Tag: Dalian Wanda

August 25, 2017

Perspective

FT – The great Silicon Valley land grab – Richard Waters 8/23

KFF.org – Medicaid and the Opioid Epidemic – Katherine Young and Julia Zur 7/14

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

MarketWatch – Retailers aren’t hurting because people are buying ‘experiences’ instead of stuff – Rex Nutting 8/22

  • “The brick-and-mortar retail industry is in crisis. For many old-line retailers, sales and market share are plunging fast. The most obvious explanation for their distress is the rise of online shopping, but some analysts mistakenly point to another trend: ‘Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff, and that’s bad news for retailers.’”
  • “Instead of purchasing a couch, we’re going to Paris! Or maybe buying avocado toast.”
  • “The reality is more mundane: We are spending a smaller portion of our budget at the mall, but the money we’re saving is mostly going for the most expensive health care in the universe.”
  • “If you’ve heard these stories about the shift away from material things and toward experiences, you might be shocked to learn that retail spending hit a record $1.4 trillion in the second quarter. Retail spending has increased in 30 of the past 33 quarters. We still love to buy stuff.”
  • “The problem for retailers is that prices are falling for many retail goods such as clothing, electronics, appliances, furniture, tools, luggage, toys and many other things. That is killing the bottom line for traditional retailers, who get less revenue per unit sale but still have to pay the fixed costs of rent and payroll.”
  • “For consumers, on the other hand, falling prices are a godsend, because we can buy even more stuff and still have some money left over to spend on other things.”
  • “It would be great if we really could afford to shift our spending from the boring things we need to the fun things we want, but in reality most of the money we are saving due to cheaper clothes and cheaper gasoline is going for goods and services that no one would call fun: hospital bills, financial services, rent, and prescription drugs.”
  • “Over the past 20 years, there has been a revolution in our spending patterns. Since 1997, Americans have shifted a significant portion of their spending from physical things like autos, clothing and petroleum to services like health care, rent and internet access.”
  • “At the margin, we are spending a little bit more on having fun than we did 20 years ago, but most of our money still goes for necessities, not experiences.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Global Economics Grow in Sync – Josh Zumbrun 8/23

  • “For the first time in a decade, the world’s major economies are growing in sync, a result of lingering low-interest-rate stimulus from central banks and the gradual fading of crises that over years ricocheted from the U.S. to Greece, Brazil and beyond.”
  • “All 45 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are on track to grow this year, and 33 of them are poised to accelerate from a year ago, according to the OECD. It is the first time since 2007 that all are growing and the most countries in acceleration since 2010, when many nations enjoyed a fleeting snapback from the global financial crisis.”
  • “In the past 50 years, simultaneous growth among all the OECD-tracked countries has been rare. In addition to happening last decade, it has only happened in the late 1980s, and for a few years before the 1973 oil crisis.”

Finance

FT – What happened to the ‘too big to fail’ banks? – Patrick Jenkins and Ian Bott 8/23

China

FT – Back to the future for China tycoon sweepstakes – Gabriel Wildau 8/23

  • “To be a Chinese tycoon these days is to live with uncertainty: while some see their wealth and status rise meteorically, others fall out of favor with Beijing — with serious consequences for their wealth and freedom.”
  • “Led by chairman Hui Ka-yan, Shenzhen-based Evergrande has seen its share price almost quadruple this year. Shares in Sunac China, led by Sun Hongbin, have nearly tripled. The price rises have catapulted both up the ranks of China’s rich list.”
  • “By contrast, last year’s upwardly mobile tycoons, Wu Xiaohui of Anbang Insurance and Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda, who seemed to represent China’s future as a global investor as they snapped up foreign real estate and entertainment assets, are on the defensive.”
  • “’If you look at Sun Hongbin, he sells bonds offshore and brings the money onshore to build houses. It’s different from Wanda, which borrows from banks onshore to invest offshore. That’s much more sensitive,’ said Yang Guoying, researcher at China Financial Think Tank and a popular commentator on Weibo.”
  • “Offshore investors have a strong appetite for Evergrande’s high-yield debt, despite persistent warnings from analysts and short sellers that the group is highly leveraged. It is a high-risk bet that keeps paying off.”
  • “Evergrande’s net debt of $48bn at the end of last year was the highest among Chinese listed developers, according to data from Thomson Reuters.” 
  • “Tianjin-based Sunac ranked eighth with $8.8bn, and that was before its recent, largely debt-financed deal to buy 13 theme parks from Wanda for $6.5bn. Sunac has spent more than $17.5bn on acquisitions since the start of 2016, according to Dealogic.”
  • “’All these big private enterprises have something in common, which is that they’ve grown very big, very fast, and they’ve done it through debt sales and bank loans,’ said Ai Tangming, chief economics columnist for Sina Finance, a major domestic news website. ‘But Evergrande and Sunac have handled their government relations extremely well, and it’s paying off.’”

Europe

WSJ – Daily Shot: Euro Area GDP 8/24

August 23, 2017

Perspective

Visual Capitalist – Interactive: tableau – Visualizing Median Income For All 3,000+ U.S. Counties – Jeff Desjardins 8/22

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg View – The Energy Revolution Will Be Optimized – Liam Denning 8/16

  • “The primary job of the 20th-century oil major or utility was to raise the capital required to build enormous energy production and distribution networks to feed industrialization. The onus was on providing ever more supply, since growth in demand was a given.”
  • “The latter no longer holds true. Energy efficiency matters more now, especially as concerns about pollution, including carbon emissions, have intensified. The job of the 21st-century energy provider, therefore, will be less and less about sheer quantity and more about both quality and smart consumption. Think software-as-a-service rather than just getting Windows 95 installed on as many desktops as possible.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – How Retiring Baby Boomers Hinder U.S. Wage Growth – Eric Morath 8/21

  • “Departing older employees are being replaced by younger and cheaper workers, San Francisco Fed study finds.”

