 75% After-Hours, Erases Losses After Liquidity-Constrained Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban", which profiled the daytrading craze that gave an entire generation the feeling that it too could win in these manipulated capital markets. Then again, judging by the waning retail interest, it is possible that the excitement of the daytrading army is fading as rapidly as it first emerged, and that absent more "stimmies" markets will remain the playground of the rich and central banks. Kyle Rittenhouse may soon be a very rich man after the ordeal he went through, but the media's mission of further polarizing US society succeeded, and millions of Americans will never accept that the teenager was innocent. It's also why with just over 1 million reads, the 7th most read article on Zero Hedge this year was that "Portland Rittenhouse Protest Escalates Into Riot." Luckily, this is not a mid-term election year and there were no moneyed interests seeking to prolong this particular riot, unlike what happened in the summer of 2020... and what we are very much afraid will again happen next year when very critical elections are on deck.  With just over 1.03 million views, the 6th most popular post focused on a viral Twitter thread on Friday from Dr Robert Laone, which laid out a disturbing trend; the most-vaccinated countries in the world are experiencing  a surge in COVID-19 cases, while the least-vaccinated countries were not. As we originally discussed in ""This Is Worrying Me Quite A Bit": mRNA Vaccine Inventor Shares Viral Thread Showing COVID Surge In Most-Vaxxed Countries", this trend has only accelerated in recent weeks with the emergence of the Omicron strain. Unfortunately, instead of engaging in a constructive discussion to see why the science keeps failing again and again, Twitter's response was chilling: with just days left in 2021, it suspended the account of Dr. Malone, one of the inventors of mRNA technology. Which brings to mind something Aaron Rogers said: "If science can't be questioned it's not science anymore it's propaganda & that's the truth." In a year that was marked a flurry of domestic fiascoes by the Biden administration, it is easy to forget that the aged president was also responsible for the biggest US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, when the botched evacuation of Afghanistan made the US laughing stock of the world after 12 US servicemembers were killed. So it's probably not surprising that over 1.1 million readers were stunned to watch what happened next, which we profiled in the 5th most popular post of 2021, where in response to the Afghan trajedy, "Biden Delivers Surreal Press Conference, Vows To Hunt Down Isis, Blames Trump." One person watching the Biden presser was Xi Jinping, who may have once harbored doubts about reclaiming Taiwan but certainly does not any more. The 4th most popular article of 2021 again has to do with with covid, and specifically the increasingly bizarre clinical response to the disease. As we detailed in "Something Really Strange Is Happening At Hospitals All Over America" while emergency rooms were overflowing, it certainly wasn't from covid cases. Even more curiously, one of the primary ailments leading to an onslaught on ERs across the nation was heart-related issues, whether arrhytmia, cardiac incidents or general heart conditions. We hope that one day there will be a candid discussion on this topic, but until then it remains one of the topics seen as taboo by the mainstream media and the deplatforming overlords, so we'll just leave it at that. We previously discussed the anti-Ivermectin narrative that dominated the mainstream press throughout 2021 and the 3rd most popular article of the year may hold clues as to why: in late September, pharma giant Pfizer and one of the two companies to peddle an mRNA based vaccine, announced that it's launching an accelerated Phase 2/3 trial for a COVID prophylactic pill designed to ward off COVID in those may have come in contact with the disease. And, as we described in "Pfizer Launches Final Study For COVID Drug That's Suspiciously Similar To 'Horse Paste'," 1.75 million readers learned that Pfizer's drug shared at least one mechanism of action as Ivermectin - an anti-parasitic used in humans for decades, which functions as a protease inhibitor against Covid-19, which researchers speculate "could be the biophysical basis behind its antiviral efficiency." Surely, this too was just another huge coincidence. In the second most popular article of 2021, almost 2 million readers discovered (to their "shock") that Fauci and the rest of Biden's COVID advisors were proven wrong about "the science" of COVID vaccines yet again. After telling Americans that vaccines offer better protection than natural infection, a new study out of Israel suggested the opposite is true: natural infection offers a much better shield against the delta variant than vaccines, something we profiled in "This Ends The Debate' - Israeli Study Shows Natural Immunity 13x More Effective Than Vaccines At Stopping Delta." We were right about one thing: anyone who dared to suggest that natural immunity was indeed more effective than vaccines was promptly canceled and censored, and all debate almost instantly ended. Since then we have had tens of millions of "breakout" cases where vaccinated people catch covid again, while any discussion why those with natural immunity do much better remains under lock and key. It may come as a surprise to many that the most read article of 2021 was not about covid, or Biden, or inflation, or China, or even the extremely polarized US congress (and/or society), but was about one of the most long-suffering topics on these pages: precious metals and their prices. Yes, back in February the retail mania briefly targeted silver and as millions of reddit daytraders piled in in hopes of squeezing the precious metal higher, the price of silver surged higher only to tumble just as quickly as it has risen as the seller(s) once again proved more powerful than the buyers. We described this in "Silver Futures Soar 8%, Rise Above $29 As Reddit Hordes Pile In", an article which some 2.4 million gold and silver bugs read with hope, only to see their favorite precious metals slump for much of the rest of the year. And yes, the fact that both gold and silver ended the year sharply lower than where they started even though inflation hit the highest level in 40 years, remains one of the great mysteries of 2021. With all that behind us, and as we wave goodbye to another bizarre, exciting, surreal year, what lies in store for 2022, and the next decade? We don't know: as frequent and not so frequent readers are aware, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future and we don't try despite endless allegations that we constantly predict the collapse of civilization: we leave the predicting to the "smartest people in the room" who year after year have been consistently wrong about everything, and never more so than in 2021 (even the Fed admitted it is clueless when Powell said it was time to retire the term "transitory"), which destroyed the reputation of central banks, of economists, of conventional media and the professional "polling" and "strategist" class forever, not to mention all those "scientists" who made a mockery of the "expertise class" with their bungled response to the covid pandemic. We merely observe, find what is unexpected, entertaining, amusing, surprising or grotesque in an increasingly bizarre, sad, and increasingly crazy world, and then just write about it. We do know, however, that after a record $30 trillion in stimulus was conjured out of thin air by the world's central banks and politicians in the past two years, the attempt to reverse this monetary and fiscal firehose in a world addicted to trillions in newly created liquidity now that central banks are freaking out after finally getting ot the inflation they were hoping to create for so long, will end in tears. We are confident, however, that in the end it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who will eventually be revealed as fully naked. When that happens and what happens after is anyone's guess. But, as we have promised - and delivered - every year for the past 13, we will be there to document every aspect of it. Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck in 2022, with much success in trading and every other avenue of life. We bid farewell to 2021 with our traditional and unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day - usually with a cynical smile - helping readers expose, unravel and comprehend the fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that defines every aspect of our increasingly broken system. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/02/2022 - 03:44.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 2nd, 2022

$313 Million Of Distressed Land Developer China Fortune"s Cash Apparently Just Disappeared Into Thin Air

$313 Million Of Distressed Land Developer China Fortune's Cash Apparently Just Disappeared Into Thin Air A British Virgin Islands-registered firm called China Create Capital Ltd., that took $313 million from distressed Chinese land developer China Fortune Land Development Co., has apparently disappeared into thin air. China Fortune has "lost contact" with the entity, according to a new report by Bloomberg, all but eliminating its prospects of yielding the 8% to 10% on the cash that it had planned on receiving annually through 2022. A filing with the Shanghai bourse confirmed the loss of contact. The developer said it has turned the matter over to the local police and it's "unclear" how it will affect future earnings.  Fortune is the latest implosion for the Chinese real estate market, following Evergrande's recent distress and Beijing's policies aimed at deleveraging and de-risking the sector. It defaulted on a $530 million bond this March, prior to the Evergrande story becoming a mainstream headline.  Fortune said an agreement signed in 2018 with an entity called Wingskengo Ltd. is at the genesis of the investment. The deal was supposed to help the developer buy fixed income products, Bloomberg reported.  Fortune Land transferred $313 million to China Create Capital as part of the agreement. Fortune subsequently booked it as a "non-current financial asset". Soon be a "never current" financial asset...   Tyler Durden Thu, 12/16/2021 - 16:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 16th, 2021

Mapping The NFT Ecosystem

Mapping The NFT Ecosystem NFTs have been the hottest topic and frothiest market of 2021, with sales volumes increasing by 100x while also becoming a topic of discussion on evening talk shows. It took crypto nearly a decade to really penetrate the mainstream, but as Visual Capitalist's Niccolo Conte details below, NFTs only needed a couple of years to capture people’s attention. As brands like Budweiser, Visa, and Adidas have purchased NFTs and entered the space, it’s clear that NFTs are more than just another hot new trend. This infographic sponsored by Next Decentrum defines NFTs and explores the flourishing ecosystem that has quickly grown around them. Discover what non-fungible means, where NFTs are being minted and traded, and what the future holds for this asset class. What are NFTs, and What is Fungibility? NFTs are non-fungible tokens that have their history of ownership and current ownership cryptographically secured on a blockchain. These tokens can represent anything, whether it’s a piece of digital art in the form of a jpeg or a song as an mp3 file. By storing transactions of these tokens on a blockchain, we can have digital proof of ownership and markets for these digital goods without the fear of double spending or the tampering of past transactions and ownership. Figuring out Fungibility This all sounds pretty similar to cryptocurrencies, so what makes NFTs so special? Their non-fungibility. Unlike cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ethereum, non-fungible tokens represent goods or assets with unique properties and attributes, allowing them to have unique values even if they are part of the same collection. Fungible: A good with interchangeable units that are indistinguishable in value. Examples: U.S. dollars, bitcoin, arcade tokens Non-Fungible: A good with unique properties, giving it a unique value when compared to similar goods. Examples: real estate, paintings, NFTs The most popular NFT collection, Cryptopunks, is a collection of 10,000 pixel art “punks”, with varying attributes like different hats, glasses, hairstyles, and more. The random combinations of attributes with differing scarcity results in each punk having a unique value. Scarcity and subjective aesthetic preferences drive valuations for cryptopunks and other NFTs, with other factors like their historical significance, and even the blockchain they’re hosted on affecting their value. The NFT-Capable Blockchains Compared There are many different blockchains that are able to mint and host NFTs, with Ethereum currently the largest and most used by market cap and transaction volume. Ethereum uses the energy-intensive proof of work consensus method but the network is planning to transition to proof of stake next year which should reduce energy usage by about 99%.   Source: Messari.io As of Nov 29th, 2021   Along with concerns around its energy intensity, minting and transacting on the Ethereum blockchain incurs significantly higher fees compared to other blockchains. The average Ethereum transaction fee varies between $30-80 (depending on the specific transaction) and the current NFT minting fee is ~$130, every other blockchain in the table above has transaction and minting fees that remain below $1. While these high Ethereum fees have driven many users to explore other blockchains to mint NFTs, many secondary marketplaces help cover a portion, or even all gas fees, when minting on Ethereum. The Secondary NFT Marketplaces Alongside the primary blockchain networks where NFTs are minted and hosted, there are a variety of secondary marketplaces for NFTs where the majority of NFT exchanges take place. These marketplaces enable users to more easily mint, buy, and sell NFTs, with OpenSea having emerged as the leading secondary NFT marketplace. It’s estimated that OpenSea had $1.9 billion of traded volume in November 2021, making up over 95% of NFT trading volumes.   Source: The Block   Although some of the marketplaces (like OpenSea) allow anyone to easily mint and offer an NFT for sale, other platforms like SuperRare limit the art and artists on offer, resulting in a more curated marketplace. Similarly, some marketplaces like OpenSea host NFTs from multiple blockchains like Ethereum and Polygon, while other marketplaces like Hic et Nunc are faithful to one blockchain (Tezos). While OpenSea currently dominates the secondary market, cryptocurrency exchanges are likely to offer some fresh competition soon. Coinbase is currently building out its own NFT marketplace, and FTX’s marketplace with Ethereum and Solana NFTs is up and running. Digital Art, Gaming, The Metaverse, and The Future of NFTs NFTs made a huge splash in 2021, giving creators digital and decentralized networks where they could host and exchange their work. Currently, digital-first use-cases are at the forefront of NFT development, with ownership of in-game assets or goods in the metaverse two of the primary use-cases being explored. However, NFTs can be used to tokenize physical assets like real estate, physical artwork, and much more, opening up near endless possibilities for their application. From removing the friction of paperwork and bureaucracy in today’s real estate exchanges to allowing for easy fractionalization of asset ownership, the tangible real-world use-cases of NFTs are just starting to be explored. To learn more about NFTs, visit Next Decentrum. Tyler Durden Sun, 12/12/2021 - 08:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 12th, 2021

