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Leverage on Leverage Is Big Danger for Investors and Their Lenders

The decision by Calpers to use borrowed cash to boost returns shows how everyone is taking more risk to make a buck......»»

Category: topSource: washpostNov 25th, 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

Hedge Funds Are Liquidating At A Furious Pace.... And Retail Investors Are Buying It All

Hedge Funds Are Liquidating At A Furious Pace.... And Retail Investors Are Buying It All Over the weekend, and then again on Monday we reported that It had been a catastrophic week for hedge funds: heading into Black Red Friday, losses were staggering with Goldman Prime reporting that many hedge funds were caught off-guard by news of the Omicron variant as they had bought Reopen stocks and sold Stay-at Home names in the past week. As a result, in the week ending Nov 25, GS Equity Fundamental L/S Performance Estimate fell -1.57% between 11/19 and 11/25, driven by alpha of -1.12% which was "the worst alpha drawdown in nearly six months" and beta of -0.45% (from market exposure and market sensitivity combined). It only got worse on Friday and then again Monday, when Moderna - the 3rd most popular short in the hedge fund universe with some $4.5BN of the stock held short by the 2 and 20 crowd... ... exploded higher, resulting in massive double-digits losses for funds who were aggressively short the name... and just in general as the following P&L charts from Goldman Prime show. So having been hammered one too many times in just a few days, perhaps the "smart money" finally learned its lesson, and as the S&P 500 suffered its biggest two-day rout since October 2020, hedge funds went risk off big time, because according to the latest update from Goldman Prime, net leverage fell to a one-year low this week. A similar analysts from BofA also confirmed the deleveraging trend of deleveraging - the firm’s hedge-fund clients dumped more than $2 billion of stocks last week, exiting the market at the fastest pace since April. While it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out why hedge funds were rapidly derisking, among the reasons for the mass exodus were both tax-loss harvesting ahead of the end of the year, as well as locking in profits that despite the recent turmoil remain more than 20% for 2021. But the most proximal catalyst remains the sharp change in tone from the Fed where Powell now appears hell bent to consummate the worst policy mistake since Jean-Claude Trichet's ECB hiked right into a recession: “We’ve seen inflation be more persistent. We’ve seen the factors that are causing higher inflation to be more persistent,”  Powell told lawmakers Wednesday after decommissioning the term transitory to describe higher prices a day earlier. This has led to a rush to reprice assets with the prospect of higher interest rates sooner than investors had been anticipating. Confirming our recent observations, Dennis DeBusschere, founder of 22V Research, told Bloomberg that “many have mentioned hedge fund pain leading to weird internal moves” among speculative tech stocks. “This latest negative omicron news leads to just closing the books up and moving on.” Yet while hedge funds puked stocks, aggressively deleveraging into Wednesday's rout, retail investors did just the opposite and bought what HFs had to sell like there is no tomorrow: as we noted earlier, retail stock purchases rose to a new record on Tuesday of $2.2 billion, after reaching $2.1 billion during Friday’s rout, according to Vanda Research. The firm flagged big retail buying in cyclical stocks like airlines and energy on Friday, versus Tuesday’s tech-heavy flows, and noted that institutional investors did the opposite, selling cyclicals on Friday and then tech on Tuesday. In other words, retail investors were busy bidding up everything hedge funds had to sell. Professional managers are often quicker to sell because of pressure to deliver returns, said Mark Freeman, CIO at Socorro Asset Management LP. After their concentrated bets on expensive technology shares backfired last week, hedge funds now face a fast-closing window to bolster a year of spotty performance. That aversion to risk probably underlined the latest rout in unprofitable tech shares, a group that usually sells off when long-end Treasury  yields spike. On Wednesday, however, 10-year yields slipped and a Goldman basket of extremely expensive software stocks plunged 7.1%. Yet while Vanda sees strong retail demand persisting, and limiting the downside to equities in December, Nomura advises caution when buying this dip. As Bloomberg reports, strategists Chetan Seth and Amit Phillips wrote in a note that investors need to carefully assess if “buy the dip” will prove to be a good strategy, because elevated inflation implies the bar is higher for central banks to suppress volatility by providing policy support, if omicron does become a major threat. A combination of a hawkish Fed and virus uncertainty implies that stocks are likely to be volatile until at least the FOMC's December meeting. But hey, as former Dallas Fed head Richard Fisher warned previously, retail BTFD investors are "getting ahead of itself, because the market is dependent on Fed largesse... and we made it that way...but we have to consider, through a statement rather than an action, that we must wean the market off its dependency on a Fed put." Fisher went on... "The Fed has created this dependency and there's an entire generation of money-managers who weren't around in '74, '87, the end of the '90s, anbd even 2007-2009.. and have only seen a one-way street... of course they're nervous." "The question is - do you want to feed that hunger? Keep applying that opioid of cheap and abundant money?" Blasphemy? Or perhaps just once, Jay Powell has got religion. And while we would have once upon a time said that hedge funds will have the last laugh, performance from the last decade has made it clear that when it comes to dumb money, there is nobody dumber than those getting paid millions to underperform the market year after year. Or maybe this time will be different: as the last chart shows, have dramatically outperformed hedge funds for much of 2021, the retail favorite stocks are suddenly in danger of wiping out most if not all of their YTD gains... Tyler Durden Thu, 12/02/2021 - 08:25.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 2nd, 2021

Satyajit Das Exposes Fintech"s "Flim-Flam" Innovation Games

Satyajit Das Exposes Fintech's "Flim-Flam" Innovation Games Authored by Satyajit Das via NakedCapitalism.com, Investment in fin-tech (the untidy agglomeration of finance and technology) has reached a record $91.5 billion, double that of 2020. In the last quarter, there were over 40 fintech unicorns (start-ups valued at over $1 billion). The sector now attracts around 20% of all venture capital. But its looks remarkably like a repeat of the late 1990s, when investors made ill-fated bets on online finance.  Fintech consists of traditional banking products conveniently packaged up and delivered via an Internet platform or App. Examples include payments (online payment firms like Square or Stripe); lending (supply chain finance (the late Greensill Capital); peer-to-peer lending; buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) or point-of-sale (POS) financing, such as Afterpay, Affirm, Klarna); and deposit taking (online banking start-ups). Investors include armoured cash carrier chasing venture capitalists and asset managers, armed with other people’s money. The usual suspects are augmented by financial institutions fearful of digital threats to their businesses. Then, there are former senior bank executives eager to displace their former employers, find profitable homes for their large paydays and continue ‘God’s work’. The Fintech recipe is simple: ...take a function, ...digitise it, ...toss in a little jargon – ‘financial engineering’, ‘technological disruption’. ...season generously with mystique; ...add some high profile spruikers or fawning media endorsements. ...Stir and then serve. The rules of the game are straightforward. First, disguise the true function. Exploiting disclosure loopholes,supply chain finance helps businesses treat borrowings as accounts payable on the balance sheet rather than debt, improving liquidity and reducing leverage.  Unfortunately, it leaves investors and creditors bearing bigger losses when the business finally collapse, as happened with Spain’s Abengoa in 2015, Carillion in 2018and NMC Health in 2020. BNPL is nothing more than unsecured personal finance. Second, mask the true economics. For example, in supply chain financing and BNPL, the seller of goods or services receives the sales price less a discount immediately from the financier who is paid back in deferred instalments by the buyer. A 4% discount, a typical BNPL charge to the seller, paid back over two-months translates into usurious funding costs of over 26% per annum. It helps to obscure how the cost is borne. In the case of BNPL, the retailer not the purchaser appears to bear the financing cost -the discount. But if they want to maintain margins, business must put up overall prices, penalising cash buyers who effectively subsidise BNPL users. Third, find an attractive demographic. Supply chain finance and peer-to-peer lending targets weaker borrowers. BNPL is aimed at younger, less financially literate clientele, attuned to a world of free everything. Appeals to ‘democratising capital’ can’t hurt. Fourth, find a lightly regulated lacunae of finance. Pressure to embrace innovation and facilitate the flow of credit has led to the concept of a ‘regulatory sandbox’, where fintech firms can test ‘innovative’ concepts without stringent rules. For example, specialist supply chain financiers and BNPL firms effectively lend money without being subject to the rules applicable to regulated banks. Fifth, increase risk to boost profitability, such as making risky loans, or ignore earnings altogether – few fintech’s are actually profitable. BNPL does not make money or lacks a clear pathway to profitability, onceinterchange, network fees, issuer processing fee, credit losses and funding are considered. Sixth, ensure that the real risks remain unknown unknown. Supply chain finance is short term and inappropriate for funding long-term assets, such as plant and equipment, as GFG Alliance (Greensill’s most prominent customer) discovered. A highly concentrated loan portfoliowith large exposures to a few clients is not generally recommended ‘best practice’ banking. It is irregular for financial institutions to entertain large transactions with related parties. In Greensill’s case, it appears to have extended substantial credit to shareholders. It also allegedly funded non-existent future or expected receivables.  Fintech lenders frequently undertake soft credit checks and minimal authentication. Former FSA chief Lord Adair Turner argued that the losses which will emerge from peer-to-peer lending will make the worst bankers look like lending geniuses. Seventh, solicit investors paranoid about digital disruption whose phones are generally smarter than they are. The reasons for mental dysfunction don’t matter but look for: search for high returns and growth, befuddlement about rapidly changing technology, wealth and confidence gained from previous successes or shame at missing out on a ‘ten-bagger’ (10 times increase on investment), faith in unending state underwriting of asset prices and, of course, TINA (there is no alternative). Branding as ‘fin-tech’ beguiles investors, allowing new businesses to attract capital at high valuations. Greensill’s genius was to persuade everyone that it had changed the business of traditional, staid, low margin, short-term secured lending against invoices and accounts receivable into something revolutionary. Softbank reportedly invested US$1.5 billion in Greensill, now presumably lost. Eighth, raise a lot of cash and spend it to build market share. Improving banking technology is passé. Most fintech systems consist of an app or user interface sitting on top of clunky, antiquated systems, held together by duct tape. The focus is accelerating customer acquisition which businesses with a wider array of products might be able to monetise. The hope is to find this buyer before you run out cash. The thing is that fintech could lower banking costs (the cost of transferring funds across borders is punitive) and provide basic, low cost financial services to a large part of the world lacking such access. Some emerging market fintechs do provide genuinely valuable mobile phone banking, micro-loans and simple trade finance for low income individuals and small businesses are. Unfortunately, they are the minority. There are other issues. The growth of these businesses promotes a burgeoning shadow banking system whose problems can leach into financial markets, requiring tax-payer funded bailouts.  Greensill resulted in the failure of three small banks and investor losses of around US$3 billion. Exempting proper controls and compliance with regulations designed to maintain financial stability in the name of invention, a willingness to ‘break things’ and ‘fix them later’ is patently dangerous. Worryingly for investors, the Fintech model may have peaked. For example, the Reserve Bank of Australia, in a decision likely to be adopted globally, will allow merchants to pass on the costs of BNPL services to customers. With surveys showing that most users would not use the service if there is a cost, a more even competitive field of play and increased competition from banks and credit card providers, Fintech’s future is dimming. The world needs real innovation but John Kenneth Galbraith was sceptical about the financial variety, seeing them as merely variants on old designs, novel only in the brief and defective memory of the financial world. Fintech illustrates how, given time, everything old is new again and everything new turns out to be a re-run. *  *  * Das is a well-recognized derivatives expert who wrote one of the discipline’s important early textbooks as well as popular works, notably Traders, Guns and Money and Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk. His latest books include A Banquet of Consequences – Reloaded (March 2021) and Fortune’s Fool: Australia’s Choices (forthcoming March 2022) Tyler Durden Wed, 12/01/2021 - 18:30.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 1st, 2021

Here"s Why Investing in First American (FAF) is a Prudent Move

First American Financial (FAF) is poised to benefit from higher net realized investment gains, strategic acquisitions and sufficient liquidity. First American Financial Corporation FAF has been favored by investors on the back of its higher direct premium and escrow fees, solid cash position, effective capital deployment and strategic acquisitions.Growth ProjectionsThe Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 earnings per share is pegged at $7.53, indicating a year-over-year increase of 38.1%.Estimate RevisionThe Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 and 2022 has moved 1.5% and 2.5% north, respectively in the past 30 days. This should instill investors' confidence in the stock.Earnings Surprise HistoryFirst American has a decent earnings surprise history. It beat estimates in each of the last four quarters, with the average being 29.19%.Zacks Rank & Price PerformanceFirst American currently carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). The stock has rallied 54.3% year to date, outperforming the industry’s increase of 8.7%.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchReturn on Equity (ROE)The company’s trailing 12-month return on equity (ROE) of 17.2% reflects its growth potential. It compares favorably with the industry average of 5.6%. ROE reflects its efficiency in using its shareholders’ funds.Style ScoreIt has an impressive Value Score of A, which reflects the attractive valuation of the stock.Business TailwindsThe Title Insurance and Services business is expected to gain momentum from improved agent premiums, higher direct premiums and escrow fees, increased domestic residential purchase and commercial transactions.Higher operating revenues in the home warranty business and higher net realized investment gains in both the home warranty and property and casualty businesses should drive the Specialty Insurance business.First American has a robust acquisition pipeline and focuses on strategic initiatives to strengthen its product offerings and focus on its core business. The insurer continues to make significant investments in technology across its major businesses to enhance customer experience through digital solutions.The majority of First American's business is dependent on activity in the real estate and mortgage markets. Increased mortgage financing availability has a positive effect on residential real estate activity, which typically boosts the top line of the title insurer.In October 2021, the insurer acquired ServiceMac to support the mortgage industry and expand product innovation efforts. The deal will enhance First American’s ability to provide lenders and servicers with end-to-end mortgage, settlement, post-closing services and servicing-related products and solutions.First American boasts a strong liquidity position to enhance operating leverage. The title insurer expects to use cash on hand to fund acquisitions in the core title and settlement business in adjacent markets, invest in innovative solutions such as Endpoint and return capital to shareholders.In August 2021, the board hiked its quarterly cash dividend by 11% and increased the size of its share repurchase plan from $300 million to $600 million. With the increase in authorization, the insurer has $472 million remaining under the share repurchase authorization. The dividend hike and increase of repurchase authorization reflects the insurer’s strong financial condition, liquidity, and long-standing commitment to return capital to stockholders.Other Stocks to ConsiderSome other top-ranked stocks from the property and casualty insurance sector are Kinsale Capital KNSL, Cincinnati Financial Corporation CINF and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B). While are Kinsale Capital sports a Zacks Rank #1, Cincinnati Financial and Berkshire carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.Kinsale Capital’s earnings surpassed estimates in each of the last four quarters, the average beat being 37.63%. In the past year, Kinsale Capital has lost 14.7%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 and 2022 has moved 15.2% and 11.7% north, respectively, in the past 30 days.Higher submission activity from brokers across most lines of business, higher rates on bound accounts, favorable market conditions, and high retention rates arising from contract renewals are likely to drive Kinsale Capital’s premium income.Cincinnati Financial surpassed estimates in each of the last four quarters, the average earnings surprise being 40.05%. In the past year, Cincinnati Financial has rallied 53.6%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 and 2022 has moved 0.9% and 5% north, respectively, in the past 30 days.Cincinnati Financial is well poised to gain from premium growth initiatives, price increases and a higher level of insured exposures.The bottom line of Berkshire Hathaway surpassed estimates in two of the last four quarters and missed the same in the other two, the average being 5.53%. In the past year, Berkshire Hathaway has rallied 23.6%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 and 2022 has moved 0.08% and 1.5% north, respectively, in the past 30 days.Berkshire Hathaway is expected to benefit from its growing Insurance business, Manufacturing, Service and Retailing, Finance and Financial Products segments, and strategic acquisitions. Tech IPOs With Massive Profit Potential: Last years top IPOs surged as much as 299% within the first two months. With record amounts of cash flooding into IPOs and a record-setting stock market, this year could be even more lucrative. See Zacks’ Hottest Tech IPOs Now >>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 Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B): Free Stock Analysis Report Cincinnati Financial Corporation (CINF): Free Stock Analysis Report First American Financial Corporation (FAF): Free Stock Analysis Report Kinsale Capital Group, Inc. (KNSL): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here......»»

Category: topSource: zacksNov 30th, 2021

WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments, promotions

Marcus & Millichap has expanded the Board of Directors with the election of Collete English Dixon. She will also serve as a member of the Board’s Nominating & Corporate Governance Committee. Dixon currently serves as Executive Director of the Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate, Roosevelt University in Chicago. She... The post WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments, promotions appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Marcus & Millichap has expanded the Board of Directors with the election of Collete English Dixon. She will also serve as a member of the Board’s Nominating & Corporate Governance Committee. Dixon currently serves as Executive Director of the Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate, Roosevelt University in Chicago. She previously held various key officer and management roles at PGIM Real Estate/Prudential Real Estate Investors (PREI), which is a business unit of Prudential Financial. In her role as Executive Director/Vice President of transactions from 1996 to 2016, she oversaw the sale of investment properties throughout the US. Prior to her role in dispositions, Dixon was responsible for sourcing wholly owned and joint venture real estate investment opportunities. Her experience also includes property development and asset management. Dixon served as president of CREW Network, chair of the CREW Network Foundation, and president of CREW Chicago. ••• Avison Young has hired Larry Zuckerman as principal in the firm’s New York City office. He brings nearly 40 years of commercial real estate experience and leadership to the firm and specializes in delivering value and expertise to office tenants in New York and across the Tri-State area. Zuckerman previously served as senior managing director at Newmark and, before that, was a senior vice president with Grubb & Ellis for nearly 20 years. He began his real estate career with Gronich and Company after graduating from Franklin & Marshall College with a BA in Business. ••• Rudin Management Company announced that two senior executives have joined the company. Christopher Flynn has been appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Ray Houseknecht joins as Senior Vice President, Head of Multifamily. Chris Flynn is responsible for all accounting operations, financial reporting, lender and JV partner compliance, audit and tax compliance, and treasury functions across the organization in his new role. He also serves on Rudin’s Executive Committee. An industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience across the real estate sector, Flynn served as Chief Financial Officer at Atlas Capital Group, Vice President at Vornado Realty Trust and Manager at Ernst & Young. He graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and is a certified public accountant (CPA). Ray Houseknecht is responsible for the operation of Rudin’s residential portfolio including leasing, marketing, facilities, design and construction. He comes to Rudin from WeLive by WeWork, where he was most recently the Global Head of Operations and Asset Management. Prior to WeLive, Houseknecht spent eight years at AvalonBay Communities as a Senior Portfolio Director, where he managed the operations of 3,700 residential units, as well as the development and expansion of new assets throughout Long Island. Before AvalonBay, he spent three years in his own real estate consulting practice and five years at Heinlein Capital Ventures. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola College in Maryland. The announcement comes on the heels of five senior-level promotions at Rudin, including Samantha Rudin Earls, Michael Rudin and Neil Gupta to Executive Vice President, and Cassie Kulzer and Nick Martin as Senior Vice President. Rudin also recently appointed Andrew Migdon as Executive Vice President and as the company’s first-ever Chief Legal Officer. ••• Colliers has hired Shawn Henry as managing director, Head of Single-Family Rental | U.S. Capital Markets. An expert with more than 20 years of experience in the single-family rental (SFR) sector, Henry joins Colliers after building his own specialty SFR-focused business. Before that, he held senior leadership positions covering SFR with both A10 Capital and Capmark/GMAC. He will lead Colliers’ single family practice as it advises a variety of institutional investors across the spectrum of transactions, including acquisitions, capital raises, dispositions and financings for large and mid-sized portfolios of SFRs across the country. Henry is the latest appointment to Colliers’ Capital Markets platform, which has recently added Head of New York City Capital Markets Peter Nicoletti, Managing Director of Boston Investment Sales Frank Petz and New York Debt & Equity Finance Group Managing Director Jimmy Board. ••• Abraham Bergman has assumed the positions of president and CEO of Eastern Union. He had previously served as Eastern Union’s managing partner since co-founding the firm with Ira Zlotowitz in 2001. Zlotowitz had served as the company’s president and CEO since its inception. He will now be pursuing other activities in the commercial real estate field. Bergman has played an active and central role in shaping Eastern Union’s corporate strategy and structure. He has been a leader in sales and relationship-building across each of the company’s CRE sectors. Bergman holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Touro College and a master’s degree in general business administration from Baruch College. Eastern Union also announced that its two most productive brokers, Marc Tropp and Michael Muller, have been named to the company’s board. They each hold the title of senior managing director. Muller has been the firm’s leading broker in the New York City market over the past 20 years. Tropp has been Eastern Union’s number-one broker in the Mid-Atlantic regional market for the last 16 years. Moshe Maybloom, a 14-year veteran of the firm, has also been named to the company’s board and has assumed the position of senior managing director of operations. ••• DH Property Holdings has hired architect Michael Bennett as director of development as the company looks to expand nationally. Bennett, a former principal with Ware Malcomb, has designed more multi-story, urban-infill distribution centers than any other architect in the nation, including groundbreaking DHPH projects. Bennett began his career as a designer at Ware Malcomb in 1997 after completing a University of Arizona architecture degree. He spent 24 years at the firm and served as head of the East Coast division. He has deep experience with land-use and planning studies and with complicated zoning and infrastructure challenges. ••• Walker & Dunlop has appointed P.J. McDevitt as Managing Director. Focused on the affordable housing space, McDevitt will drive loan origination growth nationally to help address the country’s significant need for affordable housing. Since 2018, McDevitt has been involved in the origination, underwriting, and closing of nearly $1 billion in affordable housing transactions. He previously served as a director at Greystone and, before that, held various positions with PNC, where he contributed his expertise as a Production Management Representative and Production Assistant. McDevitt began his career in commercial real estate at Walker & Dunlop as a senior analyst. ••• Duval & Stachenfeld announced that Kim Le and Christopher Gorman have been named co-chairs of the firm’s real estate practice group. Le and Gorman both joined D&S as associates in 2004. In the 17 years since, they have each become highly sought-after attorneys, who have consistently leveraged their legal acumen and business savvy to craft creative solutions for their clients. Over the course of their respective careers, each has served as legal counsel on billions of dollars of complex real estate transactions, including platform creation, portfolio acquisitions, multi-layered financings, and complex joint-venture equity partnerships. ••• Greystone announced that Adam Lipkin has joined Greystone Capital Advisors as a Vice President. He joins the capital solutions advisory group to leverage his capital markets knowledge and experience, including expertise in Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE), to help craft innovative debt and equity solutions for clients and originate large-loan agency and FHA opportunities within his extensive client network. Lipkin has worked in the commercial real estate finance industry for nearly two decades, and joins Greystone from Counterpointe Sustainable Real Estate LLC, a direct lender for C-PACE, where he served as Executive Director. Prior to that role, he was a Vice President at Grandbridge Real Estate Capital. Earlier in his career, Lipkin worked in capital advisory with HFF and a subsequent boutique advisory team, Olympian Capital Group. Prior to his advisory work, Lipkin served at Ernst & Young in the New York Real Estate Advisory Group. ••• TSCG announced the hiring of Craig Gambardella as a tenant and landlord broker. He will operate out of their Manhattan and White Plains offices. An expert in the health care real estate sector, Gambardella will also spearhead a strategic initiative within TSCG to develop a proprietary suite of services aimed at real estate management in the healthcare sector. Gambardella has been in the healthcare space for more than a decade and has worked with such healthcare organizations as Yale New Haven Health, Ontario Hospital Association, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Cedars Sinai Hospital. At JLL, he was part of their healthcare real estate practice. ••• RIPCO Real Estate announced that Jordan Cohn has joined the firm as executive vice president. Cohn previously served as a partner of SCG Retail, the urban division of The Shopping Center Group, where he was with the firm for nearly 20 years. His primary focus was on tenant representation and has closed deals for recognized brands such as REI, Chick fil A, Home Depot, Bobby Flay, Charles Schwab, Crossroads Trading Company, Señor Frogs and many other local and national retailers, to name a few. In addition to retail real estate work and accolades, Cohn has a career in the film industry and can be seen in movies such as The Westler, written by his brother in-law. ••• Madison International Realty announced that Diana Shieh and Kim Adamek, managing directors of Portfolio and Asset Management, have been promoted to co-heads of Portfolio and Asset Management, overseeing assets under management in all sectors and regions across the US, UK and Europe. Shieh and Adamek will oversee the firm‘s global portfolio and asset management team focused on its investment positions in real estate assets, including business plan execution, monitoring financial performance, driving relationships with Madison’s operating partners, and providing strategic recommendations seeking to enhance investment returns. They each joined the firm in 2014. Shieh and Adamek each bring nearly two decades of experience to the role. Prior to Shieh’s tenure at Madison, she held various positions in asset management and investments at Rockwood Capital and Shorenstein Properties. Shieh also serves as the Co-Chair of Madison’s ESG Committee. She is a graduate of Rutgers University. Adamek held various positions in acquisitions at CBRE Global Investors and Unico Properties. She is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and holds an MBA from New York University. ••• Katz & Associates announced that Russel Helbling has joined the firm as managing director in New York City. Helbling will be working on tenant and landlord representation primarily in Long Island and the surrounding New York Metro region. For the past 10 years, Helbling has worked in tenant and landlord representation at Sabre Real Estate. He has handled strategic roll-outs for brands including Starbucks, Wendy’s Hamburgers, Sherwin Williams and Dollar General and has been involved in numerous ground-up development leasing assignments in Long Island and the Outer Boroughs. Prior to working at Sabre, Helbling was at Breslin Realty working on retail leasing, and at Massey Knakal, where he primarily focused on investment sales. Helbling graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with a Bachelor of Science in telecommunications. ••• Blank Rome announce that Sonia Kaur Bain has joined the firm’s New York office as a partner in the Real Estate practice group,. Bain represents developers, retail companies, hotel groups, landlords and tenants, and family offices across the country in the acquisition and development of numerous types of commercial real estate assets. Prior to joining Blank Rome, Sonia was a real estate partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. In addition to her practice, Bain currently serves as the president of New York Women Executives in Real Estate (WX), where she has been a board member and officer for five years. ••• Avison Young has hired Thomas Kaufman as principal to boost the firm’s business efforts in the Downtown Manhattan submarket. He brings more than 30 years of experience in providing consulting and brokerage services to banks, partnerships, corporations and institutional owners. He joins Avison Young from InterRelate Group, where he served as Chief Executive Officer. Before that, he spent seven years as an executive director at Cushman & Wakefield and, prior to that, he was with the New York office of CB Richard Ellis as a senior vice president. Kaufman has broad experience representing both major commercial property owners and tenants. He provides consulting services for the not-for-profit community, including American Numismatic Societyand the Hetrick-Martin Institute,. Kaufman will work closely with Todd Korren, principal in Avison Young’s New York City office, to grow the firm’s downtown platform through recruiting and new business development initiatives. ••• Duval & Stachenfeld announced that Ilya Leyvi has been named co-chair of the firm’s real estate finance practice group. Leyvi will helm the practice group alongside Tom O’Connor, who has chaired the real estate finance practice since he joined D&S in 2014. Currently a partner at D&S, Leyvi first joined the firm as a summer associate before joining full-time as an associate in 2013. He regularly represents lenders and borrowers on bridge loans, construction loans, mezzanine loans, and commercial mortgage-backed securities, as well as preferred equity investments. He has served as counsel on deals across all property types. Leyvi graduated at the top of his class from Cornell Law School and received his B.B.A. from CUNY Baruch College – Zicklin School of Business. ••• Cushman & Wakefield has hired Tim McNamara and Kevin Daly as senior director and director, respectively. Based out of the firm’s Hartford office, they will cover New England, Westchester County and New York’s Hudson Valley to greater Albany. McNamara has more than 34 years of industry experience and has been recognized as one of the top producing retail brokers in New England and New York. In addition to his leasing experience, he has facilitated the sale of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of retail properties. McNamara holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Bryant University. Daly has more than 20 years of industry experience working with a range of national retailers, selling in excess of $50 million of land and overseeing nearly $200 million of lease transactions throughout his career. McNamara and Daly join the firm from SullivanHayes Companies Northeast, . Daly has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Providence College. ••• JPMorgan Chase announced Michelle Herrick as Head of Real Estate Banking (REB). Previously, Herrick served as the REB Central Region Market Manager, overseeing the Midwest, Mountain and Southeast markets. She led a team that helps clients with strategies and tools to maximize investment opportunities, manage operating costs, mitigate risk and manage assets for greater efficiency. Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase in 2017, Herrick started her career at LaSalle Bank and remained there after Bank of America acquired the firm in 2007. She held various roles within the commercial real estate banking business, covering a national book of public and private real estate sponsors. Michelle received her bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance from Miami University and she earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. ••• Due By the First has hired Matthew Murphy as Portfolio Manager responsible for underwriting new deals and managing current assets for the Long Island-based firm that offers short term bridge loans, permanent financing and commercial debt acquisitions. Previously, Murphy worked as director of finance at ERG Commercial Real Estate. Over his career, Murphy has overseen the origination of over $100 million of commercial and multifamily bridge loans in New York City. He began his career as a commercial real estate broker and managed a team focused on CRE deals in the Bronx. He is a 2009 graduate of SUNY Albany where he received a bachelor of science degree in physics. ••• The Swig Company announced the following personnel changes: Stephanie Kwong Ting has been appointed Executive Vice President – Director of Investments in charge of investments and will take charge of the company’s capital markets transaction activity. She succeeds Tomas Schoenberg who will retire later this year. Ting joins the company from Morgan Stanley where she was an Executive Director. Kairee Tann has been named Vice President of Innovation and Asset Management. Tann, who joined The Swig Company in 2016 as a project manager responsible for 300 Lakeside in Oakland, was most recently VP of Asset Management. The post WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments, promotions appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyNov 22nd, 2021