Real Estate

WSJ – The Price Isn’t Right for Home Builders – Justin Lahart 8/22

  • “Shares of home builders look pricey and vulnerable to a correction as costs rise and affordability is strained.”

Finance

FT – Here is the big reason banks are safer than a decade ago – Alan Smit and Martin Arnold 8/21

  • “The build-up to the financial crisis was marked by a rapid growth in wholesale funding, where banks borrow from one another and other financial institutions, rather than raising money through deposits from retail banking customers.”
  • “When the subprime mortgage meltdown began, banks lost faith in each other and those wholesale funding markets seized up.”
  • While western banks have backed off of it, “wholesale funding now accounts for more than a third of many Chinese banks’ total liabilities — three times as much as five years ago. Some analysts fear Chinese banks may yet generate another ‘Lehman moment’.”

China

FT – Dalian Wanda drops £470m London property purchase – Don Weinland and Judith Evans 8/22

  • “Chinese property developer Dalian Wanda has walked away from a plan to buy London’s Nine Elms Square amid mounting pressure from Beijing to curtail high-profile overseas acquisitions.”
  • “The 10-acre plot is part of London’s largest residential development site, where a number of real estate companies are building 20,000 mainly luxury homes south of the river Thames.”
  • “However, the land will still be acquired by Chinese buyers after a last-minute adjustment to the deal.”
  • “Hong Kong-listed Guangzhou R&F Properties stepped in to make its second hastily arranged deal involving Wanda in a matter of weeks. In July, R&F, which is based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, agreed to purchase 77 Wanda hotels on the Chinese mainland.”
  • “R&F told reporters in Hong Kong that it bought the site jointly with CC Land, another Chinese property developer that this year acquired London’s ‘Cheesegrater’ skyscraper. R&F also owns the nearby Vauxhall Square site.”
  • “Wanda still owns the One Nine Elms site in the same area, which is slated for a 200-metre-high development that includes 437 homes and 3,584 sq ft of retail space, as well as one of the first Wanda Vista hotels to be built outside of China.”

Japan

FT – Japan looks to staunch regional student exodus – Leo Lewis 8/21

  • “Japan is planning an enrolment cap for Tokyo’s private universities to reverse a tide of ambitious 18-year olds eager to abandon the provinces and study in the capital.”
  • “The plan to clip Tokyo’s academic wings is part of a broader drive to protect regional economies from implosion — a fate some consider inevitable as the country’s population ages and shrinks.”
  • “Particularly acute, say government officials, is the ‘drastic decline in the population of 18-year olds’ — a group whose ranks not only want to study in Tokyo, but are increasingly keen to remain in the capital after graduating, to work.”
  • “To reduce Tokyo’s magnetism in an uneven economy, proposed regulation will place an indefinite ban on any private university within Tokyo’s 23 wards from applying for an increase to its annual intake of new students.”
  • “The plan’s success, say officials, hinges upon regional universities — and the job markets nearby — raising their game. ‘Universities have a major role in realizing regional revitalization but not many of them are that successful in driving structural changes in regional industry,’ said a report justifying the Tokyo quota cap.”
  • “The report, which recommended the cap come into force within the current fiscal year, which ends in March 2018, warned that unless Tokyo’s dominance was offset, regional university finances would deteriorate.”
  • “Regional revitalization policies have included encouraging bank mergers and legalizing casino gambling. But despite these policies, the annual number of 20-24 year old Japanese moving into Tokyo has risen 35% since Mr Abe became prime minister.”

August 11, 2017

Perspective

FT – The long and winding road to economic recovery – Claire Manibog and Stephen Foley 8/9

Data Is Beautiful – City maps from Airbnb location ratings – txafer 8/9

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bason Asset Management – Shame, Status and The American Dream – James Osborne 7/24

  • Sometimes less is more.

Bloomberg View – Canada’s Housing Bubble Will Burst – Ben Carlson 6/21

  • “The U.S. housing market peaked in late 2006. Since then, based on this index, U.S. housing prices are still down almost 13% from their peak through the end of 2016. In that same time frame, Canadian housing prices are up 56%.”
  • “From the 2006 peak, it took until late 2012 for real estate in the U.S. to bottom. We’ve since witnessed a 19% recovery from what was a 27% decline nationwide, on average. While the U.S. real estate downturn lasted almost six years, Canada’s housing market experienced just a 7% drawdown that lasted less than a year. And house prices in Canada reclaimed those losses in about a year and a half. Canadian housing has also outpaced its neighbors to the south since the 2012 bottom in U.S. real estate, with a 30% gain in that time.”
  • “To recap: On a real basis, Canadian housing prices experienced a much smaller, shorter decrease in prices during the financial crisis and a much larger, longer increase in prices during the recovery. When you couple this unfathomable rise in housing prices with near-record high household debt-to-income ratios, the Canadian housing bubble starts to look scary should the tide turn.”

Business Insider – Maverick Capital, a $10.5 billion hedge fund, is struggling to make money – Rachael Levy 8/9

  • “The proliferation of capital focused on non-fundamental factors confuses short-term stock price responses, causing investors to question links between price and fundamentals. Flows into instruments that allocate capital through predetermined ratios without regard to current or future fundamentals distort prices in the short term, but such distortions create wonderful opportunities that fundamental investors should be able capitalize upon over a longer-term timeframe.” – Lee Ainslie, Maverick Capital

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Retailer Stock Market Valuations 8/10

WSJ – Daily Shot: Comex Copper Inventory (short ton) 8/9

  • “The COMEX copper inventories have risen significantly lately. It suggests that perhaps the copper market isn’t as tight as the recent rally may indicate.”