TELUS (TU) to Sell Financial Solutions Business for Core Focus

TELUS (TU) will utilize the net proceeds from the transaction to pursue strategic growth initiatives and connect more homes with fiber network while expanding its 5G network connectivity. TELUS Corporation TU recently announced that it has inked a definitive agreement to divest its financial solutions business to Dye & Durham for an undisclosed amount. The divesture is likely to enable the company to focus on core businesses and increase its liquidity, as it aims to navigate through the challenging macroeconomic environment.Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, Dye & Durham is a leading provider of cloud-based software and technology solutions to a diverse set of customers. It offers standardized business processes that ensure greater operational efficiency, automate workflow and streamline access to public records for professionals across all sectors of the economy.TELUS’ financial solutions business will complement Dye & Durham’s portfolio across the digital financial ecosystem with an established pool of customers. These include various products across payment processing, real estate technology and digital banking managed solutions within the financial services vertical. Per the deal, TELUS International will be the preferred technology partner of Dye & Durham, while TELUS will be its preferred communication partner. This, in turn, is likely to be beneficial for both the companies and create additional revenue-generating opportunities across the small and medium sector markets.  TELUS will utilize the net proceeds from the transaction to pursue strategic growth initiatives and connect more homes with fiber network while expanding its 5G network connectivity. The company will also use part of the sale proceeds to reduce debt, improve liquidity and enhance new businesses like TELUS Health and TELUS Agriculture. As of Sep 30, 2021, it had $1,480.2 million of net cash and temporary investments with $14,492.4 million of long-term debt.TELUS Agriculture is a new business unit dedicated to providing innovative solutions to support the agriculture industry with connected technology. It supports more than 100 million acres of agricultural land, backed by a team of more than 1,200 experts across Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Armenia, Germany, China and Australia. TELUS Health connects patients with physicians through mobile apps and aims to enhance patient experience and medication management through digital solutions.TELUS has launched 5G networks in several places across Canada. It acquired a 100% stake in Mobile Klinik to grow its wireless business. It is well-positioned to benefit from the increasing penetration of smart devices, wireless data services and wireline fiber-optic networks. The company expects balanced growth across businesses, backed by investments in high-speed broadband technology. Strategic acceleration of broadband network investment program is expected to not only enhance TELUS’ fiber build-out across key markets in British Columbia, Alberta and Eastern Quebec but also expand its 5G footprint.The stock has gained 16.4% in the past year compared with the industry’s rally of 0.7%. We remain impressed with the inherent growth potential of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchA better-ranked stock in the broader industry is Clearfield, Inc. CLFD, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.Clearfield delivered an earnings surprise of 50.8%, on average, in the trailing four quarters. Earnings estimates for the current year for the stock have moved up 68.2% since January 2021. Over the past year, Clearfield has gained a solid 139.6%.Qualcomm Incorporated QCOM, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), is another solid pick for investors. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 15.3% and delivered an earnings surprise of 11.2%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Earnings estimates for the current year for the stock have moved up 35.4% over the past year. Qualcomm is likely to benefit in the long run from solid 5G traction and a surge in demand for essential products that are the building blocks for digital transformation in the cloud economy.Sierra Wireless, Inc. SWIR carries a Zacks Rank #2. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 12.5% and delivered an earnings surprise of 34.2%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Over the past year, Sierra Wireless has gained 6.2%. The company continues to launch innovative products for business-critical operations that require high security and optimum 5G performance. 5 Stocks Set to Double Each was handpicked by a Zacks expert as the #1 favorite stock to gain +100% or more in 2021. Previous recommendations have soared +143.0%, +175.9%, +498.3% and +673.0%. Most of the stocks in this report are flying under Wall Street radar, which provides a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor.Today, See These 5 Potential Home Runs >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report TELUS Corporation (TU): Free Stock Analysis Report QUALCOMM Incorporated (QCOM): Free Stock Analysis Report Sierra Wireless, Inc. (SWIR): Free Stock Analysis Report Clearfield, Inc. (CLFD): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksDec 7th, 2021

Flex space co. Mindspace raises $72M for push into US market

Mindspace, the global flex office provider, announced that it has secured a funding of $72 million. The investment round is intended to support the continuation of the company’s growth and its further expansion in Europe, the United States and Israel. The round was led by Harel Insurance Investments and Financial... The post Flex space co. Mindspace raises $72M for push into US market appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Mindspace, the global flex office provider, announced that it has secured a funding of $72 million. The investment round is intended to support the continuation of the company’s growth and its further expansion in Europe, the United States and Israel. The round was led by Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services Ltd., More Provident Funds, Shalom Meckenzie, Arkin Holdings and existing investors. Existing investors include: Yoav Harlap, Kobi Rogovin and Globalworth. Mindspace, founded in 2014 by Dan Zakai and Yotam Alroy, currently operates 32 branches in 17 cities in seven countries, spread over one million square feet. In the past year, Mindspace launched new branches in London, Tel Aviv, Philadelphia and a new hub and spoke location outside Tel Aviv. Mindspace serves a wide variety of companies; about 41 percent are large enterprises and corporations and 38 percent are small and medium-sized companies. The leading industry types of its customer base are technology companies, financial companies and service providers. Past and present customers include Microsoft, Samsung, Playtika, Taboola, Yahoo!, Expedia, GoPro, and more. Dan Zakai and Yotam Alroy While most of the commercial real estate industry took a hit as a result of COVID, the flex market continued to grow. All forecasts predict the accelerated growth of the flex industry to reach a market share of more than 30% by 2030; the current market share of flex as part of commercial real estate is 5%. According to a recent study by CBRE, in two years 43% of occupiers will have 10-50% of their portfolio dedicated to flex. In addition, 17% of occupiers will have more than 50% of their portfolio dedicated to flex. “Mindspace is experiencing an impressive growth momentum and high demand in all its locations”, says Dan Zakai, CEO and Co-founder of Mindspace. “We successfully faced the many challenges of COVID. Today, our locations are almost at full occupancy and the current investment led by Harel Insurance and More Provident Funds is intended to fulfill the rising demand in the market and to launch new locations in partnership with landlords worldwide.” Zakai added, “Mindspace isn’t just another real estate company that rents out offices, but rather offers a strong, strategic partnership to its customers and to landlords. When choosing their office environment, we found that our customers put a great emphasis on their experience: central location, unique design and service of the highest standard. We expect a continued accelerated growth in 2022, while creating a great added value for our many customers.” In 2021 Mindspace demonstrated a significant recovery when it reached the pre-COVID occupancy levels of early 2020, and even exceeded them with over 95% occupancy in Israel and Germany. The high occupancy levels are not the result of lowered prices as Mindspace maintained its pre-pandemic prices. In the past two years, Mindspace signed six management agreements with landlords in Europe, Israel and the U.S., including for its recent launches in Israel and Philadelphia. A management agreement is a model that is gaining both momentum and recognition worldwide, inspired by the hotel industry. This innovative concept presents a partnership between the landlord and the flex operator, allowing increased profitability and greater flexibility for the landlord, while providing a relevant response to today’s market landscape. Under a new management agreement with an affiliate of Rubenstein Partners, Mindspace opened its first location in Philadelphia at The Wanamaker Office Building (pictured top) in February last year. The new location comprises approximately 42,000 s/f of flexible office space, events area and tenant lounges. Earlier in March 2021, Mindspace launched “Hybrid”, a new array of on-demand office solutions for companies and individuals who work under a hybrid model, combining work from home and in-office. The shift to hybrid has been on the rise for a few years and the outbreak of the pandemic has accelerated the process. At Mindspace, the increase of the hybrid trend is noticeable: casual, on-demand contracts have almost tripled in the past six months, compared to the same period last year, pre-COVID. Sami Babkov, Deputy CEO and CIO at Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services, Ltd.: “Harel is proud to lead the current investment round with a total funding of $30 million. This investment is an expression of confidence in the flexible workspace model, against the backdrop of COVID’s impact on the office market, and shows confidence in Mindspace’s experienced and professional management team. Through this investment we’re able to diversify and improve our investments in real estate and faithfully serve the customers utilizing Harel’s investment department.   “We believe Mindspace brings an interesting model to the market – both economically and in terms of the value it produces for its customers,” says Ori Keren, CIO at More Provident Funds. “In a short time the company managed to create new standards in the market, to build high loyalty among its customers and is experiencing steady growth.” Barak Capital Underwriting, Ltd. served as the investment banker in the transaction. The post Flex space co. Mindspace raises $72M for push into US market appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyNov 29th, 2021

KeyCorp (KEY) Continues Fintech Buyouts, Acquires XUP Payments

KeyCorp (KEY) acquires XUP Payments, a B2B focused digital platform. This transaction will help the company offer its clients the best payment and banking services. Continuing with its efforts to offer the best payment and banking services to clients, KeyCorp KEY has acquired a business-to-business (B2B) focused digital platform, XUP Payments. The XUP platform provides a seamless connection between merchants, financial service providers and acquirers across all types of channels.The team of engineers at XUP has built integrations with processors, third-party risk tools, customer relationship management systems and other fintech services, which allow banking institutions to provide a more integrated and seamless payments experience to customers.Ken Gavrity, the head of Enterprise Payments & Analytics at KeyBank, stated, “We’ve long embraced the software innovation that’s sweeping through the financial services industry, and the acquisition of XUP allows us to continue to be a leader in this space. XUP’s highly experienced team has accelerated us on the journey to build connectivity across our systems, our partners, and our customers, to make it easy to do business with Key.”Notably, KeyCorp has been an early investor in XUP. Now, with this acquisition, the partnership between the firms, which transformed KeyCorp’s Merchant Payments capabilities and accelerated its top quartile volume growth, will become stronger.In relation to this, XUP’s president, Chris May, said, “We are thrilled to be partnering with an innovator like Key. Our end-to-end software solutions, combined with Key’s scale and deep financial services expertise, will perfectly blend to provide clients a best-in-class payment experience. This partnership is unique in the industry and, together, we are ready to embark on this next phase of growth to pioneer remarkable digital experiences across a series of products and services.”Our TakeSupported by a robust balance sheet position, KeyCorp has been undertaking several restructuring initiatives, which have been driving growth. The company has been partnering with various fintech firms to offer best-in-class service to clients.This March, it acquired data analytics-driven consultancy firm, AQN Strategies LLC. In 2019, it took over Laurel Road Bank’s digital lending operation and expanded operations with the launch of Laurel Road for Doctors.The above-mentioned buyouts along with the past acquisitions are expected to keep enhancing KeyCorp’s profitability and market share and enable it to diversify revenues.Moreover, as demand for digital banking services is rising, KeyCorp has consolidated more than 70 branches since the beginning of 2021, with management continuing to look for opportunities to right-size its footprint.Over the past year, shares of KeyCorp have gained 41.1% compared with 40% growth recorded by the industry. Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchCurrently, KeyCorp carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.Other Firms Boosting Inorganic GrowthSeveral companies from the finance sector are undertaking consolidation efforts to counter the low-interest rate environment along with the heightened costs of investments in technology.Recently, Citizens Financial Group, Inc. CFG completed its previously announced merger with JMP Group LLC. Citizens Financial announced the all-cash deal in September in a bid to augment its capital market capabilities.The buyout is expected to foster growth, diversify Citizens Financial's capital market platform and provide greater scale in key verticals like healthcare, technology, financials and real estate.Likewise, in an effort to broaden its capabilities for institutional investors and investment management clients, SEI Investments Company SEIC acquired a global portfolio intelligence platform company, Novus Partners.SEI Investments' chairman and CEO, Alfred P. West, Jr., stated, "The financial services landscape is ever-evolving. Our markets continue to face an unprecedented pace of change, and we continuously seek opportunities to stay ahead of and manage this change. By making strategic investments in our solutions and workforce, we drive growth and help our clients make confident decisions for their futures."A couple of days ago, U.S. Bancorp USB, the parent company of U.S. Bank, agreed to acquire San Francisco-based fintech firm, TravelBank, which offers technology-driven cost and travel management solutions. The agreement is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.The acquisition will help U.S. Bank, which is already an industry leader in delivering innovative corporate payment solutions like virtual corporate credit cards and tools to improve working capital, accelerate the integration of digital payments within its commercial segment. Zacks' Top Picks to Cash in on Artificial Intelligence In 2021, this world-changing technology is projected to generate $327.5 billion in revenue. Now Shark Tank star and billionaire investor Mark Cuban says AI will create "the world's first trillionaires." Zacks' urgent special report reveals 3 AI picks investors need to know about today.See 3 Artificial Intelligence Stocks With Extreme Upside Potential>>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report U.S. Bancorp (USB): Free Stock Analysis Report KeyCorp (KEY): Free Stock Analysis Report SEI Investments Company (SEIC): Free Stock Analysis Report Citizens Financial Group, Inc. (CFG): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksNov 23rd, 2021

