Saturday, November 30, 2019

ThaiBev calls for trading halt amid reported plan of brewery IPO in Singapore

Thai Beverage is considering an initial public offering (IPO) of its brewery business, in what could be the biggest listing in Singapore in close to a decade.

ThaiBev’s shares were put on a trading halt after the midday trading break yesterday, pending an announcement, after the stock rose 5.2 per cent on heavy volume.

The Singapore-listed firm, controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, is speaking with potential advisers about listing the brewery unit next year and may seek a valuation of as much as US$10 billion (S$13.7 billion), people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

A deal could include its beer assets in Thailand and Vietnam, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. ThaiBev confirmed it is weighing an IPO, without disclosing details like valuation or listing venue.

Meanwhile, sources told Reuters that ThaiBev is planning a Singapore IPO of some of its regional beer assets in a float that could raise US$2 billion to US$3 billion next year.

The firm is working with Bank of America, Citigroup, DBS, HSBC and Morgan Stanley on a potential IPO, according to two sources.

A Singapore IPO of just over US$2 billion would make it the biggest in the city-state in about six years, while an issue of more than US$3 billion would rank as the largest since 2010, according to Refinitiv data.

A deal could include its beer assets in Thailand and Vietnam, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. ThaiBev confirmed it is weighing an IPO, without disclosing details like valuation or listing venue.

At a valuation of US$10 billion, the unit will also rank among the region’s biggest beer companies like China’s Tsingtao Brewery Co, although still far smaller than Budweiser Brewing Co, the Asian unit of beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. Budweiser Brewing raised US$5 billion in September in Hong Kong and was the world’s fourth-biggest IPO of this year.

Citigroup, HSBC and Morgan Stanley declined to comment on the banks’ participation in the deal, while Bank of America and DBS did not immediately respond.

ThaiBev is best known for producing Chang, a lager. It also brews Archa beer and the German-inspired Federbrau brand.

Shares of ThaiBev have risen 43 per cent in Singapore trading this year up till Thursday, giving the company a market value of about US$16 billion.

Apart from the brewery business, ThaiBev runs distilleries that produce liquor including SongSam rum, Meridian brandy and Drummer whisky.

It owns about 28.5 per cent of Singapore’s Fraser & Neave, which sells 100Plus soft drinks and Magnolia dairy products, data compiled by Bloomberg shows.


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Two more months of debt reprieve for Hyflux

The High Court yesterday granted debt-ridden water treatment company Hyflux another two months of reprieve from its creditors to work on a restructuring plan inked earlier this week.

The extended debt moratorium will end in late January. The previous one was due to end next Monday.

The extension comes after Hyflux announced on Tuesday that it had reached a restructuring agreement with utility provider Utico, based in the United Arab Emirates.

The agreement, which took months to negotiate, will allow Utico to take a 95 per cent stake in Hyflux in a $400 million rescue deal.

Hyflux had been looking for a white knight investor after an earlier rescue deal with Indonesian consortium SM Investments fell through in April.

Business news outlet Debtwire reported on Wednesday that an unsecured working group of banks, including BNP Paribas, Bangkok Bank and Mizuho Bank, was opposed to the terms in the Utico-Hyflux deal.

The group argued that Hyflux should not have agreed to pay financial adviser nTan a success fee of up to $25 million.

The group, however, did not oppose the application for extension yesterday or vote against the proposed rescue plan, but it did raise in court the question of how $40 million should be distributed among professional advisers working on the restructuring.

WongPartnership lawyer Manoj Sandrasegara, who represents Hyflux, said he is reasonably confident that the fee issue would be resolved among the stakeholders.

“There is general consensus here that fees should not be a stumbling block in passing the scheme… It shouldn’t be a case of the tail wagging the dog,” he added.

“(We will) sit down in a room and have a nice cup of coffee and sort (the fees) out.”

Justice Aedit Abdullah said: “We would recognise in courts that the work is complex, and that the reward should be commensurate with the level of skill and experience as required.”