Transcript: Edwin Conway

   The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Edwin Conway, BlackRock Alternative Investors, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS:… Read More The post Transcript: Edwin Conway appeared first on The Big Picture.    The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Edwin Conway, BlackRock Alternative Investors, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, man, I have an extra special guest. Edwin Conway runs all of alternatives for BlackRocks. His title is Global Head of Alternative Investors and he covers everything from structured credit to real estate hedge funds to you name it. The group runs over $300 billion and he has been a driving force into making this a substantial portion of Blackrock’s $9 trillion in total assets. The opportunity set that exists for alternatives even for a firm like Blackrock that specializes in public markets is potentially huge and Blackrock wants a big piece of it. I found this conversation to be absolutely fascinating and I think you will also. So with no further ado, my conversation with Blackrock’s Head of Alternatives, Edwin Conway. MALE VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. RITHOLTZ: My extra special guest this week is Edwin Conway. He is the Global Head of Blackrock’s Alternative Investors which runs about $300 billion in assets. He is a team of over 1,100 professionals to help him manage those assets. Blackrock’s Global alternatives include businesses that cover real estate infrastructure, hedge funds private equity, and credit. He is a senior managing director for BlackRock. Edwin Conway, welcome to Bloomberg. EDWIN CONWAY, GLOBAL HEAD OF ALTERNATIVE INVESTORS, BLACKROCK: Barry, thank you for having me. RITHOLTZ: So, you’ve been in the financial services industry for a long time. You were at Credit Suisse and Blackstone and now you’re at BlackRock. Tell us what the process was like breaking into the industry? CONWAY: It’s an interesting on, Barry. I grew up in a very small town in the middle of Ireland. And the breakthrough to the industry was one of more coincident as opposed to purpose. I enjoyed the game of rugby for many years and through an introduction while at the University, in University College Dublin in Ireland, had a chance to play rugby at a quite a – quite a decent level and get to know people that were across the industry. It was really through and internship and the suggestion, I’ve given my focus on business and financing things that the financial services sector may be a great place to traverse and get to know. And literally through rugby connections, been part of a good school, I had an opportunity to really understand what the service sector, in many respects, could provide to clients and became absolutely intrigued with it. And what – was it my primary ambition in life to be in the financial services sector? I can definitively say no, but through the circumstance of a game that I love to play and be part of, I was introduced to, through an internship, and actually fell in love with it. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. And alternative investments at Blackrock almost seems like a contradiction in terms. Most of us tend to think of Blackrock as the giant $9 trillion public markets firm best known for ETFs and indices. Alternatives seems to be one of the fastest-growing groups within the firm. This was $50 billion just a few years ago, it’s now over 300 billion. How has this become such a fast-growing part of BlackRock? CONWAY: When you look at the various facets which you introduced at the start, Barry, we’ve actually been an alternatives – will be of 30 years now. Now, the scale, as you know, which you can operate on the beta side of business, far surpasses that on the alpha side. For us, throughout the years, this was very much about how can we deliver investment excellence to our clients and performance? Therefore, going an opportunity somewhere else to explore an alpha opportunity in alternatives. And I think being so connected to our clients understanding, that this pivots was absolutely taking place at only 30 years ago but in a very pronounced way today, you know, we continue to invest in this business to support those ambitions. They’re clearly seeing this as the world of going through a tremendous amount of transformation and with some of the challenges, quite frankly, in the traditional asset classes, being able to leverage at BlackRock, the Blackrock muscle to really explore these alpha opportunities across the various alternative asset classes that in our mind wasn’t imperative. And the imperative, really, is from the firm’s perspective and if you look at our purpose, it’s to serve the client. So the need was coming from them. The necessity to have alternatives and their whole portfolio was very – was very much growing in prominence. And it’s taken us 30 years to build this journey and I think, Barry, quite frankly, we’re far from being done. As you look at the industry, the demand is going to continue to grow. So, I think you could expect to see from us a continued investment in the space because we don’t believe you can live without alternatives in today’s world. RITHOLTZ: That’s really – that’s really interesting. So let’s dive a little deeper into the product strategy for alternatives which you are responsible for at BlackRock. Our audiences is filled with potential investors. Tell them a little bit about what that strategy is. CONWAY: So we’re – I think as you mentioned, we’re in excess of 300 billion today and when we started this business, it was less about building a moat around private equity or real estate. I think Larry Fink’s and Rob Kapito’s vision was how do we build a platform to allow us to be relevant to our clients across the various alternative asset classes but also within the – within the confines of what they are permitted to do on a year-by-year basis. So, to always be relevant irrespective of where they are in their journey from respect of liabilities, demand for liquidity, demand for returns, so we took a different approach. I think, Barry, to most, it was around how do we scale into the business across, like you said, real estate equity and debt, infrastructure equity and debt. I mean, we think of that as the real assets platform of our business. Then you take our private equity capabilities both in primary investing, secondary et cetera, and then you have private credits and a very significant hedge fund platforms. So we think all of these have a real role and depending on clients liquidities and risk appetite, our goal was, to over the years, really build in to this to allow ourselves for this challenging needs that our clients have. I think as an industry, right, and over the many years alternatives have been in existence, this is been about return enhancement initially. I think, fundamentally, the changes around the receptivity to the role of alternatives in a client’s portfolio has really changed. So, we’ve watched it, Barry, from this is we’re in the pursuit of a very total return or absolute return type of an objective to now resilience in our portfolio, yield an income. And so things that probably weren’t perceived as valuable in the past because the traditional asset classes were playing a more profound role, alternatives have stepped up in – in many respects in the need to provide more than just total return. So, we’re taking the approach of how do you have a more holistic approach to this? How do we really build a global multi-alternatives capability and try to partner and I think that’s the important work for us. Try to partner with our clients in a way that we can deliver that outperformance but delivered in a way that probably our clients haven’t been used to in this industry before. Because unfortunately, as we know, it has had its challenges with regard to secrecy, transparency, and so many other aspects. We need to help the industry mature. And really that was our ambition. Put our client’s needs first, build around that and really be relevant in all aspects of what we’re doing or trying to accomplish on behalf of the people that they support and represent. RITHOLTZ: So, we’ll talk a little bit about transparency and secrecy and those sorts of things later. But right now, I have to ask what I guess is kind of an obvious question. This growth that you’ve achieved within Blackrock for nonpublic asset allocation within a portfolio, what is this coming at expense of? Are these dollars that are being moved from public assets into private assets or you just competing with other private investors? CONWAY: It’s really both. What – what you are seeing from our clients – if I take a step back, today, the institutional client community and you think about the – the retirement conundrum we’re all facing around the world. It’s such an awful challenge when you think how ill-prepared people are for that eventual stepping back from the workplace and then you know longevity is your friend, but can also be a very, very difficult thing to obviously live with if you’re not prepared for retirement. The typical pension plan today are allocating about 25 percent to 28 percent in alternatives. Predominantly private market. What they’re telling us is that’s increasing quite substantially going forward. But you know, the funding for that alpha pursue for that diversification and that yield is coming from fixed-income assets. It’s coming from equity assets. So there’s a real rebalancing that’s been taking place over the past number of years. And quite frankly, the evolution, and I think the innovation that’s taken place particularly in the past 10 years, alternatives has been really profound. So the days where you just invest in any global funds still exist. But now you can concentrate your efforts on sector exposure, industry exposures, geographic exposures, and I think the – the menu of things our clients can now have access to has just been so greatly enhanced at and the benefit is that but I think in some – in some respects, Barry, the next question is with all of those choices, how do you build the right portfolio for our client’s needs knowing that each one of our client’s needs are different? So, I would say it absolutely coming from the public side. We’re very thankful. Those that had a multiyear journey with us in the public side are now allocating capital to is now the private side to because I do think the – the industry given that change, given that it evolution and given the complexity of these private assets, our clients are looking to, quite frankly, do more with fewer managers because of the complexion of the industry and complexity that comes with it. RITHOLTZ: Quite – quite interesting. (UNKNOWN): And attention RIA’s. Are your clients asking for crypto? At interactive brokers, advisers can now offer crypto to their clients and you could trade stocks, options, futures currencies, bonds and more from the same platform. Commissions on crypto are just 12-18 basis points with no hidden spreads or markups and there are no ticket charges, custody fees, minimums platform or reporting fees. Learn more at IBKR.com/RIA crypto. RITHOLTZ: And I – it’s pretty easy to see why large institutions might be rotating away from things like treasuries or tips because there’s just no yield there. Are you seeing inflows coming in from the public equity side also? The markets put together a pretty good string of years. CONWAY: Yes. It absolutely has. And many respects, I think, we’ve had a multiyear where there was big questions around the alpha that can be generated, for example, from active equities? The question was active or passive? I think what we’ve all realized is that at times when volatility introduces itself which is frequent even independent of what’s been done from a fiscal and monetary standpoint, that these Alpha speaking strategies on the traditional side still make a lot of sense. And so, as we think about what – what’s happening here, the transition of assets from both passive and active strategies to alternative, it – it’s really to create better balance. It’s not that there’s – there’s a lack of relevance anymore in the public side. It’s just quite frankly the growth of the private asset base has grown so substantially. I moved, Barry, to the U.S. in 1998. And it’s interesting, when you look back at 1998 to today, you start to recognize the equity markets and what was available to invest in. The number of investable opportunities has shrunk by 40 plus percent which that compression is extraordinarily high. But yet you’ve seen, obviously, the equity markets grow in stature and significance and prominence but you’re having more concentration risk with some of the big public entities. The converse is true, though on the – on the private side. There’s this explosion of enterprise and innovation, employment creation, and then I believe opportunities has been real. So, I look at the public side, the investable universe is measured in the thousands and the private side is measured in the millions. RITHOLTZ: Wow. CONWAY: And I think part of the – part of the part of the thing our clients are not struggling with but what we’re really recognizing with – with enterprises staying private for longer, if not forever, and with his growth of the opportunities that open debt and equity in the private market side, you really can’t forgo this opportunity. It has to be part of your going forward concerns and asset allocation. And I think this is why we’re seeing that transformation. And it’s not because equities on fixed income just aren’t relevant anymore. They’re very relevant but they’re relevant now in a total portfolio or a whole portfolio context beside alternatives. RITHOLTZ: So, let’s discuss this opportunity set of alternatives where you guys at Blackrock scene demand what sectors and from what sorts of clients? Is this demand increasing? CONWAY: We’re very fortunate, Barry. Today, there isn’t a single piece of our business within – within Blackrock alternatives that isn’t growing. And quite frankly too, it’s really up to us to deliver on the investment objectives that are set forth for those clients. I think in the back of strong absolute and relative performance, thankfully, our clients look to us to – to help them as – as they think about what they’re doing and as they’re exploring more in the alternatives areas. So, as you know, certainly, the private equity and real estate allocations are quite mature in many of our client’s portfolios but they’ve been around for many decades. I think that the areas where we’re seeing – that’s called an outside demand and opportunity set, just but virtue of the small allocations on a relative basis that exist today is really around infrastructure, Barry, and its around private credits. So, to caveat that, I think all of the areas are certainly growing, and thankfully, for us that’s true. We’re looking at clients who we believe are underinvested, we believe they’re underinvested in those asset classes infrastructure both debt and equity and in private credit. And as you think about why that is, the attributes that they bring to our client is really important and in a world where your correlation and understanding those correlations is important that these are definitely diversifying assets. In a world where you’re seeing trillions of dollars, quite frankly, you’re providing little to no or even there’s negative yield. Those short falls are real and people need yield than need income. These assets tend to provide that. So the diversification, it comes from these assets. The yield can come from these assets and because of the immaturity of the asset classes, independence of the capital is flowing in, we still consider them relatively white space. You’re not crowded out. There’s much room for development in the market and with our client’s portfolios. And to us, that’s exciting because it presents opportunities. So, at the highest level, they’re the areas where I believe are most underdeveloped in our clients. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about both of those areas. We’ll talk about structured credit in a few minutes. I think everybody kind of understands what – what that is. What – when you see infrastructure as a sector, how does that show up as an investment are – and obviously, I have infrastructure on the brink because we’re recording this not too long after the giant infrastructure bill has been passed, tell us a little bit about what alternative investments in infrastructure looks like? CONWAY: Yes. It’s really in its infancy and what the underlying investments look like. I think traditionally, you would consider it as – and part of the bill that has just been announced, roads, bridges, airports. Some of these hard assets, some of the core infrastructure investments that have been around for actually some time. The interesting thing is the industry has evolved so much and put the need for infrastructure. It’s so great across both developed and emerging economies. It’s become something that if done the right way, the attributes we just spoke of can really have a very strong effect on our client’s portfolios. So, beyond the core that we just mentioned, well, we’ve seen a tremendous demand as a result of this energy transition. You’re really seeing a spike in activity and the necessity transition industry to cleaner technologies, a movement, not away completely from fossil fuel but integrating new types of clean energy. And as a result, you’ve seen a lot of demand on a global basis for wind and solar. And quite frankly, that’s why even us at BlackRock, albeit, 10-12 years ago, we really established a capability there to help with that transition to think about how do we use these technologies, solar panels, wind farms, to generate clean forms of energy for utilities where in some cases they’re mandated to procure this type of this type of – this type of power. And when you think about pre-contracting with utilities for long duration, that to me spells, Barry, good risk mitigation and management and ability to get access to clean forms of energy that throw off yield that can be very complementary to your traditional asset classes but for very long periods of time. And so, the benefits for us of these – these assets is that they are long in duration, they are yield enhancing, they’re definitely diversifying. And so, for us, where – we’ve got about, let’s call this 280 assets around the world that we’re managing that literally generate this – this clean electricity. I think to give the relevance of how much, I believe today, it’s enough to power the country of Spain. RITHOLTZ: Wow. CONWAY: And that’s really that’s really changing. So you’re seeing governments – so from a policy standpoint, you’re seeing governments really embracing new forms of energy, transitioning out of bunker fuels, for example, you know, burning diesels which really spew omissions into the – into the into the environment. But it’s really around modernizing for the future. So, developed and emerging economies alike, want to retain capital. They want to attract new capital and by having the proper infrastructure to support industry, it’s a really, really important thing. Now, on the back of that too, one things we’ve learned from COVID is that the necessity to really bring e-commerce into how you conduct your business is so important and I think from the theme of digitalization within infrastructure to is a huge part. So, it’s not just the energy transition that you’re seeing, it’s not just roads and bridges, but by allowing businesses to connect to a global consumer, allowing children be educated from home, allowing experiences that expand geographies and boundaries in a digital form is so important not just for commerce but in so many other aspects. And so, you think about cable, fiber optics, if you think about all the other things even outside of power, that enable us to conduct commerce to educate, there are many examples where, Barry, you can build resilience into your portfolio because that need is not measured in years. Actually, the shortfall of capital is measured in the trillions so which means this is – this is a multi-decade opportunity set from our vantage point and one of which our clients should really avail of. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. And I mentioned in passing, structured credit, tell us a little bit about what that opportunity looks like. I think of this as a space that is too big for local banks but too small for Wall Street to finance. Is that an oversimplification? What is going on in that space. CONWAY: I probably couldn’t have set it better, Barry. It’s – if we go back to just the even the investable universe, in the tens of thousands of companies, just if we take North America that are private, that have great leadership that really have strategic vision under – at the – in some cases, at the start of their growth lifecycles are even if they maintain, they have a very credible and viable business for the future they still need capital. And you’re absolutely right. With the retreat of the banks from the space to various regulations that have come after the global financial crisis, you’re seeing the asset managers in many respects working behalf of our clients both wealth and institutional becoming the new lenders of choice. And – and when we – when we think about that opportunity set, that is really understanding the client’s desire for risk or something maybe in a lower risk side from middle-market lending or midmarket enterprises where you can support that organization through its growth cycle all the way to some higher-yielding, obviously, with more risk assets on the opportunistic or even the special situations side. But it – it expands many things. And going back of the commentary around the evolution of the space, private credit today and what you can do has changed so profoundly, it expands the liquidity spectrum, it expands the risk spectrum. And the great news is, with the number of companies both here and abroad, the opportunities that is – it’s being enriched every single day. And were certainly seeing, particularly going back to the question are some of these assets coming from the traditional side, the public side. When we think of private credit, you are seeing private credit now been incorporated in fixed-income allocations. This is a – it’s a yelling asset. This is – these are debt instruments, these are structures that we’re creating. We’re trying to flexible and dynamic with these clients. But it really is an area where we think – it really is still at its – at its infancy relevant to where it can potentially be. RITHOLTZ: That’s really quite – quite interesting. (UNKNOWN): It’s Rob Riggle. I’m hosting Season 2 of the iHeart radio podcast, Veterans You Should Know. You may know me as the comedic actor from my work in the Hangover, Stepbrothers or 21 Jump Street. But before Hollywood, I was a United States Marine Corps officer for 23 years. For this Veterans Day, I’ll be sitting down with those who proudly served in the Armed Forces to hear about the lessons they’ve learned, the obstacles they’ve overcome, and the life-changing impact of their service. Through this four-part series, we’ll hear the inspiring journeys of these veterans and how they took those values during their time of service and apply them to transition out of the military and into civilian life. Listen to Veterans You Should Know on the iHeart radio app, Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcast. RITHOLTZ: Let’s stick with that concept of money rotating away from fixed income. I have to imagine clients are starved for yields. So what are the popular substitutes for this? Is it primarily structured credit? Is it real estate? How do you respond to an institution that says, hey, I’m not getting any sort of realistic coupon on my bonds, I need a substitute? CONWAY: Yes. It’s all of those in many respects. And I think to the role, even around now a time where people have questions around inflation, how do substitute this yield efficiency or certainly make up for that shortfall, how do you think about a world where increasingly seeing inflation, not of the transitory thing it feels certainly quasi-permanent. These are a lot of questions we’re getting. And certainly, real estate is an is important part of how they think about inflation protection, how client think about yield, but quite frankly too, we’ve – we’ve gone through something none of us really had thought about a global pandemic. And as I think about real estate, just how you allocate to the sector, what was very heavily influenced with retail assets, high street, our shopping behaviors and habits have changed. We all occupied offices for obviously many, many years pre the pandemic. The shape of how we operate and how we do that has changed. So, I think some of the underlying investment – investments have changed where you’ve seen heavily weighted towards office space to leisure, travel in the past. Actually, now using a rotation in some respects out of those, just given some of the uncertainties around what the future holds as we come – come through a really difficult time. But the great thing about this sector is between senior living, between student housing, between logistics and so many other parts, there are ways in real estate to capture where there’s – where there’s demand. So still a robust opportunity set and it – and we do think it can absolutely be yield enhancing. We mentioned infrastructure. Even if you think about – and we mention OECD and non-OECD, emerging and developed, when I think about Asia, in particular, just as a subset of the world in which we’re living in, that is a $2.6 trillion alternative market today growing at a 15 percent CAGR. And quite frankly, the old-growth is driven by the large economic growth in the region. So, even from a regional perspective, if we pivot, it houses 57 percent of the world’s population and yet delivers 47 percent of the world’s economic growth. So, think of that and then with regard to infrastructure and goes back to that, this is truly a global phenomenon. So if we just even take that sector, Barry, you’ll realize that the way to maintain that type of growth, to attract capital, to keep capital, it really requires an investment of significant amount of money to be able to sustain that. And when you have 42 million people in a APAC migrating to cities in the year going back to digitalization, that’s an important thing. So, when I say we’re so much at the infancy in infrastructure, I really mean it. It can be water, it can be sewer systems, it can be digital, it can be roads, there’s so much to this. And then even down to the regional perspective, it’s a – it’s a need that doesn’t just exist in the U.S. So, for these assets, this tend to be long in duration. There’s both equity and debt. And on the debt side, quite frankly, very few outside of our insurance clients and their general account are taking advantage of the debt opportunity. And – and as we both know, to finance these projects that are becoming more plentiful every single day, across the world, including like, I said, in APAC in scale, there’s an opportunity in both sides. And I think that’s where the acid mix change happen. It’s recognizing that the attributes of these assets can have a role, the attributes of these assets can potentially replace some of these traditional assets and I think you’re going to see it grow. So, infrastructure to us, it’s really equity and debt. And then on the credit side, like I mentioned, again, too, it’s a very, very big and growing market. And certainly, the biggest area today from our vantage point is middle-market lending from a scale opportunity standpoint. So, we think much more to come in all of those spaces. RITHOLTZ: Really interesting. And let’s just stay with the concept of public versus private. That line is kind of getting blurred and the secondary markets is liquidity coming to, for lack of a better phrase, pre-public equities, tells little bit about that space. Is that an area that is ripe for growth for BlackRock? CONWAY: Yes. We absolutely think it is and you’re absolutely correct. The secondary market is – has grown quite substantial. If you even look at just the private equity secondary market and what will transact this year, I think it will be potentially in excess of 100 billion. And that’s what were clear, not to mention what will be visible and what will be analyzed. And that speaks to me what’s really happening and the innovation that we mentioned earlier. It’s no longer about just primary exposure. It’s secondary exposure. When we see all sort of interest and co-investment opportunities as well, I think the available sources of alpha and the flexibility you can now have, albeit if directed and advised, I believe the right way, Barry, can be very helpful and in the portfolio. So, your pre-IPO, it is a big part of actually what we do and we think about growth equity. There is – it’s a significant amount of capital following that space. Now, from our vantage point, as one of the largest investors in the public equity market and now obviously one of the largest investors and they in the private side, the bridge between – between private to public – there’s a real need. IPOs are not going away. And I think smart, informed capital to help with this journey, this journey is really – is really a necessity and a need. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about this recent restructuring. You are first named Global Head of Blackrock Alternative Investors in April 2019, the entire alternatives business was restructured, tell us a little bit about how that restructuring is going? CONWAY: Continues to go really well, Barry. When you look at the flow of acid from our clients, I think, hopefully, that’s speaks to the performance we’ve been generating. I joined the firm, as you know, albeit, 11 years ago and being very close to the alternative franchise as a critical thing for me and running the institutional platform. To me, when you watched this migration of asset towards alternatives, it was obviously very evident for decades now that this is a critical leg of the stool as our clients are thinking about their portfolios. We’re continuing to innovate. We’re continuing to invest, and thankfully, we’re continuing to deliver strong performance. We’re growing at about high double digits on an annual basis but we’re trying to purposeful too around where that growth is coming from. I think the reality is when you look at the competitive universe, I think the last number I saw, it was about 38,000 alternative asset managers out there today, obviously, coming from hedge funds all the way to private credits and private equity. So, competition is real and I do think the outcomes for our clients are starting to really grow. Unfortunately, some – in some cases, obviously, very good, and in some cases, actually not great. So our focus, Barry, is really much on how can we deliver performance, how can we be a partner? And I think we been rewarded with a trust and the faith our clients have in us because they’re seeing something different, I think, from us. Now, the scale of the business that you mentioned earlier really gives us tentacles into the market that I believe allows us to access what I think is the new alpha which is in many respects, given the heft of competition sourcing and originating new investments is certainly harder but for us, sitting in or having alternative team, sitting in 50 offices around the world, really investing in the markets because that – the market they grew up with and have relationships within, I think this network value that we have is something that’s quite special. And I think in the world that’s becoming increasingly competitive, we’re going to continue to use and harness that network value to pursue opportunities. And thankfully, as a result of the partnership we’ve been pursuing with her clients, like, we’ve – we’re certainly looking for opportunities and investments in our funds. But because of the brand, I think because of the successes, opportunities seeks us as much as we seek opportunity and that has been something that we look at an ongoing basis and feel very privileged to actually have that inbound flow as well. RITHOLTZ: Really quite interesting. There was a quote of yours I found while doing some prep for this conversation that I have to have you expand on. Quote, “The relationship between Blackrock’s alternative capabilities and wealth firms marked a large opportunity for growth in the coming years.” This was back in 2019. So, the first part of the question is, was your expectations correct? Did you – did you see the sort of growth you were hoping for? And more broadly, how large of an opportunity is alternatives, not just for BlackRock but for the entire investment industry? CONWAY: Yes. It’s been very much an institutional opportunity set up until now. And there’s so much to be done, still, to really democratize alternatives and we certainly joke around making alternatives less alternative. Actually, even the nomenclature we use and how we describe it doesn’t kind of make sense anymore. It’s such a core – an important allocation to our clients, Barry, that just calling it alternative seems wrong. Just about the institutional clients. It ranges, I think, as I mentioned on our – some of our more conservative clients which would be pension plans which really have liquidity needs on a monthly basis because of the liabilities they have to think about. At about 25 plus percent in private markets, to endowments, foundations, family offices, going to 50 percent plus. So, it’s a really important part and has been for now many years the institutional client ph communities outcomes. I think the thing that we, as an industry, have to change is alternatives has to be for the many, not for the few. And quite frankly, it’s been for the few. And as we talked about some of the attributes and the important attributes of these asset classes to think that those who have been less fortunate in their careers can’t access, things they can enrich their future retirement outcomes, to me, is a failing. And we have to address that. That comes from regulation changes, it comes from structuring of new products, it comes from education and it comes from this knowledge transmission where clients in the wealth segment can understand the role of alternatives and the context of what can do as they invest in equities and fixed income too. And we think that’s a big shortfall. So, the journey today, just to give you a sense, as we look at her clients in Europe on the wealth side, on average, as you look from what we would call the credited investors all the way through to more ultra-high-net worth individuals, their allocation to alternatives, we believe, stands at around two to three percent of their total portfolio. In the U.S., we believe it stands at three to five. So, most of those intermediaries, we speak to our partners who were more supporting and serving the wealth channel. They have certainly an ambition to help their clients grow that to 20 percent and potentially beyond that. So, when I look at that gap of let’s call it two to three to 20 percent in a market that just given the explosion in wealth around the world, I think the last numbers I saw, this is a $65 trillion market. RITHOLTZ: Wow. CONWAY: That speaks to the shortfall relative to the ambition. And how’s it been going? We have a number of things and capabilities we’ve set up to allow for this market to experience, hopefully, private equity, hedge funds, credit, and an infrastructure in ways they haven’t in the past. We’ve done this in the U.S., we’re doing it now in Europe, but I will say, Barry, this is still very much at the start of the journey. Wealth is a really important part of our future given our business, quite, frankly is 90 plus percent institutional today, but we’re looking to change that by, hopefully, democratizing these asset classes and making it so much more accessible in that of the past. RITHOLTZ: So, we hinted at this before but I’m going to ask the question outright, how significant is interest rates to client’s risk appetites, how much of the current low rate environment are driving people to move chunks of their assets from fixed income to alternatives? CONWAY: It’s really significant, Barry. I think the transition of these portfolios is quite profound, So you – and I think the unfortunate thing in some respects as this transition happens that you’re introducing new variables and new risks. The reason I say it’s unfortunate and that I think as an industry, this goes back to the education around the assets you own, understanding the role, understanding the various outcomes. I think it’s so incredibly important and that this the time where complete transparency is needed. And quite frankly, we’re investing capital that’s not ours. As an industry, we’re investing our client’s assets and they need to know exactly the underlying investments. And in good and bad times, how would those assets behave? So certainly, interest rates are driving a flow of capital away from these traditional assets, fixed-income, and absolutely in towards real estate, infrastructure, private creditors, et cetera, in the pursuit of this – this yield. But I do – I do think one of the things that’s critically important for the institutional channel, not just the wealth which are newer entrants is this transmission of education, of data because that’s how I think you build a better balanced portfolio and that’s a – that’s a real conundrum, I think, that the industry is facing and certainly your clients too. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. So let’s talk a little bit about the differences between investing in the private side versus the public markets, the most obvious one has to be the illiquidity. When you buy stocks or bonds, you get a print every microsecond, every tick, but most of these investments are only marked quarterly or annually, what does this illiquidity do when you’re interacting with clients? How do you – how do you discuss this with them in and how do perceive some of the challenges of illiquid investments? CONWAY: Over the – over the past number of decades, I think our clients have largely held too much liquidity in their portfolios. Like, so what we are finding is the ability to take on illiquidity risk. And obviously, in pursuit of that premium above, the traditional markets, I mean, I think the sentiment they are is it an absolute right one. That transition towards private market exposure, we think is an important one just given the return objectives, the majority of our clients’ need but then also again, most importantly now, with geo policy, with uncertainty, with interest rate uncertainty, inflation uncertainty, I mean, the – going back to the resilience point, the characteristics now by introducing these assets into the mix is important. And I think that’s – that point is maybe what I’ll expand on. As were talking to clients, using the Aladdin systems, and as you know, we bought eFront technologies, albeit a couple of years ago, by allowing, I think, great data and technology to help our clients understand these assets and the context of how they should own them relative to other liquidity needs, their risk tolerances, and the return expectations are really trying to use tech and data to provide a better understanding and comprehension of the outcomes. And as we continue to introduce these concepts and these approaches, by the way, that there is, as you know, so used to in the traditional side, it – it gives them more comfort around what they should and can expect. And that, to me, is a really important part of what we’re doing. So, we’ve released recently new technology to the wealth sector because, quite frankly, we mentioned it before, the 60-40 portfolio is a thing of the past. And that introduction of about 20 percent into alternatives, we applaud our partners who are – who are suggesting that to their clients. We think it’s something they have to do. What we’re doing to support that is really bringing thought leadership, education, but also portfolio construction techniques and data to bear in that conversation. And this goes back to – it’s no longer an alternative, right? This is a core allocation so the comprehension of what it is you own, the behavior of the asset in good and bad times is so necessary. And that’s become a very big thing with regard to our activities, Barry, because your clients are looking to understand better when you’re talking about assets that are very complex in their nature. RITHOLTZ: So, 60-40 is now 50-30-20, something along those lines? CONWAY: Yes. RITHOLTZ: Really, really intriguing. So, what are clients really looking for these days? We talked about yield. Are they also looking for downside protection on the equity side or inflation hedges you hinted at? How broad are the demands of clients in the alternative space? CONWAY: Yes. It ranges the gamut. And even – we didn’t speak to even hedge funds, we’ve had differing levels of interest in the hedge fund world for years and I, quite frankly, think some degree of disappointment too, Barry, with regard to the alpha, the returns that were produced relevant to the cost. RITHOLTZ: It’s a tough space to say the very least exactly. CONWAY: Exactly right. But when you start to see volatility introducing itself, you can really see where skill plays a critical factor. So, we are absolutely seeing, in the hedge fund, a resurgence of interest and demand by virtue of those who really have honed in on their scale, who have demonstrated an up-and-down markets and ability to protect and preserve capital, but importantly, in a low uncorrelated way build attractive risk-adjusted returns. We’re starting to see more activity there again too. I think with an alternatives, you’ve really seen a predominant demand coming from privates. These private markets, like a set of growths so extraordinarily fast and the opportunities that is rich, the reality too on the public side which is where our hedge funds operate, they continue to, in large part, do a really good job. The issue with our industry now with these 38,000 managers is how do you distill all the information? How do you think about your needs as a client and pick a manager who can deliver the outcomes? And just to give you a sense, the difference now between a top-performing private equity manager, a top quartile versus the bottom quartile, the difference can be measured in tens of percent. RITHOLTZ: Wow. CONWAY: Whereas if you look at the public equity side, for example, a large cap manager, top quartile versus bottom quartile is measured in hundreds of basis points. So, there is definitely a world that has started where the outcomes our clients will experience can be great as they pursue yield, as they pursue diversification, inflation protection, et cetera. I think the caveat that I would say is outcomes can vary greatly. So manager underwriting and the importance of it now, I think, really is this something to pay attention to because if you do have that bottom performing at the bottom quartile manager, it will affect your outcomes, obviously. And that’s what we collectively have to face. RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk a little bit about real estate. There are a couple of different areas of investment on the private side. Rent to own was a very large one and we’ve seen some lesser by the flip algo-driven approaches. Tell us what Blackrock is doing in the real estate space and how many different approaches are you bringing to bear on this? CONWAY: Yes, we think it’s both equity and debt. Again, no different to the infrastructure side, these projects need to be financed. But on the – as you think about the sectors in which you can avail of the opportunity, you’ve no doubt heard a lot and I mentioned earlier this demand for logistics facilities. The explosion of shopping online and having, until we obviously have the supply chain disruption, an ability to have nearly immediate satisfaction because the delivery of the good to your home has become so readily available. It’s a very different consumer experience. So the explosion and the need for logistics facilities to support this type of behavior of the consumer is really an area that will continue to be of great interest too. And then you think about the transformation of business and you think about the aging world. Unfortunately, you can look at various economies where our populations are decreasing. And quite frankly, we’re getting older. And so, were you’re thinking of the context of that senior living facilities, it becomes a really important part, not just as part of the healthcare solution that come with it, but also from living as well. So, single-family, multifamily, opportunities continue to be something that the world looks at because there is really the shortfall of available properties for people to live in. And as the communities evolve to support the growing age of the population, tremendous opportunity there too. But we won’t give up on office space. It really isn’t going away. Now, if you even think about our younger generation here in BlackRock, they love being in New York, they love being in London, they love being in Hong Kong. So, the shape and the footprint may change slightly. But the necessity to be in the major financial centers, it still exists. But how we weighed the risks has definitely changed, certainly, for the – for the short-term and medium-term future. But real estate continues to be, Barry, a critical part of how we express our thought around the investment opportunity set. But clients largely do this themselves too. The direct investing from the clients is quite significant because they too see this as still as a rich investment ground, albeit, one that has changed quite a bit as a result of COVID. RITHOLTZ: Well, I’m fascinated by the real estate issue especially having seen some massive construction take place in cities pre-pandemic, look over in Manhattan at Hudson Yards and look at what’s taking place in London, not just the center of London but all – but all around it and I’m forced to admit the future is going to look somewhat different than the past with some hybrid combination of collaborative work in the office and remote work from home when it’s convenient, that sort of suggests that we now have an excess of capacity in office space. Do you see it that way or is this just something that we’re going to grow into and just the nature of working in offices is changing but offices are not going away? CONWAY: Yes. I do think there’s – it’s a very valid point and that in certain cities, you will see access, in others we just don’t, Barry. And quite frankly, as a firm, too, as you know, we have adopted flexibility with our teams that were very fortunate. The technologies in which we created at BlackRock has just become such an amazing enabler, not just to help us as we mention manage the portfolios, help us a better portfolio construction, understand risks, but also to communicate with our clients. I think we’ve all witnessed and experienced a way to have connectivity that allows them to believe that commerce can exist beyond the boundaries of one building. However, I do look at our property portfolios and even the things that we’re doing. Rent collections still being extraordinarily high, occupancy now getting back up to pre-pandemic levels, not in all cities, but in many of the major ones that have reopened. And certainly, the demand for people to just socialize, that the demand for human connectivity is really high. It’s palpable, right? We see it here too. The smiles on people’s faces, they’re back in the office, conversing together, innovating together. When people were feeling unsafe, unquestionably, I think the question marks around the role of office space was really brought to bear. But as were coming through this, as you’ve seen vaccine rates change, as you’ve seen the infection rates fall, as you’ve seen confidence grow, the return to work is really happening and return to work to office work is really happening, albeit, now with degrees of flexibility. So, going back to the – I do believe in certain areas. You’re seeing a surplus. But in many areas you’re absolutely seeing a deficit and the reason I say that, Barry, is we are seeing occupancy in certain building at such a high level. And frankly, the demand for more space being so high, it’s uneven and this goes back to then where do you invest our client’s capital, making sense of those trends, predicting where you will see resilience versus stress and building that into the portfolio of consequences as you – as you better risk manage and mitigate. RITHOLTZ: Very interesting. And so, we are seeing this transition across a lot of different segments of investing, are you seeing any products that were or – or investing styles that was once thought of as primarily institutional that are sort of working their way towards the retail side of things? Meaning going from institutional to accredited to mom-and-pop investors? CONWAY: Well, certainly, in the past, private equity was really an asset class for institutional investors. And I think that’s – that has changed in a very profound way. I mentioned earlier are the regulation has become a more adaptive, but we also have heard, in many respects, in providing this access. And I think the perception of owning and be part of this illiquid investment opportunity set was hard to stomach because many didn’t understand the attributes and what it could bring and I think we’ve been trying to solve for that and what you’re seeing now with – with regulators, understanding that the difference between if we take it quite simply as DD versus DC, the differences between the options you as a participant in a retirement plan are so vastly different that – and I think there’s a broad recognition now that there needs to be more equity with regard to what happens there. And private equity been a really established part of the alternatives marketplace was once, I think, really believed to be an institutional asset class, but albeit now has become much more accessible to wealth. We’ve seen it by structuring activities in Europe working with the regulators. Now, we’re able to provide private equity exposure to clients across the continent and really getting access to what was historically very much an institutional asset class. And I do think the receptivity is extraordinarily high just throughout people’s careers, they have seen wealth been created as a result of engineering a great outcome with great management teams integrate business. And I do believe the receptivity towards private equity is high as an example. In the U.S., too, working with the various intermediaries and being able to wrap now private equity in a ’40 Act fund, for example, is possible. And by being able to deliver that to the many as opposed to the few, we think has been a very good success story. And I think, obviously, appreciated by our clients as well. So, I would look at that were seeing across private equity as well as private credit and quite frankly infrastructure accuracy. You’re seeing now regulation that’s becoming more appreciative of these asset classes, you’re seeing a more – a greater level of openness and willingness to allow for these assets to be part of many people’s experiences across their investment portfolio. And now, with innovation around structures, as an industry, were able to wrap these investments in a way that our clients can really access them. So, think across the board, it probably speaks the innovation that’s happening but I do think that accessibility has changed in a very significant way. But you’ve really seen it happen in private equity first and now that’s expanding across these various other asset classes. RITHOLTZ: Quite intriguing. I know I only have you for a relatively limited period of time, so let’s jump to our favorite questions that we ask all of our guests. Starting with tell us what you’ve been streaming these days. Give us your favorite Netflix or Amazon Prime shows. CONWAY: That is an interesting question, Barry. I don’t a hell of a lot of TV, I got to tell you. I am – I keep busy with three wonderful children and a beautiful wife and between the sports activities. When I do watch TV, I have to tell you I’m addicted to sports and having – I may have mentioned earlier, growing up playing rugby which is not the most common sport in the U.S., I stream nonstop the Six Nations that happens in Europe where Ireland is one of those six nations that compete against each other on an annual basis. Right now, they’re playing a lot of sites that are touring for the southern hemisphere. And to me, the free times I have is either enjoying golf or really enjoying rugby because I think it’s an extraordinary sport. Obviously, very physical, but very enjoyable to watch. And that, that truly is my passion outside of family. RITHOLTZ: Interesting stuff. Tell us a bit about your mentors, who helped to shape your early career? CONWAY: Well, it even goes back to some of the aspects of sports. Playing on a team and being on a field where you’re working together, there’s a strategy involved with that. Now, I used to really appreciate how we approach playing in the All-Ireland League. How we thought about our opponents, how we thought about the structure, how we thought about each individual with on the rugby field and the team having a role. They’re all different but your role. And actually, even starting from an early age, Barry, thinking about, I don’t know, it’s sports but how to build a great team with those various skills, perspective, that can be a really, really powerful combination when done well. And certainly, from an early age, that allowed me to appreciate that – actually, in the work environment, it’s not too different. You surround yourself with just really great people that have high integrity that are empathetic and have a degree of humility that when working together, good things can happen. And I will say, it really started at sports. But I think of today and even in BlackRock, how Larry Fink thinks about the world and I think Larry, truly, is a visionary. And then Rob Kapito who really helps lead the charge across our various businesses. Speaking and conversing with them on a daily basis, getting their perspectives, trying to get inside your head and thinking about the world from their vantage point. To me, it’s a huge thing about my ongoing personal career and development and I really enjoy those moments because I think what you recognize is independent of how much you think you know, there’s so much more to know. And this journey is an ever evolving one where you have to appreciate that you’ll never know everything and you need to be a student every single day. So, I’d probably cite those, Barry, as certainly the two most important mentors in my life today, professionally and personally quite frankly. RITHOLTZ: Really. Very interesting. Let’s talk about what you’re reading these days. Tell us about some of your favorite books and what you’re reading currently? CONWAY: Barry, what I love to read, I love to read history, believe it or not. From a very small country that seems to have exported many, many people, love to understand the history of Ireland. So, there’s so many books. And having three children that have been born in the U.S. and my wife is a New Yorker, trying to help them understand some of their history and what made them what they are. I love delving into Irish history and how the country had moments of greatness and moments of tremendous struggle. Outside of that, I really don’t enjoy science fiction or any of these books. I love reading, you name any paper and any magazine on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I wake at about 4:30, 5 o’clock every day. I spent my first two hours of the day just consuming as much information as possible. I enjoy it. But it’s all – it’s really investment-related magazines, not books. It’s every paper that you could possibly imagine, Barry, and I just – I have a great appreciation for certainly trying to be a student of the world because that’s what we’re operating in an I find it just a very interesting avenue to get an appreciation to for the, not just the opportunities, but the challenges we’re collectively facing as a society but also as a business. RITHOLTZ: I’m with you on that mass consumption of investing-related news. It sounds like you and I have the same a morning routine. Let’s talk about of what sort of advice you would give to a recent college graduate who was interested in a career of alternative investments? CONWAY: Well, the industry has – it’s just gone through such extraordinary growth and the difference, when I’ve started versus today, the career opportunity set has changed so much. And I think I try to remind anyone of our analysts who come into each one of our annual classes, right, as we bring in the new recruits. I think about how talented they are for us, Barry, and how privileged we all are to be in this industry and work for the clients that we do. It’s just such an honor to do that. But I kind of – I try to remind them of that. At the end of the day, whether you’re supporting an institution, that institution is the face of many people in the background and alternatives has really now become such an important part of their experience and we talked about earlier just this challenge of retirement, if we do a good job, these institutions that support the many, they can have, hopefully, a retirement that involves dignity and they can have an ability to do things they so wanted to do as they work so hard over their lives. Getting that that personal connection and allowing for those newbies to understand that that’s the effect that you can have, an alternatives whether it’s private equity, real estate, infrastructure, private credit, hedge funds, all of these now, with the scale at which they’re operating at can allow for a great career. But my advice to them is always don’t forget your career is supporting other people. And that comes directly to how we intersect with wealth channel, it comes indirectly as a result of the institutions. And it’s such a privilege to do that. I didn’t envision when I grew up, as I mentioned, my first job, milking cows and back in a small town in the middle of Ireland that I would be one day leading an alternatives business within BlackRock. I see that as a great privilege. So, for those who are joining afresh, hopefully, try to remind them that it is for all of us and show up with empathy, dignity, compassion, and do the best you can, and hopefully, these people be sure will serve them well. RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what you know about the world of alternative investing today you wish you knew 25 years or so ago when you were first getting started? CONWAY: I think if we had invested much more heavily as an industry in technology, we would not be in the position we are today. And I say that, Barry, from a number of aspects. I mentioned in this shortfall of information our clients are dealing with today. They’re making choices to divest from one asset class to invest in another. To do that and do that effectively, they need great transparency, they needed real-time in many respects, it can’t be just a quarterly line basis. And if we had been better prepared as an industry to provide the technology and the data to help our clients really appreciate what it is they own, how we’re managing the assets on their behalf, I think they would be so much better served. I think we’re very fortunate at this firm to have built a business on the back of technology for albeit 30 plus years and were investing over $1 billion a year in technology as I’m sure you know. But we need to see more of that in the industry. So, the client experience is so important, stop, let’s demystify alternatives. It’s not that alternative. Let’s provide education and data and it’s become so large relative to other asset classes, the need to support, to educate, and transmit information, not data, information, so our client understand it, is at a paramount now. And I think it certainly as an industry, things have to change there. If I knew how big the growth would have been and how prominent these asset classes were becoming, I would oppose so much harder on that front 30 years ago. RITHOLTZ: Thank you, Edwin, for being so generous with your time. We’ve been speaking with Edwin Conway. He is the head of Blackrock Investor Alternatives Group. If you enjoy this conversation, please check out all of our prior discussions. You can find those at iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcast at. We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at MIB podcast@Bloomberg.net. You can sign up for my daily reads at ritholtz.com. Check out my weekly column at Bloomberg.com/opinion. Follow me on Twitter, @ritholtz. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack team that helps put these conversations together each week. Mohammed ph is my audio engineer. Paris Wald is my producer, Michael Batnick is my head of research, Atika Valbrun is our project manager. I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.   ~~~   The post Transcript: Edwin Conway appeared first on The Big Picture......»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureNov 22nd, 2021