How The "Grand Chessboard" Led To US Checkmate In Afghanistan

How The "Grand Chessboard" Led To US Checkmate In Afghanistan Authored by Max Parry via Off-Guardian.org, Nearly as suspenseful as the Taliban’s meteoric return to power after the final withdrawal of American armed forces from Afghanistan is the uncertainty over what will come next amid the fallout... Many have predicted that Russia and China will step in to fill the power vacuum and convince the facelift Taliban to negotiate a power-sharing agreement in exchange for political and economic support, while others fear a descent into civil war is inevitable. Although Moscow and Beijing potentially stand to gain from the humiliating US retreat by pushing for an inclusive government in Kabul, the rebranded Pashtun-based group must first be removed as a designated terrorist organization. Neither wants to see Afghanistan worsen as a hotbed of jihad, as Islamist separatism already previously plagued Russia in the Caucasus and China is still in the midst of an ongoing ethnic conflict in Xinjiang with Uyghur Muslim secessionists and the Al Qaeda-linked Turkestan Islamic Party. At this point everyone recognizes the more serious extremist threat lies not with the Taliban but the emergence of ISIS Khorasan or ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate blamed for several recent terror attacks including the August 26th bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital which killed 13 American service members and more than a 100 Afghans during the US drawdown. Three days later, American commanders ordered a retaliatory drone strike targeting a vehicle which they claimed was en route to detonate a suicide bomb at the same Kabul airport. For several days, the Pentagon falsely maintained that the aerial assault successfully took out two ISIS-K militants and a servile corporate media parroted these assertions unquestioningly, including concocting a totally fictitious report that the blast consisted of “secondary explosions” from devices already inside the car intended for use in an act of terror. Two weeks later, US Central Command (CENTCOM) was forced to apologize and admit the strike was indeed a “tragic mistake” which errantly killed ten innocent civilians — all of whom were members of a single family including seven children — while no Daesh members were among the dead. This distortion circulated in collusion between the endless war machine and the media is perhaps only eclipsed by the alleged Russian-Taliban bounty program story in its deceitfulness. If any Americans were aware of ISIS-K prior to the botched Kabul airstrike, they likely recall when former US President Donald Trump authorized the unprecedented use of a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, informally referred to as the “Mother Of All Bombs”, on Islamic State militants in Nangarhar Province back in 2017. Reportedly, Biden’s predecessor had to be shown photos from the 1970s of Afghan girls wearing miniskirts by his National Security Advisor, HR McMaster, to renege on his campaign pledge of ending the longest war in US history. As it happens, the ISIS Khorasan fighters extinguished by the MOAB were sheltered at an underground tunnel complex near the Pakistani border that was built by the CIA back in the 1980s during the Afghan-Soviet war. Alas, the irony of this detail was completely lost on mainstream media whose proclivity to treat Pentagon newspeak as gospel has been characteristic of not only the last twenty years of US occupation but four decades of American involvement in Afghanistan since Operation Cyclone, the covert Central Intelligence Agency plan to arm and fund the mujahideen, was launched in 1979. Frank Wisner, the CIA official who established Operation Mockingbird, the agency’s extensive clandestine program to infiltrate the news media for propaganda purposes during the the Cold War, referred to the press as it’s “Mighty Wurlitzer”, or a musical instrument played to manipulate public opinion. Langley’s recruitment of assets within the fourth estate was one of many illicit activities by the national security apparatus divulged in the limited hangout of the Church Committee during the 1970s, along with CIA complicity in coups, assassinations, illegal surveillance, and drug-induced brainwashing of unwitting citizens. At bottom, it wasn’t just the minds of human guinea pigs that ‘The Company’ sought to control but the news coverage consumed by Americans as well. In his testimony before a congressional select committee, Director of Central Intelligence William Colby openly acknowledged the use of spooks in journalism, as seen in the award-winning documentary Inside the CIA: On Company Business (1980). Unfortunately, the breadth of the secret project and its vetting of journalists wasn’t fully revealed until an article by Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, whereas the series of official investigations only ended up salvaging the deep state by presenting such wrongdoings as rogue “abuses” rather than an intrinsic part of espionage in carrying out US foreign policy. The corrupt institution of Western media also punishes anyone within its ranks who dares to swim against the current. The husband and wife duo of Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, authors of a new memoir which illuminates the real story of Afghanistan, were two such journalists who learned just how the sausage is made in the nation’s capital with the connivance of the yellow press. Both veterans of the peace movement, Paul and Liz were initially among those who naively believed that America’s humiliation in Vietnam and the well-publicized hearings which discredited the intelligence community might lead to a sea change in Washington with the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976. In hindsight, there was actually good reason for optimism regarding the prospect for world peace in light of the arms reduction treaties and talks between the US and Moscow during the Nixon and Ford administrations, a silver lining to Henry Kissinger’s ‘realist’ doctrine of statecraft. However, any glimmer of hope in easing strained relations between the West and the Soviet Union was short-lived, as the few voices of reason inside the Beltway presuming good faith on the part of Moscow toward détente and nuclear proliferation were soon challenged by a new bellicose faction of DC think tank ghouls who argued that diplomacy jeopardized America’s strategic position and that the USSR sought global dominion. Since intelligence assessments inconveniently contradicted the claims of Soviet aspirations for strategic superiority, CIA Director George H.W. Bush consulted the purported expertise of a competitive group of intellectual warmongers known as ‘Team B’ which featured many of the same names later synonymous with the neoconservative movement, including Richard Pipes, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Bush, Sr. had replaced the aforementioned Bill Colby following the notorious “Halloween Massacre” firings in the Gerald Ford White House, a political shakeup which also included Kissinger’s ouster as National Security Advisor and the promotion of a young Donald Rumsfeld to Secretary of Defense with his pupil, one Richard B. Cheney, named Chief of Staff. This proto-neocon soft coup allowed Team B and its manipulated estimates of the Soviet nuclear arsenal to undermine the ongoing Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between Washington and the Kremlin until Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev finally signed a second comprehensive non-proliferation treaty in June 1979. The behind-the-scenes split within the foreign policy establishment over which dogma would set external policymaking continued wrestling for power before the unipolarity of Team B prevailed thanks to the machinations of Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. If intel appraisals of Moscow’s intentions and military capabilities didn’t match the Team B thesis, the Polish-American strategist devised a scheme to lure the USSR into a trap in Afghanistan to give the appearance of Soviet expansionism in order to convince Carter to withdraw from SALT II the following year and sabotage rapprochement. By the time it surfaced that the CIA was supplying weapons to Islamist insurgents in the Central Asian country, the official narrative dispensed by Washington was that it was aiding the Afghan people fight back against an “invasion” by the Red Army. Ironically, this was the justification for a proxy conflict which resulted in the deaths of at least 2 million civilians and eventually collapsed the socialist government in Kabul, setting off a bloody civil war and the emergence of the Taliban. Even so, it was the media which helped manage the perception that the CIA’s covert war began only after the Soviets had intervened. Meanwhile, the few honest reporters who tried to unveil the truth about what was happening were silenced and relegated to the periphery. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould were the first two American journalists permitted entry into the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1981 by the Moscow-friendly government since Western correspondents had been barred from the country. What they witnessed firsthand on the ground could not have contrasted more sharply from the accepted tale of freedom fighters resisting a communist “occupation” disseminated by propaganda rags. Instead, what they discovered was an army of feudal tribesman and fanatical jihadists who blew up schools and doused women with acid as they waged a holy war against an autonomous, albeit flawed, progressive government in Kabul enacting land reforms and providing education for girls. In addition, they learned the Soviet military presence was being deliberately exaggerated by major outlets who either outright censored or selectively edited their exclusive accounts, beginning with CBS Evening News and later ABC’s Nightline. Not long after the Taliban established an Islamic emirate for the first time in the late 1990s, Brzezinski himself would shamelessly boast that Operation Cyclone had actually started in mid-1979 nearly six months prior to the deployment of Soviet troops later that year. Fresh off the publication of his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, the Russophobic Warsaw-native told the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998: Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. Is this period, you were the National Security Advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct? Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujaheddin began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention. Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into the war and looked for a way to provoke it? B: It wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret US involvement in Afghanistan , nobody believed them. However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today? B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime , a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire. Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists? B: What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War? If this stunning admission straight from the horse’s mouth is too candid to believe, Fitzgerald and Gould obtain confirmation of Brzezinski’s Machiavellian confession from one of their own skeptics. Never mind that Moscow’s help had been requested by the legitimate Afghan government to defend itself against the US dirty war, a harbinger of the Syrian conflict more than three decades later when Damascus appealed to Russia in 2015 for military aid to combat Western-backed “rebel” groups. Paul and Liz also uncover CIA fingerprints all over the suspicious February 1979 assassination of Adolph Dubs, the American Ambassador to Afghanistan, whose negotiation attempts may have inadvertently thrown a wrench into Brzezinski’s ploy to draw the USSR into a quagmire. Spurring Carter to give his foreign policy tutor the green light to finance the Islamist proxies, the timely kidnapping and murder of the US diplomat at a Kabul hotel would be pinned on the KGB and the rest was history. The journo couple even go as far as to imply the branch of Western intelligence likely responsible for his murder was an agent from the Safari Club, an unofficial network between the security services of a select group of European and Middle Eastern countries which carried out covert operations during the Cold War across several continents with ties to the worldwide drug trade and Brzezinski. Although he was considered to be of the ‘realist’ school of international relations like Kissinger, Brzezinski’s plot to engineer a Russian equivalent of Vietnam in Afghanistan increased the clout of neoconservatism in Washington, a persuasion that would later reach its peak of influence in the George W. Bush administration. In retrospect, the need for a massive military buildup to achieve Pax Americana promoted by the war hawks in Team B was a precursor to the influential “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” manifesto by the Project for the New American Century cabal preceding 9/11 and the ensuing US invasion of Afghanistan. Fitzgerald and Gould also historically trace the ideological roots of neoconservatism to its intellectual foundations in the American Trotskyist movement during the 1930s. If a deviated branch of Marxism seems like an unlikely origin source for the right-wing interventionist foreign policy of the Bush administration, its basis is not as unexpected as it may appear. In fact, one of the main reasons behind the division between the Fourth International and the Comintern was over the national question, since Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” called for expansion to impose global revolution unlike Stalin’s “socialism in one country” position which respected the sovereignty and self-determination of nation states while still giving support to national liberation movements. The authors conclude by highlighting how the military overhaul successfully championed by the neoconservatives marked the beginning of the end for US infrastructure maintenance as well. With public attention currently focused on the pending Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to repair decaying industry at home just as the disastrous Afghan pullout has put President Joe Biden’s favorability at an all-time low, Fitzgerald and Gould truly connect all the dots between the decline of America as a superpower with Brzezinski and Team B. Even recent statements by Jimmy Carter himself were tantamount when he spoke with Trump about China’s economic success which he attributed to Beijing’s lack of wasteful spending on military adventures, an incredible irony given the groundwork for the defense budget escalation begun under Ronald Reagan was laid by Carter’s own foreign policy. Looking back, the spousal team note that the ex-Georgia governor did not need much coaxing after all to betray his promises as a candidate, considering his rise to the presidency was facilitated by his membership alongside Brzezinski in the Trilateral Commission, an elite Rockefeller-funded think tank. What is certain is that Paul and Liz have written an indispensable book that gives a level of insight into the Afghan story only attainable from their four decades of scholarly work on the subject. The Valediction: Three Nights of Desmond is now available from Trine Day Press and the timing of its release could not offer better context to recent world events. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/18/2021 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 19th, 2021

Here"s Why You Should Retain Vornado (VNO) Stock for Now

Vornado (VNO) is poised to gain from high-quality assets and an improving office leasing market. However, stiff competition might act as a deterrent. Vornado Realty Trust VNO, with high-quality assets, is well-poised to benefit from an improving office leasing market. However, intense competition from developers, owners and operators of office properties poses a challenge to its office assets.The focus on having assets in a few select high-rent, high-barrier-to-entry geographic markets and a diversified tenant base, which includes several industry bellwethers, are expected to drive steady cash flows and fuel Vornado’s growth over the long term. Recently, Vornado entered into a 20-year lease agreement with Madison Square Garden Entertainment for 428,000 square feet at Vornado’s PENN 2.Additionally, Vornado enjoys a strong balance sheet position and has ample liquidly. As of Sep 30, 2021, VNO had $4.5 billion of liquidity, consisting of $2.3 billion cash and cash equivalents. Such a flexible financial position will enable it to take advantage of investment opportunities and fund its development projects.Shares of currently Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) Vornado have appreciated 9.2% in three months, outperforming the industry’s growth of 1.6%. Moreover, the trend in estimate revisions for 2021 funds from operations (FFO) per share indicates a favorable outlook for VNOas the same has moved 2% north in the past two months.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchHowever, Vornado faces fierce competition from developers, owners and operators of office properties and other commercial real estates. This downtrend affects VNO’s ability to attract and retain tenants at relatively higher rents than its competitors, affecting its profitability.Moreover, Vornado’s retail portfolio is suffering the rapid shift in customers’ shopping preferences and patterns, with online purchases growing by leaps and bounds. These made retailers reconsider their footprint and eventually opt for store closures. Additionally, retailers unable to cope with the competition are filing for bankruptcies. Such a situation emerged as a pressing concern for VNO as the trend is curtailing leasing velocity for the retail real-estate space and lowering absorption and rents.Key PicksSome better-ranked stocks from the REIT sector are Cedar Realty Trust CDR, Alpine Income Property Trust PINE and Apple Hospitality REIT APLE.The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Cedar Realty Trust’s 2021 FFO per share has been raised 2.6% in the past week.Cedar Realty Trust currently flaunts a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Alpine Income Property Trust’s ongoing year’s FFO per share has been raised 2.1% over the past month.Alpine Income Property Trust carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), currently.The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Apple Hospitality REIT’s2021 FFO per share has moved 4.9% upward in the past month.Apple Hospitality REIT currently carries a Zacks Rank of 2.Note: Anything related to earnings presented in this write-up represent funds from operations (FFO) — a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs Infrastructure Stock Boom to Sweep America A massive push to rebuild the crumbling U.S. infrastructure will soon be underway. It’s bipartisan, urgent, and inevitable. Trillions will be spent. Fortunes will be made. The only question is “Will you get into the right stocks early when their growth potential is greatest?” Zacks has released a Special Report to help you do just that, and today it’s free. Discover 7 special companies that look to gain the most from construction and repair to roads, bridges, and buildings, plus cargo hauling and energy transformation on an almost unimaginable scale.Download FREE: How to Profit from Trillions on Spending for Infrastructure >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Vornado Realty Trust (VNO): Free Stock Analysis Report Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (CDR): Free Stock Analysis Report Apple Hospitality REIT, Inc. (APLE): Free Stock Analysis Report Alpine Income Property Trust, Inc. (PINE): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksNov 18th, 2021