He added: “Our primary concern is transparency in the process… This, I think, would seem on the surface to be largely a matter for discussions and negotiation between parties involved.”

“In particular, I would note that the whole process of restructuring has taken a while, and it would be a shame if all came to nought because of a dispute over fees of this nature,” he said.

“I don’t think, from what I can see before me, that there can be a situation where everyone goes away totally happy.”

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Brexit Party plan will backfire as Richard Tice hands Corbyn gift 12 days before election

Richard Tice is hoping to capitalise on anti-EU sentiment in Hartlepool, a constituency that voted to leave the EU by close to 70 percent in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and win the seat from Labour. But Joe Armitage, a parliamentary procedure expert, has predicted that by running in the Leave area, Mr Tice is actually ensuring Labour will retain the seat. He also hit out at Nigel Farage for not “bowing out with grace” and risking a Tory majority by standing Brexit Party candidates in battleground seats.

Mr Armitage, a senior associate at Global Counsel, told the Brexit Party risks snatching seats from the Tory party on December 12.

He said: “I think there is every potential for them [the Brexit Party] to take away the Labour leave supporting voters that the Conservative party otherwise would have been able to get, in the seats that are critical for the Conservative party.”

The expert used Mr Tice’s Hartlepool seat to illustrate the potential damage the Brexit Party could cause.

He said: “Hartlepool, where their deputy leader Richard Tice is running, looks like Labour will retain that seat because the Brexit Party are investing significant resources into it and its a focus point of the Brexit Party.

“Now that is a seat the Conservative Party should be winning and without Richard Tice standing in that seat the Conservative party would almost certainly win it and it is just an example of the Brexit party are going to deprive the Conservative Party.”

In 2017, Labour candidate Mike Hill won the Hartlepool seat with 53 percent of the vote.

The Tory candidate trailed with 34.2 percent of the vote.

But, in a vote that has been dubbed the Brexit election, the Tories had been hoping to convince Leave-voting Labour supports to vote blue.

JUST IN: EU warning: Juncker admits Brussels on ‘downward slope’ in warning

Mr Tice’s presence makes the seat a three-horse race and could scupper the Tories’ chances of victory.

In May’s European elections the town returned a higher Brexit Party vote than any other Labour seat, according to academic Christ Hanretty.

Shane Moore, Hartlepool’s Brexit Party leader, believes his party will end Labour’s 56-year stranglehold in the town.

He said: “The sentiment we have from the general public and the fact Labour have finally got off the fence and said we’re campaigning for a second referendum – that’s just helped us in Hartlepool.”

Brexit Party seats: Key Labour Leave targets for Brexit Party [ANALYSIS]
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The chairman of Hartlepool’s Conservative party hit out at Mr Farage for effectively handing the seat to Labour.

Ray Martin-Wells said the two pro-Brexit parties would “take each other out” and relinquish a once in a generation chance to remove Labour MPs in the north-east heartland.

The former councillor said he was “surprised and disappointed that [Mr Farage] will effectively hand seats to Labour who clearly don’t want to support Brexit”.

He added: “I think if we had a clear run at it we’d have a strong chance – Boris is a straight-talker which goes down very well in Hartlepool – but if the Brexit Party stand we will just take each other out.”

Hartlepool is Mr Farage’s number one target seat and it is considered to be the party’s best chance of entering the Commons.

But Mr Armitage criticised the Brexit Party leader’s decision to run in the battleground seat and said Mr Farage should have “bowed out with grace” and stood down all candidates.

He also made the shocking election prediction the Brexit Party will not win any seats on December 12.

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Namibian leader Geingob takes big lead in presidential election

WINDHOEK, Nov 29 (Reuters) – President Hage Geingob took a commanding lead in Namibia’s presidential election with roughly two-thirds of the votes counted following Wednesday’s vote, official data showed on Friday.

Geingob, Namibia’s third leader since the sparsely populated and mostly arid country freed itself from the shackles of apartheid South Africa in 1990, was seeking a second and final term in the Nov. 27 election.