WSJ – Do Businesses Need Foreign Workers? Martha’s Vineyard Is Finding Out – Laura Meckler 8/10

  • “Jamaicans and other foreign workers have long powered the summer economy in the upscale tourist haven of Martha’s Vineyard, cleaning hotel rooms, waiting tables and mixing fudge. This year, many local businesses had to come up with a Plan B.”
  • “Facing a shortage of foreign laborers, local restaurants have reduced hours of operation and pared back menus. Managers are cleaning hotel rooms, laundry is piling up and at least one restaurant is using disposable cups to ease the dishwashers’ load.”
  • “The problem is a scarcity of the H-2B visas used to bring foreign seasonal workers to the U.S. It has affected many resorts and other businesses that depend on such workers, including Alaskan fisheries. Isolated locations such as Martha’s Vineyard—it has a tiny year-round population and is accessible only by ferry or plane—are especially vulnerable.”

WSJ – Dairies’ Fix for Souring Milk Sales: Genetics and Bananas – Mike Cherney and Heather Haddon 8/9

Britain

Economist – How to solve Britain’s housing crisis – 8/3

  • This prescription applies to many other places besides Britain.
  • “What makes Britain’s housing squeeze maddening is that, unlike many other problems, something can easily be done about it. Britain needs to get building. The consensus is that, to keep prices in check, it must put up 300,000 houses a year, double what it erected in 2015-16.”

China

FT – Chinese top official warns economy ‘kidnapped’ by property bubble – Gabriel Wildau 8/10

  • “A top Chinese lawmaker has warned that profiteering by real estate developers is sapping the lifeblood from China’s economy, as authorities make efforts to contain runaway property prices.”
  • “The real estate industry’s excessive prosperity has not only kidnapped local governments but also kidnapped financial institutions — restraining and even harming the development of the real economy, inflating asset bubbles and accumulating debt risk. The biggest problem currently facing the country is how to reduce reliance on real estate.” Yin Zhongqing, deputy director of the finance and economics committee of the National People’s Congress

FT – China targets mobile payments oligopoly with clearing mandate – Gabriel Wildau 8/9

  • Apple is not the only company that must yield to China.
  • “China’s central bank has ordered online payment groups to operate through a centralized clearing house, a move likely to undercut the dominance of Ant Financial and Tencent by forcing them to share valuable transaction data with competitors.”
  • “China is the world leader in mobile payments, with transaction volumes rising nearly fivefold last year to Rmb59tn ($8.8tn), according to iResearch. They are now widely used for everything from high-street shopping to peer-to-peer lending.” 
  • “In addition to generating fees directly, online and mobile payments are a source of valuable data that can be used for such purposes as targeted advertising and credit scoring.” 
  • “Now the People’s Bank of China is requiring all third-party payment companies to channel payments through a new clearing house by next June, according to a document sent to payment companies on August 4 and seen by the Financial Times.” 

FT – Chinese crackdown on dealmakers reflects Xi power play – Lucy Hornby 8/9

  • President Xi, the master of the long game.
  • “For China’s ruling Communist party, its foreign exchange reserves are a symbol of national strength and are a crucial buffer against economic shocks. So the alarming announcement that forex reserves had fallen below $3tn in January marked a shift in political fault lines that is only being felt this summer.”
  • “As more than $1tn left the country over the previous 18 months amid a flurry of large overseas acquisitions, a sense of crisis grew within the party.”
  • “Technocrats in Beijing had already prepared the ground to take action. In December, they had managed to link the phrase ‘national security’ to the concept of financial risk at the annual agenda-setting economic work conference. Backed with the reserves figures, they were poised to strike against what they saw as the leading culprit — the new generation of highly acquisitive private Chinese companies.”
  • “These tensions within the system have exploded into the open in the past two months with the humiliation of some of China’s best-known and most well-connected private companies, which in recent years have acquired high-profile foreign assets such as New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel and French leisure company Club Med.”
  • “In an abrupt turn, a group of businessmen once lauded as the international face of China are now derided in state media as the instruments of systemic financial risk. The private sector has been shaken by leaked documents, smears and the detention of China’s brashest businessman.”

NYT – A Missing Tycoon’s Links to China’s Troubled Dalian Wanda – Michael Forsythe 8/10

FT – Dalian Wanda reshuffles $1bn of assets – Emily Feng 8/10

Bloomberg – China Is Taking On the ‘Original Sin’ of Its Mountain of Debt – Emma O’Brien, Eric Lam, Adrian Leung, Jun Luo, Jing Zhao, Helen Sun, Xize Kang, and Vicky Wei 8/8

Economist – China tries to keep foreign rubbish out – 8/3

  • “China dominates international trade in many goods, but few more than waste for recycling. It sucked in more than half the world’s exports of scrap copper and waste paper in 2016, and half of its used plastic. All in all, China spent over $18bn on imports of rubbish last year. America, meanwhile, is an eager supplier. In 2016 nearly a quarter of America’s biggest exporters by volume were recyclers of paper, plastic or metal. Topping the list was America Chung Nam, a California-based supplier of waste paper which last year exported a whopping 333,900 containers, almost all of them to China.”
  • “This may soon change. On July 18th China told the World Trade Organization that by the end of the year, it will no longer accept imports of 24 categories of solid waste as part of a government campaign against yang laji or ‘foreign garbage’. The Ministry of Environmental Protection says restricting such imports will protect the environment and improve public health. But the proposed import ban will disrupt billions of dollars in trade. Recyclers worry that other categories of waste may soon receive the same treatment.”