@properties to Buy Christie’s International Real Estate

A big-ticket deal is brewing between Christie’s and @properties The post @properties to Buy Christie’s International Real Estate appeared first on RISMedia. Christie’s International Real Estate, the luxury real estate subsidiary of Christie’s, is slated for new ownership. Both companies announced on Nov. 17 that Chicago-based @properties will acquire the real estate brokerage out of New York in the coming month as part of a “long-term global brand license agreement.” “@properties is excited to combine the world’s preeminent luxury real estate brand with the brokerage industry’s best technology, marketing and operational platform,” said Thad Wong, co-CEO and co-founder of @properties, in a statement. “Christie’s International Real Estate will be the only brokerage firm in the world that can offer affiliates, agents and clients a fully integrated tech solution behind 250-plus years of luxury service and experience.” The deal is expected to close on Dec. 1 as @properties plans to build on the success of Christie’s International Real Estate and “position it for accelerated growth.” Christie’s chief operating officer, Ben Gore, indicated that the company chose to pursue a new direction for the real estate arm for two strategic reasons. “First, because @properties possesses the unique resources and capabilities to invest in expanding the Christie’s International Real Estate brand and its affiliate network both within the U.S. and on a global scale; and second, because this will enable Christie’s to focus our resources on the core priorities of our business in the art and luxury goods market,” Gore said in a statement. According to the announcement, the deal will produce one of the largest residential brokerage firms in the United States while allowing further expansion across other global markets. The move will also allow @properties to expand its technology on a global scale as it supports Christie’s International Real Estate’s clients, agents and affiliates. Under the terms of the agreement, Christie’s existing global network of approximately 900 affiliate real estate offices will transfer to @properties along with Christie’s International Real Estate corporate team members and company-owned brokerage operations. Christie’s International Real Estate has been in operation for more than three decades and has recorded about $500 billion in real estate transactions across its affiliated brokerages in the last five years. Established in 2000, @properties and its affiliated companies, Ansley Real Estate and Nest Realty, have more than 4,000 agents in 75 offices in 13 states. Despite the change in ownership, Christie’s International Real Estate will maintain its name. Centerview Partners LLC serves as the exclusive financial advisor to Christie’s throughout the deal, while Allen & Overy LLP serves as legal counsel. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Lathrop GPM LLP are representing @properties. This is a developing story.  Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate online editor. Email him your real estate news ideas to jgrice@rismedia.com. The post @properties to Buy Christie’s International Real Estate appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaNov 17th, 2021

Christie’s sells international real estate business to @Properties

Auction house Christie’s announced today that it is selling its international real estate business to real estate brokerage and technology firm @properties. Christie’s will enter into a long-term global brand license agreement with the company, one of the fastest growing luxury brokerage firms in the world. Founded by Michael Golden... The post Christie’s sells international real estate business to @Properties appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Auction house Christie’s announced today that it is selling its international real estate business to real estate brokerage and technology firm @properties. Christie’s will enter into a long-term global brand license agreement with the company, one of the fastest growing luxury brokerage firms in the world. Founded by Michael Golden and Thad Wong in 2000, @properties in now one of Chicago’s biggest real estate brokerage by volume the eighth largest brokerage firm in the country by sales. Mike Golden and Thad Wong The new business, which will retain the name Christie’s International Real Estate, will create one of the largest residential brokerage firms in the United States and will allow for further expansion across other global markets. Christie’s said the deal with the upstart will position its real estate business for “accelerated growth.” Its network of 900 affiliate real estate offices will transfer to @properties along with Christie’s International Real Estate corporate team members and company-owned brokerage operations. Ben Gore, COO at Christie’s, said: “We chose to pursue this new direction for Christie’s International Real Estate for two strategic reasons—first, because @properties possesses the unique resources and capabilities to invest in expanding the Christie’s International Real Estate brand and its affiliate network both within the US and on a global scale; and second, because this will enable Christie’s to focus our resources on the core priorities of our business in the art and luxury goods market.” The move also paves the way for @properties to scale its technology on a global level through Christie’s clients, agents and affiliates. The company’s proprietary suite of brokerage-tech applications, called pl@tform, allows agents to digitally manage all aspects of the client relationship and real estate transaction through one fully integrated system. Wong, co-CEO of @properties, commented: “@properties is excited to combine the world’s preeminent luxury real estate brand with the brokerage industry’s best technology, marketing, and operational platform. Christie’s International Real Estate will be the only brokerage firm in the world that can offer affiliates, agents and clients a fully integrated tech solution behind 250-plus years of luxury service and experience.” @properties is partnered with Charlottesville, Virginia-based Quad-C Management, middlemarket private equity firm. Centerview Partners LLC is serving as exclusive financial advisor to Christie’s and Allen & Overy LLP is serving as legal counsel. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Lathrop GPM LLP are serving as legal counsel to @properties. Currently, @Properties is ranked eight in the Realtrends list of top US brokerages by sales volume. Realogy is the biggest, followed by Compass, HomeServices of America, eXp Realty, Redfin, and Hanna Holdings. The post Christie’s sells international real estate business to @Properties appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyNov 17th, 2021

Underwriting: The risk-assessment process used in everything from IPOs to life insurance

Underwriting is a process in which an individual or an organization takes on financial risk for a fee, typically on a loan, insurance, or investments. Each type of underwriting comes with specific risks — and underwriters generally specialize in one of several risk types.Rob Daly/Getty Underwriting is the process of taking on risk in a financial transaction, typically a loan, insurance, or investments. Underwriters assess risk, determine how much to assume, and at what price. Underwriting helps set rates for loans, premiums for insurance policies, and the cost of risk in securities markets. Visit Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories. Underwriting determines how risky a financial venture such as a loan, insurance policy, or investment is and whether to accept that risk. If the risk is considered worth taking, the underwriting process determines how much to charge."Underwriting is basically just verifying all of the information the borrower has provided on their loan application — their income, their tax returns, their bank accounts and other assets," says Mayer Dallal, managing director at Mortgage Bank of California. "[Lenders] look at debt-to-income ratio — basically, how much you owe versus how much you earn. [Lenders] also check credit scores — it's difficult to overstate the importance of a credit rating to the process. Then we get an appraisal of the property to see if the loan amount is appropriate, and do a title search to make sure there are no liens on the property."How the process of underwriting works The main goal of underwriting is to determine risk. Knowing the amount of risk involved in a financial venture allows for pricing and finally a decision to accept or reject the applicant or venture.The underwriting process varies somewhat depending on the type of underwriting being done, but in general terms here's how it works:Step 1: Review and evaluate the application or other paperwork to determine creditworthiness, medical history (life insurance), financial soundness (investment), or other other factors that vary with the type of risk.Step 2: Obtain an appraisal of property, evaluation of securities, or require a medical exam as required to help further determine risk.Step 3: Process all gathered information and make a decision to:Accept: Approval involves other decisions including loan rates, terms, premium amounts, or price to pay for securities, depending on the type of underwriting decision being made.Deny: Denial results when the various factors show unacceptable risk in the eyes of the underwriter.Pending: A decision to hold the application typically means the underwriter doesn't have enough or the right information to make a firm decision.Note: The term 'underwriting' is believed to have originated in the early days of Lloyd's of London when risk takers (underwriters) wrote their names below (under) the total amount of risk they were willing to undertake, such as a voyage of a merchant ship for example, in exchange for a specified premium.What is the role of an underwriter?The role of an underwriter is to protect the financial interests of the lender, insurer, or investor by assigning appropriate risk and compensation for assuming that risk. Underwriters work in a variety of financial industries including banking, insurance, investing, and more. In fact, anything that involves a combination of risk and money, probably has an underwriter somewhere in the process.In their role of evaluating financial risk, depending on the type of risk, underwriters investigate all financial aspects of an applicant or investment. Medical history and health come into play when someone applies for life insurance. Appraisal or evaluation is also part of the process when you are buying a house, car, boat, or even investing in real estate or a major project.Types of underwriting Each type of underwriting comes with specific risks. Underwriters generally specialize in one of several risk types.Loan underwritingIf you've ever applied for a personal, car, or home loan, you've likely heard the term "underwriting" as part of the application process.Personal and car loans, compared to mortgage loans, are relatively simple. The risk to the lender is that you will not pay back the loan. These types of loans are often underwritten using a computer and strict modeling algorithms. That is not to say they are "untouched by human hands" just that the process is not as complex as with other types of risk.Mortgage/real estate loans are more complicated, mostly because the thing you are trying to buy is more expensive and the risk to the lender is greater. As noted above, a home or other real estate loan involves a deep dive into your personal finances including income, assets, debt, and general ability to repay the loan. In addition, the asset (home/real estate) must be appraised, evaluated to make sure you are not overpaying. Other research involves making sure the seller actually owns the property, such as a title search."Many people don't realize how tricky underwriting can be for a self-employed person or an entrepreneur who's applying for a loan at a big bank," notes Dallal. He blames it on automated underwriting that looks for a W-2 and when none is found, rejects the applicant. "But there are mortgage lenders who take a more individualized approach to loan qualification, rather than the cookie-cutter approach old-school lenders use," Dallal adds, advising borrowers to seek out those lenders.Insurance underwritingInsurance underwriting involves evaluating an applicant for life or property insurance. It determines the risks of filing large or frequent claims and assessing how much coverage a person can be given, how much they should pay and how much an insurance company is likely to pay to cover the policyholder.Life insurance underwriting involves assessing the risk of the potential insurer by evaluating age, occupation, health, family medical history, lifestyle, hobbies, and other traits. Property and casualty insurance underwriting requires inspection of homes and rental properties for deterioration, crumbling foundations, damaged roof or anything that poses a risk to the insurer.Note: Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect in 2014, health insurance sold in the individual market in most states was medically underwritten to include consideration of pre-existing conditions. Since 2014, however, pre-existing conditions may no longer be considered. Health insurance must now by guaranteed issue, regardless of pre-existing condition status.Securities underwritingIn securities underwriting, the process involves the sale of stocks or bonds to investors, often in the form of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) by an underwriter (bank). In this case the bank relies on a cadre of underwriters who help the bank assess risk, plan for, and execute the agreement to underwrite the IPO and sell securities to fund the IPO.How long does underwriting take? It should be no surprise that the amount of time it takes to underwrite a financial transaction depends on the type and complexity of the transaction. Underwriting a personal loan or even a car loan can be completed in minutes using a computer and software. Mortgages and life insurance take longer. Securities underwriting, for example for an IPO, is likely to take the longest.Personal loans or car loans often take a week or less. In some instances, underwriting and approval can be almost instantaneous, happening in minutes.Mortgages often take 30 to 45 days for full approval, although the underwriting process is only part of that timeline and is usually complete in about 72 hours after the underwriter has all the information they need.Life insurance underwriting might be one of the least predictable when it comes to a timeline. Many life insurance policies undergo underwriting and approval in as few as 24 hours. Depending on health and other issues, however, the process can take a month or more.Property and casualty insurance is typically approved as fast as a personal loan, that is in one to seven days. The effective date of insurance, however, is after your payment is received. Being approved for homeowners insurance doesn't mean you have it.Securities underwriting as part of the IPO process typically happens within the six to nine months it takes for a company to transition from private to public. Since underwriters are involved at every step in the process on behalf of the bank, their work is not complete until the IPO is complete.The financial takeawayUnderwriting is all about risk and determining the cost (value) of that risk. With a loan, the risk is whether the borrower will repay or default and the cost is the amount of interest charged. With insurance, the risk is whether too many policyholders will file claims at the same time. To mitigate that risk, the cost is the premium charged to each policyholder. With securities, the risk is that the underwritten investment will not make a profit. The cost is the difference between the amount the underwriter pays for the shares and the amount the public pays when the shares are sold.The role of underwriting and the underwriter cannot be understated. Without some assessment of risk, all financial transactions would be a matter of "guessing." Underwriting removes guesswork and replaces it with a process designed to be fair to both the lender and the borrower; the insurer and the insured; the investor and the investment.Lenders want to lend, insurers want to insure, and investors want to invest. Conversely, borrowers want to borrow, individuals want insurance, and IPOs want investors. No matter your role in any financial interaction, know that the underwriter is there to ensure fairness.IFRS: The accounting framework that sets the rules for most non-US companies' financial reportingWhat are assets? The building blocks of wealth for individuals and profits for businessesA CFP is an advisor armed with extensive education and ethical standards to help you manage your moneyWhat to know about actuaries — the professionals who predict the financial future of companies with math and scienceRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 17th, 2021