His SWAPO party is contending with an economy in recession for nearly three years, one of Namibia’s worst droughts and its biggest corruption scandal – all of which conspired to make the vote unexpectedly tough for Geingob.

He faced nine challengers including Panduleni Itula, a dentist-turned-politician who is a SWAPO member but running as an independent. Itula is popular with young people, nearly half of whom are unemployed.

With 62.3% of the vote countered so far, presidential results from 76 out of 121 constituencies showed that Geingob was on track to retain office despite a dwindling support base in urban areas.

Geingob, who was first elected in 2014 with 87% of the vote, has so far garnered 56.9% of the votes counted, followed by Itula with 28.34%, while the leader of the official opposition party, McHenry Venaani, was in third position with 5.04%.

In legislative voting for 96 members of parliament, SWAPO has garnered 65.21% of the vote with 53.28% of the ballots counted, while Venaani’s Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has secured 15.73%.

A SWAPO victory could be disputed after a court threw out a case mounted by the opposition against the use of electronic voting machines it fears would be used to cheat. (Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Heinrich)

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Myanmar tycoon open to foreign investment in wake of Ayala deal

YANGON (BLOOMBERG) – Myanmar tycoon Win Aung is open to foreign investment in the listed industrial-estate provider he oversees, following Ayala Corp’s tie-up with a firm traded on the nation’s fledgling stock exchange.

In an interview in Yangon, Win Aung said a stake sale is an option as he plans to expand Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings, which operates a manufacturing zone where 109 firms have opened factories or plan to do so.

“We’ll need more capital and technology,” Win Aung, the firm’s chairman, said on Thursday (Nov 28). “Detailed plans will be revealed later after the authorities officially allow foreigner participation on the Yangon Stock Exchange.”

Myanmar is trying to expand a stunted bourse that currently has just five stocks by allowing overseas purchases of domestic equities from 2020. The Philippines’ oldest conglomerate Ayala is investing in one of those five – First Myanmar Investment – via an US$82.5 million convertible loan that will become a 20 per cent shareholding when rules permit.

The four-year-old Thilawa special economic zone is viewed by some as the largest in Myanmar. Japanese, Thai and Malaysian firms account for the bulk of the factories located there, according to Win Aung.


Myanmar’s business community hopes to benefit from the US-China trade war by luring manufacturers fleeing tariffs. Win Aung said the tension had yet to impact Thilawa significantly.

“But Myanmar is in a good position to benefit from the trade war,” he said. “It’s really important that the government sets the right policies on how to attract potential investors.”

Win Aung is also the founder and chairman of conglomerate Dagon Group. He was on the US government’s list of “specially designated nationals” until 2015, under a sanctions program that targeted individuals and entities when the country was run by a military junta.

Net foreign-direct investment into Myanmar collapsed to 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product last year from 6 per cent in 2017, World Bank data shows.

That reflected in part a souring of sentiment after the Rohingya refugee crisis flared up in Rakhine state in the second half of the same year.

At the same time, some firms remain interested in gaining exposure to Myanmar’s high levels of economic growth.

Ayala is placing a US$237.5 million bet on the nation by linking up with one of the country’s best known tycoons, Serge Pun.

Ayala bought a 2 per cent stake in Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings, and 20 per cent of Yangon-listed First Myanmar Investment, both led by Pun. The investment makes Ayala the second-largest shareholder in the group, according to Yoma, and is the largest foreign direct investment made by a Philippine company into Myanmar.

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Ban Black Friday? French activists block Amazon warehouse in protest

Should Amazon be worried about this online shopping site?

Zulily CEO Jeff Yurcisin joins FOX Business for an exclusive interview and discusses how his company aims to offer lower prices to consumers and take on Amazon, eBay and Walmart.

Dozens of French activists blocked an Amazon warehouse south of Paris in a Black Friday-inspired protest amid increased opposition to the post-Thanksgiving sales phenomenon that has seen a group of French lawmakers push to ban it altogether.

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Protesters from climate group Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) spread hay and old refrigerators and microwaves on the driveway leading to the warehouse in Bretigny-sur-Orge on Thursday. They held signs in front of the gates reading “Amazon: For the climate, for jobs, stop expansion, stop over-production!”