Margin account: A brokerage account that allows investors to borrow money to buy securities

Margin accounts let you easily borrow against your investment account. But it can be a risky move where you end up owing money. Margin accounts have a maintenance requirement, which is how much equity you need to have in your margin account. insta_photos/Getty A margin account is a type of brokerage account that allows you to borrow against the assets in your account. Borrowing the assets in your account is known as a margin loan and may have a lower interest rate than unsecured loans. If the equity in your margin account drops too low, the brokerage could sell your investments without warning. Visit Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories. When you open a brokerage account, you might have the option to open a cash account or margin account. Both types of accounts let you buy and sell stocks and other investments. But margin accounts also let you borrow money against the assets in your account.These loans can be tempting, particularly when they offer a low interest rate and don't require a credit check. However, you want to understand all the risks you may take on if you accept a margin loan. How do margin accounts work?A margin account is a brokerage account that gives you the option to use your account as collateral to borrow money. "Think of it as an investment account with a line of credit attached to it," says Brent Weiss, a Certified Financial Planner and co-founder of Facet Wealth. "Similar to how a home can have a home equity line of credit."You may be set up with a margin account by default, or switch from a cash account to a margin account if you've at least met the margin account's minimum balance requirement. Once you set up a margin account, your account's balance may determine how much you can borrow. However, some investments, such as stocks that trade over-the-counter (OTC) rather than on an exchange, might not be marginable - meaning you can't borrow against them. "As long as you have sufficient taxable investments, margin loans can provide an easy way to access cash at low interest rates," says Weiss. "Some investors want to increase their purchasing power and even speculate on certain investments, and a margin loan is a simple way to do this, but they need to be aware of the added risk associated with such a decision."How much do margin loans cost? Margin account loans are a little different from a loan or line of credit from other lenders. And, in some situations, it might be much easier and less expensive than other loan options. "It is free to set up a margin loan, which is not the case when you take out a mortgage, where you have loan fees, sometimes have to pay points, and often have to pay for an appraisal of the house," says Erin Scannell, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial. "None of these costs exist with a margin loan."Margin loans also generally don't require a credit check or upfront fees, and they may have lower interest rates than credit cards or unsecured personal loans. However, the rates are often variable - based on a broker's base rate, plus a margin rate that depends on your outstanding balance. There also isn't a set repayment period with margin loans, and some borrowers will wait to pay off the loan until they sell the assets that they bought using the money. However, interest will continue to accrue while the loan is outstanding. What are the pros and cons of a margin account? ProsEasy to qualify. Loan limits may be determined by the balance of your marginable assets rather than your creditworthiness. Fast funding. There won't be a big application process once your margin account is open. "If an emergency arises, you can often get money within 72 hours," says Scannell. Low rates compared to unsecured loans. Because they're secured loans, you may receive a lower interest rate than you would with other common types of credit accounts. Increase potential returns. Buying investments with borrowed money can increase your overall returns. Avoid having to sell when markets are down. Long-term investors whose investments aren't performing well, but who need cash, might not want to sell while markets are down.Postpone taxable events. "Borrowing against your investments can help you avoid selling an asset and creating a taxable event," points out Weiss. If you sold your investments for a gain, you may have to pay capital gains taxes on your profits. ConsIncreased risk. There's a risk you won't be able to repay the loan, especially if your investments (or the investments you buy with the loan) drop. You could even wind up losing more than you originally invested. You may be forced to sell your investments. "If the loan balance exceeds a certain threshold, the custodian can either force an account owner to deposit more funds or sell their investments to cover the loan," warns Weiss. If this happens, you might not have a say in when or which investments are sold. Interest accrues and rates may change. Interest will continue to accrue on your loan while it's outstanding and the rate may change at any time. The debt could be sent to collections. If your assets can't cover your debt and you don't repay the loan, it could be sent to collections (which could hurt your credit). You might even be sued and have your wages or bank account garnished. What is a margin call?Margin accounts have a "maintenance requirement," which is how much equity you need to have in your margin account. At a minimum, you may need at least 50% equity when you take out a margin loan and an ongoing 25% equity based on your account's current value. Although some brokers' "house rules" may require a higher maintenance level. "If the loan balance exceeds this limit due to borrowing too much or the investments performing poorly, the custodian can require that the account owner provide additional funds to cover the shortfall - also called a margin call," explains Weiss.There are different types of margin calls, but as a simple example, say you have an margin account with $10,000 invested in securities and take out a margin loan for $5,000. If your account's total value drops to $7,500, you have only 25% equity ($7,500 minus the $5,000 loan is $2,500). There could be a margin call if the account drops lower.Quick tip: The same maintenance and margin call rules can apply regardless of how you use the loan. Even if you don't invest the money, you could be subject to a margin call if the assets you're using as collateral drop in value."At this point, the account owner can either deposit cash to the account or sell an investment to pay down the loan," says Weiss. "If the margin call is not satisfied in a timely manner, the custodian can force a sale in the account without notifying the account owner."An example of investing on marginInvestors who use margin loans often reinvest the funds. By doing so, they can use leverage (i.e., debt) to increase their potential earnings. But they're also taking on more risk. "It always seems like a good idea when markets are going up," says Weiss. "But this can change quickly, and margin loans introduce a lot of risk, amplify losses very quickly, and create a very undesirable financial outcome."Let's see an example of how the returns can change when you buy 100 shares of a stock that's trading at $100 - a $10,000 investment - with your own money. Then we'll compare it to making the same investment, plus buying additional shares with a margin loan. ScenarioYou sell after the price increases to $125You sell after the price increases to $75Invest $10,000 on your ownYou make $2,500$125 x 100 = $12,500You lose $2,500$75 x 100 = $7,500Invest $20,000, including a $10,000 margin loanYou make $5,000$125 x 200 = $25,000$25,000 - $10,000 = $15,000You lose $5,000$75 x 200 = $15,000$15,000 - $10,000 = $5,000 Margin accounts vs. cash accounts Cash accounts and margin accounts are two types of brokerage accounts, and you can use either one to trade securities. Even if you have a margin account, you don't need to take out a margin loan. Margin accountCash accountMay require a $2,000 initial balanceHas a line of credit you can borrow againstThe brokerage may force you to sell investments if there's a margin call Some brokers don't have a minimum balance You can invest only the money you've put into the account or earnedThe brokerage can't force you to sell investments The financial takeawayMargin accounts let you use the money in your brokerage accounts as collateral for a line of credit. It can be relatively easy and quick to take out a margin loan, and the loan may have a lower interest rate than popular unsecured credit accounts.However, using margin loans to invest can heighten your returns and losses. And you'll be at the whim of the market and your brokerage. If your account's value drops, you may only have a few days to add cash to your account or pay down part of your margin loan. Otherwise, the brokerage may sell your investments - potentially at a less-than-ideal time. "When used as part of an overall plan, they can be useful tools, but they should always be considered as just one facet of a much bigger financial picture," says Weiss. "Exercise a great deal of caution if you are considering using a margin loan to purchase additional investments."Stock trading: How to get started for beginnersIs Robinhood safe? Experts weigh in on using the commission-free investing appBorrowing from your 401(k) plan can be helpful in accessing funds when you need it - here's what to knowThe key differences between a money market account and a money market fund, and how they each serve different financial needsRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 11th, 2021