Ericsson (ERIC) 5G Gears to Boost Qatar FIFA World Cup Experience

The partnership between Ericsson (ERIC) and the Qatar-based carrier is likely to add a new dimension to the global football extravaganza set to be held from November to December 2022. Ericsson ERIC and Ooredoo Qatar are collaborating to bring a unique 5G experience for football fans across the Middle Eastern country in the upcoming FIFA World Cup tournament. The partnership between the Sweden-based telecommunications equipment manufacturer and the Qatar-based carrier is likely to add a new dimension to this global football extravaganza set to be held from November to December 2022.Per the deal, the two firms will work in unison to offer seamless 5G connectivity in eight stadiums across six cities, as well as in dedicated fan zones, airports, and places of attraction. This will entail Ericsson to provide network optimization by applying industry-leading AI-powered technologies and leverage live and predictive network data to achieve the maximum potential. The firms will also aim to ensure optimum performance by effectively managing Ericsson Radio System products.Ericsson Radio System comprises hardware, software and services for radio, Radio Access Network (RAN) Compute, antenna system, transport, power, and site solutions. It enables a smooth and cost-effective migration from 4G to 5G, supporting communications service providers to launch the avant-garde technology and expand the 5G coverage fast. The company’s 5G radio access technologies provide the infrastructure required to meet the growing demand for high-bandwidth connections and support the real-time, low-latency, high-reliability communication requirements of mission-critical applications.With the emergence of the smartphone market and the subsequent usage of mobile broadband, user demand for coverage speed and quality has increased exponentially. Further, to maintain the performance with increased traffic, there is a continuous need for network tuning and optimization. Ericsson, being one of the premier telecom service providers, is much in demand among operators to expand network coverage and upgrade networks for higher speed and capacity. It is reportedly the world’s largest supplier of LTE technology with a significant market share and has established a large number of LTE networks worldwide.The long-term agreement with Ooredoo Qatar will facilitate the nationwide network upgrade to 5G technology. The state-of-the-art telecommunications equipment will further enable football fans to witness live streaming from the sports venues in addition to interactive communication and social networking services. To date, Ericsson has secured 149 commercial 5G agreements with unique communication service providers, of which 97 are live networks. The company is increasingly focusing on 5G system development to capitalize on the upcoming market opportunities. The company believes that the standardization of 5G is the cornerstone for the digitization of industries and broadband. Moreover, Ericsson foresees mainstream 4G offerings to give way to 5G technology in the future.Meanwhile, the impending deployment of 5G networks is expected to boost the adoption of IoT devices, with technologies like network slicing gaining more prominence. Currently, Ericsson is investing in its competitive 5G-ready portfolio to enable customers to seamlessly migrate to 5G. AI and automation remain key enablers for its business development.The stock has lost 10.1% over the past year against the industry’s growth of 16.3%. Nevertheless, we remain impressed with the inherent growth potential of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock. Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchA better-ranked stock in the industry is Clearfield, Inc. CLFD, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.Clearfield delivered an earnings surprise of 49%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Earnings estimates for the current year for the stock have moved up 19.4% in the past 60 days. Over the past year, Clearfield has gained a stellar 194.3%.Qualcomm Incorporated QCOM, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), is another solid pick for investors. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 17.5% and delivered an earnings surprise of 11.2%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Earnings estimates for the current year for the stock have moved up 14.7% in the past 90 days. Qualcomm is likely to benefit in the long run from solid 5G traction and a surge in demand for essential products that are the building blocks for digital transformation in the cloud economy.Arista Networks, Inc. ANET carries a Zacks Rank #2. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 16.7% and delivered an earnings surprise of 6%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Arista is likely to benefit from strong momentum and diversification across its top verticals and product lines. It has expanded its cognitive campus edge portfolio with a new Wi-Fi 6E access point and has introduced an enterprise-grade Software-as-a-Service offering for its flagship CloudVision platform. Zacks' Top Picks to Cash in on Artificial Intelligence In 2021, this world-changing technology is projected to generate $327.5 billion in revenue. Now Shark Tank star and billionaire investor Mark Cuban says AI will create "the world's first trillionaires." Zacks' urgent special report reveals 3 AI picks investors need to know about today.See 3 Artificial Intelligence Stocks With Extreme Upside Potential>>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report QUALCOMM Incorporated (QCOM): Free Stock Analysis Report Ericsson (ERIC): Free Stock Analysis Report Arista Networks, Inc. (ANET): Free Stock Analysis Report Clearfield, Inc. (CLFD): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksNov 16th, 2021

Yield farming: An investing strategy involving staking or lending crypto assets to generate returns

Yield farming involves lending cryptocurrency in exchange for interest payments and other rewards - but it comes with a high degree of risk. Yield farming involves staking, or locking up, your cryptocurrency in exchange for interest or more crypto. Alyssa Powell/Insider Yield farming involves lending or staking cryptocurrency in exchange for interest and other rewards. Yield farmers measure their returns in terms of annual percentage yields (APY). While potentially profitable, yield farming is also incredibly risky. Visit Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories. Yield farming is a means of earning interest on your cryptocurrency, similar to how you'd earn interest on any money in your savings account. And similarly to depositing money in a bank, yield farming involves locking up your cryptocurrency, called "staking," for a period of time in exchange for interest or other rewards, such as more cryptocurrency."When traditional loans are made through banks, the amount lent out is paid back with interest," explains Daniel R. Hill, CFP, AIF and president of Hill Wealth Strategies. "With yield farming, the concept is the same: cryptocurrency that would normally just be sitting in an account is instead lent out in order to generate returns."Since yield farming began in 2020, yield farmers have earned returns in the form of annual percentage yields (APY) that can reach triple digits. But this potential return comes at high risk, with the protocols and coins earned subject to extreme volatility and rug pulls wherein developers abandon a project and make off with investors' funds.Note: The returns you earn by yield farming are expressed as APY, or the rate of return you'd earn during a year.Understanding how yield farming worksAlso known as liquidity farming, yield farming works by first allowing an investor to stake their coins by depositing them into a lending protocol through a decentralized app, or dApp. Other investors can then borrow the coins through the dApp to use for speculation, where they try to profit off of sharp swings they anticipate in the coin's market price."Yield farming is simply a rewards program for early adopters," says Jay Kurahashi-Sofue, VP of marketing at Ava Labs, a team supporting development of the Avalanche public blockchain that works with several defi applications that offer yield farming. Blockchain-based apps offer incentives for users to provide liquidity by locking up their coins in a process called staking. "Staking occurs when centralized crypto platforms take customers' deposits and lend them out to those seeking credit," Hill says. "Creditors pay interest, depositors receive a certain proportion of that and then the bank takes the rest.""This lending is usually facilitated through smart contracts, which are essentially just a piece of code running on a blockchain, functioning as a liquidity pool," says Brian Dechesare, former investment banker and CEO of financial career platform Breaking Into Wall Street. "Users who are yield farming, also known as liquidity providers, lend their funds by adding them to a smart contract."Investors who lock up their coins on the yield-farming protocol can earn interest and often more cryptocurrency coins - the real boon to the deal. If the price of those additional coins appreciates, the investor's returns rise as well.This process provides the liquidity newly launched blockchain apps need to sustain long-term growth, says Kurahashi-Sofue. "[These apps] can increase community participation and secure this liquidity by rewarding users with incentives like their own governance tokens, app transaction fees and other funds," Kurahashi-Sofue says.Kurahashi-Sofue adds that you could compare yield farming to the early days of ride-sharing. "Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing apps needed to bootstrap growth, so they provided incentives for early users who referred other users onto the platform," he says.Another incentive for staking is to accumulate enough shares of the cryptocurrency to force a hard fork where a major infrastructural change is made to the design of the cryptocurrency, says Daniel J. Smith, professor of economics in the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University.Note: A hard fork is a change in a cryptocurrency network's protocol that causes blocks or transactions to be either validated or invalidated, forcing developers to upgrade their protocol software."Hard forks enable the holders of crypto to force changes that would, at least in the opinion of the majority of the holders, improve the cryptocurrency going forward," Smith says. In a way, hard forking gives crypto investors a power similar to what share voting does for stockholders. The same way shareholders can vote on key matters affecting the management or direction of the companies they invest in, cryptocurrency holders can use hard forks to push a cryptocurrency protocol in a certain direction.Staking coins to cause a hard fork "allows crypto to take on (this) important characteristic of equity investments," Smith adds, and "moves crypto from a cash-like investment in a portfolio to a quasi-equity investment."Is yield farming safe? Yield farming is rife with risk. Some of these risks include:Volatility: Volatility is the degree to which an investment's price fluctuates. A volatile investment is one that experiences a lot of price movement in a short period of time. The price of your tokens could crash or surge while they're locked up.Fraud: Yield farmers may unwittingly put their coins into fraudulent projects or schemes that make off with all of the farmer's coins. In fact, fraud and misappropriation account for the vast majority of the $1.9 billion in crypto crimes in 2020, according to a report by CipherTrace.Rug pulls: Rug pulls are a type of exit scam where a cryptocurrency developer gathers investor funds for a project then abandons the project without returning investors' funds. The previously mentioned CipherTrace report noted that nearly 99% of the major fraud that occurred during the second half of the year was due to rug pulls and other exit scams, which yield farmers are particularly susceptible to.Smart contract risk: The smart contracts used in yield farming can have bugs or be susceptible to hacking, putting your cryptocurrency at risk. "Most of the risks with yield farming relate to the underlying smart contracts," Kurahashi-Sofue says. Better code vetting and third party audits are improving the security of these contracts.Impermanent loss: The value of your cryptocurrency could rise or fall while it is staked, creating temporarily unrealized gains or losses. These gains or losses become permanent when you withdraw your coins, and may result in you having been better off if you'd kept your coins available to trade if the loss is greater than the interest you earned.Regulatory risk: There are still many regulatory questions around cryptocurrency. The SEC has stated that some digital assets are securities and thus fall under its jurisdiction, allowing it to regulate them. State regulators have already issued cease and desist orders against one of the biggest crypto lending sites, BlockFi."There's always risk in using decentralized apps," Kurahashi-Sofue says. "It's all about minimizing the risk enough for you to be comfortable with using them, based on your own research. Users should always look into the team behind the application and its transparency and diligence with security audits."In the news: The biggest cryptocurrency theft to date involved hackers stealing $600 million from the Poly Network in August 2021.Is crypto yield farming profitable? While yield farming is unquestionably risky, it can also be profitable - otherwise no one would bother attempting it. CoinMarketCap provides yield-farming rankings with various liquidity pools' yearly and daily APY. It's easy to find pools running with double digit yearly APY, and some with those thousand-percentage point APYs. But many of these also have a high risk of impermanent loss, which should make investors question if the potential reward is worth the risk. "The profitability of yield farming, just like investment in crypto more generally, is still very uncertain and speculative," Smith says. He believes the potential return pales in comparison to the risk involved in locking up your coins while yield farming.Your overall profit will also depend on how much cryptocurrency you're able to stake. To be profitable, yield farming requires thousands of dollars of funds and extremely complex strategies, Dechesare says.5 yield-farming protocols to know aboutYield farmers sometimes use DeFi platforms that offer various incentives for lending to optimize the return on their staked coins. Here are five yield-farming protocols to know about:Aave is an open source liquidity protocol that lets users lend and borrow crypto. Depositors earn interest on deposits in the form of AAVE tokens. Interest is earned based on the market borrowing demand. You can also act as a depositor and borrower by using your deposited coins as collateral.Compound is an open source protocol built for developers that uses an algorithmic, autonomous interest rate protocol to determine the rate depositors earn on staked coins. Depositors also earn COMP tokens.Curve Finance is a liquidity pool on Ethereum that uses a market-making algorithm to let users exchange stablecoins. Pools using stablecoins can be safer since their value is pegged to another medium of exchange.Uniswap is a decentralized exchange where liquidity providers must stake both sides of the pool in a 50/50 ratio. In exchange, you earn a portion of the transaction fees plus UNI governance tokens.Instadapp is designed for developers and allows users to build and manage their decentralized finance portfolio. As of Oct. 31, more than $12 billion is locked on Instadapp.The financial takeawayYield farming involves staking, or locking up, your cryptocurrency in exchange for interest or more crypto. "As crypto becomes more popular, yield farming will become more mainstream. It's a simple concept that has been around for as long as banks have existed and is just a digital version of lending with interest for profit to the investors," Hill says.While it's possible to earn high returns with yield farming, it is also incredibly risky. A lot can happen while your cryptocurrency is locked up, as is evidenced by the many rapid price swings known to occur in the crypto markets."As with anything in life, if something is too good to be true, it likely is," Kurahashi-Sofue "It's best to understand how yield farming works and all of the underlying risks and opportunities prior to participating in yield farms."What to know about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) - unique digital assets built on blockchain technologyWhat is a crypto wallet? Understanding the software that allows you to store and transfer crypto securelyReady to invest in Bitcoin? Here are 4 steps to get startedAltcoins are the alternative digital currencies to bitcoin - here's what they are and how they workRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 9th, 2021

Bitcoin: A Second Chance For The Muslim World?