The activists were later dislodged by police.

More demonstrations are expected as Black Friday looms into view. French climate groups are planning "Block Friday" demonstrations Friday.

Their objections are garnering some support within France’s National Assembly. Some French lawmakers want to ban Black Friday, which has morphed into a global phenomenon even though it stems from a specific U.S. holiday: Thanksgiving Thursday.

Workers walk past boxes to be shipped inside of an Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson) 


A French legislative committee passed an amendment Monday that proposes prohibiting Black Friday since it causes "resource waste" and "overconsumption."

The amendment, which was put forward by France's former environment minister, Delphine Batho, will be debated next month. France's e-commerce union has condemned it.

On Europe 1 radio Thursday, France’s ecological transition minister, Elisabeth Borne, criticized Black Friday for creating "traffic jams, pollution and gas emissions."

She added that she would support Black Friday if it helped small French businesses but said it mostly benefits large online retailers.


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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tesla Cybertruck tug-of-war with a Ford F-150 is high stakes and highly unlikely

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the forthcoming Cybertruck performs better than a Ford F-150.
  • A video Musk had madeportrays the all-wheel-drive Tesla vehicle pulling a rear-wheel-drive Ford F-150 uphill.
  • A Ford X exec, Sunny Madra, tweeted at Musk, challenging him to a fair fight. But a Ford spokesperson says the tweet was tongue-in-cheek.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk boasted this week on Twitter that his company's forthcoming Cybertruck is a "Better truck than an F-150, faster than a Porsche 911." He followed that claim by posting a video of the Cybertruck prototype ostensibly hauling a Ford F-150 uphill.

However, Musk and Tesla didn't say which exact configuration of the Cybertruck, or F-150, they used for the stunt. And some viewers lobbed criticisms of an unfair fight at Musk, after seeing what was apparently an all-wheel-drive Cybertruck pulling a rear-wheel-drive Ford F-150 in the Tesla video.

On Monday, Ford X Vice President Sundeep (Sunny) Madra clapped back at Musk, urging him to send over a Cybertruck for an "apples to apples" tug-of-war test.

While fans of both companies are clamoring to see it, that contest is not likely to happen.

A Ford spokesperson told CNBC that Madra's tweet was "tongue-in-cheek to point out the absurdity of Tesla’s video, nothing more."

Tesla should be cautious about putting its Cybertruck prototype, and all the proprietary design and tech elements within it, into the hands of a competitor, too.

Auto industry analysts viewed Tesla's bravado as fun marketing, but nothing more.

Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Navigant Research and an engineer, said, "Automakers do this kind of nonsense all the time, but Tesla takes it to the extreme."

In its own stunt video this summer, Ford took its EV F-150 prototype to a train yard and pulled 42 F-150s loaded on 10 double-decker rail cars. Ford is partnering with another would-be Tesla competitor, Rivian, to make its push into electric vehicles.

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Cox Automotive, said of the supposed tug-of-war captured on video, "It's great for publicity, it's great for media attention, and that's all Elon is chasing right now."

Ford, its partner Rivian, and General Motors are all expected to bring new electric pickups to market before or during the same time frame as the Tesla Cybertruck. Tesla said it should be nearing start of production for the Cybertruck in late 2021.

"This will be the first time Tesla will launch an all-new vehicle type after competitors have launched their pure-electric, all-new vehicles that directly compete with Tesla," Brauer said. "I think he's got much bigger things to worry about than glass that does or doesn't break or whether or not his truck can pull another truck around."

Musk's track record doesn't bode well for a tug-of-war happening for real, either.

In early November, for example, the Tesla leader taunted one of his biggest critics, Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn. But he then invited the short seller to visit Tesla's facilities to see how well the electric-car company is operating.

Einhorn, who taunted the CEO back in his reply, said yes to the invitation. But Tesla and Musk had yet to make arrangements for the visit, the investor tweeted on Nov. 22.