Polkadot’s Parachain Auction Schedule Has Been Unveiled: Here Are 5 Projects That Stand Out

Following the success of two installments of the Kusama parachain slot auctions, where more than $1 billion worth of KSM tokens have been contributed and locked by the global community, Polkadot has revealed their plans to roll out the highly-anticipated parachain slot auctions. Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Polkadot’s Parachain Slot Auctions […] Following the success of two installments of the Kusama parachain slot auctions, where more than $1 billion worth of KSM tokens have been contributed and locked by the global community, Polkadot has revealed their plans to roll out the highly-anticipated parachain slot auctions. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get Our Activist Investing Case Study! Get the entire 10-part series on our in-depth study on activist investing in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or print it out to read anywhere! Sign up below! (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Polkadot's Parachain Slot Auctions With all winning projects on Kusama currently in their respective phases of the five-phase rollout process, the Polkadot team spearheaded by Gavin Wood has announced that Polkadot parachain slot auctions will most likely start on November 11, 2021, and continue until March 2022. Per the Proposal for First Parachain Auctions on Polkadot, the blockchain intends to follow the same pattern for Polkadot auctions as Kusama, with one auction taking place every two weeks for a total of 11 auctions over two batches. Polkadot’s parachains are individual layer-1 blockchains that can run in parallel and share data, thus offering a truly multi-chain and fully interoperable ecosystem where other layer-1 chains like Bitcoin and Ethereum can connect seamlessly. Polkadot will only support a limited number of parachains, which is why there’s so much at stake. Following the announcement, Polkadot’s native token DOT shot through the roof, reaching $45 for the first time in five months, foreshadowing the intense competition approaching for the limited slots. While several promising projects are bidding for the slots, it is essential to note that all of the projects that won slots in the recent Kusama auctions had extensive community support. Accordingly, there is a higher possibility that these projects will have a competitive edge over others in the upcoming Polkadot parachain slot auctions. Frontrunners In The First Batch Of Polkadot Auctions Manta Network The first project that we want to talk about is Manta Network. DeFi is witnessing explosive growth, which has increased the need for better privacy features. Manta Network, the privacy-preserving DeFi stack built on Polkadot, addresses this need via its plug-and-play protocols based on Substrate frameworks. By using zk-SNARK, Manta Network ensures end-to-end anonymity, high throughput, and high cross-chain interoperability. Manta Network is backed by prominent investors like Polychain Capital, CoinFund, ParaFi Capital, Spartan Group, CMS Holdings, and LongHash Ventures. Other than institutional backing, Manta Network’s sister network Calamari Network has also received significant community support. Per reports, over 16,000 contributors locked 218,246.6461 KSM tokens through the Calamari crowdloan initiative, helping the project secure the seventh slot in the Kusama parachain slot auctions. KILT Protocol The next project on our list is destined to revolutionize Web 3.0. Amidst the surging demand for decentralized solutions that offer data privacy and data protection, KILT Protocol has established itself as an open-source blockchain protocol for issuing self-sovereign, anonymous and verifiable credentials. In contrast to existing peer-to-peer solutions, KILT features self-sovereign data and revocable credentials that employ blockchain technology. KILT has received tremendous support from the community, as 12,211 community members contributed and locked more than 220,000 KSM to help the platform win the sixth round of the Kusama parachain slot auctions. As KILT continues to roll out new functionalities on Kusama, the platform has emerged as the most preferred solution for decentralized identities and verifiable credentials for all projects within the Polkadot ecosystem. Moonbeam Network Next up on our list is a project that is currently dominating the Polkadot DeFi ecosystem. Moonbeam Network, an Ethereum-compatible smart contract platform built on Polkadot, has massive plans for both itself and Polkadot. By enabling Solidity smart contracts on Polkadot and ensuring full EVM compatibility, developers using Moonbeam can migrate their Ethereum-based dApps without any code changes, allowing them to leverage Polkadot’s high throughput, low cost, scalability, and unmatched interoperability. Backed by more than 10,000 community members who locked in 205,935 KSM for the Kusama auctions, Moonbeam’s sister network Moonriver is currently live on Kusama. Several promising decentralized projects across many sectors have already started using Moonriver for their products and solutions, helping the platform cross $106 million in total value locked (TVL). Moonriver currently supports automated market makers, liquidity protocols, assets/issuance platforms, NFT platforms, DeFi products, oracles, bridges, blockchain-based games, and crypto betting apps. Centrifuge Centrifuge is another powerful project to look out for, as it brings real-world liquidity to DeFi, helping the growing sector tap into a multi-billion dollar industry. By connecting lenders and borrowers transparently and cost-effectively, Centrifuge unlocks economic opportunity for all, free of intermediaries and the inefficiencies of traditional finance. Using Centrifuge’s decentralized asset financing protocol, anyone can tokenize their real-world assets (invoices, royalties, real estate, etc.) and use it as collateral to access financing via Tinlake, Centrifuge’s asset-backed lending dApp. The project is backed by prominent investors like Fenbushi, IOSG, Fintech Collective, Crane Venture Partners, Moonwhale, and others. Additionally, Centrifuge’s sister network Altair has also received significant community support that helped it win the ninth round of the Kusama auctions. According to reports, 18,342 community members locked more than 187,000 KSM to help Centrifuge secure the slot for Altair. Acala Acala is another exciting project to look out for. As the first winner of the Kusama parachain slot auctions, Acala’s sister network Karura has received tremendous support from the community, increasing Acala’s chances to secure a slot in the first batch of auctions. A total of 20,779 community members contributed 501,137.66 KSM to help Karura win the first-ever parachain slot rather convincingly. Dubbed as the DeFi and liquidity hub for Polkadot, Acala is a layer-1 smart contract platform offering full compatibility with Ethereum alongside out-of-the-box cross-chain capabilities and robust security. The Acala network will also offer a suite of financial applications, including a trustless staking derivative (liquid DOT and liquid KSM), an AMM DEX, and a multi-collateralized stablecoin backed by cross-chain assets (aUSD) to accelerate DeFi growth on Polkadot.   Updated on Nov 8, 2021, 11:15 am (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: valuewalkNov 8th, 2021

CARS Reports Third Quarter 2021 Results

CHICAGO, Nov. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Cars.com Inc. (NYSE:CARS) ("CARS" or the "Company"), a leading automotive marketplace platform that provides a robust set of industry-specific digital solutions, today released its financial results for the quarter ended September 30, 2021. Q3 2021 Financial and Key Metric Highlights Revenue of $156.6 million, up $12.2 million, or 8% year-over-year Net income of $2.4 million, or $0.03 per diluted share Adjusted EBITDA of $45.8 million, or 29% of Revenue Year-to-Date Net cash provided by operating activities of $116.2 million, up 20% year-over-year, with Free Cash Flow of $98.3 million, up 17% year-over-year Average Monthly Unique Visitors ("UVs") of 24.3 million, down 4% year-over-year Traffic of 142.4 million, down 10% year-over-year Monthly Average Revenue Per Dealer ("ARPD") of $2,332, up 7% from $2,183 in the prior-year period Dealer Customers of 19,029 as of September 30, 2021, up 184 compared to 18,845 as of June 30, 2021, and up 899, or 5%, compared to September 30, 2020 Operational Highlights Acquired CreditIQ, which is expected to close shortly, enabling the Company to enter the multi-billion-dollar auto finance market; Cars.com's 142.4 million visits, coupled with 247.5 million visits across 5,200 Dealer Inspire websites, will power CreditIQ's auto finance technology and create a new, lender-based revenue source Paid down $32.5 million of debt, bringing total debt repayments to $107.5 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2021, and will use $30.0 million of cash on hand to fund upfront consideration for the acquisition of CreditIQ, demonstrating the Company's continued strength in Free Cash Flow and focus on maintaining a strong balance sheet "Revenue continues on a consistent growth trajectory, driven by growth in ARPD from accelerating adoption of our industry-leading digital solutions, new dealer growth and record retention levels," stated Alex Vetter, President and Chief Executive Officer of CARS. "Our acquisition of CreditIQ will further strengthen the capabilities of our platform as we enter into a new and growing market, where the advantages of our category-leading brand and dealer network strengths are significant differentiators." Q3 2021 Results Revenue for the third quarter totaled $156.6 million, an increase of $12.2 million, or 8%, compared to the third quarter of 2020. Dealer revenue grew 12% year-over-year, driven by 7% growth in ARPD primarily related to continued penetration of the Company's FUEL and digital solutions products and 5% growth in dealer customers. OEM and national revenue declined 14% year-over-year due to pullbacks in OEM spending associated with fewer new model releases and continued inventory shortages, both resulting from supply-chain disruptions. Total operating expenses were $144.5 million in the third quarter of 2021, compared to $125.3 million for the prior-year period. Adjusted Operating Expenses for the third quarter were $136.4 million in the third quarter of 2021, an increase of $15.6 million compared to the prior-year period. The third quarter of 2020 reflects the Company's continued effective management of expenses, driven by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; as a result, operating expenses were lower than those in the Company's typical operating environment. The year-over-year increases were due to higher marketing expense as the Company returned to a more typical spending environment, as well as increased compensation and higher Product and Technology expense related to continued investments to accelerate growth in the business. GAAP net income was $2.4 million, or $0.03 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2021, compared to GAAP net loss of $12.3 million, or $(0.18) per diluted share, in the same period of the prior year. Adjusted EBITDA was $45.8 million, or 29% of revenue, in the third quarter of 2021, compared to $49.0 million, or 34% of revenue, for the same period of the prior year. The Company remains focused on driving high-quality traffic and leads while continuing to optimize marketing investments. Due to the record high traffic in the third quarter of 2020 in the midst of COVID-related restrictions, the Company experienced a decline in UVs and Traffic of 4% and 10%, respectively, year-over-year for the three months ended September 30, 2021. In addition, the Company experienced certain short-term negative impacts to UVs and Traffic in connection with the completion of the Technology Transformation. Compared to 2019, UVs were up 5% and Traffic was down 1%. Organic traffic remains strong at 68% of Traffic for the third quarter of 2021. For the third quarter of 2021, ARPD was $2,332, up 7% year-over-year and up 1%, compared to the second quarter of 2021, driven by continued growth in dealer solutions. Dealer Customers totaled 19,029 at the end of the third quarter, up 899, or 5%, compared to the prior year period and up 184, or 1%, compared to June 30, 2021, supported by continued record retention rates and new sales. Cash Flow and Balance Sheet Net cash provided by operating activities for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2021 was $116.2 million, up 20%, compared to $96.9 million in the same period of the prior year. Free Cash Flow for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 totaled $98.3 million, up 17%, compared to $84.3 million in the same period of the prior year. The Company made $32.5 million in debt payments during the third quarter, reducing total debt outstanding to $490.0 million as of September 30, 2021. In the first nine months of 2021, the Company repaid $107.5 million of its outstanding debt, of which $100.0 million were voluntary prepayments. The Company's total net leverage ratio as of September 30, 2021 improved to 2.3x, compared to 3.8x as of September 30, 2020. Total liquidity was $281.5 million, including cash and cash equivalents of $51.5 million and $230.0 million of revolver capacity, as of September 30, 2021. "Our business continues to generate significant cash flow, and the consistent paydown of debt this year has strengthened our balance sheet, giving us substantial flexibility to continue to make organic and inorganic investments like CreditIQ," stated Sonia Jain, Chief Financial Officer of CARS. Outlook For the fourth quarter of 2021, the Company expects Revenue of approximately $157.5 million to $159.5 million, and Adjusted EBITDA margins of approximately 28.5% to 30.5%. Guidance reflects the Company's expectation of continued growth, reflective of the strength of the business model and incorporates potential implications of the auto inventory shortage continuing in the fourth quarter and continued investments in marketing to support its brand and in technology to drive innovation. Q3 Earnings Call As previously announced, management will hold a conference call and webcast today at 9:00 a.m. CT. This webcast may be accessed at investor.cars.com. A replay of the webcast will be available at this website following the conclusion of the call until November 18, 2021. About CARS CARS is a leading automotive marketplace platform that provides a robust set of industry-specific digital solutions that connect car shoppers with sellers. Launched in 1998 with the flagship marketplace Cars.com and headquartered in Chicago, the Company empowers shoppers with the data, resources and digital tools needed to make informed buying decisions and seamlessly connect with automotive retailers. In a rapidly changing market, CARS enables dealerships and OEMs with innovative technical solutions and data-driven intelligence to better reach and influence ready-to-buy shoppers, increase inventory turn and gain market share. In addition to Cars.com, CARS brands include Dealer Inspire, a technology provider building solutions that future-proof dealerships with more efficient operations and connected digital experiences; FUEL, which gives dealers and OEMs the opportunity to harness the untapped power of digital video by leveraging Cars.com's pure audience of in-market car shoppers, and DealerRater, a leading car dealer review and reputation management platform. The full suite of CARS properties includes Cars.com™, Dealer Inspire®, FUEL™, DealerRater®, Auto.com™, PickupTrucks.com™ and NewCars.com®. For more information, visit www.Cars.com. Non-GAAP Financial Measures This earnings release discusses Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA margin, Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Operating Expenses. These financial measures are not prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States ("GAAP"). These financial measures are presented as supplemental measures of operating performance because the Company believes they provide meaningful information regarding the Company's performance and provide a basis to compare operating results between periods. In addition, the Company uses Adjusted EBITDA as a measure for determining incentive compensation targets. Adjusted EBITDA also is used as a performance measure under the Company's credit agreement and includes adjustments such as the items defined below and other further adjustments, which are defined in the credit agreement. These non-GAAP financial measures are frequently used by the Company's lenders, securities analysts, investors and other interested parties to evaluate companies in the Company's industry. For a reconciliation of the non-GAAP measures presented in this earnings release to their most directly comparable financial measure prepared in accordance with GAAP, see "Non-GAAP Reconciliations" below. Other companies may define or calculate these measures differently, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures. Because of these limitations, non-GAAP financial measures should not be considered in isolation or as substitutes for performance measures calculated in accordance with GAAP. Definitions of these non-GAAP financial measures and reconciliations to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures are presented in the tables below. The Company defines Adjusted EBITDA as net income (loss) before (1) interest expense, net, (2) income tax (benefit) expense, (3) depreciation, (4) amortization of intangible assets, (5) stock-based compensation expense, (6) unrealized mark-to-market adjustments and cash transactions related to derivative instruments, and (7) certain other items, such as transaction-related costs, severance, transformation and other exit costs and write-off and impairments of goodwill, intangible assets and other long-lived assets. Transaction-related costs are certain expense items resulting from actual or potential transactions such as business combinations, mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, spin-offs, financing transactions, and other strategic transactions, including, without limitation, (1) transaction-related bonuses and (2) expenses for advisors and representatives such as investment bankers, consultants, attorneys and accounting firms. Transaction-related costs may also include, without limitation, transition and integration costs such as retention bonuses and acquisition-related milestone payments to acquired employees, in addition to consulting, compensation and other incremental costs associated with integration projects. The Company defines Free Cash Flow as net cash provided by operating activities less capital expenditures, including purchases of property and equipment and capitalization of internal-use software and website development costs. The Company defines Adjusted Operating Expenses as total operating expenses adjusted to exclude stock-based compensation, write-off and impairments of goodwill, intangible assets, long-lived assets, severance, transformation and other exit costs and transaction-related costs. Key Metric Definitions Traffic. Traffic is fundamental to the Company's business. Traffic to the CARS network of websites and mobile apps provides value to the Company's advertisers in terms of audience, awareness, consideration and conversion. In addition to tracking traffic volume and sources, the Company monitors activity on its properties, allowing the Company to innovate and refine its consumer-facing offerings. Traffic is defined as the number of visits to CARS desktop and mobile properties (responsive sites and mobile apps), measured using Adobe Analytics. Traffic does not include traffic to Dealer Inspire websites. Traffic provides an indication of the Company's consumer reach. Although the Company's consumer reach does not directly result in revenue, the Company believes its ability to reach in-market car shoppers is attractive to its dealer customers and national advertisers. Average Monthly Unique Visitors ("UVs"). Growth in unique visitors and consumer traffic to the Company's network of websites and mobile apps increases the number of impressions, clicks, leads and other events it can monetize to generate revenue. The Company defines UVs in a given month as the number of distinct visitors that engage with its platform during that month. Visitors are identified when a user first visits an individual CARS property on an individual device/browser combination or installs one of its mobile apps on an individual device. If a visitor accesses more than one of the Company's web properties or apps or uses more than one device or browser, each of those unique property/browser/app/device combinations counts toward the number of UVs. UVs do not include Dealer Inspire UVs. The Company measures UVs using Adobe Analytics. Dealer Customers. Dealer Customers represent dealerships using the Company's products as of the end of each reporting period. Each physical or virtual dealership location is counted separately, whether it is a single-location proprietorship or part of a large, consolidated dealer group. Multi-franchise dealerships at a single location are counted as one dealer. Average Revenue Per Dealer ("ARPD"). The Company believes that its ability to grow ARPD is an indicator of the value proposition of its platform. The Company defines ARPD as Dealer revenue, excluding digital advertising services, during the period divided by the monthly average number of Dealer Customers during the same period. Forward-Looking Statements This press release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the federal securities laws. All statements other than statements of historical facts are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements include information concerning the Company's industry, Dealer Customers, results of operations, business strategies, plans and objectives, market potential, outlook, trends, future financial performance, planned operational and product improvements, potential strategic transactions, including the proposed acquisition of CreditIQ, liquidity, including draws from its revolving credit facility, expense management and other matters and involve known and unknown risks that are difficult to predict. As a result, the Company's actual financial results, performance, achievements, strategic actions or prospects may differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These statements often include words such as "believe," "expect," "project," "anticipate," "outlook," "intend," "strategy," "plan," "estimate," "target," "seek," "will," "may," "would," "should," "could," "forecasts," "mission," "strive," "more," "goal" or similar expressions. Forward-looking statements are based on the Company's current expectations, beliefs, strategies, estimates, projections and assumptions, based on its experience in the industry as well as the Company's perceptions of historical trends, current conditions, expected future developments, current developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors the Company thinks are appropriate. Such forward-looking statements are necessarily based upon estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable by the Company and its management based on their knowledge and understanding of the business and industry, are inherently uncertain. These statements are expressed in good faith and the Company believes these judgments are reasonable. However, you should understand that these statements are not guarantees of strategic action, performance or results. The Company's actual results and strategic actions could differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements. Given these uncertainties, forward-looking statements should not be relied on in making investment decisions. Comparisons of results between current and prior periods are not intended to express any future trends, or indications of future performance, unless expressed as such, and should only be viewed as historical data. Whether or not any such forward-looking statement is in fact achieved will depend on future events, some of which are beyond the Company's control. Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and other important factors, many of which are beyond the Company's control, that could cause its actual results and strategic actions to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements contained in this press release. For a detailed discussion of many of these and other risks and uncertainties, see the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K, its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, its Current Reports on Form 8-K and its other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, available on the Company's website at investor.cars.com or via EDGAR at www.sec.gov. All forward-looking statements contained in this press release are qualified by these cautionary statements. You should evaluate all forward-looking statements made in this press release in the context of these risks and uncertainties. The forward-looking statements contained in this press release are based only on information currently available to the Company and speak only as of the date of this press release. The Company undertakes no obligation, other than as may be required by law, to update or revise any forward-looking or cautionary statements to reflect changes in assumptions, the occurrence of events, unanticipated or otherwise, or changes in future operating results over time or otherwise. The forward-looking statements in this report are intended to be subject to the safe harbor protection provided by the federal securities laws. CARS Investor Relations Contact:Robbin Moore-Randolphrmoorerandolph@cars.com312.601.5929 CARS Media Contact:Marita Thomasmthomas@cars.com 312.601.5692   Cars.com Inc. Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss) (In thousands, except per share data) (Unaudited) Three Months Ended September 30, Nine Months Ended September 30, 2021 2020 2021 2020 Revenue:   Dealer $139,321 $123,955 $409,145 $   332,558   OEM and National 15,273 17,753 49,671 53,167   Other  1,959 2,684 6,562 8,770        Total revenue 156,553 144,392 465,378 394,495 Operating expenses:   Cost of revenue and operations 28,928 25,434 84,978 74,376   Product and technology 20,132 15,455 56,326 42,359   Marketing and sales.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaNov 4th, 2021