Bitcoin: A Second Chance For The Muslim World? Authored by Asif Shiraz via BitcoinMagazine.com, Bitcoin is the sound money that the Muslim world needs to accelerate into the future... The Ottoman suppression of the printing press is a poster child case of intellectual stagnation in the Muslim world. Although there was no outright ban, there is no denying of a massively missed opportunity here: A civilization’s failure to adopt a groundbreaking technological change happening right next door. In its golden age, this same civilization that gave the world universities and hospitals, optics and algebra, even a precursor to the printing press itself, got so left behind in the later acceptance of technology, that its very own holy book, the Quran, waited for its first mass publication almost 300 years after Johannes Gutenberg chugged out the printed Bible. THE DECLINE But Islam’s Genesis Block was entirely different in character: A spirited but sundry assemblage of women and men whose most remarkable trait was their openness to new ideas. The idea of one God in a multitude of divine contenders. The idea of one bitcoin in a multitude of shitcoins … oops... sorry... mixing up my chronology! So anyway, this fraternity of early Islam, along with its keen aspiration of ushering in a just social and economic order, is also remarkable in a novel way for its time: It represents a death cross of reason’s moving average overtaking that of intuition in religious history. Bringing intellectual inquiry at par with mystical experience, it paved the way for its scions to delve into scientific skepticism, empiricism and experimental inquiry, with Robert Briffault going so far as to say that “Roger Bacon was no more than one of the apostles of Muslim science and method.” But eventually, the music stopped, and the market corrected! There are many explanations for the downfall, most of them partially true, spanning decades and centuries, but if we want to point fingers, as human nature dictates, at some symbolic event, then it must be the Mongol destruction of the House of Wisdom, #SackOfBaghdad. In the age of manuscripts, so many books from Baghdad’s libraries were flung into the Tigris that a horse could walk across on them and the river ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs. As the Muslim Ummah lost so many intellectuals and intellectual capital in this tumultuous period, its reaction has been, (understandably), like that of an intern finding herself in control of mission critical servers, where all the senior sys admins suddenly stepped down, died or disappeared. Your best reaction is this: I’m not touching this system, and the only commands I’ll ever execute are those handed down by the four illustrious system admins — founders of the established schools of jurisprudence. And so Islamic scholarship for hundreds of years has been in a maintenance mode. In Pakistan alone, over 12,000 Madrasa routinely teach the rules and regulations of exchanging gold and silver, centuries after its daily use has been replaced by fiat. SURVIVAL OF CORE TENETS But herein lies a wonderful irony. This code-freeze on innovation, which we otherwise disapprove of, did work to an extent as it was intended: It protected the core principles from being callously compromised or deliberately diluted in the hands of opportunists. Just like the extra caution and consensus in changing the U.S. constitution protected the principles of freedom and equality enshrined in it: Islamic law, too, enshrined core financial principles, that have been a thorn on the side of would-be reformers attempting to legalize fiat and modern banking in the name of Islamic Finance. The 12,000 semi-literate Madrasa students, parroting the provisions of the fair exchange of gold and silver from a 17th century syllabus citing a 9th century scholar, unwittingly become more correct than a Harvard doctorate in finance indoctrinated in the misguided larceny of fiat money! All because Muhammad ﷺ mandated sound money, just like Mises and Hayek after him, a tenet immutably crystallized in Fiqh — Islamic Jurisprudence. A business man himself, the Prophet of Islam possessed a sharp acumen for economics and finance. In modern parlance, he quickly rose the corporate ladder to become one of the youngest CEOs of his time tasked with turning around the failing business empire of the urbane female entrepreneur, Khadija. Impressed with the Prophet’s personality, Khadija quickly proposed to him, creating a power couple that changed the course of history. Just like Jesus turned out the money-lenders from the Second Temple, the Prophet of Islam, too, had a disdain for usury and outlawed most of the accompanying capitalist machinations, that contribute to the gross wealth disparities like 10% owning 76% of the assets. So he created some fundamental rules that constitute the bedrock of Islamic financial principles: Forbade usury (Riba), including interest. Still respecting the time value of money, the prohibition’s intent is to create a financial regime where profit and risk is shared between the entrepreneur and the investor. From a sound money perspective, it prohibits the core operation of issuing interest bearing bonds and T-Bills against which the central bank can inflate the money supply. Forbade uncertainty (Gharar), embodied in his famous quote, “Do not sell a fish which is still in the water.” Eliminates the possibility of fractional reserve, since outstanding debt cannot be monetized and traded further with, unless it’s paid. It also closes the tap on a myriad of derivative instruments that further inflate the money supply. Forbade speculation (Maisir), which includes outright gambling. Some scholars consider speculative market activity, like the Dogecoin phenomena, under the ambit of this ruling. Mandated sound money. The rules of obligatory charity tax in Islam are denominated in sound money. Muslim governments take the market price of gold, convert them to fiat prices, and announce the converted value to the public to pay the religious obligation of Zakat. But from a legal standpoint, it permanently establishes gold and silver (as well as a whole class of other products) as perpetual, religiously recognized money in Islam. These prohibitions are strong enough in Islamic theology that anyone who violates them is technically, “at war with Allah and his Prophet.” Which is why the Madrasa’s syllabus clings to “nature’s money” (Thaman-e-Khalqi): gold and silver. But of course, big governments, Muslim or otherwise, are a chip off the same block: Self-interest reigns supreme over ethical principles. In Pakistan alone, the religious case against fiat banking has been delayed and obstructed for over 40 years in the courts. The politics of deficit financing are so attractive that no one wants to surrender this magical money making wand. Voldemorts, all of them! In spite of these prohibitions, and in countries where religion dominates social values, Muslims still grew comfortable with paper money because it initially disguised itself as “warehouse receipts for gold” which duped the scholars into permitting it, but the jurisprudence failed to catch up with the subsequent thinning of this asset backing into its current meaningless extent. REFORM ATTEMPTS As the domino roll of national independences took place, four different threads of activity around banking spread in Muslim countries. First, the mainstream implementation of modern banking took root in every Muslim State, implemented in toto like its Western counterparts. Second, Islamic banking attempted to reshape things a little. Scholars familiar with both economics and Shariah attempted to “Islamize” banking via the new academic discipline of “Islamic finance.” But instead of faithfully creating platforms for risk-sharing and equity-based financing, it just followed the Medieval Triple Contract–like approach to practically clone existing financial products, accompanied by a plethora of research papers to justify it. Like a comedic quote from the cold war era, “Communism is the longest and most painful road from capitalism to capitalism,” contemporary Islamic finance, too, turned out to become the most painful and circuitous route from traditional banking to traditional banking, decorated with Arabic names! How the professional bankers duped these scholars and hijacked this effort is excellently explained by Harris Irfan in a podcast with our own Saifedean Ammous. Third, a large but silent majority of toothless Islamic scholars continues to exist who view all forms of banking with suspicion, but the growing chasm of knowledge gap between their education and the complexities of modern finance makes them unable to take back the narrative. Lastly, a much smaller band of Islamic scholars exist, like followers of the Sufi order of a British convert and his Basque disciple, as well as a scholar from Trinidad, who successfully identified the fundamental problem with modern banking from a Shariah perspective: its monetary foundation. You cannot “Islamize” a bank if you do not fix the money it operates on! Hence, their attempt to resuscitate the traditional Islamic gold dinar as a sound money alternative to fiat. GOLD DINAR: THE REAL ISLAMIC ALTERNATIVE Fiat money and its permissibility can be viewed through an important concept in Islamic theology, the Maqasid-e-Shariah: the goals or purpose of Shariah law. To illustrate this with a controversial example, consider a Shariah law which says you cannot punish a man or woman for adultery, unless you bring four eye witnesses to the sexual act (which is normally impossible). While Islam abhors adultery, the Maqasid is an attempt by scholars to understand why, instead of having a law that easily and swiftly punishes it, there exists one that makes it practically impossible to prosecute. They rationalized that it must be to shield people’s privacy and one-off slipups from society's nosy interference and appetite for punishment. According to Muhammad Asad, “… to make proof of adultery dependent on a voluntary, faith-inspired confession of the guilty parties themselves.” So the Maqasid points to some socially valuable goal that the law intends to achieve. The rationale of the financial laws of Shariah are similarly explained in terms of their goals: a just distribution of wealth, a money free from devaluation, a business contract free from usurious exploitation, and a regulatory regime that increases people’s wealth and well-being. Through a very elementary intuition, it is obvious that fiat currencies violate this principle of honesty and justice in the society: Money issuers steal the purchasing power of the people and devalue their money. To put a formal Quranic stamp to this reasoning, we can take verse 3:75, “There are some among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) who, if entrusted with a stack of gold, will readily return it.” The modern Islamic bank, if entrusted with money equivalent to a stack of gold, returns you only 90% of its worth in purchasing power, owing to inflationary erosion, thus it’s part of a system that clearly violates the Maqasid. Islamic banks have thus thoroughly failed to espouse the core principle of risk sharing and eliminating interest (since interest exists in the very issuance process of the money they are built on). The only real Islamic alternative ever proposed was the Gold Dinar Movement. Starting in parallel (and in many respects earlier) than Islamic banking, (with the first modern Dinar minted in 1992), it was incisively accurate in its assessment and proposed remedy to the money problem: “The Return to the Gold Dinar.” This was an earlier time, when the golden tool in the fight against fiat was literally gold, which was then popularized by Austrian economics, advocated by upright leaders like Ron Paul, and adopted by grassroots activists like Bernard von NotHaus. The Muslim world saw its own spate of activism for sound money, led by its most vocal proponent, Umar Vadillo, and associated initiatives like Wakala Nusantara, Dinar First and my own Dinar Wakala. The Kelantan State government’s launch of Gold Dinar was our own El Zonte moment, full of euphoria and promise that made waves globally. The passion and courage of this vibrant lot of Warrior Sufis represented the best of modern-day Muslims: Profoundly knowledgeable people, engaged in grassroots activism, to fix the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world. However, the primary strength of gold, its physical indestructibility, came in the way of its adoption: Logistic and regulatory hindrances prevented free flow of physical gold coins across national boundaries. In the words of its founder, Shaykh Abdalqadir, “The defense mechanisms of today’s late capitalism and its crisis management surrounding the buying, moving and minting of gold have surrounded it with prohibitive pricing and taxation.” It continues to serve as a galvanizing symbol of the fight against Riba, but making it a practical inflationary hedge, or a broader Ummah-level movement for sound money, proved an elusive goal. Without the Gold Dinar, the horizon seemed all but bleak, except that a glimmer of hope came from the most unexpected of places: Where scholars, economists and revolutionaries had failed, nerds succeeded! Enter Emir Satoshi! ADVENT OF BITCOIN For us in the Gold Dinar Movement, Bitcoiners are our brothers in arms: fighting the same enemy, securing the same goal. This is what I have always advocated to my fellow activists in the dinar movement, from as far back as 2012. Our Prophetﷺ, as well as the Rashidun Caliphs, never debased money, nor profited from seigniorage, but gave us the right to choose our own mediums of exchange. This is fundamentally antithetical to the monstrosity of legal tender laws, which Islamic scholars have been duped into legitimizing under various pretexts (highlighting the need for increased financial literacy in this lot). This freedom to choose a currency constitutes the common ground that both us and the Bitcoiners can rally around together. “The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust,” writes Satoshi. He recognized the problem with fiat and set out to fix it with Bitcoin, a miraculous epiphany that has let loose this growing, global band of fervid, somewhat bumptious Maximalists, as similar in essence and ethos to us, as they look different in appearance. I see Bitcoiners, not only in their pluck and guile, but also in the sly ingenuity of their weapon of choice, as nothing less than a modern-day David taking on the Goliath of traditional banking! From a Muslim perspective, the operating verse of the Quran in critique of the Bitcoin movement becomes 49:13, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware.” In the realm of monetary matters, the most righteous and noble are those who support sound money. It is appropriate that Allah stresses his own divine attributes in the verse, as a warning that our religiously colored conception of righteousness may not necessarily be the same as that of the knowing, the aware. (The literal term Taqwa, means something that protects you from the wrath of God.) And to the best of my belief, protecting and uplifting the poor, the downtrodden from the entrapments of a prejudiced financial system is surely a winner with the God of Abraham! A SECOND CHANCE We Muslims had set out to establish a just and fair society, and for some time, to quote David Graeber, succeeded: “Once freed from its ancient scourges of debt and slavery, the local bazaar had become, for most, not a place of moral danger, but the very opposite: the highest expression of the human freedom and communal solidarity, and thus to be protected assiduously from state intrusion.” But gradually, as our political and intellectual leadership in the world waned, we now find ourselves economically bankrupt, submerged in a rigged financial system, and enslaved to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A major reason for this impoverishment was the widening gap of modern knowledge. The following vicious cycle of three circularly dependent factors is another way of modeling our current reality: Low capital allocation for education. A generally weak economy leaves little allocation for investment in education of both scientific and humanities disciplines, which is required for a productive human capital. Low human capital. The first factor results in low quality of education in the populace then manifests politically in bad national decisions, engagement in conflicts, economic mismanagement, acquisition of debt and failure to curb corruption. Economically, this unskilled workforce has low productivity, scarce entrepreneurship and ineffective technology adoption. Religiously, it permits violence and extremism to breed along sectarian fault lines. Low economic output. The second factor results in continued economic tribulations, since the whole society is now in KTLO mode, instead of “adding new features.” Which leads us again to item one. It is the standard cycle of poverty played out at a macro scale, which many competing power bases believe they can break. The military, the Mullahs, and the Liberals, far away, even the CIA has prescriptions on how to solve our problems. But such temporary political and economic interventions bear no lasting results, since nations are built by worthy men and women, over a span of many years, who, given a free and peaceful environment, fall back on their innate drive for excellence to create a better world. It is the job of the revolutionary and his meteoric jolt, or at a smaller scale, your social entrepreneur giving a small push, that breaks a segment of society free from this vicious cycle: A closed ecosystem of wealth circulation, comprising of learned individuals, equipped with better technology and empowered with more capital, shielded from outside influence, and stabilized by a fair social contract, to launch the virtuous symbiosis of economic prosperity and human development which prop each other to newer heights. This break can start in many ways: a national independence, some strong leadership, or in case of Islam, the founding of a new religion. Islam’s own trajectory gives us a generalized three-stage pattern on which any revolution can be modeled, an excellent blueprint for our bitcoin adoption. Education: A new world view is conceived, and people are educated toward it for voluntarily placing their faith on it — Iman. Separation: The model is physically deployed, separated from existing systems, so it can grow and thrive without any negative external influences — Hijra. Protection: When the model grows strong enough to threaten the status quo, but still weak enough to be fully destructible, it needs protection, usually requiring armed conflict — Jihad. We in the Gold Dinar Movement believed that the break in this vicious cycle will come from financial empowerment: When Muslim people and governments adopt sound money, free from the shackles of the IMF, it will allow our