Brauer and Abuelsamid said if such a contest does ever become a reality, it would be best to put Ford's all-electric F-150 prototype against the Tesla Cybertruck prototype. Or, Abuelsamid suggested, for both American automakers to use towing tests by SAE International, which assists in setting industry regulations and standards.

"There are other standardized metrics you can use for evaluating trucks that are standard for that market segment," Abuelsamid said. But he added, given they're prototypes, "it's probably better to drop the whole thing. It's irrelevant."

After Musk made such bold claims, risk of embarrassment and loss of credibility for the CEO is very high. It's equally high, if not more so, for Ford, whose F-series trucks have maintained their bestselling status for 42 years.

Still, Musk tweeted that he'll aim to make this stunt happen, with a webcast, next week.

A self-proclaimed Musk fan, physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, questioned Musk's claims about the Cybertruck's superior performance against an equivalent Ford truck.

He tweeted to the Tesla CEO, "Electric vehicles are famously heavy — over both axles. It's all about the weight borne by spinning tires. That's the source of traction, not the engine power." And "We all love Torque. But high Torque just spins a tire in place if there's not enough weight to provide traction."

Ultimately, if the companies ever agree to an "apples to apples" competition, Tyson had a suggestion for the experiment's design. He tweeted: "Fully load the F150, giving highest traction to its rear wheels, then try to drag that up the hill. I otherwise agree: Load both to the max and the highest torque wins."

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Cautious outlook for Asian airlines in 2020

HONG KONG • Asian airlines are cautious about the outlook for next year after trade disputes undermined confidence and led to economic growth below initial forecasts this year, the head of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said yesterday.

Airline passenger growth in Asia has moderated this year to 4.4 per cent in the nine months ended Sept 30, down from 7.7 per cent for the same period last year, AAPA statistics show.

Asian cargo carriage fell 5.8 per cent in the first nine months of the year amid the US-China trade war.

“I think we need to be a little bit cautious,” AAPA director general Andrew Herdman told Reuters of the 2020 outlook after having met Asian airline chief executives in Kuala Lumpur last Friday.

“If it turns out to be a bit better than expected, then we will be ready to respond.”

AAPA also announced yesterday that Mr Herdman, a former Cathay Pacific Airways executive, planned to depart in March after 15 years in his role. He will be replaced by Mr Subhas Menon, a long-time executive at member carrier Singapore Airlines.

AAPA moved the meeting to Kuala Lumpur after cancelling plans for a larger gathering in Hong Kong, citing the “unpredictability” of the situation following months of often violent protests in the Chinese-controlled city.

Several Asian airlines have cut flights to Hong Kong over the coming weeks as demand has fallen, which, along with the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, has made growth more challenging.

Mr Herdman said he believed the capacity adjustments to Hong Kong would be reversed once the political situation improved and tourists returned to the city.

Hong Kong’s democrats romped to a landslide and symbolic majority in district council elections on Sunday in a rare lull in the unrest that has rocked the financial hub.

“The general feeling is Hong Kong will recover in due course,” Mr Herdman said. “In the short term, they (airlines) need to adjust to demand as they find it.”


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Monday, November 18, 2019

Kanye West & Joel Osteen's tax tales led both to million dollar church

Joel Osteen on Being Your Best Every Day

Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen on how a positive attitude and faith can help you be your best.

Rap superstar Kanye West and televangelist Joel Osteen shared the pulpit Sunday at the latter’s Lakewood Church in Houston but the two can thank the Lord, and the IRS, for their high-profile preaching pair-up.

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Last month, appearing on CBS’ “Late Late Show with James Corden,” West said that last year he was $68 million in debt: “This year, I looked up, and I just got $68 million returned to me on my tax returns.”

The reason? "Jesus Christ," the rapper declared.

West’s taxing experience and his finding of faith led him ultimately to Osteen’s church, a former 16,000-seat sports arena that is the former home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. It was a different type of tax problem that was integral to Osteen’s transforming the arena from a home of hoops to a home of hope.