goeasy Ltd. Reports Record Results for the Third Quarter

Loan Portfolio of $1.90 billion, up 60%Revenue of $220 million, up 36%Adjusted Operating Income of $85.8 million, up 51%Adjusted Quarterly Net Income of $46.7 million, up 48%Adjusted Quarterly Diluted Earnings per Share of $2.70, up 35% MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, Nov. 03, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- goeasy Ltd. (TSX:GSY), ("goeasy" or the "Company"), one of Canada's leading non-prime consumer lenders, today reported results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2021.        Third Quarter Results During the quarter, the Company generated a record $436 million in total loan originations, up 52% compared to the $287 million produced in the third quarter of 2020, and a sequential increase of 15% from the $379 million in loan originations in the second quarter of 2021. The increase in loan originations led to record organic growth in the loan portfolio of $101 million during the quarter, resulting in a total gross consumer loan receivable portfolio of $1.90 billion, up 60% from $1.18 billion in the third quarter of 2020. The growth in consumer loans led to an increase in revenue, which was a record $220 million in the quarter, up 36% over the third quarter in 2020. During the quarter, the Company continued to experience stable credit and payment performance. The net charge off rate for the third quarter was 8.3%, compared to 7.8% in the third quarter of 2020 and 8.2% in the second quarter of 2021. The overall allowance for future credit losses reduced slightly from 7.90% in the prior quarter to 7.83%. Operating income for the third quarter of 2021 was a record $81.4 million, up 43% from $56.9 million in the third quarter of 2020. Operating margin for the third quarter was 37.0%, up from 35.2% in the prior year. After adjusting for items related to the recent acquisition of LendCare Holdings Inc. ("LendCare"), the Company reported record adjusted operating income of $85.8 million, up $28.9 million or an increase of 51% compared to the third quarter of 2020. Adjusted operating margin for the third quarter was 39.1%, up from 35.2% in the prior year. During the quarter, the Company also recorded a $23.2 million before-tax fair value gain on investments. Net income in the third quarter was $63.5 million, compared to $33.1 million in the same period of 2020, which resulted in diluted earnings per share of $3.66, compared to $2.09 in the third quarter of 2020. After adjusting for non-recurring and unusual items on an after-tax basis, including $1.0 million of transaction and integration costs related to the acquisition of LendCare, $2.4 million in amortization of acquired intangible assets, and a $20.1 million fair value gain on investments, adjusted net income was a record $46.7 million, up 48% from $31.6 million in 2020. Adjusted diluted earnings per share was a record $2.70, up 35% from $2.00 in the third quarter of 2020. Return on equity during the quarter was 32.7%, compared to 34.7% in the third quarter of 2020. After adjusting for the non-recurring and unusual items previously noted, adjusted return on equity was 24.0% in the quarter, compared to 33.1% in the same period of 2020. "During the quarter we made significant progress on the integration of LendCare, which is on track to produce the synergies and accretion forecast during our acquisition," said Jason Mullins, goeasy's President and Chief Executive Officer, "With consumer demand for credit improving, complemented by the expansion of our auto lending program and point-of-sale channel, we grew the consumer loan portfolio a record $101 million during the quarter, more than double the same quarter last year. Meanwhile, the stable credit performance and improved operating leverage, led to record adjusted diluted earnings per share of $2.70," Mr. Mullins concluded, "With our fully drawn weighted average cost of borrowing declining to 4.3% and total liquidity now exceeding $900 million, our balance sheet is stronger than ever and we remain on track to achieving our forecast for 2021 and beyond." Other Key Third Quarter Highlights easyfinancial Revenue of $182 million, up 45% 33% of the loan portfolio secured, up from 12% 66% of net loan advances in the quarter were issued to new customers, up from 50% 41% of applications acquired online, up from 38% 25% of new loans issued through point-of-sale financing, up from 18% 4% of new loans issued auto financing, a new product category in 2021 Average loan book per branch improved to $4.0 million, an increase of 6% Weighted average interest yield of 33.6%, down from 38.3% Record operating income of $90.6 million, up 42% Operating margin of 49.7%, down from 50.7% easyhome Record revenue of $37.6 million, up 5% Same store revenue growth of 5.6% Consumer loan portfolio within easyhome stores increased to $61.8 million, up 38% Revenue from consumer lending increased to $7.9 million, up 43% Record operating income of $10.1 million, up 28% Record operating margin of 26.7%, up from 21.9% Overall 46th consecutive quarter of same store sales growth 81st consecutive quarter of positive net income 2021 marks the 17th consecutive year of paying dividends and the 7th consecutive year of a dividend increase Total same store revenue growth of 15.4% Adjusted return on equity of 24.0% in the quarter and adjusted return on tangible common equity of 42.9% Fully drawn weighted average cost of borrowing reduced to 4.3%, down from 5.0% Net external debt to net capitalization of 62% on September 30, 2021, down from 66% in the prior year and below the Company's target leverage ratio of 70% Nine Months Results For the first nine months of 2021, the Company produced record revenues of $592 million, up 24% compared with $480 million in the same period of 2020. Operating income for the period was $201 million compared with $155 million in the first nine months of 2020, an increase of $46.2 million or 30%. Net income for the first nine months of 2021 was $195 million and diluted earnings per share was $11.75 compared with $87.6 million or $5.64 per share, increases of 123% and 108%, respectively. Excluding the effects of the adjusting items related to the acquisition of LendCare and fair value gains on investments, adjusted net income for the first nine months of 2021 was $127 million and adjusted diluted earnings per share was $7.66, increases of 54% and 44%, respectively, while adjusted return on equity was 26.6%. Balance Sheet and Liquidity Total assets were $2.47 billion as of September 30, 2021, an increase of 81% from $1.37 billion as of September 30, 2020, driven by growth in the consumer loan portfolio, including the $445 million gross consumer loan portfolio acquired through the acquisition of LendCare, the intangible assets and goodwill arising from the LendCare acquisition, and the return on the Company's investment in Affirm Holdings Inc. ("Affirm"). In September 2021, the Company entered into a 9-month total return swap agreement (the "TRS") to partially hedge its market exposure related to 100,000 of the 468,000 contingent shares related to the equity held in Affirm. The TRS effectively results in the economic value of the hedged portion of the Company's contingent equity in Affirm being settled in cash at maturity for US$110.35 per share, net of applicable fees. During the third quarter of 2021, the Company recognized a $20.1 million after-tax fair value gain on the investment in Affirm and the TRS. Year to date, the Company has recorded total fair value gains on investments of $92.4 million. During the quarter, the Company increased its existing revolving securitization warehouse facility to $600 million. The warehouse facility continues to be structured and underwritten by National Bank Financial Markets under a new three-year agreement, which incorporates favorable key modifications, including improvements to eligibility criteria and advance rates. The interest on advances are payable at the rate of 1-month CDOR plus 185 bps, an improvement of 110 bps. Based on the current 1-month CDOR rate of 0.43% as of November 3, 2021, the interest rate would be 2.28%. The Company continues utilizing an interest rate swap agreement to generate fixed rate payments on the amounts drawn and mitigate the impact of interest rate volatility. Cash provided by operating activities before the net growth in gross consumer loans receivable in the quarter was $89.2 million. Based on the cash on hand at the end of the quarter and the borrowing capacity under the Company's revolving credit facilities, goeasy has approximately $908 million in total funding capacity, which it estimates is sufficient to fund its organic growth through the fourth quarter of 2023. At quarter-end, the Company's fully drawn weighted average cost of borrowing reduced to 4.3%, down from 5.0% in the prior year, with incremental draws on its senior secured revolving credit facility bearing a rate of approximately 3.5% and incremental draws on its amended securitization facility bearing a rate of approximately 2.3%. As of September 30, 2021, the Company also estimates that once its existing and available sources of capital are fully utilized, it could continue to grow the loan portfolio by approximately $200 million per year solely from internal cash flows. The Company also estimates that if it were to run-off its consumer loan and consumer leasing portfolios, the value of the total cash repayments paid to the Company over the remaining life of its contracts would be approximately $3 billion. If, during such a run-off scenario, all excess cash flows were applied directly to debt, the Company estimates it would extinguish all external debt within 16 months. Future Outlook The Company has provided 3-year forecasts for the years 2021 through 2023. The Company continues to pursue a long-term strategy that includes expanding its product range, developing its channels of distribution and leveraging risk-based pricing, which increases the average loan size and extends the life of its customer relationships. As such, the total yield earned on its consumer loan portfolio will gradually decline, while net charge-off rates moderate and operating margins expand. The forecasts outlined below contemplate the Company's expected domestic organic growth plan and do not include the impact of any future mergers or acquisitions, or the associated gains or losses associated with its investments.   Forecasts for 2021 Forecasts for 2022 Forecasts for 2023 Gross Loan Receivable Portfolio at Year End $1.95 billion –$2.05 billion $2.35 billion –$2.55 billion $2.8 billion –$3.0 billion New easyfinancial locations 20 - 25 15 - 20 10 - 15 easyfinancial Total Revenue Yield 40% - 42% 36% - 38% 35% - 37% Total Revenue Growth 24% - 27% 17% - 20% 12% - 15% Net charge-off Rate (Average Receivables) 8.5% - 10.5% 8.5% - 10.5% 8.0% - 10.0% Adjusted Total Company Operating Margin 35%+ 36%+ 37%+ Adjusted Return on Equity 22%+ 22%+ 22%+ Cash provided by Operating Activities before Net Growth in Gross Consumer Loans Receivable $190 million –$230 million $270 million –$310 million $310 million –$350 million Net Debt to Net Capitalization 64% - 66% 64% - 66% 63% - 65% Dividend The Board of Directors has approved a quarterly dividend of $0.66 per share payable on January 14, 2022 to the holders of common shares of record as at the close of business on December 31, 2021. Forward-Looking Statements All figures reported above with respect to outlook are targets established by the Company and are subject to change as plans and business conditions vary. Accordingly, investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the foregoing guidance. Actual results may differ materially. This press release includes forward-looking statements about goeasy, including, but not limited to, its business operations, strategy, expected financial performance and condition, the estimated number of new locations to be opened, targets for growth of the consumer loans receivable portfolio, annual revenue growth targets, strategic initiatives, new product offerings and new delivery channels, anticipated cost savings, planned capital expenditures, anticipated capital requirements, liquidity of the Company, plans and references to future operations and results and critical accounting estimates. In certain cases, forward-looking statements are statements that are predictive in nature, depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, and/or can be identified by the use of words such as ‘expects', ‘anticipates', ‘intends', ‘plans', ‘believes', ‘budgeted', ‘estimates', ‘forecasts', ‘targets' or negative versions thereof and similar expressions, and/or state that certain actions, events or results ‘may', ‘could', ‘would', ‘might' or ‘will' be taken, occur or be achieved. Forward-looking statements are based on certain factors and assumptions, including expected growth, results of operations and business prospects and are inherently subject to, among other things, risks, uncertainties and assumptions about the Company's operations, economic factors and the industry generally, as well as those factors referred to in the Company's most recent Annual Information Form and Management Discussion and Analysis, as available on www.sedar.com, in the section entitled "Risk Factors". There can be no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements made by the Company, due to, but not limited to, important factors such as the Company's ability to enter into new lease and/or financing agreements, collect on existing lease and/or financing agreements, open new locations on favourable terms, purchase products which appeal to customers at a competitive rate, respond to changes in legislation, react to uncertainties related to regulatory action, raise capital under favourable terms, manage the impact of litigation (including shareholder litigation), control costs at all levels of the organization and maintain and enhance the system of internal controls. The Company cautions that the foregoing list is not exhaustive. The reader is cautioned to consider these, and other factors carefully and not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which may not be appropriate for other purposes. The Company is under no obligation (and expressly disclaims any such obligation) to update or alter the forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, unless required by law. About goeasy goeasy Ltd., a Canadian company, headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, provides non-prime leasing and lending services through its easyhome, easyfinancial and LendCare brands. Supported by more than 2,200 employees, the Company offers a wide variety of financial products and services including unsecured and secured instalment loans. Customers can transact seamlessly through an omni-channel model that includes an online and mobile platform, over 400 locations across Canada, and point-of-sale financing offered in the retail, power sports, automotive, home improvement and healthcare verticals, through more than 4,000 merchants across Canada. Throughout the Company's history, it has acquired and organically served over 1 million Canadians and originated over $7.2 billion in loans, with one in three easyfinancial customers graduating to prime credit and 60% increasing their credit score within 12 months of borrowing. Accredited by the Better Business Bureau, goeasy is the proud recipient of several awards including Waterstone Canada's Most Admired Corporate Cultures, Glassdoor Top CEO Award, Achievers Top 50 Most Engaged Workplaces in North America, Greater Toronto Top Employers Award, the Digital Finance Institute's Canada's Top 50 FinTech Companies, ranking on the TSX30 and placing on the Report on Business ranking of Canada's Top Growing Companies and has been certified as a Great Place to Work®. The company is represented by a diverse group of team members from over 75 nationalities who believe strongly in giving back to the communities in which it operates. To date, goeasy has raised and donated over $3.8 million to support its long-standing partnerships with BGC Canada, Habitat for Humanity and many other local charities. goeasy Ltd.'s. common shares are listed on the TSX under the trading symbol "GSY". goeasy is rated BB- with a stable trend from S&P and Ba3 with a stable trend from Moody's. Visit www.goeasy.com. For further information contact: Jason MullinsPresident & Chief Executive Officer(905) 272-2788 Farhan Ali KhanSenior Vice President, Corporate Development & Investor Relations(905) 272-2788 goeasy Ltd.                   INTERIM CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION     (Unaudited)         (expressed in thousands of Canadian dollars)                                 As At As At       September 30, December 31,       2021 2020               ASSETS         Cash   124,685 93,053     Amounts receivable   18,057 9,779     Prepaid expenses   8,668 13,005     Consumer loans receivable, net   1,780,073 1,152,378     Investments   64,178 56,040     Lease assets   44,482 49,384     Property and equipment, net   34,397 31,322     Deferred tax assets, net   - 4,066     Derivative financial assets   422 -     Intangible assets, net   161,189 25,244     Right-of-use assets, net   54,663 46,335     Goodwill   180,923 21,310     TOTAL ASSETS   2,471,737 1,501,916               LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY         Liabilities         Revolving credit facility   14,339 198,339     Accounts payable and accrued liabilities   61,433 46,065     Income taxes payable   22,860 13,897     Dividends payable   10,888 6,661     Unearned revenue   9,329 10,622     Accrued interest   22,968 2,598     Deferred tax liabilities, net   38,983 -     Derivative financial liabilities   19,076 36,910     Lease liabilities   62,915 53,902     Revolving securitization warehouse facility   122,648 -     Secured borrowings   191,574 -     Notes payable   1,087,397 689,410     TOTAL LIABILITIES   1,664,410 1,058,404               Shareholders' equity         Share capital   369,475 181,753     Contributed surplus   20,518 19,732     Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)   6,666 (5,280 )   Retained earnings   410,668 247,307     TOTAL SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY   807,327 443,512     TOTAL LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY   2,471,737 1,501,916               goeasy Ltd.                           INTERIM CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME         (Unaudited)             (expressed in thousands of Canadian dollars except earnings per share)                                             Three Months Ended Nine Months Ended       September 30, September 30, September 30, September 30,       2021 2020 2021 2020                 REVENUE             Interest income   146,132   101,833 380,109   302,799   Lease revenue   27,923   28,416 84,708   84,232   Commissions earned   42,052   28,540 117,824   83,166   Charges and fees   3,655   3,035 9,651   9,506       219,762   161,824 592,292   479,703                 EXPENSES BEFORE DEPRECIATION AND AMORTIZATION             Salaries and benefits   41,776   36,457 120,986   102,283   Stock-based compensation   2,116   1,718 6,103   5,587   Advertising and promotion   7,751   7,377 20,815   18,195   Bad debts   45,297   27,221 123,444   100,505   Occupancy   5,995   5,639 17,272   17,126   Technology costs   4,900   3,817 12,721   10,499   Other expenses   9,852   6,624 32,356   22,378       117,687   88,853 333,697   276,573                 DEPRECIATION AND AMORTIZATION             Depreciation of lease assets   8,601   8,701 26,687   26,790   Depreciation of right-of-use assets   4,650   4,053 13,416   11,994   Amortization of intangible assets   5,405   1,820 11,285   4,699   Depreciation of property and equipment   2,067   1,451 5,833   4,488       20,723   16,025 57,221   47,971                 TOTAL OPERATING EXPENSES  .....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaNov 3rd, 2021

A Day Late & A Dollar Short – The Fed"s Coming Policy Mistake

A Day Late & A Dollar Short – The Fed's Coming Policy Mistake Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com, An honest review of history shows the Fed is consistently a “day late and a dollar short” regarding monetary policy. With the market trading at historical extremes, it is clear the Fed is about to make another policy mistake. The history of “financial accidents” due to the Fed’s monetary intervention schemes is evident. Not just over the last decade, but since the Fed became “active” in 1980. What should be evident is that before the Fed became active, economic growth was accelerating. There were few crisis events and economic prosperity was broad. However, post-1980, the trend of economic growth declined. There are many reasons leading up to each event, However, the common denominator is the Fed tightening monetary policy. Notably, Fed rate hiking campaigns also correlate with poor financial market outcomes, as higher rates impacted the credit and leverage markets. Once again, the Fed is discussing tightening monetary policy. The first step would be reducing their $120 billion monthly bond purchases, then potentially hiking rates. While they believe they can achieve this reduction without disrupting the equity markets or causing an economic contraction, history suggests otherwise. Right Idea. Wrong Implementation. The Fed’s assumption is that by providing excess reserves to the banking system, the banks would lend those funds, thereby expanding economic activity. Furthermore, as discussed previously, the Federal Reserve’s entire premise of inflating asset prices was the subsequent boost to economic activity from an increased “wealth effect.” “This approach eased financial conditions in the past and, so far, looks to be effective again. Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate the most recent action. Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending.” – Ben Bernanke However, after more than a decade of “monetary policy,” little evidence supports that claim. Instead, there is sufficient evidence “monetary policy” leads to other problems. Such include greater wealth inequality, speculative investment activity, and slower economic growth. Current monetary policy has its roots in Keynesian economic theory. To wit: “A general glut would occur when aggregate demand for goods was insufficient, leading to an economic downturn resulting in losses of potential output due to unnecessarily high unemployment, which results from the defensive (or reactive) decisions of the producers.” In such a situation, Keynesian economics states that fiscal policies could increase aggregate demand, thus expanding economic activity and reducing unemployment.  The only problem is that it didn’t work as planned because “monetary policy” is NOT expansionary. “Since 2008, the total cumulative growth of the economy is just $3.5 trillion. In other words, for each dollar of economic growth since 2008, it required $12 of monetary stimulus. Such sounds okay until you realize it came solely from debt issuance.“ Fed Should Have Already Hiked Rates The problem for the Fed is they are always a “day late and a dollar short.” Where the Fed repeats its mistake is keeping monetary policy accommodative for too long. Instead, the Fed should use Government interventions to hike rates from zero while the excess liquidity supports economic growth. For example, during the “Financial Crisis,” the Fed should have hiked rates as the spike in economic growth occurred in 2010-2011. At that point, both the Fed and Government had flooded the economy with liquidity. Yes, hiking rates would have slowed the advance in the financial markets. However, the excess liquidity would have offset the impact of tighter monetary policy. If they had hiked rates sooner, interest rates on the short-end would have risen. Such would have given the Fed a policy tool to combat economic weakness in the future. But, of course, such assumes a historically normal response to economic recoveries. In that case, the yield curve would steepen sharply, providing higher yields to lenders. Higher yields would slow speculative investment activity in the financial markets, housing, and other leveraged market investments. Such would reduce the financial risks to markets and potentially the need to continually “bailout” bad actors. Such was a point made by Don Kohn,the Fed’s former vice chair for financial supervision. “Dealing with risks to the financial stability is urgent. The current situation is replete with unusually large risks of the unexpected, which, if they come to pass, could result in the financial system amplifying shocks, putting the economy at risk.” Policy Mistake In The Making Don Kohn explicitly noted the Fed’s mention of “notable” vulnerabilities in the financial system. With asset values at historical highs, and record levels of financial debt, the concerns are valid. The problem for the Fed is that interest rates are already at zero, the Government is running a massive deficit, not to mention $120 billion in QE monthly. Such puts the Fed in a poor position to respond to an economic downturn resulting from the bursting of an asset bubble or a debt crisis. Our view aligns with GMO co-founder Jeremy Grantham. He argued: “The Fed should act to deflate all asset prices carefully, knowing that an earlier decline, however painful, would be smaller and less dangerous than waiting.” Yes, if the Fed had acted earlier to start hiking rates in which QE was in full swing, the market indeed would not have doubled in a year. However, the Fed would be in a much better position to minimize the damage from the next recessionary spat. “Right now, systemic risk is not something the Fed is required to take into account as they carry out their missions. They should be required to broaden their perspective to consider the systemic implications of their actions and of the activities and firms they oversee and be held accountable for doing this.” – Kohn Maybe, if such were the case, the Fed would not have to “bailout” the financial institutions every time the market declines. In the end, the Fed will be a “day late and a dollar short” once again. Tyler Durden Fri, 10/22/2021 - 11:23.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 22nd, 2021

Equity Bancshares, Inc. Results Include Strong Organic Growth While Expanding Kansas Franchise