bankrupt economies to manage enough disposable income that can be invested in other avenues in society, putting us on a path to progress and human development. Gold would bring back the Golden Age, producing men and women who are worth their weight in gold! But it could not. Let me explain why, and how bitcoin makes it possible. BITCOIN: A TOOL FOR REVOLUTION Following our three-stage model of a revolution, let’s review how bitcoin resolves the challenges of each step. 1. Education The common man, humble about his knowledge of finance, expects, like John Galbraith remarked, a “deeper mystery to the process of money creation.” But which really is so simple, he goes on, that “the mind is repelled.” But the chasm in traditional and modern education keeps our scholars from being able to religiously evaluate the fiat system, for which they need three vital credentials: a traditional Mufti qualification, specialized research in the Fiqh of Muamalat, and a study of modern economics. Only a handful achieve this, like the globally revered Usmani, who become thought leaders in Islamic finance: The rest take the easy way out and follow what they posit. I once asked a certified Shariah advisor on LinkedIn, if he knew what fractional reserve banking meant. I expected some abstruse, rule-bending justification for it but was taken aback by his honest admission that he simply didn’t know what it was! So the first challenge was to educate both the people and the scholars about the fiat system. Then to enlist serious academic and industry practitioners to devise a working alternative based on gold and silver. Then to have its demand trickle down into the masses to eventually morph into enough political pressure for the government to adopt it, much to its own detriment. Highly unlikely. Except that with bitcoin, educating the people now becomes much more focused and result oriented. The wider goal of educating people about finance and economics remains indispensable in both gold and Bitcoin-based sound money solutions. But with bitcoin, we don’t have to wait for a third-world academia and archaic-minded scholars to sell the solution to an unwilling government: We take the narrative, and the prerogative of action, back from them. We go tactical, orange pill the masses with an Urdu translation of the bitcoin standard, and focus on what is minimally essential to achieve within our means: Teaching Muggles... sorry…. No-coiners, the very basics of money mechanics, the role of bitcoin in our strategic response, and the know-how to stack satoshis in a cold wallet! The rest will follow! Coming to think of it, my initial printing press analogy is poignantly relevant. The press encapsulated years of knowledge in a simple package easily disseminated to thousands, which could have overcome our knowledge gap had we adopted it earlier. Bitcoin, too, encapsulates the quintessential wisdom of centuries of humanity’s experience in what constitutes good money and allows it to be spread easily across the world. It is both knowledge, and a tool crafted out of that knowledge. If we miss the boat on it, we will not only lose to “usury capitalism,” but the Bitcoin movement, too, will be deprived of huge potential support from a quarter of the world population. We must join the rest of humanity in a last ditch attempt at wealth equality. 2. Separation After educating people about money mechanics and bitcoin, the second step is the Hejira, our separation from the existing system. An Islamic scholar, Abdassamad Clarke defined “usury capital,” as “the use of capital that is both generated by usury and operated according to usurious principles, which permits a tiny clique of individuals, by the principle of fiat money amplified by leverage, to wield extraordinary power and accumulate unheard of wealth in such a manner as to subject the rest of humanity as menial servants in their project of self-enrichment, whether in the tyrannies of the East or the so-called free-market capitalism of the West.” The fundamental philosophical difference between Islamic and Western economics is how we view interest. Islam holds firm to the classical Judeo-Christian prohibition, believing that the time value of money is more fairly accounted for in equity finance style risk sharing of the invested capital, instead of a guaranteed return favoring the capitalist. Among other things, its side effect is prohibiting both the monetizing of our “future income” to issue fiat, and prohibiting the money-multiplier effect of fractional reserve, through the rulings of Riba, Bai-al-Dain and Bai-al-Madum. Bitcoiners and libertarians rely on an entirely different philosophical foundation to reach partially the same conclusion in regards to fiat, that it’s perverse, unjust and socially destructive. The end goal for both is the same: To separate ourselves from the fiat system and carve out an entirely new, independent financial system: The original idea of decentralized finance (DeFi)! Unfortunately, the bubble effect we so dislike in TradFi — traditional finance — is now itself widespread in the non-Bitcoin crypto world, what Ellen Farrington cites as the immense amount of “rehypothecation, leverage, and securitization,” which if misused can cause systemic risks that affect everyone. The practical reality of contemporary DeFi in the non-Bitcoin world is quite far from its theoretical goal. Looking at this aspect of “crypto,” some Islamic scholars took the liberty of invoking the gambling prohibition clause, something whose motivation we can sympathize with, even though we disagree with the conclusion. A lack of regulation at the administrative level cannot be countered by religious pronunciation of Haram status. It’s kind of like declaring cars as Islamically forbidden, merely because some people are driving them too fast and killing others. But presently, we are far less interested in how scholars view “crypto” than we are regarding bitcoin. The DeFi world’s shiny new investments offering unsustainable returns, its shady ICOs and the casino-like frenzy and get-rich-quick dreams of novice retail investors are far removed from what we advocate, from what we are daring to call a second chance for the Muslim world: A Bitcoin-based sound money adoption as a medium of exchange and store of value! But what is nevertheless commendable in the crypto world (led, of course, by Bitcoin) is the attempt to create this entirely new, independent miniverse of alternative, decentralized finance, isolated from the existing system. Building and expanding this decentralization, based on Bitcoin, is the essence of the second step of our revolutionary blueprint: the Hejira. Migrating from the old to the new. As Iqbal would have said, “Blow away this transitory world, and build a new one from its ashes” — khakastar se aap apna jahan paida karay. The only serious prior attempt for sound money among Muslims was the Dinar movement. But it only works in a physical jurisdiction: Where to mint, where to store, how to transport, how to coordinate electronic payments, how to deal with banking regulations, taxes and government interference? Theoretically, it was possible to instantiate an entirely independent ecosystem of issuance, storage, transport and trade using gold, but real progress on it was very slow. At the same time, the Bitcoin ecosystem has matured so much to be classifiable as an independent and isolated system, free from all interference from legacy finance. The Core Bitcoin Timechain, Lightning and Layer 2 smart contract solutions, and the globally distributed miner, node operator and supporter community, all combine to form a platform on which we can build and experiment with truly Islamic financial contracts of the form that are not possible with TradFi. In this ecosystem, we can resuscitate Islamic social and financial institutions like the Bait-ul-Maal, the Suq, the Waqf, the Guilds, the Hawala, the Wahdiya, the Qirad and the Musharaka, free from the restrictions of any government, securities commission or central bank. 3. Protection And once this isolated system is deployed, we need to protect it. A story is told in Islamic lore, that when Abu Dharr Ghifari came looking to meet the Prophet, Ali told him to walk a few paces behind him, and if he senses anyone suspicious he will stoop down to tie his shoelaces and Abu Dharr should continue walking ahead. Kind of like a coinjoin to obfuscate where he was actually going. When you are small, you must remain in stealth mode and operate under the radar. Later on, when the small state of early Islam was established in a nearby city, it needed a number of armed conflicts to defend itself from being nipped in the bud! Deploying a sound money system, too, may need a precarious window in which the sapling would need fierce protection before it grows into a tree. The hellacious powers issuing the yuans and dollars of the world are way too formidable for any third-world nation state to get away with a head-on collision. In fact, we cannot even withstand assaults from individual speculators, let alone a concerted effort by the global financial cabal to preserve its status quo. El Salvador and the like are definitely interesting trailblazers to watch out for here, but it is too early to tell. If a sufficient number of first-world citizens band together to defy their government in adoption of sound money, the response of fiat-powered regimes would (probably) be much more restrained in handling them versus some rogue state from a third-world country attempting to defy the dominant currency. I was told by a prominent Islamic banker that when Mahatir toyed with the idea, he was sent a very stern signal to “cease and desist” by the powers that be! So, can a Muslim government adopt and get away with either the dinar or bitcoin? I believe only in the latter. Only bitcoin has the necessary technological edge in terms of its unstoppability and indestructibility that can substitute for the need of a national military power strong enough to protect a traditional sound money built on gold. THE ISLAMIC STATE VERSUS BITCOIN But many Islamic revivalists believe otherwise and their goal is usually larger in scope than financial reform alone. It is a more holistic quest to resuscitate the political, social and legal structures of precolonial Islamic governments. Encouraged by the spectacular rise of early Islam that dared challenge superior powers like Byzantine and Sassanids, they believe it possible to recreate the traditional theocracy along similar lines, one of whose side effects would be to eradicate fiat currency also. Such ambitious projects downplay the urgency of fixing our financial system: No need to separately struggle for it if it comes as a natural corollary to the larger political renaissance. Now the specter of such pan-Islamic revival has been thoroughly demonized in Western imagination, owing from our own side to violent extremism, owing from their side to a deep-rooted Islamophobia, and owing generally to ideas (or realities?) like the clash of civilizations. But my Bitcoiner friends — whose libertarian ethos is so refined to even self-censure the slightist hint of authoritarian enforcement in El Salvador’s legal tender adoption of bitcoin — will surely agree that it is entirely within the rights of the Muslim world to voluntarily experiment, on their land, with whatever form of government they fancy: caliphates, sultanates or kingdoms! But the reality of this dream in the minds of the majority of modern Muslims is quite different from what the world perceives. The moderate Muslim just wants Islamic principles to be the guiding source of their political and social order. But the strength of this desire is often encashed by opportunists, resulting in two recent distorted models of political Islam: 1.The Iranian model: Somewhat broad-based and sustainable but toothless and symbolic. They are the political twins of Islamic banks, offering no real change to the common man, except moral policing. Financially, there even exists the oxymoronic Central Bank of the Islamic Republic. Why would you have an Islamic bank if you were truly an Islamic republic? 2. Second, is the Taliban and ISIS model: Narrow-based, extremist and unsustainable, divorced from the comity of nations. ISIS did reportedly issue the Gold Dinar but to no one’s avail, except perhaps as a recruitment propaganda. News out of Kabul promises a more restrained and balanced government this time around, but is it a genuine change of heart or just political expediency? So, while the Muslim world waits for a true Islamic reformation, and the world holds its breath on how the next such attempt turns out, my issue with this ubiquitous political quest in the Muslim imagination is just NGMI — it’s not gonna make it! We can’t stall the effort of immediate financial reform on some future promise of a bigger change happening to facilitate it. As an Urdu saying goes, na nau munn tayl hoe ga, na Radha naachay gi: Neither shall the king be able to provision nine gallons of lamp oil, and nor will the stage ever be lit enough for his dancing girl, Radha, to perform! Nevertheless, assuming for a moment that a mature, viable, modern Islamic government does get established by some geopolitical miracle, faithful to Islam’s core tenets, and broad-based in popular support, the next and more pertinent question becomes: Will it have sufficient political, and if necessary, military power, to deploy a gold-based sound monetary system in their country, and then get away with the sanctions and isolation that follow? And this is where bitcoin, once again, outshines other alternatives. The one trait that sets it apart from all “crypto”, and indeed, all monies in human history: true, sovereign-grade censorship resistance, from both your own government and foreign powers. Without needing any battalions or bombs, bitcoin enables us to fight the good fight ourselves and win. And if the broader Islamic reformation materializes, bitcoin can support it, too, for bypassing potential sanctions and increasing national wealth! God has a knack for defeating evil by the simplest of designs — the mighty Goliath with a slingshot, the persecutors of the Prophet with a humble spider — as if to compound the humiliation of defeat by the plainness of its bearer. Who could have thought that the Kremlins, Zhongnanhais and White Houses of the world would be made helpless by the confluence of two elementary ideas: proof of work and difficulty adjustment! But this simple, easily overlooked and less understood killer combination of traits makes bitcoin an undefeatable tool in the hands of us, the 99%. We do not need to wait for anyone. We can do it ourselves with bitcoin. THE WAY FORWARD While the wallet addresses, exchange accounts, market cap, and of course, the hype around crypto is constantly rising in Muslim countries, much of this activity is from the perspective of a shiny new investment vehicle, a get-rich-quick bandwagon to which everyone wants to hitch! This has engendered the animated debate of investor protection, scam avoidance and the whole academic deliberation of whether they are at all Halal owing to a perceived lack of intrinsic value and being free from government control. While all of these objections on bitcoin from the Shariah perspective have been thoroughly refuted by various scholars and are easily searchable on the internet, the continuance of this superfluous debate is dangerously distracting: In the process, we are losing sight of the higher frequencies of this amazing once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Aye ahle-e-nazar zauq-e-nazar khoob hai laikinJoe shay ki haqeeqat koe na dekhay woe nazar kiya We need bitcoin, not because it’s a great investment (which incidentally it is), but because it’s a great store of value and a medium of exchange: A free medium of exchange, which can uplift us collectively if we just adopt it, en masse, as our money. To my fellow Muslims, here is a parting thought. We love and honor our Prophet to such an extent that even the minutest of his actions, Sunnahs, is recorded, revered and repeated, even if it be as simple as the table manners of cutting some fruit. But here is another Sunnah of bigger import: success. The change that he set out to achieve in the world, he did achieve it. As he breathed his last in the arms of Ayesha, he had already delivered on the promise he had made to his companions in the lowest ebb of their persecution: “... a traveler from Sana to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah.” Although bordering a little on logical fallacy, I would point out that he didn’t cite something more symbolic like the establishment of the Caliphate, or the conquests, or the subsequent power. He chose to cite, as evidence of success to what they were suffering for, the establishment of a certain social order: One in which an anonymous citizen would not fear physical or financial insecurity. I say anonymous, not a private citizen, because the choice of the word “traveler” is very telling. While you are known in your city, protected by your identity, and potential clout from a corporation or clan, it is suddenly removed when you are in a strange land. They do not even know your name, unless you tell them: You are just a wallet address. But this traveler is not afraid of loss of wealth, or being robbed, or not having the right passport, or the right vaccine passport! He can move himself, and he can move his money. We Dinarists and Bitcoiners always equate inflation with theft. Whether you snatch 50 rupees from a poor man, or the free fall of your currency leaves him with 50 rupees less of a purchasing power, it is the same. While every ill is not caused by our monetary system, there is the obvious administrative incompetence and a dismal economic performance to account for — but inflation is definitely a huge factor. And all our high talk, slogans, research papers, reform movements, activism and militarism have deviated from this one Sunnah: The success of delivering safety to this traveler again. Bitcoin can help us succeed. Like now! Not 20 years later. Not when some promised leader will part the seas for us again. But now, when the poor illiterate, helpless man on the street looks at us educated and privileged elites and asks: What did you do to level the playing field for me? The Islamic banker may say, “Oh, I developed this intricate Shariah compliant profit and loss sharing contract for you, approved by the council of scholars, and backed by the gold dinar, just wait for it to be deployed.” I will say, “Dude, here, let me help you buy a few satoshis and get you a Lightning wallet so you don’t have to revert back to the rupee when paying for your next meal!” I think you should do the same. Bitcoin deserves a fresh look from us Muslims. Let’s think about it. Let’s use it correctly. Let’s spread it. Let’s understand it. Let’s use Bitcoin. Tyler Durden Sat, 10/30/2021 - 19:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 30th, 2021