On the Nov. 10 edition of his weekly half-hour TV show — in an episode entitled “Everything Serves His Plan” — Osteen recalled how one seemingly unconnected event led to Sunday’s superstar team-up.

“A few years after Victoria and I were married, we received an unexpected tax bill in the mail. The person who did our tax returns lived in another state,” Osteen recalled. “He was unfamiliar with a certain law in Texas. Now we owed thousands of dollars.”

The amount owed included big penalties, which Osteen said led to some doubts. “I thought, ‘God, this is not fair.’ I hired a professional, he messed up, now I’m having to pay for his mistakes."

Osteen proceeded to tell his Lakewood congregation as well as his TV viewers that he hired a tax attorney, who eventually after weeks of work straightened out the tax mess. Several years later he was working for his father, the late televangelist John Osteen, in the television department.

“Someone offered us a construction permit for the last full-power television station in Houston,” Osteen said. “A station in a big market, of course, is very valuable but I didn’t know anything about buying a construction permit. Then, I thought I’ll call my attorney friend, the one I met during the tax issue."


The attorney guided the Osteens through the process, and within months KTBU-55 was created, hitting the Texas airwaves on July 15, 1998.

“It was three years after that we acquired the Compaq Center,” Osteen said. Acquire, though, may be too strong a word. The Lakewood Church actually signed a 30-year lease with the City of Houston for the arena.

“It was going to cost $100 million to renovate,” Osteen said. “We decided to sell the station. We sold it for a significant profit. Those funds were instrumental in us renovating this facility. But it all started with the tax issue.”


The Houston Chronicle, noting the sale of KTBU, said Osteen and the church “more than tripled its $8 million investment in the station.” In 2010, Lakewood Church ultimately purchased the Compaq Center for $7.5 million.

Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. (Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)

There was plenty of money on the stage of the Lakewood Church. West’s worth varies on reports, but several sources have him slotted in the neighborhood of $250 million. Osteen shies in comparison, with his wealth estimated between $40 and $60 million. While Osteen no longer takes a salary from the church, he does very well with book sales, having authored or co-authored some dozen books, seven of which have been New York Times bestsellers.


Osteen’s church is the largest church in the United States with a budget to match — a reportedly $90 million. CBS News reported that the church collects nearly $75 million in "tithing" from the more than 40,000 people who attend the church's five services each week and the 7 million who watch on broadcast and cable television. Osteen also has a YouTube Channel with nearly 1.1 million more subscribers and a Sirius/XM satellite radio station.

Another area where Osteen's organization sees revenue is the “Night of Hope” tour, which is part concert, part old-time tent revival meeting. It more than a dozen cities annually. Ticket prices average about $30 but some seats are available for under $10, according to Ticketsmate. Some events are free, such as Monday night’s event in Gillette, Wyoming, where tickets were available on a first-come basis.

Coincidentally, West’s debut album, considered by many a hip-hop classic, is called “The College Dropout.” Both West and Osteen are college dropouts. With Osteen living in a $10.5 million mansion and West in a $20 million home, it appears these two college dropouts did just fine — even if you take into consideration they had, as they say, a little “help.”


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Sunday, November 10, 2019

The biggest risk facing the stock market in the coming year isn’t trade jitters or the election, Deutsche Bank warns

There’s plenty for investors to get all stressed out about in the coming year, and Deutsche Bank chief economist Torsten Slok’s latest list of the 20 biggest risks will do little to alleviate those concerns.

As you can see, the potential for more trade fallout and fears over slowing growth still rank high on Slok’s list, but inequality is in the top spot:

“They are all important at different horizons,” Slok told MarketWatch on Sunday, “but a continued rise in inequality and associated political response is something investors can no longer ignore.”

Democratic presidential candidates certainly aren’t ignoring it. Increased taxes on the rich, in an attempt to narrow the divide, is a critical part of the campaigns of both Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders ahead of the election.

Big-name investors have already made it clear what a President Warren could mean for markets. Billionares Paul Tudor Jones, Leon Cooperman and Steve Cohen have all talked about a nasty correction that could follow her victory.