WICHITA, Kan., Oct. 19, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Equity Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ:EQBK), ("Equity", "the Company", "we", "us", "our"), the Wichita-based holding company of Equity Bank, reported net income of $11.8 million and $0.80 earnings per diluted share for the quarter ended September 30, 2021. Equity's results occurred as the Company completed its acquisition of American State Bancshares, Inc. on October 1, 2021. "As the founder of Equity Bank, our results this quarter are particularly satisfying, as we celebrate continued loan growth, excellent earnings and our first cash stock dividend while simultaneously closing the largest acquisition in our history. I am grateful to our loyal employees and stockholders as we continue to grow and improve Equity Bank," said Brad S. Elliott, Chairman and CEO of Equity. "I'm pleased with the growth of the Equity Bank brand and the hard work and collaboration of our team members throughout our regions, including our bank employees, lenders, and operations professionals who placed the customer first and executed with open doors, expertise, and availability," said Mr. Elliott. "We've successfully integrated American State Bank & Trust Company into our platform while continuing to provide momentum, support and expertise to our customers throughout our franchise." Equity customers successfully had $175.7 million of Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") loans forgiven during the quarter, resulting in the recognition of fee income totaling $7.7 million in the three-month period ended September 30, 2021. At September 30, 2021, the total unrecognized fee income associated with PPP loans was $3.0 million. "Our entrepreneurial culture drives the efficiency of our merger process, assists in building a solid community banking network that is responsive to a diverse customer base and excels at adding core deposits and new households in a changing environment. Our mission as a community bank is to continue to prioritize local customers, local service, and bankers willing to go above and beyond. As we continue to grow, expand and deliver, our focus will drive value for our shareholders," said Mr. Elliott. Notable Items: Diluted earnings per share of $0.80, adjusted to reflect core operating results, was $0.96 per diluted share. The adjustments to earnings were comprised of the exclusion of merger expenses of $4.0 million, non-accrual interest income of $1.4 million, bank-owned life insurance death benefit of $486 thousand and additional reserving for repurchase obligations associated with the Company's Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC") assisted transaction of $771 thousand. Linked quarter service fee revenue, including deposit services, mortgage banking, trust and wealth and insurance services increased to $6.7 million from $6.4 million, or 3.7%. The Company authorized a second stock repurchase program in the third quarter of 2020 totaling 800,000 shares. During the quarter ended September 30, 2021, the Company repurchased 57,239 shares at a weighted average cost of $30.64 per share, totaling $1.8 million. At the end of the quarter, capacity of 123,448 shares remained under the current repurchase program. The Board authorized the repurchase of up to an additional 1,000,000 shares of Equity's outstanding common stock, beginning October 29, 2021, and concluding October 28, 2022, subject to non-objection by the Company's primary regulators. The Company announced and paid its first common stock dividend of $0.08 per share to shareholders of record as of September 30, 2021. Equity's Balance Sheet Highlights: During the quarter total loans decreased from $2.82 billion to $2.69 billion, including a reduction in PPP assets of $175.7 million. Excluding the impact of PPP, organic growth linked quarter was $41.8 million, or 7.1% annualized. Total deposits of $3.66 billion at September 30, 2021, as compared to $3.69 billion at June 30, 2021. Checking, savings and money market accounts were $3.08 billion at September 30, 2021, relative to $3.03 billion at June 30, 2021. As compared to December 31, 2020, the Bank has increased non-interest-bearing deposits by $192.8 million, or 24.4%. As excess liquidity continues to impact the operating environment at quarter end, securities and interest-earning cash and cash equivalents comprise 31.4% of average earnings assets, up from 28.0% at the end of the linked quarter and 25.0% at the end of the comparable quarter in the previous year. Financial Results for the Quarter Ended September 30, 2021 Net income allocable to common stockholders was $11.8 million, or $0.80 per diluted share, for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $15.2 million, or $1.03 per diluted share, for the three months ended June 30, 2021, a decrease of $3.4 million. This third quarter decrease was attributable to an increase in non-interest expense of $4.9 million, an increase in provision for credit losses of $2.7 million and a decrease of $1.3 million in non-interest income, partially offset by an increase in net interest income $4.3 million and a decrease in provision for income taxes of $1.1 million. Net Interest Income Net interest income was $39.0 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $34.6 million for the three months ended June 30, 2021, an increase of $4.3 million, or 12.6%. The increase in net interest income was primarily driven by an increase in loan fees, due to the forgiveness of PPP assets, of $2.0 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2021, compared to the quarter ended June 30, 2021. The yield on interest-earning assets increased 32-basis points to 4.20% during the quarter ended September 30, 2021, as compared to 3.88% for the quarter ended June 30, 2021. The cost of interest-bearing deposits declined by 3-basis points to 0.28% for the three months ended September 30, 2021, from 0.31% in the previous quarter. Provision for Credit Losses During the three months ended September 30, 2021, there was a provision of $1.1 million in the allowance for credit losses recognized through the provision for credit losses as compared to a net release of $1.7 million of provision for credit losses for the three months ended June 30, 2021. The comparative increase was primarily driven by an increase in reserves on specifically assessed assets which was partially offset by improving trends in the Company's loss experience and moderating economic impacts. For the three months ended September 30, 2021, we had net charge-offs of $129 thousand as compared to $567 thousand for the three months ended June 30, 2021. Non-Interest Income Total non-interest income was $7.8 million for the three months ended September 30, 2021, as compared to $9.1 million for the three months ended June 30, 2021, or a decline of 14.0% quarter over quarter. Other non-interest income was $546 thousand, a decrease of $1.5 million, or 73.6%, from the quarter ended June 30, 2021. The decrease in other non-interest income was primarily due to the accounting for potential repurchase obligations associated with assets previously purchased through a FDIC assisted transaction. In the second quarter, the Company trued up the guarantee on a number of assets resulting in income recognition of $917 thousand. In the third quarter, two unrelated assets were identified to have experienced deterioration requiring the recognition of a reserve, resulting in $771 thousand in expense. The net change in these inputs account for the change in the line item. During the quarter, service fee revenue, including deposit services, mortgage banking, trust and wealth management, credit cards and insurance increased to $6.7 million from $6.4 million during the second quarter. The growth was driven by increasing transaction activity and insurance commissions and fees. Non-Interest Expense Total non-interest expense for the quarter ended September 30, 2021, was $30.7 million as compared to $25.8 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2021. The $4.9 million change is primarily attributed to increases of $3.6 million in merger expenses, $819 thousand in salaries and employee benefits, driven by a comparative reduction in the deferral of cost associated with loan originations, and $372 thousand loss on debt extinguishment, related to the repayment of fixed-rate term advances with Federal Home Loan Bank that were acquired through a prior merger. Asset Quality As of September 30, 2021, Equity's allowance for credit losses to total loans was 2.0%, as compared to 1.8% at June 30, 2021. Nonperforming assets were $74.3 million as of September 30, 2021, or 1.7% of total assets, compared to $66.7 million at June 30, 2021, or 1.6% of total assets. Total classified assets, including loans rated special mention or worse, other real estate owned and other repossessed assets were $112.4 million, or 24.3% of regulatory capital, up from $103.5 million, or 23.2% of regulatory capital as of June 30, 2021. During the quarter non-performing assets increased by $7.5 million due to the transition of one significant relationship to non-accrual. The Company provided $1.1 million to the allowance for credit losses, comprised of an increase in specific reserves, primarily driven by the migration of this asset to non-accrual, partially offset by improving historical loss performance and the continued moderation of economic conditions following the height of the pandemic. Regulatory Capital The Company's ratio of common equity tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets was 12.4%, the total capital to risk-weighted assets was 16.6% and the total leverage ratio was 9.0% at September 30, 2021. At December 31, 2020, the Company's common equity tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets ratio was 12.8%, the total capital to risk-weighted assets ratio was 17.4% and the total leverage ratio was 9.3%. The Company's subsidiary, Equity Bank, had a ratio of common equity tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets of 14.5%, a ratio of total capital to risk-weighted assets of 15.8% and a total leverage ratio of 10.1% at September 30, 2021. At December 31, 2020, Equity Bank's ratio of common equity tier 1 capital to risk-weighted assets was 14.5%, the ratio of total capital to risk-weighted assets was 15.7% and the total leverage ratio was 10.1%. Non-GAAP Financial Measures In addition to evaluating the Company's results of operations in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America ("GAAP"), management periodically supplements this evaluation with an analysis of certain non-GAAP financial measures that are intended to provide the reader with additional perspectives on operating results, financial condition and performance trends, while facilitating comparisons with the performance of other financial institutions. Non-GAAP financial measures are not a substitute for GAAP measures, rather, they should be read and used in conjunction with the Company's GAAP financial information. The efficiency ratio is used as a common measure by banks as a comparable metric to understand the Company's expense structure relative to its total revenue; in other words, for every dollar of total revenue recognized, how much of that dollar is expended. To improve the comparability of the ratio to our peers, non-core items are excluded. To improve transparency and acknowledging that banks are not consistent in their definition of the efficiency ratio, we include our calculation of this non-GAAP measure. Return on average assets before income tax provision, provision for loan losses and goodwill impairment is a measure that the Company uses to understand fundamental operating performance before these expenses. Used as a ratio relative to average assets, we believe it demonstrates the "core" performance and can be viewed as an alternative measure of how efficiently the Company services its asset base. Used as a ratio relative to average equity, it can function as an alternative measure of the Company's earnings performance in relationship to its equity. Tangible common equity and related measures are non-GAAP financial measures that exclude the impact of intangible assets, net of deferred taxes, and their related amortization. These financial measures are useful for evaluating the performance of a business consistently, whether acquired or developed internally. Return on average tangible common equity is used by management and readers of our financial statements to understand how efficiently the Company is deploying its common equity. Companies that are able to demonstrate more efficient use of common equity are more likely to be viewed favorably by current and prospective investors. The Company believes that disclosing these non-GAAP financial measures is both useful internally and is expected by our investors and analysts in order to understand the overall performance of the Company. Other companies may calculate and define their non-GAAP financial measures and supplemental data differently. A reconciliation of GAAP financial measures to non-GAAP measures and other performance ratios, as adjusted, are included in Table 8 in the following press release tables. Conference Call and Webcast Equity Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Brad Elliott, and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Eric Newell, will hold a conference call and webcast to discuss the 2021 third quarter results on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. eastern time, 9:00 a.m. central time. Investors, news media and other participants should register for the call or audio webcast at investor.equitybank.com. On Wednesday, October 20, 2021, participants may also dial into the call toll-free at (844) 534-7311 from anywhere in the U.S. or (574) 990-1419 internationally, using conference ID no. 7698604. Participants are encouraged to dial into the call or access the webcast approximately 10 minutes prior to the start time. Presentation slides to pair with the call or webcast will be posted one hour prior to the call at investor.equitybank.com. A replay of the call and webcast will be available two hours following the close of the call until October 27, 2021, accessible at (855) 859-2056 with conference ID no. 7698604 at investor.equitybank.com. About Equity Bancshares, Inc. Equity Bancshares, Inc. is the holding company for Equity Bank, offering a full range of financial solutions, including commercial loans, consumer banking, mortgage loans, trust and wealth management services and treasury management services, while delivering the high-quality, relationship-based customer service of a community bank. Equity's common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "EQBK." Learn more at www.equitybank.com. Special Note Concerning Forward-Looking Statements This press release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These forward-looking statements reflect the current views of Equity's management with respect to, among other things, future events and Equity's financial performance. These statements are often, but not always, made through the use of words or phrases such as "may," "should," "could," "predict," "potential," "believe," "will likely result," "expect," "continue," "will," "anticipate," "seek," "estimate," "intend," "plan," "project," "forecast," "goal," "target," "would" and "outlook," or the negative variations of those words or other comparable words of a future or forward-looking nature. These forward-looking statements are not historical facts, and are based on current expectations, estimates and projections about Equity's industry, management's beliefs and certain assumptions made by management, many of which, by their nature, are inherently uncertain and beyond Equity's control. Accordingly, Equity cautions you that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks, assumptions and uncertainties that are difficult to predict. Although Equity believes that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable as of the date made, actual results may prove to be materially different from the results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from Equity's expectations include COVID-19 related impacts; competition from other financial institutions and bank holding companies; the effects of and changes in trade, monetary and fiscal policies and laws, including interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve Board; changes in the demand for loans; fluctuations in value of collateral and loan reserves; inflation, interest rate, market and monetary fluctuations; changes in consumer spending, borrowing and savings habits; and acquisitions and integration of acquired businesses; and similar variables. The foregoing list of factors is not exhaustive. For discussion of these and other risks that may cause actual results to differ from expectations, please refer to "Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements" and "Risk Factors" in Equity's Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 9, 2021, and any updates to those risk factors set forth in Equity's subsequent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q or Current Reports on Form 8-K. If one or more events related to these or other risks or uncertainties materialize, or if Equity's underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, actual results may differ materially from what Equity anticipates. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made, and Equity does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise. New risks and uncertainties arise from time to time, such as COVID-19, and it is not possible for us to predict those events or how they may affect us. In addition, Equity cannot assess the impact of each factor on Equity's business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements, expressed or implied, included in this press release are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. This cautionary statement should also be considered in connection with any subsequent written or oral forward-looking statements that Equity or persons acting on Equity's behalf may issue. Investor Contact: Chris NavratilSVP, FinanceEquity Bancshares, Inc.(316) 612-6014cnavratil@equitybank.com         Media Contact: John J. HanleySVP, Senior Director of MarketingEquity Bancshares, Inc.(913) 583-8004jhanley@equitybank.com Unaudited Financial Tables Table 1. Consolidated Statements of Income Table 2. Quarterly Consolidated Statements of Income Table 3. Consolidated Balance Sheets Table 4. Selected Financial Highlights Table 5. Year-To-Date Net Interest Income Analysis Table 6. Quarter-To-Date Net Interest Income Analysis Table 7. Quarter-Over-Quarter Net Interest Income Analysis Table 8. Non-GAAP Financial Measures TABLE 1. CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME (Unaudited)(Dollars in thousands, except per share data)     Three months endedSeptember 30,     Nine months endedSeptember 30,       2021     2020     2021     2020   Interest and dividend income                                 Loans, including fees   $ 37,581     $ 32,278     $ 102,392     $ 99,281   Securities, taxable     3,920       3,476       11,242       12,113   Securities, nontaxable     655       923       2,096       2,769   Federal funds sold and other     290       405       846       1,409   Total interest and dividend income     42,446       37,082       116,576       115,572   Interest expense                                 Deposits     1,881       3,064       6,316       13,827   Federal funds purchased and retail repurchase agreements     24       25       72       80   Federal Home Loan Bank advances     10       471       155       2,198   Federal Reserve Bank discount window     —       —       —       6   Bank stock loan     —       —       —       415   Subordinated debt     1,556       1,415       4,669       1,953   Total interest expense     3,471       4,975       11,212       18,479                                     Net interest income     38,975       32,107       105,364       97,093   Provision (reversal) for credit losses     1,058       815       (6,355 )     23,255   Net interest income after provision (reversal) for credit losses     37,917       31,292       111,719       73,838   Non-interest income                                 Service charges and fees     2,360       1,706       6,125       5,097   Debit card income     2,574       2,491       7,603       6,735   Mortgage banking     801       877       2,584       2,298   Increase in value of bank-owned life insurance     1,169       489       2,446       1,452   Net gain on acquisition     —       —       585       —   Net gains (losses) from securities transactions     381     —       398       12   Other     546       922       3,902       1,929   Total non-interest income     7,831       6,485       23,643       17,523   Non-interest expense                                 Salaries and employee benefits     13,588       13,877       39,079       40,076   Net occupancy and equipment     2,475       2,224       7,170       6,578   Data processing     3,257       2,817       9,394       8,243   Professional fees     1,076       877       3,148       3,187   Advertising and business development     760       598       2,241       1,697   Telecommunications     439       486       1,531       1,363   FDIC insurance     465       360       1,305       1,291   Courier and postage     344       366       1,040       1,103   Free nationwide ATM cost     519       439       1,504       1,186   Amortization of core deposit intangibles     1,030       1,030       3,094       2,806   Loan expense     207       107       626       628   Other real estate owned     (342 )     133       (805 )     710   Loss on debt extinguishment     372       —       372       —   Merger expenses     4,015       —       4,627       —   Goodwill impairment     —       104,831       —       104,831   Other     2,484       2,690       7,050       6,831   Total non-interest expense     30,689       130,835       81,376       180,530   Income (loss) before income tax     15,059       (93,058 )     53,986       (89,169 ) Provision for income taxes     3,286       (2,653 )     11,972       (1,711 ) Net income (loss) and net income (loss) allocable to common stockholders   $ 11,773     $ (90,405 )   $ 42,014     $ (87,458 ) Basic earnings (loss) per share   $ 0.82     $ (6.01 )   $ 2.92     $ (5.75 ) Diluted earnings (loss) per share   $ 0.80     $ (6.01 )   $ 2.86     $ (5.75 ) Weighted average common shares     14,384,302       15,040,407       14,397,146       15,211,901   Weighted average diluted common shares     14,669,312       15,040,407       14,688,092       15,211,901   TABLE 2. QUARTERLY CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME (Unaudited)(Dollars in thousands, except per share data)     As of and for the three months ended       September 30,2021     June 30,2021     March 31,2021     December 31,2020     September 30,2020   Interest and dividend income                                         Loans, including fees   $ 37,581     $ 33,810     $ 31,001     $ 35,383     $ 32,278   Securities, taxable     3,920       3,523       3,799       3,408       3,476   Securities, nontaxable     655       717       724       913       923   Federal funds sold and other     290       268       288       285       405   Total interest and dividend income     42,446       38,318       35,812       39,989       37,082   Interest expense                                         Deposits     1,881       2,025       2,410       2,755       3,064   Federal funds purchased and retail repurchase agreements     24       26       22       25       25   Federal Home Loan Bank advances     10       80       65       94       471   Subordinated debt     1,556       1,557       1,556       1,556       1,415   Total interest expense     3,471       3,688       4,053       4,430       4,975                                             Net interest income     38,975       34,630       31,759       35,559       32,107   Provision (reversal) for credit losses     1,058       (1,657 )     (5,756 )     1,000       815   Net interest income after provision (reversal) for credit losses     37,917       36,287       37,515       34,559       31,292   Non-interest income                                         Service charges and fees     2,360       2,169       1,596       1,759       1,706   Debit card income     2,574       2,679       2,350       2,401       2,491   Mortgage banking     801       848       935       855       877   Increase in value of bank-owned life insurance     1,169       676       601       489       489   Net gain on acquisition     —       663       (78 )     2,145       —   Net gains (losses) from securities transactions     381       —       17       (1 )     —   Other     546       2,065       1,291       852       922   Total non-interest income     7,831       9,100       6,712       8,500       6,485   Non-interest expense                                         Salaries and employee benefits     13,588       12,769       12,722       14,053       13,877   Net occupancy and equipment     2,475       2,327       2,368       2,206       2,224   Data processing     3,257       3,474       2,663       2,748       2,817   Professional fees     1,076       999       1,073       1,095       877   Advertising and business development     760       799       682       801       598   Telecommunications     439       512       580       510       486   FDIC insurance     465       425       415       797       360   Courier and postage     344       327       369       338       366   Free nationwide ATM cost     519       513       472       423       439   Amortization of core deposit intangibles     1,030       1,030       1,034       1,044       1,030   Loan expense     207       181       238       161       107   Other real estate owned     (342 )     (468 )     5       1,600       133   Loss on debt extinguishment     372       —       —       —       —   Merger expenses     4,015       460       152       299       —   Goodwill impairment     —       —       —       —       104,831   Other     2,484       2,458       2,108       2,385       2,690   Total non-interest expense     30,689       25,806       24,881       28,460       130,835   Income (loss) before income tax     15,059       19,581       19,346       14,599       (93,058 ) Provision for income taxes (benefit)     3,286       4,415       4,271       2,111       (2,653 ) Net income (loss) and net income (loss) allocable to common stockholders   $ 11,773     $ 15,166     $ 15,075     $ 12,488     $ (90,405 ) Basic earnings (loss) per share   $ 0.82     $ 1.06     $ 1.04     $ 0.85     $ (6.01 ) Diluted earnings (loss) per share   $ 0.80     $ 1.03     $ 1.02     $ 0.84     $ (6.01 ) Weighted average common shares     14,384,302       14,356,958       14,464,291       14,760,810       15,040,407   Weighted average diluted common shares     14,669,312       14,674,838       14,734,083       14,934,058       15,040,407   TABLE 3. CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS (Unaudited) (Dollars in thousands)     September 30,2021     June 30,2021     March 31,2021     December 31,2020     September 30,2020   ASSETS                                         Cash and due from banks   $ 141,645     $ 138,869     $ 136,190     $ 280,150     $ 65,534   Federal funds sold     673       452       498       548       305   Cash and cash equivalents     142,318       139,321       136,688       280,698       65,839   Interest-bearing time deposits in other banks     —       —       249       249       499   Available-for-sale securities     1,157,423       1,041,613       998,100       871,827       798,576   Loans held for sale     4,108       6,183       8,609       12,394       9,053   Loans, net of allowance for credit losses(1)     2,633,148       2,763,227       2,740,215       2,557,987       2,691,626   Other real estate owned, net     10,267       10,861       10,559       11,733       8,727   Premises and equipment, net     90,727       90,876       90,322       89,412       86,087   Bank-owned life insurance     103,431       103,321       102,645       77,044       76,555   Federal Reserve Bank and Federal Home Loan Bank stock     14,540       18,454       15,174       16,415       32,545   Interest receivable     15,519       15,064       16,655       15,831       18,110   Goodwill     31,601       31,601       31,601       31,601       31,601   Core deposit intangibles, net     12,963       13,993       15,023       16,057       17,101   Other     47,223       33,702      .....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaOct 20th, 2021

US stock futures rally as investors look past rising inflation and focus on earnings season

Stock market investors' focus was on third-quarter earnings, with a slew of big banks due to report on Thursday. Stocks rose on Wednesday despite inflation hitting a 13-year high. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images US stock futures rallied Thursday despite inflation hitting a 13-year high and the Fed moving toward tapering. Investors' focus was on third-quarter earnings, with a slew of big banks due to report on Thursday. Elsewhere, oil prices continued to rise as the IEA said the energy crisis could add 500,000 barrels a day to demand. US stock futures rose Thursday as earnings season picked up pace, even after inflation climbed and the Federal Reserve edged closer to cutting back its support for the economy.S&P 500 futures were up 0.65%, Nasdaq 100 futures were 0.84% higher and Dow Jones futures rose 0.54%, after US stocks snapped a three-day losing streak on Wednesday.In Asia overnight, China's CSI 300 index slipped 0.54%, but Tokyo's Nikkei 225 climbed 1.46%. Europe's continent-wide Stoxx 600 rose 0.83% in early trading.US stocks ended in the green Wednesday despite falling early in the session as traders digested a key inflation report and minutes from the latest Fed meeting.Consumer price index inflation rose to 0.4% month-on-month and 5.4% year-on-year, a 13-year high. Persistent supply-chain disruption and an energy crunch have been pushing up prices around the world.The Fed minutes showed the central bank could begin "tapering" its bond purchases in November or December, as it reacts to strong inflation and a solid economic recovery.Despite the growing chances of a taper, US bond yields were little changed and major stock markets closed higher. Analysts said investors had already positioned for strong inflation and an imminent Fed move."There was barely a murmur from markets following the release of the latest [Fed] meeting minutes," said Mike Owens, global sales trader at Saxo Markets. "The Fed's signalling in the last few months has prepared markets for the reduction of emergency pandemic support they have been providing up to this point."The yield on the key 10-year US Treasury note was down slightly on Thursday to 1.539%, having started the week above 1.6%. Bond yields move inversely to prices.Read more: The head of investment strategy for iShares' $2.3 trillion US business explains 2 key market themes that will define the upcoming Q3 earnings season - and shares why 'stagflation' concerns are overblownInvestors turned their focus to third-quarter earnings season, which kicked off Wednesday with JPMorgan posting profits that topped estimates, driven by a surge in dealmaking. Leading lenders Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are due to report Thursday as earnings pick up pace.Many analysts are bullish about corporate earnings, expecting companies to beat expectations despite the Delta coronavirus wave and rising cost pressures."Earnings growth and the 'beat' rate will likely drop significantly compared with the second quarter," said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management."But we still expect roughly 30% earnings growth in the third quarter, representing a 5% beat. Pent-up demand should drive revenue growth, while pricing power and operating leverage should help offset inflationary pressures."Elsewhere in markets, oil prices continued to rise as a global energy crunch pushes users towards the fossil fuel. The IEA said Thursday the switch to oil could boost demand by 500,000 barrels a day until March, compared with normal conditions. Brent crude was up 1.32% to $84.26 a barrel, while WTI crude was 1.26% higher at $81.47 a barrel.In the crypto world, bitcoin was up 1.2% to $57,677. The world's biggest cryptocurrency fell sharply on Wednesday after a solid rise in recent weeks.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 14th, 2021