China"s Evergrande Makes Last Minute Interest Payment On Dollar Bond, Avoiding Default

China's Evergrande Makes Last Minute Interest Payment On Dollar Bond, Avoiding Default In a surprise 11th hour development, China Evergrande made an overdue interest payment to offshore bondholders, the state-owned Securities Times reported Friday, an unexpected move that allows the property company to postpone - if not avoid - a default. The Chinese property developer sent $83.5 million to the trustee for the dollar bonds, and that financial institution will in turn pay bondholders, reported the Securities Times which is run by the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper. As reported earlier, this weekend was the deadline for a 30-day grace period before bondholders could send a notice of default to the company after it failed to make the interest payment on about $2.03 billion of dollar bonds on Sept. 23. A default by Evergrande - which is China’s 2nd biggest developer and its most indebted, and which late last week made a payment on onshore bonds - would have spiraled into the biggest corporate default in Asia, as it would also enable creditors to declare cross-defaults on some of Evergrande’s other debts. However, with its liquidity effectively frozen, its real estate sales plunging 97%, and its asset sales attempts a dead end, while Evergrande may have kicked then can this time, the company - which has the equivalent of more than $300 billion in total liabilities, including some $89 billion in interest-bearing debt as of the end of June - is still facing a virtually certain default in the coming weeks when many more coupons and maturities come due. Most international bondholders had expected Evergrande to fail to make its dollar bond payments before the end of the grace period. The company has also skipped other coupon payments in the past few weeks, and has outstanding dollar debt with a total face value of about $20 billion. Advisers to international bondholders said this month they had made little progress in their efforts to engage with Evergrande. On Wednesday, however, the Shenzhen-headquartered group said in a regulatory filing that it will “use its best effort to negotiate for the renewal or extension of its borrowings or other alternative arrangements with its creditors.” As also reported earlier, Evergrande has been trying to raise funds by liquidating assets such as stakes in subsidiaries and a Hong Kong office building that it owns. The company had also planned to sell a majority holding in its property-management unit for the equivalent of about $2.6 billion to a smaller rival, but said this week that it had terminated that deal. The news of the failed deal sent Evergrande stock tumbling on Thursday after it was unhalted after three weeks of being frozen. In retrospect the "unfreezing" may have been a signal that at least this one payment was about to be made. Evergrande’s Hong Kong-listed stock has lost more than 80% of its value this year and its dollar bonds are trading far below face value, indicating skepticism among investors that they will be repaid in full. On Friday, the shares rose 5% in early trading, even as its bonds were still at deeply distressed levels indicating investors still expect the company to ultimately default. A $4.7 billion, 8.75% Evergrande bond due 2025 was quoted at just 21.75 cents on the dollar Friday morning in Hong Kong, according to Tradeweb, up from 20.5 cents late Thursday. Some analysts were pleasantly surprised by the decision to make the offshore bond payment. Hans Goetti, founder and chief executive officer of HG Research, said that the payment is good news for foreign bondholders and signals authorities want to avoid the issue from spreading.  The payment “goes a long way to alleviate these fears because usually the foreign bondholders would probably be the ones holding the bag under normal circumstances”, Goetti told Bloomberg TC. It appears that Chinese authorities are “behind all this to make sure that we can avoid a spillover into the broader economy and also outside of China" he said adding that "this sends a signal that China is not interested in making this a bigger issue, especially for foreign holders in this case. I think that’s good news." Others, however, were more realistic. As Justin Tang of United First Partners said, "we have seen this before" and this “does not solve the company’s problem and does not change the fact that it is the living dead." “Evergrande is a candle burning on both ends, it needs to address declines in revenue and at the same time find cash for looming repayments. Nothing short of a restructuring or white knight will do." Below are several other kneejerk responses to the Evergrande news, compiled courtesy of Bloomberg: Jun Rong Yeap, IG Asia Pte. “It brings some near-term reprieve ahead of its official default deadline and presents a more positive scenario than what many will have expect” “The plunge in share price yesterday seems to price in expectations that Evergrande will face difficulty in securing cash ahead with the sales deal fall-through,” but the interest payment report “just overturned that narrative for now” Banny Lam, Ceb International Inv. Corp. “It is positive for dollar bond holders. However uncertainties remain if the Group can sell assets to pay for the offshore debt. Investors are watching if Evergrande can make agreement with creditors on how to settle the debt” “The interest payment today only occupies a small portion of total interest payment. Investors are more interested to watch the progress of Evergrande’s debt restructuring, especially sales of valuable assets” Ting Meng, ANZ The possibility of meeting the next coupon payment with a 30-day grace period due next Friday has risen. “We could see a rebound in the property sector in the short term” “Evergrande has larger principal repayments next March, which is a critical date to watch closely. It needs to accelerate asset selling to meet that critical deadline” Omotunde Lawal, Barings The relief that Evergrande has averted a default “was in line with government comments” and “buys the Group more time to seek further asset sales and solutions for the medium to longer term” Chang Wei Liang, DBS “The bringing forward of debt restructuring is unfavored by large developers like Evergrande, with valuable offshore assets that can be subject to legal enforcement or with a storied reputation to maintain.” They are likely to “keep up their obligations as best as they can to avoid default” Finally, while Evergrande may have averted a default in the last minute, it has only kicked the can for a few weeks as the following distribution of debt interest and maturity payments shows.   Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 23:21.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 22nd, 2021

WeWork has its eye on the prize as it finally makes it to NYSE

Flex office provider WeWork began trading on the New York Stock Exchange today following the closing of its merger with special acquisitions company, BowX Acquisition Corp The combined company now operates as WeWork Inc. and began trading under the ticker symbol WE on October 21, 2021.  “Today is a testament... The post WeWork has its eye on the prize as it finally makes it to NYSE appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Flex office provider WeWork began trading on the New York Stock Exchange today following the closing of its merger with special acquisitions company, BowX Acquisition Corp The combined company now operates as WeWork Inc. and began trading under the ticker symbol WE on October 21, 2021.  “Today is a testament to the determination of our company to not only transform our business, but also to adapt and deliver the options that today’s workforce demands,” said Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of WeWork. SANDEEP MATHRANI “As companies around the world reimagine their workplace, WeWork is uniquely positioned to offer the space and services that can power solutions built around flexibility. Providing employers and landlords around the world with our holistic offering of space-as-a-service, All Access and workplace management technology will enable WeWork to lead the market in mainstream adoption of flexible space.” The IPO comes two years after WeWork’s first offering plan collapsed over concerns about its business model and behavior of founder and then-CEO Adam Neumann. Its value fell from $47 billion when the Japanese conglomerate Softbank bailed the company out to $9 billion following the BowX merger announcement in March, 2021. Today, it announced sequential monthly increases in revenue and occupancy in the third quarter of 2021 following a multi-layered effort to rein in costs, reduce its leasing obligations and develop new revenue streams. Q3 2021 preliminary total revenue was $658 million, an increase of approximately 10 percent compared to Q2 2021 revenue of $593 million. Across consolidated operations, the company said total occupancy continued to increase to 60 percent at the end of Q3 2021, up from 52 percent at the end of Q2 2021. Consolidated gross desk sales totaled 154,000 in Q3 2021 representing approximately 9.2 million square feet sold. Consolidated new desk sales totaled 84,000 in Q3 2021. WeWork said it has also begun to realize new revenue opportunities by digitizing its real estate offerings and productizing its existing technology. As of Q3 2021, All Access, its pay-as-you-go or subscription-based product, and other virtual memberships have reached 32,000. The company has begun to build out its proprietary workplace management platform, WeWork Workplace, to offer landlords and members the ability to manage flex space across their portfolios and recently announced strategic partnerships with Hudson’s Bay Company, Cushman & Wakefield and Ivanhoé Cambridge. MARCELO CLAURE Marcelo Claure, executive chairman of WeWork and COO of SoftBank, said, “SoftBank is proud to support WeWork on this important day, a day that recognizes years of hard work and executing on our vision. As the way we live and work has fundamentally changed. WeWork is leading one of the biggest disruptions in commercial real estate with a workspace solution that has never been more in demand. This milestone is just the beginning and we look forward to continuing to support WeWork on its journey.” PJT Partners served as sole financial advisor and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP served as legal counsel to WeWork. UBS Investment Bank served as sole financial and capital markets advisor to BowX. Cooley LLP served as legal counsel to BowX. UBS Investment Bank and PJT Partners acted as joint placement agents with respect to the private placement. Paul Hastings LLP served as placement agent counsel and Morrison & Foerster LLP served as legal counsel to SoftBank Group. The post WeWork has its eye on the prize as it finally makes it to NYSE appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyOct 21st, 2021