August 3, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

WSJ – Indexers Push Back Against Wall Street – Ken Brown 8/1

  • “Give a small cheer to the index nerds at S&P. Their decision to ban companies that have different classes of stock is a rare instance of Wall Street protecting investors.”
  • “S&P said Monday that it would no longer consider companies with multiple share classes for its main U.S. stock indexes. The one that matters is the S&P 500, which is tracked by about $2.2 trillion worth of assets and which serves as a benchmark for more than $7.8 trillion of investments. The share structures S&P is targeting usually grant insiders control of the company by giving their shares far more votes than shares held by outside investors.”
  • “FTSE Russell, another big index provider, issued a proposal last month that requires a minimum amount of shares be in public hands, a step in the same direction as S&P.”
  • “The shift mainly targets Silicon Valley, where companies from Facebook to Google and, most recently, Snap , have sold shares while giving investors virtually no say in how the companies are run. Snap, now down more than 20% from its IPO price, was seen as the tipping point because it gave investors no say at all. Companies already in the index will be allowed to stay.”

Perspective

Knoema – World’s Most Visited Cities – 7/24

NYT – Debt-Ridden Chinese Giant Now a Shadow of Its Former Size – Keith Bradsher 8/1

  • Basically, at some point businesses and real estate development need to make money on their own accord… Ordinarily, lenders and investors don’t fund on the strategy of ‘if you build it, they will come.’

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Forbes – The Good Times For The Bulls May Be Coming To A Close, Here’s Why – Bert Dohmen 8/1

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Total Construction Spending YoY Change 8/2

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Total Nonresidential Construction Spending YoY Change 8/2

Real Estate

WSJ – Luxury Condos on ‘Billionaire’s Row’ Are Slow to Sell Out – Josh Barbanel 8/2

Finance

Economist – Bitcoin divides to rule – 8/2

  • “On August 1st, without much agonizing or awkward negotiation, a group of Bitcoin activists and entrepreneurs managed to create a second version of the crypto-currency. It immediately gained a following: in less than a day of existence, the value of a unit of ‘Bitcoin Cash’ jumped to over $600, and tokens worth more than $10bn were in circulation (although that is still much smaller than Bitcoin classic, which stood at about $2,700 and nearly $45bn).”
  • “This ‘fork’, as such events are called, came earlier than foreseen. But it is broadly how insiders had expected a two-year-old conflict over the future of Bitcoin to end. At the heart of this ‘civil war’ was the question of how to increase the capacity of the system, which can only handle up to seven transactions per second. The new version is able to process 56 per second, but otherwise works much like the original one.”
  • “This week’s fork has made bitcoin holders richer: they get an amount of the new version equal to their holdings of the old sort; and at least for now, both together are worth more than the old one alone. For this reason only, expect another split in November when an upgrade of the old Bitcoin system will kick in.”  

Environment / Science

NYT – Blistering Heat Wave Threatens Seattle, Where Only a Third Have Air-Conditioning – Maggie Astor 8/1

Health / Medicine

NYT – In Breakthrough, Scientists Edit a Dangerous Mutation From Genes in Human Embryos – Pam Belluck 8/2

South America

WSJ – Venezuelan Officials Tampered With Election, Voting-Software Firm Says – Kejal Vyas 8/2

  • “Based on the robustness of our system, we know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National constituent assembly was manipulated.” – Antonio Mugica, Smarmatic’s CEO

July 26, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

NYT – 110 N.F.L Brains 7/25

  • “Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.”
  • “Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. – and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.”
  • “The brains here are from players who died as young as 23 and as old as 89. And they are from every position on the field – quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers, and even a place-kicker and a punter.”

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: Forbes – Large Tech Firm Lobby Budgets 7/25

WSJ – U.S. Military’s Space in Trump Tower Costs $130,000 a month – Paul Sonne 7/19

  • It’s a 3,475 sq. ft. space, so $37.41 per sq. ft. per month. Mind you, “the most expensive Trump Tower listing recently was a 3,725 sq. ft., three-bedroom apartment on the 62nd floor. It was listed in the spring of 2016 for $50,000 a month unfurnished and $60,000 a month furnished, according to Streeteasy.com.”
  • Basically, Trump’s neighbor recognizes they have a captive audience.

FT – Google and Facebook lay foundations for modern-day company towns – George Hammond 7/19

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Fund Managers and Strategists Think the Bull Market Is Ending Next Year – Adam Haigh, Natasha Doff, Dani Burger and Julie Verhage 7/25

  • “We have had a liquidity-fueled bull market. If that is taken away, there is a pressure point.” – Remi Olu-Pitan, Schroder Investment Management Ltd.

WP – Disabled and disdained – Terrence McCoy 7/21

  • “In rural America, some towns are divided between those who work and those who don’t.”

FP – The argument to be a buyer of the Saudi Aramco IPO – John Dizard 7/21

  • “As one international oil analyst says, though: ‘The Permian is preventing high prices today, but ensuring high oil prices tomorrow. The low prices are holding back investment in most of the world, and that is storing up a significant problem in meeting demand in the future.'”
  • “That is the argument to be a buyer of the Saudi Aramco IPO.”
  • “There are two bets involved in the listing. Can Saudi Arabia contain the social and strategic pressures caused by cheap oil? And will the capital markets eventually stop subsidizing shale producers?”