Futures Reverse Losses Ahead Of Key CPI Report

Futures Reverse Losses Ahead Of Key CPI Report For the second day in a row, an overnight slump in equity futures sparked by concerns about iPhone sales (with Bloomberg reporting at the close on Tuesday that iPhone 13 production target may be cut by 10mm units due to chip shortages) and driven be more weakness out of China was rescued thanks to aggressive buying around the European open. At 800 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 35 points, or 0.1%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 10.25 points, or 0.24%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 58.50 points, or 0.4% ahead of the CPI report due at 830am ET. 10Y yields dipped to 1.566%, the dollar was lower and Brent crude dropped below $83. JPMorgan rose as much as 0.8% in premarket trading after the firm’s merger advisory business reported its best quarterly profit. On the other end, Apple dropped 1% lower in premarket trading, a day after Bloomberg reported that the technology giant is likely to slash its projected iPhone 13 production targets for 2021 by as many as 10 million units due to prolonged chip shortages. Here are some of the biggest U.S. movers today: Suppliers Skyworks Solutions (SWKS US), Qorvo (ORVO) and Cirrus Logic (CRUS US) slipped Tuesday postmarket Koss (KOSS US) shares jump 23% in U.S. premarket trading in an extension of Tuesday’s surge after tech giant Apple was rebuffed in two patent challenges against the headphones and speakers firm Qualcomm (QCOM US) shares were up 2.7% in U.S. premarket trading after it announced a $10.0 billion stock buyback International Paper (IP US) in focus after its board authorized a program to acquire up to $2b of the company’s common stock; cut quarterly dividend by 5c per share Smart Global (SGH US) shares rose 2% Tuesday postmarket after it reported adjusted earnings per share for the fourth quarter that beat the average analyst estimate Wayfair (W US) shares slide 1.8% in thin premarket trading after the stock gets tactical downgrade to hold at Jefferies Plug Power (PLUG US) gains 4.9% in premarket trading after Morgan Stanley upgrades the fuel cell systems company to overweight, saying in note that it’s “particularly well positioned” to be a leader in the hydrogen economy Wall Street ended lower in choppy trading on Tuesday, as investors grew jittery in the run-up to earnings amid worries about supply chain problems and higher prices affecting businesses emerging from the pandemic. As we noted last night, the S&P 500 has gone 27 straight days without rallying to a fresh high, the longest such stretch since last September, signaling some fatigue in the dip-buying that pushed the market up from drops earlier this year. Focus now turn to inflation data, due at 0830 a.m. ET, which will cement the imminent arrival of the Fed's taper.  "A strong inflation will only reinforce the expectation that the Fed would start tapering its bond purchases by next month, that's already priced in," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank. "Yet, a too strong figure could boost expectations of an earlier rate hike from the Fed and that is not necessarily fully priced in." The minutes of the Federal Reserve's September policy meeting, due later in the day, will also be scrutinized for signals that the days of crisis-era policy were numbered. Most European equities reverse small opening losses and were last up about 0.5%, as news that German software giant SAP increased its revenue forecast led tech stocks higher. DAX gained 0.7% with tech, retail and travel names leading. FTSE 100, FTSE MIB and IBEX remained in the red. Here are some of the biggest European movers today: Entra shares gain as much as 10% after Balder increases its stake and says it intends to submit a mandatory offer. Spie jumps as much as 10%, the biggest intraday gain in more than a year, after the French company pulled out of the process to buy Engie’s Equans services unit. Man Group rises as much as 8.3% after the world’s largest publicly traded hedge fund announced quarterly record inflows. 3Q21 net inflows were a “clear beat” and confirm pipeline strength, Morgan Stanley said in a note. Barratt Developments climbs as much as 6.3%, with analysts saying the U.K. homebuilder’s update shows current trading is improving. Recticel climbs 15% to its highest level in more than 20 years as the stock resumes trading after the company announced plans to sell its foams unit to Carpenter Co. Bossard Holding rises as much as 9.1% to a record high after the company reported 3Q earnings that ZKB said show strong growth. Sartorius gains as much as 5.9% after Kepler Cheuvreux upgrades to hold from sell and raises its price target, saying it expects “impressive earnings growth” to continue for the lab equipment company. SAP jumps as much as 5% after the German software giant increased its revenue forecast owing to accelerating cloud sales. Just Eat Takeaway slides as much as 5.8% in Amsterdam to the lowest since March 2020 after a 3Q trading update. Analysts flagged disappointing orders as pandemic restrictions eased, and an underwhelming performance in the online food delivery firm’s U.S. market. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks posted a modest advance as investors awaited key inflation data out of the U.S. and Hong Kong closed its equity market because of typhoon Kompasu. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.2% after fluctuating between gains and losses, with chip and electronics manufacturers sliding amid concerns over memory chip supply-chain issues and Apple’s iPhone 13 production targets. Hong Kong’s $6.3 trillion market was shut as strong winds and rain hit the financial hub.  “Broader supply tightness continues to be a real issue across a number of end markets,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Katy L. Huberty wrote in a note. The most significant iPhone production bottleneck stems from a “shortage of camera modules for the iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max due to low utilization rates at a Sharp factory in southern Vietnam,” they added. Wednesday’s direction-less trading illustrated the uncertainty in Asian markets as traders reassess earnings forecasts to factor in inflation and supply chain concerns. U.S. consumer price index figures and FOMC minutes due overnight may move shares. Southeast Asian indexes rose thanks to their cyclical exposure. Singapore’s stock gauge was the top performer in the region, rising to its highest in about two months, before the the nation’s central bank decides on monetary policy on Thursday. Japanese stocks fell for a second day as electronics makers declined amid worries about memory chip supply-chain issues and concerns over Apple’s iPhone 13 production targets.  The Topix index fell 0.4% to 1,973.83 at the 3 p.m. close in Tokyo, while the Nikkei 225 declined 0.3% to 28,140.28. Toyota Motor Corp. contributed the most to the Topix’s loss, decreasing 1.3%. Out of 2,181 shares in the index, 608 rose and 1,489 fell, while 84 were unchanged. Japanese Apple suppliers such as TDK, Murata and Taiyo Yuden slid. The U.S. company is likely to slash its projected iPhone 13 production targets for 2021 by as many as 10 million units as prolonged chip shortages hit its flagship product, according to people with knowledge of the matter Australian stocks closed lower as banks and miners weighed on the index. The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1% to close at 7,272.50, dragged down by banks and miners as iron ore extended its decline. All other subgauges edged higher. a2 Milk surged after its peer Bubs Australia reported growing China sales and pointed to a better outlook for daigou channels. Bank of Queensland tumbled after its earnings release. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 13,025.18. In rates, Treasuries extended Tuesday’s bull-flattening gains, led by gilts and, to a lesser extent, bunds. Treasuries were richer by ~2bps across the long-end of the curve, flattening 5s30s by about that much; U.K. 30-year yield is down nearly 7bp, with same curve flatter by ~6bp. Long-end gilts outperform in a broad-based bull flattening move that pushed 30y gilt yields down ~7bps back near 1.38%. Peripheral spreads widen slightly to Germany. Cash USTs bull flatten but trade cheaper by ~2bps across the back end to both bunds and gilt ahead of today’s CPI release. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell by as much as 0.2% and the greenback weakened against all of its Group-of-10 peers; the Treasury curve flattened, mainly via falling yields in the long- end, The euro advanced to trade at around $1.1550 and the Bund yield curve flattened, with German bonds outperforming Treasuries. The euro’s volatility skew versus the dollar shows investors remain bearish the common currency as policy divergence between the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank remains for now. The pound advanced with traders shrugging off the U.K.’s weaker-than-expected economic growth performance in August. Australia’s sovereign yield curve flattened for a second day while the currency underperformed its New Zealand peer amid a drop in iron ore prices. The yen steadied after four days of declines. In commodities, crude futures hold a narrow range with WTI near $80, Brent dipping slightly below $83. Spot gold pops back toward Tuesday’s best levels near $1,770/oz. Base metals are in the green with most of the complex up at least 1%. To the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the aforementioned US CPI reading for September, while today will also see the most recent FOMC meeting minutes released. Other data releases include UK GDP for August and Euro Area industrial production for August. Central bank speakers include BoE Deputy Governor Cunliffe, the ECB’s Visco and the Fed’s Brainard. Finally, earnings releases include JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and Delta Air Lines. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.1% to 4,346.25 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.4% to 459.04 MXAP up 0.2% to 194.60 MXAPJ up 0.4% to 638.16 Nikkei down 0.3% to 28,140.28 Topix down 0.4% to 1,973.83 Hang Seng Index down 1.4% to 24,962.59 Shanghai Composite up 0.4% to 3,561.76 Sensex up 0.8% to 60,782.71 Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1% to 7,272.54 Kospi up 1.0% to 2,944.41 Brent Futures down 0.4% to $83.12/bbl Gold spot up 0.5% to $1,768.13 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.23% to 94.30 German 10Y yield fell 4.2 bps to -0.127% Euro little changed at $1.1553 Brent Futures down 0.4% to $83.12/bbl Top Overnight News from Bloomberg Vladimir Putin wants to press the EU to rewrite some of the rules of its gas market after years of ignoring Moscow’s concerns, to tilt them away from spot-pricing toward long-term contracts favored by Russia’s state run Gazprom, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Russia is also seeking rapid certification of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany to boost gas deliveries, they said. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles will be removed from his role as the main watchdog of Wall Street lenders after his title officially expires this week. The EU will offer a new package of concessions to the U.K. that would ease trade barriers in Northern Ireland, as the two sides prepare for a new round of contentious Brexit negotiations. U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is on course to raise taxes and cut spending to control the budget deficit, while BoE Governor Andrew Bailey has warned interest rates are likely to rise in the coming months to curb a rapid surge in prices. Together, those moves would mark a simultaneous major tightening of both policy levers just months after the biggest recession in a century -- an unprecedented move since the BoE gained independence in 1997. Peter Kazimir, a member of the ECB’s Governing Council, was charged with bribery in Slovakia. Kazimir, who heads the country’s central bank, rejected the allegations A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks were mixed following the choppy performance stateside with global risk appetite cautious amid the rate hike bets in US and heading into key events including US CPI and FOMC Minutes, while there were also mild headwinds for US equity futures after the closing bell on reports that Apple is set to reduce output of iPhones by 10mln from what was initially planned amid the chip shortage. ASX 200 (unch.) was little changed as gains in gold miners, energy and tech were offset by losses in financials and the broader mining sector, with softer Westpac Consumer Confidence also limiting upside in the index. Nikkei 225 (-0.3%) was pressured at the open as participants digested mixed Machinery Orders data which showed the largest M/M contraction since February 2018 and prompted the government to cut its assessment on machinery orders, although the benchmark index gradually retraced most its losses after finding support around the 28k level and amid the recent favourable currency moves. Shanghai Comp. (+0.4%) also declined as participants digested mixed Chinese trade data in which exports topped estimates but imports disappointed and with Hong Kong markets kept shut due to a typhoon warning. Finally, 10yr JGBs were steady with price action contained after the curve flattening stateside and tentative mood heading to upcoming risk events, although prices were kept afloat amid the BoJ’s purchases in the market for around JPY 1tln of JGBs predominantly focused on 1-3yr and 5-10yr maturities. Top Asian News Gold Edges Higher on Weaker Dollar Before U.S. Inflation Report RBA Rate Hike Expectations Too Aggressive, TD Ameritrade Says LG Electronics Has Series of Stock-Target Cuts After Profit Miss The mood across European stocks has improved from the subdued cash open (Euro Stoxx 50 +0.5%; Stoxx 600 +0.3%) despite a distinct lack of newsflow and heading into the official start of US earnings season, US CPI and FOMC minutes. US equity futures have also nursed earlier losses and trade in modest positive territory across the board, with the NQ (+0.5%) narrowly outperforming owing to the intraday fall in yields, alongside the sectorial outperformance seen in European tech amid tech giant SAP (+4.7%) upgrading its full FY outlook, reflecting the strong business performance which is expected to continue to accelerate cloud revenue growth. As such, the DAX 40 (+0.7%) outperformed since the cash open, whilst the FTSE 100 (-0.2%) is weighed on by underperformance in its heavyweight Banking and Basic Resources sectors amid a decline in yields and hefty losses in iron ore prices. Elsewhere, the CAC 40 (+0.3%) is buoyed by LMVH (+2.0%) after the luxury name topped revenue forecasts and subsequently lifted the Retail sector in tandem. Overall, sectors are mixed with no clear bias. In terms of individual movers, Volkswagen (+3.5%) was bolstered amid Handelsblatt reports in which the Co was said to be cutting some 30k jobs as costs are too high vs competitors, whilst separate sources suggested the automaker is said to be mulling spinning off its Battery Cell and charging unit. Chipmakers meanwhile see mixed fortunes in the aftermath of sources which suggested Apple (-0.7% pre-market) is said to be slashing output amid the chip crunch. Top European News The Hut Shares Swing as Strategy Day Feeds Investor Concern U.K. Economy Grows Less Than Expected as Services Disappoint Man Group Gets $5.3 Billion to Lift Assets to Another Record Jeff Ubben and Singapore’s GIC Back $830 Million Fertiglobe IPO In FX, the Dollar looks somewhat deflated or jaded after yesterday’s exertions when it carved out several fresh 2021 highs against rival currencies and a new record peak vs the increasingly beleaguered Turkish Lira. In index terms, a bout of profit taking, consolidation and position paring seems to have prompted a pull-back from 94.563 into a marginally lower 94.533-246 range awaiting potentially pivotal US inflation data, more Fed rhetoric and FOMC minutes from the last policy meeting that may provide more clues or clarity about prospects for near term tapering. NZD/GBP - Both taking advantage of the Greenback’s aforementioned loss of momentum, but also deriving impetus from favourable crosswinds closer to home as the Kiwi briefly revisited 0.6950+ terrain and Aud/Nzd retreats quite sharply from 1.0600+, while Cable has rebounded through 1.3600 again as Eur/Gbp retests support south of 0.8480 yet again, or 1.1800 as a reciprocal. From a fundamental perspective, Nzd/Usd may also be gleaning leverage from the more forward-looking Activity Outlook component of ANZ’s preliminary business survey for October rather than a decline in sentiment, and Sterling could be content with reported concessions from the EU on NI customs in an effort to resolve the Protocol impasse. EUR/CAD/AUD/CHF - Also reclaiming some lost ground against the Buck, with the Euro rebounding from around 1.1525 to circa 1.1560, though not technically stable until closer to 1.1600 having faded ahead of the round number on several occasions in the last week. Meanwhile, the Loonie is straddling 1.2450 in keeping with WTI crude on the Usd 80/brl handle, the Aussie is pivoting 0.7350, but capped in wake of a dip in Westpac consumer confidence, and the Franc is rotating either side of 0.9300. JPY - The Yen seems rather reluctant to get too carried away by the Dollar’s demise or join the broad retracement given so many false dawns of late before further depreciation and a continuation of its losing streak. Indeed, the latest recovery has stalled around 113.35 and Usd/Jpy appears firmly underpinned following significantly weaker than expected Japanese m/m machinery orders overnight. SCANDI/EM - Not much upside in the Sek via firmer Swedish money market inflation expectations and perhaps due to the fact that actual CPI data preceded the latest survey and topped consensus, but the Cnh and Cny are firmer on the back of China’s much wider than forecast trade surplus that was bloated by exports exceeding estimates by some distance in contrast to imports. Elsewhere, further hawkish guidance for the Czk as CNB’s Benda contends that high inflation warrants relatively rapid tightening, but the Try has not derived a lot of support from reports that Turkey is in talks to secure extra gas supplies to meet demand this winter, according to a Minister, and perhaps due to more sabre-rattling from the Foreign Ministry over Syria with accusations aimed at the US and Russia. In commodities, WTI and Brent front-month futures see another choppy session within recent and elevated levels – with the former around USD 80.50/bbl (80.79-79.87/bbl) and the latter around 83.35/bbl (83.50-82.65/bbl range). The complex saw some downside in conjunction with jawboning from the Iraqi Energy Minster, who state oil price is unlikely to increase further, whilst at the same time, the Gazprom CEO suggested that the oil market is overheated. Nonetheless, prices saw a rebound from those lows heading into the US inflation figure, whilst the OPEC MOMR is scheduled for 12:00BST/07:00EDT. Although the release will not likely sway prices amidst the myriad of risk events on the docket, it will offer a peek into OPEC's current thinking on the market. As a reminder, the weekly Private Inventory report will be released tonight, with the DoE's slated for tomorrow on account of Monday's Columbus Day holiday. Gas prices, meanwhile, are relatively stable. Russia's Kremlin noted gas supplies have increased to their maximum possible levels, whilst Gazprom is sticking to its contractual obligations, and there can be no gas supplies beyond those obligations. Over to metals, spot gold and silver move in tandem with the receding Buck, with spot gold inching closer towards its 50 DMA at 1,776/oz (vs low 1,759.50/oz). In terms of base metals, LME copper has regained a footing above USD 9,500/t as stocks grind higher. Conversely, iron ore and rebar futures overnight fell some 6%, with overnight headlines suggesting that China has required steel mills to cut winter output. Further from the supply side, Nyrstar is to limit European smelter output by up to 50% due to energy costs. Nyrstar has a market-leading position in zinc and lead. LME zinc hit the highest levels since March 2018 following the headlines US Event Calendar 8:30am: Sept. CPI YoY, est. 5.3%, prior 5.3%; MoM, est. 0.3%, prior 0.3% 8:30am: Sept. CPI Ex Food and Energy YoY, est. 4.0%, prior 4.0%; MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.1% 8:30am: Sept. Real Avg Weekly Earnings YoY, prior -0.9%, revised -1.4% 2pm: Sept. FOMC Meeting Minutes DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap So tonight it’s my first ever “live” parents evening and then James Bond via Wagamama. Given my daughter (6) is the eldest in her year and the twins (4) the youngest (plus additional youth for being premature), I’m expecting my daughter to be at least above average but for my boys to only just about be vaguely aware of what’s going on around them. Poor things. For those reading yesterday, the Cameo video of Nadia Comanenci went down a storm, especially when she mentioned our kids’ names, but the fact that there was no birthday cake wasn’t as popular. So I played a very complicated, defence splitting 80 yard through ball but missed an open goal. Anyway ahead of Bond tonight, with all this inflation about I’m half expecting him to be known as 008 going forward. The next installment of the US prices saga will be seen today with US CPI at 13:30 London time. This is an important one, since it’s the last CPI number the Fed will have ahead of their next policy decision just 3 weeks from now, where investors are awaiting a potential announcement on tapering asset purchases. Interestingly the August reading last month was the first time so far this year that the month-on-month measure was actually beneath the consensus expectation on Bloomberg, with the +0.3% growth being the slowest since January. Famous last words but this report might not be the most interesting since it may be a bit backward looking given WTI oil is up c.7.5% in October alone. In addition, used cars were up +5.4% in September after falling in late summer. So given the 2-3 month lag for this to filter through into the CPI we won’t be getting the full picture today. I loved the fact from his speech last night that the Fed’s Bostic has introduced a “transitory” swear jar in his office. More on the Fedspeak later. In terms of what to expect this time around though, our US economists are forecasting month-on-month growth of +0.41% in the headline CPI, and +0.27% for core, which would take the year-on-year rates to +5.4% for headline and +4.1% for core. Ahead of this, inflation expectations softened late in the day as Fed officials were on the hawkish side. The US 10yr breakeven dropped -1.9bps to 2.49% after trading at 2.527% earlier in the session. This is still the 3rd highest closing level since May, and remains only 7bps off its post-2013 closing high. Earlier, inflation expectations continued to climb in Europe, where the 5y5y forward inflation swap hit a post-2015 high of 1.84%. Also on inflation, the New York Fed released their latest Survey of Consumer Expectations later in the European session, which showed that 1-year ahead inflation expectations were now at +5.3%, which is the highest level since the survey began in 2013, whilst 3-year ahead expectations were now at +4.2%, which was also a high for the series. The late rally in US breakevens, coupled with lower real yields (-1.6bps) meant that the 10yr Treasury yield ended the session down -3.5bps at 1.577% - their biggest one day drop in just over 3 weeks. There was a decent flattening of the yield curve, with the 2yr yield up +2.0bps to 0.34%, its highest level since the pandemic began as the market priced in more near-term Fed rate hikes. In the Euro Area it was a very different story however, with 10yr yields rising to their highest level in months, including among bunds (+3.5bps), OATs (+2.9bps) and BTPs (+1.0bps). That rise in the 10yr bund yield left it at -0.09%, taking it above its recent peak earlier this year to its highest closing level since May 2019. Interestingly gilts (-4.0bps) massively out-performed after having aggressively sold off for the last week or so. Against this backdrop, equity markets struggled for direction as they awaited the CPI reading and the start of the US Q3 earnings season today. By the close of trade, the S&P 500 (-0.24%) and the STOXX 600 (-0.07%) had both posted modest losses as they awaited the next catalyst. Defensive sectors were the outperformers on both sides of the Atlantic. Real estate (+1.34%) and utilities (+0.67%) were among the best performing US stocks, though some notable “reopening” industries outperformed as well including airlines (+0.83%), hotels & leisure (+0.51%). News came out after the US close regarding the global chip shortage, with Bloomberg reporting that Apple, who are one of the largest buyers of chips, would revise down their iPhone 13 production targets for 2021 by 10 million units. Recent rumblings from chip producers suggest that the problems are expected to persist, which will make central bank decisions even more complicated over the coming weeks as they grapple with increasing supply-side constraints that push up inflation whilst threatening to undermine the recovery. Speaking of central bankers, Vice Chair Clarida echoed his previous remarks and other communications from the so-called “core” of the FOMC that the current bout of inflation would prove largely transitory and that underlying trend inflation was hovering close to 2%, while admitting that risks were tilted towards higher inflation. Atlanta Fed President Bostic took a much harder line though, noting that price pressures were expanding beyond the pandemic-impacted sectors, and measures of inflation expectations were creeping higher. Specifically, he said, “it is becoming increasingly clear that the feature of this episode that has animated price pressures — mainly the intense and widespread supply-chain disruptions — will not be brief.” His ‘transitory swear word jar’ for his office was considerably more full by the end of his speech. As highlighted above, while President Bostic spoke US 10yr breakevens dropped -2bps and then continued declining through the New York afternoon. In what is likely to be Clarida’s last consequential decision on monetary policy before his term expires, he noted it may soon be time to start a tapering program that ends in the middle of next year, in line with our US economics team’s call for a November taper announcement. In that vein, our US economists have updated their forecasts for rate hikes yesterday, and now see liftoff taking place in December 2022, followed by 3 rate increases in each of 2023 and 2024. That comes in light of supply disruptions lifting inflation, a likely rise in inflation expectations (which are sensitive to oil prices), and measures of labour market slack continuing to outperform. For those interested, you can read a more in-depth discussion of this here. Turning to commodities, yesterday saw a stabilisation in prices after the rapid gains on Monday, with WTI (+0.15%) and Brent Crude (-0.27%) oil prices seeing only modest movements either way, whilst iron ore prices in Singapore were down -3.45%. That said it wasn’t entirely bad news for the asset class, with Chinese coal futures (+4.45%) hitting fresh records, just as aluminium prices on the London Metal Exchange (+0.13%) eked out another gain to hit a new post-2008 high. Overnight in Asia, equity markets are seeing a mixed performance with the KOSPI (+1.24%) posting decent gains, whereas the CSI (-0.06%), Nikkei (-0.22%) and Shanghai Composite (-0.69%) have all lost ground. The KOSPI’s strength came about on the back of a decent jobs report, with South Korea adding +671k relative to a year earlier, the most since March 2014. The Hong Kong Exchange is closed however due to the impact of typhoon Kompasu. Separately, coal futures in China are up another +8.00% this morning, so no sign of those price pressures abating just yet following recent floods. Meanwhile, US equity futures are pointing to little change later on, with those on the S&P 500 down -0.12%. Here in Europe, we had some fresh Brexit headlines after the UK’s Brexit minister, David Frost, said that the Northern Ireland Protocol “is not working” and was not protecting the Good Friday Agreement. He said that he was sharing a new amended Protocol with the EU, which comes ahead of the release of the EU’s own proposals on the issue today. But Frost also said that “if we are going to get a solution we must, collectively, deliver significant change”, and that Article 16 which allows either side to take unilateral safeguard measures could be used “if necessary”. Elsewhere yesterday, the IMF marginally downgraded their global growth forecast for this year, now seeing +5.9% growth in 2021 (vs. +6.0% in July), whilst their 2022 forecast was maintained at +4.9%. This masked some serious differences between countries however, with the US downgraded to +6.0% in 2021 (vs. +7.0% in July), whereas Italy’s was upgraded to +5.8% (vs. +4.9% in July). On inflation they said that risks were skewed to the upside, and upgraded their forecasts for the advanced economies to +2.8% in 2021, and to +2.3% in 2022. Looking at yesterday’s data, US job openings declined in August for the first time this year, falling to 10.439m (vs. 10.954m expected). But the quits rate hit a record of 2.9%, well above its pre-Covid levels of 2.3-2.4%. Here in the UK, data showed the number of payroll employees rose by +207k in September, while the unemployment rate for the three months to August fell to 4.5%, in line with expectations. And in a further sign of supply-side issues, the number of job vacancies in the three months to September hit a record high of 1.102m. Separately in Germany, the ZEW survey results came in beneath expectations, with the current situation declining to 21.6 (vs. 28.0 expected), whilst expectations fell to 22.3 (vs. 23.5 expected), its lowest level since March 2020. To the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the aforementioned US CPI reading for September, while today will also see the most recent FOMC meeting minutes released. Other data releases include UK GDP for August and Euro Area industrial production for August. Central bank speakers include BoE Deputy Governor Cunliffe, the ECB’s Visco and the Fed’s Brainard. Finally, earnings releases include JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and Delta Air Lines. Tyler Durden Wed, 10/13/2021 - 08:13.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 13th, 2021

The Debt Ceiling Non-Crisis & Why Rates Will Fall

The Debt Ceiling Non-Crisis & Why Rates Will Fall Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com, The financial media is rife with misinformation on the debt ceiling and the jump in interest rates. However, a review of history shows that not only is the “debt-ceiling” issue a non-crisis, but the recent rise in rates is likely an opportunity to buy bonds. Let’s start with the media scare tactics over the debt ceiling: If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the Treasury will run out of money. The U.S. will default on its debt. The markets and economy will crash. While there is a grain of truth behind these statements, they are largely false. However, for the media, a manufactured crisis should never be allowed to go to waste. To wit: “As Washington teeters closer to a possible government shutdown at midnight Thursday, here’s why the status of the nation’s debt ceiling may ignite more worry in financial markets. Sept. 30 marks the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, and the deadline for Congress to pass a funding measure. The debt ceiling, which is the amount of money lawmakers authorize the Treasury Department to borrow, must be suspended or raised by Oct. 18, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, or the U.S. likely will default on its debt.“ – MarketWatch CBS took the “fear-mongering” to a whole new level with this statement: “The U.S. economy could plunge into another recession this fall if Congress fails to lift the debt ceiling and the nation is unable to pay its obligations, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. The fallout would wipe out as many as 6 million jobs and erase $15 trillion in household wealth, he estimated in a report.” While a remarkable statement to get “clicks,” even a cursory review of history suggests the hyperbole falls well short of reality. Both Parties Equally Responsible For Lifting The Debt Ceiling Let’s start with an explanation of the “debt ceiling.” “The debt ceiling is the legal limit on the total amount of federal debt the government can accrue. The limit applies to almost all federal debt, including the roughly $22.3 trillion of debt held by the public and the roughly $6.2 trillion the government owes itself as a result of borrowing from various government accounts, like the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. As a result, the debt continues to rise due to both annual budget deficits financed by borrowing from the public and from trust fund surpluses, which are invested in Treasury bills with the promise to be repaid later with interest.” – CRFB The entire purpose for establishing a debt ceiling was to place a “credit limit” on the Government. In a responsible Government, as the debt ceiling approaches, members of Congress should begin discussing budget cuts, spending reductions, or revenue increases. The goal, logically, is to keep the country in a “surplus” position over time. In 1980, that all changed, and seven administrations and four decades later, Government debt surged, deficits exploded, and the debt ceiling rose 78 times. (49 times under Republicans and 29 times under Democrats.) Has The U.S. Ever Defaulted On Its Debt? “Investors in T-bills maturing April 26, 1979, got told that the U.S. Treasury could not make its payments on maturing securities to individual investors. The Treasury was also late in redeeming T-bills which become due on May 3 and May 10, 1979. The Treasury blamed this delay on the failure of Congress to act in a timely fashion on the debt ceiling legislation in April. Also, an unanticipated failure of word processing equipment used to prepare check schedules contributed to the delay.” – The Financial Review What the mainstream media missed, because “fear-mongering” attracts readers, is there are two types of default. The first is an actual default where the borrower cannot pay its debts due to a lack of capital. The second is a “technical default.” In 1979, as noted, the Treasury was hung up over a “debt ceiling debate” and could not make interest payments. There was little worry by lenders over the safety or security of their capital. They knew that when the U.S. resolved the “technical issues,” the Government would make its payments. Such is the “crisis” bond investors currently face. Could there be a short-term delay in making interest payments? Absolutely. Is there any risk of a default on the payment of interest or principal on outstanding Treasury bonds? Absolutely not. As shown, 10-year rates did spike shortly over the initial concerns of the default. However, as soon as bondholders realized there was no continuing threat, they began to buy bonds at a discount to the previous value. Over the next couple of months, rates fell as sanity returned to the bond market. (Later that year, rates would rise again over legitimate concerns of the oil crisis.) The Democrats Have All The Power To Solve The Problem Despite all of the media narrative we noted previously; the Democrats did not need ANY Republican votes to: LIft the debt ceiling Fund the Government via “Continuing Resolution,” or “C.R.” Pass the $3.5 Trillion spending bill. The Democrats did what we expected on Thursday and passed a “clean Continuing Resolution” to fund the government until December 3rd. U.S. House, in 254-175 vote, OKed the Senate-passed continuing resolution ("CR") to extend government funding to Dec. 3 and avert a partial shutdown. Also includes billions for disaster aid and Afghan evacuation & resettlement. Biden's signature next. D 220-0, R 34-175 — Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) September 30, 2021 The problem for the Democrats in separating the Continuing Resolution from the debt ceiling is they lost any leverage to force a bipartisan debt vote to suspend the debt limit. Such puts the Democrats in a precarious position. With no bipartisan support, the Democrats will own the entirety of the debt increases in the upcoming mid-term elections. Such could be very problematic for representatives from more moderate “purple” states like Virginia and Georgia. As a result, even progressive Democrats are pushing back on Biden and Pelosi’s “runaway” spending plans. As noted above, it is not surprising to see Treasury yields rising once again. However, the current rate of change in rates is not historically dramatic and well within the context of what one would expect. Debt Ceiling Crisis Redux As Congress lifts the debt ceiling for the 79th time, the runaway spending and deficit increases continue to accelerate. The consequence of increasing debts and deficits is evident in the declining economic growth rates over the past 40-years. During the last 12-years, a debt ceiling fight is an annual event between policymakers. The most prominent of which was in 2011 that led to a comprise to cut $1 trillion in spending. At that time, Ben Bernake launched the third round of Quantitative Easing to compensate for what was feared to be a “fiscal cliff” in 2013. Such was due to spending cuts getting automatically imposed. As shown, rates spiked during the “debt ceiling crisis” as concerns over default rose. Subsequently, rates fell to new lows as deficits surged and economic growth slowed. Rates initially jumped over concerns of spending cuts, but the massive amount of QE injected into the system fueled stocks into overdrive, and yields collapsed. Why Now Is Likely A Great Bond Buying Opportunity There are several vital points evident from reviewing history. While politicians talk a tough game, the current debate over the debt ceiling is nothing more than political posturing. The media is a primary source of misinformation over the debt ceiling and potential outcomes. Bond investors should be welcoming the debt ceiling debate as an opportunity to buy bonds at cheaper prices with higher yields. Are there currently risks to the bond market that investors should be concerned about near term? Yes. The current spike in inflation will likely last longer than expected due to the break of supply lines. Furthermore, rates tend to rise when the Fed begins to discuss “tapering” their bond purchases as they are doing now. However, both of these issues will resolve themselves going forward. Eventually, the supply chain disruption will mend, and inflation will decline as supply comes back online. More importantly, when the Fed does begin the process of “tapering” their bond purchases, yields historically fall as investor’s “risk-preference” shifts from “risk-on” to “risk-off.” As if always the case with investing, timing, as they say, is everything. Such is why, with interest rates at more extreme overbought levels, we are looking for our next opportunity to add duration to our bond portfolios. Moreover, with the equity market grossly overvalued, we suspect that bonds will provide a chunk of our capital gains over the next couple of years. There is little upside to the equity market. However, when the next recession approaches, yields will once again likely approach zero. Got bonds? Tyler Durden Fri, 10/01/2021 - 15:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytOct 1st, 2021

Evergrande To Default On Second Offshore Bond After $1.5 Billion Bank Stake Sale

Evergrande To Default On Second Offshore Bond After $1.5 Billion Bank Stake Sale China's cash-strapped property giant Evergrande was on the verge of defaulting on a second bond on Wednesday despite agreeing to settle debt with a Chinese bank in a $1.5 billion stake divestment deal, a move which sent Evergrande's worthless stock squeezing higher, now up 50% from a week ago. Early on Wednesday, Evergrande said in an exchange filing that it would sell a 9.99 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) stake it owns in Shengjing Bank - its most valuable financial unit - to a state-owned asset management company. The bank, one of Evergrande's main lenders, demanded all net proceeds from the sale go towards settling the developer's debts with Shengjing. “The company’s liquidity issue has adversely affected Shengjing Bank in a material way,” Evergrande said in the statement, adding that the introduction of the purchaser -- state-owned Shenyang Shengjing Finance Investment Group Co. -- will help to stabilize the bank’s operations. As of the first half last year, the bank had 7 billion yuan in loans to Evergrande, according to a report by brokerage CCB International, citing news reports. Other creditors to Evergrande - listed in the table below - are not so lucky as to have equity investments they can use as leverage. The transaction underscores the mounting pressure on billionaire Hui Ka Yan to spin off and sell assets to pay down a mountain of debt. Evergrande’s original 36% stake in Shengjing Bank was among its most valuable financial assets, worth about $2.8 billion. That holding has become less appealing as regulators toughen oversight on dealings such as preferential lending and bond purchases between banks and their largest shareholders. The sale also underscores how Evergrande, which once was China's top-selling developer and will soon be the country's largest-ever restructuring, is prioritizing domestic creditors over offshore bondholders. It also highlights the role state-owned enterprises may play in Evergrande's denouement, which as noted yesterday have been prodded by Beijing to facilitate the company's asset sales. Meanwhile, as of 5pm on Hong Kong, Evergrande had failed to make a $45.2 million in interest on a second offshore note, this one due 2024, according to Bloomberg. Similar to last week, there’s a 30-day grace period before an event of default could be declared. The developer’s also facing claims it’s a guarantor on a separate $260 million bond that matures Sunday. As widely reported the company missed a payment deadline on a dollar bond last week, a day after its main property business in China said it had privately negotiated with onshore bondholders to settle a separate coupon payment on a yuan-denominated bond. Evergrande's continued silence on its offshore payment obligations has left global investors wondering if they will have to swallow large losses when 30-day grace periods end for coupon payments due on Sept. 23 and Sept. 29. "We are in the wait-and-see phase at the moment. The creditors are organising themselves and people are trying to figure out how this  falling knife might be caught," said an advisor hired by one of the offshore Evergrande bondholders cited by Reuters. "They failed to pay last week, I think they will probably fail to pay this one. That doesn't mean necessarily they're not going to pay ... they've got the 30-day grace period," said the advisor declining to be named due to sensitivity of the issue. A No Entry traffic sign stands near the headquarters of China Evergrande Group in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China. Photo: Reuters Meanwhile, scrutiny of Evergrande’s obligations continues to mount, with Singapore’s financial regulator the latest to quiz its banks about their exposure, while Fitch Ratings has cut Evergrande’s credit rating further to just one notch above default level. Finally, on Monday China's central bank vowed to protect consumers exposed to the housing market, without mentioning Evergrande in a statement posted to its website, and injected more cash into the banking system. Those moves have boosted investor sentiment towards Chinese property stocks in the last couple of days, with Evergrande stock rising as much as 17% on Wednesday and up 50% in the past week. Despite the torrid bounce from the all time lows hit last week, it is unclear if the momentum can continue. As Bloomberg's Mark Cranfield writes, "should there be another missed deadline, the read across could be negative for Greater China equities and Asian high-yield corporate bonds. Asian dollar bonds are having their worst month since the peak of market coronavirus fears in March 2020. Evergrande may also be on the hook for a bond issued by Jumbo Fortune which matures on Oct. 3. The risks have spread globally with the Fed questioning several big U.S. banks about their exposure to China Evergrande Group. At least the company is going to raise some funds with the sale of shares in Shengjing Bank. However, to misquote Oscar Wilde, to lose one payment may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like something else"   Tyler Durden Wed, 09/29/2021 - 08:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 29th, 2021