Meanwhile, stocks keep banging out record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.02% , Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.48%  and S&P 500SPX, +0.26% all closed last week in the green.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

SoftBank Reveals $6.5 Billion Loss From Uber, WeWork Turmoil

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Masayoshi Son is finally disclosing the damage fromSoftBank Group Corp.’s bets onWeWork andUber Technologies Inc.

The Japanese investment powerhouse on Wednesday reported its first quarterly operating loss in 14 years — about $6.5 billion –after writing down the value of a string of marquee investments. It swallowed a charge of 497.7 billion yen ($4.6 billion) for WeWork, whose spectacular implosion turned the once high-flying shared-office startup into a Silicon Valley punchline.

The losses call into question the billionaire founder Son’s deal-making approach just as he’s trying to raise an even larger successor to his $100 billion Vision Fund. The investment vehicle had been a driver of profit growth at SoftBank, contributing over $14 billion in mostly paper gains over the past two years. Now, the shrinking valuation of Uber and WeWork, once among the brightest stars in the SoftBank constellation, raises the prospects of more writedowns in the Vision Fund’s portfolio with its high exposure to businesses that prioritize growth over profitability.

On Wednesday, SoftBank’s chairman took some blame for his poor decisions. “There was a problem with my own judgment, that’s something I have to reflect on,” said an unusually somber Son.

But the entrepreneur then launched into a spirited defense of his track record. He began by throwing up on a giant screen several newspaper headlines, saying media reports had pegged SoftBank or WeWork — or both — as bound to go bankrupt. Then he launched into an exposition of how SoftBank had made money for its investors: EvenSlack Technologies Inc. and Uber had proven profitable bets relative to their acquisition cost, despite subsequent nose-dives on public markets. “I’m going to explain things as they are, no excuses.”

Masa Son Desperately Needs That Second $100 Billion: Tim Culpan

The operating loss was 704.4 billion yen in the three months ended Sept. 30, the Tokyo-based company said in astatement. That easily surpassed the 230.8 billion yen average of analysts’ projections, and compared with a 705.7 billion yen profit a year earlier. Its signature Vision Fund — the world’s single largest pool of startup investments — reported a 970.3 billion yen loss in the quarter. SoftBank said the fund’s 88 investments were worth about $77.6 billion, a 9.8% gain in value relative to the cost at which it acquired the stakes. The company reported a gain in valuation for 25 companies, the same number that saw their worth decline.

SoftBank reported 537.9 billion yen of unrealized losses in a plethora of investments from Uber to WeWork. Analysts hadpredicted a charge to be in excess of $5 billion and as much as $7 billion. The co-working startup was valued at $7.8 billion at the end of September — a precipitous fall from about $47 billion in January.

Read more: WeWork Weighs Exiting Some Hong Kong Property in Pullback

Late last month, WeWork secured a $9.5 billion rescue package from SoftBank, a deal that handed 80% of the company to the Japanese conglomerate. That’s on top of the more than $10 billion SoftBank and its Vision Fund have already invested into the co-working giant. SoftBank has said it didn’t get a majority of voting rights, meaning its troubled investee will be treated as an associate, not a subsidiary — potentially keeping its balance sheet free of some $22 billion of debt and $47 billion in looming lease-payment obligations.

The deal includes $5 billion in new financing and an acceleration of a $1.5 billion existing commitment. SoftBank will also offer to buy as much as $3 billion from existing shareholders. WeWork’s founder Adam Neumann left the company’s board as part of the package, replaced by SoftBank executive and newly appointed Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure.

“Son’s handling of WeWork raises some fundamental questions about his investment strategy that need to be addressed,” Jefferies Group senior analyst Atul Goyal said ahead of the earnings release. “There will be more failed investments in the future, how does he plan to handle them?”

Read more:WeWork Mess Leaves SoftBank’s Masa Son $6 Billion Poorer

— With assistance by Kazu Hirano

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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Maple Leafs-Flyers odds: Toronto favored in Philly

The Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-2-1) travel to meet the Philadelphia Flyers (6-5-0-1) at Wells Fargo Center Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET.