WSJ – Investors, Stop Worrying About Why ‘Nobody’ Is Worrying – Jason Zweig 7/21

Markets / Economy

WSJ – In Reversal, Colleges Rein In Tuition – Josh Mitchell 7/23

  • “U.S. college tuition is growing at the slowest pace in decades, following a nearly 400% rise over the past three decades that fueled middle class anxieties and a surge in student debt.”
  • “Abundant supply is running up against demand constraints. The number of two-year and four-year colleges increased 33% between 1990 and 2012 to 4,726, Education Department data show. But college enrollment is down more than 4% from a peak in 2010, partly because a healthy job market means fewer people are going back to school to learn new skills.”
  • “Longer-running economic and demographic shifts also are at play. Lower birthrates and the aging of baby boomer children have reduced the pool of traditional college-age Americans. The number of new high-school graduates grew 18% between 2000 and 2010 but only 2% in the first seven years of this decade, Education Department data show.”
  • “Another factor: Congress last increased the maximum amount undergraduates could borrow from the government in 2008. Some economists have concluded schools raise prices along with increases in federal financial aid. A clampdown on aid, in turn, could limit the ability of schools to charge more.”
  • “But other factors could keep cost pressures rising. George Pernsteiner, head of State Higher Education Executive Officers, a trade group that tracks state funding for schools, notes that many states are on track to experience budget crunches as the population ages and health-care and public pension costs rise. That could squeeze public support for schools.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Americans Pour Record Sums Into Home Improvements – Laura Kusisto and Sarah Chaney 7/25

  • “A shortage of new single-family homes across the U.S. is pushing up prices and locking many buyers out of the market. The silver lining: a boom in renovations of existing homes.”
  • “Americans are expected to pour a record $316 billion into home remodeling this year, up from $296 billion a year earlier, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.”

FT – Funds hunt for cracks in most-prized US shopping malls – Miles Johnson 7/21

  • “A defining feature of the financial crisis was a group of hedge funds making vast sums by wagering against supposedly AAA-rated mortgage debt well before markets imploded in 2008.”
  • “Now some believe a similar story will play out for US shopping malls — that the most risky investments will end up being those that investors now believe to be the safest. Central to their premise is the idea that too much faith may be being placed in a classification system used for shopping malls that is little known outside of the real estate sector.”
  • “Malls are given ratings by a small group of property consultants generally ranging from A++ to C based on factors that include their sales per square foot and location. While there is no universally accepted system for ranking the malls, with each consultant having slightly different methodologies, banks and investors tend to rely on these ratings to make decisions over how secure each mall is as a creditor or investment.”
  • “The stock market has until recently appeared to believe that prime ‘A’ malls are largely insulated from the pain being felt across a US retail sector being shaken by e-commerce.”
  • “Yet there is growing evidence to suggest that these prime malls, which have been treated by investors and lenders alike as rock solid bets in the face of the internet headwinds, are not as protected as once thought.”
  • “The hedge funds wagering against the highest quality malls believe that the wider market will come to believe these A-quality malls are far more similar to lesser ranked ones. ‘This idea that there are these magic malls in America that are immune to secular change is a myth,’ the US-based hedge fund manager says.”
  • “Some argue that the market underappreciates that A class mall operators and B and C class mall operators all have very similar tenant bases, in spite of being in different locations.”

Energy

BloombergGadlfy – Venezuela’s Perfect Storm for Oil May Be About to Break – Liam Denning 7/21

  • “We may be about to see the first sovereign producer to unequivocally fail.”
  • “The oil producer in question is Venezuela, and that assessment comes courtesy of Helima Croft, who is global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets and formerly worked with both the Council on Foreign Relations and the CIA.”
  • “But things are building to a head, partly due to the relentless logic of the bond market and partly due to the more proprietary logic of U.S. foreign policy.”
  • “Venezuelan bonds, which haven’t looked rock-solid for a few years, crashed this week as embattled President Nicola Maduro renewed calls to rewrite the country’s constitution, which would effectively disenfranchise the millions of Venezuelans who oppose him and entrench his regime. The U.S. has warned it may impose much tougher sanctions if Maduro goes ahead with his plan.”
  • “Venezuela’s economy is in free-fall: By the end of this year, it will have shrunk by 32% compared to where it was at the end of 2013, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts. Also by the end of this year, the government is on the hook to pay back more than $5 billion in debt — including bonds owed by the state-owned oil champion, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PdVSA — plus billions more in interest. As of this week, Venezuela’s international reserves stood at less than $10 billion.”
  • “Meanwhile, mismanagement, a lack of investment and re-nationalization of foreign oil companies’ interests have caused Venezuela’s oil production to slump from around 3.3 million barrels a day a decade ago to about 2 million now. Even allowing for the fact that domestic consumption has dwindled along with GDP, Venezuela’s surplus of oil available for earning export dollars has shrunk considerably.”
  • “Compounding this is the fact that the country must devote a lot of its output to paying off loans from China and Russia, further reducing the actual amount it can use to generate cash. Francisco Monaldi, a fellow in Latin American energy policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, estimates that could be as little as 800,000 barrels a day.”
  • “For three years, oil watchers have been waiting for a chaotic wave of bankruptcies in places like Texas and North Dakota to jolt the market. They’ve been looking in the wrong place.”