Morgan Stanley: We Are Approaching An Inflection Point In China Policy Easing

Morgan Stanley: We Are Approaching An Inflection Point In China Policy Easing By Chetan Ahya, Chief Economist and Global Head of Economics at Morgan Stanley The past two months have seen successive waves of headlines from China, first on the broad regulatory reset and then this week’s focus on property developers facing near-term funding pressures. The policy goals of these measures are first to ensure social stability and second to make economic growth more sustainable by reducing income inequality and addressing imbalances and excesses. However, they have raised concerns about a potential rise in systemic risks and a sharper slowdown in growth. Investors’ focus has shifted from tech to the property sector, which faces challenges on two fronts. First, property developers are required to adhere to the “three red lines” – maintaining healthy liabilities-to-assets, net gearing and cash-to-short-term debt ratios – which were announced in August 2020. What we are experiencing now is a direct effect of that regulatory action, which aimed to reduce systemic risks with benchmarks to curb excessive property sector borrowing. In addition, property demand in China has slowed in the last two months, as the front-loading of mortgage lending quotas in the first half of the year has weighed on property sales, increasing headwinds for property developers. As things stand, most property developers are on track to comply with the three red lines, but a number face challenges in meeting the mandated ratios. Our China property analyst estimates that the total debt exposure of property developers is around Rmb 18.4 trillion, which is now similar to annual sales. This indicates that leverage in aggregate is manageable – hence, so is the deleveraging process. Nonetheless, the pressure to reduce leverage means that defaults in China's property sector are likely to increase. From past experience, policy-makers have mechanisms in place to prevent systemic risks. For instance, debt restructuring will take place at the holding company level of property developers in default, while operating companies remain in business and construction projects move forward. Credit committees will oversee this process, with representation from the financial regulators, the central bank and local governments. Vis-à-vis the banking system, the property risk exposure of China's banks appears manageable. Development loans totaled 6.9% of banks' total loan balances, and individual developers' loan balances are limited to 0.3% of banks' total loan balance or less. NPL formation has also dropped to multi-year lows in 1H21. In addition, the risks related to peer-to-peer consumer loans and shadow banking credits have largely been addressed over the last three years. Hence, our China financials analyst sees ample room for the domestic banking system to deal with property sector risks this year. The exposure of global investors to the China property sector as holders of the debt or global banks as lenders to the sector is relatively small, which reduces the potential for global systemic risks. While we expect the restructuring process and immediate spillovers to the financial system to be orderly, we are mindful of potential knock-on effects in the broader economy. Although inventory levels are low, the economy will see some downside pressure from weaker housing starts in the near term. The property and adjacent sectors – residential property investment, related services and downstream goods consumption – account for ~15% of China’s GDP. Our chief China economist Robin Xing estimates that a 10pp slowdown in residential property activity could exert a ~1pp drag on GDP growth. Further spillovers could take the form of a negative wealth effect: reduced private consumption, the decline in property investment weighing on fixed asset investment in other upstream manufacturing sectors, and the impact on property sector employment exacerbating weaker consumption. These spillover effects are creating downward pressure on growth at the same time that production cuts to meet energy intensity targets are weighing on growth, the regulatory reset is weighing on corporate sentiment and consumption is softening because of intermittent Covid-related restrictions. We therefore see a risk that spillovers from the property sector would keep 4Q21 growth below 5% on a 2Y CAGR basis. This is a low starting point relative to next year’s growth target of 5.5%. Moreover, a sharper growth slowdown could increase the risk of a material impact on the labour market, which would run counter to the policy objective of ensuring social stability. It is in this context that we expect policy-makers to manage the process and pace of adjustment while providing meaningful countercyclical easing, just as they did in 2H15, 4Q18 and 2H19. Indeed, we think that we are approaching an inflection point in policy easing. Further measures in the pipeline include: faster fiscal spending to support infrastructure projects in September-December; another 50bp RRR cut in mid-to-late October; some easing of mortgage quotas and fine-tuning of production cuts to meet energy intensity targets in 4Q21; and front-loading of loan quotas and local government special bonds in January-February 2022. In the coming weeks, we will be watching for (1) communication from policy-makers on the details of the restructuring plan for property developers, and (2) policy easing signals and announcements. Tyler Durden Sun, 09/26/2021 - 22:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 26th, 2021

How Evergrande Became Too Big To Fail And Why Beijing Will Have To Bail It Out

How Evergrande Became Too Big To Fail And Why Beijing Will Have To Bail It Out While the world is obsessing with the fate of Evergrande, and more importantly when, or if, Beijing will bail it out, another just as interesting question is how did the company many call "China's Lehman" get to the point of no return and become a global systematic risk. For a fascinating look into how we got here, we turn our readers' attention to a recent article from Caixin titled "How Evergrande Could Turn Into ‘China’s Lehman Brothers'," and which provides one of the most comprehensive insights into why Beijing will have to, even if it is kicking and screaming, bail out Evergrande which, at its core, is just one giant shadow-banking black box whose time has finally run out. * * * For the past two months, hundreds of people have been gathering at the 43-floor Zhuoyue Houhai Center in Shenzhen, where China Evergrande Group’s headquarters occupy 20 floors. They held banners demanding repayment of overdue loans and financial products. Police with riot shields had to be on site to keep things under control. The demonstrators are construction workers at the property developer’s housing projects, suppliers providing construction materials and investors in the company’s wealth management products (WMPs). From paint suppliers to decoration and construction companies, Evergrande owes more than 800 billion yuan ($124 billion) due within one year, while it has only a 10th of that amount of cash on hand. As of the end of June, Evergrande had nearly 2 trillion yuan ($309 billion) of debts on its books, plus an unknown amount of off-books debt. The property giant is on the verge of a dramatic debt restructuring or even bankruptcy, many institutions believe. A bankruptcy would amount to a financial tsunami, or as some analysts put it, “China’s Lehman Brothers.” The venerable American investment bank’s 2008 collapse helped trigger a global financial crisis. Certainly Evergrande, one of China’s three biggest developers, has a giant footprint in China. Unfinished residential buildings at Evergrande Oasis, a housing complex developed by Evergrande Group, in Luoyang, China September 16, 2021 Its liabilities are equivalent to about 2% of China’s GDP. It has more than 200,000 employees, who themselves and many of their families have invested billions of yuan in the company’s WMPs. The company has more than 800 projects under construction, more than half of them halted due to its cash crunch. There are thousands of upstream and downstream companies that rely on Evergrande for business, creating more than 3.8 million jobs every year. Like many of China’s “too big to fail” conglomerates, Evergrande’s crisis has fueled speculation over whether the government will step in for a rescue. Several state-owned enterprises, including Shenzhen Talents Housing Group Co. Ltd. and Shenzhen Investment Ltd., both controlled by the Shenzhen State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), are in talks with Evergrande on its Shenzhen projects, according to people close to the talks. But so far, no deals have been reached. In a statement last week, Evergrande denied rumors that it will go bankrupt. While the developer faces unprecedented difficulties, it is fulfilling its responsibilities and is doing everything possible to restore normal operations and protect the legitimate rights and interests of customers, according to a statement on its website. The company hired financial advisers to explore “all feasible solutions” to ease its cash crunch, warning that there’s no guarantee the company will meet its financial obligations. It has repeatedly signaled that it will sell equity and assets including but not limited to investment properties, hotels and other properties and attract investors to increase the equity of Evergrande and its affiliates. Growth on borrowed money Over the years, Evergrande has faced liquidity pressure several times, but every time it dodged the bullet. This time, the crisis of cash flow and trust is unprecedented. Evergrande shares in Hong Kong plummeted to a 10-year low. Its onshore bonds fell to what investors call defaulted bond level. All three global credit rating companies and one domestic rating company have downgraded Evergrande’s debt. For many years, Chinese developers were driven by the “three carriages” — high turnover, high gross profit and high leverage. Developers use borrowed money to acquire land, collect presale cash before projects even start, and then borrow more money to invest in new projects. In 2018, Evergrande reported record profit of 72 billion yuan, more than double the previous year’s net. But behind that, it spent more than 100 billion yuan a year on interest. Even in good years, the company usually had negative operating cash flow, with not enough cash on hand to cover short-term loans due within a year with and presale revenue not enough to pay suppliers. In addition to borrowing from banks, Evergrande also borrows from executives and employees. When developers seek funds from banks, lenders often require personal investments from the developers’ executives as a risk-control measure, a former employee at Evergrande’s asset management department told Caixin. “At times like this, Evergrande would have an internal fund-raising campaign,” the manager said. “Either the executives would pay out of their own pockets, or they would set a goal for each division.” One crowdfunding product issued to executives was called “Chaoshoubao,” which means “super return treasure.” In 2017, Evergrande tried to obtain project financing from state-owned China Citic Bank in Shenzhen, which required personal investment from Evergrande’s executives. The company then issued Chaoshoubao to employees, promising 25% annual interest and redemption of principal and interest within two years. The minimum investment was 3 million yuan. China Citic Bank eventually agreed to provide 40 billion yuan of acquisition funds to Evergrande. In 2020, Chen Xuying, former vice president of China Citic Bank and head of the bank’s Shenzhen branch from 2012 to 2018, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for accepting bribes after issuing loans. A senior executive at Evergrande said he personally invested 1.5 million yuan and mobilized his subordinates to invest 1.5 million yuan into Chaoshoubao. Some employees would even borrow money to invest in the product because the 25% return was much higher than loan rates. When the Chaoshoubao was due for redemption in 2019, the company asked employees who bought the product to agree to a one-year extension for repayment. Then in 2020, the company asked for another one-year extension. One investor said buyers received an annualized return of 4% to 5% in the last four years, far below the 25% promised return. When Evergrande’s cash flow crisis was exposed, the company chose to repay principal only to current executives. From late August to early September, the company repaid current executives and employees about 2 billion yuan but still owed 200 million yuan to former employees, including Ren Zeping, former chief economist of Evergrande who joined Soochow Securities Co. in March. Evergrande’s wealth division also sells WMPs to the public. Most of these WMPs offer a return of 5% to 10%, with a minimum investment of 100,000 yuan, the former employee at Evergrande’s asset management department said. As the return is higher than WMPs typically sold at banks, many of Evergrande’s employees bought them and persuaded their families and friends to invest, an employee said. Usually, a 20 million yuan WMP could be sold out within five days, the employee said. The company also sells WMPs to construction partners. Evergrande would require construction companies to buy WMPs whenever it needed to pay them, a former employee at Evergrande’s construction division told Caixin. “If the construction companies are owed 1 million or 2 million yuan, we would ask them to buy 100,000–200,000 yuan of WMPs, or about 10% of their receivables,” the former employee said. Although it was not mandatory for construction companies to buy WMPs, they often would do so for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with Evergrande, the former employee said. In addition, Evergrande property owners were also buyers of the company’s WMPs. About 40 billion yuan of the WMPs are now due. “It is difficult for Evergrande to make all of the repayments at once at this moment,” said Du Liang, general manager of Evergrande’s wealth division. Evergrande initially proposed to impose lengthy repayment delays, with investments of 100,000 yuan and above to be repaid in five years. After heated protests by investors, the company tweaked its plan last week, offering three options. Investors can accept cash installments, purchase Evergrande’s properties in any city at a discount, or waive investors’ payables on residential units they have purchased. Some investors opposed the “property for debt” option, as many projects of Evergrande have been halted and there is a risk of unfinished projects in the future. “The proposals are insincere,” a petition signed by some Guangdong investors said. “It’s like buying nonperforming assets with a premium.” The petition urged the government to freeze Evergrande’s accounts and assets and demanded cash repayment of all principal and interest. Some investors chose to accept the payment scheme proposed by Evergrande. They selected Evergrande projects located in hot cities in the hope of making up for losses by resale in the future. As Evergrande owed large amounts to construction companies, more than 500 of Evergrande’s 800-plus projects across the country are now halted. The company has at least several hundred thousand units that have been presold and not delivered. It needs at least 100 billion yuan to complete construction and deliver the units, Caixin learned. Whether and how to repay WMP investors or deliver housing is Evergrande’s dilemma. Debt to construction partners and suppliers In August, the construction company that was contracted to build Evergrande’s Taicang cultural tourism city in Nantong, Jiangsu province, announced the halt of the project due to bills unpaid by Evergrande. The company, Jiangsu Nantong Sanjian Construction Group Co. Ltd., said it put 500 million yuan of its own funds into the project and Evergrande paid it less than 290 million yuan. Sanjian has other construction contracts with Evergrande and its subsidiaries. As of September, Evergrande owes the Nantong company about 20 billion yuan. As of August 2020, Evergrande had 8,441 upstream and downstream companies it was working with. If the flow of Evergrande cash stops, the normal operation of these companies will be disrupted, and some would even face the risk of bankruptcy. In Ezhou, Hubei province, five of Evergrande’s projects have been halted for more than a month, and it owes contractors about 500 million yuan. “Housing delivery involves not only hundreds of thousands of families, but also local social stability,” a banker said. The housing authorities in Guangdong province are coordinating with Evergrande and its construction partners, trying to resume construction, the banker said. Evergrande relies heavily on commercial paper to pay construction partners and suppliers. Among payments it made to Sanjian, only 8% was in cash and the rest in commercial paper. Initially, the commercial paper borrowings were mostly six-month notes with annualized interest rates of 15%–16%. Now most carry interest rates of more than 20%. Holders of such commercial paper can sell the notes at a discount to raise cash. In 2017–18, the discount rate on Evergrande paper could reach 15%–20%. Since May 2021, the few Evergrande notes that could still be sold have been discounted as much as 55%, according to a person familiar with such transactions. For small and medium-sized suppliers, holding a large amount of overdue Evergrande notes is a burden too heavy to bear. In recent months, a number of suppliers sued Evergrande for breach of contract but often settled the cases. A lawyer who represented Evergrande in related cases told Caixin that many plaintiffs chose to negotiate with Evergrande while fighting in court. Evergrande also offered a “property for debt” option to its commercial paper holders. The company said it’s in talks with suppliers and construction contractors to delay payment or offset debt with properties. From July 1 to Aug. 27, Evergrande sold properties to suppliers and contractors to offset a total of 25 billion yuan of debt. Selling assets, but not land Meanwhile, Evergrande has been offloading its assets to raise cash. Its biggest assets are its land reserves. As of June 30, it had 778 land reserve projects with a total planned floor area of 214 million square meters and an original value of 456.8 billion yuan. Additionally, it has 146 urban redevelopment projects. In the past three months, Evergrande has been in talks with China Overseas Land and Investment Ltd., China Vanke Co. Ltd. and China Jinmao Holdings Group Ltd. for possible asset sales. Shenzhen and Guangzhou SASACs have arranged for several state-owned enterprises to conduct due diligence on Evergrande’s urban redevelopment projects, a person close to the matter said. Evergrande has approached every possible buyer in the market, the person said. However, no deals have been reached. Several real estate developers that have been in contact with Evergrande told Caixin that while some of Evergrande’s projects look good on the surface, there are complex creditors’ rights that make them difficult to dispose of. Some potential buyers have said they could consider a debt-assumption acquisition, but Evergrande was reluctant to sell at a loss, Caixin learned. At an emergency staff meeting Sept. 10, the wealth management general manager Du said in a speech that most of Evergrande’s land reserve is not for sale, reflecting the position of his boss, founder and Chairman Xu Jiayin. “In China, land reserves are the most valuable assets,” Du said. “This is Evergrande’s biggest asset and last resort. “For example, for a land parcel, Evergrande’s acquisition cost is 1 billion yuan, and the land itself is worth 2 billion yuan, but the buyer may only offer 300 million yuan,” Du said. “If we sold at a loss, we would have no capital to revive.” For his part, Xu maintained that Evergrande could repay all its debts and recover as long as it turns land into houses and sells them. But even if Evergrande can quickly sell its houses, the revenue would be far from enough to pay down debt. The chance that Evergrande won’t be able to pay interest due in the third quarter is 99.99%, estimated by a banker whose employer has billions of yuan of exposure to the company. As of the end of June, Evergrande had total assets of 2.38 trillion yuan and total liabilities of 1.97 trillion yuan. Of the nearly 2 trillion yuan of debt, interest-bearing debt was 571.7 billion yuan, down about 145 billion yuan from the end of 2020. The decrease in interest-bearing debt was mostly achieved by deferred payables to suppliers. In addition to the 571.7 billion yuan of interest-bearing debt on its books, it’s not a secret that developers like Evergrande have huge off-balance sheet debt. But the amount at Evergrande is not known. In the early stage of projects, developers need to invest a lot of money, which could significantly increase the debt on the balance sheet. Companies often place these debts off their balance sheet through a variety of means. After the pre-sale of the project, or even after the cash flow of the project turns positive, these debts would be consolidated into the balance sheet in the form of equity transfer, according to a property industry insider. For example, 40 billion yuan of acquisition funds Evergrande obtained from China Citic Bank were invested in multiple projects. Among them, 10.7 billion yuan was used by Shenzhen Liangyang Industrial Co. Ltd. to acquire Shenzhen Duoji Investment Co. Ltd. As Evergrande doesn’t have an equity relationship with the two companies, this item was not required to be consolidated into Evergrande’s financial statement. Evergrande used leveraged funds to acquire equities in 10 projects, and none of them were included in its financial statement, the prospectus of its Chaoshoubao shows. Evergrande has sold equity in subsidiaries to strategic investors and promised to buy back the stakes if certain milestones can’t be reached in the future. Such equity sales are actually a form of borrowing, too. In March, Evergrande sold a stake in its online home and car sales platform Fangchebao for HK$16.4 billion ($2.1 billion) in advance of a planned U.S. share sale by the unit. If the online sales unit doesn’t complete an initial public offering on Nasdaq or any other stock exchange within 12 months after the completion of the stake sale, the unit is required to repurchase the shares at a 15% premium. Evergrande’s hidden debts also include unpaid payments to acquire equities. Dozens of small property companies have sued Evergrande demanding cancellation of their equity sales agreements with the company because Evergrande failed to pay them. They are Evergrande’s partners in local development projects. Evergrande usually paid them 30% down for equities but declined to pay the rest even after the project was completed, according to the lawsuits. A plaintiff’s lawyer told Caixin that Evergrande’s project subsidiaries don’t want to go sour with local partners, but they have no money to pay as sales from the projects have been transferred to the parent company. A total of 49 of Evergrande’s wholly owned local subsidiaries have been sued since April, according to Tianyancha, a database of publicly available corporate information. Evergrande also owes land transfer fees to some local governments. Some 20 Evergrande affiliates have not yet made payments to the city government of Lanzhou, the capital of Northwest China’s Gansu province, according to a list of 41 such firms issued in July by the city’s natural resources department. A potential default by Evergrande could spread to markets outside China as it has huge, high-interest offshore bonds. Some of its offshore bonds carry interest rates as high as 15%, a person close to the Hong Kong capital market said. UBS estimates that $19 billion of Evergrande’s liabilities are made up of outstanding offshore bonds. Evergrande has been frantically selling properties at discounts this year. In late May, it offered certain homebuyers 30% to 40% off if they paid entirely in cash. In the first half, the company reported 356 billion yuan of contracted sales, slightly higher than 349 billion yuan for the same period last year. Average selling prices in the first six months declined 11.2%. Meanwhile, payables increased 14.7% to 951 billion yuan, and sales and marketing expenses increased 30% to 17.8 billion yuan. In response to the market environment, the company increased sales commissions and marketing expenses, the company said. Compared with its competitors, Evergrande has higher capital and human costs but lower selling prices, an industry participant said. “How can it make money?” the person said. The developer reported a 29% slide in profit for the first half. Its 10.5 billion yuan of profit mainly reflected an 18.5 billion yuan gain from the sale of some shares and marked-to-market holding in internet unit Henten Networks. It reported a loss in its core property business of 4 billion yuan. Evergrande’s extremely high debt ratio, high financing cost and repeated delays in payments to suppliers, partners and local government show that its liquidity has always been tight, but on the other hand, the fact that it has survived years under this model indicates that it has always been able to generate money, a veteran investor said. Now everyone is watching whether it can dodge the bullet once again. Tyler Durden Mon, 09/20/2021 - 22:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 21st, 2021

5 Defensive ETF Bets as Omicron Enters the United States

Let's look at some safe ETF plays that investors can consider keeping in mind the rising concerns emanating from the new omicron variant. The highly mutated new COVID-19 variant, omicron, has finally entered the United States. Dr. Anthony Fauci has confirmed that the first case has been detected in California in a traveler who had arrived from South Africa on Nov 22 and was tested to be positive on Nov 29 (per a CNN report). The new variant is feared to be carrying the combined features of the previous variants and can have high transmissibility and lower vaccine potency.Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has also adversely impacted market sentiments by mentioning that the central bank will be discussing speeding up the tapering process from the $15 billion-a-month schedule decided previously, per a CNBC article. This move might be taken to control the persistently high inflation levels, given that the U.S. economy is strongly recovering from the pandemic-led slump.Against this backdrop, let’s take a look at some defensive ETF options that investors can consider like Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF VIG, Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF SPLV, iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF QUAL, SPDR Gold Shares GLD and Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF VDC.Commenting over the new variant, Pasi Penttinen, public health emergency response manager at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, has recently said that “It looks like this particular variant has a very concerning set of mutations especially in the spike protein, which is needed for its transmission properties as well as its protection against the vaccines, so based on the genetic information we are quite concerned about it,” per a CNBC article.Moderna MRNA CEO Stephane Bancel’s comment to the Financial Times on Nov 29, claiming that he anticipates the existing COVID-19 vaccines to prove comparatively less effective against the new strain, has brought about a new wave of concerns (as stated in a CNBC article). The omicron variant has now been reported in the U.K., Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia and Hong Kong. Going on, the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the variant as a “variant of concern.” At least 70 countries and territories are believed to have put travel restrictions from several African countries to control the outbreak, per a CNN report.Going on, consumers also continue to remain concerned under the rising heat of inflation levels. The latest data from the Conference Board highlights the depleting consumer confidence levels, as the metric just touched the nine-month-low level in November. The Conference Board's measure of consumer confidence index stands at 109.5 in November, down from October’s reading of 111.6. October’s reading was almost in line with the consensus estimate of the metric, coming in at 111, per a Reuters’ poll. The metric continues to be below the pre-pandemic level of 132.6 in February 2020.Defensive ETFs in FocusGiven the current market conditions,we have highlighted some ETFs like:Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETFDividend aristocrats are blue-chip dividend-paying companies with a long history of increasing dividend payments year over year. Moreover, dividend aristocrat funds provide investors with dividend growth opportunities compared to other products in the space but might not necessarily have the highest yields. These products also form a strong portfolio, with a higher scope of capital appreciation as against simple dividend-paying stocks or those with high yields. As a result, these products deliver a nice combination of annual dividend growth and capital-appreciation opportunity and are mostly good for risk-averse long-term investors.Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF is the largest and the most popular ETF in the dividend space, with AUM of $66.09 billion. VIG follows the S&P U.S. Dividend Growers Index. Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF charges 6 basis points (bps) in annual fees (read: Take Shelter in Dividend Aristocrat ETFs as COVID-19 Cases Rise).Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF Demand for funds with “low volatility” or “minimum volatility” generally increases during tumultuous times. These seemingly-safe products usually do not surge in bull market conditions but offer more protection than the unpredictable ones. Providing more stable cash flow than the overall market, these funds are less cyclical.Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF provides exposure to stocks with the lowest realized volatility over the past 12 months. The fund is based on the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index and holds 101 securities in its basket. Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF has AUM of $8.01 billion and charges an expense ratio of 25 bps, as stated in the prospectus (read: Low-Volatility ETFs in Focus on Virus & Fed Taper Worries).iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF Quality stocks are rich in value characteristics with a healthy balance sheet, high return on capital, low volatility and high margins. These stocks also have a track record of stable or increasing sales and earnings growth. Compared to plain vanilla funds, these products help lower volatility and perform rather well during market uncertainty. Further, academic research has proven that high-quality companies constantly provide better risk-adjusted returns than the broader market over the long term.iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF provides exposure to the large- and mid-cap stocks exhibiting positive fundamentals (high return on equity, stable year-over-year earnings growth and low financial leverage) by tracking the MSCI USA Sector Neutral Quality Index. With AUM of $24.79 billion, QUAL charges 0.15% in fees (read: ETF Asset Report of November: S&P 500 Wins).SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)Considering the current scenario, gold prices have been rising. The inflationary backdrop in the United States is favorable for gold as the metal is viewed as a hedge against inflation. The yellow metal has also earned its reputation as a safe haven asset.SPDR Gold Shares is the largest and most popular ETF in the gold space, with AUM of $56.99 billion. GLD reflects the performance of the price of gold bullion, less the Trust's expenses. At launch, each share of SPDR Gold Shares represented about 1/10th of an ounce of gold. The expense ratio is 0.40% (read: Gold ETFs to Gain on Omicron & Inflation? ).Vanguard Consumer Staples ETFThe consumer staples sector is known for its non-cyclical nature and acts as a safe haven during unstable market conditions. Moreover, like utility, consumer staples is considered a stable sector for the long term as its players are likely to offer decent returns. Investors can consider parking their money in the non-cyclical consumer staples sector during an economic recession. This high-quality sector, which is largely defensive, has been found to have a low correlation factor with economic cycles.Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF seeks to track the performance of the MSCI US Investable Market Consumer Staples 25/50 Index. With AUM of $6 billion, VDC has an expense ratio of 10 bps (read: ETFs to Gain on Strong Q3 Walmart Earnings). Want key ETF info delivered straight to your inbox? Zacks’ free Fund Newsletter will brief you on top news and analysis, as well as top-performing ETFs, each week.Get it free >>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 Moderna, Inc. (MRNA): Free Stock Analysis Report SPDR Gold Shares (GLD): ETF Research Reports Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG): ETF Research Reports iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF (QUAL): ETF Research Reports Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC): ETF Research Reports Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF (SPLV): ETF Research Reports To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacks12 hr. 40 min. ago

Bitcoin plunges 22% with global market nerves on edge

Global equities and benchmark US bond yields tumbled on Friday after data showed US job growth slowed in November and the Omicron variant of the coronavirus kept investors on edge. Crypto expert CALV!N from Purebase Studios says buying and holding will give newbies higher yields than tradingXavier Lorenzo/Getty Images Bitcoin prices dropped as much as 22% on Saturday. The broader cryptocurrency market droped roughly 15%. The plunge follows a volatile week for financial markets. Bitcoin shed a fifth of its value on Saturday as a combination of profit-taking and macro-economic concerns triggered nearly a billion dollars worth of selling across cryptocurrencies.The cryptocurrency tumbled as much as 21% to $42,296.38. The broad selloff in cryptocurrencies also saw ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, plunge more than 10%.Based on cryptocurrency data platform Coingecko, the market capitalization of the 11,392 coins it tracks dropped nearly 15% to $2.34 trillion. That value had briefly crossed $3 trillion last month, when bitcoin hit a record $69,000.The plunge follows a volatile week for financial markets. Global equities and benchmark US bond yields tumbled on Friday after data showed US job growth slowed in November and the Omicron variant of the coronavirus kept investors on edge.Justin d'Anethan, Hong Kong-based head of exchange sales at cryptocurrency exchange EQONEX, said he had been watching the increase in leverage ratios across the cryptocurrency markets as well how large holders had been moving their coins from wallets to exchanges. The latter is usually a sign of intent to sell."Whales in the crypto space seem to have transferred coins to trading venue, taken advantage of a bullish bias and leverage from retail traders, to then push prices down," he said.The selloff also comes ahead of testimony by executives from eight major cryptocurrency firms, including Coinbase Global CFO Alesia Haas and FTX Trading CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Dec. 8.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsider18 hr. 56 min. ago