We analyze the Maple Leafs-Flyers odds and lines, while providing NHL betting tips around this matchup.

Maple Leafs-Flyers: Projected starting goalies

Frederik Andersen vs. Brian Elliott

Andersen is expected to make the start, putting his 6-2-2 record, 3.03 goals against average and .901 save percentage on the line. He has won each of his two road outings this season, allowing a total of three goals.

Elliott is expected to get the nod after Carter Hart won in overtime at New Jersey Friday night. He is 3-2-0 with a 3.10 GAA and .904 save percentage. Elliott looks to rebound after allowing six goals in his last showing in Pittsburgh Tuesday.

Place a sports bet on this hockey action or other games at BetMGM.

Maple Leafs-Flyers: Odds, picks and betting tips

Odds courtesy of BetMGM; access them at USA TODAY Sports for a full set of today's betting odds. Odds last updated Saturday at 7:55 a.m. ET.


Maple Leafs 5, Flyers 3

Moneyline (ML)

The MAPLE LEAFS (-134) have their All-Star caliber netminder in between the pipes against a Flyers side (+110) playing on the second end of a back-to-back set. Toronto has the advantage against a tired Philly team.

Puck Line/Against the Spread (ATS)

The MAPLE LEAFS (-1.5, +190) are worth a roll of the dice as you can nearly double your money if the offense puts up big numbers. To make matters better for the visitors, C John Tavares (finger) was able to practice Friday and is expected to return to the lineup, assuming his regular spot after a six-game absence. The Flyers (+1.5, -239) are too pricy on the puck line.

Over/Under (O/U)

The OVER 6.5 (+105) is a good play, especially at plus-money, as Johnny T is expected to return, Philly has a capable offense and Elliott has been very giving. All of those things are the perfect storm for an Over result.

The Oover is 6-0 in Toronto's past six against Metropolitan Division opponents, too, and a ridiculous 22-4 in its past 26 against Eastern Conference foes. In this series, the Oover is 13-6-3 in the past 22 meetings.

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Warren says health insurance workers laid off under 'Medicare-for-all' can work in auto, life insurance

Warren unveils $52 trillion Medicare for All plan

Jason Nichols and William A. Jacobson react.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Friday in Iowa that private health insurance workers who lose their jobs under her government-run health care plan could work for life or auto insurance firms instead.

The 2020 presidential hopeful was asked where those who work in health insurance would go when private insurance is eliminated under her expansive “Medicare-for-all” plan, released earlier Friday.


“So if you’ve had a chance to read the plan, you’ll see no one gets left behind,” she said.

"Some of the people currently working in health insurance will work in other parts of insurance -- in life insurance, in auto insurance, in car insurance, some will work for Medicaid," she said.

Five years of "transition support” for displaced workers is built into the plan, Warren said.


“Because what this is about is how we strengthen America’s middle class, and how we make sure that in transitions no one gets left behind, she said. “It’s right there in the plan, and it’s fully paid for.”

Warren’s plan, first reported on by Fox News, is projected by the campaign to cost “just under $52 trillion” over the next decade, with the campaign proposing a host of tax increases to pay for it while still claiming the middle class would not face any additional burden.

“We don’t need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All,” Warren said in the plan.

The plan was immediately hammered by both Republicans and her Democratic rivals in the 2020 primary. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign said the "unrealistic plan" leaves only two options: "even further increase taxes on the middle class or break her commitment to these promised benefits."

"The mathematical gymnastics in this plan are all geared toward hiding a simple truth from voters: It's impossible to pay for Medicare for All without middle class tax increases," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.

Some Republicans were more blunt in their criticism.

“Hahaha. This make-believe math is bonkers,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement.


But in addition to concerns about costs, the proposed shift to a government-run system has raised concerns about the impact on the health care industry.

According to The Wall Street Journal, independent estimates have predicted that 2 million people would lose their jobs as the private health insurance industry collapses and providers need fewer people to manage billing.

Fox News' Brooke Singman and Judson Berger contributed to this report.

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