FT – Coal has no future, says US railroad boss – Gregory Meyer 7/19

  • “One of the largest haulers of US coal says fossil fuels have no future, despite pledges to the contrary from President Donald Trump.”
  • “CSX, a freight railroad company with origins in the bituminous coal seams of Appalachia, will not buy a single new locomotive to pull coal trains, chief executive Hunter Harrison told analysts on Wednesday.”
  • “’Fossil fuels are dead,’ Mr Harrison said. ‘That’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be in two or three years. But it’s going away, in my view.’” 
  • “North American railroads have reshaped their asset holdings in acknowledgment that coal’s apex has passed.”
  • “Lance Fritz, chief executive of the Union Pacific railroad, said in a recent interview that Mr Trump’s move to scrap Clean Power Plan regulations was unlikely to grow its coal business. ‘It takes away a headwind,’ he said.”

Tech

NYT – Silicon Valley Giants Confront New Walls in China – Paul Mozur and Carolyn Zhang 7/22

  • “It’s basically like someone who has been training for Olympic taekwondo going up against a street fighter. The Olympic fighter is waiting for the whistle, and the street fighter already has him on the ground hitting him with elbows. There’s no rules.” – Andy Tian, co-founder of Asia Innovations Group and former general manager of Zynga China

FT – Uber, Amazon and Microsoft braced for accounting shake-up – Leslie Hook and Richard Waters 7/19

  • “Uber’s reported revenues are being cut in half and sales at Amazon and Microsoft could be higher than previously stated — all thanks to a forthcoming change to accounting rules.”
  • “An update to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for US companies is turning out to have particularly large consequences in parts of the tech industry, which is having to overhaul the way it reports revenues and costs.”
  • “One of the more dramatic impacts will affect car-booking services such as Uber, a private company whose GAAP revenue drops by more than half when it adopts the new standard, which it plans to do this year.”
  • “Uber’s first-quarter revenue this year was $3.4bn under old GAAP accounting, but it says that under the new rules its revenue would have been just $1.5bn for the same period. Uber has already started sharing the lower figure with investors.”
  • “Under the old standard, car-booking services such as Uber and Lyft counted their commissions from regular rides, plus the entire fare of carpool rides, as revenue. Under the new standard, only the commissions from both regular and carpool rides will count as revenue.”
  • “The shift is due to changes to the ‘principal versus agent’ rules that determine when a company is acting as a principal and when it is acting as an agent. The car-booking services were previously considered the ‘principal’ for carpooled rides. As private companies, they must adopt the new standard by the beginning of 2019, although Uber has moved to do so much earlier.”
  • “The new standard, known as Revenue from Contracts with Customers, is designed to narrow the distance between US GAAP rules and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).”

Agriculture 

WSJ – Daily Shot: CBOT Soft Red Winter Wheat Futures 7/24

  • “The recent wheat rally has been almost entirely reversed.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Jailed Duterte foe prepares for long haul – Michael Peel 7/20

  • “Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, 57, was arrested at her senate office in February on charges that she received payoffs from jailed drug lords. She has branded the allegations ‘simply surreal’ and said they were part of a ‘personal vendetta’ by a president who is ‘rather obsessed with me’.”
  • “Ms. de Lima has certainly earned implacable enmity from Mr. Duterte for her efforts to probe his bloody drugs wars first as a provincial mayor and now as president. She maintains her innocence but also accepts her stay in jail could be a long one. The same day she marks five months in detention next week, Mr. Duterte will give an annual state of the nation speech against a background of soaring approval ratings.”
  • “I think as long as Duterte is president (5 more years), I will be locked up in jail,” Ms. de Lima says. “I have no false hopes about achieving justice very soon.”

China

NYT – In China, Herd of ‘Gray Rhinos’ Threatens Economy – Keith Bradsher and Sui-Lee Wee 7/23

  • “Let the West worry about so-called black swans, rare and unexpected events that can upset financial markets. China is more concerned about ‘gray rhinos’ — large and visible problems in the economy that are ignored until they start moving fast.”
  • “The rhinos are a herd of Chinese tycoons who have used a combination of political connections and raw ambition to create sprawling global conglomerates. Companies like Anbang Insurance Group, Fosun International, HNA Group and Dalian Wanda Group have feasted on cheap debt provided by state banks, spending lavishly to build their empires.”
  • “Such players are now so big, so complex, so indebted and so enmeshed in the economy that the Chinese government is abruptly bringing them to heel. President Xi Jinping recently warned that financial stability is crucial to national security, while the official newspaper of the Communist Party pointed to the dangers of a ‘gray rhinoceros,’ without naming specific companies.”

FT – China’s LeEco appoints new chairman from Sunac – Emily Feng 7/21

  • Sunac continues to be busy. In addition to its property acquisitions from Dalian Wanda, Sunac’s chairman – Sun Hongbin, is adding a new chairmanship to his belt, that of the struggling Chinese tech company, LeEco.

WSJ – The Saga Isn’t Over for Dalian Wanda – Jacky Wong 7/20

NYT – At the Finish, Dalian Wanda of China Rewrites a Blockbuster Sale – Sui-Lee Wee and Zhang Tiantian 7/19

  • “Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese conglomerate, tore up a $9.3 billion agreement to sell a portfolio of hotels and theme parks, unexpectedly reaching new deals on the properties that highlighted uncertainty over the financial health of the country’s biggest companies.”
  • “Wanda had reached an overall agreement with the property firm Sunac China Holdings last week, but Wanda announced at a signing ceremony on Wednesday that it was backtracking and would instead sell just the theme parks to Sunac. The hotels will instead be sold to R&F Properties, based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.”
  • “The hasty reorganization of the deals has raised concern about the due diligence conducted by many of China’s first-generation dealmakers as they seek to become bigger players domestically and around the world.”
  • “The signing was dominated by the announcement that Sunac would pay $6.5 billion for a 91% stake in Wanda’s 13 theme parks across China, while R&F Properties would buy 77 hotels from Wanda for $3 billion. In a sign of the wildly fluctuating valuations of assets, however, Wanda had said last week that it was selling Sunac only 76 hotels, but that they were worth $5 billion.”

South America

WSJ – Daily Shot: Venezuelaecon.com – Venezuelan Bolivar Black Market Exchange Rate 7/25

Turkey

NYT – Turkey Sees Foes at Work in Gold Mines, Cafes and ‘Smurf Village’ – David Segal 7/22

  • “Since then (after the failed attempt to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, 2016), more than 950 companies have been expropriated, all of them purportedly linked to Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric who Turkish leaders say masterminded the putsch.”
  • “About $11 billion worth of corporate assets — from small baklava chains to large publicly traded conglomerates — have been grabbed by the government, a systematic taking with few precedents in modern economic history. Several thousand dispossessed executives have fled overseas to cities as far-flung as Nashville and Helsinki. The less fortunate were imprisoned, part of a mass incarceration campaign that has included purged members of the military, judiciary, police and news media, adding 50,000 new inmates to the prisons.”

July 12, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

Bloomberg News – Shoppers Can Buy Bad Debt on China’s Equivalent of Ebay – 7/11

  • “Used by millions of Chinese to buy everything from clothes to food and electronics, the platform (Taobao), known for its bargains, typically markets more than 1 billion yuan of soured assets a day, according to Bloomberg calculations. Recent listings include a portfolio of 118 non-performing loans from some companies in Yunnan province, a villa seized by a bank in the southern canal city of Shaoxing, and a property in central Beijing that’s also in default.”
  • “China’s embrace of e-retailing is helping it tackle another byproduct of the country’s rapid economic evolution: the rise of bad debt.”
  • “Slowing growth and an uptick in corporate defaults has fueled the market, with NPLs at commercial banks more than doubling over the past two years to 1.6 trillion yuan as of the end of March. As Beijing pushes lenders to find market-oriented ways of dealing with soured loans, interest in distressed debt has climbed, spurring banks and asset managers to look beyond traditional venues like auction houses and exchanges to dispose of the assets.”
  • “China Cinda Asset Management Co. — one of the country’s biggest distressed asset managers, and the firm marketing the steel company’s debt — said last month that it’s collaborating with Alibaba to set up a special section on Taobao to auction its wares.”
  • “Following Taobao’s lead, more than 50 other websites marketing their services to banks and other sellers of bad loans emerged in China in the first half of last year, according to a March report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. More than 20 financial institutions are listed as partners on Taobao’s auction platform for soured assets, including Shenzhen-based Ping An Bank Co., Beijing’s China Minsheng Banking Corp. and China Citic Bank Corp.”
  • “E-commerce platforms provide access to more investors and the lender has garnered interest for assets marketed on Taobao that failed to yield inquiries offline. But while they can bring a level of transparency to bad loan trading, sites like Taobao also attract individual investors who don’t typically have the skills needed to do full due diligence on an NPL deal…”

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – 2015 Median Household Income Adjusted by RPP 7/11

Bloomberg – America’s Pension Bomb: Illinois Is Just the Start – Laurie Meisler 6/30

  • “We’ve been hearing it for years: America’s public pensions are a ticking time bomb. Well, at long last, the state of Illinois is about to expose just how big this blowup could be. As of the 2015 fiscal year, Illinois had promised its employees $199 billion in retirement benefits. Right now, it’s $119.1 billion short. That gap lies at the center of a years-in-the-making fiscal mess that’s threatening to drop the state’s credit rating to junk-bond status. But Illinois is hardly alone. Connecticut and New Jersey—states that, to most of the world, seem like oases of prosperity—are under growing financial strain, too.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

NYT – How We Are Ruining America – David Brooks 7/11

  • “Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.”

Bloomberg Businessweek – The Next Job Humans Lose to Robots: Real Estate Appraiser – Joe Light 7/11

  • “Advances in big data at Zillow and elsewhere are helping automation creep into knowledge-based professions.”

Silicon Beat – World’s 10 least affordable housing markets include San Jose (least affordable in the US) and SF – Richard Scheinin 7/10

  • Using the Median Multiple (median house price / median household income), the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey (2017) has ranked the following cities as the least affordable in the world.
  1. Hong Kong
  2. Sydney, Australia
  3. Vancouver, Canada
  4. Auckland, New Zealand
  5. San Jose, USA
  6. Melbourne, Australia
  7. Honolulu, USA
  8. Los Angeles, USA
  9. San Francisco, USA
  10. Bournemouth and Dorset, UK

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Consumer Credit as Percentage of GDP 7/11

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Student Loans Owned by Federal Govt 7/11

  • “Student loans owned directly by the government now total $1.1 trillion, representing about 30% of the overall consumer credit. Note that this figure does not include student debt that is guaranteed but not directly owned by the federal government.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Nonrevolving Consumer Loans owned by Credit Unions 7/11

  • “Starting in 2013, credit unions have built up a sizeable auto loan portfolio. This is quite a bet on the US consumer for these small lenders.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Calculated Risk – Number of Negative Equity Mortgages 7/11

China

FT – China trial paves way for ‘unhackable’ communications network – Yuan Yang 7/10

  • “Success of Jinan project points to commercial application for quantum communications.”

WSJ – Here Comes Another Chinese Company on a Buying Binge – Jacky Wong 7/10

  • “China wants its biggest, most acquisitive, highly leveraged companies to tone it down — apparently by selling assets to other big, acquisitive highly leveraged companies.”
  • Case in point, Sunac’s purchase of 76 hotels and 13 theme parks from Dalian Wanda.
  • “But the deal won’t reduce the overall risks in China’s financial system. Sunac has been loading up on debt over the past year as it bought land aggressively. Its net debt, including perpetual securities, had more than tripled in 2016 to $7.8 billion — more than twice its shareholders’ equity.”
  • “Sunac has just enough cash, including restricted cash, to finance the Wanda purchase, but that would more than double its net debt. This seems to defeat the purpose to contain runaway debt within China’s financial system. But unlike Wanda, Sunac has raised all debt to buy domestic land and properties, important drivers for China’s economy, instead of splurging on overseas assets.”
  • “Capital outflows, instead of leverage, are Beijing’s real worry.”

WSJ – Dalian Wanda Rides China’s Financial Merry-Go-Round with Latest Deal – Anjani Trivedi and Jacky Wong 7/11

  • “When it comes to managing debt burdens, Chinese companies know how to keep it all between friends.”
  • “In a maneuver that will reduce the need for external financing, Wanda is lending some 29.6 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) to Sunac to buy its own assets.”
  • “The structure of the loan is a typical example of so-called entrusted lending, a common form of shadow banking in China in which one company lends money to another. Because that isn’t strictly legal, such loans are arranged via a bank that acts as a middleman, often earning a cut of the deal for its pains. Entrusted lending has ballooned to account for some 10% of credit in China, led by cash-rich state-owned companies that have branched out to loans as they struggle to find growth in their core businesses.”
  • “With the current Sunac-Wanda deal, Sunac should book the loan as debt, although it could bury it in one of its many joint ventures. Wanda will presumably record the loan as an asset, meanwhile. The ultimate effect is that most of Wanda’s debts haven’t been dealt with; they have just been shifted elsewhere within China Inc.”
  • “Wanda is lending the cash cheaply too. The three-year loan will be at the benchmark lending rate, now around 5%. Typically such loans are priced at a premium, especially those to indebted borrowers like Sunac, which has an eye-popping net debt-to-equity ratio of over 160%.”
  • “Still, if one of your friends is helping you out, it is rude to make them pay over the odds.”

FT – Sunac receives fresh ratings warning after $9.3bn Wanda deal – Nicholas Megaw 7/11

July 11, 2017

Perspective

Fortune – This Is the Average Pay at Lyft, Uber, Airbnb and More – Erika Fry & Nicolas Rapp 6/27

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

WSJ – How Fixing Italy’s Banks Is Helping Europe Heal – Paul Davies 7/10

NYT – How the Growth of E-Commerce Is Shifting Retail Jobs – Robert Gebeloff and Karl Russell 7/6

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Tesla Sales Fall to Zero in Hong Kong After Tax Break Is Slashed – Tim Higgins and Charles Rollet 7/9

  • “Tesla Inc.’s sales in Hong Kong came to a standstill after authorities slashed a tax break for electric vehicles on April 1, demonstrating how sensitive the company’s performance can be to government incentive programs.”
  • “Not a single newly purchased Tesla model was registered in Hong Kong in April, according to official data from the city’s Transportation Department analyzed by The Wall Street Journal.”
  • “In March, shortly after the tax change was announced and ahead of the April 1 deadline, 2,939 Tesla vehicles were registered there—almost twice as many as in the last six months of 2016.”
  • “As a result of the new policy, the cost of a basic Tesla Model S four-door car in Hong Kong​ has effectively risen to around $130,000 from less than $75,000.”
  • “Hong Kong’s decision is effective through March 2018, and the government has said it would review the policy before then.”

China

NYT – China’s Wanda Signals Retreat in Debt-Fueled Acquisition Binge – Sui-Lee Wee 7/10

  • “A year ago, the Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin declared the dominance of his vast entertainment empire, Dalian Wanda Group, boasting that his theme parks were a ‘pack of wolves’ that would defeat the lone ‘tiger’ of Disney’s Shanghai resort.”
  • “Now, Mr. Wang is retreating, in a sign that Wanda could be reaching the limits of its debt-fueled expansion.”
  • “Wanda said on Monday that it would sell the theme parks as part of a $9.3 billion deal that includes 76 hotels and a major chunk of 13 tourism projects. The cash from the deal, with the property developer Sunac China, would be used to pay down debt.”
  • “The deal announced on Monday would help Wanda pay off some of its debt.”
  • “Sunac would pay $4.4 billion for a 91% stake in each of the 13 tourism projects, all in China, and would take over the loans for the projects. Wanda also agreed to sell 76 hotels for $4.9 billion.”
  • “In the deal with Sunac, Wanda would continue to operate all of the projects under the company’s brand name, and it would own fewer underperforming hotels.”
  • About the assets…
  • “…Only four of the 13 theme parks being sold are up and running; most are in the planning stages. Wanda opened its first theme park, an indoor one, in the Chinese city of Wuhan. But it closed after 19 months for ‘upgrades and renovations,’ and it has yet to reopen.”
  • So why would Sunac buy underperforming hotels and theme parks – at a premium? You’ll note that Dalian’s hotel stock (Wanda Hotel) price was up 155% on the news…
  • “I don’t understand this move by Sunac. Where are they getting this endless flow of money?” – Deng Zhihao, a real estate economist with Fineland Assets Management Company based in Guangzhou, China.
  • “’Last year, they were the property developer that bought the most number of properties,’ he added. ‘And this year, they’ve spent a lot of money to save LeEco.’”
  • LeEco is an embattled company with a charismatic founder with grand ambitions but appears to be insolvent (which would result in a $2.2 billion loss to Sunac).